Punctuation Marks

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Punctuation Marks


elements of written language used to differentiate linguistic units (sense segments of a text, sentences, phrases, words, parts of words); to indicate syntactic and logical relationships between words, the communicative type of the sentence, and its emotional coloring; and to convey outward information about a text (to indicate a quotation, an incomplete utterance, a graphic abbreviation, etc.). In Russian writing and other contemporary Latin and Cyrillic writing systems, the following types of punctuation marks are distinguished: (1) marks at the boundaries of large sense segments of a text (the paragraph and indented line); (2) marks at the beginning or end of a sentence (. ? ! …), indicating its communicative type, emotional coloring, and degree of completeness; (3) marks within a sentence, indicating the relationship of its parts to each other (, ; : —), including double marks that isolate phrases from both sides—brackets, double commas, and double dashes; (4) marks within a word that divide the word into sense parts (such as the hyphen) or syllables (the hyphen in the Vietnamese Roman alphabet); (5) marks indicating quotes or a certain emotional relationship to words and phrases (for example, quotation marks); and (6) marks of abbreviation (period, hyphen, oblique stroke)— for example, tov. for tovarishch, k-ryi for kotoryi, and p/o for pochtovoe otdelenie. The space, which marks a word’s boundaries, functionally belongs to the classification of punctuation marks.

The punctuation mark system in the modern Latin, Cyrillic, Greek, Arabic, Hebrew, and Indian writing systems is the same. The differences in punctuation between the languages have to do with details: in the Spanish Latin alphabet question marks and exclamation marks are on both sides of the sentence or sentence part (¿Dónde vas? “Where are you going?”;iMuy bien! “Very good!”), and in Greek writing the mark ; serves as the question mark, and a dot above the line of print corresponds to a colon or a semicolon. The punctuation system of the European languages can be traced back to Alexandrian grammars of the second and first centuries B.C. (Aristophanes of Byzantium, Aristarchus, Dionysius Thrax), and it acquired its present form in the late 15th century (the system of Aldus Manutius). Other ancient and modern writing systems have different punctuation marks. The most widepread are the word boundaries (the space in many systems and : in Ethiopian writing) and sentence boundaries (the vertical line in Sanskrit writing and in Tibetan, and the mark :: in Ethiopian). In the 20th century the European punctuation system has spread to other writing systems; thus, it has been adopted, in full or with modifications, by Japanese, Chinese, and Korean writing and is partially found in Tibetan, Ethiopian, Burmese, Thai, Laotian, and Khmer writing (brackets, ellipses, and in some systems question marks, exclamation marks, and inverted commas).


Dobiash-Rozhdestvenskaia, O. A.Istoriiapis’ma v srednie veka, 2nd ed. Leningrad, 1936.
Ivanova, V. F. Istoriia i printsipy russkoi punktuatsii. Leningrad, 1962.
Istrin, V. A. Vozniknovenie i razvitie pis’ma. Moscow, 1965.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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