The power of intonation

Yesterday’s Bizarro:

This is really about the power of intonation; punctuation comes into it only insofar as it can be recruited to convey the intonation of these two utterances. The first has the intonation of a declarative, the second the intonation of a type of interrogative (with a final rise) — in fact, a type of reclamatory question, used to seek a repetition of something you haven’t understood or an explanation of something you understood but can’t accept.

The exclamation point (!) is used to indicate emphasis (associated with greater intensity and/or higher pitch), the interrobang (?!) to indicate a combination of interrogativity (rising final) and emphasis.

3 Responses to “The power of intonation”

  1. nick Says:

    This ambiguity was quite movingly used in the UK original of Queer As Folk, if I recall correctly.

  2. John Lawler Says:

    I notice the artist couldn’t resist contrastive italic font use, though, and that’s not punctuation, either.

    This reminds me of Terry Pratchett’s greengrocer character, who feels compelled to insert punctuation (especial’ly, apostrophe’s) into his dialog whenever he speaks. The joke is that none of the mistaken punctuation would ever be pronounced anyway; it only gets in the way of reading.

  3. Punctuation marks « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] The percontation point (a reversed question mark) indicates irony or sarcasm. The interrobang (a superimposition of question mark and exclamation point, or the two in sequence: usually ?! , sometimes !?) combines interrogativity and emphasis. (For the contrast between the exclamation point and the interrobang, see my discussion of a Bizarro cartoon here.) […]

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