Monday, April 14, 2008

French Intellectuals Save Semicolon?

2nd\NE Quadrant The Approval Matrix

A humble punctuation mark is the latest cause in the fight to preserve the elegance of French in the face of lazy habits from the English-speaking world.

Writers and linguistic patriots have thrown their weight behind a push to save le point-virgule -- the semi-colon. It is threatened with extinction because the media, authors and the people at large no longer understand its use. They prefer chopping their prose into short sentences with full stops (periods).

The point-virgule, which allows a breathing space in a train of thought, is said to be falling victim to the brevity preferred by English speakers. "To make long sentences, you need a nice fountain pen and a good piece of paper," Claude Duneton, a writer and French teacher, told us today. "Short sentences come from the more direct, 'Anglo-Saxon' style. That reflects the modern age and the need for speed."

The campaign has amplified a long-standing complaint from purists who are devoted to the clarity that a semi-colon brings to multi-clause sentences. -- Times Online

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