3.444 old spelling: Fraktur, cont. (116)

Thu, 7 Sep 89 22:13:03 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 444. Thursday, 7 Sep 1989.

(1) Date: Wed, 06 Sep 89 22:35:45 CDT (10 lines)
From: "Kevin L. Cope" <ENCOPE@LSUVM>
Subject: Fraktur: Wave of the Future

(2) Date: 7 September 89, 10:24:48 MEZ (13 lines)
From: Gerd Willee 0228 - 73 5620 UPK000 at DBNRHRZ1
Subject: FRAKTUR and scanners

(3) Date: 7 September 1989 11:43:12 CDT (68 lines)
From: "M. R. Sperberg-McQueen " <U15440@UICVM>
Subject: archaic spelling & fraktur one more time (no hearts)

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Wed, 06 Sep 89 22:35:45 CDT
From: "Kevin L. Cope" <ENCOPE@LSUVM>
Subject: Fraktur: Wave of the Future

Fraktur is actively being taught in undergraduate curricula. I learned it
in an elementary German class in 1977. The class was aimed at technical
personnel and majors in the sciences. All agreed that the mastery of fraktur
was essential to understanding the lineaments of German culture. I hesitate
to feign the manner of Sebastian Rahtz, but I'd suggest that any computer
that can't represent it ought to be deposited in the rubbish bin!
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------16----
Date: 7 September 89, 10:24:48 MEZ
From: Gerd Willee 0228 - 73 5620 UPK000 at DBNRHRZ1
Subject: FRAKTUR and scanners

re.: Humanist vol 3 No. 437 (9/6/89)

Just to correct R Wytek: Scanners can deal with Fraktur, as we've
seen in our experiences with some volumes of the Kant-Akademieausgabe.
We have scanned one volume with a KDEM - with a fair success - some years
ago, and at the moment we are scanning vol. 10 - 13 with OPTOPUS with still
far better results. And the training in both cases was not too much work.

Gerd Willee, University of Bonn, W-Germany
(3) --------------------------------------------------------------71----
Date: 7 September 1989 11:43:12 CDT
From: "M. R. Sperberg-McQueen " <U15440@UICVM>
Subject: archaic spelling & fraktur one more time (no hearts)

Not to beat a dead horse, but: the problem with Thon (and one
of the two reasons I chose that word as an example) and that
makes it different from, e.g., "heirathen" is that, if you don't
know about archaic spelling, with the best will in the world,
you CANNOT look it up in a dictionary. The second reason I
chose it was because I know two people, both diligent and, with
all due modesty, fairly intelligent, who, as undergraduates, were
puzzled by it--which is to say, they had not been told in
advance by their instructors that they had to look out for such
spelling irregularities as "th" for "t", interchanged "v" and
"u", "ie" used for "i" (giebt) and so forth. (I think it's a
bit much to expect undergraduate students of a second language
to know enough linguistics to be able to deduce all of this on
their own.) Once one has been told about "th" and "t", the
secret is obvious (the classic response of Dr. Watson and the
audience of Columbus' egg trick). But my own experience, and
what I know of that of those who were graduate students (in
German) with me and of my own graduate students (again, in
German), is that it is pretty easy to finish an undergraduate
B.A. in German at a good school in this country with neither a
knowledge of older spelling nor the ability to read Fraktur. I
suspect that, mutatis mutandis, the same could probably said for
English, Spanish, Italian, French, etc. I think it's a shame:
I think it's a sign of the general watering down of our
curriculums when many undergraduate German departments think it
inappropriate to teach undergraduates anything but 20th century
literature. My point in my original note, however, was that
this is the current state of affairs (in the US): most of us are NOT
dealing with students who have Tom Thomson's type of
training--that is, our students have not been encouraged (are
not even given the opportunity to) read "older" literature, much
less in the original spelling. And we have to take this into
account when we make decisions about editing texts.
Simultaneously--in order to keep this from being a vicious cycle
(students only read modernized texts, therefore we only offer
them modernized texts, therefore that's all they can read...) I
think we who teach and love older literature need to take active
steps to remedy the situation. We need to make a conscious
effort to help students acquire the skills they need to read
comfortably and fluently. And that's not going to happen if we
keep saying "I can do it; it's easy; our students should have no
problem with it."

--I have been glad that this discussion was brought up by
Flannagan; I've found the various responses interesting,
particularly the informal data that it has produced indicating
that starting off in Fraktur when you start German
is not the insurmountable obstacle that many of the
teaching methods specialists imply (for heaven's sake: they
learn a whole new alphabet in Russian, and it's a reasonably
popular language.) And the discussion has prompted me to put my
money where my mouth is and to create a text of Lessing's Emilia
Galotti that, I hope, will ease my students into 18th-century
spelling: first two acts modernized, last three in Lessing's
original orthography, my hope being that by act 3 they'll be
involved enough with the plot line that they'll forge ahead and
not be bothered by "seyn" and "giebt." (And clearly, the
production of such a text is made easier by a computer. The
ideal, I suppose, would be to have the software and printer that
would allow you gradually to change from a standard roman font
to increasingly fraktur like as the play progresses....)

--marian sperberg-mcqueen
univ. of illinois at chicago