New Duden not only shaped by Corona

Berlin (dpa) – It is yellow and thick. How to know him. But a lot has happened on the nearly 1,300 pages between the two book covers: after the 2017 edition, a new spelling book will be released this Wednesday.

Despite the effects of the crisis, it was really not a “Corona-Duden”, said editor-in-chief Kathrin Kunkel-Razum of the German news agency. There have also been developments in other issues such as climate / environment, technology and gender equality, which are now taken into account.

Most comprehensive dictionary

According to the publisher, 3000 new keywords are included in the 28th edition, 148,000 in total. It is the most comprehensive dictionary that has ever existed. The new additions include words that would have confused a year ago: Covid-19, breeding number and lockdown, for example. According to Kunkel-Razum, interested parties can also look for entries on the chain of infection, the intensive care bed and the respiratory protection mask.

“The coronavirus was already there anyway,” she says. After the Sars outbreak in 2002/03, the word was probably added. Corona was also included, but with a different meaning. If you look for it in the new Duden, you will find two explanations: Corona as a female first name and “coll. For Coronavirus[erkrankung]”.

An excerpt from the list of new entries is like browsing the debates and trends of recent years: everyday racism, bee, chia seeds, diesel affair, explainer video, Fridays for Future. He continues with: Gendersternchen, Hatespeech, influencer, climate emergency, charging station, measles vaccination, Netflix series, oldschool. And with: right-wing terrorist without pesticide, hookah bar, transgender, download filter, video evidence, Whatsapp group and – wink smiley.

Notes on using gender-appropriate language

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For the first time, users will find information on the use of a gender-appropriate language in Duden. A subject for which there is currently no standard. Kunkel-Razum is eagerly awaiting reactions to the three new pages – knowing full well that they can spark discussion. “It is important for us to say that this is not a rule that we prescribe,” she stresses. Editors are not permitted and unwilling to do this, but they receive many inquiries on the subject. Kunkel-Razum says the editorial team have tried to outline the issues and solution options currently available.

In Duden, for example, he is now the controversial star of the genre: we can observe that this variant “is becoming more and more popular” in writing. It can be found especially in contexts where gender is no longer understood as uniquely feminine or masculine and the possibility of additional categories should be displayed. An example is given: “Students”.

Selection of new arrivals

In the case of new additions, the editorial team depends, among other things, on the frequency of appearance, but also attaches importance to the existing spelling. Using computers, large amounts of different texts are searched for new material. The selection is made from a list of approximately 15,000 words. There is a lot of “junk” that gets sorted, says Kunkel-Razum. The names of footballers in the newspapers, for example, were of no interest.

Discussion on the state of German

In view of the new edition, the state of German will probably be discussed again, suspects German linguistics professor Kristian Berg of the University of Bonn. For example, some people are annoyed with English terms. Berg points out: If you have to complain that influencers and hype are in the Duden, it’s because they are consistently used in German. “Blaming the Dudens for this is like blaming the weather forecast for the weather.”

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But Berg also has a point of criticism: a spelling dictionary should primarily contain words that are difficult to write in any form. This is certainly the case with some new admissions, for example with dystopia. Others, however, are orthographically straightforward: “How else to write an intensive care bed or a ghost game?” Here, it is suspected that the original goal is sacrificed to the sales pitch (3000 new words). The publisher is faced with the dilemma that most new words are “unfortunately a simple spelling” because they are combinations of two or more existing words.

Duden still has a normative function

Alexander Lasch, president of the German Language History Society, considers Duden to be “the best Duden we have ever had”, as he put it. The editors document the use of the language with sources he can only be jealous of as a scientist, show alternative spellings, are open to exchange with users of the language, and are also ready to change again. decisions, explains the linguistics professor at TU Dresden.

Even if the Duden is no longer binding since the spelling reform – the authoritative body is the German Spelling Council – it still has the “nimbus of the official set of rules” and therefore a normative function , said Lasch. As a scientist, he’s relaxed about language changes: “The language change is a sign that the language is alive.” Given the difficult market for reference books in the web age, it’s clear that the Duden is trying to grab attention with new editions as well. “If we wanted a greater variety of spelling reference books, we would have to be prepared not only to hand them over to the private sector.”

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A service:

Duden – German spelling. The complete standard work based on the official regulations in force, 28th edition, 1296 pages, 28 euros, ISBN-13: 978-3-411-04018-6

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