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Saturday, August 1, 1998 Published at 22:33 GMT 23:33 UK

World: Europe

Germany's war of words

The first major overhaul of the German language for almost a century has come into force. As our correspondent in Bonn, Caroline Wyatt, reports, it is proving highly controversial:

After decades of deliberation, the catchily-named "Rechtschreibreform" or the new spelling and punctuation rules are at last coming into effect.

Although many of the original proposals for change have been watered down the reformers insist that spelling has been made easier while the rules regulating the placing of comas are down from 52 to just nine.

But far from delighting most Germans, the reforms have spelt chaos.

Anti-reformist campaigner Friedrich Denk: "65% to 90% of German speakers are against the reforms
Several hundred intellectuals publicly opposed them while school teachers, parents and children have been left baffled as to how to spell even the simplest words making marking homework a nightmare.

Huge new dictionaries have become best sellers showing how, for example, foreign words have been Germanised.

Ketchup gains an extra "S" in the middle while spaghetti loses its "H".

Triple letters will also be allowed from now on as in Flussschifffahrt, a trip on a river boat, which now boasts no fewer than three "S's" in a row and three "F's".

However the war of words is by no means over and the Germans say they will carry on using the spellings they learnt in school.

Yet others argue that the reforms have not gone far enough.

Foreigners grappling with the gender of German nouns will in future still have to struggle with the alien concept that a tomato is female while a girl - "Das Mädchen" - remains neuter.

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15 Jul 98 | Europe
Court approves new German spellings

Internet Links

Duden online - German spelling and Grammar (in German)

Institut für deutsche Sprache (Institute for German language) - Information on spelling reform (in German)

Stopp! Gegen die Rechtschreibreform - critics of the spelling reform

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