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Selbständig vs. selbstständig

Both "selbständig" and "selbstständig" exist, being used in the same context in German. Still, I am not sure if there is a different connotation from one over the other. Which of both is the appropriate one to use?

A Google Ngram reveals that "selbstständig" was very rarely used over almost a century. Only from 2000 onwards it is increasingly used. It looks as if somebody resurrected it:

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Was there any good reason for doing so?

If an orthography reform was the cause of people using an old word, did it influence pronunciation? How are "selbstständig" vs. "selbständig" pronounced?


The spike from around 2000 onwards comes from the German orthography reform of 1996, which changed the officially correct spelling of "selbständig". The reasoning for the reform was to make German a more logical and consistent language.

Selbständig in particular was chosen for its change because it consists of two different roots: selbst and Stand, selbst-ständig, "being able to stand on your own". Selbst-ständig has contracted over time to remove the somewhat ugly and hard to pronounce double st. So the reform, as the ngram shows, has restored it to its former spelling.

You can use either as you prefer, it makes no difference in meaning whatsoever.

You should, of course, use only one form or the other in a given text, for sake of consistency.

Some authors or newspapers make/have made it a political point to only use the old orthography. There is no grammar police that will come knocking down your door if you use the "wrong" orthography.

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    It would have been better if we had been allowed to downvote the garbage produced by the Kultusministerien. – bernd_k Oct 21 '11 at 19:18
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    @bernd_k I take it easy - There are some useful changes, and in any case, I'll write in exactly the way I want. Language is evolving all the time and for many reasons. Ultimately it's always the people that decide whether or not they accept the changes. – Hackworth Oct 21 '11 at 19:29

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