After the fun we had yesterday with apostrophes, I thought it was time to become a bit semicolonical and to discuss the often over-looked semicolon, which is perhaps the punctuation mark most likely to fall out of use in the not too distant future. In fact many people rarely if ever use it already, except in emoticons ;).
The semicolon was first used by Aldus Manutius the elder (1449-1515) to separate words opposed in meaning and to mark off interdependent statements. It was introduced into English in 1560, and was used throughout Europe by the late 18th century.
There are two main uses of the semicolon in English:
1) It can be used to join independant clauses not linked by a co-ordinating conjunction such as and or but. For example:
regular exercise helps reduce blood pressure; a balanced diet is also important.
2) It can be used in lists containing commas within each point. For example:
Henry’s mother believes three things: that every situation, no matter how grim, will be happily resolved; that no one knows more about human nature than she; and that Henry, who is thirty-five years old, will never be able to do his own laundry.
In some languages, such as Greek and Church Slavonic, the semicolon is used as a question mark. How are semicolons used in your language?