Everybody and all his brothers and sisters have e-mailed me with various links relating to the infamous German spelling reform and backslidings therefrom, with suggestions (ex- or implicit) that I should post about it. I know it’s a natural LH topic, but somehow (the muggy weather?) I just haven’t been able to bring myself to. It is therefore with considerable relief that I send you to Mark Liberman’s compendium of links, which should tell you everything you need to know about die ganze Chose. Thanks for getting me off the hook, Mark—I owe you one! (My personal reaction is that government bodies should not be telling people how to write their own language, so I approve of the growing rebellion against the “reform.”)


  1. Now it’s media conglomerates that are telling us how to write our language; I’m not sure I like that much better. What I really do like about this whole mess is that people are learning that writing rules (and language rules in general) are a convention, not some sort of natural law.

  2. Excellent point.

  3. The bad thing about the reform is that I won’t be able to sell my old German textbooks, because they have pre-reform spelling. 🙂

  4. *Shameless Plug*
    For those of you interested, my thoughts on this topic (in German) can be read here
    NRS – Nicht mit uns
    and here
    Der Untergang des Abendlandes…
    I also tried to gather and comment some of the most prominent (and freely available) newspaper articles on the subject.

  5. Christophe says

    I’ve read that some conservative newspapers are fed up with the confussion and switched back to the old spelling.
    I can’t remember the names of the papers doing this, but i do remember it were at least 3, and since conservative papers are also mostly popular ones, i’m curious what it will do with the official spelling, and how people will act when having to apply the rules, old or new.

  6. “…Government bodies should not be telling people how to write their own language…” In general I agree, but how do you feel about schools teaching kids how to spell and punctuate? My understanding is that the principal realm in which the government can impose spelling reform is in public-school textbooks and on standardized tests. Germany being Germany, there may be some top-down mandate over government documents and other bureaucratese as well. But nobody is arresting people for writing or publishing the old way, which is why newspapers have been free to adopt and famously un-adopt the new system.
    So if you’ve got a government-run school system and government-run testing, is it so outrageous for the government to set a standard on what gets taught to the kids? As Xyll alluded above, the spelling standards taught to American kids are set by McGraw-Hill and the College Board Corporation — while pretending they came down from god, I guess. Is that better?
    As to the actual content of the German spelling reform, it’s pretty hair-splitting stuff, roughly analogous to the English rules about where you can hyphenate words at the end of a line and when to put punctuation inside or outside of quotation marks. Not exactly Meihem in Ce Klasrum.

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