The public face of language

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This chapter looks at the debates surrounding the reform of the German spelling system that took place from the early 1990s through to 2006. Given Germany’s federal system of government such changes, although proposed by a Government appointed Commission, had to be debated, and enacted by each individual State. During the course of this process a great deal of controversy was generated both in the media and in protests by the general public, and by the refusal of some leading newspapers and publishers to adopt the reformed spelling/orthographic principles. The debates speak to the newly discovered awareness of the importance of the visual character of language as a tangible token of language identity, and to the depth of the ideological issues that language matters evoke.


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