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?


2 Answers 2


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 Amharic keeps the ancient Ge'ez punctuation, but it gets outdated now and often substituted with the European-style one.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.


In Arabic and Chinese the use of Western-style punctuation is very modern, not before the 20th century.

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