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Thread: Differences between English and Spanish punctuation rules/conventions

  1. #1
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    Default Differences between English and Spanish punctuation rules/conventions

    This may well be destined to be the most boring thread ever, but I'll take my chances. In English at least, punctuation has become a hot topic of late, with books like Eats, Shoots and Leaves - The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation inciting the masses to take action against greengrocers’ apostrophes and other evils.

    In Spanish it appears that the rules of punctuation are similar to English, perhaps with the exception of the semi-colon ";" to separate clauses - in Spanish it tends to be used in lists of names, titles and occupations. E.g. La reunión contó con la participación del presidente dominicano, Leonel Fernández; el primer ministro británico, Gordon Brown; y el presidente estadounidense, George W Bush. This makes absolute sense, but is not a convention in English grammar.

    There is a way in which I notice commas being used, like here:

    Leonel Fernández, había prometido al pueblo dominicano que el metro estaría listo en febrero del 2008.


    A comma indicates a pause, but is there really a natural pause between “Leonel Fernández” and the rest of the sentence? Is it even correct in Spanish? I see it all the time, which makes me wonder.

    I also noticed that my son’s second grade Spanish language textbook covers all the problem areas like the confusion between b/v, s/c/z and the basic rules of punctuation very meticulously and systematically, yet these errors are still very common across all educational levels as far as I can tell.

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    Default Dijiste la verdad....

    Quote Originally Posted by Chirimoya View Post
    This may well be destined to be the most boring thread ever, but I'll take my chances.
    You are absolutely CORRECT......Even worse (Ohhhh help me God) than AZB's "Guacamole" thread and my "Trivia" thread....Wahahaha.(Perhaps because I am ONE of the guilty ones, haha)

    I do give you a "thumbs up" for trying, .

    JMO!.
    Last edited by miguel; 01-18-2008 at 09:45 AM.

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    I thought maybe my fellow language geeks - if only to correct my spelling and grammatical errors...

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    Chiri, I'm reading and don't find it boring at all. As I'm reading Leslie's interesting thread on words

    Perhaps you or Leslie or Norma Rosa could give us a quick update again on basic punctuation use in Spanish? In order to make sure some of us perpetual language 'laggers' can understand what is going on.

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    I can't quite explain why, but I wouldn't write the comma after "Leonel Fernández" in that sentence. From what I remember from elementary school that would be grammatically incorrect but I can't remember why

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chirimoya View Post

    There is a way in which I notice commas being used, like here:

    Leonel Fernández, había prometido al pueblo dominicano que el metro estaría listo en febrero del 2008.


    A comma indicates a pause, but is there really a natural pause between “Leonel Fernández” and the rest of the sentence? Is it even correct in Spanish? I see it all the time, which makes me wonder.
    The comma right after the President's name denotes a pause to be taken by the reader, just as if it was to be orated to the public:

    "Leonel Fernandez -pause- promised the Dominican people that the Metro was going to be up and running by February 2008"

    In English I think it would be most appreciable to a listener of such speech to make the pause somewhere else now...

    Commas are used to denote a pause by the speaker, not the reader per se, to make the sentence carry the actual intended message of the original context. Much like a movie script, where the original context in the work of the author is further augmented in it; the resulting action and emotional stance of the actor carries the intended message as he speaks the lines.

    This is most notably made in a point used by teachers in Spanish, where they use the following sentence to make the point come across to both reader and speaker:

    El veredicto es no, matarlo.
    The verdict is no, kill him.


    The typist used the comma in the wrong place.

    It should read and be said:

    El veredicto es, no matarlo.
    The verdict is, don't kill him.


    The improper use of punctuation is not to be taken slightly, so it’s the message of the sentences and punctuation examples.
    One Dominican at a time please!

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    I tend to overuse commas in English because I started my journalistic career on radio, and had to work from scripts, so I can relate to PICHARDO's explanation. I still wouldn't put a comma after "Leonel Fernández" in either case, especially in a medium that is not meant for reading aloud, though.

    Maybe it's to do with the DR being primarily an oral culture and people write as they would speak?

    And yes, a comma in the wrong place can transform the meaning of a sentence, sometimes with disastrous effects.

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    Actually, books were not meant to be just read from as we think "not aloud".
    Books were the primary source of knowledge, information and arts in its beginnings.
    Scholars would use the center stage and read from the books very much aloud; it became extremely important for the original authors that their intended message was orated to the masses as faithfully possible.

    The use of punctuation gave the authors the tools to make sure that their works would be heard, as they heard them in their own minds when composing each sentence. Pauses and emotive altos included.
    It was possible this way to give the closest to a "live" oratorio from his lips to the waiting ears, conserving every passionate stroke of the words just as he emote them himself aloud.

    Poetry and arts make use of this medium to the full potential most.

    After all, words are the embodiment of our emotions in print...
    Last edited by PICHARDO; 01-18-2008 at 11:38 AM.
    One Dominican at a time please!

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    Boring? No way, Doña Chiri.

    I'd add more, especially info on recent articles I've read regrading punctuation and stuff. However, I'm sure it'll get deleted.

    I still refer to The Elements of Style, which has been around since the early-1900s.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chirimoya View Post
    I also noticed that my son’s second grade Spanish language textbook covers all the problem areas like the confusion between b/v, s/c/z and the basic rules of punctuation very meticulously and systematically, yet these errors are still very common across all educational levels as far as I can tell.
    ...if only to correct? You know I'm the hyper-user of hyphens: my son's second-grade Spanish-language textbook... Now, that's more better...

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