What Is Unique About German Orthography?

What Is Unique About German Orthography?

What is unique about German orthography is that German is the only language to capitalize all nouns. German has undergone three spelling reforms since 1880, and German's current orthography was determined in a reform in 1996 that many Germans were opposed to. The orthography is slightly different in Switzerland, where they decided in 1938 to replace the "esszet" ("ß") with "ss."

The ß is still used in other German-speaking countries, but only after long vowels or diphthongs. "Ss" is used after short vowels. For example, "Maß" ("measure") is written with "ß," but "Schloss" ("castle") is written with "ss."

Sometimes, in the creation of German compound words, the same letter can occur three times in a row. It was determined in the 1996 reform that letters shall no longer be omitted in these cases. For example, "Schifffart" ("boat trip") is written with three "f"s in a row.

German also has optional "germanized" spellings of foreign loan words. For example, "geography" can be spelled either "Geographie" or "Geografie." "Panther" can be spelled either "Panther" or "Panter."

Commas are used often in German. In the 1996 spelling reform, German went from having 57 comma rules to only nine. The most basic function of commas in German is to separate subdorinate clauses from main clauses. Commas do not have to be used with "und" ("and"), "oder" ("or"), "entweder/oder" ("either/or"), "sowohl/als" ("as well as") and "weder/noch" ("neither/nor"). Commas must be used with "aber" ("but"), "jedoch" ("though") and "sondern" ("but rather").