End of Low German Department at Goettingen

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Fri Apr 8 16:01:16 UTC 2005

End of Low German department at the University of Goettingen
Strassburg 4/6/2005 , by Simone Klinge

End of Low German department at the University of Goettingen What has been
feared for so long has now finally come true: after 50 years of existence,
the Department of Low German at the Georg-August-University of Goettingen in
Lower Saxony has shut down. The commentary to the courses for the summer
semester starting on 1 April 2005 reads: Due to the financial constraints
of the federal state government, the philosophy faculty sees itself forced
to close down the department of Low German Language and Literature of the
Seminar for German Philology in 2005. From the summer semester 2005 new
matriculations will no longer be possible for the masters subject Low
German Philology.

Prof Dr Dieter Stellmacher who has held the chair in Low German in
Goettingen since 1976, will be an emeritus professor this year and the chair
will not be replaced after that.

Goettingen was the only university in Germany that offered Low German
philology as an independent discipline and where Low German can be studied
as a full-value major subject, says Dr Reinhard Goltz, spokesman of the
Federal Council for Low German from INS, the Institute for Low German, to

At other universities Low German is merely integrated into another
subject, usually German studies; it is not secured structurally at all
into studies, he adds.

Low German studies are not only threatened at Goettingen University, but
also nationwide, a process which Prof Dr Jan Wirrer, Chairman of the
Society for Low German linguistic research, sees as connected with current
budget cutting trends in higher education policy, resulting in the threat
to Low German philology.

Its a fact  and the process in Goettingen gives a clear example  that all
prospective posts that will become available in the future will be under
threat, Prof Wirrer recently said in a press release.

There used to be six universities with a chair for Low German. They no
longer exist in Greifswald and Muenster. There are chairs in Hamburg and
Rostock. In Kiel the chair may be renewed this coming winter semester.
At the end of February, the Parliament of the Land of Lower Saxony adopted
a resolution for the support of Low German at schools and universities and
to maintain at least one chair for Low German language and literature in
Lower Saxony. The move is also in compliance with the obligations the Land
has committed itself to under the European Charter for Regional or
Minority Languages.

However, Prof. Wirrer says that the Charter for Regional or Minority
Languages is a politically blunt instrument that is mentioned once over
Sunday dinner, but is not used as a guiding principle for political
action. Despite this criticism Prof. Wirrer hopes that the Charters
implementation will be more than just lip service.

One of the chief and most severe problems remains the lack of qualified
teachers. The schools urgently need qualified teachers that are capable of
conveying language and culture in a way that the outcome is greater than
merely the accidental chanting of songs or the participation in reading
competitions, said Dr Goltz, adding that, philology as a companion of
current linguistic and cultural processes is indispensable to a language
community. However, the end of all this is looming in Lower Saxony.
(Eurolang 2005)

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