Pause and Effect: An Introduction to the History of Punctuation in the West

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University of California Press, 1993 - History - 327 pages
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Over the centuries punctuation has become an essential component of written language. Its primary function is to resolve structural uncertainties in a text, and to signal nuances of semantic significance. The importance of the study of punctuation to a number of disciplines will be widely recognised as a result of the publication of this first definitive history. The first part of Pause and Effect identifies the graphic symbols and deals with their history. It covers the antecedents of the repertory of symbols, as well as the ways in which the repertory was refined and augmented with new symbols to meet changing requirements. The second part offers a short general account of the principal influences which have contributed to the ways in which the symbols have been applied in texts, focusing on the evidence of the practice itself rather than on theorists. The treatment enables the reader to compare usages in different periods, and to isolate the principles which underlie the use of punctuation in all periods. The examples and plates which are at the core of the book provide the reader with an opportunity to test the author's observations. The examples are taken from a wide range of literary texts from different periods and languages. Latin texts are accompanied by English translations intended to illustrate the use of punctuation in the originals in so far as this is possible. Pause and Effect is destined to be a standard work. It will stimulate interest and scholarly debates among writers, literary critics, philosophers, linguists, rhetoricians, palaeographers and all those who study the use of language.

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About the author (1993)

M. B. Parkes is Fellow of Keble College and Lecturer in Palaeography, Oxford University. He is the author of English Cursive Book Hands 1250-1500 (California, 1980).

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