punctus percontativus

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

Latin: punctus (point) + percontativus (percontative) = “percontative point”

Noun[edit]

punctus percontativus (plural *punctūs percontativi)

  1. A reversed question mark (), visually almost identical to the Arabic question mark (؟ (?)), used to mark the end of a percontative statement; a rhetorical question mark.
    • 1993, Malcolm Beckwith Parkes, Pause and Effect, glossary, pages 306–307:
      punctus percontativus A reversed, but not inverted punctus interrogativus [] used in the 16th and 17th centuries to indicate the end of a percontatio.
    • 1995, Julia Briggs, “‘The Lady Vanishes’: Problems of Authorship and Editing in the Middleton Canon” in New Ways of Looking at Old Texts: Papers of the Renaissance English Text Society II: 1992–1996 (1998), ed. William Speed Hill, page 115:
      These include Middleton’s [] idiosyncratic placing of apostrophes and deployment of punctuation marks — exclamation marks, question marks and a form of reversed question mark which Malcolm Parkes classifies as “punctus percontativus,” associated [] with rhetorical questions.
    • 1998, Alastair Fowler in Paradise Lost (2nd edition), page 9, note 4:
      Sometimes we may be encountering the punctus percontativus, used to indicate a rhetorical question.
    • 2002, Torbjörn Lundmark, Quirky QWERTY, page 147:
      The medieval question mark had an additional function that has since been lost: a mirror-reversed question mark (called punctus percontativus) signified a rhetorical question that did not expect a direct answer.
    • 2005, John Lennard, The Poetry Handbook (2nd ed.), page 121:
      The percontation-mark (or punctus percontativus), the standard Arabic question-mark, indicated ‘percontations’, questions open to any answer or (more loosely) ‘rhetorical questions’, in various books of c.1575–c.1625.
    • 2008, Alexander Humez and Nicholas D. Humez, On the Dot, page 207:
      question mark in Arabic (؟) — Unicode U+061F: A similar mark has been proposed for Unicode that would be identical to the punctus percontativus found in some medieval Western manuscripts whose purpose was to indicate a merely rhetorical question rather than one requiring or at least expecting an answer: “What was the use of sending you to school⸮” (Michael Everson et al., “Proposal to add Medievalist and Iranianist punctuation characters to the UCS” (p. 2).
    • For more examples of usage of this term, see the citations page.

Usage notes[edit]

Related terms[edit]