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Germany To Enact Language Reform

August 1, 1998

BERLIN (AP) _ The German language will have fewer commas and a new, Germanized spelling of ketchup on Saturday, but few are rushing to adopt changes intended to simplify the way the language is written.

Critics complain that the controversial German language reform, which takes effect Saturday, actually makes things more complicated. On Friday, they were pushing to at least delay the implementation of the rules.

The German language is notorious for its run-on words, thickets of commas and agonizing capitalization rules. The new rules include separating many strung-together compound words _ ``remainsitting″ becomes ``remain sitting″ _ and introducing Germanized spellings for foreign words, like ``ketschup″ for ``ketchup.″

Opponents have scheduled a Sept. 27 state referendum in Schleswig-Holstein. But it’s unclear exactly what impact the referendum could have because Germany’s highest court on July 14 upheld the government’s right to make the changes.

Many schools have already adopted the new rules, agreed to in 1996 by officials of German-speaking countries.

Bureaucrats also are supposed to start writing the new way at work, but many are balking. Half of the 16 states say they’re not ready and are delaying the switch.

Most newspapers and news agencies are waiting until after the referendum to decide what to do.

Austrians and the Swiss have accepted the new rules, but many Germans object. Some authors have demanded excerpts from their works that appear in school textbooks remain as originally written.

Gabriele Behler, the head of the state culture and education ministers conference, said Friday that the rules are only binding for students and government officials.

``Anyone can write however he wants and however he thinks that he will be understood,″ Behler said. ``Whoever uses the old way of writing therefore won’t be wrong, but rather traditional.″

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