Thursday, February 07, 2008

Language and immigration: German-style

Not only in the U.S. are language and immigration a hot issue — something Mr. V has occasionally noted. In Germany, there's a lot of negative reaction to English loanwords from prescriptivists (and the American pinheads have nothing on these guys), as well as to the presence of languages other than German in contemporary Germany. But other currents are running right now …

First, it's nice to see some positive attention coming to loanwords from powerful groups in Germany. Check out this initiative (graphic from there):
"Wörter mit Migrationshintergrund"
Wir suchen das beste eingewanderte Wort.
That's basically 'immigrant words' or "words with a migration background", more stiffly translated, and "we're looking for the best immigrant word". This is 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 (Society for the German Language) publishes a little journal called Der Sprachdienst. In the last 2007 issue, they ran a piece by Dennis Scheller-Boltz called:
McDonald's – McAnwalt* – McFit – McFlight.
The piece gives a pile of interesting data on how productive the Mc- prefix is in German right now, especially in company names. Amazingly, 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.

*Anwalt = attorney

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