Please don’t let the question mark die!

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Punctuation MarksGeoffrey Nunberg, a linguist who teaches at the University of California, Berkeley, noted that the 140-character limit imposed by Twitter and the reading of messages on a cellphone or hand-held device has repurposed the punctuation mark.

One of the oldest forms of punctuation may be dying.The period — the full-stop signal we all learn as children, whose use stretches back at least to the Middle Ages — is gradually disappearing in the digital age.

The period now has an emotional charge and has become an emoticon of sorts,” Professor Crystal, an honorary professor of linguistics at the University of Wales, Bangor, said. “In the 1990s the internet created an ethos of linguistic free love where breaking the rules was encouraged and punctuation was one of the ways this could be done.” Social media sites have only intensified that sense of liberation.

At the same time, he said he found that teenagers were increasingly eschewing emoticons and abbreviations such as “LOL”

Professor Geoffrey Nunberg

Professor Geoffrey Nunberg

(laughing out loud) or “ROTF” (rolling on the floor) in text messages because they had been adopted by their parents and were therefore considered “uncool.”

What is the next punctuation mark to go? Can we communicate without distinguishing questions from statements if the question mark goes the way of the period?

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