GERMANY’S HIGHEST COURT HEARS CASE ON LANGUAGE REFORM

GERMANY’S HIGHEST COURT HEARS CASE ON LANGUAGE REFORM

KARLSRUHE, GERMANY (AP) _ THE COMPLICATED STRUGGLE TO SIMPLIFY GERMAN REACHED GERMANY’S HIGHEST COURT TUESDAY, WITH PARENTS ARGUING THAT THE NEW LANGUAGE RULES WOULD INFRINGE ON THEIR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO RAISE THEIR CHILDREN AS THEY SEE FIT.
THE FEDERAL CONSTITUTIONAL COURT WAS TO HEAR ARGUMENTS FROM PARENTS CHALLENGING THE LANGUAGE REFORM AND STATES THAT WANT TO START TEACHING IT IN SCHOOLS. A RULING IS EXPECTED BEFORE AUG. 1, WHEN THE NEW SCHOOL YEAR STARTS.
THE CONTROVERSY STARTED AFTER CULTURE OFFICIALS FROM EUROPE’S THREE GERMAN-SPEAKING COUNTRIES, AUSTRIA, GERMANY AND SWITZERLAND, AGREED ON REFORMS TO MODERNIZE AND SIMPLIFY THE LANGUAGE ON JULY 1, 1996.
AMONG THE CHANGES: LENGTHY COMPOUND NOUNS WOULD BE SHORTENED; SPELLINGS MADE MORE CONSISTENT; COMMA RULES WOULD BE CUT FROM 52 TO NINE; AND THE OLD GERMAN LETTER FOR A DOUBLE “S” _ WHICH LOOKS LIKE A FLOPPY CURSIVE B _ WOULD VANISH.
THE NEW RULES ARE TO TAKE EFFECT AUG. 1. HOWEVER, MANY SCHOOLS OPTED TO START TEACHING THEM EARLY, LEADING TO A SERIES OF LEGAL CHALLENGES AND CONTRADICTORY RULINGS ACROSS GERMANY.
THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT, GERMANY’S HIGHEST, NOW HAS BEEN ASKED TO DECIDE WHETHER GOVERNMENT MINISTERS OVERSTEPPED THEIR AUTHORITY IN IMPOSING THE NEW RULES.
LAWYERS FOR THE PARENTS OF TWIN GIRLS FROM LUEBECK ARGUE THAT THEIR RIGHTS ARE BEING VIOLATED BECAUSE SUCH A BASIC CHANGE REQUIRES A LAW TO BE PASSED BY PARLIAMENT.
MANY PROMINENT GERMAN AUTHORS AND INTELLECTUALS ALSO HAVE COME OUT AGAINST THE NEW GRAMMAR, ARGUING THAT THE LANGUAGE OF GOETHE AND SCHILLER IS GOOD ENOUGH FOR TODAY’S SCHOOLCHILDREN.
THE GOETHE INSTITUTE, AN INTERNATIONALLY KNOW SCHOOL FOR THE GERMAN LANGUAGE, HAS ALSO SAID IT IS BOYCOTTING THE NEW RULES.
AUSTRIA AND SWITZERLAND, MEANWHILE, ARE GENERALLY TAKING THE CHANGES IN STRIDE. (PFG)<­
12 MAY 98

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