Interword separation

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Punctuation

In punctuation, a word divider is a glyph that separates written words. In languages which use the Latin, Cyrillic, and Arabic alphabets, as well as other languages of Europe and the Mideast, the word divider is a blank space, or whitespace, a convention which is spreading, along with other aspects of European punctuation, to Asia and Africa. However, many languages of East Asia are written without word separation (Saenger 2000).

Contents

History

In Ancient Egyptian, determinatives may have been used as much to demarcate word boundaries as to disambiguate the semantics of words.[1] Rarely in Assyrian cuneiform, but commonly in the later cuneiform Ugaritic alphabet, a vertical stroke 𒑰 was used to separate words.

As the alphabet spread throughout the ancient world, words were often run together without division, and this practice remains or remained until recently in much of South and Southeast Asia. However, not infrequently in inscriptions a vertical line, and in manuscripts a single (·), double (:), or triple interpunct (dot) was used to divide words. This practice was found in Phoenician, Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, and continues today with Ethiopic, though there whitespace is gaining ground.

Scriptio continua

The early alphabetic writing systems of Mesopotamia, such as the Phoenician alphabet, had only signs for consonants (although some signs for consonant could also stand for a vowel, so-called matres lectionis). Without some form of visible word dividers, parsing a text into its separate words would have been a puzzle. With the introduction of letters representing vowels in the Greek alphabet, the need for inter-word separation became much less. The earliest Greek inscriptions used interpuncts, as was common in the writing systems preceded it, but soon the practice of scriptio continua, continuous writing in which all words ran together without separation became common.

Use of spaces in Medieval Latin

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