# Why

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by John99, Jul 25, 2009.

1. ### Fraggle RockerStaff Member

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My pleasure, although I don't recall defining it. Orthography is the set of rules for correctly writing a language, including spelling (for phonetic writing systems), punctuation, hyphenation, etc. It's an important aspect of any modern language.

3. ### DoreenValued Senior Member

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I understand what you are getting at. You think it is redundant. In some cases it is very redundant, but it is a convention. Conventions make it easier for us to immediately get the context. At least they should.

So we have a rule that every question ends with a question mark. To add in exceptions to this rule unnecessarily complicate things.

We don't really need a period after some sentences

(see?).

5. ### RandwolfIgnorance killed the catValued Senior Member

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OK..
Well, I just sort of took your shortened definition in post #21:
and ran with it... Is this not substantially the same?

7. ### Fraggle RockerStaff Member

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Substantially, sure; they overlap but not completely. Two different perspectives: what you do versus why you do it.

Orthography covers things like whether the exclamation point goes before or after the closing quotation mark: He actually told the gorgeous babe who was hitting on him, "Sorry, I'm not interested"!

It covers the difference between Mrs. and Dr. in the USA and Mrs and Dr in the UK.

It tells you whether you have to write RADAR and COBOL, Radar and Cobol, or radar and cobol. (Answer: radar and COBOL, but Cobol is catching on and it's what I enforce as a technical editor. If you look forward, you'll be right eventually.

)

It tells you what to do if you want to refer to Uncle Tom's Cabin, but your font has no italics. How to spell Übermensch if you have no umlaut. If you're Chinese, it tells you when it's appropriate to write left-to-right, right-to-left, or top-to-bottom.

Even transliteration is within the domain of orthography: Always romanize Yiddish so that it looks as different as possible from German, e.g. Yiddish, not Jüdisch.

8. ### RandwolfIgnorance killed the catValued Senior Member

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Ahhh... I see - general to specific.

OK, now I must thank you for the elucidation of my prior remark...

Nonetheless, I hope I have not mentioned COBOL as Cobol? I know COBOL and I thought abbreviations, as well as acronyms, were to be in all cap's? No? You prefer that people refer to the language as "Cobol"? Why?

(As to COBOL, and my recollection of it - if memory serves, you are also fluent, in reference to Y2K, right?)

I'm now - like, so confused...

9. ### Fraggle RockerStaff Member

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Acronyms undergo an evolution. At first they're jargon: portmanteau words coined by specialists who get tired of saying the whole phrase.

At that point an acronym is all capitals, a signal to laymen that they're not expected to understand it and should look it up or ask their friendly local professional in that line of work. "Hey, what's RADAR?" "It stands for RAdio Detection And Ranging."

By the end of the Korean War anyone who needed to know what RADAR was already did know and didn't have to ask someone else. So it became Radar, with one capital. In case a layman stumbled across it, he wouldn't waste his time looking for it in a dictionary.

Then the cops started using it and everybody knew what it was, and by this time it was in the dictionary, so it became radar. (Many acronyms skip the second step. I don't think Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation was ever written "Laser" with one capital.)

COBOL is the COmmon Business-Oriented Language for computer programmers who build MIS (Management Information Systems), following the FORTRAN (FORmula TRANslation) language used by scientific programmers, when computers got cheap enough to deploy for non-scientific applications. It's still generally written in all capitals. But the word is more than fifty years old, it's been in the dictionary for a very long time, and the language itself is practically obsolete! I think it's long past time to reduce it to one capital. Probably not all lower-case, since unlike radar it's not something most people encounter in conversation and news reports.

Dictionary.com allows Cobol, although it lists COBOL first. I've always spelled it that way in technical writing and no one has ever complained. I write "Fortran" too, althought that doesn't come up very often in the documents I work with.

Obviously some acronyms are trademarks, like Pemex (Petróleos Mexicanos), so they stay capitalized. Some are even proper names, like USA, which may be an abbreviation pronounced You-Ess-Ay over here, but in Hungary it's an acronym pronounced OO-sha.
I started my IT career as a Cobol programmer in 1967, when it was still written as COBOL. I was pretty good at it so they taught me BAL (Basic Assembler Language) and I was a systems programmer (operating system and infrastructural software, utilities, common routines, etc.) until I moved up into management. I don't read code any more so I haven't learned BASIC, C++, JAVA, HTML, etc. I'm more concerned about the quality (abysmal) and productivity (pathetic) of IT projects than the technology (almost too good since it tempts us to do things we can't do right).

I worked on Y2K (the largest project ever undertaken when you consider that even ten years ago the world's information infrastructure was largely integrated) but I did not read and remediate code. I did triage: sorting the systems into three categories:
• Red Blanket: software that absolutely had to be remediated in time or the consequences could be catastrophic
• Yellow blanket: software whose failure would be a colossal pain in the ass but civilization would survive
• Green blanket: everybody would be too busy worrying about the other stuff to even notice these
We got the Red Blanket systems working in time, thanks to every retired Cobol programmer being lured back to work, but Yellow Blanket systems were crashing right and left throughout 2000. I bought diet soda with expired aspartame, and our bank never got our mortgage bills right for the entire year--which, by the way, according to their computer had 13 months.
Then I must be doing a good job.

10. ### RandwolfIgnorance killed the catValued Senior Member

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You are - and I thank you for it.

One little issue you apparently forgot, though - we discussed the following in another thread, and fairly recently at that:

Remember? See:
So, once again thanks for the help on Y2K, plus the linguistics, of course. I know you post a lot, and probably read a lot more of other's posts, so forgetting little details like I mentioned is perfectly understandable. Alternatively, getting old sucks, eh? By the way, how did your transition to "Object Oriented" programming go? Is there an acronym for that? Something along the line of "OOPs" would work...

Last edited: Mar 15, 2010
11. ### Fraggle RockerStaff Member

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You can't expect me to remember something that happened three weeks ago. Only stuff from the last millennium. That's how Oldtimer's Disease works.
It's called OOP. It didn't really catch on until the early 1990s and by then my days of hands-on coding were far behind me. The last programming I did was in MAPPER, a primitive Unisys end-user language/database package in the early 1980s. Object-oriented analysis (OOA), object-oriented design (OOD), the object-oriented role analysis method (OOram) and other applications of object orientation were so prolific that we began to just refer to them all as O-O.

OOP is just an abbreviation, not an acronym. Everyone pronounces it O-O-P, not as Alley Oop's surname.

12. ### John99BannedBanned

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Not exactly. We do need a period at the end of sentences to make paragraphs readable.

Yes, i think it is redundant and it is redundant.

What context.

Thats not a good example because you only used one wrod. Very tricky of you.

I never seen a word like that, you put the word and q mark into parentheses and put a period after the closing parenthesis. Is that correct usage.

13. ### DoreenValued Senior Member

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Not if it is the last sentence

(see?)

That the last word in a sentence, in English, for example is probably said on a rising note. That it is a question. I do understand your beef with why. But if we decide to skip the question mark when it would be obvious otherwise, we then have a rule with an exception, whereas we lose nothing just having a rule. Also a period means it is not a question, now.

Sorry, I was unclear.

My 'see' was referring to the sentence before it...

Note there is no period. And this exactly parallels you idea. The period is redundant. We know the sentence is over. The paragraph is over.

Not really, but see above, it wasn't the example.

14. ### S.A.M.uniquely dreadfulValued Senior Member

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Punctuation marks are substitutes for/representative of speech inflections. It would be interesting to know when they were first incorporated into language

15. ### DoreenValued Senior Member

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Oh, I really, really wish this was the case. But it's not. Or, better put, it is partially true. But when I was younger I based my comma use on this and this often led to serious grammatical errors - in the university paper world, that is. Sadly I was trained to clean this up.

16. ### John99BannedBanned

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Wrong. We keep the period. The period replaces the question mark.

17. ### John99BannedBanned

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Thanks. Too many roblems with the mark. For one, once you put that mark at the end it is like making a demand for a response yet sometimes a response is not wanted. What if the writer is pondering some rhetorical point to get across and soes NOT want an answer nor does he\she expect an answer. So they still put the q mark at the end. Its just unnecessary.

18. ### John99BannedBanned

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That is even worse.

19. ### John99BannedBanned

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Code:
Did you go to the movie.

or

Did you go to the movie?
Also it will eliminate the need to repeat yourself:

A: (1) I think it is worse.

B: (2)That is worse?

A: (3)Yes, that is what i said.

B: (4)Can you elaborate on that.

Here we have subject B asking A to repeat him\herself. And for what purpose.

If we eliminate the question mark then that will no longer happen because it will apear as though B is agreeing with A. Clearly this is deceptive. Clearly B (2) is a reaction to A(1) wehn in reality he was asking B(4) but wasted the time with the reactionary response exhibited in B(2).

20. ### John99BannedBanned

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Initially i started out asking the question:

Why does why need a question mark at the end. I dont think anyone can give a good answer to that. Perhaps the reason is that there is none.

21. ### DoreenValued Senior Member

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4,100
I think my answer was accurate. We put question marks at the end of all questions so the reader is sure to know it is a question. Sometimes, given the context, or the presence of only a question word in your example, it would be clear anyway. BUT the rule does no harm - since we need to put something at the end anyway - and it saves us having to think about whether it is clear without the question mark. I do not have to weigh anything when writing it. And my readers are certainly no confused by the presence of the question mark.

Ease is the reason for many cultural rules.

22. ### Fraggle RockerStaff Member

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The earliest alphabetic writing had no punctuation, no capitals, and not even any spaces between the words. Since writing originated for the purpose of recordkeeping in business (as the more complex industry of the Bronze Age created long chains of transactions among strangers separated by both spatial and temporal distance) and dealt with a very narrow domain of subject matter, this was satisfactory.

The ancient Greeks put spaces between the words. Their playwrights invented the first punctuation marks around 500BCE. They used one, two or three vertically arranged dots (e.g. our modern colon : ) to help the actors get their pauses and inflections right when reading the sentences out loud. In particular their "comma" was one centered dot, their "colon" was one dot on the baseline, and their "period" or full stop was one high dot.

Around 100BCE the Romans adopted a similar system--probably not identical but I haven't searched that diligently.

By 400CE, large numbers (by pre-printing standards) of hand-copied Christian bibles were produced, and since literacy was extremely rare among Christians they were meant to be read aloud. St. Jerome and Alcuin devised a much more extensive punctuation system that included new symbols such as the virgule / . The practice of indentation began, and copyists began experimenting with disintinguishing capital and lower-case letters.

When the technology of printing was invented in Europe in the 15th century, punctuation standards were required. Many of our familiar symbols were created then, including parentheses, the semicolon, and the comma, which was nothing more than a virgule shrunken and lowered to the baseline. They were not all used the way they are today; the colon was used to end a sentence.

Other European languages using the Roman and Cyrillic alphabets, and the Greek alphabet from which they were derived, now use punctuation systems that are nearly identical to ours but not quite. The Greeks use our semicolon as a question mark and the Spanish upside-down question mark and exclamation point at the beginning of the sentence have already been discussed. Perhaps the greatest variation is in marking quotations, which has already been covered in another thread, most notably our “ and ” (which may not display correctly in this font), French « and », Russian «and» (no embedded spaces), Spanish -- and --.

Pre-modern Arabic did not use punctuation, but the modern language has adopted most of the Western symbols, with mirror images of the question mark and comma due to its right-to-left orthography. Hebrew, which is also right-to-left and was frozen in an ancient liturgical time bubble until the middle of the last century, uses the standard Western symbols with no mirror images.

The Devanagari script widely used by the Indian languages began using a vertical bar to end a sentence in the 17th century.

Chinese, Japanese and Korean got along without punctuation until quite recently, and of course their character sets have no capitals. They now generally use the Western symbols, but since the grammar and syntax of each of them is so much different from ours, and from each other, they cannot and do not use the symbols in quite the same way we do. In Chinese, with each symbol representing one word, spaces between the symbols are not necessary. This is also true in Korean, because the alphabetic symbols are piled atop one another in a standard pattern to form square blocks of strokes that resemble Chinese characters but are actually phonetic.

Last edited: Mar 28, 2010
23. ### John99BannedBanned

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I look at this: Why? and i ask myself 'why'. One day people will see my work and it will be appreciated. Why does not need a question mark after it and it is like any other redundancies that i see. To me it is no different than a double negative.