[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, J23, 1998-1, pp24-27]
See articles by Zé do Rock, and about German spelling.

Virtuoso Orthografic Hichhiking.

Christopher Upward revews Zé do Rock fom winde ferfeelt.

Zé do Rock (1995) fom winde ferfeelt, Berlin: Edition diá, 280pp, ISBN 3 86034 1383. Th revewr thanks Dr Christina Schäffner of Aston University (Birmingham, UK) for donating the work in question, and its author Zé do Rock for his comnts on th first draft. This revew is ritn in Cut Spelng.

1. Th book.

This remarkbl work defys defnition in terms of jenre. It is at once a kind of picresq autobiograficl 'novl' and an orthografic and linguistic tract. It starts off using todays (wel, actuly yestrdays, berng in mind th latest, ie, 1996, reform of ritn jermn) standrd ritn languaj; but by th end it has led th readr into an orthograficly and gramaticly simplifyd and intrnationlized derivativ wich is radicaly difrnt from 20th century jermn. Without th step-by-step exposition of th systm provided by th authr, its later sections myt indeed wel verj on th incomprehensbl.

2. Th hichhiker.

Th book describes itself (p279) as a "sprachbuch mit reisebericht" ('languaj book with travl report'), but th emfasis cud just as wel be reversd. Most of it is devoted to an entrtainng acount of th hero-authrs 11-year hichhike thru nearly al th major and many of th minor cuntris of th world. Readrs wil enjoy his sardonic obsrvation of th cultur-specific absurditis (and worse) he experiences in one cuntry aftr anothr. Howevr, wen he coms to aply his merciless wit and devastating insyts to th readrs own cuntry, smiles may wel be wiped from faces by unpalatbl home truths. For Zé do Rock has no respect for anything or anyone: not for th lejons of petty oficials around th world hos chief plesur seems to consist in harasng hichhikers; and not for todays conventions of ritn jermn - or of any othr languaj.

3. Th orthografr.

Yet th narator is much mor than a rootless, if perceptiv, driftr. He is also an outstandng polyglot, born in S. Brazil wher jermn cultrl influence is very strong and shoing an indefatigbl facility for pikng up at least a smatrng (in th case of jermn, english and spanish much mor than a smatrng) of th local languaj wherevr he gos. Tho speakng jermn efectivly as a nativ, he is criticl of that languaj and yerns to se it simplifyd, initialy in th way it is ritn, and subsequently in its very structur. Th book thus servs not only as a travlog, but also as an acount of th authrs ideas for th simplification of jermn - wich ar then imediatly implmntd for almost th rest of th book. (This tecniqe is remnisnt of th Cut Spelling Handbook, hos Chaptrs 3-5 set out th rules of CS and in th process begin to use them.) He regards jermn spelng as esir to reform than othr aspects of th languaj, and therfor concentrates on simplifyd spelng for th first 200 or so pajes, reservng structrl reforms for th final 50 pajes. But pajes 110-126 ofr a diversion: as he tours th cuntris of Europ, Zé do Rock playfuly aplys to jermn those featurs of ther riting systms wich apear most vividly exotic to forenrs.

4. Simplifyd spelng.

Standrd modrn jermn is designated 'schwerdeutsch' ('hevy' or 'dificlt' jermn, wich we shal henceforth abreviate as SD), and th simplifyd target form 'ultradoitsh', henceforth UD. To demnstrate th efect, a paragraf (from p225) is now givn in UD spelng, folod by th equivlnt (pre-reform) SD version and an english translation. Som of th ideas wil seem familir to english spelng reformrs...
UD. ic kann den loiten, di für aine ferainfacung sind, nur raten, mit ultradoitsh im alltag anzufangen. wenn ma klar macen will, das ma kain ignorant is, kann ma auf brifen zum baispil oben sraiben: disa brif is auf ultradoitsh abgefasst. im jar 1995 nur mit den 2 enderungen, klainsraibung und ainigen umgangsspraclicen formen: nimand kann es aim ferbiten, wir leben ia in aina demokrati. oda?

SD. (using pre-reform jermn) Ich kann den Leuten, die für eine Vereinfachung sind, nur raten, mit Ultradeutsch im Allta anzufangen. Wenn man klar machen will, daß man kein Ignorant ist, kann man auf Briefen zum Beispiel oben schreiben: dieser Brief ist auf Ultradeutsch abgefaßt. Im Jahr 1995 nur mit 2 Änderungen, Kleinschreibung und einigen umgangssprachlichen Formen: niemand kann es einem verbieten, wir leben ja in einer Demokratie. Oder?

English. (CS) I can only advise peple ho favor simplification to start using ultrajermn for evryday purposes. If one wants to make it clear that one is not just ilitrat, one can for instnce rite at th top of letrs "This letr is composed in ultrajermn". For 1995, just th 2 chanjes: no capitl letrs, and a few coloquial forms: no one can tel us that is forbidn - aftr al, we do liv in a democracy. Or do we?

5. Simplifyd words.

Th last part of th book gos beyond mere spelng reform (cald 'ultradoitsh light', p275), wich implys no chanje in pronunciation. Pajes 226-280 make evr mor radicl chanjes to word-forms themselvs, eventuly producing 'stark-ultradoitsh' ('strong UD'). This section is introduced as folos (p226): "was ab nu kommt sind kaine forslege für di doitshe sprace mer sondan troimerain" ('th rest of th book represents pure fantasy, rathr than serius proposals for th jermn languaj'). Th result is almost a new languaj, with iregulr verb forms regulrized, many inflections reduced, and certn comn words anglicized A comparisn of th foloing sentnces (from p275) with ther SD equivlnt shos how much furthr than just simplifyd-regulrized spelng stark-UD gos.
Stark-UD. de nipponis ferdin gut, nur i als swarzarbaiti ferdin slett. so könn i ni sparen um waita zu kommen, un de entshaid is trefft: i flai zurük na Doitshland.

SD. Die Japaner verdienen gut, nur ich als Schwarzarbeiter verdiene schlecht. So kann ich nicht sparen, um weiterzukommen, und die Entscheidung ist getroffen: ich fliege zurück nach Deutschland.

English. Th japnese ern wel, but as an ilegal workr I ern poorly. So I cant save to travl onwrd. Th decision is taken. I shal fly bak to Jermny.

6. European spelng variation.

Th authr spends pp112-130 travlng round Europ, hylytng th confusion of th difrnt riting systms he encountrs by aplyng each one to jermn in turn. Th resultng text is not esy to read, indeed without som nolej of th languajs concernd even jermn readrs may find it incomprehensbl in places. Th book thus conveys to th ordnry readr th impression of orthografic caos that visitrs from linguisticly mor homojeneus parts of th world must receve wen tourng Europ. Standrd jermn sentnces, alredy adaptd by a numbr of UD rules, thus apear, mor or less ludicrusly, as folos (th 'forenized' english versions wer proposed by Zé do Rock in corespondnce with th revewr):

In Itly standrd jermn wir sehen fast alles, was uns der Reiseführer empfiehlt becoms (p112) vir sen fast tutto vas uns il raisefira emfilt ('ui si almosta tutto that is recomendato to us bai the gaidabooca' = 'we se almost evrything that is recmendd to us by th gidebook').

In Grece standrd jermn die griechischen Gebiete im Osten wirken schon ziemlich orientalisch becoms (p117) di helenisson gebite im oston wirkon son zimlich orientalis ('the grik areas in the east alredis apear ratha orientalis' = 'th greek areas in th east alredy apear rathr orientl').

In Turky standrd jermn die türkische Sprache finde ich gut becoms (p120) di türküse sprache find ich güt ('i find the türküsh language gööd' = 'I find th turkish languaj good').

In Denmark standrd jermn Dänemark ist ein sehr flaches Land, der höchste Berg ist 80 Meter hoch becoms (p123) Danmark is en ser flaches land, de høchste berg is 80 meter høch ('denmark is a verig flåt kantri. De høest mounten is onlig 80 meter hy' = 'Denmark is a very flat cuntry, th hyest mountn is 80 meters hy').

In Sweden standrd jermn die Deutschen müssen erstmal eine Studie machen becoms (p124) de deusken myssen ärstmal en studie maken ('de germanor myst först make a studi' = 'th jermns must first make a study')

In Finland standrd jermn wir wollen weitertrampen becoms (p124) wiir wolen waitaträämpen ('wii wont tuu hichhaik fuurtha' = 'we want to hichhike furthr').

In th Nethrlands standrd jermn holländisch ist eine Sprache zwischen deutsch und englisch becoms (p127) hollands is een spraach twischen duits en englis ('duich is a language between germaan en englis' = 'duch is a languaj between jermn and english').

In France standrd jermn die französiche Orthographie ist tatsächlich eine Katastrophe becoms (p128) die franceusische ortografi is tatseschlisch aine catastrofe ('l'orthographie française is realment a catastrophe' = 'french orthografy is realy a catastrofe').

7. English.

Th rules of english spelng, it wil be noted, ar not aplyd to jermn here as ar th rules for these othr languajs, for th obvius reasn that english has no rules. One myt even say ther is no such thing as 'typicl' english spelng wich is suseptbl to such imitation - tho as Frank Knowles has demnstrated [1] it is posbl to produce a statisticl aproxmation to th spelng patrns of any languaj, including english. (Again, in corespondnce, Zé do Rock atemtd an anglicized version of jermn, hos main featur was a librl spatrng of GH digrafs.)

Th book nevrthless dos hav som things to say about english. Th languaj, he remarks (p100), is simpl, but th spelng (like that of french) is a 'katastrofe'. His rules for UD state (p219) that loanwords shal as far as posbl hav ther spelng jermnized, othrwise jermn wil sufr th same fate as english: "di englenda ham massenwaise französishe wörta importirt und ire rectsraibung nic ferarbaitet, so das es fast unmöglic geworden is, aine fonetishe rectsraibung für di sprace zu konzipiren" ('th english hav importd loads of french words, but nevr adaptd ther spelng, so that it is now almost imposbl to conceve of a fonetic orthografy for th languaj').

Th authrs jermnization of english words involvs mainly vowls. Short A becoms E, as in heppi bend 'happy band', and long A is foneticized to E/EE, as in erport 'airport' and okee 'okay'. English long E is foneticized to I, as in bim 'beam', isi 'easy', and dutifrishop 'duty free shop'. Th long I of time is foneticized as AI in getaimt 'timed'. The various ER, IR, UR spelngs becom ÖR, as in sörwis 'service', tishört 'teeshirt', and sörf 'surf'. Varius O-vowels ar rendrd as in no-hau 'no-how' and boi 'boy'. Short U becoms A, as in pank 'punk'; wile th long U-sound in computer, intrvew is ritn IU, thus kompiuta, intawiu.

Regardng consnnts, we find C rendrd as K or SS/S, as in komiks and rissaikel 'recycle'; and ther is consnnt-dublng at th end of som monosylabls, as in popp-hitt. Th english J-sound is spelt DJ, as in immidj 'imaj', djip 'jeep', with plain J reservd for french J. A curius consequence of th UD rules, arising from th jermn pronunciation of initial prevocalic S as /z/ is that english slum becoms sslam. An orthografic pun is seen in th frase the shoe must go on (meanng TO shoe, not show).

8. Steps to simplifyng jermn.

Zé do Rock proposes that each year a few simplifications or regulrizations shud be introduced to ritn jermn (a scedul remnisnt of Harry Lindgrens concept for stajed reform in english [2]). Th main chanjes proposed for jermn ar now described.

One of th bigst bugbers of todays jermn is th rule that nouns ar capitlized, th problm being that it is ofn unclear wich words shud rate as nouns. Zé do Rocks first rule (for 1995) is therfor to rite ordnry nouns with smal letrs (p11). Despite dire warnngs from traditionlists of reduced lejbility, this quite dramatic chanje to th apearnce of th languaj can be seen from Zé do Rocks own book scarcely to impede th readr at al. Mor disorientng is th extension of this loer case rule to th beginngs of sentnces. This leves th preceding ful stop as th only syn of a sentnce brek, and th minute visul distinction between ful stops and commas becoms criticl for fluent readng. Th efect on th 'gramr of lejbility' dos not apear to hav been considrd in propoundng this rule. But at th same time th previusly strict rules for placing commas in jermn ar relaxd (p14).

Many of th simplifications involv cutng redundnt letrs, as with Cut Spelng in english. Certn comn words wich ar reduced in coloquial speech hav ther ritn form reduced acordngly (p13): conventionl ist, nicht, nichts, man, nun, jetzt, einen, einem, sehen, Frauen, ziehen, haben becom UD is, nich, nix, ma, nu, jezt, ein, eim, sehn, fraun, ziehn, ham. Varius unecesry long vowl indicators ar removed, thus fühlen 'to feel' alyns with its rym spülen 'to rinse' as fülen, Tier 'anml' with its rym dir 'to u' as tir, and Moos 'moss' with its rym los 'loose', etc, as mos. Th fricativ digraf Ch is cut to C, givng that letr an altogethr new valu; th first persn singulr pronoun ich 'I' is then ritn ic (wich hapns also to be th Old English form, tho not pronunciation, of th same word). Greek H disapears from PH (p52) and TH (p45), so Philosophie, Theorie becom filosofi, teori. Silent letrs disapear from french loans (p54), as wen Etat becoms eta and Niveau becoms nivo. Dubld consnnts ar simplifyd exept aftr short stresd vowls (p57), thus Million (long, stresd O) becoms milion, but Kaffee ('cofee' with stresd A) keeps FF. Th cumbrsm trigrafs CHs, SCH as in nächst 'next', Fisch 'fish', wich ar pronounced as english X and SH, ar shortnd (pp131, 139) to produce th english forms next, fish. Foren CH digrafs ar variusly regulrized (p113), with Chauffeur, Cholera becomng shofór, kolera. Th CK digraf is cut to K, Deck becomng dek (p135). Initial PF is reduced to F (p161), so that Pferd 'horse' becoms ferd, and final TZ to Z (p174), with Schatz 'tresur' becomng shaz. Th very comn unstresd endng -ER, is reduced to -A: besser 'better' thus becoms bessa.

So far UD apears to proceed larjly along Cut Spelng lines. Howevr, ther ar also sevrl rules for regulrization without shortnng. Among consnnts, th ambiguus letr V wich in SD usuly represents /f/ (just as F dos) but somtimes stands for /v/, wich is othrwise spelt W in jermn, is abolishd; this anglicizes Volk as folk, but de-anglicizes Veranda as weranda. And th letr T is chanjed to Z wen pronounced /ts/ (p171), with Nation, Patient becomng nazion, pazient. Among vowls, th umlautd A (Ä) becoms E (p186), so that th ryms Schädel/Wedel 'skul/fethr-dustr' alyn as shedel/wedel and Kälte/Zelte 'cold/tents' as kelte/zelte. Th difthong/digraf EI is foneticized as AI (as in english Thailand), wich is ocasionly found alredy, as in Kaiser; th verb reiten 'to ride' is then respelt raiten. Th difthong/digraf EU is foneticized to OI, turnng deutsch 'jermn' into doitsh. Unstresd Y may be replaced by I (p179), so that Psychologie, System ar ritn psicologi, sisteem; but Ü, conversly, can be ritn Y as in Scandnavia, with lügen 'to tel a lie' and müssen 'to hav to' becomng lygen, myssen, and so alynng with stresd Y in fysish (SD physisch) 'fysicl'.

Contry to CS rules, aditionl letrs ar somtimes insertd. For instnce, th rules for shoing short stresd vowls may require a foloing singl consnnt to be dubld (p102). To sho that Titel 'title' dos not rym with english beetl nor with hotel, but with litl, UD rites tittel; simlrly, to sho that fit is not homofnus with english feet, th final T is dubld to giv fitt. Since E in final sylabls (open or closed) is normly pronounced shwa, it is dubld in exeptionl cases wher it has a stresd long valu, so turnng Phänomen, System into fenomeen, sisteem. Spelngs ar also lengthnd in compound words (as indeed is also required by th curent reform of jermn) by th triplng of consnnts at morfeme junctions, as wen Bett + Tuch 'bed + cloth' was traditionly ritn Bettuch 'bed sheet' with TT, but is to be reformd as Betttuch (UD betttuc) 'bedsheet' with TTT.

UD abolishs sevrl complex rules for word-division and th rule distinguishng SS and ß is made mor lojicl - also a featur of th 1996 reform. But wheras th latr distinguishs traditionl Schoß with long O from schoß with short O by riting Schoß/schoss respectivly, UD gets rid of ß altogethr and rites shosz/shoss. Abov al, th hetrografs das (neutr defnit articl, etc) and traditionl daß (conjunction 'that') ar merjd as das (th 1996 reform dosnt go that far, stil distinguishng das/dass); th UD merjr elimnates th cause of perhaps th comnst mispelng seen in jermn -th dificlty th traditionl das/daß distinction causes can be imajnd by suposing a paralel distinction in english between that/thatt in sentnces like I think thatt that is so.

A final impression of UD (adaptd from p213) may be gaind from th foloing paragraf, hos sentmnts wil again strike a cord with english spelng reformrs:

UD di sprace is der boden, auf dem di gedanken gen. file menshen ham den löcrigen boden, den si helbweegs kennen, liba als ain glatten boden den si nic kennen. dagegen hab ic nix ainzuwenden. andrasaits fersucen aba file disa loite zu bewaisen, das ir boden gar nic löcrig is, un di glatte shict, di ma anbitet, den boden löcrig macen wyrd.

SD Die Sprache ist der Boden, auf dem die Gedanken gehen. Viele Menschen haben den löcherigen Boden, den sie halbwegs kennen, lieber als einen glatten Boden, den sie nicht kennen. Dagegen habe ich nichts einzuwenden. Andererseits versuchen aber viele dieser Leute zu beweisen, daß ihr Boden gar nicht löcherig ist, und die glatte Schicht, die man anbietet, den Boden löcherig machen würde.

English Languaj is th ground on wich our thinkng proceeds. Many peple prefer th potholed ground they ar halfway familir with to smooth ground they ar unfamilir with. I hav no objection to that. On th othr hand, howevr, many of these peple try to prove that ther ground is not potholed at al, and that th smooth surface we ar ofrng wud actuly create potholes.

8. Conclusions.

Jermn spelng today has a reputation for being regulr, at least compared with english. Yet that regularity is not entirely symetricl, in that it benefits readrs mor than riters. For instnce, th readr canot mispronounce th rymng verbs fühlen/spülen, as th grafemes ÜH and Ü here have th same unambiguus sound valu befor th singl L; but th riter may be uncertn wich spelng to use for wich verb and mispel them as *f¨len/*spühlen. In jenrl, simpl long vowls typicly hav two or thre posbl spelngs in jermn; thus, long A may be ritn A befor a singl consnnt (eg, Tal 'dale'), or AA (eg, Aal 'eel'), or AH (eg, Mahl 'meal'); but ther sound valu is unambiguus, since short A by contrast requires two foloing consnnts, as in alle 'al', alt 'old'. Hetrofones, hos pronunciation is not explicit from th spelng ar by contrast rare. One recurent typ was mentiond abov: th long O of Schoß conflictd with th short O of schoß, and th 1996 reform disambiguates them by riting Schoß/schoss wile UD has shosz/shoss. Anothr typ is exemplifyd by Montage, wich by standrd sound symbl corespondnces (long O, velar G) means 'mondays', but can also be a french loanword with short O and palatl G (cf, english 'montage'); UD disambiguates these by spelng th latr montaje. But such ambiguitis ar marjnl blemishs on an othrwise quite regulr systm.

Zé do Rock seems to object to two featurs of SD most of al. First ther ar th strict but arbitry rules for capitlization and punctuation; and secnd ther is th jenrl cumbrsmness of jermn spelng, as most caractristicly seen in th SCH trigraf wich english reduced to Sh som 500 years ago and wich UD also respels as Sh. Th aim to lytn and econmize th riting systm is wat UD most obviusly shares with CS in english, as is clear from th paralel sampls of UD, SD and CS abov. Indeed p224 remarks that UD ofrs a rufly 10% econmy, with simlr savings in timbr feld for paper - exactly as claimd for CS. If one word epitmizes th shortnng efect of UD, it is perhaps almelic wich is reduced by 30% from SD allmählich. CS Rules 1 (cutng letrs irelevnt to pronunciation) and 3 (dubld consnnts simplifyd) ar widely aplyd in UD, but th potential of CS Rule 2 (chiefly, use of sylabic L, M, N, R as in botl, botm butn, butr) is less obvius in jermn and (with argubl exeptions for sylabic N as in UD gen, zien, fraun for SD gehen, ziehen, Frauen) is not explord. Howevr, it is worth considrng wat th efect of CS Rule 2 myt be in jermn. UD felt th need to lengthn th endngs of SD Phénomen, System, to -een, -eem to sho th long stresd E and avoid confusion with th very comn unstresd inflections -EN, -EM, as wen th ajectiv gelb 'yelo' becoms gelben or gelbem; but if th latr wer reduced to gelbn, gelbm, then -EN, -EM cud unambiguusly represent th long stresd vowls of SD Phänomen, System. A furthr featur of CS is that it alyns th spelng of many english words mor closely with ther equivlnts in othr european languajs. We recal that UD reduced such SD forms as ist, nächst, Fisch to english is, next, fish, but on th othr hand, by jenrly jermnizing foren loans, UD tends to accentuate th difrnces between jermn and othr languajs (tho som UD respelngs of english loans, such as isi for easy, myt recmend themselvs to english reformrs).

For this revewr, one of th most rewardng aspects of th book was th experience of getng to grips with a radicly reformd orthografy in a languaj othr than english. Th result was to confirm th truth of John Downings principl of th 'transfr of skil in languaj functions' [3], wich reasures us that readrs adapt redily to even th most revlutionry of reformd orthografis. Aftr th initial encountr, few of th unfamilir UD spelngs causd th slytst discomfrt in readng. But th few exeptions demand special atention for th lesns they may teach us.

Th most serius obstacl to fluent readng was th loss of capitl letrs (as explaind in §8 abov). Once or twice th decapitlization of a noun caused this revewr to stumbl, as wen th plural noun Formen 'shapes' (UD formen) was mistaken for th verb formen 'to shape'. Th merjng of th SD hetrografs wider/wieder 'against/again' as UD wider for both provoked repeatd stumbls. Th loss of th Dehnungs-H (lengthnng H) cud make monosylabls hard to recognize at first, as wen traditionl eher 'rathr', hohe 'hy', and Uhr 'clok' became UD ea, hoe, ur; th most outrajus efect of losing this H, quoted humorusly, was UD eeenlic for th inventd compound eheähnlich 'marrij-like'. Finaly we may note that Zé do Rock is inconsistnt in indicating vowl-length, somtimes deleting length markrs on th grounds that ther ar few competing forms, but elswher insertng them for no compelng reasn. Thus in SD th short E of strecken 'to strech' is relyably shown by th 'dubld' digraf Ck; but UD rites streken on th grounds that long E dos not normly ocur befor K, and confusion is therfor unlikely; but conversly SD Titel is respelt Tittel to prevent such confusion. Certnly this revewr stumbld over streken (ther is a jermn town cald Altenbeken with long E befor K), and beleves that, wethr or not conflictng forms exist, an ideal orthografy shud represent fonemes as unambiguusly as posbl, and in jermn one shud be able to predict that a vowl letr befor a singl consnnt is always pronounced long.

Altogethr, fom winde ferfeelt (distortd from th jermn title of th film 'Gon with th wind' and perhaps translatebl as 'Wobegon with th wind') proved a delytful and adventurus book to read. Th surprising combnation of travlog and spelng manul had its lojic in th constnt cross-refrnces to many difrnt languajs and spelng systms. Despite th narators self-presntation as a semi-educated neer-do-wel, th book is ful of perceptiv coments on peple and places, languajs and spelngs. Wile th extreme 'stark ultradoitsh' lays no claim to being a realistic reform proposal, basic UD ofrs a bold atemt at streamlining th rathr pondrus, if fairly consistnt, jermn spelng systm. Som of Zé do Rocks proposals ar included in th 1996 reform, but many of his ideas go much furthr. They hav been noted by th new permnnt comision on jermn spelng reform in Mannheim, so perhaps we shal hear mor of them in th futur.

A final note: Zé do Rock is now glad to be nown as th SSSs first brazilian membr.


[1] Knowles, F.E.(1986) Information Theory and its Implications for Spelling Reform. Simplified Spelling Society Newsletter J2 1986/1, §8, pp9-10.

[2] Lindgren, H. 1969) Spelling Reform - a New Approach, Sydney Australia: Alpha Books.

[3] Downing, J. (1988) The Transfer of Skill in Language Functions. Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society J5 1987/2, pp5-12, reprinted in J28 2000/2, pp3-11.

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