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Old 12-17-2012, 03:48 AM   #1
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Spellingreforms and language change

Which languages has had spelling reforms in the last 150 years and how does it effect your reading of older books in the public domain? Swedish had one in 1906 and pre-20th century books are a bit of a chore to read.
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Old 12-17-2012, 03:59 AM   #2
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Wikipedia's got a section on Spelling Reform (By Language)

Apparently French had one fairly recently that is just now beginning to become more widely adopted. It'll be interesting to see if I have issues with newly-published import books in a few more years' time, given the existing differences between it and Canadian French.
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Old 12-17-2012, 04:04 AM   #3
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Germany had a major spelling reform (the "Rechtschreibreform") in 1996.
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Old 12-17-2012, 04:25 AM   #4
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Germany had a major spelling reform (the "Rechtschreibreform") in 1996.
It was a coordinated effort by all German-speaking countries, actually, also including Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and parts of Belgium and Italy (Southern Tyrol), and it's slightly more complicated than that, with a long transitional period (where it was mostly ignored except in school), two major revisions and a seemingly constant back and forth. The prescriptivist approach (there's one correct way to spell it, look it up in the "Duden") seems to be on its way out, with many major publishers using their own house styles and most dictionaries listing multiple correct spellings.

The last reform before that was in 1901, and while the spellings of some words have changed, texts generally remain perfectly readable if you can read over the occasional (now superfluous) "silent h", as it were.
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Old 12-17-2012, 04:36 AM   #5
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Thanks for the extra information. I hadn't heard what the progress of it had been since shortly after its initial implementation. As you rightly say, things like this don't really affect the readability of a language, any more than a modern English reader has more than a momentary surprise at seeing spellings like "chuse" and "shew" (rather than "choose" and "show") in Jane Austen's novels that were published 200 years ago.

Last edited by HarryT; 12-17-2012 at 04:38 AM.
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Old 12-17-2012, 06:07 AM   #6
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Reading old German books in paper (or as pdf scans) has an additional difficulty, when they are printed in the old Fraktur fonts. After a few pages it doesn't matter anymore but in the beginning it is quite hard as this font isn't used anymore.
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Old 12-17-2012, 06:38 AM   #7
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Why was that font so popular in Germany? I believe newspapers also used this a lot.
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Old 12-17-2012, 06:50 AM   #8
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Because Gutenberg invented/used it? It was the old standard from the very beginning of printing and it is said that Fraktur fits best the German language - which letters are used most, in which sequence they occur...
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Old 12-17-2012, 06:55 AM   #9
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Because Gutenberg invented/used it? It was the old standard from the very beginning of printing and it is said that Fraktur fits best the German language - which letters are used most, in which sequence they occur...
It was also used a lot in England, too. "The Times" newspaper still uses that font style for its title.
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Old 12-17-2012, 07:00 AM   #10
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So it doesn't use the "Times"? (Yes, I know, this was the New York Times).
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Old 12-17-2012, 07:00 AM   #11
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Actually, Blackletter fonts were once popular all over Europe, but they all but disappeared in the 19th century, with the exception of Germany (where they were outlawed for official and school use in 1941 because Hitler deemed them "too Jewish"). They never recovered after WW2, and are only found in mastheads, street signs etc. these days. Gothic and heavy metal seem to be fond of them, too
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Old 12-17-2012, 07:02 AM   #12
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So it doesn't use the "Times"? (Yes, I know, this was the New York Times).
Sorry, not "The Times" - I'm getting mixed up. The Times does of course use a "Times Roman" font . It's "The Daily Telegraph" that uses "black-letter" fonts. See:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/
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Old 12-17-2012, 02:26 PM   #13
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More precisely, it was a coordinated effort by bored, tenured Germanists, because the unwanted reform met with great resistance and ultimately achieved very few of its lofty goals and actually added to the confusion, because it made some reformed spellings optional.

For example, one of the leading German spelling add-ons now offers a spell-check function for 5(!) different flavors of German.



BTW, nowadays the only tell-tale sign of a text in "reformed" German is the spelling of dass, which used to be written da▀. ("▀" is now only used after long vowels and diphthongs.)

Last edited by Doitsu; 12-17-2012 at 02:36 PM.
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Old 12-17-2012, 10:53 PM   #14
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Irish also has had a history of reforms for the last couple hundred years. The orthography up til then was meant to show the historical development of words and how they were pronounced. Words had become a jumble of letters often with no clear sense of which dialect they represented. 1922's collection of reforms was meant to simplify. It was made official in the 1937 consitution which also established Gaelic as the official language. In 2010 (I think) they started up a new effort to look at the spelling reforms again. Not sure what the status is right now. (The Wikipedia article doesn't mention the Irish spelling reforms and codification.)
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Old 12-18-2012, 02:37 AM   #15
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Romanian is spelled exactly how it is pronounced, which makes old texts, with its obsolete letters, very difficult to read. It has seen one major spelling reform in 1904 and a few politically motivated spelling reforms after that; One thing that changed after the fall of communism was replacing one letter with another but only in certain instances for purley political/emotional reasons. What makes reading Romanian online very difficult, though, is the fact that with the spread of computers without Romanian keyboard support, five letters are often replaced with their non-"accented" counterparts?
Quote:
Ă ă — a with breve – for the sound /ə/
┬ Ô — a with circumflex – for the sound /ɨ/
╬ ţ — i with circumflex – for the sound /ɨ/
Ș ș — s with comma – for the sound /ʃ/
Ț ț — t with comma – for the sound /t͡s/
They are different phonemes than the same letters without the diacritics, and it's like meaning a but writing u in English.

Last edited by xendula; 12-18-2012 at 02:39 AM.
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