Thursday, August 12, 2010

Martin Luther's Linguistic Legacy in German

Aside from catalyzing the Reformation, Martin Luther's other legacy was the word choice of his "German" translation of the Bible.
Luther’s genius was to infuse his translation with the words he heard on the street in his bit of Saxony, in east-central Germany. He obsessively asked friends and fellow scholars which dialectal words would be most widely understood. The common touch was so successful that a Catholic opponent complained that “even tailors and shoemakers…read it with great eagerness.” It was the bestseller of the century and remains the most popular German translation. Rarely has a single man had such a mark on a language. The German of Luther’s Bible was nobody’s native language in his day. Today it is so universal that it threatens Germany’s once-vibrant dialects with death by standardisation.
In the near future, Culture Bore will be reviewing books. I'll see if I can snag a reviewing copy of this one.

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