I have tried an interrogative sentence on Google Translate from English to Hebrew and that was "How old are you?"

It translated as what you see in the picture. (of course Hebrew is right to left)

Why is the question mark like what we see in left-to-right languages?

I mean why "?" instead of "؟"

enter image description here

  • 3
    Why would you expect "؟"? – OmarL Apr 19 at 16:53
  • @OmarL All right-to-left languages should have a "؟" as the question mark. "How are you?" and "شما چند ساله هستید؟" are English and Persian respectively. Note that it's the "open side" of the question mark that should face the letters (in both left-to-right and right-to-left languages), not the other side. You can also place a left-to-right interrogative sentence in front of a mirror. The result is a right-to-left sentence with a "؟". Symmetry is important. – aminabzz Apr 19 at 17:09
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    There is no such thing as "should have" or "should be" in linguistics, nor in any science. – OmarL Apr 19 at 17:55
  • 3
    @aminabzz. Symmetry is important - to whom? In what circumstances? To what standard? Why are Arabic final forms not mirror images of Arabic initial forms? – Colin Fine Apr 19 at 22:25
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    @aminabzz, and I ask what is the basis for your "should". (I could also be pedantic, and point out that LTR and RTL is a property of scripts, not of languages) – Colin Fine Apr 20 at 17:32

This is likely to be an unsatisfying answer, but…

Historical accident. That's just the way it is.

Hebrew imported various punctuation marks from various other languages of Europe fairly early, and kept their forms unchanged (Google points me to a document from 1784). Other RTL languages (e.g. Arabic) imported them later, and reversed some of them to fit their writing direction.

In linguistics, "this is how the speakers of the language do it" generally matters more than symmetry or aesthetic concerns.

  • 2
    Or the way I often phrase it: "Language is what it is, not what somebody thinks it should be". – Colin Fine Apr 19 at 22:23
  • Thanks. I'm satisfied. BTW, I couldn't post my question on other Hebrew-related sites; that's why I asked it here. – aminabzz Apr 20 at 14:10

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