By J Robertson Miller, 2023 December
The inverted question mark and the inverted exclamation mark are unique to the Spanish language. A few non-Spanish languages, spoken in Spain, have also adopted them.
When speaking, your vocal tone and the situation indicates what kind of information you are giving your listener. Often you ask a question using questions words such as what, where, when and why.
Written language lacks these clues therefore the Spanish language authorities introduced inverted symbols to be placed at the start of these two types of exclamatory and interrogative sentences. They were introduced for clarity.
So who is this authority?
The Royal Spanish Academy is considered the authority, both describing and prescribing the Spanish language. Its mission is to help stabilize the Spanish language so that anyone reading or speaking the language can continue to communicate with each other.
They were the ones who suggested these inverted marks to indicate the author’s intent. It lets you know how to read the sentence from the start, rather than surprising you at the end.
These two inverted marks became standardized in the 1700s and are used throughout the Spanish speaking world.