The study of modern punctuation is not possible without the knowledge of its origin, evolution, features of the development in languages. The high level of modern philological research, studying the text primarily in terms of communicative language features, does not allow one to limit ourselves to describing the current system of punctuation, or set of rules for the use of punctuation. A simple statement can no longer meet the researcher’s syntax: only careful study of the history and gradual development of English punctuation, revelation of the features of the functioning of the punctuation marks in the course of historical development of language can contribute to a better understanding of the semiotic system. Punctuation is used not only to send a letter to the syntactic relations, but also consciously is used by an author for the transfer of semantic and expressive inflections of speech, providing the expression of a text. Punctuation is an excellent guideline for the reader to help understand the meaning of utterances, and how and what rhythmic-prosodic means of reproduction should be used.

In our research we are going to focus on the use of punctuation marks in English sentences in accordance with their function.

The relevance of this work is due to the fact that the punctuation in the English language is a very problematic part of grammar. In contrast to the Russian language, in English, punctuation is not given proper attention. Many native speakers admit in a letter to such liberties with punctuation marks, that they seem to be unacceptable because of the ignorance of most of the rules of punctuation; there is rapid growth in this kind of error. Nowadays linguists are very concerned about this issue. In this work we examine this from different perspectives.

The purpose of our study is to analyze the role of punctuation in the English language.

The goals of our research are the following:

To find out the causes of problems with punctuation.

To analyze the most difficult area of punctuation.

To reveal the basic rules of punctuation for the most complicated punctuation marks in English.

The object of the work is to study the written speech of native speakers.

Each chapter of our study reveals a certain task. All parts of the research are closely connected and complete each other. The second chapter explains the general rules of punctuation at the end of a sentence, features the use of punctuation marks in the Simple Sentence, in a compound and complex sentences correspondingly, in sentences with subordination and co-ordination.

In the process of our study we used the following scientific methods:

  • description
  • analysis
  • contextual analysis
  • generalization
  • the method of induction, etc.

For our scientific work we used the works and proceedings of L. N. Sklar, V.L. Kaushanskaya, F. Crews, L.Q. Troyka, H. Marius, H. Korder, G. Levin, A. Lunsford and R. Connors.


The History of Punctuation

Punctuation marks are symbols that indicate the structure and organization of written language, as well as intonation and pauses to be observed when reading aloud.

In written English, punctuation is vital to disambiguate the meaning of sentences. For example, “woman, without her man, is nothing” and “woman: without her, man is nothing” have greatly different meanings, as do “eats shoots and leaves” and “eats, shoots and leaves”. “King Charles walked and talked; half an hour after, his head was cut off” is less surprising than “King Charles walked and talked half an hour after his head was cut off”.

The rules of punctuation vary with language, location, register and time and are constantly evolving. Certain aspects of punctuation are stylistic and are thus the author’s (or editor’s) choice. Language forms, such as those used in online chat and text messages, may have wildly different rules.

The first writing systems were mostly logographic and/or syllabic, for example Chinese and Maya script, and they did not necessarily require punctuation, especially spacing. This is because the entire morpheme or word is typically clustered within a single symbol, so spacing does not help as much to distinguish where one word ends and the other starts. Disambiguation and emphasis can easily be communicated without punctuation by employing a separate written form distinct from the spoken form of the language that uses slightly different phraseology. Even today, formal written modern English differs subtly from spoken English because not all emphasis and disambiguation is possible to convey in print, even with punctuation.

Ancient Chinese classical texts were transmitted without punctuation. But by the Song dynasty, addition of punctuation to texts by scholars to aid comprehension became common.

The earliest alphabetic writing had no capitalization, no spaces, no vowels and few punctuation marks. This worked as long as the subject matter was restricted to a limited range of topics (e.g., writing used for recording business transactions). Punctuation is historically an aid to reading aloud.

The oldest known document using punctuation is the Mesha Stele (the 9th century BC). This employs points between the words and horizontal strokes between the sense sections as punctuation.

The Greeks were using punctuation marks consisting of vertically arranged dots – usually two (cf. the modern colon) or three – in around the 5th century BC. Greek playwrights such as Euripides and Aristophanes used symbols to distinguish the ends of phrases in written drama: this essentially helped the play’s cast to know when to pause. In particular, they used three different symbols to divide speeches, known as commas (indicated by a centered dot), colons (indicated by a dot on the base line), and periods or full stops (indicated by a raised dot).

The Romans (circa the 1st century BC) also adopted symbols to indicate pauses.

Punctuation developed dramatically when large numbers of copies of the Christian Bible started to be produced. These were designed to be read aloud and the copyists began to introduce a range of marks to aid the reader, including indentation, various punctuation marks and an early version of initial capitals. Saint Jerome and his colleagues, who produced the Vulgate translation of the Bible into Latin, developed an early system (circa 400 AD); this was considerably improved on by Alcuin. The marks included the virgule (forward slash) and dots in different locations; the dots were centred in the line, raised or in groups.

With the invention of moveable type in Europe began an increase of printed material. “The rise of printing in the 14th and 15th centuries meant that a standard system of punctuation was urgently required.” The introduction of a standard system of punctuation has also been attributed to Aldus Manutius and his grandson. They have been credited with popularizing the practice of ending sentences with the colon or full stop, inventing the semicolon, making occasional use of parentheses and creating the modern comma by lowering the virgule. By 1566, Aldus Manutius the Younger was able to state that the main object of punctuation was the clarification of syntax.

By the 19th century, punctuation in the western world had evolved “to classify the marks hierarchically, in terms of weight”.

The standards and limitations of evolving technologies have exercised further pragmatic influences. For example, minimization of punctuation in typewritten matter became economically desirable in the 1960s and 1970s for the many users of carbon-film ribbons, since a period or comma consumed the same length of expensive non-reusable ribbon as did a capital letter.

Having studied the history of the development of punctuation, we have come to the conclusion, that the way of punctuation was very diverting and complicated. Some scientists suppose that we have no new information for its progress, others disagree with it. But we consider that this branch of grammar can be developed. It can change its structure, may alter its constituent parts. We suppose whether to use or not depends on the style of a language, the situation and interlocutors.