French closing guillemets as opening

hrant's picture

I'm wondering if using closing guillemets to open paragraphs in an on-going quote was/is a common thing.

More examples?


Ryan Maelhorn's picture

I thought this was a language specific thing, German I thought, actually. Like quotation marks on the baseline for another language I can't recall at the moment. I believe there is another written language that uses underscores.

quadibloc's picture

I thought German as well.

Incidentally, while I will restrain myself with difficulty from a political comment, it may be noted that a symbol combining the ideas of the microcosm and the macrocosm on the one hand, and the tourbillon on the other, was used by Western occultists - such as Oswald Wirth - even before the Raelians got a hold of it.

(Has Ryan Maelhorn's account been "hacked" now, by someone else objecting to that icon, including possibly an admin?)

I believe it's Italian that uses underscores instead of hyphens at line breaks.

hrant's picture

Just to be clear: I'm not talking about the use of guillemets in French - I'm well aware that's what's used instead of floating "66/99" quotes (in fact we use guillemets in Armenian too). What I'm talking about is using a closing guillemet where an opening one seems normal.

But the wiki above does actually contain a pertinent passage:
In many printed books, when quotations are spanning multiple lines of text (including multiple paragraphs), an additional closing quotation sign is traditionally used at the beginning of each line continuing a quotation ; any right-pointing guillemet at the beginning of a line does not close the current quotation; this convention has been consistently used since the beginning of the 19th century by most book printers (and is still in use today). Note that such insertion of continuation quotation marks will also occur if there's a word hyphenation break. Unfortunately, there is still no support for automatic insertion of these continuation guillemets in HTML/CSS and in many word-processors, so these have to be inserted by manual typesetting:

« C’est une belle journée pour les Montréalais, soutient
» le ministre. Ces investissements stimuleront la crois-
» sance économique. »

In that example on Flickr, I can't see the left edge of the text but it's possible the closing-for-opening guillemets are only placed at the beginnings of on-going paragraphs, which would not be exactly what the example in the wiki shows.

a symbol combining ....

Sounds fascinating, but you've lost me completely. Explain?

Concerning dashes at linebreaks:
- I remember a while back a French typophile (I even met him at the Rome ATypI, but I can't remember his name at the moment) suggesting the use of the Logical Not sign to hyphenate long URLs that would need to go over a linebreak. I liked the idea but not many others did.
- In Armenian we have different symbols for a compound-word dash versus a linebreak dash, but sadly the latter has been folded into the former in practice (although it is in Unicode).


quadibloc's picture

I was simply thinking of


which is also what the first reply spoke of, but it seems like you are referring to something entirely different of which I was not aware, that the convention for continuing a quote between paragraphs in French is different;



(quote p1
(quote p2)

in English, but

(quote p1
)quote p2)

in French - which does have the virtue of greater unambiguity, since the closing quote occurring at the beginning of a paragraph can only mean one thing.

hrant's picture

FWIW Ben just confirmed that the closing-as-opening guillemets in that sample are only on paragraphs, not every line.


Bendy's picture

Here's a zoomed-out image.

guifa's picture

I have definitely seen it used on every line before, but I believe it was used even within the same paragraph, e.g.

Someone cried out «what is it
»that is going on over there in
»the forest?»

Here's a [Bad link] from UAMexico's site. Can't think what work I had read a few months ago that used it as such.

In modern Spanish, the standard is as noted by hrant for French (DPD comillas 2):

Al citar algo muy largo, «se
usan las comillas de apertura
para iniciarlo.
» Y en el siguiente párrafo, se
sigue con una comilla de cierre,
con otra de cierra parar acabar
la cita»

Edit: found an official source to the every line rule. The 1884 DRAE has as its entry for comilla:

Signo ortográfico ( « » ) que se pone al principio y fin de las frases incluídas como citas ó ejemplos en impresos ó manuscritos, y también, á veces, al principio de todos los renglones que estas frases ocupan.…

That is,

Orthographic symbol ( « » ) placed at the beginning and end of phrases included as quotations or examples in print or manuscript, and also, sometimes, at the beginning of all the lines that these phrases occupy.…

5star's picture

Oh, so that's what those things are.


Peter Van Lancker's picture

Found it in the "90ste verjaring van de Belgische Typografische Federatie, 1867-1957", more or less a luxury edition of the late Belgian independent (but very radical liberal, anarchist and non-stalinist communist) trade union of type setters. ;)

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