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Ex. "* The MS. is here deficient; but ....b for 'byrig' is discernible." ---Ingram. Source: Bede's Ecclesiastical History and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle; Edited by J.A. Giles D.C.L.; London: George Bell & Sons, 1890, p.506

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    It has never originated in English sentence structure. English sentence structure refers to the spoken language. The practice arose in writing, not in the language it sposta represent. – John Lawler Jan 15 '14 at 18:43
  • @JohnLawler- Ok, a play on words then. How would you ask the question? – Duane T. Bentz Jan 16 '14 at 14:06
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    When did people start using ".." or "..." in English orthography? What did they use them for? Are ".." and "..." used differently? – John Lawler Jan 16 '14 at 16:25
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The name for this puncuation is "ellipsis" (plural "ellipses"), and it is not peculiar to English text. According to a comment here

The ellipsis is first noted in Old Norse starting in about 200 BC, which is the first known written language to utilize the ellipsis. Often in Old Norse, writers would omit infinitive phrases and non-action verbs, which is the first known existence of such verbal omissions in written language. Old Norse was particularly well structured for this because the language was contextually very strong; writers and speakers were able to easily make it apparent what the subjects and objects were, meaning the verb became less important in many cases.

Old Norse, through its evolution, came to impact the Romantic languages greatly as a whole, so the use of the ellipsis is common throughout the European languages, including German, Italian, French, Spanish, and especially English.

  • And if that does not look like the most convincing source, searching on ellipsis and "Old Norse" brings up other corroborating sources. – EricS Jan 17 '14 at 7:29

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