Vol. 4 No. 2 (2017)

Leggere la virgola. Una prima ricognizione

Angela Ferrari
Universität Basel
Published August 1, 2017


Prosody, Discourse Analysis, Syntax


The problem of a possible correspondence between punctuation and prosody is a long-standing one and has not been solved yet. To put it simply, we can say that, on the one side, grammars claim that there is a correspondence; on the other side, essays express an opposite point of view, claiming that punctuation is for the eye, not for the ear. Focusing on the comma, through an empirical investigation and drawing on a previous study (Autore et al. in press), I will show, first of all, that a relation – albeit complex – may be found, and that some aspects of the relation need to be distinguished. As for the global prosodic structure of the Utterance, the relation is very loose and must be considered as indirect, under-specified and partial. As for the specific phonemic point where the comma appears, a more direct and regular relation may be observed, because whenever a comma is used, there is (nearly always) a non-terminal prosodic break. Yet there is no silent pause, contrary to what grammars claim; and, above all, the opposite relation does not hold true, because there are several non-terminal prosodic breaks without a comma, which can be easily explained.


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