REFERENDUM BID AGAINST LANGUAGE REFORM FAILS IN ONE GERMAN STATE

REFERENDUM BID AGAINST LANGUAGE REFORM FAILS IN ONE GERMAN STATE

HANOVER, GERMANY (AP) _ AN ATTEMPT IN LOWER SAXONY STATE TO FORCE A REFERENDUM ON CONTROVERSIAL PLANS TO INTRODUCE NEW GERMAN GRAMMAR RULES IN THE CLASSROOM HAS FAILED, A SPOKESMAN FOR THE GROUP ORGANIZING THE DRIVE SAID FRIDAY.
CITIZEN GROUPS IN SEVERAL OF GERMANY’S 16 STATES HAVE TRIED TO ORGANIZE REFERENDUMS ON THE LANGUAGE CHANGES, AGREED TO BY CULTURE MINISTERS OF GERMANY, AUSTRIA AND SWITZERLAND IN 1996. NUMEROUS LEGAL CHALLENGES ALSO HAVE BEEN PRESSED IN AN ATTEMPT TO SCUTTLE THE REFORMS BEFORE THEIR SCHEDULED INTRODUCTION AUG. 1.
THE NATION’S HIGHEST COURT IS EXPECTED TO RULE BEFORE THE NEW SCHOOL YEAR ON A CHALLENGE BROUGHT BY PARENTS WHO SAY THAT SUCH SWEEPING CHANGES SHOULD BE APPROVED BY PARLIAMENT, NOT GOVERNMENT MINISTERS. IF THEY SUCCEED, THE REFORMS COULD BE DELAYED INDEFINITELY.
OPPONENTS ALSO INCLUDE INTELLECTUALS AND WRITERS WHO OBJECT TO FORCING LINGUISTIC CHANGES ON THE GERMAN-SPEAKING POPULACE.
SO FAR, LANGUAGE REFORM OPPONENTS HAVE SUCCEEDED IN COLLECTING ENOUGH SIGNATURES TO LAUNCH A REFERENDUM ONLY IN SCHLESWIG-HOLSTEIN STATE. IN LOWER SAXONY STATE, ORGANIZERS COLLECTED ONLY HALF OF THE 593,000 SIGNATURES NECESSARY TO BRING A POPULAR VOTE.
OTHER GERMANY-SPEAKING NATIONS APPEAR NOT TO BE BOTHERED BY THE CHANGES. AND EDUCATION OFFICIALS IN GERMANY HAVE ARGUED THE CHANGES ARE MINOR AND DO NOT VIOLATE ANYONE’S BASIC RIGHTS.
AMONG THE CHANGES: LENGTHY COMPOUND NOUNS ARE TO BE SHORTENED; SPELLINGS MADE MORE CONSISTENT; COMMA RULES ARE TO BE CUT FROM 52 TO NINE; AND THE OLD GERMAN LETTER FOR A DOUBLE “S” _ WHICH LOOKS LIKE A FLOPPY CURSIVE B _ IS TO BE SCRAPPED.
22 MAY 98

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