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An Early Syriac Question Mark

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image of Aramaic Studies

Sentence-punctuation in manuscripts of the Syriac Peshitta Bible is not well understood. One punctuation mark, however, a vertical pair of points above a letter, known as zawgā ʿelāyā, can be made out with some confidence: it marks yes-or-no questions. This conclusion is demonstrated from a sampling of early New Testament manuscripts in the British Library. The evidence of these manuscripts is all the more valuable because native Syriac grammarians generally lost the key to the meaning of this and other punctuation marks. It is conjectured that Syriac was the first language to use a reading sign as a question mark.

Affiliations: 1: Wolfson College, Cambridge, UK


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