Package Insert 41
Interesting facts and figures for customers and partners of mt-g.
June 2017
In the spotlight
Why "in 2017" is still good for a frown
"My grammar course in 2016 was disastrous". Language critics often accuse German users of the [in + year] construction of performing Anglicism. This thesis is also supported by the fact that it is often used in economics, which is said to have an above-average use of Anglicisms. But is that really the case?

In fact, German texts from the 18th to 19th century already contained the little word "in" in conjunction with a year. Therefore, it is rather unlikely that the addition is new or even an example of Anglicism. At that time, other languages ​​were more frequently represented in German countries (above all, French) and had a greater influence than English in many places.

If we look at other languages ​​in Europe, prepositions are also used there in front of the years, such as in Spanish (en 2017), French (en 2017) as well as Dutch (in 2017). It might therefore be that the allegedly Anglistic prepositional disaster is not actually one at all, but simply a variant which deviates from the norm in order to designate a time period while using the German language.

Let's briefly leave the origin of the construction aside and consider the frequency of its occurrence: According to an investigation by the Institut für Deutsche Sprache (the Institute for German Language – IDS) in Mannheim, Germany, its frequency of use (based on findings in a collection of writings from the years 1600 to 2009) is only 0.6%. This means that in this two-billion-word corpus, it appears very rarely compared to more common variants, such as "im Jahre 2016" or "im Jahr 2016".

These days, it is mainly texts from the economic field that display an increased use of the [in + year] construction. This may or may not be due to the rumoured close proximity to English. What is striking in this regard, though, is rather the fact that the construction is often used when a text has sentences with a high numerical density, i.e. many figures are placed together in a narrow space.

For example: "The increase in sales was 5% in 2009, 5% in 2010, 3% in 2011 and 1% in 2012 [in German: "Die Umsatzsteigerung in 2009 betrug 5%, in 2010 5%, in 2011 3% und in 2012 1%"]."

It is quite conceivable that in these cases, the focus was more on the legibility of the text than on the implementation of standard language.

What does this mean for the accusation described at the beginning? The exact origin cannot be clarified, but it is certain that the construction is rare and its use will in most cases will cause one to frown. Although it is by no means dominant in terms of standard language, it appears here and there in certain fields. Therefore, whoever wants to be on the safe side can do so by leaving out the word "in" and simply using the year. Whoever finds that to be too little text, though, can simply replace the word "in" with the German "im" and add the word "Jahr" before the year's date. This way, a person cannot go wrong in 2017, either.
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