Thread Rating:
  • 0 Vote(s) - 0 Average
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Sorry. Was that a Question?
A Cambridge University scholar believes he has identified the earliest known use of a question mark. While studying fifth-and-sixth-century C.E. Biblical manuscripts written in Syriac, Chip Coakley, an ancient manuscript specialist at the Cambridge University Library, noticed that two dots, placed one above the other, appeared at the start of some sentences. According to Coakley, the double dot mark, known to later grammarians as zawga elaya, is used to tell the reader that the sentence should be read as a question.

While Syriac writers did not include question marks before who, what, where or when questions, they did use the mark when the reading of a sentence as a question (like ?You?re going away??) was more ambiguous. ?Reading aloud, the same function is served by a rising tone of voice?or at least it is in English?and it is interesting to ponder whether zawga elaya really marks the grammar of the question, or whether it is a direction to someone reading the Bible aloud to modulate their voice,? said Coakley.

Thanks for posting this, son_of_lite, very interesting article. I've posted a link to the full article below.

Quote:Question marks in Greek and Latin script emerged later than in Syriac, with the earliest examples dating from the eighth century. It is likely that these symbols developed independently from each other and from Syriac. Hebrew and Arabic, close neighbours of Syriac, have nothing comparable. Armenian, another neighbour, has a similar mark, but it seems to be later.

Last month Dr. Coakley presented his theory that the question mark is a Syriac invention ?rather nervously? at a conference in the United States. But so far none of his fellow scholars has come up with an earlier question mark in any other ancient language.

Dr. Coakley is quietly thrilled by his finding. ?I?d describe it as a significant footnote in the history of writing,? he said. ?And it?s satisfying to have made sense of some of those weird dots.?

Wow, if he's nervous about the primacy of the question mark ...


Forum Jump:

Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)