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Dear Everyone,
I agree that it would be interesting if this list functioned as a forum for
discussion as well as a kind of high-class noticeboard, so I've decided to
start.

I responded to David Yeandle's questions about the spelling reform, but as
I did so I thought that he had omitted an aspect of the topic which
interests me very much: the question of _why_ so many UK and Irish
academics, mostly speakers of German as a foreign language, are opposed to
the introduction of the new spelling. Is it because they are
a) ignorant
b) conservative
or
c) radical?

Clearly, some people may safely be categorised as (a) in that they have
read (dis-)information in newspaper articles, many of which were written by
people deeply opposed to the reform. Such people might consider looking at
the informative IdS website. It must be said, though, that the (12-page)
leaflet described by Klaus Heller of the IdS as 'die Reform auf einen
Blick' is for people with more (Durch-) and (Ueber-) Blick than I have.

The choice between (b) and (c) seems to me more interesting.  As English
speakers we use a language with a peculiarly reform-worthy orthography
(though I would argue unreformable because of the concomitant loss of
continuity with the past). We are therefore all too aware of how much time
learning a difficult orthography in school  occupies, and most of us find
the relative transparency of German spelling a delight. Being a (b) is the
position of inertia, though there are are may be principled aspects. Many
Germanists, for instance, worry about seeing literary classics appearing in
the 'non-original' new spelling. But a lot of editions are normalised to
the 1901 standard anyway, and publishers which,for ideological reasons,
don't do that, are unlikely to start now. The anti-reform German writers
who wrote in to the Spiegel also mostly conceded that sub-editors with
copies of Duden 'tidied up' their own spelling. Is there really a good
reason for being a (b) if you consider orthography only as a vehicle
(rather than having it as the focus of your interest)?  If there are (b)s
on this list, I hope they will let us know.

The (c) category includes all those of us who think it's a pity they didn't
get rid of Eszet altogether, go for 'gemaessigte Kleinschreibung' and other
things discussed by the reformers but then dropped. These people end up in
the same place as the (b)s by another route, asserting that this is a
Refoermchen and not worth bothering with. But shouldn't we see it as
positive to take that first small step, since arguably it will more
effictively lead to the notion that spelling reforms are little bits of
housekeeping one should do every now and again? Spelling reform carried out
on this principle (as in Dutch) would more accurately mirror the way
changes in usage occur, and might be a very useful model for German. If the
outcome of being a (c) is the same as that of being a (b), isn't it time
for a re-think?

Best wishes,
Sheila Watts

_______________________________________________________
Dr Sheila Watts
Newnham College
Cambridge CB3 9DF
United Kingdom

phone +44 1223 335816




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