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To my knowledge, German is the only language which capitalize the first letter of each of its nouns. Why is there such a rule?

Meines Wissens ist Deutsch die einzige Sprache, in der der erste Buchstabe eines Nomens groß geschrieben wird. Woher kommt diese Regel?

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Be aware that this doesn't only affect nouns, but also pronouns, names and sometimes even adjectives, adverbs, prepositions and... well, more or less any word... but just in very vew, special cases. –  Florian Peschka May 25 '11 at 8:41
@ApoY2k: Yeah for example the capitalization of Sie or the pronoun Ihr when one is being polite to someone else. But I was interested in the rules about the nouns. –  Eldros May 25 '11 at 8:43
I cant see a link to edit your post. "Zu meine Wissens" is not correct German. You may want to consider alternatives like "Meines Wissens ist Deutsch ..." or "Soweit ich weiss ist Deutsch...". Also, some corrections to the rest of the sentence: "Soweit ich weiss, ist Deutsch die einzige Sprache, in der der erste Buchstabe des Nomens gross geschrieben sein muss." I'm a bit shaky with the "Neue Deutsche Rechtschreibung", since I left the country before it took hold, so some of the ss may need to be ß, but the rest of the corrections stand. –  teylyn May 25 '11 at 8:51
english used to capitalise nouns too.... –  user894 Sep 21 '11 at 4:47
@betty but in German all nouns are capitalized. –  splattne Sep 21 '11 at 5:42

2 Answers 2

up vote 18 down vote accepted

Capitalization of nouns was introduced in Late Middleages (14th century). The first letter(s) of single words (especially religious terms like "GOtt", but not just nouns) were set in majuscules in order to emphasize these words.

Today's capitalization of all nouns was officially introduced in 17th century German. The literary critic und translator Walter Benjamin:

“Das Barock hat in die deutsche Rechtschreibung die Majuskel eingebürgert.”

Though even centuries later capitalization has not been endorsed by everybody. Jacob Grimm commented in 1854:

“den gleichverwerflichen misbrauch groszer buchstaben für das substantivum, der unserer pedantischen unart gipfel heißsen kann, habe ich […] abgeschüttelt.”

See also:

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I found this article, maybe it can be interesting/useful (it's in German): Die auch für das Deutsche neue Großschreibung war ein Produkt demonstrativer Gottesfurcht –  Alenanno May 25 '11 at 8:36
Nice tidbit about Jacob Grimm. –  Eldros May 25 '11 at 8:44
@Tomalak "Das Deutsche ist im lateinischen Alphabet zusammen mit dem Luxemburgischen die einzige Sprache, welche eine generelle Substantiv-Großschreibung kennt," de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gro%C3%9Fschreibung –  splattne May 25 '11 at 10:21
@Tomalak Nachtrag: und LOLCAT: speaklolcat.com ;) –  splattne May 25 '11 at 10:27
Am I the only one that has real difficulties reading that last quote? o.O Good that we do capitalize those words… –  poke May 27 '11 at 11:16

Kürzlich habe ich auf Belles Lettres in einem Video-Tutorial* gehört, dass es damit zu tun hat, dass im Deutschen die Wortreihenfolge viel freier ist als in vielen anderen Sprachen. Dadurch hilft die Großschreibung von Substantiven bei der Orientierung beim Lesen.

Welches genau kann ich leider nicht sagen, sonst würde ich es verlinken.

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