Heysean spelling

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The Heysesche s-spelling (named after Johann Christian August Heyse , 1764–1829) is a rule in German orthography that determines whether the voiceless sound [s] is written as “ss” or as “ ß ” (Eszett or “sharp S ", In Austria consistently called" sharp S "), unless it is written as a simple" s ". This was introduced in Austria-Hungary as early as 1879, but was replaced in 1901 by the adelung s spelling, which was valid in the German Empire at the time, in favor of a common spelling . In the spelling according to the spelling reform of 1996 , the Heysesche s spelling was chosen again. The two rules only differ in their decision between "ss" and "ß".



The rule of Heysean s notation for deciding between "ss" and "ß" is:

  • After a long vowel or a diphthong you write “ß”, after a short vowel you write “ss”.

Heysian spelling thus approximates the representation of the voiceless s-sound to that of the other consonants, namely that after a short accented vowel there is either a double consonant or a fixed consonant combination, after a long vowel a single consonant (as such, the ß is understood) May follow consonants of another word component.

Ennoblement (for comparison)

In Adelung's s spelling, in comparison to Heysean s spelling, the graphical condition that "ss" is never written at the end of a word, before a word fugue or before a consonant applies .


In both Heysian and Adelung's s-writing there is a connection between the pronunciation of the preceding vowel and the writing of the unvoiced s-sound in those cases where this s-sound starts a new syllable. Both Heyse and Adelung differentiate:

"The penance" - "the penance" [Adelung: both singular, 1 = his standard, 2 = penance in some dialects, namely the Silesians]
"The dimensions" - "the mass"

Furthermore, the delimitation of the unvoiced s-sound written as a simple s is the same for Adelung and Heyse. Simple s stands,

  • if the s before the vowel becomes voiced, analogous to other voiced consonants ("read / you read" like "live / you live"), whereby the preceding vowel is almost always pronounced long,
  • in fixed combination with a subsequent consonant, where a voiced s is impossible according to German pronunciation habits and the preceding vowel is almost always pronounced briefly ("Last", "Knospe"),
  • in the fixed letter combinations chs (if it is pronounced [ks]) and ps,
  • in aus , das , des , es , ist and the suffixes -es , -s and -nis (Adelung wrote -niſʒ and Heyse also -niſs , albeit with a ligature.),
  • in foreign words.

Conversion between Heysian and Adelung s spelling

  • A text in Adelung's s spelling can be converted into Heysean s spelling by replacing all "ß" after short vowels with "ss".
  • A text in Heysean s spelling can be converted to Adelung s spelling by replacing all "ss" at the end of a word, before a word fugue or before a consonant, if they belong to the same syllable , with "ß".


Sound-letter assignment

Heysean s spelling also applies the rule that a doubled consonant indicates the abbreviation of the preceding vowel to the "s". If the s-sound is between vowels within a word, this also applies according to Adelung. In Heysean s notation, the connection between vowel length and consonant doubling applies in all cases. In contrast to this, it does not apply in Adelung's s notation if the s sound is at the end of a word, before a word fugue or before a consonant:

Relationship between vowel length and consonant doubling
sharp s-sound other consonants
Heysean spelling Adelung's spelling
after a long vowel (always with a simple consonant) Ma ß e, Ru ß , Sto ß rod Ma ß e, Ru ß , Sto ß rod Ra t e, Bro t , Ma l
after a short vowel with double consonant (always with Heyse) Ma ss e, Ku ss / Kü ss e, Mi ss stood pa ss s / pa ss te Ma ss e, Kü ss e, pa ss en Ra tt e, Go tt / Gö tt he kna ll s / kna ll th
different spelling (only with ß ) Ku ß , Mi ß stood pa ß te

Due to the sole binding to the vowel length, the Heysean s-spelling makes it easier to pronounce unknown words with "ss" or "ß" with regard to the length of the respective preceding vowels compared to the Adelung s spelling. Conversely, when writing, the length of the preceding vowel must be known, just like with a sharp [s] between vowels and most other consonants.

Root principle

The Heysian s spelling follows the principle of the stem spelling or the morphological principle more strictly than the Adelung spelling. This principle, a basic principle of German spelling, says that a word component ( morpheme ) should always be written in the same way:

Stem Preservation example word match
Example word match with a sharp s-sound Analogous words with other consonants
(stem always with ff / mm / pp / ... )
Heysesche s spelling
(stem always with ss )
Adelung's spelling
Trunk with ss Trunk with ß
infinitive pa ss en pa ss en pa ff en, ra mm en, schna pp en
1st person singular I pass e I pass e I pa ff e, ra mm e, schna pp e
3rd person singular they pa ss t they pa ß t she pa ff t, ra mm t, schna pp t
Past participle gepa ss t gepa ß t gepa ff t, screened mm t, geschna pp t

It should be noted that the German strong verbs with the ablaut can have different verb stems for the different tenses. Within these verb stems - present stem, preterital stem and participle stem - the stem principle still applies in Heysean s spelling. A possible change between master molds with ss and ß (z. B. verge ss en / forgot ß s, rei ß en / Geri ss s, closing ß en / geschlo ss en So) is analogous to switch between parent forms with other consonants ( eg. erschre ck en / erschra k s, rei t s / Geri tt en she d s / geso tt s ):

Tribe change using the example of the 1st Ablaut class
sharp s-sound other consonants
Heysean spelling Adelung's spelling
Present stem (always with a simple consonant) at ß en / I at ß e at ß en / I at ß e grei f s / I grei f e, lei d s / I lei d e, strei t s / I strei t e
Past tense stem with double consonant (always with Heyse) I bi ss / we bi ss s we bi ss s I Gri ff / we Gri ff s, I li tt / we li tt s, I stri tt / we stri tt s
different spelling (only with ß ) I bit

The well-known as an opponent of spelling reform German scholar Theodor Ickler believes occurring in the adelungschen spelling change between ss and ß (as in pa ss en / matched ß t or I bi ß / we bi ss s ) does not infringe the root principle, if one understands ß as " ligature for ss in non-articulated position". This is contradicted by the fact that long before the reform , ß was no longer viewed as a ligature but as an independent letter.


Risk of over-generalization

Heysean s spelling occasionally leads to over-generalization because it is misunderstood to mean that the underlying rule is:

After a short vowel always follows "ss", after a long vowel or double vowel "ß" follows.

Even in the days of Adelung's spelling, errors such as “Ausweiß” or “Without diligence, no price” can possibly occur more frequently than before.

Examples of the incorrect use of Heysean s spelling can be found in the press and even in school books since the reform of German spelling in 1996 , whereupon some critics concluded that Heysean s spelling was fundamentally disadvantageous compared to Adelung's s spelling.

In contrast, critics of this point of view point to the drastic increase in spelling errors in all areas of orthography. According to this, it is not the Heysean s-spelling that is the cause, but the strong acceleration of communication, especially through more informal electronic media such as email and SMS . As a result, the awareness of orthography has generally decreased significantly. The press is also under greater time and cost pressure and uses far fewer correctors .

Critics doubt whether the Heysean s spelling can help to simplify correct writing compared to the Adelung s spelling, as was promised when it was (re-) introduced with the spelling reform of 1996.

Pronunciation differences

Another point of criticism is that the pronunciation of some words is not the same everywhere in the German-speaking area and that Heysean spelling therefore increasingly requires double forms or provokes errors. Examples are “Maß Bier”, which in Bavaria is spoken with a short a, unlike in the rest of the German-speaking area, and “Fun”, which is spoken with a short vowel in some areas. The correct spelling of some words is therefore subject to regional differences.

The counter-criticism leads to the fact that these regional differences also occur in the plural in Adelung's spelling, for example in “Geschosse” (Austrian “Geschoße”), and Adelung's spelling only avoids this problem in the singular. Also according Adelung have to in the plural between jokes and jokes decide why this is reasonable in the singular - to Heyse is written in the singular always the way one would write (even after Adelung) in the plural.

In order to take greater account of such regional differences, alternative spellings have now also been permitted; The 24th edition of the Duden lists both spellings with “Maß” and “Mass”, both without a regional restriction (the dictionary of the official regulation only contains “Maß”). For Austria, the official vocabulary also provides for “storey” - in addition to “storey” - and since 2006 also for “fun” - in addition to “fun”.

In any case, only very few words are affected by this problem and are to be regarded as part of the dialect; In the written dialect there are also regular differences in the spelling of other words, for example Bavarian “Preiß” instead of “Prussia”.


Book of Scripture , K. u. K. Hof- und Staatsdruckerei Vienna 1880; here neither ſſ nor ſs as a ligature.

Since, in contrast to Adelung's s, an "ss" can appear at the end of a word and before word joints and because the letter "s" is very often at the beginning of a word, it occurs very often in compound words (more often than all other consonants taken together) at the meeting of three “s”, for example in the word “grievance”, which in the opinion of critics is more difficult to read than the spelling “grievance”. Even if the second word of the composition begins with a letter other than "s", a "ß" can clarify the internal border (i.e. the word joint) and improve readability , for example in the words "measurement result / measurement result" or "measurement engineer / measurement engineer" .

This problem did not occur in the original Heysean s spelling because at that time a distinction was made between the long s ("ſ") and the round s ("s"). At the end of a word, only the round s could stand, which is therefore also called the final s and marks the word fugue in compound words. Instead of “deficiency” and “measurement result” one wrote “failure” and “measurement result”. Since ligatures were also used for ff, ft, ſſ and ſt in print typesetting, a ligature ſs was created especially for Heysean s spelling. Thus, the ligatures "ſs" and "waren" were two different characters when Heyse's rule was used in Fraktur.

Comparison of different versions of Heysean and Adelung's rules
Fraktur after Adelung Waſſerschloſʒ Floſʒ Paſʒſtraſʒe Scale Grassland House el
Heyse's fracture Waſſerschls Floſʒ Paſsſtraſʒe Scale Grassland House el
Antiqua 19th century Moated castle Raft Passtrasse Scale Sods House donkey
Antiqua 20th century (Adelung) Moated castle raft Pass road scale Sods House donkey
Antiqua 21st century (Heyse) Moated castle raft Pass road,
pass road
scale Sods House donkey

Ligatures of the Fraktur set are not shown as such in order to reproduce their elements as faithfully as possible. The Antiqua-ß, which is common today, has only been used here for Latin spelling since the 20th century.


The Heysesche s spelling was propagated by the Magdeburg grammarian Johann Christian August Heyse (1764–1829) in the 1820s, but can at least be traced back to Friedrich Carl Fulda (1724–1788), a Swabian pastor who also worked as a linguist operated. Heyse himself referred in particular to Johann Gottlieb Radlof (1775–1846), who in 1820 had devoted forty pages to the “whispers and sibilants” in his “Detailed theory of writing in the German language”.

At first, the Heysean s spelling was not widely used. The guidelines for Prussian and Bavarian schools followed the Adelung s spelling.

In 1876, the 1st Orthographic Conference on Heysean s spelling recorded:

“Soon, Mr. Scherer, for now, to stick with Adelung's generally accepted rule; Heyse has so far essentially only got through to schools, and speakers from Austria can testify that even those who receive instruction afterwards tend to give up Heyse's rule again later. "

It was not until 1879 that the Heysean s spelling became more widespread when it was introduced as a spelling rule in Austrian schools. Most Austrian newspapers, however, did not use it.

In 1901 the Heysesche s spelling was given up at the II Orthographic Conference "in the interests of uniformity" in order to enable uniform spelling. Instead, the adelung s spelling was also introduced in Austrian schools.

When the German spelling was reformed in 1996 , the Heysean s spelling was made a spelling rule; Proper names remain unchanged, but the Standing Committee for Geographical Names ( StAGN ) decided on September 17, 1999 to recommend adapting the spelling of geographical names to the reformed rules, provided that they did not already contradict the traditional spelling rules. In the course of the correction of the spelling reform of 1996, the Council for German Spelling also dealt with this rule, the reintroduction of which, according to scientific studies, initially led to more frequent and new types of spelling errors; however, no changes to the 1996 regime were made.

See also


  • Frank Müller, Nele Winkler: Death certificate for the Eszett. In: literary criticism, issue 1 (January 2004)
  • Advice on the uniformity of German spelling (minutes of the II. Orthographic Conference) (1901) . In: Dieter Nerius (Ed.): The orthographic conferences of 1876 and 1901. Hildesheim: Georg-Olms-Verlag, 2002, ISBN 3487114445

Individual evidence

  1. Christa Dürscheid : Introduction to Script Linguistics . 4th, revised and updated edition. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen and Bristol 2012, ISBN 978-3-8252-3740-0 . P. 143
  2. ^ Hartmut Günther: Stamm. In: Helmut Glück (Hrsg.): Metzler Lexikon Sprache . Second, revised and expanded edition. Stuttgart; Weimar: Metzler, 2000. ISBN 3-476-01519-X - p. 687
  3. ^ Peter Gallmann & Horst Sitta (1996): Handbuch spelling . Lehrmittelverlag des Kantons Zürich, Zürich 1996. ISBN 3-906718-50-6 , § 112. On the Internet: Peter Gallmann & Horst Sitta: III The new rules and spellings. (PDF) In: Handbuch spelling. P. 70 , accessed May 17, 2009 .
  4. Theodor Ickler: Sound-letter assignments, 4. s - ss - ß: On the problem of "Heysean s-writing". In: My spelling diary. German Language Research Group, May 14, 2005, accessed on May 17, 2009 : "3."
  5. See e.g. B. Der Große Duden - Rechtschreibung , 15th Edition, 1961, p. 75, section Rules for typesetting, 4. Ligatures, a) General: “In Antiqua, the following ligatures are generally used: [...] ß (das but today it is perceived as a letter). "
  6. Harald Marx: Spelling performance before and after the spelling reform: What changes in elementary school children? In: Journal of Developmental Psychology and Educational Psychology, 31 (4), pp. 180–189.
  7. a b c Theodor Ickler: Sound-letter assignments. In: My spelling diary. German Language Research Group, May 14, 2005, accessed on May 17, 2009 .
  8. ^ Carl Faulmann: The book of writing, second increased and improved edition. Imperial and Royal Court and State Printing Office, Vienna 1880, p. 226.
  9. ^ Theodor Ickler: The so-called spelling reform - a shield bourgeois prank . Leibnitz-Verlag, St. Goar 1997. ISBN 3-931155-09-9 , p. 14. On the Internet: Theodor Ickler: The so-called spelling reform - Ein Schildbürgerstreich. (PDF; 684 kB) Retrieved May 17, 2009 .
  10. See:
  11. Reinhard Markner: An orthographic legend. February 7, 2006, accessed May 17, 2009 . Abridged published in: FAZ , February 3, 2006.