[Ponctuation] L'origine de l'espace devant ; : ! ? en Europe

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages, and Linguistics (EHL)' started by patates_frites, Mar 30, 2014.

  1. patates_frites Senior Member

    Japanese, English - US
    English summary: I would like to know the origin of the rule to place a space (or thin space) before a ; : ? or ! signs in French. Apparently this is not obligatory in many European languages if not most or all except French and who knows what else. (As a contrasting language in this respect, I have Italian in mind particularly as this issue was raised by an Italian friend who finds this extra space unnecessary and possibly snobbish due to its exceptional character.)
    I wonder if French punctuation here established differently from the beginning, or if there was a converging period where everyone was placing a space sometimes in front but only France decided to place a space always while others decided to get rid of it? Did the French actively seek to distinguish themselves? Were they originally inspired by someone or some other language practice (latin, etc)? Or are the French more sensitive to punctation than any other Europeans, if so, why? Or is this a mere accidental divergence?

    Un ami Italien m'a défie de lui expliquer le raisonnement ou l'historique concernant la règle qui dicte qu'il faut mettre une espace devant certain signes de ponctuation en français.

    Nous savons que le bon usage actuel du français dicte qu'il faut mettre une espace fine insécable devant le point-virgule, deux-points, point d'interrogation, et le point d'exclamation entre autre. Malgré les efforts d'explication dans des "thread" précédant, la raison de cette apparente "exception française" n'est pas tout a fait claire. Oui, il est mieux de mettre une espace entre "ill" et un "!" mais si c'est un problème majeure pourquoi est-ce que ça ne serait pas une règle pour d'autre langue comme l'anglais, l'italien ou l'allemand?

    L'ami italien me dit qu'ils n'ont pas besoin d'une espace et que cette besoin français est du peut-être au volonté de se distinguer a tout prix ou une sorte de archaïsme qui a été utile dans les temps des imprimeries anciennes mais a present revolu.

    Je constate que le point d'exclamation est peut-être d'origine italien ("un traite attribue a Petrarque et rédige par Coluccio Salutati qui ajoute le point d'exclamation", Inventée par les humanistes italiens au XIVe siècle, elle n’apparaît en France que dans les imprimés du milieu du XVIe siècle") et qu'ils ont du y penser en meme temps que les francais les ponctutations concernants ces signes. J'imagine qu'au début les italiens et les français se referaient a l'un et l'autre pour améliorer les règles de ponctuation. Alors quand ont-ils commencer a diverger? Des le début?

    J'aimerai comprendre

    • si cette règle est vraiment une exception française (en comparaison avec d'autre "langue européenne" comme l'italien).
    • quand a lieu cette divergence dans l'évolution de la ponctuation européenne concernant cette espace devant ces signes.
    • et qu'elle était le raisonnement "officiel" pour justifier cette exception? et est-il toujours d'actualité ?
    • (y'a t'il un lien entre le comma ou la barre oblique avec l'évolution du point d'exclamation?)

    Par exemple, dans les livres de Gasparin de Bergame (1360-1431) "La Doctrine punctandi" ou "Epistolae" (Les lettres) ou orthographiae liber etc, les espacement des ponctuations n'a pas l'aire d'être très établies globalement.

    Pour les écritures de Coluccio Salutati, il y a une espace devant les point virgule, deux point, et meme les virgules, mais ce n'est pas claire avec les point d'interrogation.

    http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k6412866k/f5.image.r=Coluccio Salutati .langFR
    http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k6412866k/f13.image.r=Coluccio Salutati .langFR
    Titre : Lini Colucii Pierii Salutati, epistolae ex cod. mss. nunc primum in lucem editae a Josepho Rigaccio,... et scholiis inlustratae...
    Auteur : Salutati, Lino Coluccio, di Piero
    Éditeur : ex typ. J. B. Bruscagli (Florentiae)
    Date d'édition : 1741-1742
    Voici les liens de references a ce sujet :

    Les règles sur la ponctuation et les espaces.

    Histoire de la ponctuation
    Les changements dans les pratiques de la ponctuation liés au développement de l’imprimerie à la fin du XVe et au début du XVIe siècle

    espace avant les signes de ponctuation hauts/doubles (; : ? ! « »)
    FR: space before a question mark, exclamation point, colon, or semicolon (? ! : ;)
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2014
  2. punctuate Senior Member

    Instead of giving a reply, I would like to ask a question. Does this feature apply only to printing, or this applies to hand-writing as well? In other words, is this a convention of punctuation, or this is a convention of typography? You know, typographists develop their own conventions and standards that sometimes may look weird for an outsider… Here also this logic works: if 'why this way' a question is, then why 'why not this way' another question can't be? Both ways of printing look like pretty equal choices that should be decided by convention and habit rather than by any reasonable argument; separation of words from punctuation with little spaces is a logical thing to do once you start to separate words from words as you're composing a page.
  3. patates_frites Senior Member

    Japanese, English - US
    1. Basically to printing. It is mainly an issue of typography. However, it is related with punctuation.
    2. "Why not this way?" is possibly the weaker of the question as the allegation is that the French are adding an unnecessary space (thin space), or maintaining an unnecessary space that "everyone" manages without.
    3. Some or many punctuation are not separated, so I don't think logic dictates that a space should be added for punctuation.

    The argumentative aspect of the question will likely resume to a matter of preference.
    However, I've set to clarify the origin and evolution of this rule. And to confirm how much this rule is a French exception.

    From the various old French and Italian or latin documents, I saw that spaces typography of punctuation evolved with the printing technology and the rules of punctuation or of its re-evaluation. However, from very early on we see that a period generally has no space in front, while a comma (,) sometimes had spaces, and :;!? did not always have spaces, while :; had a better chance of having spaces. Gradually people agreed on setting consistent rules, and the printers were able to implement it more uniformly while the authors and readers grew more conscious of what was correct punctuation.

    The question here is the timeline across countries of how this evolution occurred, and how they influenced or didn't influence each other, with which party initiating which idea.

    For example, did the Italians begin by adding the space, inspired by some latin author's usage of another punctuation mark? Then the French adopted it. But the Italians gave it up because of a decision by a committee due to xyz? Was it all an issue of printing technology that just remained in France? Or was it because the French language politics had more power than any other country?

    I want to be able to explain why we came to add a space. And why others don't or no long add it.
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2014
  4. punctuate Senior Member

    Thank you for your reply.
    Well, the logic does not dictate of course, but it suggests.
    By the way, in your comparison there is a tendency: the signs that are more frequent and belong to the sentence's inner structure (therefore, are more connected with how the thought is expressed) have better chance of being separated from the previous word. A possible interpretation: with signs that ocur more frequently, the logic suggested this separation (alike to separation of words from words) more frequently and therefore more strongly. While dots were outside the view, more like a commentary.
    I see what your question is, just sharing my thoughts on the related questions that I have…
  5. patates_frites Senior Member

    Japanese, English - US
    If you speak of inner structure, yes : and ; have tended to have a space. (And the space for , also would match this.)
    However it doesn't explain the space for ? and !
    Nor does it explain why commas no longer requires a space.

    The question is also why whatever "logic" was not applied to say Italian or from when this divergence occurred and why French ended up being a sort of exception while being so interconnected with neighboring languages.
    The advent of ? and ! are fairly recent and not of French origin, so there must be quite a bit of foreign influence including Italian influence.
    Why the divergence? When?
  6. CapnPrep Senior Member

    The rationale suggested in the previous threads on the topic that you linked to above has nothing to do with sentence structure or expression of thought (or the frequency of the sign). The spacing is supposedly determined simply by the shape and/or position of the punctuation: a preceding space is used before "high" or "double" signs. Upon closer inspection, the idea that "high" signs require a space is obviously wrong, since for example the hyphen is as high as the colon or semicolon, and the apostrophe and the closing parenthesis are as high as the question mark and exclamation mark, but no space is used before the hyphen, apostrophe, and closing parenthesis. The "double" criterion (which I take to mean "consisting of two or more disconnected parts") is also incomplete, since for example no space is used before closing quotes (") or before ellipsis (…).

    In this thread, Maître Capello offers a more precise criterion: a space is used before punctation marks that cross the midline. He doesn't give a source for this rule, so it may be his own generalization. But it still doesn't work for the closing parenthesis, which crosses the midline but still doesn't take a preceding space.

    Anyway, the reason that is usually given is that these signs have a visual weight comparable to a letter, so if they are stuck directly to the end of a word with no space, they might interfere with the readers' perception of the word. Or that adding a space facilitates the visual processing of the word. I don't know if anyone has ever actually put this idea to the test.
  7. patates_frites Senior Member

    Japanese, English - US
    Thank you for your response. The apparent "logic" is that a space is added for signs that are "high", "double", and possibly smudged-looking when placed w/o space or similar in morphology to the alphabet. (We can possibly wonder if a question mark really risks being mistaken for a word though. Let's assume they wanted to match the rule with the exclamation mark, or that depending on the font a ? looks similar to a P, or something.)

    The questions are the following:
    0. Is this a rare punctuation rule among the European languages?
    1a. If so, why did French adopt this rarity or exception in the beginning?
    1b. When did they decide to implement this rule?
    2a. And why did other languages not adopt it?
    2b. When did they renounce it?

    So while we look for the defining texts where they declare this necessity of a space PLUS the reason for this, what we/I can do is to look at old texts and see the evolution in punctuation patterns. For now, I'm mainly doing this with French and a few Italian texts. I would need more Italian and pan-European data to make a comparative observation.

    I will post texts w/ their author and date with note on their punctuation pattern as a start until I can find a clearer answer...
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2014
  8. Nino83 Senior Member

    About the first question I say that in Italian, Spanish and Portuguese there's no space before ; : ! ?
  9. patates_frites Senior Member

    Japanese, English - US
    Glad that's out of the way : ) This stems from an Italian who complained about the French "addition" of a space, so I'm glad he knew his Italian. For now, I'll assume most other ("European") languages don't have a space before.

    Titre : Gasparini Pergamensis orthographiae liber Auteur : Gasparin de Bergame (1360?-1431?)
    Éditeur : U. Gering, M. Crantz et M. Friburger ((Parisiis)
    Date d'édition : 1470
    Type : monographie imprimée
    Langue : Latin
    (Screen 167 / 488)
    http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k131477g/f167.image.r=Gasparin de Bergame.langEN
    We see that there are spaces in front of the ";"-ish sign and none in front of the "!"-ish sign (I get confused with their actual name...).
    Is this due to the editor being Parisian? (the names sound Germanic though).

    Then you look at this book apparently edited in Florence.
    Titre : Lini Colucii Pierii Salutati, epistolae ex cod. mss. nunc primum in lucem editae a Josepho Rigaccio,... et scholiis inlustratae...
    Auteur : Salutati, Lino Coluccio, di Piero
    Éditeur : ex typ. J. B. Bruscagli (Florentiae)
    Date d'édition : 1741-1742
    Contributeur : Rigacci, Giuseppe (17..?-17..). Éditeur scientifique
    Type : monographie imprimée
    Langue : Latin
    http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k6412866k/f5.image.r=Coluccio Salutati .langFR
    http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k6412866k/f13.image.r=Coluccio Salutati .langFR

    And you can see spaces in front of many of the punctuations (some spaces are thin though), especially for those inside the sentence, and particularly for ";" and ":"

    So already in 1470 the French? were adding a space in front of a ";" sign (check up the name later).
    And in 1741-ish the Italians were placing a space in front of the ";" and ":". (Unless they are just following the format of the past.)
    (The two ";" are possibly not the same punctuation but both pts seem significant in their respective way.)
  10. punctuate Senior Member

    I would restate the position I was expressing (since it was apparently misunderstood): no matter what the "rationale" or the "logic" was, the most intricate question is how that "rationale" or "logic" (whatever the name) was applied. The simplest answer is "always", but that's not how the mind works (apparently, it could not work this way, applying any rationales or considerations on the constant basis, even if one wished to construct such a mind). When we don't need to put special attention, we just ignore some logic sometimes and remember of it later, with causes that are not completely discernable by an observer, especially such a distant one as we are (and when we do need to put such attention, we inevitably make mistakes in our actions). As in the published texts the spacing of punctuation was not the same, the typographists did not experience the need to put special attention to the spacing, so anyone of them must have stopped on whatever decision smiled him the most, whatever rationales, no matter how rational, were at combat in his mind.

    As for the rationale suggested by me as an example, it was the same that was suggested in the latest paragraph by CapnPrep: punctuation is similar to letters, so conventions applied to letters can be applied to punctuation as well. If one wishes, one could even always find a rational argument for such action; humans are remarkably good at finding rational arguments when the decision is already made, in the case they feel they need such arguments for satisfaction.
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2014
  11. Nino83 Senior Member

    I didn't know it.
    Today, if you go to the typing office to have your thesis printed and leather-bound and the employee sees all those spaces, he'll probably tell you "what are all these spaces?". :)

  12. patates_frites Senior Member

    Japanese, English - US
    Key figures :
    (1304 - 1374) Francesco Petrarca (Pétrarque)
    (1313 - 1375) Giovanni Boccaccio (Boccacio ou Boccace)
    (1330-1406) Coluccio Salutati -> le pt d'exclamation?
    (1370-1431) Gasparin de Bergame

    - La quatrième marque est le point d’interrogation, la cinquième est le point admiratif (point d’exclamation
    dans la terminologie moderne). Cette dernière marque est une innovation. Inventée par les humanistes italiens au XIVe siècle, elle
    n’apparaît en France que dans les imprimés du milieu du XVIe siècle.
    - En l'an 1434, lorsque l'imprimerie apparut, les conventions linguistiques allaient changer. Parce qu'il fallut codifier la typographie, on inséra peu à peu des signes de ponctuation. Le point, la virgule et les deux-points devinrent les indications en usage.
    - Il fallut cependant attendre encore cent ans, en 1533, pour que la majuscule fasse son entrée dans l'univers typographique, suivie de l'apostrophe. Le point d'exclamation, issu des effervescences langagières de Florence, serait né à peu près à la même époque (?).
    (1449 - 1515) Aldo Manuzio (Aldus Manutius en latin, Alde Manuce,Alde l’Ancien ou Aldo Manuce en français)
    (1480-1553) Geoffroy Tory
    (1509-1546) Etienne Dolet
    (1512-1574) Paul Manuce, forme francisée du nom de Paolo Manuzio (en latin Paulus Manutius)
    (1547-1597) Aldo Manuzio, parfois désigné par Alde le Jeune
    (1619-1688) Antoine Furetière
    (1717-1789) Nicolas Beauzée

    The Italians developed certain punctuation marks earlier than the French.
    And we saw that Italians also often used a space in front of their punctuation (although not necessarily fully consistently).
    We see that the periods often have no space while what we now call commas (virgules) sometimes had spaces.
    We can suppose the distinction was for some between in-phrase punctuation vs ending punctuation.
    But this is no longer the case now.
    Something happened whereby the space was maintained for ;:!? for French but removed for Italian.
    I wonder if a difference in evolution of the original "comma" and "barre oblique" and so forth had any influence?

    Here are some info on the terminology that may be confusing.
    I quote in length from the below linked essay (to view the symbol please check out the essay or docs of the period):


    (Gasparin de Bergame (1370 – 1431) : Doctrina punctandi)
    Johanne Lapide (Jean Heynlin) : Compendiosus de arte punctandi dialogus (1471)
    (Barzizza "Epistolae" / "Orthographia" sortis des presses de la Sorbonne vers la fin de 1470,71)

    -l’emploi du comma « droit », dont nous avons relevé 3 occurrences... très similaires à
    ceux où on pouvait rencontrer le comma dans les manuscrits du XIIIe et du XIVe siècle.
    -Ce qui frappe ici, c’est l’extrême rareté de cette marque. Nous n’avons trouvé aucune condition linguistique ou textuelle qui explique l’emploi du comma dans ces occurrences et son absence ailleurs.
    -"Le compositeur ne faisait pas de différence entre la barre oblique et le comma, il utilisait donc ce dernier caractère quand il lui « tombait sous la main » à la place de la barre oblique."

    - Les formes de marques de ponctuation les plus répandues dans les manuscrits français médiévaux sont
    le point (placé le plus souvent à la mi-hauteur de la ligne),
    la barre oblique,
    le comma (ou punctus elevatus, un point surmonté d’une virgule renversée).

    -D’autres marques (comme le punctus interrogativus)... L’emploi d’une majuscule au début d’une unité ponctuable constitue une marque de ponctuation même en l’absence d’un signe de ponctuation proprement dit.

    -La force de la ponctuation est déterminée par le contexte droit de la frontière ponctuable.
    La ponctuation est faible si un signe de ponctuation est suivi d’une lettre minuscule ;
    elle est forte si l’unité ponctuable suivante commence par une majuscule.
    La présence d’une lettrine ou un saut de ligne constituent une ponctuation « extra-forte ».
    Dans certains manuscrits, on trouve en outre de
    « grandes minuscules », et on peut ainsi parler d’une ponctuation « moyenne ».

    -Le Maître du Dialogue présente, tour à tour,
    la virgula (petite barre oblique située au bas d’une ligne),
    le comma (point avec une petite barre oblique au-dessus),
    le colon (point tout simplement) et
    le periodus (point avec une barre oblique ou une virgule au-dessous).

    - La liste comprend également le punctus interrogativus (point surmonté d’une virgule renversée),
    les parenthesis (parenthèses rondes),
    le gemipunctus (deux points successifs disposés horizontalement)
    et le semipunctus (petite barre oblique située vers le haut d’une ligne).

    - La virgule est utilisée après les expressions sans verbe et incomplètes
    (ponitur post dictiones verbo ac perfectione carentes), (« syntagmes non propositionnels »)

    - Le comma est utilisé après les expressions dotées d’un verbe mais dépourvues de « complétude » (post dictiones habentes verbum ! (<le comma) sed perfectionis expertes), ce qui correspond dans notre terminologie aux frontières « subordonnée/principale » et aux « propositions ayant des éléments communs ». (pause plus longue) et à une « intonation suspendue » (cum suspensa tamen voce).)

    -Le colon marque la fin d’une expression dotée du verbe et de la « perfection » du sens, ce qui peut être interprété comme une « phrase » (ou une « proposition autonome » dans notre terminologie).

    -Aucune indication n’est donnée quant aux conditions d’emploi du periodus.
    Dans le texte du traité, il n’est utilisé qu’à la fin du dialogue (devant Amen), ce qui fait supposer qu’il est perçu comme une marque de « fin de section ». Les consignes de prononciation sont les mêmes pour le colon et pour le periodus : (longue pause (prolixius intervallum desiderant)).

  13. patates_frites Senior Member

    Japanese, English - US
    Apparently , some Italians place a space influenced by the French punctuation . And for those who sees this space as unnecessary , they think it's a bad influence . So I want to understand where the divergence occurred .

    We see in past docs the modern commas with a space in front ( as I added in the above text ) . Is this necessary , annoying ? Possibly . Some would argue it's supposed to be a thin space but that distinction is difficult to make in regular typing tools .

    So the like / not like aside , the French reasoning is that it's easier to read , but most other neighboring languages seem to not have any problem without the space . What happened ? The French just " snobbed " away ( so to speak ) ? Or was it a printing issue ? Editorial ? Influenced by the evolution of another punctuation ? The influence of a text that was only written in French ? A cultural rivalry ? What happened ! :confused:
    (I abusively added a space in front of the punctuations above to see how it turns out!)
  14. patates_frites Senior Member

    Japanese, English - US
    A role by the Accademia?
    We saw in an example in the above post, the division was perhaps not clearly set in the early or mid 18th C as we saw an Italian text with the space in front. The following period is Napoleonic? Did the division happen as a result of his politics? Or before his advent, sometime in the late 18C?


    Here's an Italian text from 1889. Generally no space in front of : or ! or ? (but space in for the « »).
    Titre : Nicola Mignogna nella storia dell' unità d'Italia, con lettere inedite di Mazzini, Garibaldi, Fabrizi, Settembrini, Bertani, Villamarina, ecc.
    Auteur : Pupino-Carbonelli, Giuseppe
    Éditeur : A. Morano (Napoli)
    Date d'édition : 1889
    Type : monographie imprimée
    Langue : Italien
    http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k872209w/f12.image.r= Giuseppe Garibaldi.langFR

    Another example, Date d'édition :

    So how about the late-18th C?
    Let's look at a text edited in 1763:
    Titre : Il Mattino, poemetto [da G. Parini]
    Auteur : Parini, Giuseppe (1729-1799)
    Éditeur : stamp. di A. Agnelli (Milano)
    Date d'édition : 1763
    Here there is a full-ish space in front of the ;
    http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k850349j/f12.image.r= Giuseppe Parini.langFR
    But generally, the space in front of the ; or : or ? seems only thin.
    http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k850349j/f13.image.r= Giuseppe Parini.langFR
    http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k850349j/f14.image.r= Giuseppe Parini.langFR
    http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k850349j/f15.image.r= Giuseppe Parini.langFR
    http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k850349j/f16.image.r= Giuseppe Parini.langFR

    From the few first pages, the tendency seems to be that there is no full big space for the punctuation marks we are focusing on.
    More samples are necessary to make an accurate deduction of course, but as a wild prelimnary guess, we can perhaps say something happened between
    Date d'édition : 1741-1742 (where there were big enough spaces in front)
    Date d'édition :
    1763 (where there is generally only thin spaces)
    or around that time.
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2014
  15. francisgranada Senior Member

    I have had a look at a Hungarian book printed in 1688. I've found this:

    - a thin space before , ; : ? !
    - a normal (not thin) space after , ; : ? !
    - a normal (not thin) space between two sentences.
    - no space before/after the hyphen - in compoud words, separated words (at the end of line), etc.
    - no space before the apostroph '
    - no space before the point . (at the end of the sentence, after numbers, etc.)
    (I haven't found quotation marks in this book, quotations are writen in italics wihout any sign)

    P.S. In modern Hungarian books there's no space before , ; : ? !
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2014
  16. Nino83 Senior Member

    I don't know how it developed but I can assure that reading your post with spaces was very strange for me.
    I've never read a book printed with those spaces (probably because I've never read a book written only for the French).
  17. patates_frites Senior Member

    Japanese, English - US
    I exaggerated, the French style wouldn't add a space all over the place of course.
    It's habit I guess... The French readers often say they don't mind the lack of space when they read English...

    Now, when and why did the Italians decide not to add a considerable space in front of these signs!? ; )
  18. patates_frites Senior Member

    Japanese, English - US
    Thank you!
    1688, before the 18th C Italian linguistic purism movement...
    Btw, I looked at my modern Spanish books and no space in front of the ! or ? or guillemets.

    -The decision by an Academy with influence in cooperation with culturally conscious printers may be behind this division.
    -The French must have been outside of this Academy's or linguistic movement's sphere of influence.
  19. francisgranada Senior Member

    I apologize for not having read all the links provided in the previous posts, but I don't understand very well why the Italian purism has to play a decisive role in this case (this is a question, not a contradiction or criticism ...).

    For curiosity, I've looked at some other printed books in my bookcase (covered by centimetres of dust :)...):

    - In French, printed in France, 1758, - thin spaces present before , ; : ? !
    - In German, printed in Germany, 1799, thin spaces present ...
    - In Hungarian, printed in Hungary, 1857 - thin spaces present ....
    - In German, printed in Austria, 1861 - thin spaces present (sporadically missing)

    - French grammar book, written in Hungarian, printed in Budapest, 1907 - thin spaces present before : ; ? ! (not before coma)
    - French Vocabulaire (grammar book) written in German, printed in Germany, 1913 - thin spaces present before : ; (sporadically missing), no space before , ? ! (at least visually not recognizable)
    - Hungarian Bible, 1916, printed in Hungary - thin spaces before ; : ! ?, but not before coma (,)
    - Hungarian prayer book, printed in Budapest and New York (no date is indicated, but according to the quality of the paper I guess it's the second half of the 19th century) - no spaces present before , ; : ! ?
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2014
  20. patates_frites Senior Member

    Japanese, English - US
    Thanks! Interesting list. Do you have any books that have "more than thin" spaces? And what's the earliest occurrence of that?
    The other approach would be, what is the earliest book with a systematic use of no space in front of those/some of those signs?

    The Italian purism as a possible influence was a mere speculation from the period where the shift may have occurred from having a space (thin or bigger) to not having a space (thin or bigger) in Italian texts published in Italy (as a sample country of comparison).

    If I were to make a wild guess, that period may have marked the full systematization of the punctuation system for Italian that may be the basis of their modern punctuation. Purism may imply setting strong and clear standards of orthodoxy.

    What I see in the modern books is that there is a fairly big space (more than a thin space but perhaps less than a full space) in front for French, but not for Spanish or Italian. As we saw in past examples, at least for Italian, the spacing was more varied until sometime in the 18th C (this is speculation from a few samples).

    My current wild hypothesis is the shift may have happened sometime between or around 1741 (where there were big enough spaces) and 1763 (where there is generally only thin spaces). The two may coexist as it becomes more systematic of course.

    This period may be linked to the Italian purism movement and a little further to the Napoleonic policies, which in this regard I am not knowledgable about.

    I've pasted below the two reference for the above speculative dates. I'm taking this approach of case studies as I couldn't/can't find a text that explains this distinction in punctuation rule between France and Italy etc, and when this difference was born, and by what agency/authority or movement.

    And you can see spaces in front of many of the punctuations (some spaces are thin though), especially for those inside the sentence, and particularly for ";" and ":"
    Titre : Lini Colucii Pierii Salutati, epistolae ex cod. mss. nunc primum in lucem editae a Josepho Rigaccio,... et scholiis inlustratae...
    Auteur : Salutati, Lino Coluccio, di Piero
    Éditeur : ex typ. J. B. Bruscagli (Florentiae)
    Date d'édition : 1741-1742
    Contributeur : Rigacci, Giuseppe (17..?-17..). Éditeur scientifique
    Type : monographie imprimée
    Langue : Latin

    Let's look at a text edited in 1763:
    Titre : Il Mattino, poemetto [da G. Parini]
    Auteur : Parini, Giuseppe (1729-1799)
    Éditeur : stamp. di A. Agnelli (Milano)
    Date d'édition : 1763
    Here there is a full-ish space in front of the ;
    But generally, the space in front of the ; or : or ? seems only thin.
  21. patates_frites Senior Member

    Japanese, English - US
    French text published in Paris in 1819 just to confirm the French text does add a more than thin space.
    -More than thin space in front of the ; and : (I'll call it a mid-space as opposed to a thin or full space) but commas seem to have similar space in front as well.

    http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k106034c/f7.image.r=Parini, Giuseppe.langFR
    http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k106034c/f9.image.r=Parini, Giuseppe.langFR

    Titre :
    Revue encyclopédique (Paris. 1819)

    Titre : Revue encyclopédique : ou Analyse raisonnée des productions les plus remarquables dans la littérature, les sciences et les arts / par une réunion de membres de l'Institut et d'autres hommes de lettres
    Éditeur : Baudouin frères (Paris)
    Date d'édition : 1819-1835
    Contributeur : Jullien, Marc-Antoine (1775-1848). Directeur de publication

    Now an Italian text printed in Italy from the end of 19th/beginning of 20th.
    - Here a thin or mid space before the ; but no space before :
    http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k63730s/f9.image.r=Salutati, Lino Coluccio, di Piero.langEN
    - Here a mid-space before ! and full space around the guillemets, and only thin space before ;:
    http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k63730s/f10.image.r=Salutati, Lino Coluccio, di Piero.langEN
    - Here no or only thin space before ; but no space before : and !
    http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k63730s/f13.image.r=Salutati, Lino Coluccio, di Piero.langEN
    - Here very thin, thin or mid space for :;? and full space for guillemets.
    http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k63730s/f14.image.r=Salutati, Lino Coluccio, di Piero.langEN

    Titre :
    Opere di Cesare Guasti.... Vol. 7
    Auteur : Guasti, Cesare (1822-1889)
    Éditeur : S. Belli (Prato)
    Éditeur : Vestri (puis)
    Éditeur : Libreria éditrice fiorentina ()
    Date d'édition : 1894-1912
    Type : monographie imprimée
    Langue : Italien

    So this could show that even by end of 19th/beginning of 20th, the Italian punctuation was still open to varying spaces before the said punctuations. Then the origin of the systematic difference at least for Italy is more recent? (Post 1912)

  22. patates_frites Senior Member

    Japanese, English - US
    Here's a French text published in Paris in 1932 to illustrate a clear mid or full space.

    Titre :
    Littérature italienne (Nouvelle éd. (8e), revue et augmentée) / par Henri Hauvette

    Auteur : Hauvette, Henri (1865-1935)
    Éditeur : A. Colin (Paris)
    Date d'édition : 1932
    Type : monographie imprimée
    Langue : Français

    Here we have a full space in front of the : and a thin one for ; and guillemets
    http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k255818t/f5.image.r=Italo Svevo.langEN
    http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k255818t/f6.image.r=Italo Svevo.langEN
    Maybe only a thin space in front of the ?
    http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k255818t/f9.image.r=Italo Svevo.langEN

    Here a book in It edited in Roma from 1911.
    Titre : Congresso massonico internazionale a Roma : 50e anniversario della fondazione del Grande Oriente d'Italia, 20 settembre 1911 / Grande Oriente d'Italia
    Auteur : Congresso massonico internazionale (1911 ; Roma)
    Auteur : Grande Oriente d'Italia
    Éditeur : Tipografia dell'Unione editrice (Roma)
    Date d'édition : 1913
    Type : monographie imprimée
    Langue : Italien
    Space before ; and ! is thin or very thin.
    http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k131214n/f12.image.r= italia.langEN
    Space before : seems thin but in this book they tend to change line after the :
    http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k131214n/f28.image.r= italia.langEN

    Another Italian text from 1912
    Titre : Fuori di chiave
    Auteur : Pirandello, Luigi (1867-1936)
    Éditeur : A. F. Formiggini (Genova)
    Date d'édition : 1912
    Type : monographie imprimée
    Langue : Italien

    There is a thin space before : and ? and !.
    http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k9319392/f9.image.r=Luigi Pirandello.langEN

    We often see a thin space in most case. The idea of not needing a space or a big space is a very recent phenomenon then? Or was there a discernable difference where France wanted systematically a bigger space?

    If recent, it came about with the advent of the computer typing? And in other countries the thin space became no space at least in typing while in the French language, the emphasis was clear to have a certain big enough space so they preferred to give a full space rather than a thin space...?
    Q1. Did the French use the full space before certain signs (especially the : ) more than the Italians, etc?
    Q2. Why did the French think it preferable to put a full space than no space before the signs in typing (Why did they set the rule of having a space in front of double, high, letter-like signs even with the modern printing)? A mere accident? Whim of the academy? Because of pre-conceptions (no space looks messy)?
    Any relation of the Italian quotation mark shifting from the caporali to doppi apici in correlation with the choice of losing a full or mid space for certain signs...?
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2014
  23. patates_frites Senior Member

    Japanese, English - US
    Here you can see a list of the variation of international quotation mark standards.

    From this list we can see that the French spacing is a quite a unique standard.
    As we saw in past examples, spacing was quite liberal in the past, until possibly quite recent (mid 20th century).
    1) the spacing convention has always been quite flexible and we've only noticed a distinct difference (a full space in front of ;:!? «» mainly in French) due to the emergence of typing where it's difficult to get a "thin space"
    2) something happened in the latter half of the 20th Century? that strongly established a uniform standard outside of France whereby there would no longer be any mid or full spacing for ;:!? «» and at best a thin space.
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2014
  24. francisgranada Senior Member

    I am sorry, but now I don't have time enough to make a "deep" analysis (even if it might lead to certain conclusions...). Neverthless, at the first (superficial) glance, in all my examples the dimension of the "thin spaces" varies, in the sense that sometimes (in the older books perhaps because the rows are alined to the right) they are as "wide" as the "normal" space.
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2014
  25. patates_frites Senior Member

    Japanese, English - US
    That is an important detail.
    (But there is no need to hurry. Please take your time.)

    Here you can find 9 types (width) of spacing between words.
    Practically, I make three distinctions.
    1. Full space, the same as what you get between two words.
    2. Thin space, it's a little more than no space, just enough so an "l" and a "!" would not smudge.
    3. Mid space, in-between the above two.

  26. patates_frites Senior Member

    Japanese, English - US
    As I've previously noted, I'm starting to suspect this systematic divergence may be a rather recent phenomenon.
    - At the present, the French punctuation culture tends to create a wider space than the European average.
    - I just don't know if there was a decisive event that caused this (Academy or Ministry decision) in France and/or outside of France.
    -Or if it's a chance event where everyone outside of France just made a pragmatic decision with no care for France's case.
    -Or if there was a conscious decision to differentiate from France or align with some other tendency of printers, editors, typography, literature, linguistics, or cultural influence.

    I notice some Italians are unfamiliar with the guillemets, and more used to the "". Is this a general tendency among the youth? Or is it minor? Italians are just more pragmatic/flexible?

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