Sunday, 13 July 2014

Language in crisis?

The German language is failing abysmally in its purpose which is to clearly communicate information between persons. It has lost sight of the purpose of language. The language has now become so convoluted and chaotic that many do not understand it properly and others are worried about where it is going next. In today's Kronen Zeitung there is a letter signed by 747 signatories including language professors concerning the current hot potato - feminine equivalents of male nouns. In German there  were always three categories of nouns; feminine, masculine and neutral. But now comes a fourth. A feminine (or masculine) extended noun. A recent storm in a teacup concerns the words of Austria's national anthem. How the Auslander* or AuslanderInnen* or Auslander-innen* or Auslander(inn)en* is supposed to make sense of the language is beyond me. Now it is beyond many Austrians too.  

Act V Scene I The King's Park 

Holofernes (a schoolmaster), 
Sir Nathaniel (a curate
Dull (a constable)

Holofernes: Satis quod sufficit.

Sir Nathaniel: I praise God for you, sir. Your reasons at dinner have been sharp and sententious; pleasant without scurrility, witty without affection, audacious without impudency, learned without opinion, and strange without heresy. I did converse this quondam day with a companion of the King's, who is intituled, nominated, or called Don Adriano de Armado. 

Holofernes: Novi hominem tanquam te. His humour is lofty, his discourse peremptory, his tongue filed, his eye ambitious, his gait majestical, and his general behaviour vain, ridiculous and thrasonical. He is too picked, too spruce, too affected, too odd, as it were, too peregrinate, as I may call it. 

Sir Nathaniel: A most singular and choice epithet. (Draws out of his table a book).

Holofernes: He draweth out the thread of his verbosity finer than the staple of his argument. I abhor such fanatical phantasimes, such insociable and point-devise companions; such rackers of orthography, as to speak 'dout' fine, when he should say 'doubt'; 'det' when he should pronounce 'debt' - d, e, b, t, not d, e, t. He clepeth vocatur 'nebour'; 'neigh' abbreviated 'ne'. This is abhominable - which he would call 'abbominable'. It insinuateth of me insanie: ne intelligis, domine? to make frantic, lunatic. 

Sir Nathaniel: Laus Deo, bone intelligo. 

Holofernes: 'Bone' ? - 'bone' for 'bene'. Priscian a little scratch'd; 'twill serve. 



  1. I don't speak German at all Gwil, but my brain has always gone into shrivel mode at the thought of having a language which has masculine and feminine nouns. I do feel that one either has a penchant for languages or one doesn't and I definitely fall into the latter. I envy people who grow up bi-lingual.

  2. It's a big problem for them. There were scenes in parliament! An Austrian cannot simply write: I am an Austrian. He or she has to divulge his or her gender by writing 'Ich bin Österreicher' in one of the 4 ways illustrated. Or one of 8 ways if you include the new trend of replacing the umlaut with the letter 'e'.

  3. Tony Martin is having a good stage today. He doesn't sound German at all with a name like that.

  4. Rachel, the last time a German rider won a stage of the Tour de France on World Cup Final day the German football team beat Argentina 1:0. I just heard him interviewed in English on Swiss channel on SF2. The leader's jersey goes to the man with the best name in the race, the French rider Gallopin Tony :)

  5. GB's Pete Kennaugh (Sky) won the tour of Austria earlier today. I went to the finish area and got some photos. Put some up later. Pete is from the Isle of Man and made a name for himself on the track before switching to the road, could be one to watch for the future. Good all round talent.


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