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Quotation mark

The meaning of «quotation mark»

Quotation marks, also known as quotes, quote marks, speech marks, inverted commas, or talking marks,[1][2] are punctuation marks used in pairs in various writing systems to set off direct speech, a quotation, or a phrase. The pair consists of an opening quotation mark and a closing quotation mark, which may or may not be the same character.[3]

Quotation marks have a variety of forms in different languages and in different media.

The single quotation mark is traced to Ancient Greek practice, adopted and adapted by monastic copyists. Isidore of Seville, in his seventh century encyclopedia, Etymologiae, described their use of the Greek diplé (a chevron):

[13] ⟩ Diple. Hanc scriptores nostri adponunt in libris ecclesiasticorum virorum ad separanda vel [ad] demonstranda testimonia sanctarum Scripturarum.[4][5]

[13] ⟩ Diplé. Our copyists place this sign in the books of the people of the Church, to separate or to indicate the quotations drawn from the Holy Scriptures.

The double quotation mark derives from a marginal notation used in fifteenth-century manuscript annotations to indicate a passage of particular importance (not necessarily a quotation); the notation was placed in the outside margin of the page and was repeated alongside each line of the passage.[6] In his edition of the works of Aristotle, which appeared in 1483 or 1484, the Milanese Renaissance humanist Francesco Filelfo marked literal and appropriate quotes with oblique double dashes on the left margin of each line.[7] Until then, literal quotations had been highlighted or not at the author's discretion.[7] Non-verbal loans were marked on the edge. After the publication of Filelfo's edition, the quotation marks for literal quotations prevailed.[7] During the seventeenth century this treatment became specific to quoted material, and it grew common, especially in Britain, to print quotation marks (now in the modern opening and closing forms) at the beginning and end of the quotation as well as in the margin; the French usage (see under Specific language features below) is a remnant of this. In most other languages, including English, the marginal marks dropped out of use in the last years of the eighteenth century. The usage of a pair of marks, opening and closing, at the level of lower case letters was generalized.[6]

By the nineteenth century, the design and usage began to be specific to each region. In Western Europe the custom became to use the quotation mark pairs with the convexity of each mark aimed outward. In Britain those marks were elevated to the same height as the top of capital letters: “…”.

In France, by the end of the nineteenth century, the marks were modified to an angular shape: «…». Some authors[8] claim that the reason for this was a practical one, in order to get a character that was clearly distinguishable from the apostrophes, the commas, and the parentheses. Also, in other scripts, the angular quotation marks are distinguishable from other punctuation characters: the Greek breathing marks, the Armenian emphasis and apostrophe, the Arabic comma, the decimal separator, the thousands separator, etc. Other authors[8] claim that the reason for this was an aesthetic one. The elevated quotation marks created an extra white space before and after the word that was considered aesthetically unpleasing, while the in-line quotation marks helped to maintain the typographical color, since the quotation marks had the same height and were aligned with the lower case letters.[6] Nevertheless, while other languages do not insert a space between the quotation marks and the word(s), the French usage does insert them, even if it is a narrow space.

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