August 07, 2004

"State-ordered dyslexia"

According to Matt Surman on the AP wire and James McKenzie at Reuters, some major German publishers (Der Spiegel, Axel Springer Verlag, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung) have decided to join the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in abandoning the spelling reform started in 1998. FAZ jumped off the bandwagon in 2000. The AP quotes a joint statement by Matthias Doepfner from Axel Springer and Stafan Aust from Spiegel: "In responsibility to later generations, we advise others to end the state-ordered dyslexia and to return to classic German usage."

Here's an English-language article from Deutsche Welle, in which "Swiss author Adolf Muschg" is quoted as telling Bild-Zeitung that "[t]he spelling reform ... is as unnecessary as gout". But the president of the Kultusministerkonferenz, Doris Ahnen, "doesn't believe anything will change" in that group's views, saying that "[m]ost of the ministers in the committee are still in favor of the reforms, and are in favor of making them mandatory next August."

Here's the BBC's story, and here's a piece by Luke Harding in the Guardian.

The official web site on the spelling reform is at the Institut für Deutsche Sprache (IDS) in Mannheim. Here's an English-language description from UniLang.

There was some discussion on LinguistList back in 1998, by Martin Haspelmath and Gisbert Fanselow. I look forward to some informed comments on the current situation from others, but there are some interesting themes here: "state-ordered", "classic usage", "dyslexia", "gout", "mandatory".

[via A.L.D.]

[Update: Julia Hockenmaier emailed to point out that Deutsche Welle mistranslated Muschg -- the word he used (Kropf) means "goiter", not "gout", and is part of an expression "unnötig wie ein Kropf" that means "completely unnecessary".]

Posted by Mark Liberman at August 7, 2004 09:27 AM