top of page


  • Writer's pictureGalina Blankenship

Signaling Emphasis and Emotion in English and Turkish Writing

Updated: Apr 18, 2023

Intonational Phrases

We communicate by breaking our messages into intonational phrases. Each intonational phrase conveys a specific piece of information, which we express using distinctive patterns of pitches (intonation), stresses, pauses, and specific ordering of words in a sentence.

Whether we need to convey a statement, a question, or an exclamation, we follow a specific intonational contour, signaled through the rising or the lowering of the voice tone (or pitch).

For example, when we want to signal a complete thought, our voice pitch drops (falling intonation), as in a declarative statement. On the other hand, a rising in our voice signals that we have not yet completed out thoughts or that we are asking someone to complete the thought, meaning that we are asking a question (rising intonation).

Painting "Riders Crossing the Desert" by Jean-Léon Gérôme
"Riders Crossing the Desert" by Jean-Léon Gérôme

In both English and Turkish, we use our voice tone (or pitch) to convey the meaning of our utterances, and both languages distinguish between three main intonation contours:

In English:

Falling tone: complete thoughts, wh-questions (who, which, where, when, why, and how)

Rising tone: yes/no questions

Fall-rise tone: incomplete thoughts, implicational statements

In Turkish:

Slight rise-fall tone: complete thoughts

High rise-fall tone: yes/no questions (questions with )

Slight rise + fall-rise tone: incomplete thoughts, wh-questions (ne, nerede, ne zaman, neden, kim)


Types of Questions

To understand the difference between the pitches, it may help to understand the difference between the different types of questions.

There are six common types of questions:

  1. Yes-no question: a categorical question that expects the answer yes or no.

  2. Wh-question (information question): a question requesting missing information (an opposite of a yes-no question).

  3. Alternative question: a question asking for a choice.

  4. Declarative question: a declarative statement asked as a question.

  5. Elliptical question: a question with omitted words assumed to be understood by the listener.

  6. Tag question: a short question attached to a statement, to soften an imperative statement or to signal the interrogative nature of the statement.


Falling Tone

After a falling tone, the rest of the information unit is at a low pitch, as in complete statements. Roughly speaking, the falling tone expresses certainty, completeness, independence. So, a straightforward statement normally ends with a failing tone, since it asserts a fact of which the speaker is certain and which the speaker does not expect to continue discussing. The falling tone has an air of finality (with the focuses shown in CAPS):

⭧ ⬊ ⭧ ⬊

Akşam evDE olacağız. Yardıma ihtiyaCIM var.

🠢 ⭨ 🠢 ⭨

We will be home in the EVening. I need HElp.


Rising Tone (English) vs. Rise-Fall Tone (Turkish)

A rising tone expresses uncertainty or incompleteness or dependence. After a rising tone, the rest of the information unit moves in an upward pitch direction, as in questions that are answered with yes or no (the so-called yes/no questions), expressed with in Turkish.

Yes/No Questions

In both English and Turkish, the rising tone signals that the speaker is uncertain of the truth of what they are asking about, and that he or she is seeking a categorical response of either yes or no.

In English, a yes/no question has a rising tone till the end:

⮕ ⬈ ⮕ ⬈

Are we there yet? Have you asked her about it?

The Turkish speaker expresses a yes/no question as a question with mi, with the high rising pitch until reaching the boundary before , after which the speaker's voice dramatically falls. This happens because is a prestressing clitic, i.e., it generates stress for the preceding constituent:

⮕ ⬈ ⬊ ⮕ ⬈ ⬊

Henüz VARmadık mı? Bunu ona sorDUN mu?

With its high, rising pitch, the yes/no question is imposing on the addressee. To downplay the imposition, we often rephrase such questions by using a hedging device or a minimizer. In both languages, such strategy involves rephrasing by adding something to change the intonational contour of the sentence.

For example, in English, we could rephrase it by adding the softening please, a comment clause (I wonder, I suppose, etc.), or an endearing term if the relations are familiar (baby, honey, love):

⬈ ⭨ ⮕ ⬈ ⮕

Are we there yet, I wonder? Can you help me, please?

In Turkish, the best strategy is to add at the end of the yes/no question an adverb or a special expression, such as acaba, yoksa, or bakalım to mitigate the potential harshness of the question (similarly to the English equivalent I wonder):

⮕ ⬈ ⬊ ⭎ ⮕ ⬈ ⬊ ⭎

Dersini zamanında bitirebileCEK misin, bakalım. Bana özel bir indirim yapabiLIR misiniz, acaba?

Well, let’s see if you can finish your homework on time. I wonder if you could give me a special discount.

By using bakalım, the speaker includes herself in the addressee.

👆 These expressions are added as afterthoughts, not as backgrounded elements, which is why they can be emphasized and bear an emotive enough force to counterbalance the strength of the yes/no question.


Elliptical Questions

In both languages, statements pronounced with a rising tone at the end are understood as questions (signaled by a question mark in writing). Such questions include elliptical questions with omitted words that are easily context-recoverable, which we use in conversations to save time and effort:

⬈ ⬈

Sugar? Şeker?


Topic Shifting

In both English and Turkish, shifting from one topic to another may have a rising intonation to signal initiation of a conversation:

⬈ ⭧ ⬈ ⭧ 🠢

As for my health, I can show you the necessary certificates. Sağlığıma gelince, gerekli raporları gösterebilirim.


Introductory Phrases/Clauses

In English and Turkish, an introductory adverbial phrase or clause is also often spoken with a rising tone. The reason is that this information is incomplete and dependent on the main clause:

⬈ ⬈

If you like, we can have dinner at my place tonight. İsterseniz bu akşam benim evimde yemek yiyebiliriz.


Parenthetical Comments

Interrupting parenthetical comments in both languages are marked by low-key pitch to signal the break in the flow of the main clause:

⭨ ⭨

The kids (I'm sure of this) will not agree to it. Çocuklar, (bundan eminim) buna katılmayacak.


Politeness Device

In English, polite denials, commands, invitations, greetings, farewells, etc., are generally spoken with a rising tone:

A: Are you busy?

B: No. Come in.

Pronouncing no with rising tone would make it sound softer, more attentive, inviting.


Politeness Device: Tag Questions

In English, adding a tag question to a command turns it into a polite request:

Shut the door, will you?


Fall-Rise Tone (English) & Slight Rise + Fall-Rise Tone (Turkish)

Implicational Fall-Rise

In English, by making a statement with the fall-rise, the speaker typically states one thing but implies something further. Linguists call this tone the implicational fall-rise. The unexpressed implication can usually be formulated in a clause beginning but ..., which would make it explicit. The implicational fall-rise can be thought of as the tone that signals a but ... to come.

A: What a nasty cold day!

↘ ⭧

B: It's certainly cold [implied: ... but I wouldn't say nasty].


Tentative Implication

The English fall-rise can also be used to signal that the speaker is tentative about what he or she says. This is another case of the implicational fall-rise when the speaker makes a statement but implies that she is not sure or that she doesn't want to commit:

A: What shall we have to drink?

↘ ⭧

B: We could have a red wine, maybe.


Polite Corrections

In English, if we think someone has made a mistake, and we want to correct them, we use the fall-rise for polite corrections:

A: They are coming on Monday.

↘ ⭧

B: No, on Tuesday, sir.


Partial Statements

The English fall-rise is often used when we want to make a partial statement; that is, to say that something applies partly, to some extent, but not completely:

A: So you both live in London?

B: She does [implied: But I don't].



Wh-questions, also called informational questions, are asked to inquire about some missing information. The Turkish intonation pattern for wh-questions follows a slight rise and then a fall-rise, while English wh-questions match a falling tone:

⭧ ⭨ ⭧

Eve NE zaman gideceksiniz?

⭧ ⭨

When are you going home?


As you may have noticed, the boundaries of intonational phrases are generally aligned with shifts in the pitch tone. A fall-rise tone, signalling incompleteness and dependency, often occurs at the boundaries of incomplete phrases or clauses to signal that something else is coming: for example, after subordinate clauses (adverbial or conditional clauses) in complex sentences and after all but the last items in a series. A falling tone signals completeness and independence and thus marks the boundaries of independent clauses in compound sentences.

In literary Turkish, as the example below shows, sentences are often long with many intonational phrases (nine in the sentence below); several topics (three below: biz, biz, düşünmemiz, shown with ꜱᴍᴀʟʟ ᴄᴀᴘꜱ) and/or topic shiters (one below: Kant’a göreyse) (which bear secondary stresses); focused positions (bearing primary stresses, shown with regular CAPS), and other stressed positions of semantically emphasized words (tam, her, yani, shown with ꜱᴍᴀʟʟ ᴄᴀᴘꜱ):

T(shift)↘ ⭧ ↘ ⭧ ↘T 🠢 F ⭨ ↘ T ⭧ 🠢 F

Kant’a görEYse, | ᴛᴀᴍ tersine, | ʙɪᴢ, | objelere nitelikLER yükleriz; | çünkü ʙɪᴢ | bu biçimDE düşünürüz; |

For Kant, on the contrary, we think in such a way that we attribute qualities to objects, that whatever we think about,

T ↘ ⭧ 🠢 F

çünkü ᴅüşüɴᴍᴇᴍɪᴢ | ʜᴇʀ yerde öznelerle yüklemler oluşturmaya, | ʏᴀɴɪ zihnimizin bu formlarını kullanmaYA çalışır.

we are inclined to accompany subjects with predicates, and that out way of thinking is adapted to the forms of our minds.

Dil Felsefesi

Old Information & New Information

In a conversation, we tend to start statements with some old or given information (something that we have already mentioned before or assume to be known) and end with new or the most important information.

In conversations, we use pitch-intonation, stresses, pauses, and different word orders to signal the start and the end of an intonational phrase as well as the constituent of the phrase that we want to emphasize. In speech, using intonation, we can also distinguish new information from older information.

With old, or given, information, we communicate our topic, which often coincides with the subject of the sentence and involves a mild (secondary) stress. The new information consists of the sentence’s focus, which is its most emphasized constituent, marked with the heaviest (primary) stress.


Main Stress Positions

Whether it is English or Turkish, regular statements in each language follow a language-specific natural stress pattern, consisting of the following main stress positions: topic (T), focus (F), and background (B).

Topic (Old)

In both English and Turkish, topics are positioned at the beginning of the sentence. In English, which is a subject-prominent language, topics and subjects almost always coincide. In Turkish, which can be subject- and topic-prominent, topics can be any constituent: subjects, objects, complements, adverbials, etc.

The topic in a sentence tends to represent some old information, which connects to what has already been discussed. Topics are essential for maintaining cohesive and context-tied communication. In spoken regular sentences, to announce the start of a sentence and to signal what the sentence is about, the sentence-initial topic is mildly stressed (often receiving the secondary stress).

For example, the word kız, for the first time mentioned in the first sentence, becomes the topic of the second sentence:

Sadece evin kızı hastabakıcı kursuna girmişti. Kız, (T) onu gülümseyerek karşıladı.

The daughter of the family had simply begun a nursing course. The girl greeted him with a smile.

Ahmed Hamdi Tanpınar, Huzur


Focus (New)

The sentence’s most prominent position, the focus, conveys something new or important, which is often the main point of the sentence.

While the English focus is positioned at the very end the sentence, the Turkish focus is positioned very close to the end of the sentence, which is immediately before the verb. For example, compare the natural stress patterns in English and Turkish (with the focus shown in CAPS):

Kız kardeşim, evine TRENLE gitti.


My sister went home by TRAIN.


Depending on the context, the topic and focus positions can also signal contrastive stressing: specifically, contrastive topic (c-T) and/or contrastive focus (c-F), which receives the heaviest stress and tends to be complemented by the de-emphasized backgrounding.


Background (Given)

In addition to old and new information, there is also given or presupposed information that is assumed to be shared by most of us, the historical truths that we feel are universal and axiomatic. As such, the presupposed information is regarded by the speaker as a given truth, or something that is so self-evident that requires no additional intonational effort. The boundaries of the backgrounded part are markedly de-stressed and low pitch, reflecting the speaker's switching to the energy-saving mode of de-emphasizing.

Thus, the common ways to indicate givenness include:

  • De-stressing, which is an acoustic reduction in intonation.

  • Ellison (omission), an extreme form of reduction.


Backgrounding in English

In English, stress often marks the difference between given and new information: speakers clearly emphasize any new or important details, balancing them off by de-stressing the presupposed details:

“Is this your lizard?”

“NO, not THAT [lizard], THE OTHER [one].”

c-F c-T B c-F B

In English writing, backgrounding can also be exhibited in special focusing constructions such as it-cleft or wh-cleft sentences:

“I’ve heard she left by bus.”

“NO, it was BY TRAIN [that she left].”

c-F T c-F B

Backgrounding in Turkish

In Turkish, any constituent placed after the verb loses its prominence. The most frequently backgrounded element, whether in speech or writing, is the explicit topic/subject.

The main reasons for that are these:

  • Topics can be easily inferred from the context, so to save intonational effort, speakers opt to move them to the intonationally de-emphasized area.

  • Bringing the sentence-initial, context-inferable topic/subject closer to the verb makes the sentence easier to process, especially if the sentence is long and the topic and the predicate are separated by many constituents.

Some other reasons may be:

  • Shifting stressing positions within a sentence.

  • Reducing the number of stress positions in sentences with other additional focusing devices, such as pre-stressing clitics or focusing adverbs.

  • Creating a rhythmic structure, used in poetry, songs, drama.

For example, in the exchange below, the backgrounded topic/subject (o) shifts the adverbial (trenle) to the contrastive focal position:

Kız kardeşin otobüsle mi gitti?

YOK, TRENLE [gitti, o].”

c-F B

“Did your sister left by bus?”

“NO, she left by TRAIN.”

c-F T c-F

Neutral (Unmarked) Sentences

Regular, or canonical, statements are neutral in their tone, with the topic and focus being only mildly stressed. What’s convenient about regular statements is their universal neutrality: whether they are spoken or written, both listeners and readers will process them by following the same natural stress pattern.

This is why regular, neutral statements are used in academic and formal writing, or as an opening sentence of an essay, presentation, or conversation.


Emphatic (Marked) Sentences

When we get emotional, however, we do not want to appear or sound neutral; we want to appear partial because we want to convey something important by emphasizing it.

In speech, we may emphasize a constituent by pronouncing it with a higher pitch or a stronger stress; we may precede or follow it by a dramatic pause; or we may change the ordering of words in the statement altogether. In writing, however, our options are limited.

Apart from word order variations and special grammatical structures, punctuation is the ultimate, purely graphical way of organizing the written text, including indicating the stress positions, highlighting the emphasized elements, and signalling emotional undertones.


Emphasizing and Emotion-Marking Strategies in English

Despite its strict word order, English uses several emphatic constructions of specific word orders, which have specific stress positions or cause such positions to shift. It also uses focusing adverbs, punctuation, and other stylistic techniques developed specifically for writing that are used to convey emphasis (shown in CAPs below) and emotion, including:

  • Word order variations, with specific stress positions: declaratives, questions, imperatives, exclamations, clefts, passives, inverted sentences, fronted-object sentences, fragments

  • Use of conjunctions: asyndetic, syndetic, polysyndetic series

  • Focus markers: only, just, even, very, the most

  • Rhetorical adverbs: in short, at last

  • Discourse connectives: however, therefore

  • Linguistic politeness markers: formality markers, hedges, softners, familiarity markers, formulaic expressions

  • Reduplications: asyndetic and syndetic repeations

  • Interjections & Exclamations: oh, oops, wow, ew, ouch, ugh

  • Punctuation: exclamation point, question mark, dash, suspension points, etc.


All languages appear to have special sentence structures associated with statements that provide information (declarative sentences), questions that seek information (interrogative sentences), and directives that instruct with information (imperative sentences), and many languages have a special sentence structure for exclamations that signal the emotional reactions (exclamatory sentences). Such structures are largely based on special word orders, and, in combination with the particular punctuation, they can convey the meaning intended by the author:

I have quickly finished reading this fun book. I have quickly finished reading this fun book!

Have you quickly finished reading this fun book? Have you quickly finished reading this fun book?!

Quickly finish reading this fun book! Quickly finish reading this fun book.

How quickly I have finished reading this fun book! How quickly I have finished reading this fun book.


In English, it-cleft structures have a fixed focus position, marking the delayed subject; wh-cleft structures are used to emphasize the predicate:

It is YOU [that] I love. What we need is MORE TIME.

(S) F B T F

Anticipatory it and existential there fill the syntactic subject position, drawing attention to the predicative, which is actually the delayed subject. Such structures are often used with indefinite noun phrases, commonly associated with new information:


(S) F

The demonstrative this-clefts, which begin with the demonstrative pronouns this or that, are often used in speech and writing to point to the utterance:

You see that villa? THAT"S what I’d like to buy.


Fronting or inversion topicalizes (makes prominent) the fronted constituent. In canonical sentences, the topic generally bears a neutral secondary stress in a sentence, with the focused position having the neutral primary stress. In noncanonical sentences, however, the fronted topic bears a stronger emphasis, which may be emphatic or contrastive, depending on the context:

Across the field flew a plane. inversion-based topicalization of the adverbial


Which of these calls seemed more mysterious, it is not possible to say. emphatic fronting of the complement clause

James Agee, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

Talent, Mr. Micawber HAS; money, Mr. Micawber has NOT. contrastive fronting of the objects

c-T c-F c-T c-F
Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

Passive voice can be used to shift emphasis from topic to focus (or from focus to topic, as it would be in an active version of the sentence):

active voice passive voice

Hurricane damaged MY HOUSE. ⟹ My house was damaged by the HURRICANE.


Deliberate sentence fragmenting is used to emphasize the fragment, underlying its dramatic, surprising, or shocking force:


Charles Dickens, Bleak House (the opening sentence)

Voters who want to vote should be able to vote. Period. Full stop.

― Barack Obama

Using imperative sentences with explicit periods at the end is an effective attention-getter trick, popular in marketing: e.g., brand taglines, ads, digital copywriting:

Just do it. Think different.

Nike's tagline Apple's tagline

Focusing adverbs (such as even, only, just, too, ) are used before the words they emphasize:

They’re open even today. Only you, and nobody else, can help me.


Rhetorical discourse connectives can be used for contrastive (and emphasized) linking if they are sentence-initial or sentence-final or for stressing a preceding word if they are positioned medially. These are always enclosed with commas:

However, they didn’t agree. They didn’t, however, agree.

They, however, didn’t agree. They didn’t agree, however.

This, in short, is why I refused. Sadly, we have failed to save him.

I, too, was not expecting this. They are here, at last!


Canonically placed adverbs can be emphasized by enclosing commas. When moved to another position, they acquire a rhetorical emphasis:

The soldier must stupidly have answered the officer’s question.

The soldier must, stupidly, have answered the officer’s question.

The soldier must have answered the officer’s question, stupidly.

Stupidly, the soldier must have answered the officer’s question.


Parallelism is one of the most effective methods of emphasis. It is used to emphasize the likeness or contrast between items. In parallel constructions, emphasis on the individual parallel items can be increased by repeating articles, prepositions, or introductory words:

We have traveled to everywhere: to Paris, London, Moscow, New York, Madrid and so on.

We have traveled to everywhere: to Paris, to London, to Moscow, to New York, to Madrid and so on.

Teachers need many hours outside of class time to plan new curricula, grade tests and papers, meet with parents, and work one-on-one with children who have special needs.

Teachers need many hours outside of class time to plan new curricula, to grade tests and papers, to meet with parents, and to work one-on-one with children who have special needs.

He was an extremely, fully, and thoroughly dedicated public servant.

He was an extremely, a fully, and a thoroughly dedicated public servant.


Asyndetic, syndetic, or polysyndetic linking styles with repeated elements can be used for different rhetoric effects and to generate emphasis.

Asyndetic style (without using any conjunctions) is more common with attributive adjectives. A comma between asyndetic paratactic (equal, parallel) adjectives can add emphasis to the adjectives as separate modifiers.

The delta function has a long, controversial history.

Her educated, conservative, strict parents found it hard to accept her career choice.

Replacing the comma with the conjunction and further increases this emphasis, marking them as syndetic paratactic adjectives:

The delta function has a long and controversial history.

Her educated, conservative, and strict parents found it hard to accept her career choice.

Moreover, syndetic modification is more appropriate if adjectives come in predicative position.

The men were cold, sick, and silent. You’re like a winter’s day: short, dark, and cold.

If we want to signal in a very literary, even poetic style, we may switch to the asyndetic style with the predicative modifiers:

The men were cold, sick, silent. My soul is exotic, mysterious, incomprehensible.

Polysyndetic linking (using multiple conjunctions) can be employed to emphasize every item in a series:

He can see you on Monday, Tuesday, or Friday. ⟶ He can see you on Monday or Tuesday or Friday.

The men were cold, sick, silent. ⟶ The men were cold, and sick, and silent.

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers.

U.S. Postal Service creed

Antithetical contrastive statements and other parallel structures are often used for contrastive emphasis. Although they are typically asyndetic compound sentences, the punctuation mark separating the clauses is not a semicolon, as it should be in compound sentences, but a comma, to signal a closer connection between the clauses:

Not only is he selling out, he’s burning out. Not only was he incompetent, but he was also corrupt.

If not for me, do it for our kids.


Different kinds of repetitions (reduplications) can be used for intensification of the meaning, reinforcement, or emphasis. Reduplicated words can be linked asyndetically or syndetically:

It’s far, far too expensive. He was a very, very, very wise man.

Interjections repeated may mean hesitation, indicating that the speaker is thinking aloud:

Well, well, we’ll find a way. Now, now, you don’t expect me to believe that!

If linked with coordinating conjunctions, the emphasis is on the high degree of continuity and repetitiveness of the action described:

It went up and up and up. She hit him and hit him and hit him.

He was showing less and less interest in his family. It rained for days and days.

In speech, reduplication is often employed for a dramatic, motivational effect:

The three most important things in real estate are location, location, and location!

Nothing, but nothing will make me change my mind.


In writing, different punctuation can help distinguish between tag exclamations (right dislocations) and vocatives, which may be structured the same way:

He’s a good guyJohn. He’s a good guy, John.

exclamation tag vocative

Interjections can convey a range of emotions: excitement, surprise, anger, pain, boredom, etc.

Oh! I’ve lost my wallet! Why, I would never do that.

Well, I tried my best. Hey, it’s my turn next!

Whew! That's a relief! Ouch! I think my ankle is sprained!

Ah, to be in Paris in the spring! Psst, let’s skip the next class!

Oops! I nearly dropped my cup of tea! Ugh, it's cold!

Our business proposal was, ahem, poorly presented. Wait, it’s a surprise—ta-da!

Furthermore, punctuation used with interjections can narrow down the emotion behind. For example, compare:

Ha! An exclamation expressing the feeling of being amused.

Ha. An exclamation made unenthusiastically, feeling bored, or in a hurry.


The most “emotional” punctuation marks are question mark and explanation point. The choice of these, as opposed to a period, can signal the emotional charge of the utterance.

For example, imperative sentences written with a period at the end signal their milder nature, unlike imperatives written with an exclamation point, thus marking the directive/instruction vs. order/command distinction or the request vs. plea/entreaty distinction:

Sit down. Sit down!

= directive = command

Stand up and answer the questions. Stand up and answer the questions!

= directive = order

Please help me. Please help me!

= request = plea

The exclamation point is often used to add exclamatory force to a declarative statement or a rhetorical question (that does not require an answer):

Two million people did not have to die. Two million people did not have to die!

declarative sentence = statement declarative sentence = exclamation

How about that. How about that!

rhetorical question = suggestion rhetorical question = exclamation

Well, what do you know! Why don’t you just go!

rhetorical question = exclamation rhetorical question = exclamation

Directives can also be mitigated by several expressions that help “soften” the imposition that the directive causes, such as please, excuse me, sorry, come again (used to ask to repeat whatever was said before), I beg your pardon (used to indicate a disbelief). Please is often used in IT in UI (user interface) instructions or developer-facing commands:

Suggestions, please? Please follow the links below for further information.

= neutral/formal request = neutral/formal instruction

More, please! Please wait … The system is rebooting.

= demand = neutral instruction

Would you please keep it down! Please excuse the handwriting.

= angry demand = formal apology

The punctuation used with some such expressions often determine the meaning of the utterance, from command to neutral instruction to request, to a polite request, to a formal request:

Please. Come in. Please? I’ll be quick, I promise. Please! Stop talking!

= neutral/formal request = pleading request = angryl request

Excuse me, your honor. Excuse me, Ma'am? Can you repeat it? Excuse me! Coming through!

= formal/high deference apology = polite/formal apology = attention-getter

Come again. Maybe tomorrow. Come again? I didn’t hear you. Enjoy and come again!

= neutral/formal invitation = informal invitation = polite/formal invitation

Sorry about that. Sorry, I beg your pardon? I beg your pardon, Sir!

= neutral/formal apology = polite/formal request = formal apology

Excuse me, do you know what time it is? Well, excuse me for wanting to understand my own son!

Oh, but excuse me. Was I too loud? Now, please excuse me. I have things to do.

Excuse me, whom are you here to see? Excuse me? I said, no!


The second pair of “emotional” punctuation marks are dash and suspension points (ellipsis). Dash generally signals a sharper break from a linear narration. Specific for the English language is the use of a dash to denote an afterthought, break in speech, understatement:

I didn’t believe himand said so.

There was no other wayor was there?

Our governments want peaceor so they say.


Enclosing dashes are also used to signal an aside comment, pronounced in a low-key tone:

Geraldine isas you knowvery shy with strangers.

Sue feltcan you blame her?—that she was being exploited.

The managerbut not his deputyhas been charged with defamation.


Aside comments as parenthetical remarks are generally spoken in a low-key tone, which makes them stand out. In writing, they can be marked with commas, dashes, or parentheses, and the choice of punctuation depends on the nuanced context:

He was an intelligent and demanding boss.

Without any punctuation, it is a neutral sentence.

He was an intelligent, and demanding, boss.

Commas mark an aside comment, which is loosely connected with the sentence.

He was an intelligentand demandingboss.

Dashes mark a sharper break and highlight the comment.

He was an intelligent (and demanding) boss.

Parentheses mark a comment that is hardly connected to the main sentence.

In English, a dash is more informal than other punctuation marks. It is therefore often used in literary works to signal a sharp, dramatic break in one's speech. In the example below, a dash is used to mark interrupted speech, whether by oneself or by others:

“John, do you suppose you couldoh, never mind; I'll do it.”

A waiter held up his hands. “Sir, excuse me” Vasco knocked him flat, kept right on going.

Michael Crichton, Next

Ellipsis can be used as suspension points to mark self-interrupted speech, deliberate pause, hesitation or faltering, trailing off or stuttering.

Along with a single dash, suspension points, too, can mark self-interruption:

He could easily have saved the situation if he just But why talk about it?

You you you monster!

They can also signal trailing off into silence (a rhetorical technique called aposiopesis):

But I thought he meant to help us.

Suspension points can indicate a deliberate pause:

They left rather quickly.

Or signal a dramatic punchline:

George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill: “I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play. Bring a friend if you have one.”

Winston Churchill, responding to Shaw: “Cannot possibly attend first night; will attend secondif there is one.”

When placed at the beginning or end of a sentence, the suspension points can also inspire a feeling of melancholy or longing:

If only she didn’t have to leave


An exclamation point can be used at the end of a sentence as well as mid-sentence to mark the emotional charge:

At first things went smoothly, but soon, alas!, the casualties began and we had to devise a new strategy.


Stammering is sometimes informally indicated by hyphens and reduplication of letters:

“P-p-p-please t-t-try,” his teeth chattered through fear and cold.


Crying or screaming can be represented by prolongating the vowels using hyphens:

“He-e-elp!” she cried.


When marking a single word, quotation marks effectively function as the so-called scare quotes. Sometimes called sneer quotes or ironic quotes, these marks are equivalent to the hand gesture in which we draw quotation marks in the air with two fingers when we say something we don't mean literarily or we mean ironically:

A silver dome concealed the robot’s brain. Their friend brought about their downfall.


Other specific punctuation patterns, used for many syntactic, pragmatic, and rhetorical purposes, including to organize the text, prevent misreading, make reading easier, and reveal the author’s intended meaning (emotions).


Emphasizing & Emotion-Marking Strategies in Turkish

Turkish word order is more flexible than English, which is why Turkish speakers tend to rely more on shifting words to the language-specific stress (or non-stress) positions to emphasize or de-emphasize them. Moreover, the Turkish language is characterized by innumerable formulaic expressions, which are easily accessible to Turkish speakers, especially in such emotionally loaded situations as birth, death, old age, and illness. Moreover, to express commands, requests, or suggestions, Turkish speakers can choose from several imperative verb forms and a number of formulaic frozen expressions signaling the varying degrees of politeness and formality. Turkish is abundant with linguistic markers of emphasis and emotion:

  • Word order variations, with specific stress positions: declaratives, questions, imperatives, exclamations, passives, inverted (devrik) sentences, fragments

  • Pre-stressing clitics and suffixes: ki, mi, ya, bile, da, -(y)sa/ise, -me/-ma, -dir, -leyin, -sizin, -le/-la, -ce/-ca, -ki, -madan, -çasına, -(y)ken

  • Stressed suffixes: -iyor, -erek/-arak, -ince, -iver, -(y)esin/-(y)asın, -malı, dıkça, -meksizin

  • Focusing adverbs & discourse connectives: daha, en, gene, hep, zaten, nasılsa, nasıl olsa

  • Focusing quantificational markers: determiners (her), numerals, pronominalized determiners (bazısı, kimi), pronominal quantifiers (herkes, her şey)

  • Discourse connectives & transitional expressions: halbuki, oysa, üstelik, ayrıca, onun için

  • Linguistic politeness markers: formality markers, hedges, softners, minimizers, familiarity markers, formulaic expressions

  • Reduplications: full repetition, zero repetition, incomplete repetition, and reverse repetition reduplications

  • Interjections & exclamations: of, ayy, vah vah

  • Punctuation: exclamation point, question mark, dash, suspension points, etc.


Using a topic- or subject-marking comma (or, rarely, a semicolon) signals an emphasis on the topic (subject):

Anlatmak istediğim, onun o kadar genç ve güzel oluşu.

What I tried to explain is (the fact) that she is so young and beautiful.

In Turkish, a single introductory comma functions as a pre-stressing device: by signalling a pause, it draws attention to the preceding intonational (and informational) unit. Such introductory comma often signals the topic of the sentence (which is also often its subject).

For example, below an introductory comma marks an introductory clause (bu yolda öylesine ileri gitti ki), a topic-marking comma (kendisiyle yapılmış bir konuşmayı), a subject-marking comma (biz), a parenthetical appositive phrase-marking comma (onun birkaç okuru), and a series-marking comma (hiçbir gazetede, hiçbir dergide) can all be used to draw attention to these structures:

Bu yolda öylesine ileri gitti ki, kendisiyle yapılmış bir konuşmayı, biz, onun birkaç okuru, hiçbir gazetede, hiçbir dergide okumadık.

He went so far in this way that we, his few readers, have never read an interview by him in any newspaper or magazine.

Ferit Edgil

Likewise, a comma used after the main verb, in the area that is supposed to be backgrounded and thus de-stressed, may indicate that the postverbal part is an afterthought, which can present new information and bear stress. In the sentence below, while the subject (ben) is indeed backgrounded, the part that follows (bir ceset, bir kuyunun dibinde) is an added, supplementive afterthought remark:

Şimdi bir ölüyüm ben, bir ceset, bir kuyunun dibinde.

I am nothing but a corpse now, a body at the bottom of a well.

Orhan Pamuk, Benim Adım Kırmızı (the opening sentence)

Antithetical two-part constructions, one of which is contains değil, are used to signal a contrast between parallel constituents:

Ali, annesiyle değil, babasıyla konuşmuyormuş.

Ali was not talking to his mother, but to his father.

Sadece bu olağandışı sporcular değil, her sporcu problemlerin üstesinden gelmek zorundadır.

Every athlete has to overcome problems, not just these extraordinary athletes.

Other constructions with değil are used for contrasting or comparing two events or entities in terms of their improbability, in a similar way to let alone, much less, or not to mention in English:

Diplomasını almak değil, tezini bile daha yazmamış.

She hasn’t even written her thesis yet, let alone received her degree.

The alternative contrasting constructions include şöyle dursun, bir yana, and the colloquial bırak … bile:

Fransızca şöyle dursun, İngilizce bile konuşamaz.

She can't speak English, much less French.

Koşmak bir yana, neredeyse yürüyemiyor.

She can hardly walk, let alone run.

Onlar, bırak ihtilal yapmayı, koyun bile güdemez.

They can't even herd sheep, let alone stage a revolution.


Using a comma in elliptic sentences also signals their contrastive structures:

Onlar konuşarak, ben konuşmadan yedik.

We ate with them talking and me not talking.

O. Pamuk, Sessiz Ev

A comma is often used to mark parallel contrastive constructions:

İskemle ve misafiri beraberce uyandılar. Birisi Mümtaz'a doğru ilerledi, öbürü bir adım geri çekildi.

The chair and its partner awoke together: One shape approached Mümtaz, while the other skipped backward.

Ahmed Hamdi Tanpınar, Huzur

Enclosing commas may be used to highlight a rhetorical adverb (adverbial):

Viyana’dan döndüğü günden beri herkese dargın, hemen hemen, yapayalnız yaşıyordu.

Since his return from Vienna, he had, in his bitterness, swept his life empty of friends.

Ahmed Hamdi Tanpınar, Saatleri Ayarlama Enstitüsü

Pre-stressing clitics or pre-stressing suffixes are used to emphasize preceding constituents:

Ben de içmeyeceğim.

I won't drink either.


Stressing suffixes or focusing adverbs generate secondary stresses:

Çalıştıkça başarabilirsin. Sana hep yardım ettim.

As long as you work, you can make it. I always helped you.


Inserting parenthetical remarks as asides or adding comments as afterthoughts reflect the low-key prosodic intonation typical of such remarks and comments:

Ona on iki lira -kâğıt para- aylık bağladılar. Evde tuz kalmamış, bir de süt.

They gave him twelve liras (in cash) on a monthly basis. There is no salt left in the house, nor any milk.


Topic-shifting structures, which create external topics, also function as discourse connectives (as opposed to internal topics):

Bana gelince, ben bambaşka bir çocuktum.

As for me, I was a totally different kid.


Quantificational determiners create secondary stress:

Dün beş kişi olarak oyun oynadık.

Yesterday, five of us played the game.


Turkish has a variety of reduplication strategies used as emphatic stylistic devices. The typical strategy is to repeat the same word for emphasis:

Anladım, anladım. Yaşınızı saklıyorlar, o halde henüz evlenmemiş bir küçük hanımsınız.”

“I get it, I get it. They are hiding your age, so you are an unmarried young lady.”

Halide Edip Adıvar, Kalp Ağrısı

Another strategy is to duplicate the word with an “m” added at the beginning to signal emphatic casualness or to mean “and so on and so forth”:

Çocuk mocuk dinlemem, alırım ayağımın altına!

I don't care, kids or not kids, I will crush you!

Dışarıdan ekmek mekmek alıp döneceğim.

I am going out to get some bread and other things and come back.


Reduplicated items are sometimes used with such conjunctions as ama (+çok), which enhance the emphasis:

Güzel, ama çok güzel bir gömlek almış.

He bought such a lovey shirt.


Reduplication-type repetition of phrases, known as resumed appositive comments, can be added as afterthoughts for a dramatic effect:

Ne kadar taşımıştı onu sırtında, ne kadar.

How devotedly he carried it on his back, how devotedly.

Tarık Buğra, İbiş’in Rüyası

The exclamation point enclosed with parentheses can be used to mark something surprising, with a tinge of mockery. Here, for example, the author clearly does not believe the claim made by a protagonist and openly mocks her:

Genç kızı, aralarındaki on yaş farka rağmen Dame de Sion’dan tanıyan (!) ve galiba hiç sevmediği hâlde son derecede sevdiğini iddia eden asıl medyumumuz Sabriye Hanımefendiye göre, mektep arkadaşı öyle medyum filân değildi ve hiç de olmamıştı.

Our official psychic, Sabriye Hanımefendi (who claimed to have been Aphrodite’s classmate and intimate at the French lycée Notre Dame de Sion, despite a ten-year age difference and an evident mutual distaste), maintained that the young lady was in no way a spiritual medium and never had been.

Ahmed Hamdi Tanpınar, Saatleri Ayarlama Enstitüsü

The rarely used combination of the exclamation point and the question mark is used to show a strong emotion behind the utterance:

“Belki ben daha evvel giderim...”


Hayret edişim onu güldürdü.

“Maybe I’ll leave before you do…”


She laughed at my surprise.

Sabahattin Ali, Kürk Mantolu Madonna

Fragmentation of sentences is a way to make constituents stand out:

Her an... her dakika, her saniye kalp ağrısı. Hep.

A heartache every moment, every minute, every second. Always.


Turkish uses numerous linguistic politeness (hedging) devices to soften the harshness of commands or questions by using supplementation (adding an element at the end as an afterthought) to rephrase them as rhetorical questions, suggestions, or requests.

For example, a yes-no question can be supplemented with such expressions as bakalım (let’s see), yoksa (translated into English as then), or acaba (I wonder, I wonder if), which brings down the rising pitch that follows the question particle mı. Likewise, by adding to a command the expression bakalım, based on the first-person plural (we), suggests sharing the burden that may be imposed by an imperative sentence:

Burada tanıdığın biri var mı, bakalım. Bir dene, bakalım.

Let’s see if you know anyone in here. Why don't you give it a try?

a yes-no question + bakalım = suggestion a command + bakalım = suggestion

Eski halılarını satıyor musun, yoksa? Onun yerine bana sorabilir misiniz, acaba.

Are you selling your old carpets, then? I wonder if you'd mind asking me instead.

a yes-no question + yoksa = rhetoric question a yes-no question + yoksa = request

When used at the beginning or middle of the sentence, bakalım (let’s see), yoksa (or, otherwise, then), or acaba (I wonder, I wonder if) can also minimize the burden of a yes-no question, wh-question, or command:

Bakalım, dürüstlük bizi nereye kadar götürecek.

Well, let's see how far honesty gets us.

a wh-question + bakalım = a declarative statement

Acaba, inmeme yardım edebilir misiniz?.. Yüksekten biraz korkuyorum da.

Do you think you could help me down? I’m a little scared of heights.

a yes-no question + acaba = a request

Backgrounding is another device to reduce the intensity of a yes-no question.

For example, in Turkish yes-no questions formulated with the intensifying adverb hiç, the adverb hiç is often backgrounded. By backgrounding yet keeping the adverb, the speaker kills two birds, so to speak: the speaker wants to be polite and so she reduces the intensity and imposition on the listener by backgrounding the charged adverb; yet, by saying it, she still gets her point across and manages to save her face:

Söylediğim şeyleri dinlediğin oluyor mu hiç?

Do you ever listen to anything I say?


Turkish speakers often use some hedging softening devices to soften the threat of their words towards others (to save their face) as well as to minimize the threat of other people's words towards them.

One of such “threats” may be a -dir statement, the using of which in Turkish is like practicing Zen. Used to convey either certainty or assumption (the lack of certainty), a -dir statement contains its own opposite and thus is inherently ambiguous. This can also make it emphatic.

To minimize the emphatic effect of a statement that ends with -dir and to remove its ambiguity by clarifying that the statement is an assumption rather than a certainty, Turkish speakers often supplement such statements with the modal adverbs belki or herhalde, or the discourse marker bence:

Sen, insan istediği şeyi yapabilir diye düşünüyorsundur, belki.

You think perhaps that everyone can do whatever he wants.

Görmüşümdür, ama dikkatimi çekmemiştir, herhalde.

I might have seen it, but probably it didn’t attract my attention.

By adding bence, the speaker assumes responsibility for the statement:

Bu bardak 250 mililitre alıyordur, bir litreden fazla içmişsindir, bence.

This glass surely takes 250 mL, so you must have drunk more than one liter.


Exclamatory or emphatic statements often place the clitic ki at the end of the sentence, where it intensifies what is expressed by the verb. These structures mostly contain an adverbial phrase expressing some degree: e.g., o kadar (that much), öyle (so much), a question word, or a negative verb:

İyileştiğin için o kadar çok rahatladım ki...

I'm so relieved that you're recovering.

With a negative verb, the negation is intensified, which in English, may be translated as really or at all, or as a tag question:

Nasıl anlatsam sana onu, bilemiyorum ki!

How I am (supposed) to tell you this, I don’t know at all!

If such a statement is followed by a personal pronoun, the pronoun receives an emphasis:

Siz olmadan yolumu bulamam ki ben.

But I cannot find my way without you!


In Turkish, supplemented afterthought remarks can be added using da/de, bir de, hem de, or hatta:

Oya odayı temizledi, Ali de.

Oya cleaned the room, and so did Ali.

Biz ilk burnu kavanço edip gözden kaybolunca, o da pılı pırtıyı topladı mıydı, evden hemen dümen kırmış; benim aldıklarımı da götürmüş.

As soon as we rounded the nearest cape and disappeared from sight, she, having barely collected all the household belongings, immediately disappeared from the house and took away everything that I had time to buy.

Halikarnas Balıkçısı, Bütün Eserleri: 1. Aganta Burîna Burinata

Bu fani dünyaya geldim geleli bir atı severim, bir de gözeli.

Since I’ve come to this mortal world, I’ve loved horses and beautiful women.


Duyuyor, hem de kim bilir nerelerden duyuyor da koşup geliyor.

Yes, he can hear us who knows how, and I can hear him rushing to see us.

Sait Faik Abasıyanık, Son Mahkeme

Kökenleri belirsiz, soyu da, hatta adı bile.

His origins are obscure, his parentage, even his name.

Onlar ne arsız ne yılışkan ve yırtık gülmelidirler; ne de somurtmalıdırlar.

They should laugh neither cheeky nor shy and torn; nor should they pout.

Refik Halit Karay

Afterthought remarks can be such postpositional clauses as gibi, diye, or the conditional clause eğer:

Kapılar da gönülleri gibi hep yarı açılır misafire; görülmeden önce görmek, görmekten de çok(,) gözetlemek ister gibi.

The doors too, like their hearts, are always (only) half-opened to the guest, as if wanting to see before being seen and to spy rather than to see.


Güreşçiler, bir avuç tuz alıp yere atarlar, şans getirsin diye.

Wrestlers take a handful of salt and throw it on the ground for luck.


When a request is turned down or an order disobeyed, the combination var mı is often used rhetorically in colloquial speech to give extra emphasis:

A: Şunu yapsana! A: Çekilsene be!

B: Yapmıyorum işte, var mı?! B: Çekilmiyorum, var mı?!

A: C’mon, would do this already! A: Bugger off!

B: I'm not doing it, okay? B: I won’t, got it?


In literary Turkish, ellipses, or suspension points, conversations are represented with multiple ellipses, especially at the end of one’s remark, to signal one’s trailing of speech, pauses, hesitations, faltering, or stammering, including deliberate self-interruption (below), which in English is represented by a dash:

İhsan, Macide'yi gösterdi: –Bu... Sözünü bitirmekten aciz gibi durdu.

Sonra kendini toplayarak tamamladı: –Buna bir şey söyle

İhsan pointed to Macide. “This one” He stopped as if powerless to finish his words.

Then he mustered his strength and continued, “Give this one a word of advice.”

Ahmed Hamdi Tanpınar, Huzur

An ellipsis may be used to signal prolonged pronunciation of a word or an exclamation:

Tevfik Bey, huysuz bir atı idare eder gibi, bu neşeyi olduğu yerden bir uzunca -hut...-la selamladı.

Tevfik, as if reining in an unwieldy horse, greeted this eagerness with an extended “whooooaaaaa.”

Ahmed Hamdi Tanpınar, Huzur

Turkish clitics have plenty of unique powers, one of which is to create emphatic statements.

For example, the sentence-initial ya is used as an exclamation, signaling surprise or bewilderment:

Ya, gerçekten mi? Ya, içeri almamış mı?

For real? Didn't she let him in?

The sentence-initial ya can also be used as a mild exclamation:

A: Film güzel miydi, nasıldı?

В: Ya, çok güzel.

A: Was the movie good, how was it?

В: Oh, it was awesome.

When used with hani (remember, you know), ya conveys reminding something:

Hani sana göstermiştim ya, işte o ev.

Remember the house I showed you? That one.


Other specific punctuation patterns, used for many syntactic, pragmatic, and rhetorical purposes, including to organize the text, prevent misreading, make reading easier, and reveal the author’s intended meaning (emotions).



bottom of page