Reform of German spelling in 1996

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The 1996 reform of German spelling is a spelling reform with the stated primary goal of simplifying spelling in German-speaking countries. It was controversial from the start , both because of the intended changes to the German spelling and because of the way in which it was implemented, and led to disputes between supporters and opponents. In 2004 and 2006, the set of rules was revised in particularly controversial points. Reformed spelling is taught in schools; Most publishers provide it in the form of house orthographies based on thisapplied. In this article, the disputes surrounding the reform are presented above all. Its contents can be found under Innovations of the German spelling reform of 1996 .

Objectives of the reform

In the final declaration of the first Vienna Conversation in 1986, the goals of a spelling reform were outlined as follows: “General agreement was reached on adapting the uniform German spelling rules reached at the Orthographic Conference in Berlin in 1901 to meet today's requirements. In particular, the aim is to simplify the rules that have become more complicated in many areas of spelling over time. "


For the history up to 1980 see German orthography # History and reform of the German orthography of 1944

In 1980 80 German scholars from the Federal Republic of Germany , the German Democratic Republic , Austria and Switzerland founded the “International Working Group for Orthography” in order to coordinate and advance scientific research into German orthography. In 1985 this working group submitted a first suggestion as to what should be reformed in terms of spelling.

The preliminary considerations were driven forward by the two “Vienna Talks” in 1986 and 1990, to which the Austrian Federal Government invited representatives from all areas where German is spoken. In the final declaration of the first Viennese conversation it was announced that the "controversial uppercase and lowercase letters" would be faded out for the time being in order to tackle it later in a "second step".

In 1987, the German Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (KMK) commissioned the Institute for the German Language in Mannheim to develop a new set of rules together with the Society for the German Language in Wiesbaden. In 1988 they submitted a still incomplete proposal with numerous, very far-reaching new regulations (for example new "Bot" instead of "Boot" or "Keizer" instead of "Kaiser"), which was rejected in public and soon also by the KMK as unacceptable.

At the same time, the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Education Directors had set up a group of experts with the same mandate; At the Austrian Federal Ministry for Education and the Arts there was a “Scientific Working Group of the Coordination Committee for Orthography”; in the GDR the "Research Group Orthography" at the Central Institute for Linguistics at the Academy of Sciences.

In 1992 the international working group published a proposal dealing with all areas of orthography under the title "German Spelling - Proposals for New Regulation". In 1993 the KMK invited 43 associations to comment. Hearings took place in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The international working group thereupon withdrew the demand for moderate lower case letters. The distinction also remained with the / that .

At the 3rd Vienna Conversation, also known as the “Vienna Orthography Conference”, which took place from November 22 to 24, 1994, the result of the consultation was recommended to the political decision-making bodies for acceptance. Following the “political decision-making process in Germany, Austria and Switzerland”, an agreement is to be concluded at the end of 1995. The Dudenverlag published the results of the “Vienna Orthography Conference” in December 1994 in a brochure and took the view: “The new regulation is not a 'reform of the head and limbs', but a 'small reform of reason'”. .

In 1995 the German ministers of education decided in the KMK to introduce the new regulation with a few changes from August 1, 1998 at the latest with a transition phase up to July 31, 2005.

On July 1, 1996, the federal states of Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and other states with German-speaking parts of the population undertook to introduce the reformed orthography by August 1, 1998 through the Vienna declaration of intent to revise German spelling . Some federal states introduced the reformed teaching rules as early as the beginning of school in 1996/97. A race broke out for the publication of the first dictionaries in reformed spelling. The spelling reform paid off for the publishers: For many years the Duden took top positions on bestseller lists; the textbook market experienced an extraordinary boom .

Public disputes since 1996

Critics of the spelling reform complain about insufficient public participation while the reform is being drawn up by experts.

Only after the signing of the intergovernmental declaration of intent did the new regulation become known to the general public. When the expected new regulations became public with the publication of the new dictionaries in July / August 1996, the reform opponents urged them to be withdrawn. However, the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education rejected the subsequent improvements proposed by the reformers. The Duden editorial team admitted that many problems in connection with conventional spelling were mainly related to the incomprehensibly formulated and subtle presentation of the spelling rules in the Duden.

At the Frankfurt Book Fair in 1996, hundreds of writers and scholars signed the Frankfurt Declaration to stop reform.

After administrative courts had ruled differently in the course of 1997, the Federal Constitutional Court declared on July 14, 1998 the introduction of the reformed spelling rules in the Education Minister's decree for schools to be legal.

In view of the wide range of criticism, the Intergovernmental Commission for German Spelling was set up in 1997 to improve and continue the reform .

In Schleswig-Holstein , a referendum on September 27, 1998 decided to reintroduce conventional spelling. Prime Minister Heide Simonis had previously announced that the referendum would be repealed by a majority in the state parliament. The People's Law was actually repealed by the Kiel State Parliament on September 17, 1999. In 1998 and 1999, referendums against the reform failed in Bremen, Lower Saxony and Berlin. A popular initiative in Bavaria was successful in 1996/97. The referendum made possible by this was abandoned by the initiators around Friedrich Denk .

2004–2005: crisis of reform

On World Book Day, on April 23, 2004, the language newspaper Deutsche Sprachwelt , which has been published since 2000, presented for the first time a resolution to withdraw the spelling reform, which was signed by a large number of well-known authors, personalities, publishers, organizations, schools and associations by June 2005 has been.

In June 2004, the ministers of education decided to set up a council for German spelling to replace the intergovernmental commission. The decision was made unanimously and can only be changed unanimously. This committee should initially deal with the particularly controversial issues of the spelling reform, such as the spelling together and separating as well as the Germanization of foreign words ("ketchup", "wallet").

On August 6, 2004, the publishers Axel-Springer-Verlag (including Bild ) and Der Spiegel as well as the Süddeutsche Zeitung (with restrictions) also announced their intention to return to the traditional spelling, which again led to heated discussions about the reform. Other publishers and newspapers criticized this behavior. As a protest, the taz published its edition of August 12, 2004 in lower case and described the followers of traditional spelling as "the yesterday". A few days after the advance by Spiegel and Springer, the Rheinische Merkur, another major newspaper, announced that it also wanted to return to the old spelling.

At a meeting on September 25, 2004, the Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs decided by a large majority to stick to the date for the binding introduction of August 1, 2005 and to only carry out improvements in individual areas. As a result, the reform was implemented in 14 of 16 federal states on August 1, 2005, as agreed in the treaty between Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Only Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia had a special position . Although the new spelling rules were used for teaching there, the old spellings were still accepted until the third version came into force on August 1, 2006.

On October 6, 2004, the Süddeutsche Zeitung announced that - contrary to its announcement - it would not return to the previous spelling.

On December 17, 2004, the German Spelling Council started its work.

With an amendment to the statute on June 17, 2005, the work of the Council for German Spelling was reorganized. (Although this change affected the basis for the activities of the council members, the new text was initially not disclosed to the members.) In it, the ministers of education surprisingly stipulated that the council for German spelling should only develop proposals for changes in the areas classified as disputed by the ministers of education . These were spelling separate and combined, punctuation and the spelling of foreign words.

With regard to the grading-relevant introduction of the reformed spelling rules in schools, several print media that had returned to the earlier spelling (including the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung , Die Welt ) declared in July 2005 that they would continue to use the old spelling.

The lack of word separation at the end of a line in the Council Statute was later referred to as a transmission error. The areas of phonetic-letter assignment, upper and lower case as well as hyphenated spellings, on the other hand, were classified as undisputed by the ministers of education, although the Council for German Spelling had announced necessary changes in these areas as well. The introduction of the parts of the spelling reform that the Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs described as undisputed should not be postponed following a resolution by the Conference of Ministers of Education. In the other areas, teachers should continue to practice tolerance.

After this decision, there were several attempts to achieve a nationwide moratorium to give the German Spelling Council more time for its work. However, a move by the minister-presidents of the CDU-ruled states failed because of the minority vote of the SPD-ruled states.

After a nationwide postponement failed, constitutional lawyer Rupert Scholz recommended that those federal states that wanted to postpone the introduction of the spelling reform should go it alone. This happened on July 16, 2005, when the most populous federal states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Bavaria announced that they would suspend the introduction of the spelling reform "until further notice". One wants to wait for the results of the council for German spelling in order to "help the recommendations of the council to be successful".

The then Brandenburg Minister of Culture and President of the Conference of Ministers of Education , Johanna Wanka , criticized the decision of North Rhine-Westphalia and Bavaria and demanded that the discussion should "come to an end at some point". Half a year later, shortly after the end of her term of office as President of the Conference of Ministers of Education, she admitted to Spiegel : “The ministers of education have long known that the spelling reform was wrong. For reasons of state it has not been withdrawn. "

Since August 1, 2005, the new spelling rules have been in effect in schools in the Federal Republic of Germany in the parts classified as undisputed by the ministers of education, with the exception of North Rhine-Westphalia and Bavaria, where the transitional rules continued to be used. On March 2, 2006, the Standing Conference approved the proposals of the Council for German Spelling . On March 30, 2006, the Prime Ministers of the federal states of the Federal Republic of Germany confirmed the reform of the reform.

The reformed spelling reform was introduced without exceptions by individual federal states in Germany on August 1, 2006 with a one-year transition period.

2006: Introduction of the third version of the reformed spelling rules

On February 27, 2006, the Council for German Spelling presented the Conference of Ministers of Education with a number of further recommendations for changes . They mainly concerned Reformed upper and lower case as well as combined and separate letters. Including the capitalization of the adjective (the "should be allowed again at about" compounds from adjectives and nouns with a new idiomatisierten overall importance " R unde table", the " S chwarze Board") and the word "skate" (in the meantime " Ice skating ”) can be returned to its previous form. There was also a list of individual decisions, such as “I'm sorry”. Other changes concerned the word separation at the end of the line; For example, separating individual vowel letters at the beginning or end of a word, as with "E-sel" or "Klei-e", should no longer be permitted. The innovations, which largely meant a return to the previous spelling, came into force with the new school year, whereby the previous, reformed spellings should only be criticized as errors after a transition period of one year.

On March 2, 2006, the Standing Conference of Ministers of Education approved the proposals of the Council, so that the newly reformed spelling was introduced nationwide in schools on August 1, 2006 with a one-year transition period. On this date, Bild , Die Welt , Hörzu and the other Axel Springer AG media also switched to this notation. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung has been using a house orthography since January 1, 2007 , which is largely based on the reform spelling of 2006, but contains some exceptions such as "Stengel" or "Rauh". The German-speaking press agencies, with the exception of the sda, have introduced a new house orthography from August 1, 2007, which is based on the reform spelling from 2006, but continues to approximate the traditional spelling by using variants, for example in the case of separate and combined spelling, gives preference to traditional spelling. Other press organs have their own house orthographies, which select binding spellings from the numerous alternative spellings of the reformed spelling.

2011: Changes in the dictionary

The official set of rules in the 2011 version differs from the 2006 set of rules only in the official vocabulary: some variant spellings have been deleted, others newly approved. The changes are minimal, only affecting 20 words.

2017/2018: New changes

In 2018, a representative of the German Spelling Council stated that the reformed rules "had been accepted by all writers" and that "the excitement about the spelling reform ... had largely calmed down". According to a textbook publisher of the Westermann Group , the reform has made "a lot ... easier for schoolchildren because many exceptions have been abolished". Instead, the FAZ judges that the desired spelling simplification has failed and that the spelling reform has caused more errors than there were before.

Legal obligation


In the Federal Republic of Germany, the legal basis for the application of the new regulation are resolutions of the Standing Conference of Ministers of Education as well as decrees or circulars in which the Ministries of Education of the federal states prescribe the application of the reformed rules and the validity of the dictionary of official regulations for the school sector. “In cases of doubt,” is also As formulated in Brandenburg, for example, "Dictionaries are used as the basis which, according to the publisher's declarations, fully comply with the new regulation (as of 2006)." In addition, there are - mostly in the form of binding service instructions - internal regulations in public institutions, authorities, companies and publishers that also specify the application of the reformed rules (often in the form of a so-called house orthography , i.e. with deviations from the official rules). Before the reform, there was no legal obligation beyond the school framework and was not introduced with the reform, as the Federal Constitutional Court declared in several decisions.

The federal administrations also adopted the regulation on August 1, 1999 in accordance with a decision of the federal cabinet of January 27, 1999.


In Austria , according to the official announcement of the Federal Ministry for Education, Art and Culture , the reformed spelling rules regulate the spelling of "those institutions (school, administration) for which the state has regulatory authority with regard to spelling". Furthermore, the dictionary in "cases of doubt [...] is the Austrian dictionary as a German reference work in its current edition".

Other countries

In Luxembourg , the reformed German spelling rules have been binding for school lessons since 2005. South Tyrol adopted the rules for schools and public administrations on August 1, 2005, and a representative from South Tyrol helped negotiate the revision of the reform. In the German-speaking Community of Belgium, the current set of rules has been in effect since September 1, 2006.

Proper names

Proper names are completely excluded from the rules.

Geographical names

Geographical names are also excluded from the rules. The Standing Committee for Geographical Names (StAGN) of all German-speaking countries advocates the uniform spelling of these names, although it can only make recommendations. At its meeting on September 17, 1999 in Wabern near Bern , this committee unanimously passed an urgent recommendation to all competent authorities to also apply the reformed spelling rules to geographical names. Only spellings that deviate from the traditional spelling rules should be excluded. This “urgent recommendation” has only been implemented to a very limited extent so far (2008).


newspapers and magazines

A large part of the periodicals now appears in a variant of the reformed spelling, usually with its own house orthography . Of the almost 200 newspapers and magazines (as of August 2005) that either still publish in the traditional spelling, have returned to this spelling or have announced this change, the Axel-Springer-AG media in particular are following a further “reform der Reform ”changed over to a reformed spelling on August 1, 2006, which was often changed with our own in-house spelling variants. In August 2007, however, the German-language news agencies not only agreed to use the reformed rules, but also which spelling they would use in those cases in which the reform rules allow freedom of choice.

Although the FAZ returned to the traditional spelling in 2000 after a year of testing, it, together with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung , introduced a house orthography on January 1, 2007, which is largely based on the reformed rules of 2006. Der Spiegel and the Süddeutsche Zeitung also announced a return in August 2004 and gradually reintroduced traditional spellings. However, the announced major change did not materialize. When the "Zehetmair Commission" began to show signs of a return to traditional spelling, from January 2, 2006, Der Spiegel followed "the previous results of the Council for German Spelling", that is, it now writes according to the reformed rules of 2006. Die Junge Freiheit , which, according to its own statements, boycotted the reform when it was introduced in 1999 as the only national newspaper, continues to appear in traditional spelling (as of 2020).

In July 2006, after a customer survey, the working group of German-speaking news agencies decided to use the reformed spelling in principle, but to prefer the older spelling in the case of a significant number of variants that will be permitted in the future. Members of this working group are dpa ( Deutsche Presse-Agentur ) and dapd, an amalgamation of ddp (Deutscher Depeschendienst) and the German AP (Deutsche Associated Press ), APA (Austria Presse-Agentur), AFP (Agence France-Presse), Dow Jones, epd (Protestant press service), KNA (Catholic news agency), Reuters, sda ( Swiss dispatch agency ) and sid (sports information service). This house orthography has been used since August 1, 2007 according to a decision published in December 2006. Quote: “The German-language news agencies AFP, AP, APA, Dow Jones, ddp, dpa, epd, KNA, sid and Reuters will change their spelling on August 1, 2007. In order to write not only correctly but also consistently, they have opted for a specific one in all cases in which different spellings are permitted. For example, you write 'get to know' and not 'get to know', 'dolphin' and not 'dolphin'. "

Sometimes the media introduced their own house orthographies , which were a compromise between Reformed and traditional spelling. In the new house orthographies, the reformed ß- / ss-regulation ( Heysesche s-spelling ) was preferred. The house orthographies of Springer Verlag , Zeit and Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) are worth mentioning . While the house orthography of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung was quite close to the traditional rules , the house orthography designed by Dieter E. Zimmer for Die Zeit diverged further from the traditional spelling than the reformed spelling rules of 2006 (e.g. "Foton" instead of "Photon") .

Geographical names

At its meeting on September 17, 1999, the Standing Committee on Geographical Names (StAGN) of all German-speaking countries unanimously passed an urgent recommendation to all competent authorities to apply the reformed spelling rules to geographical names as well. Only spellings that deviate from the conventional rules should be excluded. In order to avoid possible misunderstandings with regard to the above recommendation, the StAGN provided the following additional note: “The StAGN recommendation does not mean that all existing geographical names will be adapted to the new spelling by the relevant institutions (state, states, municipalities, offices) must, but that the official set of rules is only binding if new geographical names are created or if the responsible institutions consider it appropriate to change the spelling of existing geographical names. "This" urgent recommendation "was previously (2008) only in implemented to a small extent. The Swiss Federal Office for Topography , where the StAGN met, has now changed the spelling of its name to the Federal Office for Topography . The Vienna City Council decided in 1999 to use the new spelling for street names (see here ).


In the case of book publishers, the implementation of the spelling reform depends heavily on the respective segment and is therefore often inconsistent even within a publisher: school books, children's and young people's books as well as non-fiction mainly follow the reformed spelling, with German-language novels the publishers usually follow the Wishes of the authors. A similar procedure is followed for translations of foreign language fiction.

Classical works of literature are often printed unchanged in the conventional spelling, but deviating from this, classics that are intended for school use, such as the " Reclam booklets ", are definitely adapted to the reformed spelling.

On August 28, 2004 the 23rd edition of Dudens was published. This is the third Duden that has been published since the spelling reform was decided in 1996. In this edition, the Duden also takes into account the changes made by the Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs in June 2004. While the spelling reformers hoped that a natural social process of writing development would take place in places where they had put different spellings as equivalent, the Dudens editors have highlighted the versions they prefer and recommend.


On October 8, 2004, the German Prime Ministers unanimously decided to introduce the reformed spelling on time. A “Council for German Spelling” was set up to look after the improvement of the reformed spelling, in particular in the areas of hyphenation and spelling, punctuation, word separation and the spelling of foreign words. This council initially included both supporters and an avowed opponent of the spelling reform, namely Theodor Ickler , the representative of the German pen center . However, this later dropped out again.

On November 29, 2004, Doris Ahnen , President of the Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs, and the former Bavarian Minister of Education, Hans Zehetmair, introduced the designated chairman of the Council for Spelling. Zehetmair announced corrections in a dpa interview. However, he ruled out a return to conventional spelling, to "zero hour".


Large parts of the German economy switched to the reformed writing rules at an early stage. According to a survey by the Handelsblatt in October 2004, the changeover had already been implemented by 70% of large German companies, and another 8% wanted to follow. 71% of the companies surveyed spoke out against a return to traditional spelling, mainly for reasons of cost, and partly also because of the reliability of the decisions made.

Acceptance of the spelling reform


According to surveys by the Allensbach Institute for Demoscopy , 10% of the German population aged 16 and over were in favor of the spelling reform in 1997, 70% against it and 20% indifferently to it.

According to a survey by the same institute in 2000, most Germans rejected the spelling reform. A representative survey showed 13% of 2111 respondents who had adjusted to the reformed spelling. However, according to the Intergovernmental Commission responsible for implementing the reform, in 2001 it was already 66% used in letters to the editor from private individuals, 80% in newly published books and 96% in newspapers.

Between March / April 2002, the Allensbach Institute for Demoskopie again checked the mood for the reform. At that time, 56% of respondents said they were against the reform, 10% were in favor. 57% saw no reason for themselves to change their spelling, 49% called for the reform to be withdrawn.

According to a study published by the television magazine Panorama on July 21, 2004 on the level of acceptance of the reform, even six years after it was introduced, 77% of Germans considered the spelling reform to be “not useful”. Only every fifth German citizen (21%) rated the reform positively.

The Institute for Demoskopie in Allensbach examined the effects of the debate in the summer of 2004 on the attitude of the population towards the spelling reform. In the representative survey, only 26% of Germans over the age of 16 wanted to keep the spelling reform. The proportion of clear supporters of the reform fell from 13% in April 2004 to 11% in September 2004. Only 19% said they were observing the reformed rules. The opinion polls commented that the decision of many newspapers to return to the classic spelling had prompted many German citizens to make a similar decision.

In July 2005 the Institute for Demoskopie in Allensbach repeated its investigation into the acceptance of the spelling reform among the population. The result shows a clear rejection of the spelling reform in Germany: only 8% of those questioned were in favor of the reform, a clear majority of 61% were against the reform.

On September 8, 2006, the Deutsche Sprachwelt published a “mood picture on the German language” in cooperation with the text service provider “Textfex”. As in the past decade since the first spelling reform in 1996, there was another clear rejection in Germany. Only 28 percent of those questioned followed the reformed spelling, 16 percent wrote at their own discretion and 56 percent stuck to the traditional rules. Only 14 percent of all respondents supported the reform, but 66 percent completely oppose it.

Between April 4 and 17, 2008, the Institute for Demoskopie Allensbach, on behalf of the Society for the German Language (GfdS) and in cooperation with the German Language Council, interviewed a total of 1,820 persons aged 16 and over who were representative of the population, orally and personally, on the topic of the 'German language' in in the broadest sense, including on the spelling reform. 55 percent of those surveyed rejected the spelling reform, 31 percent didn't care and only 9 percent were in favor. 79 percent of all respondents agreed with the statement: Due to the spelling reform, many words no longer know how to spell them correctly. Among those in favor of reform, this was 54 percent.


In Austria , the German spelling is used after the 1996 reform. The 40th edition of the Austrian dictionary is the binding set of rules . However, some newspapers continue to appear here in traditional spelling.

According to a Gallup poll published in August 2004, 62% of Austrians were in favor of a return to traditional spelling. Many Austrian media use house rules instead of the official spelling.

On August 1, 2005, the rules of the reformed spelling became mandatory for offices and schools. Before that, there was a seven-year transition period in which both spellings could be used equally alongside each other, with schools only teaching according to the reformed spelling. During the period, the Austrian school books were also adjusted to the reformed spelling and given their own logo to indicate the fact.


The ongoing spelling debates in Germany were at times viewed from a more distant perspective in Switzerland . In the meantime, however, various newspapers use a house orthography.

On August 1, 2005, the rules of the reformed spelling became binding for schoolchildren except in the canton of Bern , whose teachers' association does not want to introduce the reform. The school system in Switzerland is a matter for the cantons. For years now, Swiss students have only been taught according to the reformed spelling, which, however, contains some special rules for Switzerland in addition to the previous differences. In the Council for German Spelling , however, the two members of the Swiss teachers' associations advocate a return to the traditional rules. They receive support from the Swiss Orthographic Conference (SOK), an association of proponents of uniform and linguistic spelling, which met in June 2006 for its first working session. For offices and authorities, the transitional regulation has been extended until the results of the Council for German Spelling are available.

In a press release on July 30, 2005, the Swiss Dispatch Agency (SDA) announced that it would decide on the continued use of the reformed spelling as part of a working group with other German-speaking news agencies. The SDA said it wanted to keep all options open, "including a complete return to traditional spelling". In addition, the entire working group rejects "grammatically incorrect spellings (e.g. to be sorry, to be right, eight times) as well as unnecessary changes to familiar word images and incorrect derivations (e.g. complex; blueing in, little bit)". In May 2007 the SDA declared that it would in future adhere to the recommendations of the SOK. The SDA is thus more oriented towards the traditional spelling than the other German-speaking news agencies.

In December 2006, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung switched to an internal spelling of house rules that had developed from their collaboration with the SOK. In a number of cases, this prefers traditional Swiss spelling, which has always deviated from that of other German-speaking countries, and replaces the reformed rule that has been in use since May 2000. Most Swiss print media now adhere to their own house spelling or follow the recommendations of the SOK.

Other German-speaking areas

Reform writing is taught at most schools in Liechtenstein , South Tyrol , the German-speaking part of Belgium and Namibia , although these regions are not part of the intergovernmental agreement between Germany, Austria and Switzerland. However, the first three regions each have a representative in the Council for German Spelling: Renate Gebele-Hirschlehner for Liechtenstein, Rudolf Meraner for South Tyrol and Heinz Bouillon for the German-speaking Community of Belgium. The provincial government of South Tyrol , the government of Liechtenstein and the parliament of the German-speaking Community of Belgium put the new German spelling rules into effect on August 1, 2006. Luxembourg did not take part in drafting the reform, but introduced the reformed German spelling to Luxembourg schools by government decree. Othon Neuen, Assistant Inspector in the Ministry of Education, stated in August 2004 that the new spelling was well accepted by Luxembourg teachers and students because of its simplifications. Unfortunately, as a “non-German-speaking country”, Luxembourg has no right to be part of the decision-making process in which direction it is now going.

Actions by opponents of reform

Since 1996 there have been numerous campaigns against the spelling reform. Even ten years later, opponents wanted to reverse the reform.


In August 2004, the city administration of Braunschweig decided to return to conventional spelling - as the only city in Germany. In August of the following year, however, the decision was made again to use the reformed spelling in principle, even if the conventional spelling is still accepted. In March 2005, the Association of Cities and Municipalities in North Rhine-Westphalia recommended that the cities and municipalities in North Rhine-Westphalia should not use the reformed spelling "against the background of the many deficits and inconsistencies of the reformed spelling".

The composition of the Council for Spelling, which was presented a few days later, was criticized by the magazine Deutsche Sprachwelt as saying that there was an "overwhelming majority" of the designated Council of supporters of the spelling reform. The cast is therefore not representative based on current survey results.

In an interview with the Passauer Neue Presse on April 30, 2003, the then Bavarian Minister of Education and Culture, Hans Zehetmair , showed understanding for the critics of the reform: “But from today's point of view and even better knowledge of the German character, I would bring things to a complete failure today. We shouldn't have done the spelling reform. I say: Politics, hands off spelling reform! Language is a dynamic process, it has to grow and emerge. ”The“ chaos ”the spelling reform would cause was only seen in the new dictionaries in late summer 1996. At the time, Zehetmair considered overturning the whole thing, but he wasn't sure he could get through it. Zehetmair: "Politicians should never presume to intervene here with decrees." In the meantime, Zehetmair has changed his mind and draws a positive balance of the spelling reform. The then Prime Minister of Lower Saxony , Christian Wulff , expressed his rejection in the Spiegel with clear words: "This reform only causes confusion". Peter Müller , the Prime Minister of Saarland , said: “This spelling reform is a freak and is not accepted by most of the people. Politicians have to accept that and also have the strength to abolish this reform in principle. ”At the initiative of these two CDU politicians as well as the Bavarian Prime Minister Edmund Stoiber and CDU chairwoman Angela Merkel , the state leaders should deal directly with the issue. In the unanimous resolution of the Prime Ministers on October 8, 2004, however, all three agreed to the introduction of the new spelling on time.

The Münchner Merkur commented on the initiative on July 13, 2004: “With the Lower Saxony Wulff, the Saarland Müller and the Bayern Stoiber, three regional leaders are now calling for a return to the tried and tested spelling. 70 percent of Germans reject the new writing rules because they damage their sense of language. The ministers of education failed in a ludicrous manner in the reform of the spelling entrusted to them and bowed to the dictates of self-appointed brute reformers without contradiction. Politicians must, however, be able to revise errors that have been recognized instead of fearfully sticking to the 'business as usual'. "

Linguist and literary scholar

On March 3, 1998, the German Society for Linguistics published a statement in which it again emphasized that the spelling reform proposed in 1996 did not correspond to the state of linguistic research. In May 1998 around 600 professors of linguistics and literary studies from all over the German-speaking area signed a joint declaration, citing this statement, to withdraw the spelling reform because it was flawed, rejected by the vast majority of the population for good reasons and the uniformity of the written language will destroy for decades.

Resolution to restore the previous uniform spelling

In addition to so-called language maintenance associations and other citizens' initiatives, a number of well-known personalities also joined a “resolution to restore the previous uniform spelling” . It signed inter alia the Goethe Society , the Brothers Grimm Society , Federal President a. D. Walter Scheel , Dieter Thomas Heck , Manfred Krug , Günter Kunert , Reiner Kunze and Siegfried Lenz .

Academy Compromise

In 2003, the German Academy for Language and Poetry submitted a compromise proposal, which was developed primarily by the Potsdam linguist Peter Eisenberg . By the Academy itself, the reform proposal was seen only as the second-best solution.

Book and newspaper publishers

After Christian Wulff's initiative in June 2004, some minister-presidents supported the proposal to withdraw the authority on spelling from the Conference of Ministers of Education and, in this way, to overturn the spelling reform. As a result, a renewed broad discussion about the spelling reform arose.

The Stolz-Verlag announced the return to conventional spelling. Later, the managing director of the Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt (DVA), Jürgen Horbach, demanded a complete withdrawal of the reformed spelling.

On August 6, 2004, Spiegel and the Axel Springer AG publishing group announced that they “ wanted to follow the example of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and return to traditional spelling”. This measure was justified with the rejection of the spelling reform in the population and the serious shortcomings of the reform. Spiegel editor-in-chief Stefan Aust described the reform as "state-ordered dyslexia". At the end of 2005, however , Der Spiegel announced that from the beginning of 2006 the spelling would be used in accordance with the recommendations of the German Spelling Council. Aust justified this as a "return to reason".

Mathias Döpfner as CEO of Axel Springer AG and Stefan Aust as editor-in-chief of the Spiegel expressly pointed out that they were in favor of "very urgently" necessary and meaningful reforms in society, but the spelling reform is not a reform, but rather a step backwards. The conclusion is shocking six years after the introduction. The reform had fundamentally failed. The two daily newspapers Die Welt and Bild-Zeitung are also affected by the changeover at Springer .

Soon afterwards, the Süddeutsche Zeitung announced that it was also tackling the changeover. Only details are discussed internally, in particular the date and individual rules that may be retained. On October 6, 2004, however, it was announced that a return to conventional spelling was no longer planned, but only a compromise, and that the editorial team was waiting for further public discussion.

In the same year, the Hamburg-based Bauer publishing group announced that they welcomed the return of Spiegel and Springer to conventional spelling, which was then. She would like as many publishers as possible to follow this example.

Burda-Verlag, which also owns the news magazine Focus , expressed its wait and see, but did not want this to be understood as a commitment to reformed spelling. The editorial staff of the Focus reported that they wanted to orientate themselves on the spelling of the schools. The publisher Gruner + Jahr reported that the question about the spelling would be decided by the respective editor-in-chief, but there are currently no plans to switch back.

As of October 2004, several Axel Springer Verlag newspapers temporarily returned to conventional spelling, starting with Bild am Sonntag on October 3, 2004, the “Day of German Unity”. In the meantime, all of these newspapers use a house orthography that is largely based on the reformed spelling. Spiegel-Verlag announced that it would initially stick to the reformed spelling and wait for the results of the newly formed German Spelling Council before changing over. At the beginning of 2005 he started a gradual changeover.

Frankfurt roll call

At the Frankfurt Book Fair in October 2004, well-known critics of the spelling reform came together to formulate the so-called Frankfurt Appeal . The text calls for the "restoration of the uniform and proven orthography" in order to correspond to the "will of the vast majority of citizens in Germany, Austria and Switzerland that has been identified in all surveys since 1996". The Frankfurt appeal was signed by other writers, publishers, scientists and artists during the book fair, so that by the end of the fair, more than 250 personalities had joined the demand.


In the course of the debate, writers repeatedly spoke out as critics of the reform. In March 2006, after the final version had been decided, a group around Daniel Kehlmann , Christian Kracht , Judith Hermann , Iris Hanika and the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts appealed to the Prime Ministers in their declaration “The language knows no compromises” to stick to the spelling rules before the reform. Well-known names such as Siegfried Lenz , Günter Kunert or Reiner Kunze had already organized themselves into clubs without attracting permanent media attention. In general, these writers already reject the basic idea of ​​a spelling reform. One of the best-known opponents of the 1996 spelling reform was the Nobel Prize laureate Günter Grass . Grass refused to recognize the reform in 1996, his works continued to appear in the old spelling.


The dictionaries also reflect the development:

The Duden since 1996 (21st edition) essentially follows the official rules for the reformed spelling. The last unreformed edition of Duden was the 20th and was published in 1991 (the so-called "Einheitsduden", in which East and West Duden were merged with the participation of the Austrian and Swiss Duden Committee) . The 24th edition from summer 2006 represents the status after the last recommendations of the Council for German Spelling, as implemented by the federal states.

The Wahrig also represents the reformed regulations, as does the majority of the lesser-known providers.

As a result of the spelling reform and its various subsequent changes, the number of possible spelling variants increased significantly. This was wanted by the bodies responsible for the reform, most recently also by the German Spelling Council. The general use of writing should continue to be observed and then used as a basis for any further specifications. Duden and Wahrig, however, are careful to steer the development in certain directions - contrary to the intention of the council. For this purpose, the recommended spellings in the Duden (24th edition) are clearly highlighted in yellow. In December 2006, Wahrig published the “Wahrig House Orthography from A to Z”, an “orthographic guide for uniform and stringent spelling” (title: “One word - one spelling”). The recommendations of the two publishers differ in many cases.

For users of conventional spelling, a new edition of Mackensen from 1986, printed in 2006, is available, as is the spelling dictionary Normal German Spelling , which was last published in 2004, by the reform critic Theodor Ickler . From 1996 until 2017, the literary scholar Klaus Deterding has been committed to reversing the reform.

See also



  • Hans-Werner Eroms, Horst H. Munske (ed.): The spelling reform. Pro and con. Schmidt, Berlin 1997, ISBN 3-503-03786-1 .
  • Ursula Scheiden: Pros and cons of “spelling reform”. An analysis of the arguments. Thesis. University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck 2004.
  • Ralf Osterwinter: The spelling reform (1996/1998) in press releases. A critical analysis of the agency's orthography and its implementation in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (= language - literature and history 39). Winter, Heidelberg 2011.
  • Uwe Grund: Orthographic rules in a practical test - school spelling performance before and after the spelling reform , Verlag Frank & Timme, Berlin, 248 pages, ISBN 978-3-7329-0279-8

Web links

General information on the topic


  • Council for German Spelling (has been responsible for the further development of the reformed German spelling rules since December 2004; publishes the current proposed changes)


Individual evidence

  1. Narr, Tübingen
  2. Vienna declaration of intent for the revision of the German spelling of July 1, 1996.
  3. SPIEGEL-Verlag and Axel Springer AG are returning to traditional spelling. In: Spiegel Online , August 6, 2004
  4. Spelling: the return. In: FAZ of August 7, 2004
  5. ^ Spelling debate: countries discuss reform postponement. In: Spiegel Online . July 19, 2005.
  6. Jan Fleischhauer, Christoph Schmitz: Hit and Top, Tip and Stop . In: Der Spiegel . No. 1 , 2006, p. 124-132 ( Online - Jan. 2, 2006 ).
  7. See Kultusministerkonferenz agrees with recommendations of the Council for German Spelling . online at
  8. Recommendation of the Spelling Council on word separation at the end of a line.
  9. FAZ adjusts spelling. In: FAZ , December 2, 2006, No. 281, page 2.
  10. ↑ House orthography of the German-speaking news agencies from August 1, 2007.
  11. a b c Anja Kühne: The end of mayonnaise, grisli bear and ketchup. In: Der Tagesspiegel. August 1, 2018, accessed January 22, 2020 .
  12. FAZ : 20 years of spelling anarchy: a misfortune in the history of language. August 1, 2018
  13. Resolution of March 2, 2006: "The official regulation of German spelling in the 2006 version is the binding basis for teaching in all schools", see KMK press release of March 2, 2006: Conference of Ministers of Education approves recommendations of the Council for German Spelling zu , accessed December 27, 2017
  14. See e.g. B. Circular from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MBJS) of the State of Brandenburg of April 5, 2006: Official Gazette Number 5 Potsdam, May 31, 2006 ( Memento of October 20, 2006 in the Internet Archive ) (Official Journal of the Ministry of Education , Youth and Sport - No. 5 of May 31, 2006, p. 282 [on p. 26 of the PDF])
  15. ^ Lawsuit against reform dismissed. In: Spiegel Online from May 30, 2006.
  16. See e.g. B. the house orthography of the newspaper " Die Zeit " ( ZEITSchreibung ) or the regulations of the press agencies ( German-speaking news agencies ). For a variant in Switzerland see the regulations of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung ( [1] )
  17. BVerfG, 1 BvR 1640/97 of July 14, 1998, paragraph no. (1–170) ( ). There is also extensive background information there. The last decision was made in 2006, see the press release of the court [2]
  18. Federal Ministry of the Interior adopts the new German spelling rules ( Memento from July 16, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  19. Overview page on spelling at the BMBF ( Memento from September 25, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) (accessed on September 25, 2015)
  20. BMBF: The Official Regulations (2006 version; with the addenda from the 2010 report) (pdf, 2 MB) ( Memento from September 25, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) (accessed on September 25, 2015)
  21. BMUKK: Completion of the spelling reform - announcement
  22. ^ Minister for Education and Vocational Training, Mady Delvaux-Stehres: Communiqué - New regulation of German spelling in the Luxembourg school system . August 3, 2005 ( Schulamt ( Memento from November 24, 2005 in the Internet Archive ))
  23. Meeting of the South Tyrolean provincial government on July 25, 2005 ( education authority )
  24. The new German spelling. In: Education portal. German Community of Belgium, archived from the original on September 7, 2014 ; Retrieved September 8, 2014 .
  25. Recommendation of the Standing Committee on Geographical Names (StAGN) of September 17, 1999 - to adapt the spelling of toponyms to the reformed rules
  27. The history of the JF. In: YOUNG FREEDOM. Retrieved January 22, 2020 (German).
  28. Recommendation of the Standing Committee on Geographical Names (StAGN) of September 17, 1999 - to adapt the spelling of toponyms to the reformed rules
  29. Allensbacher Reports, 2002 / No. 7 ( Online ( Memento from July 31, 2004 in the Internet Archive ), PDF, 11  kB )
  30. Spelling reform - there are hardly any proponents to this day ( Memento of July 31, 2004 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 11 kB). In: Allensbacher Reports, 2002, No. 7.
  31. New spelling - The recent discussion has strengthened the opponent's camp. ( Memento from October 20, 2004 in the Internet Archive ) In: Allensbacher Reports, 2004, No. 18.
  32. New spelling - the majority are still against. ( Memento from October 15, 2005 in the Internet Archive ) In: Allensbacher Reports, 2005, No. 11.
  33. How do Germans think about their mother tongue and foreign languages? ( Memento from August 20, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) Press release by the Society for German Language from June 13, 2008.
  34. ^ Ministry of the German-speaking Community: Decree on the introduction of the new regulation of German spelling (PDF; 461 kB). Belgian State Gazette, April 8, 1999.
  35. ^ Luxemburger Wort, August 9, 2004.
  36. ^ Zehetmair: The results of the spelling reform are good. Retrieved July 6, 2019 .
  37. Schwäbische Zeitung of August 31, 2018, dpa report, "Zehetmair: The spelling reform balance sheet is good" , accessed on July 10, 2019.
  38. Michael Fröhlingsdorf, Joachim Kronsbein, Johannes Saltzwedel: Spelling: Aufstand gegen Unverstand , Spiegel dated August 2, 2004
  39. ^ DGfS: Opinion on the spelling reform ( memento of February 28, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) of March 3, 1998.
  40. ^ Joint declaration on the spelling reform by professors of linguistics and literary studies from all over the German-speaking area from May 1998.
  41. Günter Grass (†) - The winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature was 87 years old , accessed on April 13, 2015.
  42. ^ Theodor Ickler: Normal German spelling. Write meaningfully, separate, make a mark. 4th, expanded edition, 2004, Leibniz-Verlag, St. Goar, ISBN 3-931155-14-5 .
  43. Klaus Deterding, Olaf Gaudig, Klaus-Peter Veit: With your help, Minister! Scientific publishing house Berlin 2017.