CONFLICTING COURT RULINGS CAUSE LANGUAGE CONFUSION IN GERMANY

Posted on in Politica e lingue 16 vedi

CONFLICTING COURT RULINGS CAUSE LANGUAGE CONFUSION IN GERMANY
BY MELISSA EDDY

FRANKFURT, GERMANY (AP) _ ATTEMPTS TO SIMPLIFY WHAT MARK TWAIN ONCE CALLED “THE AWFUL GERMAN LANGUAGE” ARE PROVING ANYTHING BUT EASY.
OFFICIALS FROM GERMANY, AUSTRIA AND SWITZERLAND AGREED LAST YEAR ON A SET OF CHANGES THAT WOULD SIMPLIFY GERMAN’S COMPLEX GRAMMAR RULES, SHORTEN THE MILE-LONG COMPOUND WORDS AND MAKE SPELLINGS MORE CONSISTENT.
BUT SOME GERMAN PARENTS, AUTHORS AND INTELLECTUALS ARE FIGHTING BACK, ARGUING THAT WHAT WAS GOOD ENOUGH FOR GOETHE AND SCHILLER IS GOOD ENOUGH FOR THEM.
“THE GERMAN LANGUAGE IS HOW THE GERMANS SPEAK AND WRITE,” SAYS ROLF GOESCHNER, A LAW PROFESSOR AT JENA UNIVERSITY WHO SAYS BEING FORCED TO USE NEW GRAMMAR IS AN INFRINGEMENT OF GERMANS’ RIGHTS.
“NOT THE MINISTERS, BUT THE GERMAN PEOPLE DECIDE THE CORRECT WAY TO WRITE,” HE SAID.
THE “RECHTSCHREIBEREFORM,” OR “REFORM OF THE CORRECT WAY TO WRITE,” IS DESIGNED TO MODERNIZE SPELLING AND GRAMMAR.
COMMA RULES WOULD BE CUT FROM 52 TO NINE, FOR EXAMPLE, COMPOUNDS WOULD BE SPLIT AND USE OF THE GERMAN LETTER FOR A DOUBLE “S” _WHICH LOOKS LIKE A FLOPPY CURSIVE B _ WOULD BE RESTRICTED.
SOME GERMAN SCHOOLS INTRODUCED THE NEW RULES LAST YEAR, TO SMOOTH THE TRANSITION AHEAD OF THE AUG. 1, 1998 OFFICIAL START DATE. SLOW LEARNERS WOULD HAVE UNTIL 2005 BEFORE THE OLD WAYS WOULD BE CONSIDERED WRONG.
IN SWITZERLAND, WHERE ROUGHLY FIVE MILLION PEOPLE SPEAK GERMAN, THE DISPUTED DOUBLE “S” WAS DROPPED YEARS AGO TO MAKE WRITTEN GERMAN MORE COMPATIBLE WITH THE COUNTRY’S OTHER LANGUAGES. THE SWISS HAVE ADOPTED THE NEW RULES INTO THE NEXT YEAR’S SCHOOL CURRICULUM WITHOUT ANY MAJOR DISPUTES.
AUSTRIA, AS WELL, HAS EMBRACED THE LINGUISTIC CHANGES. BOTH OF GERMANY’S NEIGHBORS SEE THE CONFLICT WITH THE NEW GRAMMAR AS A PARTICULARLY GERMAN PROBLEM.
PARENTS WORRIED ABOUT CONFUSING THEIR CHILDREN HAVE FILED LAWSUITS, LEADING TO EVEN MORE CONFUSION.
IN HESSE STATE, GOESCHNER REPRESENTED PARENTS WHO FILED A CASE AGAINST THE GOVERNMENT ON THE GROUNDS THAT THAT TEACHING “REFORMED” GERMAN UNFAIRLY FORCED STUDENTS TO LEARN A LANGUAGE THAT WAS NOT COMMONLY USED OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM. ON TUESDAY, THE COURT RULED IN THEIR FAVOR.
BUT A DAY LATER, A WEIMAR COURT DECIDED THAT NO HARM WAS DONE TO STUDENTS BY TEACHING THE NEW GRAMMAR. IN OVERRULING PARENTS’ WISHES, THE COURT SAID SETTING SCHOOL CURRICULUM WAS THE DOMAIN OF THE STATE.
SIX MORE COURT CHALLENGES ARE PENDING.
WITH THE 1997-98 SCHOOL YEAR QUICKLY APPROACHING, THE STATES BY LAW MUST REACH A CONSENSUS SO THAT ALL GERMAN STUDENTS ARE TAUGHT THE SAME RULES.
THE COURT RULINGS HAVE HEIGHTENED A DEBATE THAT HAS BEEN GOING ON FOR OVER A YEAR. GERMAN AUTHOR GUENTER GRASS RALLIED INTELLECTUALS, JOURNALISTS AND PROFESSORS LAST OCTOBER, TO PROTEST THE GOVERNMENT’S DECISION TO SWITCH TO THE NEW GRAMMAR.
ANOTHER AUTHOR, SIEGFRIED LENZ, CALLED FOR A REFERENDUM AND THE GOETHE INSTITUTE, AN INTERNATIONALLY KNOW SCHOOL FOR THE GERMAN LANGUAGE, ANNOUNCED IT WAS BOYCOTTING THE NEW RULES.
THE DISPUTE REACHED PARLIAMENT IN APRIL, WHEN A COMMITTEE WAS CALLED TOGETHER TO DECIDE WHETHER OR NOT TO USE THE NEW GRAMMAR IN OFFICIAL DOCUMENTS. THEY ADJOURNED FOR SUMMER RECESS UNDECIDED.
IF NEW GRAMMAR SHOULD BE OVERTURNED, IT COULD HAVE A DEVASTATING IMPACT ON TEXTBOOK PUBLISHERS. THE GERMAN MINISTRY OF CULTURE ORDERED THEM TO START PRINTING NEW DICTIONARIES AND TEXTBOOKS WITH THE REFORMED LANGUAGE LAST YEAR _ AND PUBLISHERS FEAR BANKRUPTCY IF THAT ORDER IS REVOKED.
THE ORGANIZATION OF TEXTBOOK PUBLISHERS ESTIMATES THE CHANGES HAVE ALREADY COST PUBLISHING HOUSES ROUGHLY $27 MILLION.
31 JUL 97




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