When i write, i put a comma according to my gut feeling. therefore i left a lot of marks on my way to the end of the sentence that sum up to a bubble of insecurity. Anyway, i am not even sure it comma placement is a serious phenomenon in linguistics, could you provide further enlightment as for languages in general?

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    Comma placement has nothing to do with linguistics. It is a matter of convention in writing, and there are few 'absolute rules' in English.
    – tunny
    Commented Nov 5, 2014 at 14:17
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    there might be no comma placement in sign language or other universal systems of language, but nethertheless is this convention connected to the written language. i do not think the convention is t,o,tal,ly ar,bit,rar,y ?,
    – meireikei
    Commented Nov 5, 2014 at 14:20
  • I did not say the comma conventions were arbitrary. I merely said that there were few 'absolute rules' The use of commas is clearly a feature of the written language, though commas in English usually indicate some degree of pause in the spoken language.
    – tunny
    Commented Nov 5, 2014 at 14:26
  • @tunny writing conventions are part of linguistics
    – Anixx
    Commented Nov 6, 2014 at 9:27
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    @Anixx - If punctuation is part od linguistics, , it must be on the fringe. It receives no mention in Lyons (1981), Language and Linguistics, Malmhjær (ed)(2004), The Linguistics Encyclopedia, or Aarts & McMahon (eds) (2006), The Handbook of English Linguistics, It is not mentioned in Shheffied Univerity's Branches of Linguistics webpage (sites.google.com/a/sheffield.ac.uk/all-about-linguistics/… in Prasad & Verna (20120 Branches of Linguistics es.slideshare.net/dapurv5/branches-of-linguistics-11652624()
    – tunny
    Commented Nov 6, 2014 at 10:20

3 Answers 3


No, they are not, every language has its own rules for comma placement.

For example, in Russian a comma is needed before 'что' (that) introducing subordinate clauses, but in English no comma is used there:

Я знаю, что он придёт.

I know that he'll come.

In Chinese, there are two different commas, the regular comma (逗号) which is used o join together clauses, and, unlike English, it is allowed between a subject and its predicate, and the enumeration comma (顿号) which is used instead of the regular comma when separating words constituting a list, e.g. 'A、B、C'.


English has much less cases when comma is needed compared to Russian because Russian has free word order. In English the same information is conveyed with the order of the words. For instance, comma may totally change the meaning of a Russian sentence:

Казнить, нельзя помиловать = Execute, cannot pardon.

Казнить нельзя, помиловать = Cannot execute, pardon.

Нельзя казнить - помиловать = If it is impossible to execute, then pardon.

Rules for placing commas is a very difficult part of Russian grammar and even not all native always put commas the correct way.

  • I don't read Russian, but I think your Russian examples are reproducible in English: "Execute not, pardon" vs. "Execute, not pardon".
    – prash
    Commented Nov 6, 2014 at 13:47
  • @prash I think your examples are ungrammatical.
    – Anixx
    Commented Nov 6, 2014 at 14:51
  • They are grammatical. Haven't you seen constructs like "ask not what your country can do for you...", or "waste not, want not", or "seek not the things of this world..."? Such constructs are considered somewhat archaic, but people still say such things when they want to sound poetic.
    – prash
    Commented Nov 6, 2014 at 16:14
  • @prash I am the first time encountering such constructions.
    – Anixx
    Commented Nov 6, 2014 at 19:06
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    @Anixx. I do not think you are in a position to judge whether an English sentence is grammatical or not. By the way: English speakers would say "English has many fewer cases where a comma is needed ...."
    – fdb
    Commented Nov 8, 2014 at 13:54

Commas in English are used to represent a particular intonation profile; they go by "gut feeling" if one's gut feels the intonation of a sentence.

Likewise, they have nothing more to do with grammar than intonation does -- i.e, plenty, but not anything one can define easily.

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