Spelling Trouble? Language, Ideology and the Reform of German Orthography

Author: Sally Johnson

Related Formats:
Multilingual Matters
Number of pages:
210mm x 148mm

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In 1995 an official reform of German orthography was announced and a new set of rules for spelling and punctuation was introduced into schools between 1998 and 2005. These changes, however, unleashed a wave of public protest such that by the beginning of 1996 the question of how the German language should be written had evolved into a major judicial wrangle requiring the intervention of the Federal Constitutional Court.

In this book Sally Johnson explores the linguistic, cultural and political issues underpinning the constitutional challenge brought by various individuals and groups against the reform. Drawing on sociolinguistic theories of language ideology, Johnson critically analyses the conflicting views of language that were produced, reproduced and challenged in the course of this dispute. At the same time her book attempts to situate those ideologies, together with the dispute as a whole, within the wider historical context of state involvement in the standardisation of German orthography from the mid-19th century onwards.

Spelling Trouble? will be of interest to speakers and students of German as well as sociolinguists studying language politics, language planning and language ideology.

The book's concentration on the debates and legal rulings makes it especially insightful. This book will appeal not only to those focused on the German sociolinguistic situation but also to the wider readership interested in broader issues of the politics of standardization and the relationship between individuals, society, institutions, government and language.

Helen Kelly-Holmes, Journal of Sociolinguistics 10/2, 2006

Sally Johnson is Professor of Linguistics at the University of Leeds. Her research interests include sociolinguistics, language politics, language and gender, and the linguistics of German. She has previously published Gender, Group Identity and Variation in the Berlin Urban Vernacular (Peter Lang, 1995), Language and Masculinity (co-edited with Ulrike Hanna Meinhof – Blackwell, 1997) and Exploring the German Language (Arnold, 1998).

Postgraduate, Research / Professional, Undergraduate
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