why are question marks upside down?

5
votes

Why is there a upside down question mark"¿" in the begging of a question??

160812 views
updated Jan 30, 2017
posted by Olivia_rocks
This is one of my favorite Spanish questions of all time! Also, btw, I love your avatar... HISSSS BOOOM!

6 Answers

3
votes

"in the beginning of a question" You really aren't "begging" the question are you?

To answer yours: this is just part of the Spanish language punctuation along with "¡". There's really no simple answer as to why. All languages have history so the answer is in research. Better to just remember that when you write a question you begin it with "¿" always.

updated Mar 14, 2013
edited by Jubilado
posted by Jubilado
3
votes

It is a good question! Very explainable when you think about the concept of 'what is a question' in general.

Think about this: when you're asking a question of someone, don't you have to inflect your voice differently than if you're just making a statement? Well, what if you're not speaking and just writing, how do you make sure people know they're about to read a question and not a general statement since there's no way to inflect your voice while silently reading? I mean, we don't want people wandering into questions thinking that they're statements and visa-versa, as this would cause some interesting problems!

Therefore, we can assume that the inverted question mark arose in order to warn people of an impending question! We don't need an inverted question mark in English though because we have the auxiliary verb 'do', something that Spanish doesn't have!

Think about it; in English we know that we're about to read a question when we see a sentence that starts with some form of "do". "Do you have change?", "Do you have a moment?", "Does that man know his fly is open?" , etc. Even WITHOUT the question mark at the end!

However, Spanish doesn't have any word like that! If I wrote in Spanish (and did not speak): "A ti te gusta la sopa" with no punctuation, it could be either a statement or a question! It could either mean "You like the soup", stating a fact, or "Do you like the soup?", asking a question. There's no way to tell! That leaves a lot of ambiguity, which is something a writer never wants (well not usually, anyway!).

Therefore, the regular question mark was introduced in order to let readers know that this sentence is a question, not a statement of fact. However, the inverted question mark is helpful in Spanish because it lets people know BEFORE THE END of the sentence what they're about to read is a question, which allows them to interpret it right the first time, rather than making them go back again and re-read the phrase as a question!

Make sense? Isn't it interesting?

Edit: Read the comments of this post, someone adds a few other cases where the "Do" is not the tip-off word to an oncoming question in English.

Edit: had to make a couple spelling fixes!

updated Jan 30, 2017
edited by Rocoso
posted by Rocoso
Great explanation!
Unfortunately, people don't realize that our use of "do" as a verb of questioning eliminates our need almost entirely for the question mark, except in some circumstances, like phrasings such as "You like that?"
When a form of be, have, or a modal is present, do/does/did is not used to form a question or negate a declaration. So the tipoff is more about the inversion of the subject and the first word of the verbal phrase than the presence of do/does/did itself.
Certainly there are exceptions with have/has/had. Sometimes they’re used in conjunction with do/does/did. But with a modal verb or some form of be (main or auxiliary verb), no way. The tipoff is not do/does/did in these cases.
Thank you for the add'l notes on exceptions to the "Do/Does/Did" rule. I always seem to forget about "have" and its respective forms!
Along with some of the other words like "will/shall", etc. of course
Yeah, this stuff is probably too long for the comment fields, but I didn’t feel like starting another answer. Of course, you know, will and shall are two of the modals. Anyway, you brought up very interesting points.
Actually, in American English, have/has (not had, because it’s did have in the past) usually work with do/does/did. Of course have/has/had can be auxiliaries, but they’re not modals. And they’re more likely to work alone in British English.
I enjoyed reading it; great explanation (may be with the exception of the exclamation marks; but that's my personal pet hate with English usage :) :) :) )
1
vote

This is an interesting question that probably has no answer. Why do we call a cat "cat" and not "gato" or vice versa? It is just the way the language evolved.

updated Mar 14, 2013
posted by gohern
1
vote

Why is there a upside down question mark"¿" in the begging of a question??

Why does English lack the first question mark? (that tells us from the very start that we are now reading a question)

updated Mar 14, 2013
posted by JulianChivi
0
votes

For a little more on this go here

updated Mar 15, 2013
posted by Noetol
0
votes

Okeay now it makes more sense.

updated Mar 14, 2013
posted by Olivia_rocks
SpanishDict is the world's most popular Spanish-English dictionary, translation, and learning website.
© Curiosity Media Inc.  |  Mobile site
SOCIAL NETWORKS
APPS