Shawn Steele Shawn.Steele at
Thu Dec 3 22:21:37 CET 2009

I think Martin's theory is interesting, but I my experience Alexander's perspective is more common.

It doesn't really matter to get us out of this mess though.  ß *is* probably required just to support trademarks.  I just don't think that ß and ss need to go different places.  AFAICT Martin's theory and Alexander's experience would both back that up.  (Martin's would have the wrong form being a misspelling, so it need not be distinct, and Alexander's has the distinction being muddy enough anyway that users aren't sure which to type, so the distinction isn't important.)

But if my firm's name has an ß, then it needs to "work".  Which probably includes not displaying my ß as an ss.  That's different than ß being distinct from ss though.


-----Original Message-----
From: idna-update-bounces at [mailto:idna-update-bounces at] On Behalf Of "Martin J. Dürst"
Sent: ???????, ???????? 03, ??? 2009 3:21
To: Alexander Mayrhofer
Cc: Michael Everson; Georg Ochsner; IDNA update work
Subject: Re: Mapping?

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 Switzerland.

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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> Idna-update at

#-# Martin J. Dürst, Professor, Aoyama Gakuin University
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