Friday, February 8, 2008

Language and immigration in Germany

In Germany, language purists typically react very negatively to English and other loanwords coming into the language. But other currents are running right now; consider these two examples:

First, some positive attention is being given to loanwords by prominent groups in Germany with this initiative (graphic from there):
"Wörter mit Migrationshintergrund"
Wir suchen das beste eingewanderte Wort.
It's being supported by the Goethe Institut, Deutscher Sprachrat, Duden, and others. If you read the materials, it's aimed at celebrating immigration, and lexical borrowing.

Second, the Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache publishes a journal called Der Sprachdienst. (They do Germany's Wort des Jahres and publish articles on various aspects of usage and other language topics.) In the last 2007 issue, they ran a piece by Dennis Scheller-Boltz called:
McDonald's – McAnwalt – McFit – McFlight.
The piece gives a lot of interesting data on how productive the Mc- prefix is in German right now, especially in creating new company names. Surprisingly, at least from my perspective, is that it means not only that a product is cheap and fast, but also that it's of good quality.

[Cross-posted with modifications from Mr. Verb.]

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