19/05/16

To get a good feel to how I should create my new punctuation mark I needed to have a look at how punctuation became such a thing. I believe studying this will give me an advantage on thinking of something unique.

I decided to look at the Ampersand as that it is used a lot in design and in mostly everyones everyday life style.

03-ampersand

Above shows how the ampersand has progressed through the years, and by the looks of things it has changed incredibly from the very first version of it.

The first recorded ampersand—a rudimentary ligature of the letters “E” and “T” from the Latin word et, meaning “and”—was scratched onto a Pompeian wall by an anonymous graffiti artist around the first century A.D. (shown above, image one). In time, the ampersand became a ubiquitous symbol: by the nineteenth century it was taught to schoolchildren as a twenty-seventh letter of the alphabet. Before that, however, it spent an entire millennium in competition with a rival mark. The “Tironian et” (⁊), had the twofold advantage of a head start and an impeccable pedigree. Created in the first century B.C. by Tiro, secretary to Rome’s famous orator Cicero, it was well established as part of Tiro’s extensive shorthand system, the notae Tironianae, by the time the proto-ampersand arrived a century later. The Tironian et continued to thrive in the Gothic-script religious texts of the Middle Ages but eventually fell out of use, along with the rest of Tiro’s system. The ampersand, meanwhile, evolved, as newly eligible Roman and italic scripts made their way from Renaissance Italy, eventually assuming its familiar form (above, right, forty-five through forty-eight). Nowadays, the ampersand is everywhere—except in Ireland, where observant motorists may still spot a Tironian et adorning the occasional Gaelic traffic sign.

Ref: http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/the-ancient-roots-of-punctuation

I then felt the need to look up on how the question mark originated, this was hard to find out as that there were a few urban myths on how it developed, but I stumbled across this answer.

Of course, there is a nice old urban myth that could be constituted as a thrid origin story, but the likelihood of it being true is slim to none. Some claim that the question mark was actually created as a device to mark places on maps and such that were unknown, and they got the shape from the shape of a cat’s tail that the cat makes when it is inquisitive. They also go on to state that the exclamation point comes from the shape a cat’s tail makes when they are surprised. These two marks reportedly come from the Egyptians, who worshiped cats. However, no punctuation was used by the Egyptians ever, and it wasn’t until the 19th century that punctuation became standardised, so we can safely throw this hypothesis away. Now, on to the other two!

The Romans!

The first (and admittedly the less likely) of the two stories starts where most things inevitably start: in Rome. The story goes that the question mark actually originated from the Latin word quaestio, meaning question. This word was reportedly abbreviated in the Middle Ages by scholars as just qo. Eventually, a capital “Q” was written over the “o”, and it formed one letter. Then, it morphed into the modern question mark we know today. Here’s a picture so you can visualize it.

However, the actual evidence that this is the case is almost non-existant, for no medieval manuscript found thus-far supports this idea. In fact, it seems that the opposite holds true; the question mark morphs to look more like a q rather than less like a q as time passes.

Alcuin of York

The more accepted story by linguists is that of Alcuin of York and his “lighting flash” of a symbol. Alcuin himself was a scholar living in 8th century England when he received an invitation from Charlemagne to join his court. Without hesitation, Alcuin accepted and made his way to France. Whilst in France, Alcuin wrote a myriad of books and poems. Around this time, the need for punctuation in writing was becoming more and more evident, for books were now not only spoken aloud but read silently by monks on their lonesome. Without knowing where to pause or stop, it was a bit hard for monks to enjoy their reading. While there was an old system pioneered by, you guessed it, the Romans in place using a bunch of dots, it wasn’t sufficient. To combat this, Alcuin created the punctus interrogativus to signal an inflection at the end of a clause. The symbol itself was a tilde over one of the old Roman dots.

They chose Alcuin’s punctus interrogativus to embody solely the interrogative. By that time, the “lightning flash” had been turned upwards, and one could easily recognise it as the modern question mark. By the 17th century, when printing came around, the question mark was used as a universal symbol around the Western world. When the Arab world discovered it, they flipped it to match with their right to left writing style. Eventually, most languages picked up the question mark and used it as their own. At the turn of the 21st century, the question mark is a sort of international super-star, being used by billions of people every day. And that is the history of that little mark at the end of sentences that happen to be questions.

So here I have learnt the history of a couple of punctuation marks and have researched on how it has been adapted in the modern age from many years ago. This has given me a great understanding on how I should go to look for a new punctuation maybe looking for ones as shortcuts or ones that empathises on one’s emotion.

Advertisements