Page images

likewise has them (Lehrbuch, vol. I, p. 361); yet the use of is for the Latin representative of the German sz appears not a happy one. Considering the greater simplicity and consistency of Heyse's rules concerning these “S” sounds and that his works have had an immense if not the largest circulation of any grammatical helps in the schools of Germany (cf. JolLY, Schulgram u. Sprachwiss., p. 13) and that even outside the school his influence in this respect has been great, the press in some instances employing his spelling, there can be but little doubt that the Heyse use of the sz, ss, ss, will soon find general adoption.

A matter that should next engage our attention is the too frequent use of capital initials so prevalent in our present German orthography. Their employment before LUTHER's time was as limited as it is now in other languages and LUTHER used them by no means consistently. Soon after him it began to be the rule to begin every noun with a capital (cf. Kurz, Literaturgesch., vol. II). If we add to this the tendency of doubling letters, of inserting unnecessary letters to indicate long vowels and the lack in German of simple signs for consonantal combinations like sch, ch, sz, and others we may understand why the representation on paper of German sounds seems cumbrous to the eye, particularly striking in verse and when side by side with another language (cf. Grimm). The capital initials take room and time in printing and writing and the aid they give in reading is but imaginary, while they are apt to be used arbitrárily. For instance who can tell whether Abends or abends is correct. I might write it, notwithstanding its being parsed as an adverb, with a capital ; it is the genitive of the noun Abend and according to that has a right to the distinction of a capital initial (cf. SCHLEICHER, Deutsche Sprache). Indeed the frequent occurrence of capitals is detrimental to caligraphy and to typographical beauty, and the advantage derived from their use with substantives is shown in comparatively few cases (cf. HEYSE, vol. I, p. 210). There is little hope of repressing the present use of capitals to any great extent, but it is at least possible to stop their increase and as much as possible look to their diminution (cf. BAUER, Gram.) which may be advanced by considering it safer to use in all doubtful cases, a small initial (cf. HOFFMANN, Elementargram.).

The conference proposed to write substantives with a small letter when they take the meaning of other kinds of words. Of this kind are the words morgens, abends, etc., which have taken the value of adverbs of time, verbal expressions like danksagen, haushalten, not tun, recht haben, preisgeben, feind sein, etc., substantives that have become adjectives or ortherwise lost their original value like ein paar (some), ein bisschen, ein andermal, das dritte mal, pronouns and numerals jemand, niemand, der eine, der andere, etwas, nichts, etc., adjectives and adverbs in combinations like arm und reich, jung und alt, im ganzen, nichts gutis, im allgemeinen, von neuem, etc. (cf. GRIMM, WEIGAND), BAUER, HOFFMANN). Most of these words are spelt with a capital letter in our American school books. HEYSE, although himself using the capital in some of those expressions, recommends the small initial as the better (cf. HEYSE, vol. I, p. 214).

In rules for spelling words from other languages the conference showed decided conservatism in bereaving those strangers of their foreign garh, even if their sound might be correctly represented by a German orthog. raphy. The spelling of our standard lexicographers and our best American text-books remains therefore on the whole our guide as heretofore. The words, for which the conference has proposed a different orthography from that generally followed, will be found in the vocabulary at the end of the report. In the choice between the hard C and the Kit was decided to prefer the K in words that have become naturalized. Thus Kamel, Kapital, Konferenz, Kultur, Adjektiv, Advokat, Dekan, Direktor, Lokomotive, des Konsistoriums, die Konsistorien, Kompanie, etc., but Adjectiva, Compagnie, Campagne, Commis, des Consistorii, die Consistoria, Couvert, etc. In the choice between the soft C and 2 three classes of words were recognized. Those that retain the foreign C, those that take the German 2, and those that may either take the one or the other. In the first class we have Cäsur, Centimeter, Cigarre, Cirkumflex, Citat, Scene, social, etc. In the second Zirkel, Zelle, Offizier, Bronze, etc., also those from the Latin in tius, tiu, tium, like Justiz, Distanız, Horaz, etc. In the third class we have Citrone by the side of Zitrone, Cirkus and Zirkus, Medicin and Medizin, Centrum and Zentrum, etc. For the sake of ease it is to be regretted that the conference did not propose the German equivalent for the foreign letter in all cases where its sound can be correctly rendered by a German letter.

As regards the spelling of foreign words with an accented syllable and a short vowel, it was recommended to write them with a geminated consonant at the end e. g. Appell, Ballott, bigott, Bueffett, kokett, Terzett, violett, etc., which is but verifying that which has generally been the custom before.

In the division of words into syllables no change of consequence was proposed. Words like Hacken, Lasten, Wespe, klopfen, kratzen, Finger, are separated Hak-ken. Las-ten, Wes-pe, klop-fen, krat-zen, Fin-ger which is nearly according to Becker's rules. HEYSE objects to separating ck, pf, sp, st, tz. The consonantal combinations sch, ch are looked upon as one consonant and go to the vowel of the next syllable.

The habit of writing the Umlautof the capitals Ae, Oe, Ve, was objected to and Ä, Ö, Ü, as in their small equivalents adopted instead. The conference also recommended to distinguish properly at all times the capital I from J which is rarely done in our school books.

The last but surely not the least point of importance we find in the discussions and recommendations of the conference regarding the return to Roman letters, which after the.disuse of the runes by our Teutonic ancestors, were the only letters we knew, and in which nearly the whole magnificent literature of the first German classic period is written. The so-called German alphabet of to-day in printing and writing is nothing else but a corrupted form of the Latin, brought about by the fancy of the copyists of the 13th and 14th centuries, which was but in accordance with the taste of that time so well expressed in its architecture by the preference of the pointed arch instead of the round Roman. The letter as well as the arch received the name Gothic, a name that stands in no relation whatever to the Goths and is as little justified as that of German for the present letter, since Latin, French, and English books were likewise first printed in this type, the inventors of printing of course imitating the letters they found on their manuscripts. Such foolish objections to a change of letter as patriotic feeling, reverence for the past, and similar nonsense, are entirely out of place. In giving up the pointed forms of the 14th century on other fields most nations returned to the Latin letter. Germany and Denmark in spite of the protest of their greatest grammarians, Jacob GRIMM and ERASMUS Rask, have retained it. Independent of a probably weakening influence on the eyes in the use of smaller print than the Brevier, the Latin type is certainly much prettier, simpler and in many cases more advantageous. On this last head a proprietor and editor of one of the most influential German papers in America says, that owing to the type, his paper, although larger in size, does not contain any more than much smaller English papers that may readily use the Nonpareil and Minion without giving offence to their subscribers, and he adds: “From the large amount of paper I have to use, my journal is much more expensive than the English.” Jacob Grimm among other very good reasons for employing the Latin letter, says: "A pupil has to learn eight signs instead of four. It obliges all German printing establishments to have on hand a double supply of type, German and Latin. The difference of the capitals J and I is not expressed, the same character standing for both. It hinders the spread of German books abroad, etc.” He might have added that to a pupil the printed capitals B and V, N and R, the small letters r and x, the long, and the f, etc., are too much alike particularly in carelessly printed books and among our school books we have many of that sort.

The conference declared that a gradual return to the Latin alphabet used by most European nations, would be advisable. That it should be practised in primary schools to the same extent as the German and that the exclusive use of it by pupils of High Schools for their German essays be granted in every case.

The immense use of the Latin letter at present in Germany is shown in any large library; for instance in the PEABODY library at Baltimore, by the way one of the most carefully selected collections of books in the country, there are 4,000 German volumes on various sciences in that type, exclusive of the reports of the Berlin, Vienna, and Munich academies, and perhaps 60 or more monthly periodicals.

The arguments, that no doubt will be brought against the adoption of the recommendations of the conference for our school books, that account should be taken of the public, writers, press, and the literature, which has descended to us, are pretty well answered by members of that body. The school, it was said, has been the place for two centuries where all simplifying of orthography has been carried through and spread without opposition from the public, over the whole country. The representatives of the Publishers' and Printers' Associations maintained that the bulk of printed matter came from writers that followed no special system of orthography, and with other manuscripts particularly those published after the death of the authors, the publisher had it his own way; besides the united Publishing and Printing Associations had the power, means and will, to carry through a sensible reform in German orthography. In conclusion the conference certainly hoped the press generally would join them, considering the variety of spelling used in manuscripts sent to them and the hurry in which such matter very often has to be made ready for the compositors' room.

As examples of German verse and prose in the proposed new spelling the following may serve:

Wenn ich von diesem Leid nicht sollt genesen,
Im langen Siechtum schleppen mich zur Bare
Durch viele truebe kummervolle Jare
Unrettbar dulden soll so viel des Bösen ;,
Dann gib du groszes namenloses Wesen
Gib, dass mir zweierlei nicht widerfare
Damit ich mir den Glauben noch beware
Du kannst verdammen, aber auch erlösen.

(Aus “Lazarus," Hermann Neumann.)
Da sieht man kein Auge tränenleer
Und zum Koenige bringt man die Wundermär
Der fuelt ein menschliches Rueren
Lässt schnell vor den Tron sie fueren.

(“Buergschaft," Schiller.)
Da fur er auf. Aus des Palastes Hallen
Kam dumpf Geräusch; der Herr der Welt war tot;
Er aber schaute kuen ins Morgenrot,
Und sahs wie einer Zukunft Vorhang wallen.

(Aus“ Tod des Tiberius," Em. Geibel.) Ein eignes Gefuel durchstroemte beide; das Gefuel ein teures Kleinod gefunden zu haben; das Verlangen bei diesem Kleinod zu sein fuer und fuer sonder Unterlass. Wenn jemand einen lieben Brief erhaelt, wie oft faert seine Hand in die Tasche und liest ihn von neuem! Wenn jemand eine liebe Seele gefunden und an sich gebunden, nicht fuer diese Zeit, sondern auch fuer die Ewigkeit, soll es ihn dann nicht hin zu dieser Seele ziehen mit Himmelsgewalt? Soll es ihn nicht in ihre Augen, die Tore der Seele, hineinziehen, um das Gefuel lebendig zu erhalten, etc.

Aus “Uli der Knecht," A. Bitzius.) In viewing the recommendations of the conference one cannot held being struck with the comparatively easy task the German will have introducing this reform. What fearful labor on the contrary is before those gentlemen who in spite of the enormous opposition, have gallantly instituted a movement in America and England to reduce the English speech, that youngest and perhaps least phonetic member of the Indo-European family, to some system in accordance with phonetic principles. The Philological Association and the Spelling Reform Association of America under the leadership of the first philologists in the land have declared “Without phonetic spelling no uniformity and clearness of pronunciation,” and in November last year in England, the London school-board on motion of Dr. GLADSTONE passed the resolution that “ A great difficulty is placed in the way of education by the present method of spelling and that it is highly desirable the government should be moved to issue a Royal commission for considering the best manner of reforming and simplifying it.” This movement of simplification seems to be general in the Teutonic world. Scandinavia is also engaged upon it, but the difficulties which present themselves to a successful issue in either the Scandinavian or the German are but few when compared with those that have to be overcome in English. The German tongue always was more or less phonetic and the proposed changes only involve a principle of economy and uniformity in spelling, a principle recognised long ago and practised without protest from the public, by some of the most popular writers of polite literature in Germany (Voss, VILMAR, Platex, FREITAG, etc.). To judge from the feeling in educational circles in Germany it will be a question of very little time, and school books in Germany will appear in the new orthography and, it is to be hoped, in the proposed type also; and when that occurs, even if the older literature and the newspapers should not at once go with them, it would be perfectly safe and wise for our German school books of America to follow. The American teacher of German is surely alive to the importance of a movement which tends to simplify matters for the learner; and the advisability of a reform of German orthography, even if not as sweeping and consistent as one might have wished, it seems, is recognized by the majority of those teachers whose opinions in the premises are worth having. The uniformity in spelling aimed at will certainly lead to greater security in pronunciation with the beginner, and were it for no other reason, this would make it most desirable, since a correct pronunciation, quoting the words of a distinguished instructor of modern languages in America, “Even before the earliest lessons in grammar is of absolute and prime necessity.”

« PreviousContinue »