Is the Internet killing minority languages

Language 2.0: The language of the future

Theories of language decay are particularly popular in the media. English with its Anglicism viruses reduce German to Denglish, so the common interpretation. But the influence of migrants on German would also foster a fatal simplification of grammar and vocabulary. Significantly, these reminders categorize under the designation "Sprachpfleger". The respective points of complaint are easy to understand based on the regularly recurring cover stories of the Spiegel about the decline of the German language: “Ächz Würg. An industrial nation forgets its language ”(1984),“ Save the German language ”(1996),“ Save the German. The Losing of Language ”(2006). But the fear of being speechless due to the deterioration of their own means of expression is also very present in the population, as surveys by the Society for German Language have shown time and again.

Under Never before have the Germans written as much and as well as linguists and other linguists today, however, this battle has long since ended. The fact that a language absorbs new terms and forms them itself is more likely to be interpreted as a symptom of strength. Sometimes you seem to see this more clearly from the outside: “German is probably the most diverse language in Europe,” said the two English linguists Stephen Barbour and Patrick Stevenson 15 years ago.

At least the German vocabulary has been growing steadily for decades, and there is no end in sight. While the German vocabulary at the time of the First World War is estimated to be around 3.7 million words, today 5.3 million words already make up the book - or not, because dictionaries themselves of the most extensive design, such as the “Dictionary of the German Language” in ten volumes from Duden-Verlag, list less than ten percent of them: In its most recent edition from 1999 it comprised 200,000 words. The German dictionary by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm (1852–1960) is estimated to have around 350,000 headwords.

The German Academy for Language and Poetry and the Union of German Academies of Sciences determined the new values ​​for the scope of the vocabulary in their “Report on the State of the German Language”, the abridged version of which was presented in March 2013. They compared the vocabulary of so-called “time slices” every 50 years. The scientists state: never before have the Germans written so much and so well as they do today. You are proficient in 1.6 million words more than 100 years ago. You are creative with grammar and create ever greater opportunities for expression. Foreign-language newcomers will benevolently integrate them into the core grammar.

In addition, part of the study also deals with the Anglicism allegation and establishes that the number of Anglicisms has increased in the last 100 years, but was far below the values ​​of previous studies, which mostly looked primarily at the media and advertising where the density is particularly high. Most of the terms are also formed in German, subject to German grammar (“managed”, “recycled”) and are often fictitious, like the famous “Handy”, which does not exist as a noun in English.

How extensively the language is expanding is still not clear. Spoken language is not even included in the study, as there is almost no historical data on it. However, this will change dramatically with the conceptual orality of the new language channels. Already today more and more linguistic projects are investigating the growing influence of these written testimonies of spoken language, which is usually connected with the fact that expressions and examples are collected. The University of Zurich, for example, has so far collected around 24,000 SMS in such a "corpus". "This SMS collection campaign is part of an international project that is being carried out in several countries at the same time," says Christa Dürscheid, Professor of German Linguistics at the University of Zurich. The researchers noticed that 75 percent of SMS are written in dialect. Dürscheid: “The dialect is written as it is spoken, and an SMS can be used to determine which region a writer comes from. You write the way you speak. In this sense, one can say that, as far as orthography is concerned, it is a space free of norms that opens up. "