27/01/2006

Linguistic protectionism

The other day, I zapped across a wireless (I like this undoubtedly endangered word) programme about the Lexikon der bedrohten Wörter, which is a dictionary of endangered words in German. I've seen it mentioned before elsewhere. That's the kind of thing that turns on word nerds such as myself! Even relatively recent words, such as Yuppie, may be threatened by extinction.

An immediate turn off however is the issue of the German Rechtschreibereform, an effort spearheaded by the Rat für deutsche Rechtschreibung to simplify the admittedly often arcane rules & regulations of the German language. That's all nice & dandy, if only the effort were independent of politics, which it isn't. That means that schools and the public administrations in the entire German speaking area are obliged to follow those rules. Not everybody is pleased, if these statements by Swiss teachers' associations are to be believed. The fact that the first attempt at a reform had to be reformed again was certainly not helpful, but very indicative as to the root of the problem: Language is a highly dynamic set of rules which is in constant flux. It is a totally ridiculous and very German endeavour in my view to try and squeeze the life out of the German language by means of red tape. Even the French have pretty much resigned.

2 comments:

Smaran said...

the Rechtschreibereform is stupid. It's so completely stupid to change language to make it more "international". SO what if there's an ß here and there? That's what makes German German. That's what makes the bloody language rich! I've learnt it like this and I don't want it changed!!!!!

"That's all nice & dandy" - I see you've caught it too....

antares said...

At the time, I was quite surprised when it was decided somehow that this Rechtschreibereform should take place. I thought only the French were able to conduct such bureaucratic exercices. In the end the result is not too bad however, because the confusion is so big now that it can be interpreted as a creative chaos, where old, new and unintended new rules compete against each other.