Question mark

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Punctuation

The question mark (?; also known as an interrogation point, interrogation mark, question point, query or eroteme),[1] is a punctuation mark that replaces the full stop (period) at the end of an interrogative sentence. The question mark is not used for indirect questions. The question mark character is also often used in place of missing or unknown data.

Some other languages also use the question mark, or variants on it to denote questions in writing.

Contents

History

Lynne Truss attributes an early form of the question mark to Alcuin of York.[2] Truss describes the punctus interrogativus of the late 8th century as "a lightning flash, striking from right to left".[3] (The punctuation system of Aelius Donatus, current through the Early Middle Ages, used only simple dots at various heights.)

This earliest question mark was a decoration of one of these dots, with the "lightning flash" perhaps meant to denote intonation (or a tilde or titlo, named after the Latin word titulus, as in “ ·~ ”, like those wavy and more or less slanted marks used in lots of medieval texts for denoting various things such as abbreviations, and that would become later various diacritics or ligatures or modified letters used in the Latin script), and perhaps associated with early musical notation like neumes.[4][5] Over the next three centuries this pitch-defining element (if it ever existed) seems to have been forgotten, so that the Alcuinesque stroke-over-dot sign (with the stroke sometimes slightly curved) is often seen indifferently at the end of clauses, whether they embody a question or not.

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