Dissertation on purism in German(y)

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Thu Feb 12 17:46:44 UTC 2004

http://linguistlist.org/issues/15/15-546.html LINGUIST List 15.546
Wed Feb 11 2004

Dissertation Title: Neopuristische Bestrebungen in Deutschland

Institution: University of Manchester
Program: Department of German
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2003

Author: Falco Pfalzgraf

Dissertation Abstract:

Most linguists agree that German linguistic purism came to an end with the
abolition of the Allgemeiner Deutscher Sprachverein (ADSV) in 1940.
However, since the late 1990s, the debate about the use of foreign words
in German has become increasingly intense. Whilst few German politicians
commented on the subject between the end of World War II and the 1990s, a
number of high-profile politicians from all parties have recently
criticised the alleged overuse of anglicisms and for the first time since
the 1930s there have been demands for laws to protect the German language.
Strongly related to this is the fact that an increasing number of private
organisations for the defence of the language have emerged in Germany
since the early 1990s. Some have a remarkably large number of members and
frequently disseminate their opinions in the media, whilst others are much
smaller and less influential, although their aims are similar or
identical. In addition, more and more individuals have set up private
internet homepages in order to combat the so-called "flood" of anglicisms.

Such opposition to the influence of foreign words on German is not new.
Organisations for the defence and promotion of the language have existed
in Germany since the seventeenth century. However, the question must be
asked whether the current opposition to anglicisms is to be seen as the
emergence of a new phase of linguistic purism in Germany, more than fifty
years after it appeared to have come to an end. To answer this question it
is necessary to look at the similarities and differences between purist
movements in the past and at the present time. The present thesis takes as
its basis the work of Andreas Gardt and George Thomas, according to which
discourses which are typical of previous purist movements can be
identified. A selection of publications of present-day self-appointed
guardians of the language is analysed in terms of these discourses; the
material considered ranges from private and statesubsidised language
protection organisations to books and websites published by individuals.
The attitude of contemporary linguists to these developments is also
examined in detail.

Through analysing the discourses of these publications it could be
demonstrated very clearly that there are striking similarities between the
discourses of present-day language protectors and those of purist
movements of the past. The investigation shows that both the private
language protection organisations and the individual language protectors
can be considered to belong to a current neo-purist movement in Germany.
State-subsidised language protection organisations, however, do not share
these purist attitudes, and neither do the linguists. This neo-purist
movement began in the late 1990s, and according to our view the way in
which the typical discourses constitute themselves in the analysed
material leads to the conclusion that there is a connection between the
current hostility toward anglicisms and the German unification of 1989.
However, in contrast to other researchers, we consider that that this
neo-purism should not simply be seen as a manifestation of nationalism,
but in connection with Germany's earch for a new political role in Europe
and the world, and as an expression of the fact that unification has once
again raised the question of German national identity.

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