Why not periods? Why doesn’t every sentence in Spanish that isn’t a question or exclamation start with a period floating in the sky?

  • all-knight-party
    link
    fedilink
    8918 days ago

    I would assume it’s because it leads the reader to what tone to use in a given sentence. The question mark or exclamation point would be useful in tone throughout the whole sentence, but if neither is present in front of the sentence a regular reading tone could be assumed.

    so why add a floating period when nothing being there allows for the same assumption and is much, much simpler and easier?

  • teft
    link
    fedilink
    5218 days ago

    It’s because Spanish sentence structure is different from English. In Spanish the sentences “Can I tell you? (¿Te lo puedo decir?) and “I can tell you.” (Te lo puedo decir.) are formed the same way. The initial punctuation lets the reader know that the sentence is a question or exclamation or not so they can parse the sentence properly from the start.

    • Lvxferre
      link
      fedilink
      1018 days ago

      Sentence structure likely plays a role but, at the end of the day, it’s just a spelling convention - people do it because they do it. And it’s generally absent from the standard orthography of Portuguese and Italian, even if they’re syntactically similar to Spanish (i.e. no German/English-like VSO for questions).

      • @[email protected]
        link
        fedilink
        318 days ago

        Yeah, it’s just tradition at this point, though I feel like native speakers really try to oversell its usefulness when someone questions if the opening signs are necessary. People act like they routinely need to read text written like the Cartas de relación out loud, and thus, need the additional warning lest they get lost in the long, multi-clause sentences. Like, I could understand if you had to read something like

        Y después acá, por no haber oportunidad, así por falta de navíos y estar yo ocupado en la conquista y pacificación de esta tierra, como por no haber sabido de la dicha nao y procuradores, no he tornado a relatar a vuestra majestad lo que después se ha hecho; de que Dios sabe la pena que he tenido. Porque he deseado que vuestra alteza supiese las cosas de esta tierra, que son tantas y tales que, como ya en la otra relación escribí se puede intitular de nuevo emperador de ella, y con título y no menos mérito que el de Alemaña, que por la gracia de Dios vuestra sacra majestad posee. Y porque querer de todas las cosas de estas partes y nuevos reinos de vuestra alteza decir todas las particularidades y cosas que en ellas hay y decir se debían, sería casi proceder a infinito.

        out loud on a regular basis, but even contemporary literary Spanish doesn’t tend to have nearly the same amount of sentences that just go one for half a page, much less the sort of stuff people would write to each other normally.

        As you’ve mentioned, other syntactically similar languages do just fine without them, even including other Romance languages spoken in various regions of Spain. The only exception I’m aware of is Asturianu, which apparently also uses them, though apparently they’re optionally allowed in Galego Real Academia Galega. On page 38 of the PDF, it says they’re entirely optional if you want to facilitate reading by including them.

        • @[email protected]
          link
          fedilink
          218 days ago

          Sure they are not strictly necessary, but nice to have. It’s like how we capitalizing the first word of every sentence in English. Really helps guide the eye.

    • 🇰 🔵 🇱 🇦 🇳 🇦 🇰 ℹ️OP
      link
      fedilink
      English
      818 days ago

      Well now I have to wonder why other languages don’t do the front punctuation thing. It would be just as helpful in English as it is in Spanish to know a sentence is a question before getting to the end of it. Scrambling to lift your voice into a question you’ve been reading as a statement until you see the question mark at the end is awkward. lol

      • @[email protected]
        link
        fedilink
        1018 days ago

        Scrambling to lift your voice into a question you’ve been reading as a statement until you see the question mark at the end is awkward

        I’d argue this is exactly why it’s not necessary on English; what makes it a question tends to be the inflection at the very end so no real need for a warning way at the beginning.

        • @[email protected]
          link
          fedilink
          English
          718 days ago

          Also, while English certainly can form questions that are identical to statements (“They fly now?” “They fly now.”), it’s not necessary or even the most common way. More of the burden for clear communication can be left to the writer.

    • Nougat
      link
      fedilink
      -618 days ago

      English manages the exact same thing without the leading punctuation.

      • teft
        link
        fedilink
        13
        edit-2
        18 days ago

        English changes the order of the words of the sentence. Spanish uses punctuation marks. It’s just differences in languages. Personally I appreciate them since it helps me read Spanish quicker with fewer parsing errors.

        • Nougat
          link
          fedilink
          018 days ago

          “How would I find out?”

          I can tell you.

          I can tell you?

          Yes, English uses word order to define grammar in many more sentences than Spanish, but not exclusively.

          • Lvxferre
            link
            fedilink
            13
            edit-2
            18 days ago

            I can tell you?

            Dunno for others but for me this question sounds rhetorical, due to the lack of inversion. By default you expect questions in English to start with an optional interrogative pronoun, plus a [typically auxiliary] verb - “can I tell you?”, “do you know him?”, “how do you know this?” et cetera.

  • @[email protected]
    link
    fedilink
    16
    edit-2
    18 days ago

    The ¿ and ¡ prepare the reader mentally for what’s coming and let the speaker adapt pronunciation.

    Consider the following 2 sentences in English:

    It’s raining.

    and

    It’s raining?

    Meaning and intonation are different. Luckily our eyes don’t read strictly in one direction like a scanner but instead they skip back and forth a lot (saccades) which means your brain registers the question mark even before you get to pronounce the first word. Still it’s helpful to have an extra signal at the start of the sentence.

    So why no extra dot at the beginning? Because it’s the default case. And since the function of the dot is to separate sentences a single one already does the job. Note how there is also no double period when a sentence ends with an abbreviation or abbr. And in headers it’s often fully omitted because the layout itself signals the separation from what precedes or follows.

  • @[email protected]
    link
    fedilink
    English
    518 days ago

    Period would be the default, so no reason to include it as well. Questions and exclamations have a different tone than simple statements, so it’s more useful. It’s particularly useful in Spanish, as the word order/conjugation is changed less frequently than in English, so it’s going to help a reader understand intent more quickly. It seems like it became established as “proper” in 1754 by Spain’s Royal Academy. It also would have been very easy for printers, as they would just chuck their existing type into the tray upside down.

  • iAmTheTot
    link
    fedilink
    518 days ago

    Fun fact but it’s actually a pretty recent thing for the language in the first place. While first done in the 1700’s iirc, there are Spanish language publications that didn’t follow the punctuation rules as recently as the 1900’s.