๐Ÿ“‘ A History of Punctuation

Bookmarked A history of punctuation by Florence Hazrat (AEON)

In spite of what it might look like on the surface, anybody who casts an eye over their text messaging will realise that punctuation is very much not dead. It changes, yes, but it has always done that. Some signs might morph into new shapes, acquire new tasks and new meanings. That, too, has happened before. The future will depend on the technology we use to write, and what we need. Or want.

Starting with Aristophanesโ€™ pauses, tracing through Latin in the Middle Ages to Martin Luther King Jr, Florence Hazrat explains that the history of punctuation is far from linear.

The development of punctuation is messy and diffuse: individual writersโ€™ habits, different shapes of marks that keep mutating from manuscript to manuscript, or simply pragmatic reasons of space all complicate a simple narrative. Rather than a neat evolutionary line, imagine punctuation developing as a rhizome, a horizontal mesh of practices, explorations and loosely understood conventions whose overlapping branches sometimes do the same thing but look different. Sometimes they disappear and return at later points elsewhere, or burst to the surface from obscurity and come to dominate the organism for various reasons.

Although there are some who argue that mediums like text messaging signals an end, Hazrat argues that punctuation is still present and continuing to evolve.

This all reminds me David Crystal’s discussion of texting and the misnomer that it represented a collapse of the English language.

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