Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Old German spellings now verboten

Most German traditionalists are reluctantly switching over to new German spelling rules that came into effect this week, designed to modernize and simplify the language.

But some are vowing to defy the rules and stick to the old ways.

"I don't agree with the changes," said German linguist Friedrich Denk, an outspoken critic of the reforms. "It's a black day for the German language. Our common orthography that has served us well for centuries is being destroyed."

More than six years ago, a special committee revised spelling rules in an attempt to rid the language of many of its quirks and make it more logical.

Germany, Austria and Switzerland have been in transition since then, with both sets of spelling rules in use.

Under the new system, extremely long compound words have been broken up, comma rules have been simplified, and in many cases a double-S replaces the old letter sign for the sound, which resembles a capital B.

School children have adapted easily to the changes, partly because their textbooks have been re-printed in accordance with the new spelling rules.

Several leading newspapers have stubbornly refused to introduce the changes, though, and stuck to the old spellings leading up to the Aug. 1 deadline for making the shift. Some politicians and intellectuals have even called for the reforms to be stopped, arguing that the new rules only serve to confuse things.

The German states of Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia are resisting the changes as long as they can.

The states, which are home to one-third of Germany's population, have opted to wait until the German Spelling Council has dotted the i's and crossed the t's on all the new rules before declaring the old ways incorrect.


jane said...

Crazy Germans. Of course, all the old books etc. will still use the old spellings, just as the really old books still use the old typeface (that's really hard to read! I have a bible in that typeface).

Besides, I like the funny B-looking thing. It's cute. And substituting a pair of 's'-es for it has pretty much always been cool, especially since the development of the itnernet made it sometimes annoying to use the correct characters. So why mandate the double-s?

Jennifer said...

Oh Jane,
such a generation gap for two people who are only a year apart in age. You think the s-szet (or the B looking thing is cute) and that was what we were taught was the right way in school. I'm one of a soon to be dying breed and I'll use the s-szet in hand writing until I die. I may even learn to do it on my computer.