Germans Resist Gender Modifications

On March 6, more
than seventy high-profile Germans, including linguists, teachers, journalists,
lawyers, and writers, published a letter and an accompanying petition that
condemned new linguistic practices which attempt to address implicit gender
connotations in language.
The letter
decried linguistic practices it sees as producing “a wealth of ridiculous
language structures” that “cannot be sustained consistently.”
It was written
in part as a response to the German city of Hanover’s formal adoption of the
“gender star” practice, which places an asterisk where letters determining the
gender of some words would normally be.
Traditionally
in German, masculine words are signified by the suffixes “r” or
“rn” (singular and plural), and feminine ones are signified by
“in” or “innen” for women. This new practice allows
readers to choose between gendered spellings.
Although it
has only recently codified it into law, Hanover has been utilizing the “gender
star” since 2003, as has much of the rest of Germany (Hanover is the first city
to officially delineate it as a guideline). The city’s spokeswoman, Annika
Schach, said in an interview, “We are not rewriting the dictionary or saying
what is correct and what isn’t—this is about style.”
The debate
swirling around gendered language in Germany has been running since the 1980s.
Many view this debate as another expression of the tension between cultural
conservatives and liberals.
Hans Georg
Maassen, the former head of the intelligence agency, was a signatory of the
letter. In the past, the spy chief has been accused of being too close to
right-wing populist party Alternative for Germany to monitor its links with
neo-Nazi groups effectively.
Oliver Baer,
who runs Verein Deutsche Sprache, an organization dedicated to promoting the
use of German, was also a signatory. His organization has been associated with
linguistic purism for their opposition of the use of Anglicisms in German.
Verein Deutsche Sprache’s members helped write and
distribute the letter.


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