As Ferdinand de Saussure explained in his General Linguistics Course, Language is a dichotomous system, shaped in turn by the Language, place of the system where all the rules by which a Language is handled, and the Speech, place where these rules are made.
In this sense, Saussure distinguishes that the Language has some specific characteristics such as being inexhaustible, intangible, collective and immutable, that is, a single speaker cannot know, manipulate or change by his own effort the rules that govern a Language, which change with the passage of generations, but due to collective conventions – conscious or not.
On the other side of the coin would be the Speech, which is the realization of that Language, which would be mutable, dynamic, individual and concrete, changing from speaker to speaker. In this way, Speech would nourish the Language in new ways – being accepted some and others not – thus keeping it alive, since the Language that doesn´t move or change, dies.
Linguistic community and social convention
Thus raised, Language would be a system of signs created by man, through a social convention. Words, their pronunciation and why they designate one concept and not another would come into it, since it is that system that binds a specific signifier with a particular meaning.
Likewise, the Language would also govern the written record of Language, establishing through the Academies the specific writing of a signifier, in order to establish forms that are maintained over time and that allow throughout communication.
So we have to have a linguistic community throughout its history constantly paced, through conventions, the ways and ways in which it will pronounce or write a certain word, so that it is handled by the largest number of members, allowing a oral and written communication that can be understood by all.
In this sense, punctuation marks would also correspond to a convention created and established for years by the users of the Language.
However, as a human creation at last, every so often the same humans think of novel ways of changing, adding or removing symbols from this system called Language.
Some of these creations thrive, spreading in use, thus achieving their recognition and lexicalization (entry to the dictionary and the norm) by the Academy; others, on the other hand, fail to be understood by members of the community, who by not using them do not favor their permanence in time; others are used by the community, they achieve their lexicalization but over the years they fall into disuse.
This may be the case for example of some punctuation marks that failed to fit the use of users, without getting to stay in the sufficient time that would lead to their lexicalization, that is, that they failed in their attempt to enter the field of the Language. Below are some examples of some punctuation marks that died in the attempt:
It consists of a hyphen overlaid on quotation marks, the use of which was intended to indicate that a quotation was a paraphrase of very long or imprecise content, which the writer of the text had decided to express in his own words.
According to a BBC article – on some punctuation marks that did not succeed in using users – the Almost-quote was created in the 1940s by a community adept at science fiction books, thus becoming the first sign of punctuation n created during the twentieth century.
However, despite the spread by its creators, over time the Casi-Cita did not prosper, being forgotten in the of history.
Similarly, the BBC article gives an account of another punctuation mark called the exclarroregative or interrobang, which consisted of a combination of a punctuation and question mark, which sought to express the ambiguity that can sometimes be expressed before a sentence that is not known whether it is being exclaimed in question or exclamation tone.
As noted on the British portal, this sign was created in 1962 by a New York executive named Martin Speckter, who put special dedication into advertising his invention. His advertising success was such that he even managed to have the Remington Reed typewriter brand include it on his keyboard in 1967. However, book printers did not find it so easy to print it, so it gradually fell into disuse.
Bazin and its six symbols
Around the same time, according to the BBC, a French writer named Hervé Bazin wrote a title book Let’s Pluck the Bird, where he proposed the use of six new punctuation marks. In this way the European author proposed a sign to point out a different human emotion.
Thus, Bazin created a symbol for love, certainty, doubt, authority, acclaim, and irony. In this sense,” the BBC continues, the point of love consisted of two question marks found, in order to suggest the heart shape; the sign designed for exclamation consisted of two exclamation marks that shared the same point, giving a man-like figure raising his arms.
For its part, the sign designed to express certainty consisted of an exclamation point, which was pierced by an overlapping script. However for book printers this was impossible to reproduce, so their creations remained to be mere historical curiosities.
The exclaiming and interrogative coma
More recently – in light of the BBC’s described – three inventors produced a further attempt in 1992 to grow the list of punctuation marks accepted by the Academy.
In this case it was the exclamationory or interrogative coma, which was expressed by changing as the case the point of the exclamation marks or questioning by a comma, in order to express the intentions of questioning or exclamation according to the case, and may even express both emotions at the same time.
Created at last in an era where the technologies would allow their typographical incorporation these signs had the wind in favor, however they didn´t get a favorable niche within the users.
Apparently, that described by Saussure as the immutability of the Language isn´t so wrong, and a single speaker cannot change it, but those changes depend on entire generations and linguistic communities that go through conventions and social pacts gradually modifying the Language.
To show these four punctuation marks that didn´t go from being mere individual attempts to modify the collective convention of the linguistic community.
Image source: bbc.com
September 11, 2019