National Punctuation Day is celebrated annually on September 24th in United States.
Most of us may not even say the word “punctuation” once in many years, after we finish our studies. We rarely think about this language term, but if we stop and think about it, reading and writing the way we know it, wouldn’t be possible without these small marks, that make it possible for people to convey their thoughts in writings.
History of Punctuation Marks Infographic
Fascinating History of Punctuation
Earliest readers and writers managed to write texts without spaces or punctuation for thousands of years. All changed in the 3rd Century B.C., in the Egyptian city of Alexandria.
First Breakthrough in the History of Punctuation Marks
Head of the library Aristophanes decided to break up bundled together letters in the text with dots, and put them on bottom (.) middle (·) or top (·) between the words in lines.
‘Subordinate’ – comma, ‘intermediate’ – colon and ‘full’ – period dots matched the needed pauses of different length, that should have been made between the words. Roman scholars did not follow this practice, unfortunately.
Second Breakthrough in the History of Punctuation Marks
In the 6th – 7th Century, a special group of writers realized, that punctuation might actually be very useful. Christian authors returned the practice of using punctuation marks, since without blanks, and without punctuation, the original meaning of Scripture, which they tried so hard to preserve, might be lost. So, to safeguard the original meaning of their works, punctuation marks were used again..
Isidore of Seville used the periods in ink to define short (.), medium (·) and long (·) pauses. He was the first scholar to connect punctuation of the phrase and its meaning.
Subdistinctio, or low point (.), did not mean a simple pause anymore, and resembled more the use of modern comma in grammar. High point, or distinctio finalis (·), was now used at the end of the sentence.
The use of spaces were solidified soon, thanks to the efforts of British monks, who grew tired of deciphering unknown Latin phrases.
Third Breakthrough in the History of Punctuation Marks
Mainz, present-day Germany. After Gutenberg’s 42-line Bible was published in the 1450s., most of the punctuation marks we use today were standardized, frozen in time for many centuries.
Boncompagno da Signa’s “slash” was lowered to the line and became a curvy symbol we know today as ‘comma’.
The semicolon, colon, question mark and exclamation mark became widespread and used, and Aristophanes’s inkish period was finally treated as a full stop, meant to end the sentence.
Recent Breakthrough in the History of Punctuation Marks
With the growing development and popularity of emoji and emoticons, we might be witnessing and actually forming the new period of punctuation development.
How Sentences May Change meaning without proper punctuation
“Stop clubbing baby seals”
“Woman without her man is nothing”
“Eats shoots and leaves”
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