Spelling reform

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Linguistic discussion of the attempted spelling reform of 1876, reprint from the Kölnische Zeitung: "The rooted h "

A spelling reform is the change of central components of the spelling of a language.

Attempts at a spelling reform in the German-speaking area were made in 1876 ( Orthographic Conference of 1876 ) and 1944 ( Reform of the German spelling of 1944 ). Finally, there was a spelling reform in 1996 and several changes later (see the 1996 reform of German spelling ). Whether the results of the Orthographic Conference of 1901 can be assessed as a reform is judged differently.

Types of international spelling reforms

There are two basic types of spelling reforms. One reforms the spelling with a new list of words . This procedure is common in France, for example. In 1740 , the Académie française changed the spelling of several thousand words at once with its dictionary. On the other hand, a spelling reform can also reform the spelling rules , as in 1996 in the German-speaking area, including new rules for the use of double s and ß (“der Hass” instead of “der Haß”) to triple consonants (“Schifffahrt” instead of “Schiffahrt” "), Uppercase and lowercase letters, the spelling of foreign words (" Delfin "now next to" Delphin "), the spelling of compound words and punctuation and word separation at the end of a line. Many spelling reforms failed at the decision-making level or were not accepted by the writing guild, journalists and writers. Others took some time to manifest and were therefore more likely to lay the foundation for reform. The German spelling reform of 1876 wanted to do away with the “accompanying h” (“do” instead of “thun”); However, this was not enforced until 25 years later in the Orthographic Conference in 1901.

In some countries, established language academies are responsible for maintaining the language and changing language and spelling rules if necessary. The Italian Accademia della Crusca has the longest tradition , followed by the Académie française in Paris. The latter was created in 1635 as a national French institution for the "standardization and maintenance of the French language" and is still widely recognized in the entire French-speaking area, for example in Québec , Canada. In the English-speaking area, there is no higher-level language and writing authority. German occupies a middle position between these two extremes.

Spelling reform for the German language

Approach and commitment

The German-speaking states (federal and state) can and may issue rules for language and spelling, but these rules do not have the force of law. The individual citizen cannot be obliged to adhere to a special spelling.

This was confirmed in Germany by the March 26, 1998 by the German Bundestag adopted Resolution "The language belongs to the people". Only for those persons who have a special legal relationship with the state or legal persons under public law ( civil servants , soldiers , judges , students, pupils), the spelling including the reformed rules is binding. An administrative regulation ensures this .

In order for the same set of rules to apply in all parts of public administration , case law and schools in Germany and to be applied in daily administrative practice, the federal government (usually the Federal Minister of the Interior) and each of the 16 federal states must formally adopt German spelling as an administrative regulation.

In practice, this is achieved by the Standing Conference of Ministers of Education adopting resolutions on spelling, which are then issued as administrative regulations by both the federal and state administrations.

In Austria, the most recent edition of the Austrian dictionary is binding in the official language . It is based on the decisions of the Ministry of Education that apply to schools and on whose behalf it is published. In general, no special administrative regulations are required.

Previous reforms and reform proposals

In 1876 the Kölnische Zeitung published its own book with articles on the spelling reform.

In the German-speaking area, two orthographic conferences took place at which, in addition to the aim of standardizing German orthography, further reform proposals were discussed. First and foremost, they led to the desired standardization of spelling.

  • January 4 to 15, 1876: "Conference for the creation of greater unification in the field of German orthography" ( 1st Orthographic Conference ) in Berlin
  • June 17-19, 1901: “Consultations on the Uniformity of German Spelling” ( II. Orthographic Conference ) in Berlin.

The first conference failed. In between, a simplified spelling ( Puttkamer orthography) was introduced on January 21, 1880 by means of a decree in Prussia .

Some ideas from the first conference were implemented at the second conference. Both conferences were in the public eye and were heavily discussed in particular by national daily newspapers such as the Kölnische Zeitung :

“We have seen that the vocals a o u and their umlauts should be freed from doubling and the parasite h . Unfortunately, we miss e and i in this list . Because of their thinness, these poor letters are condemned to lug around the wrong breath as an eternal burden; take, steal, sweep and similar words remain in that corner of the stable where the cleansing waters of the Alpheios should not reach. "

- Kölnische Zeitung : January 27, 1876

The official spelling of German has changed almost imperceptibly from dictionary edition to dictionary edition over the last hundred years. So z. B. in the 14th edition of Dudens , 1954, the integrated spelling Kautsch next to Couch , which comes from the failed spelling reform of the Reich Minister of Education Bernhard Rust in 1944. In the 13th edition of 1947 it was not yet listed. It disappeared from dictionaries again in the 1980s. No later than 1941, the integrated case was mayonnaise next mayonnaise added to the Duden (1941 however "expendable" nor as a variant marked) and was only in 2017 located in the 27th edition due to changed official spelling. Not only keywords but also rules could change. In the 10th edition of Dudens 1929 it says: "For ß, SZ is used in large letters"; later SZ was only considered a possibility alongside SS to avoid confusion in cases like MASZE - MASSE .

German spelling reform in 1996

In 1996 there was a spelling reform in German-speaking countries with the declared primary goal of simplifying German spelling . It was controversial both because of the changes sought and because of the way in which it was implemented, and led to clashes between supporters and opponents. In 2004 and 2006 the set of rules was revised in particularly controversial points, also in 2011 and 2017. The reformed spelling is taught in schools, but most publishers only use it in the form of house orthographies based on it .

Spelling reforms in other languages

There were also spelling reforms in the following other languages:

In Dutch, for example, the ph and rh in words of Greek origin were abolished, in Swedish ph, rh and th. Since historical forms in several other languages ​​disappeared early on, the majority of all Europeans who write in Latin today write teater, teatro or teatr for theater .

Although the spelling of the English language has changed considerably since the 16th century, even without a formal reform, attempts at further reform have largely failed. The only significant exception was Noah Webster's proposals , some of which were fully adopted in North America and which provide much of the present day differences between American and British spelling.

Further reform attempts include u. a. the campaign of the Simplified Spelling Society (SSS, now Spelling Society ), founded in England in 1908 , which set itself the goal of reducing the irregularities of English spelling. Many personalities joined this campaign, including George Bernard Shaw and Isaac Pitman . In the United States , Benjamin Franklin , Samuel Morse, and later Mark Twain , among others , proposed steps to simplify the spelling of the English language. In particular, the American William Thornton , born in the West Indies , has been concerned with the simplification of English spelling since 1785, based on his intention to improve the lives of the slaves, who were mostly illiterate.

There is little or no reform potential and need in languages ​​that are traditionally written phonologically :

In the Finnish language , a radical spelling reform was once carried out with a change from an etymological to a phonological system of rules.

The simplification of an ideogram system can only be described as a spelling reform to a limited extent :

When changing the font, sometimes only the characters were exchanged approximately 1: 1:

In other cases, learning the script was made much easier:

  • Turkish - The Latin characters reproduce the spoken language much better than the Arabic before. However, the etymology was lost in words of Arabic origin. For example, Arabic Kaf (ك) and Arabic Qaf (ق) coincide in Turkish pronunciation and Latin spelling to K, for example in kalp (“heart”) from Arabic قلب qalb (“heart”) in contrast to كلب kalb (“dog”).
  • Korean - Here Chinese logograms have been partially replaced by Hangeul characters . Also used for a long time, Hangeul is a phonological alphabet font, despite the graphic arrangement that is unfamiliar to Europeans .

See also


  • Hanno Birken-Bertsch, Reinhard Markner: Spelling Reform and National Socialism. A chapter from the political history of the German language. A publication of the German Academy for Language and Poetry, 2nd edition, Wallstein, Göttingen 2004, ISBN 978-3-89244-450-3 .
  • Hiltraud Strunk (Ed.): Documentation on the history of German orthography in the first half of the 20th century. 2 volumes. (Documenta Orthographica, Section B: 19th and 20th centuries, 7), Georg Olms Verlag, Hildesheim, Zurich, New York 2008, ISBN 978-3-487-12868-9 .
  • Hiltraud Strunk (ed.): Documents on the recent history of a reform of German orthography. The Stuttgart and Wiesbaden recommendations. 2 volumes. (Documenta Orthographica, Section B: 19th and 20th centuries, 10), Georg Olms Verlag, Hildesheim, Zurich, New York 1998, ISBN 978-3-487-10590-1 .
  • Hiltraud Strunk: Uniform and simple German spelling. The history of a (over) national idea 1870 - 1970. Georg Olms Verlag, Hildesheim, Zurich, New York 2016, ISBN 978-3-487-15343-8 .
  • Uwe Grund: Orthographic rules in practice test - school spelling performance before and after the spelling reform , Frank & Timme publishing house, Berlin, 248 pages, ISBN 978-3-7329-0279-8

Web links

Wiktionary: Spelling reform  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Most of the reforms in France changed the spelling only slightly. For example, in 1990, when the public protest focused on a single change: ognon instead of oignon ; or in 1878, under a similar protest, poète instead of poëte .
  2. Deutscher Bundestag printed matter 1 4/356 14th electoral term February 3, 1999 Information from the Federal Government Report on the revision of German spelling (PDF; 284 kB)
  3. So (“that”) for typographical reasons in the reprint of the article in: August Schmits, Ueber Rechtschreibung und Druckschrift, Cologne 1876, p. 4. This book is set in Antiqua and uses for ß basically ss. The Kölnische Zeitung itself was in Fraktur and wrote “that” with an sz ligature (from ſ and ? ).
  4. http://nase-rec.ujc.cas.cz/archiv.php?art=4342