This paper analyzes the non-standard use of the apostrophe in modern German texts. Traditionally, it is assumed that the apostrophe has a purely phonographic function in German, even though the first examples of non-phonographic apostrophes date back to the 17th century. Still today, spellings with non-phonographic apostrophes, such as die Pizza’s, are considered as mistakes or misspellings. However, the in-depth analysis of these spellings reveals that the vast majority of non-phonographic apostrophes are not used at haphazard. They rather indicate information about the morphological structure of words: they either mark the right border of their left context, the left border of their right context or the morphological border as such.
Interestingly, the number of morphologically motivated spellings has increased considerably during the last decades. This can be explained by an extension of possible contexts. In this paper, I argue that the morphographic apostrophe spreads from a prototypical construction, namely the s-genitive of person names, to other contexts, such as nominal plural or denominal adverbs. I furthermore illustrate that both the left and the right context of the apostrophe may serve as a starting point for the propagation of the morphographic apostrophe.
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