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The new Duden 2020: What has changed? These words are new

Every word can be looked up from A to Z. New words are added regularly. Now a new edition is appearing and Corona has also left its mark.

It's yellow and fat. How to know him. But a lot has happened on the almost 1,300 pages between the two book covers: After the 2017 edition, a new spelling book will appear this Wednesday.

Despite the influences of the crisis, it really did not become a "Corona-Duden", says editor-in-chief Kathrin Kunkel-Razum of the German press agency. There were also developments in other topics such as climate / environment, technology and gender equality, which have now been taken into account.

This is new to the Duden 2020

According to the publisher, the 28th edition contains 3,000 new keywords, a total of 148,000. It is the most extensive dictionary that has ever existed. The new additions include words that would have puzzled a year ago: Covid-19, reproduction number and lockdown, for example. According to Kunkel-Razum, interested parties can also look up entries on the chain of infection, intensive care bed and respiratory protection mask.

"Coronavirus was already in there anyway," she says. After the Sars outbreak in 2002/03, the word was probably added. Corona was also included, but with a different meaning. If you look it up in the new Duden, you will find two explanations: Corona as a female first name and "coll. For Coronavirus [disease]".

An excerpt from the list of new entries is like running through the debates and trends of the past few years: everyday racism, bee-friendly, chia seeds, diesel affair, explanatory video, Fridays for Future. It continues with: gender stars, hatspeech, influencer, climate emergency, charging station, measles vaccination, Netflix series, oldschool. And with: pesticide-free, right-wing terrorist, hookah bar, transgender, upload filter, video evidence, Whatsapp group and - wink smiley.

Answers about gender

For the first time, users will find information on gender-appropriate language use in the Duden. A topic for which there is currently no standard. Kunkel-Razum is looking forward to the reactions to the new three pages - knowing full well that they can spark discussions. "It is important to us to say that this is not a rule that we prescribe," she emphasizes. The editors are not allowed to and do not want to, but they receive a lot of inquiries on the subject. Kunkel-Razum says the editorial team tried to describe the problems and the currently available solution options.

In the Duden, for example, it says about the controversial gender star: It can be observed that this variant is "becoming more and more popular" in writing. It can be found especially in contexts in which gender is no longer understood as just female or male and the possibility of further categories should be displayed. An example is given: "Students".

Kathrin Kunkel-Razum, editor-in-chief of Dudens (source: dpa / Wolfgang Kumm)

In the case of new additions, the editorial team depends, among other things, on the frequency of occurrence, but also attaches importance to existing spelling. With the help of computers, large amounts of different texts are searched for novelties. The selection is made from a list of around 15,000 words.

Criticism is to be expected

In view of the new edition, the state of German will probably be discussed again, suspects the professor of German linguistics, Kristian Berg, from the University of Bonn. For example, some people get annoyed with terms from English. Berg emphasizes: If it should be complained that influencers and hypen are in the Duden, then it is because they are systematically used in German. "To blame the Duden for this is like accusing the weather report of the weather."

Berg also has one point of criticism: a spelling dictionary should primarily contain words that are difficult to write in any form. This is certainly the case with some new admissions, for example with dystopia. Others, on the other hand, are orthographically simple: "How else should you write an intensive care bed or a ghost game differently?" Here the suspicion arises that the original purpose is being sacrificed to the sales pitch (3,000 new words). The publisher is faced with the dilemma that most of the new words are "unfortunately spelling simple" because they are combinations of two or more existing words.

Expert is proud of the new Duden

Alexander Lasch, chairman of the Society for German History of Language, considers the Duden to be the "best Duden we have ever had", as he said. The editors document the use of language with sources that as a scientist he can only be jealous of, show alternative spellings, are open to the exchange with language users and are also ready to change decisions again, explains the linguistics professor at TU Dresden.

Even if the Duden has no longer been binding since the spelling reform - the authoritative body is the German Spelling Council - it still has the "nimbus of the official set of rules" and thus a normative function, said Lasch. As a scientist, he is relaxed about changes in language: "Language change is a sign that language is alive." In view of the difficult market for reference works in the online age, it is clear that the Duden also tries to attract attention with new editions. "If we wanted a greater variety of spelling reference works, we would have to be ready not only to entrust them to the private sector."

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