"Martin J. Dürst" duerst at
Thu Dec 3 12:21:29 CET 2009

I'd like to paint a slightly different picture here.

On 2009/12/03 17:42, Alexander Mayrhofer wrote:
>   >  thank you for once more putting all this right! I am
>> constantly shaking my head because people believe to know how
>> little the German users would need the ß and its distinction
>> from ss.
> I am a native German speaker, and my opinion is that "ß" is probably the mose useless character in German script. It's definitely not as important as "ö", "ü" and "ä". The distinction from "ss" is only of real importance to teachers, because it provides them a nice way to torture their pupils.
> I was pretty good at grammer before the grammar reform in 1996, and i got most of it right for the other cases - but i have essentially given up to differentiate between "ss" and "ß" - honestly, i'm leaving it up to Winword if it's important text. And almost everybody i know is doing the same. *Everybody* understands what you mean with "Strasse" and "Fuss". The only reasonable argument for "ß" is trademarks and person names.

As I already said, I'm Swiss, and grew up in Switzerland, so I have 
never been tortured by a teacher using "ß". But I was pretty bad at 
orthography, and I'm sure I would have gotten the "ß" wrong under the 
old rules, which I never understood (despite a German coworkers repeated 
and consistent attempts to explain them). The new rules, however, are 
quite simple: Use a "ß" if the preceeding vowel is long (and the 's' 
sound is sharp, i.e. voiceless).

I think it will be difficult to torture pupils with the new rules, 
except possibly in regions where part of the necessary distinction is 
missing in the pronunciation of the local dialect. I have never been 
able to verify this, but I suspect that part of the reason Switzerland 
gave up on "ß" is that in many Swiss dialects, the relevant distinctions 
are not present. The distinction between t and d, for example, is 
definitely widely non-existent, as you can see for example when you go 
to and click on the "D" 
button (to get to "Buchstabe T", i.e. letter T). The Idiotikon is a huge 
lexicon project documenting dialect usage across German-speaking 

Regards,    Martin.

> And please don't get me started about the capital "ß". The swiss did it right.
>> In my opinion IDNA should try to enable as many
>> letters (!) as possible anyway, but if one is trying to
>> assess the relevance of the ß, then shouldn't be the actual
>> usage of it the most relevant and objective factor?
> I agree to that - can we please remove all the mis-spellings before counting ? ;-)
> Alex
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#-# Martin J. Dürst, Professor, Aoyama Gakuin University
#-#   mailto:duerst at

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