German orthography [wasTECH: Formats]
jrader at M-W.COM
Thu May 13 16:39:08 UTC 1999
I don't know what NPR said last summer, but the German orthographical
reform regularized rather than eliminated the use of <Eszett>, so that
the ligature would only be used after a long vowel or diphthong, and
<ss> only after a short vowel. The presumed goal was to make
spelling easier for German-speaking school children. There is a huge
amount of information on the reform (in German, of course)
available on-line. A good starting point is at the website of the
Institut fuer Deutsche Sprache in Mannheim
(www.ids-mannheim.de/reform/), which has many links to official
documents, etc., etc. Hyphenation rules and the spelling of some
compounds have also been changed.
> Dear ADS-Listers,
> According to a report I heard on NPR's "All Things Considered" (10 July
> 1998), the Germans were going to replace ess-tset with "ss" when it
> officially revised its spelling and punctuation last summer. Even before
> the reform it was customary to use "ss" as a substitute (e.g., gross
> 'big'), but I prefer a capital B (e.g., groB). German writers in
> Switzerland have always used "ss."
> Ess-tset (represented here by "B") was a hold-over from Fraktur, the
> old-style German type. It was a ligature formed by combining the medial "s"
> with a "z." (There were two different characters used to represent "s"
> depending on where it fell in a morpheme. The medial "s" looked like an "f"
> and appeared only in the middle of a morpheme. A more traditional Gothic
> "s" appeared in initial or final position.) If "ss" appeared at the end of
> a morpheme, it was written as "B," though I don't know the historial
> connection between "ss" and "sz."
> Until the reforms this past summer, "B" was still used in final position on
> morpheme boundaries (e.g., ausschieBen [= aus + scheiB + en] 'to lock out').
> Charles Carson
> Managing Editor, ADS Publications
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