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The question mark  ?  (also known as interrogation point, query, or eroteme in )Truss, Lynne. Eats, Shoots & Leaves, 2003. p. 139. . is a that indicates an interrogative clause or phrase in many languages. The question mark is not used for indirect questions. The question mark glyph is also often used in place of missing or unknown data. In , it is encoded at .

attributes an early form of the modern mark in to .
(2018). 9781592400874, Gotham Books.
Truss describes the punctus interrogativus of the late 8th century as, "a lightning flash, striking from right to left". (The punctuation system of , current through the Early Middle Ages, used only simple dots at various heights.)

This earliest question mark was a decoration of one of these dots, with the "lightning flash" perhaps meant to denote intonation, and perhaps associated with early musical notation like . Another possibility is that it was originally a or , as in "  ·~ ", one of many wavy or more or less slanted marks used in texts for denoting things such as , which would later become various or ligatures.

(1993). 9780520079410, University of California Press.
The Straight Dope on the question mark (link down) Over the next three centuries this pitch-defining element (if it ever existed) seems to have been forgotten, so that the stroke-over-dot sign (with the stroke sometimes slightly curved) is often seen indifferently at the end of clauses, whether they embody a question or not.

In the early 13th century, when the growth of communities of scholars () in Paris and other major cities led to an expansion and streamlining of the book-production trade,De Hamel, Christopher History of Illuminated Manuscripts, 1997 punctuation was rationalized by assigning Alcuin's stroke-over-dot specifically to interrogatives; by this time the stroke was more sharply curved and can easily be recognized as the modern question mark.

It has also been suggested that the glyph derives from the quaestiō meaning "question", which was abbreviated during the to qo.Brewer, E. C. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, 1870 (rev. 1894), s.v. 'Punctuation'. The lowercase q was written above the lowercase o, and this mark was transformed into the modern symbol. However, evidence of the actual use of the Q-over-o notation in medieval manuscripts is lacking; if anything, medieval forms of the upper component seem to be evolving towards the q-shape rather than away from it.

According to a 2011 discovery by a Cambridge manuscript expert, was the first language to use a punctuation mark to indicate an interrogative sentence. The Syriac question mark has the form of a vertical double dot.

In English, the question mark typically occurs at the end of a sentence, where it replaces the (period). However, the question mark may also occur at the end of a clause or phrase, where it replaces the comma :

Is it good in form? style? meaning?
"Showing off for him, for all of them, not out of hubris—hubris? him? what did he have to be hubrid about?—but from mood and nervousness." — .

This is quite common in Spanish, where the use of bracketing question marks explicitly indicates the scope of interrogation.

En el caso de que no puedas ir con ellos, ¿quieres ir con nosotros? ('In case you cannot go with them, would you like to go with us?')

A question mark may also appear immediately after questionable data, such as dates:

Genghis Khan (1162?–1227)

In other languages and scripts

Opening and closing question marks in Spanish
In , since the second edition of the Ortografía of the Real Academia Española in 1754, interrogatives require both opening ( ¿) and closing ( ?) question marks.Truss (2004), pp. 142–143 An interrogative sentence, clause, or phrase begins with an inverted question mark ( ¿) and ends with the question mark ( ?), as in:
Ella me pregunta «¿qué hora es?» – 'She asks me, "What time is it?
Question marks must always be matched, but to mark uncertainty rather than actual interrogation omitting the opening one is allowed, although discouraged: Interrogación y exclamación (signos de). Punto 3d.
Gengis Khan (¿1162?–1227) is preferred in Spanish over Gengis Khan (1162?–1227)
The omission of the opening mark is common in informal writing, but is considered an error. The one exception is when the question mark is matched with an exclamation mark, as in:
¡Quién te has creído que eres? – 'Who do you think you are?!'
(The order may also be reversed, opening with a question mark and closing with an exclamation mark.) Nonetheless, even here the Academia recommends matching punctuation: Interrogación y exclamación (signos de). Punto 3b.
¡¿Quién te has creído que eres?!
The opening question mark in Unicode is .

In other languages of Spain
and Galician also use the inverted opening question mark. though usually only in long sentences or in cases which would otherwise be ambiguous. only uses the terminal question mark.

Armenian question mark
In Armenian, the question mark ( ՞) takes the form of an open circle and is placed over the last vowel of the question word. It is defined in Unicode at .

Greek question mark
The question mark (translit=erōtīmatikó) looks like ';'. It appeared around the same time as the Latin one, in the 8th century. It was adopted by and eventually settled on a form essentially similar to the Latin . In , it is separately encoded as , but the similarity is so great that the canonically decomposes as equivalent to , making the marks identical in practice.". 2005. Accessed 7 Oct 2014.

Mirrored question mark in right-to-left scripts
In and other languages that use Arabic script such as and , which are written from , the question mark ؟ is mirrored right-to-left from the English question mark. In Unicode, two encodings are available: and . (Some browsers may display the character in the previous sentence as a forward question mark due to font or text directionality issues).

The Arabic question mark is also used in some other right to left scripts: , N'Ko, and .

and are also written right-to-left, but they use a question mark that appears on the page in the same orientation as the Roman-alphabet question mark.Truss (2004), p. 143.

Fullwidth question mark in East Asian languages
The question mark is also used in modern writing in and Japanese, although it is not strictly necessary in either. Usually it is written as in Chinese and Japanese, in Unicode: .

In other scripts
Some other scripts have a specific question mark:
  • , and

Stylistic variants
French usage must include a narrow non-breaking space before the question mark (for example, "Que voulez-vous boire ?"), Book typography, Ari Rafaeli, 2005 whereas in the English language orthography no space is allowed in front of the question mark (e.g. "What would you like to drink?").

In typography, some stylistic variants and combinations are available:

Rhetorical question mark
The rhetorical question mark or percontation point was invented by in the 1580s and was used at the end of a rhetorical question; however, its use died out in the 17th century. It was later revived in modern-day society by Matt DiRoberto. It was the reverse of an ordinary question mark, so that instead of the main opening pointing back into the sentence, it opened away from it.Truss (2004), p. 142. This character can be represented using the reversed question mark (⸮) found in Unicode as U+2E2E. The percontation point is analogous to the , but those are even more rarely seen.

Bracketed question marks can be used for rhetorical questions, for example Oh, really(?), in informal contexts such as closed captioning. For an ironic or sarcastic statement, a bracketed exclamation mark may be used: Oh, really(!).

The question mark can also be used as a -sign to signal uncertainty regarding what precedes it. It is usually put between brackets: (?). The uncertainty may concern either a superficial level (such as unsure spelling), or a deeper truth (real meaning).

In , the question mark character is represented by code 63 (0x3F hexadecimal), and is located at Unicode code-point . The full-width (double-byte) equivalent ( ), is located at code-point .

The question mark is often utilized as a wildcard character: a symbol that can be used to substitute for any other character or characters in a string. In particular "?" is used as a substitute for any one character as opposed to the , "*", which can be used as a substitute for zero or more characters in a string. The inverted question mark ( ¿) corresponds to Unicode code-point , and can be accessed from the keyboard in Microsoft Windows on the default US layout by holding down the and typing either 1 6 8 (ANSI) or 0 1 9 1 (Unicode) on the numeric keypad. In applications on operating systems, it can be entered by typing the hexadecimal Unicode character (minus leading zeros) while holding down both and , I J mm.e.: Ctrl Shift B F. In recent XFree86 and X.Org incarnations of the X Window System, it can be accessed as a compose sequence of two straight question marks, i.e. pressing ? ? yields ¿. In classic Mac OS and Mac OS X (macOS), the key combination Shift ? produces an inverted question mark.

The question mark is used in ASCII renderings of the International Phonetic Alphabet, such as , in place of the symbol, , (which resembles " ?" without the dot), and corresponds to Unicode code point .

In computer programming, the symbol " ?" has a special meaning in many programming languages. In C-descended languages, ? is part of the operator, which is used to evaluate simple . In C# 2.0, the ?: modifier is used to handle and ? is the null coalescing operator. In the syntax for regular expressions, such as that used in and Python, ?? stands for "zero or one instance of the previous subexpression", i.e. an optional element. In certain implementations of the programming language, the ? character may be used as a shorthand for the "print" function; in others (notably the family), ? is used to address a single-byte memory location. In , the question mark precedes the label for an optional parameter. In Scheme, as a convention, symbol names ending in ? are used for predicates, such as ?, odd?, and null?. Similarly, in Ruby, method names ending in eq? are used for predicates. In Swift, a type followed by ? denotes an ; ? is also used in "optional chaining", where if an option value is nil, it ignores the following operations.

In many and other computer programs, when converting text between encodings, it may not be possible to map some characters into the target . In this situation it is common to replace each unmappable character with a question mark ?, inverted question mark ¿, or the Unicode replacement character, usually rendered as a white question mark in a black diamond: . This commonly occurs for apostrophes and quotation marks when they are written with software that uses its own proprietary non-standard code for these characters, such as 's "smart quotes".

The generic URL syntax allows for a to be appended to a resource location in a Web address so that additional information can be passed to a script; the query mark, ?, is used to indicate the start of a query string. A query string is usually made up of a number of different field/value pairs, each separated by the symbol, ?, as seen in this URL:


Here, a script on the page search.php on the server is to provide a response to the query string containing the pairs query=testing and database=English.

In algebraic chess notation, some chess punctuation conventions include: " ?" denotes a bad move, " ??" a blunder, " ?!" a move, and " !?" an interesting move.

In , a question mark indicates a blank tile.

Mathematics and formal logic
In , " ?" commonly denotes Minkowski's question mark function. In equations, it can mean "questioned" as opposed to "defined".

In , the question mark denotes one of the exponential modalities that control weakening and contraction.

A question mark is used in English medical notes to suggest a possible . It facilitates the recording of a doctor's impressions regarding a patient's symptoms and signs. For example, for a patient presenting with left lower abdominal pain, a differential diagnosis might include ? (read as "query diverticulitis").

See also

External links
  • – provides an overview of question mark usage, and the differences between direct, indirect, and rhetorical questions.

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