In many languages, quotation marks are used to indicate that the source of a piece of text is not the author, but that the author is directly quoting someone else.
“The cat sat on the mat,” said the man.
Quotation marks can be double or single, and the nesting of double and single quotation marks is used to indicate when the person being quoted is themselves quoting someone else.
“Can you believe she said ‘The cat sat on the mat’?” asked the man.
In many languages, quotation marks are not used like this. German uses the same marks, but in different positions.
Sagte der Mann: „die Katze saß auf der Matte”.
In many languages, marks called guillemets are used instead.
« Le chat était assis sur le tapis, » dit l’homme.
In French (except Swiss French) spaces are placed between the marks and the speech, but in most languages that use guillemets (Arabic, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, etc.) there are no spaces, as with quotation marks. Some languages occasionally use guillemets pointing in the other direction (e.g. Danish):
»Katten sad på måtten,« sagde manden.
In some languages, (e.g. Polish) guillemets are used within quotation marks to indicate a quotation of a quotation, as with nested quotation marks as explained above.
„Czy uwa?asz, ?e powiedzia?a «kot siedzia? na macie»?”.
I’d be interested to hear from any MrReid.org readers on how quotations are indicated in their languages.
Apologies to any native speakers of the languages above. Blame Google Translate.