Alternative German spelling

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Alternative German spelling

Postby Mikhail » Wed 16 Jan 2013 12:01 am

Since I am learning German now, I read a lot of texts in it. I have noticed that readability of german text is significantly worse than, say, english text. So I thought out how can it be made better.
Most of all, the readability suffers from usage of capitalized first letters in nouns. So, if I have a editable version of text in computer, the first step that I make - bring those all to small case. Unfortunately it couldnt be made 100% automatic, since I need to leave capitals in personal names. But it's worth the trouble, the difference is really big (especially when you read a lot of block text).
Now spelling. Here I use such replacements :
sch -> sh (need to pay attntion, in some words like 'bisschen' it must not be changed)
ch -> x
There are some other things but they are rather questionable, for example change: z-> c.
Another problem is those long 'komposita' words, for example:
Sicherheitsabsperreinrichtung - safety shut-off device
What can one make to them - just breaking into separate words or with dash, I don't know. Anyway it would involve complicated machinations with dictionaries an so on.

Ok, here is an example how does it look after all:

acht schwache Menschen in zwei Zimmer lesen Buecher und möchten bisschen salzer Salat
->
axt shwaxe menshen in zwei zimmer lesen büxer und möxten bissxen salzer salat

And some block text (also with ß->s , z->c replacement and dash breaking of long words):

Der Heimat grüne Felder und Hügel mit den rotbraunen Wäldern lagen rundum im stillen Sonnenglanzte eines herrlichen Herbsttages... Und die Tochter des Schmieds stand so jung und schön am Brunnen und zog das Wasser herauf, sie nickte der Großmutter zu, und die Großmutter winkte und zeigte einen Brief....

->

Der heimat grüne felder und hügel mit den rot-braunen wäldern lagen rundum im stillen sonnen-glancte eines herrlixen herbst-tages... Und die toxter des shmieds stand so jung und shön am brunnen und cog das wasser herauf, sie nikte der grosmutter cu, und die grosmutter winkte und ceigte einen brief...
native: Russian
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my constructed alphabet: Scythian
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Re: Alternative German spelling

Postby linguoboy » Wed 16 Jan 2013 3:19 am

Mikhail wrote:Since I am learning German now, I read a lot of texts in it. I have noticed that readability of german text is significantly worse than, say, english text.

How do you determine readability?
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Re: Alternative German spelling

Postby Mikhail » Wed 16 Jan 2013 9:12 pm

linguoboy wrote:How do you determine readability?


Well, my view is not too much different from 'official'. You can read a lot about it in wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Readability

But without going into details, I would determine it simply so: readability is how easy (or how fast) can I acquire information when I read the text. Or so: how little eye-strain I become when I read text.

This of course applies to solid amounts of text and reading at high speed (not letter-by-letter :D ).
And how would you determine it? It is not a hard science, but I would be surprised if someone determine it in other way.
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Re: Alternative German spelling

Postby linguoboy » Thu 17 Jan 2013 12:02 am

Mikhail wrote:But without going into details, I would determine it simply so: readability is how easy (or how fast) can I acquire information when I read the text. Or so: how little eye-strain I become when I read text.

This of course applies to solid amounts of text and reading at high speed (not letter-by-letter :D ).
And how would you determine it? It is not a hard science, but I would be surprised if someone determine it in other way.

Well, I ask because I read lots of German (it's my L2) and I've never noticed an appreciable difference in speed, fatigue, or any of the other factors mentioned in that article. In fact, I find alphabets without capital letters (e.g. Perso-Arabic, Han'geul, Devanagari) more tiresome to read than those with them (e.g. Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian)--though that could be simply because the Latin alphabet is the one I've had the most exposure to--and I don't feel that the amount of capitalisation makes an difference. For instance, if you read more Antiquated forms of English, you will find Capitalisation being used very Liberally to lend a Certain Emphasis to particular Words and Phrases and, again, I don't find that reading passages written in this way is noticeably more fatiguing than reading contemporaneous texts typeset according to current conventions of capitalisation.

tl;dr: You're setting out to solve a "problem" that I, as a regular reader of German texts, have never experienced.
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Re: Alternative German spelling

Postby Mikhail » Thu 17 Jan 2013 1:38 am

linguoboy wrote: those with them (e.g. Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian)

I must confess I don't understand, where in russian text you found noun capitalisation? If you talk about first letters of a sentence, then I didn' mean that. It helps indeed to separate the sentences visually and affects positive. But with the same success one can use some strong delimeter instead of dot, some sort of a bullet with big space before and after. If I am not wrong, that sort of delimeter is used in medieval manuscripts (can't tell exactly now what languages).

linguoboy wrote:... I've never noticed an appreciable difference in speed,

So... that means you still recognize some difference? Or?
I never told in my post that is a real problem for me to read german texts, but still. I'll describe better what I did. I had for two weaks some sort of 'home reading' lessons and took a lot of texts from internet. Then I made those changes to text and read for two weeks only those, without capitalisation. I tried in this time not to read texts with capitalisation, to make the experiment 'fair'. So in this time I got used to this new spelling. Then one day I took a text with original spelling and then I was able to feel the difference.
As said, if you want to feel the difference between some things in life, try the better one, then come to other and you will feel the differnce.

In this case, when new spelling makes it easier to read, even if very little, why not use it?
native: Russian
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my constructed alphabet: Scythian
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Re: Alternative German spelling

Postby linguoboy » Thu 17 Jan 2013 2:19 pm

Interesting experiment.

Mikhail wrote:In this case, when new spelling makes it easier to read, even if very little, why not use it?

I think such benefits would only accrue to beginners. I've been reading German for most of my life; by now I expect nouns to be capitalised, and when they aren't, it slows me down a bit. Some German-language authors (e.g. H.C. Artmann) write without noun capitalisation for literary effect, and it always throws me off just a little. Overall, there's little difference, but then every now and then I come across a word which could be read as either a noun or another part of speech and I end up having to reread the sentence in order to make sure I'm parsing it correctly.

To paraphrase you, if the new spelling makes it harder to read, even if very little, why would I use it?
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Re: Alternative German spelling

Postby Mikhail » Fri 18 Jan 2013 1:40 am

linguoboy wrote:Interesting experiment.

Mikhail wrote:In this case, when new spelling makes it easier to read, even if very little, why not use it?

I think such benefits would only accrue to beginners. I've been reading German for most of my life; by now I expect nouns to be capitalised, and when they aren't, it slows me down a bit.

Within the scope of spelling reform, for example, there will be always amount of those who are against. I think in this particular case arguments like "I don't want the new one because I got used to the old one" must be declined right away. Anyway, writing developement is for next generations, not for current.
But in many other aspects of life I think conservatism is a good thing.

linguoboy wrote:... every now and then I come across a word which could be read as either a noun or another part of speech and I end up having to reread the sentence in order to make sure I'm parsing it correctly.

Ok I accept this as an argument. But it is only one, and rather weak one. Even though
I was a beginner back then, I had absolutulely no problem with those equal noun/verb words. Man read not word-by-word, but rather by groups of words, like pronoun-verb-noun.
And how do you think, if written text (without caps in nouns) would end in confusion why there is no confusion in the same speech?

I never like to speak like a 'smart ass', but for me it's obvious, that using two different character sets in one text can't be good for readability in any case. I understand it without any theory or experiments, and I made an experiment only to feel how _big_ is the difference. And for me it is enough noticeable. So when I will read significant amount of text I'll definitly make those changes, all the more, as it doesn't cost me a thing.
native: Russian
know good: English, German

my constructed alphabet: Scythian
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Re: Alternative German spelling

Postby linguoboy » Fri 18 Jan 2013 4:42 pm

Mikhail wrote:Within the scope of spelling reform, for example, there will be always amount of those who are against. I think in this particular case arguments like "I don't want the new one because I got used to the old one" must be declined right away. Anyway, writing developement is for next generations, not for current.

The question of whether to continue the current capitalisation regime in German or to discard has been debated for over a century, and will probably continue to be debated for years to come. I wasn't trying to wade into that debate. If I understand you correctly, you aren't seriously suggesting 100 million German-speakers should change their habits, only that a few thousand learners should. Since I'm not a learner, that doesn't really concern me.

Mikhail wrote:
linguoboy wrote:... every now and then I come across a word which could be read as either a noun or another part of speech and I end up having to reread the sentence in order to make sure I'm parsing it correctly.

Ok I accept this as an argument. But it is only one, and rather weak one. Even though
I was a beginner back then, I had absolutulely no problem with those equal noun/verb words. Man read not word-by-word, but rather by groups of words, like pronoun-verb-noun.
And how do you think, if written text (without caps in nouns) would end in confusion why there is no confusion in the same speech?

As I said, your proposal isn't really for me. This isn't a theoretical argument against what Kleinschreibung would mean, it's a concrete example of what I experience when I read texts written in that way, furnished to explain why I think switching to them would not only bring me no benefit but would actually constitute a hindrance.

Mikhail wrote:I never like to speak like a 'smart ass', but for me it's obvious, that using two different character sets in one text can't be good for readability in any case. I understand it without any theory or experiments, and I made an experiment only to feel how _big_ is the difference. And for me it is enough noticeable. So when I will read significant amount of text I'll definitly make those changes, all the more, as it doesn't cost me a thing.

I guess you're doing all your reading online or with the benefit of e-readers. I don't; I mostly read in dead-tree format, so your proposal would mean either (a) discarding my investment in print and replacing those texts with versions in electronic format (which would be expensive not only in monetary terms but also in time spent scanning, since not everything I own has been digitised already) or (b) switching frequently between the two capitalisation regimes, which based on my experience so far is overwhelmingly likely to negatively impact my reading speed.

It would be interesting to find out if any other learners consider your proposal both helpful and practical. I really can't imagine you'll find anybody already comfortable with written German who will.
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Re: Alternative German spelling

Postby Mikhail » Sat 19 Jan 2013 1:19 am

linguoboy wrote:you aren't seriously suggesting 100 million German-speakers should change their habits, only that a few thousand learners should.

Of course not, but I would be glad if my advise help to understand that there is no sence to insist on that strange rule in the future.

linguoboy wrote: it's a concrete example of what I experience when I read texts written in that way, furnished to explain why I think switching to them would not only bring me no benefit but would actually constitute a hindrance.

Ok... I can imagine, but honestly with an effort. And I don't call upon that you throw away all your books :D
Most the time I am forced to read same printed books and furthermore I am forced to write by rules also. But those times when I read text without capitalisation I feel better. And when I see an argument like "capitalized nouns help to acquire text easier and faster" that _makes my hair rise_. Because for me it is contrary. Since I am just a human, I assume It shouldn't be much different for other people (linguoboy, here I don't talk about the habit issue ;) ).

linguoboy wrote:It would be interesting to find out if any other learners consider your proposal both helpful and practical. I really can't imagine you'll find anybody already comfortable with written German who will.

I don't know really. I doubt that many even think about it, people accept it just the way it is. And it's a RULE (I saw this called "saint cow" of German grammar somewhere).
And a learner has more problems with understanding some words than with visual acquisition of text. Actually my proposal is for all readers, not only learners. Do you really think it will be shocking for german people to use 'Kleinschrebung' ? I think it'll take few hours of reading to get used to it, especially if a person is not a lot more than in his 30-ties.
native: Russian
know good: English, German

my constructed alphabet: Scythian
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