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Punctuation Accents

letters, papyri, book-hand, minuscule and cursive

ACCENTS, PUNCTUATION, DIVISION OF WORDS In the book-hand of early papyri neither accents nor breath ings were employed. Their use was established by the beginning of the Roman period, but was sporadic in papyri, where they were used as an aid to understanding, and therefore more frequently in poetry than in prose, and in lyrical oftener than in other verse. In the cursive of papyri they are practically unknown, as are marks of punctuation. Punctuation was effected in early papyri, literary and documentary, by spaces, reinforced in the book-hand by the paragraphus, a horizontal stroke under the beginning of the line. The coronis, a more elaborate form of this, marked the beginning of lyrics or the principal sections of a longer work. Punctuation marks, the comma, the high, low and middle points, were established in the book-hand by the Roman period; in early Ptolemaic papyri a double point (:) is found.

In vellum and paper mss. punctuation marks and accents were regularly used from at least the 8th century, though with some differences from modern practice. At no period down to the invention of printing did Greek scribes consistently separate words. The book-hand of papyri aimed at an unbroken succes sion of letters, except for distinction of sections; in cursive hands, especially where abbreviations were numerous, some tendency to separate words may be recognized, but in reality it was phrases or groups of letters rather than words which were divided. In the later minuscule word-division is much commoner but never became systematic, accents and breath ings serving of themselves to indicate the proper division.

Attention should be drawn at the outset to certain fundamental definitions and principles of the science. The original characters of an alphabet are modified by the material and the implements used. When stone and chisel are discarded for papyrus and reed pen, the hand encounters less resistance and moves more rapidly. This leads to changes in the size and position of the letters, and then to the joining of letters, and, consequently, to altered shapes. We are thus confronted at an early date with quite distinct types.

The majuscule style of writing, based on two parallel lines, ADLP. is opposed to the minuscule, based on a system of four lines, with letters of unequal height, adlp. Another classification, according to the care taken in forming the letters, distin guishes between the set book-hand and the cursive script. The difference in this case is determined by the subject matter of the text; the writing used for books (scriptura libraria) is in all periods quite distinct from that used for letters and documents (epistolaris, diplomatica). While the set book-band, in majuscule or minuscule, shows a tendency to stabilize the forms of letters, the cursive, often carelessly written, is continually changing in the course of years and according to the preferences of the writers.

This being granted, a summary survey of the morphological history of the Latin alphabet shows the zenith of its modifications at once, for its history is divided into two very unequal periods, the first dominated by majuscule and the second by minuscule writing.