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Of Punctuation, Capitals, Abbreviations, Numerical Characters, and the Division of the Roman


The different divisions discourse are marked by certain characters called Points.

The points employed for this purpose are the Comma (,), Semicolon (;), Colon (:), Period, Punctum, or full stop (.).

Their names are taken from the different parts of the sentence which they are employed to distinguish.

The Period is a whole sentence complete by itself. The Colon, or member, is a chief constructive part, or greater division of a sentence. The Semicolon, or half member, is a less constructive part or subdivision of a sentence or member. The Comma, or segment, is the least constructive part of a sentence in this way of considering it; for the next subdivision of a sentence would be the resolution of it into Phrases and Words.

To these points may be added the Semiperiod, or less point, followed by a small letter. But this is of much the same use with the Colon, and occurs only in Latin books.

A simple sentence admits only of a full point at the end; because its general meaning cannot be distinguished into parts. It is only in compound sentences that all the different points are to be found.

Points likewise express the different pauses which should be observed in a just pronunciation of discourse. The precise duration of each pause, or note, cannot be defined. It varies according to the different subjects of discourse, and the different turns of human passion and thought. The period requires a pause in duration double of the colon; the colon double of the semicolon; and the semicolon double of the comma.

There are other points which, together with a certain pause, also denote a different modulation of the voice, in correspondence with the sense. These are the Interrogation point (?), the Exclamation or Admiration point (!), and the Parenthesis (). The first two generally mark an elevation of the voice, and a pause equal to that of a semicolon, colon, or a period, as the sense requires. The Parenthesis usually requires a moderate depression of the voice, with a pause somewhat greater than a comma. But these rules are liable to many exceptions. The modulation of the voice in reading, and the various pauses, must always be regulated by the sense.

Besides the points, there are several other marks made use of in books, to denote references and different distinctions, or to point out something remarkable or defective, &c. These are, the Apostrophe ('); Asterisk (*); Hypher (-); Obelisk (†); Double Obelisk (); Parallel Lines (II); Paragraph (); Section (§); Quotation (""); Crotchets []; Brace (}); Ellipsis (..... or —); Caret (4); which last is only used in writing.

References are often marked by letters and figures.

Capitals or large letters, are used at the beginning of sentences, of verses, and of proper names. Some use them at the beginning of every substantive noun. Adjectives, verbs, and other parts of speech, unless they be emphatical, commonly begin with a small letter.

Capitals, with a point after them, are often put for whole words; thus, A. marks Aulus, C. Caius, D. Decimus, L. Lucius, M. Marcus, P. Publius, Q. Quinctius, T. Titus. So F. stands for Filius, and N. for Nepos; as, M. F. Marci Filius, M. N. Marci Nepos. In like manner, P. C. marks Patres Conscripti; S. C. Senatûs Consultum; P. R. Populus Romanus; S. P. Q. R. Senatus' Populusque Romanus; U. C. Urbs Condita; S. P. D. Salutem Plurimam dicit; D. D. D. Dat, dicat, dedicat; D. D. C. Q. Dat, dicat, consecratque; H, S. written corruptly for L. L. S. Sestertius, equal in value to two pounds of brass and a half; the two pounds being marked by L. L. Libra, Libra, and the half by S. Semis. So in modern books A. D. marks Anno Domini; A. M. Artium Magister, Master of Arts; M. D. Medicine Doctor; L. L. D. Legum Doctor; N. B. Nota Bene, &c.

Sometimes a small letter or two is added to the capital; as, Etc. Et cætera; Ap. Appius; Cn. Cneius; Op. Opiter; Sp. Spurius; Ti. Tiberius.; Sex. Sextus; Cos. Consul; Coss. Consules; Imp. Imperator; Impp. Imperatores.

In like manner, in English, Esq. Esquire; Dr. Debtor or Doctor; Acct. Account; MS. Manuscript; MSS. Manuscripts; Do. Ditto; Rt. Hon. Right Honourable, &c.

Small letters are likewise often put as abbreviations of a word; as, i. e. id est ; h. e. hoc est ; e. g. exempli gratia; v. g. verbi gratiâ.

Capitals were used by the ancient Romans, to mark numbers. The Letters employed for this purpose were C. I. L. V. X. which are therefore called Numerical Letters. I. denotes one, V. five, X. ten, L. fifty, and C. a hundred. By the various combinations of these five letters, all the different numbers are expressed.

The repetition of a numerical letter repeats its value. Thus, II. signifies two; III. three; XX. twenty; XXX. thirty; CC. two hundred, &c. But V. and L. are never repeated.

When a letter of a less value is placed before a letter of a greater, the less takes away what it stands for from the greater; but being placed after, adds what it stands for to the greater; thus,

VI. Six.

IV. Four.
IX. Nine.

XL. Forty.
XC. Ninety.

V. Five.

X. Ten.
L. Fifty.

C. A hundred.

XI. Eleven.

LX. Sixty.

CX. A hundred and ten.

A thousand is marked thus, CIO, which in later times was contracted into M. Five hundred is marked thus, 10. or by contraction, D.

The annexing of c to 10 makes its value ten times greater; thus, 1ɔɔ marks five thousand; and 1000, fifty thousand.

The prefixing of c, together with the annexing of ɔ, to the number of c1ɔ. makes its value ten times greater; thus, cc1oo denotes ten thousand; and ccc1ɔɔɔ a hundred thousand. The ancient Romans, according to Pliny, proceeded no farther in this method of notation. If they had occasion to express a larger number they did it by repetition; thus, cccɔɔɔ, ccc1ɔɔɔ. signified two hundred thousand, &c.

We sometimes find thousands expressed by a straight line drawn over the top of the numerical letters. Thus, III denotes three thousand; x. ten thousand.

But the modern manner of marking numbers is much more simple, by these ten characters or figures, which from the ten fingers of the hands were called Digits; 1 one, 2 two, 3 three, 4 four, 5 five, 6 six, 7 seven, 8 eight, nine, O nought, nothing. The first nine are called Significant figures. The last is called a Cypher

Significant figures placed one after another increase their value ten times at every remove from the right hand to the left; thus,

8 Eight. 85 Eighty-five. 856 Eight hundred and fifty-six. 8566 Eight thousand five hundred and sixty-six.

When cyphers are placed at the right hand of a significant figure, each cypher increases the value of the figure ten times; thus,

100 A hundred.

1 One. 10 Ten. 2000 Two thousand.

1000 A thousand. 2 Two. 20 Twenty. 200 Two hundred.

Cyphers are often intermixed with significant figures, thus, 20202, Twenty thousand two hundred and two.

The superiority of the present method of marking numbers over that of the Romans, will appear by expressing the present year both in letters and figures, and comparing them together; cɔ, ɔcccxx11, or M,DCCCXXII, 1822.

As the Roman manner of marking the days of their months was quite different from ours, it may perhaps be of use here to give a short account of it.

Division of the Roman Months.

The Romans divided their months in three parts, by Kalends, Nones, and Ides. The first day of every month was called the Kalends; the fifth day was called the Nones; and the thirteenth day was called the Ides; except in the months of March, May, July, and October, in which the nones fell upon the seventh day, and the ides on the fifteenth.

In reckoning the days of their months, they counted backwards. Thus, the first day of January was marked Kalendis Januariis, or Januarii, or by contraction, Kal. Jan. The last day of December, Pridie Kalendas Januarias or Januarii, scil. ante. The day before that, or the 30th day of December, Tertio Kal. Jan. scil. die ante; or Ante diem tertium Kal. Jan. The twenty-ninth day of December, Quarto Kal. Jan. And so on, till they came back to the thirteenth day of December, or to the ides, which were marked Idibus Decembribus, or Decembris: the day before the ides, Pridie Idus Dec. scil. ante: the day before that, Tertio Id. Dec. and so back to the nones, or the fifth day of the month, which was marked Nonis Decembribus or Decembris: the day before the nones, Pridie Non. Dec. &c. and thus through all the months of the year.

In Leap-year, that is, when February has twenty-nine days, which happens every fourth year, both the 24th and the 25th days of that month were marked, Sexto Kalendas Martii or Martias: and hence this year is called Bissextilis.

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Thus, the 14th day of April, June, September, and October, was marked XVIII. Kal. of the following month; the 15th, XVII. Kal. &c. The 14th day of January, August, and December, XIX. Kal. &c. So the 16th day of March, May, July, and October, was marked XVII. Kal. &c. And the 14th day of February, XVI. Kal. Martii or Martias. The names of all the months are used as Substantives or Adjectives, except Aprilis, which is used only as a Substantive.


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