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As a large portion of this volume is devoted to a consideration of the pauses and other marks usually employed in written language, and the notice which should be taken of them in the correct and judicious cnunciation of the sentences in which they are respectively used, a few introductory remarks respecting their nature and the origin of their names may not, perhaps, be deemed superfluous by those who use the book.
Punctuation is peculiar to the modern languages of Europe. It was wholly unknown to the Greeks and Romans; and the languages of the East, although they have certain marks or signs to indicate tones, have no regular system of punctuation. The Romans and the Greeks also, it is true, had certain points, which, like those of the languages of the East, were confined to the delivery and pronunciation of words; but the pauses were indicated by breaking up the matter into lines or paragraphs, not by marks resembling those in the modern system of punctuation. Hence, in the responses of the ancient oracles, which were generally written down by the priests and delivered to the inquirers, the ambiguity – intentional, doubtless — which the want of punctuation caused, saved the credit of the oracle, whether the expected event was favorable or unfavorable. As an instance of this kind, may be cited that remarkable response which was given on a well known occasion when the oracle was consulted with regard to the success of a certain military expedition
“ Ibis et redibis nunquam peribis in bello.” Written, as it was, without being pointed, it might be translated either “ Thou shalt go, and shalt never return, thou shalt perish in battle,” or “ Thou shalt go and shalt return, thou shalt never perish in battle.” The correct translation depends on the placing of a comma after the word nunquam, or after redibis.
The invention of the modern system of punctuation has been attributed to the Alexandrian grammarian Aristophanes, after whom it was improved by succeeding grammarians; but it was so entirely lost in the time of Charlemagne that he found it necessary to have it restored by Warnefried and Alcuin. It consisted at first of only one point, used in three ways, and sometimes of a stroke, both being formed in several ways. But as no particular rules were followed in the use of these signs, punctuation was exceedingly uncertain, until the end of the fifteenth
century, when the learned Venetian printers, the Manutii, increased the number of the signs, and established some fixed rules for their application. These were so generally adopted, that we may consider them as the inventors of the present method of punctuation; and although modern grammarians have introduced some improvements, nothing but some particular rules have been added since that time.
The design of the system of Manutius was purely grammatical, and had no further reference to enunciation, than to remove ambiguity in the meaning and to give precision to the sentence. This, therefore, is the object of punctuation, and although the marks employed in written language may sometimes denote the different pauses and tones of voice which the sense and an accurate pronunciation require, yet they are more generally designed to mark the grammatical divisions of a sentence, and to show the dependence and relation of words and members which are separated by the intervening clauses. The teacher, therefore, who directs his pupils to “mind their pauses in reading,” gives but an unintelligible direction to those who are unversed in the rules of analysis. A better direction would be to disregard the pauses, and endeavor to read the sentence with just such pauses and tones as they would employ if the sentence were their own, and they were uttering it in common conversation. The truth of this remark will abundantly appear by a reference to the ninth lesson of this volume, and the directions given in relation to the comma. Indeed it is often the case that correct and tasteful reading requires pauses, and those too of a considerable length, to be made, where such pauses are indicated in written language by no mark whatever. [See Lesson X.]
In like manner it will appear, from an inspection of the latter part of the ninth lesson, that it is not unfrequently the case that the sense will allow no pause whatever to be made in cases where, if the marks alone were observed, it would seem that a pause of considerable length is required. The pupil, therefore, who has been taught to mind his pauses, must first be taught to unlearn this direction, and endeavor to understand the sentence which he is to read before he attempts to enunciate it.
The characters employed in written language are the following: The Comma,
The Hyphen, The Semicolon,
The Breve, The Colon,
! The Acute Accent, The Interrogation,
The Grave Accent, The Quotation Marks,
The Circumflex Accent, The Diæresis,
The Caret, The Crotchets,
The Cedilla, The Brackets,
The Obelisk or Dagger, +
sometimes by Hyphens, thus,
These characters, when judiciously employed, fix the meaning and give precision to the signification of sentences, which, in a written form, would be ambiguous or indefinite without them. Thus, “I said that he is dishonest it is true and I am sorry for it.” Now the meaning of this sentence can be ascertained only by a correct punctuation. If it be punctuated as follows: “I said that he is dishonest, it is true, and I am sorry for it;" the meaning will be, that it is true that I said he was dishonest, and I am sorry that I said so. But if it be punctuated thus, “I said that he was dishonest; it is true; and I am sorry for it;" the meaning will be, I said that he was dishonest; it is true that he was dishonest, and I am sorry that he was so.
Again, the following sentence, as here punctuated, is an innocent remark: “ Believing Richard Brothers to be a prophet sent by God, I have painted his portrait.” But the sentence as it was originally written by its author, with the comma after sent, instead of after God, was a piece of horrid profanity.
A further instance of the importance of correct punctuation was afforded by a late advertisement, in which the commissioner for lighting one of the most commercial cities of Europe, by the misplacing of a comma in his advertisement, would have contracted for the supply of but half the required light. The advertisement represented the lamps as “4050 in number, having two spouts each, composed of not less than twenty threads of cotton." This expression implied that the lamps had each two spouts, and that the two spouts had twenty threads, that is, each spout had ten threads. But the meaning that the commissioner intended to convey was, that each spout had twenty threads; and his advertisement should have had the comma after “spouts," instead of after “cach,” thus : The lamps have two spouts, each composed of twenty threads, &c.
These instances will suffice to illustrate the nature and the importance of correct punctuation.
But although the meaning of a sentence is thus materially affected by the punctuation, it will be seen in the following lessons that the puncluation alone is an unsafe guide to follow in the enunciation of any collection of words. For, in many cases, these marks indicate no pause, emphasis, or other remarkable circumstance requiring notice in the enunciation of the sentence. [See Lesson IX., latter part.]
The nature of the inarks used in written language may also be understood by a reference to the origin of their names.
The word Comma is derived from the Greek language, and properly designates a seyment, section, or part cut off from a complete sentence. In its usual acceptation, it signifies the point which marks the smaller segments or portions of a period. It therefore represents the shortest pause, and consequently marks the least constructive, or most dependent parts of a sentence.
The word colon is from the Greek, and signifies a member, and the Latin prefix semi means half. A Semicolon is used for the purpose of pointing out those parts of a compound sentence, which, although they each constitute a distinct proposition, have yet a dependence upon each other, or on some common clause.
The Colon is used to divide a sentence into two or more parts, which, although the sense be complete in each, are not independent.
The word Period is derived from the Greek, and means a circuit. When the circuit of the sense is completed, with all its relations, the mark bearing this name is used to denote this completion.
The word Interrogation is derived from the Latin, and means a ques. tion.
The word Exclamation is from the same language, and means a passionate utterance.
The word Parenthesis is derived from the Greek language, and means an insertion. A sentence, clause, or phrase, inserted between the paris of another sentence for the purpose of explanation, or of calling particular attention, is properly called a parenthesis.
It is to be remarked, however, that the name parenthesis belongs only to the sentence inserted between brackets or crotchets, and not to those marks themselves.
The word Hyphen is derived from the Greek language, and signifies under one, that is, together; and is used to imply that the letters or sylla bles between which it is placed are to be taken together as one word.
The hyphen, when placed over a vowel, to indicate the long sound of the vowel, is called the Macron, from the Greek, signifying lung.
The mark called a Breve, indicating the short sound of the vowel, is from the Latin, signifying short.
The word Ellipsis, also from the Greek, means an omission, and properly refers to the words, the members, or the sentences which are omitted, and not to the marks which indicate the omission.
The word Apostrophe, also from the Greek, signifies the turning away, or the omission of one letter or more.
The word Diæresis is also from the Greek, and signifies the taking apart, or the separation of the vowels, which would otherwise be pronounced as one syllable,
The term Accent is derived from the Latin language, and implies the tone of the voice with which a word or syllable is to be pronounced.
* The word A postrophe, as here used, must not be confounded with the samo word as the name of a rhetorical figure.
The word Section, derived also from the Latin, signifies a cutting, or a division. The character which denotes a section seems to be composed of ss, and to be an abbreviation of the words signum sectionis, or the sign of a section. This character, which was formerly used as the sign of the division of a discourse, is now rarely used except as a reference to a note at the bottom of the page.
The word Paragraph is derived from the Greek language, and signifies an ascription in the margin. This mark, like that of the section, was formerly used to designate those divisions of a section which are now indicated by unfinished lines or blank spaces. This mark, as well as the section, is now rarely used except as a reference.
It may further be remarked, that notes at the bottom of the page, on the margin, or at the end of the book, are often indicated by figures, or by letters, instead of the marks which have already been enumerated.
The word Caret is from the Latin, and signifies it is wanting. This mark is used only in manuscript.
The Cedilla is a mark placed under the letters c and g to indicate the soft sound of those letters.
The Asterisk, Obelisk, Double Obelisk, and Parallels, with the section and paragraph, are merely arbitrary marks to call attention to the notes at the bottom of the page.
As these marks which have now been enumerated all have a meaning, and are employed for some special purpose, it is recommended to the teacher never to allow the pupil to pass by them without being assured that he or she understands what that purpose is. Correct and tasteful reading can never be attained without a full appreciation of the meaning which the author intended to convey ; and that nreaning is often to be ascertained by the arbitrary marks employed for the purpose of giving definiteness to an expression. At the same time the teacher should be careful that the pupil shall consider these marks as his guide to the meaning only, not to the enunciation, of a sentence. Correct delivery must be left to the guidance of taste and judgment only.
In many excellent selections for lessons in reading, the pieces have been arranged in regular order, according to the nature of their respective subjects, under the heads of Narrative, Descriptive, Didactic, Argumentative and Pathetic pieces, Public Speeches, Promiscuous pieces, the Eloquence of the Bar, of the Pulpit, and of the Forum.
By Narrative pieces is meant those pieces only which contain a simple narration. Descriptive pieces are those in which something is described. Didactic pieces are those designed to convey some particular kind of instruction, whether moral, religious, or scientific. Argumentative pieces are those in which some truth is designed to be proved. Pathetic pieces are those by which the feelings of pity, love, admiration and other passions, are excited. Promiscuous pieces are those which fall under none of the classes which have been enumerated, or consist of a mixture of those classes. The Eloquence of the Bar consists of speeches (or