Friday, September 19, 2014

The Symbolism of Punctuation Marks

Recently, over at Brain Pickings, we have an imaginative discussion of punctuation by the German Philosopher  Theodor Adorno. Here is an imaginative excerpt discussing the symbolism of punctuation marks:

An exclamation point looks like an index finger raised in warning; a question mark looks like a flashing light or the blink of an eye. A colon, says Karl Kraus, opens its mouth wide: woe to the writer who does not fill it with something nourishing. Visually, the semicolon looks like a drooping mustache; I am even more aware of its gamey taste. With self-satisfied peasant cunning, German quotation marks (« ») lick their lips.

And here is a deeper insight on how punctuation stitches text together:

Instead of diligently serving the interplay between language and the reader,they serve, hieroglyphically, an interplay that takes place in the interior of language, along its own pathways. Hence it is superfluous to omit them as being superfluous: then they simply hide. Every text, even the most densely woven, cites them of its own accord — friendly spirits whose bodiless presence nourishes the body of language.

You can read more here (scroll down the website a bit). I know nothing about punctuation marks in other languages. A comparative exploration could prove quite interesting.


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