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From my experience, many languages with absolutely different alphabets colloquially use the same common punctuation marks, such as:

  • the question mark (?), for inquiring/interrogatives
  • exclamation mark (!), for excitement or emphasis
  • period (.), for declaration

For example, asking a question in a couple different languages:

  • What's your name?
  • Как тебя зовут?
  • ما اسمك؟
  • 您貴姓大名?

Or exclaiming something:

  • Cheers!
  • За здоровье!
  • Στην υγειά σου!
  • 乾杯!

How have these stayed in common usage throughout the evolution of languages and their alphabets? Were they standardized at some point?

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2 Answers 2

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They were standardized at some point, in the 19th-20th centuries, but many languages still keep their own ancient punctuation, e.g. the Armenian period is :, the Armenian question mark is ՞ which is put above the last vowel letter of the question word, the Greek question mark is ;, Spanish uses the upside-down question mark ¿ at the beginning of interrogative sentences (¿Qué? 'What?'), the same with the exclamation mark (¡Hola! 'Hi!'). Japanese has specific punctuation, the period is . Amharic keeps the ancient Ge'ez punctuation, but it gets outdated now and often substituted with the European-style one. Many Asian scripts of Indian origin, e.g. Javanese, still keep their traditional punctuation.

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    Do you have any references about how this standardization took place or what may have driven it?
    – acattle
    Commented Jan 3, 2015 at 2:45
  • 6
    @acattle - For every languages it happened at a different time, that's a matter of history of every specific language. Have a look at this: openculture.com/2013/09/the-history-of-punctuation.html and grammar.about.com/od/punctuationandmechanics/a/… and msmcclure.com/?page_id=6448
    – Yellow Sky
    Commented Jan 3, 2015 at 3:23
  • That comment is more or less what I was looking for. Thanks
    – galois
    Commented Jan 3, 2015 at 7:58
  • @zixuan Please make a greater effort to write grammatically. People have been flagging your comments for the last couple of days because they have no idea what you're trying to communicate.
    – prash
    Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 6:55
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In Arabic and Chinese the use of Western-style punctuation is very modern, not before the 20th century.

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