[Ads-l] Logical quotation

Stanton McCandlish smccandlish at GMAIL.COM
Thu Nov 2 02:20:06 EDT 2017


I've been fascinated by the history of the quotation punctuation system
most commonly called "logical quotation", but am having difficulty finding
much in the way of material on its history (I don't have access to a lot of
journal, news, and other paywalled search sites).

This is the system in which terminal punctuation goes outside the closing
quotation mark unless it is found (exactly as-is) in the quoted material.
It appears to have arisen as a general punctuation style in English within
a decade of 1900 according to what I've seen so far (possibly through the
influence of *Hart's Rules* for the most part), and seems to have been
based on terminological punctuation in linguistics and philosophy
(quotation marks around glosses and terms of art) dating to at least the
mid-19th century.  It inspired the various "British" (Commonwealth English)
quotation punctuation styles (about a dozen slight variants, which may do
things like permit alteration of the punctuation mark, e.g. from a period
to a comma if the quotation is used in the middle of the quoting sentence,
or include it within the quoted material only when quoting a full sentence,
among other tweaks).  It made inroads in spurts into North American English
in the 20th century (e.g., in law, where it later retreated, and in
technical writing, where it continues to increase. Logical quotation has
become very common on the Internet, apparently through the influence of *The
Jargon File* a.k.a. *The Hacker's Dictionary* (later *The New Hacker's
Dictionary*), which even *The Chicago Manual of Style* cited as
authoritative for "computer writing", whatever that ambiguous phrase was
meant to encompass. It is thus sometimes called "Internet quotation",
though the influx of American news publishers onto the Web has eroded the
style's dominance there. Nevertheless, present-day American professors like
Ben Yagoda are finding it difficult to get American students to stop using
logical quotation in the papers they submit.

​I have a suspicion that the term itself, "logical quotation", may only
date to some time between the 1940s and 1970s, with the adoption of this
punctuation pattern in computer science circles in the US.​  It's been said
that the name refers to the internal logic of the quotation, the role the
punctuation plays in the syntax of the quoted material.  However, this may
be apologism; it could really be that the intent was to imply that
typographical quotation a.k.a. "American quotation" (also used in Canada,
and frequently in Commonwealth fiction writing) is illogical.

The story is that typographic quotation ("Like this," with the comma inside
the quote marks) arose in the days of movable type as a way to protect
fragile, tiny comma and period type blocks with the larger double-quote
block used for most quotations in North American English. This sounds
dubious to me; there's very little size difference. It seems more likely
that American publishing settled on typographic quotation in furtherance of
the nationalistic split between US and UK English initiated by Noah
Webster; it was in full swing by the mid-19th century, and still going
strong when the Fowlers produced British English style guides (1906 and
1926), and Strunk did likewise for American English in 1918.  Style guides
mostly remain highly nationalistic today (it helps sell them), with
*Chicago*, *Garner's*, *New Hart's,* revisions of *Fowler's,* and others
(written by skilled writer-editors but not linguists) making various
pronouncements about American and British usage that do not match
linguistic reality, and are mostly prescriptivism and traditionalism.

I also suspect that logical quotation was more commonly in use in the 19th
century, including in the US, and that standardizing on it or away from it
in various places and publishing circles was hotly debated in fora I've not
yet identified.  I have a whole wall of dictionaries and style guides and
other works on English usage, but they just shed very little light on the
history of the matter.

I'm not sure where to turn at this point, and the regulars of this list
have a much better idea of how to research something like this in more
depth, and more resources that can be brought to bear on it.

--
Stanton McCandlish
McCandlish Consulting
4001 San Leandro St
Suite 28
Oakland  CA 94601-4055

+1 415 234 3992

https://www.linkedin.com/in/SMcCandlish

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The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org


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