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I teach some students who are not native English speakers and commonly make this mistake in their writing: They often combine two complete sentences without any punctuation or break between them.

Example: "The activity was interesting we learned a lot."

Question: Are there any languages where this sort of grammar meets standard formal writing rules? By "this sort of grammar" I mean a sentence of the form:

[Ind. Clause A] [Ind. Clause B]

with zero punctuation or conjuction between the two clauses?

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    Do they also pronounce those without a break between them? Some languages don't use written punctuation, but still have breaks between sentences in speech.
    – Draconis
    Nov 29, 2018 at 16:51
  • It might be useful if you can tell what languages your students speak, because orthography of (say) Classical Chinese would be irrelevant if your students speak Quechua.
    – jick
    Nov 29, 2018 at 21:02
  • Maybe they only learned English from simple sample sentences, without context, so they think a full stop should wait for a change of topic.
    – amI
    Nov 30, 2018 at 12:24

2 Answers 2

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There is no punctuation in spoken languages (ignoring constructed languages like Lojban with spoken punctuation). It is debatable whether punctuation is a feature of language at all.

Even in written language, punctuation is rather young. Older inscriptions and manuscripts (e.g., in Classical Greek or Latin) often did not feature any punctuation at all. So at that time, writing without punctuation met the standards of literacy. Our punctuation system evolved basically in the last 500 year since the invention of the printing press. It turned out to be useful and is part of our codified writing system right now, but the ancient examples show that is is not really necessary.

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  • My question is about formal writing rules within a language, not spoken. Say, the grammar patterns used by newspapers or published books.
    – WillG
    Nov 29, 2018 at 19:12
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    @WillG. In that case you should not have said "languages".
    – fdb
    Nov 29, 2018 at 20:57
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    @WillG that's the point. Linguistics is about language whereas your question is about writing, which is a technology used to represent some aspect of language. Writing (including punctuation) is a largely arbitrary set of rules which must be consciously learned. This mistake is not uncommon with someone learning their first literacy, do the students have literacy in their first language/s? Nov 29, 2018 at 20:58
  • I think there is a connection between this rule of written English and spoken English, it would just be harder to specify since "punctuation" in spoken language is difficult to pinpoint. But surely the fact that sentences like "The activity was interesting we learned a lot" are agrammatical is connected to the fact that no one would say that in English without some sort of pause or intonation change between the two clauses. So I think there is something more than just a consciously learned arbitrary rule of writing going on here, wouldn't you agree?
    – WillG
    Nov 29, 2018 at 23:23
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    I'm not sure if these students are literate in their native languages. In fact, I'm curious if this sort of mistake indicates that they must be learning literacy for the first time, versus coming from a language where such sentences would be accepted as literate.
    – WillG
    Nov 29, 2018 at 23:26
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In Berber, the coordinating conjunction "and" between utterances doesn't exist (A part from some varieties). They say: I ate, I watched TV yesterday.

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  • Do they write such sentences with no delimiting punctuation mark in formal settings like newspapers or books?
    – WillG
    Nov 29, 2018 at 19:10
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    Most Berber speakers don't write in Berber. And punctuation is a sometime thing in most languages.
    – jlawler
    Nov 30, 2018 at 1:02
  • As it was said, Berber is not a traditional written language, so it does not have a normalised punctuation. Yet, there are some old writings (see Fonds Arsène Roux) using the Arabic alphabet. The latter does not use punctuation, so in these manuscripts none punctuation mark is present. Nowadays, the latin alphabet is used and generally it is the French punctuation which is applied. But, it will be interesting to see, how these Berber writers handle the punctuation with the coordinating conjunctions.
    – amegnunsen
    Nov 30, 2018 at 21:36

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