Constraints on Spelling Changes
  • ISSN 1387-6732
  • E-ISSN: 1570-6001
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In the literature on punctuation we find a broad typological and historical distinction between prosodically and grammatically determined punctuation. The mainstream historical assumption is that the prosodic system changed into to a grammatical system in some languages. We will show that this view is confronted with serious empirical and conceptual problems. Our assumption is that the typological and historical variation at issue is motivated syntactically in all punctuation systems. The different punctuation systems are mainly distinguished by the comma, which is, therefore, the main topic of the present paper. The major use of the comma will be explained by four constraints, whose interaction may be congenially formulated in optimality-theoretic terms. The close relationship of the comma to prosody arises indirectly from the fact that syntactic structures are marked prosodically in many instances. The stylistic freedom of the comma, that is traditionally assumed for some languages and contexts of use, is a reflex of syntactic optionality.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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