LINGUIST List 8.696

Mon May 12 1997

Sum: Punctuation

Editor for this issue: T. Daniel Seely <>


  1.>, Punctuation Summary

Message 1: Punctuation Summary

Date: Fri, 9 May 1997 11:48:49 GMT
From:> <>
Subject: Punctuation Summary


Many thanks to the following who responded to my questions
about punctuation (LINGUIST List Vol-8-586). I intend to reply to
you all personally, but I'm a bit snowed under at the moment, so
please bear with me and forgive my posting the summary before I can
email you as individuals.

Thorunn Blondal,
James Cody,
Mark Mandel,
Liz McKeown,
David Robertson,
Maria Carlota A. P. Rosa,
Geoffrey Sampson,
Karin Verspoor,
Bob Weissberg.

- ----------------------------------------------------------
Thorunn Blondal <>

A like-minded soul who is there for me.
- ----------------------------------------------------------
James Coady <>

Another like minded soul who told me of a paper which he and his
graduate student published called, "Psycholinguistic Approaches to
a Theory of Punctuation," in Journal of Reading Behavior, X:4, 1979.

I have also got the reference: Baldwin, R. & Coady, J. (1978)
"Psycholinguistic approaches to a study of punctuation.", Journal
of Reading Behaviour. Vol.10, No.4, p.363-375, which I assume is the
same thing.
- ----------------------------------------------------------
Mark Mandel <>
Personal home page:

Who reckons that, "someone maintains a discussion group on
punctuation". Marks thinks it's an email group but, "can't
find it in the LINGUIST lists of mailing lists or web sites, or
by searching the LINGUIST archives for "Punctuation".

Please, if anyone else has any clues about this, let me know.
- ----------------------------------------------------------
Liz McKeown alias EM5 <>

Told me about children's rhymes, such as "Dr Nick" being used
teach children about punctuation. She is (I trust) sending me a
copy of this.

On punctuation uses, Liz related some of her experiences with an
Apple Powerbook and reckons computers could teach people "about the
functions of punctuation". I agree, but were such a program to
become an industry standard it might bring in even more
prescriptivism. Nevertheless, apparently, "When it encounters a
comma or full stop, it pauses, and it is possible to get it to read
out a whole passage totally garbled, without punctuation, and then
insert punctuation and see how much easier it is to understand".
So even if one eschews synonymity between pausing and punctuation,
one can't argue with that! (Well one could... would the program be
better with intonation, speed changes, amplitude, the whole gamut of
attack/decay/sustain/release, etc. incorporated into it, as well as
mere pausing? And what would then happen if one of these parameters,
say pauses, were left out?)

Liz also told me of a commaphobe she has worked for - a lawyer. She
says that lawyers tend to be "discouraged from 'disturbing the flow
of the text' by inserting commas". And there's a nice example of
ambiguity! Back to Liz. As she notes, even in legal documents,
omitting commas is no panacea for ambiguity. If you're out there
Liz, and you do recall any examples of this, do please let me know.
- ----------------------------------------------------------
David Robertson <>

Told me about a "discussion of the so-called 'greengrocer's
apostrophe'" apparently on this List and "recently". If anyone can
help me here, please do! (My attempts to search the List archives
are meeting technical gremlins at present!)
- ----------------------------------------------------------

Asked if I was using the word, "acquisition" in the generativists'
sense. The answer is "sort of"... no one has mapped every cell
in the brain nor disproved the existence of a PAD (punctuation
acquisition device). Seriously though, ...
- ----------------------------------------------------------
Geoffrey Sampson <>
Web site

A teacher of undergraduates, shared his puzzlement about one aspect
of the acquisition of English punctuation: why now "is the apostrophe
used so much more inaccurately than the other punctuation marks.".
As he points out, "the rules for using the apostrophe seem... fairly
straightforward... arguably more straightforward than... [those for]
where a comma is appropriate!".
- ----------------------------------------------------------
Karin Verspoor <>

Reminded me about Bernie Jones' web sites:

his thesis: "A (Computational) Theory of Punctuation" is at

and HCRC/WP-2: Bernard Jones, ed.,
 ACL/Sigparse International Meeting on Punctuation in
Computational Linguistics, September 1996, is at
- ----------------------------------------------------------
Bob Weissberg <>

Furnished me with the names of Carol Edelsky and Ann Dyson (her
diss.) regarding "children's developing use of punctuation...
emergent uses of punctuation as graphic ornamentations to accompany
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