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Gerald Erichsen

Spanish's Upside-Down Question Marks Unusual Among Languages

By April 23, 2011

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If you're brand-new to learning Spanish, the two first things you may have noticed when reading it are the accented letters and upside-down question marks. While written accents are common in many languages, the inverted question marks (and exclamation points, too) are a Spanish original — and copied apparently only by some of the minority languages of Spain. To learn more about these punctuation symbols, see our lesson on inverted question marks and exclamation points, which is part of a short FAQ on Spanish pronunciation.


April 23, 2011 at 7:45 pm
(1) sfree says:

That’s the beauty in a language that is flexible with its word ordering. Unlike English, which is predominantly subject-verb-object ordering and verb-subject-object ordering in the interrogative, Spanish allows great flexibility.

The price one pays for this beauty (in my opinion) is to indicate as early as possible the type of statement a sentence is (since word order is no longer a good indicator). Nevertheless, the inverted exclamation point and question mark are a small price to pay; and in the final analysis, a reader benefits considerably by knowing what type of sentence he or she is faced with, well ahead of time.

My difficulty is that I can not write the inverted question mark as nicely as I can with the righted one; but I will get better with practice.


April 23, 2011 at 10:17 pm
(2) Spanish Guide says:

One of the things I like about the inverted question marks is that they are a more natural way (to me, at least) of writing question tags and/or sentences that begin with a statement and end with a question. They give the reader a much better clue of what’s going on than a comma does.

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