Unicode has the two following characters:



According to the categorization, this is the order which they are used as well (initial then final). So although I don’t know what they are supposed to be used for, I guess one example might look like this:


We have all seen square brackets being used to paraphrase or slightly alter text in some way. For example turning this:

“She was not home.”

Into this:

“[Jill] was not home.”

What I’m wondering is:

  1. Are the above punctuation characters used in English? Or do they belong to other languages?
  2. Are they used to paraphrase things similar to how square brackets are used? Are there use perhaps interchangeable?

I wasn’t able to find any information about the character itself except for the technical Unicode data. So I was not able to find out what the history behind it is.

Images of the brackets for those whose browsers do not render the characters: left bracketright bracket

  • 5
    In 60 years of using English, I have never come across these symbols. The codepoints.net site gives a hint that they might be used in East Asian scripts.
    – Mick
    Nov 16, 2016 at 16:46
  • 1
    I'm quite confident that I've never seen those used in English (in 30+ years). I've seen a lot of square brackets though.
    – Řídící
    Nov 16, 2016 at 16:46
  • I cannot understand the question. Square brackets= [...] And regular brackets aka parentheses (...). So what exactly are you talking about here??
    – Lambie
    Nov 16, 2016 at 17:14
  • 1
    @Lambie if those characters render as boxes then you browser’s font doesn’t support them. Since that is a real possibility with unusual characters, that’s why I added their Unicode identifiers and full names as parentheticals. Nov 17, 2016 at 15:48
  • 1
    Yes, I can see that. It’s a left low paraphrase bracket, because my browser renders it correctly and yours apparently doesn’t. This page shows the left variant, and this page shows the right variant. Nov 17, 2016 at 17:07

2 Answers 2



I have never seen that punctuation mark before in my life. I just skimmed the arbitrary signs and symbols appendix of Merriam-Webster's New International Dictionary Second Edition, which spans many pages, and it does not appear there, unless I missed something, which I doubt.

I also checked Chapters 6 and 11 of the Chicago Manual of Style 15th edition, which address punctuation and quotations specifically. The only brackets mentioned are the variety you can probably see on your qwerty keyboard. The phrase paraphrase bracket is not in the book based upon a google books snipet view search.

It does not appear to be designed to go alongside English text, since it goes even lower than any other English Punctuation mark, including the ⸜underline you might see in a link⸝, which is relatively unique. Although in printed form, the two look look nothing alike, it could be confused for a comma in some handwriting.

The most important evidence for this however is the Unicode 5.0 standard itself. This character appears in the supplemental punctuation block, and the Official Unicode Consortium Code Chart linked on the Wikipedia page for that block suggests that these symbols are used in N'Ko in the following fasion:

• used in N’Ko

The Wikipedia article for the N'Ko alphabet has the following excerpt, which is archived here:

N'Ko (ߒߞߏ‎) is both a script devised by Solomana Kante in 1949, as a writing system for the Manding languages of West Africa, and the name of the literary language written in that script. The term N'Ko means I say in all Manding languages.

Additionally, I would like to note that the Medieval Unicode Font Initiative (M.U.F.I.) alternatively refers to these same unicode points as the right lower slanted stroke, and the left lower slanted stroke in their character database. However, M.U.F.I. also specifies that for this use, the specific point of interest is for Medieval Norse, so I doubt a similar mark exists in Medieval English. The different name also seems to have a conceptually different purpose in this case.

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  • The bit about the Manding languages was really intriguing. I wondered if these languages needed paraphrase brackets because paraphrasing is an important or fundamental part of their discourse (relatively more than other languages, I mean). The question occurred to me because I know there are some languages, like Pirahã, which inflect for the "source of knowledge" (1st hand, 2nd hand, etc), which would be more important in oral-only communities. Sadly I didn't find anything interesting on a quick search, though Wikipedia does mention these communities have "a strong oral tradition".
    – Dan Bron
    Mar 31, 2017 at 11:56
  • What an exceptionally thorough and well-researched answer. Apr 1, 2017 at 15:03

The answer is "NO". I can't give you a "reference" for this other than to point out that the character is unrecognized by most English-language browsers and the like.

In most English contexts where paraphrasing is formally demarcated in a consistent fashion conventional square brackets ([]) are used.

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