Featured Linguist!

Jost Gippert: Our Featured Linguist!

"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more

Donate Now | Visit the Fund Drive Homepage

Amount Raised:


Still Needed:


Can anyone overtake Syntax in the Subfield Challenge ?

Grad School Challenge Leader: University of Washington

Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login
amazon logo
More Info

New from Oxford University Press!


What is English? And Why Should We Care?

By: Tim William Machan

To find some answers Tim Machan explores the language's present and past, and looks ahead to its futures among the one and a half billion people who speak it. His search is fascinating and important, for definitions of English have influenced education and law in many countries and helped shape the identities of those who live in them.

New from Cambridge University Press!


Medical Writing in Early Modern English

Edited by Irma Taavitsainen and Paivi Pahta

This volume provides a new perspective on the evolution of the special language of medicine, based on the electronic corpus of Early Modern English Medical Texts, containing over two million words of medical writing from 1500 to 1700.

Summary Details

Query:   Punctuation Summary
Author:  SHAPERJJ@m4-arts bham ac uk>
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   Psycholinguistics
Writing Systems

Summary:   >From SHAPERJJ@m4-arts.bham.ac.uk
or j.j.shapero@bham.ac.uk

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 <thorunn@lexis.hi.is>
or thorunn@ohpi.lexis.hi.is

A like-minded soul who is there for me.
- ----------------------------------------------------------
James Coady <coady@oak.cats.ohiou.edu>

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 <Mark@dragonsys.com>
Personal home page: http://world.std.com/~mam/

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 <EM5@soas.ac.uk>

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 <drobert@tincan.tincan.org>

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!)
- ----------------------------------------------------------
"MARIA CARLOTA A. P. ROSA" <carlota@acd.ufrj.br>

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 <geoffs@cogs.susx.ac.uk>
Web site http://www.grs.u-net.com

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 <kversp@cogsci.ed.ac.uk>

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 <rweissbe@nmsu.edu>

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

LL Issue: 8.696
Date Posted: 12-May-1997
Original Query: Read original query


Sums main page