German language

Official language of Germany and Austria and one of the official languages of Switzerland, used by more than 100 million speakers.

It belongs to the West Germanic group of the Germanic languages. German has four noun cases and masculine, feminine, and neuter genders. Its many dialects belong to either the High German (Hochdeutsch) or Low German (Plattdeutsch) groups. Modern High German, spoken in the central and southern highlands of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, is now standard written German, used in administration, higher education, literature, and the mass media in both High and Low German speech areas.

* * *

Introduction

      official language of both Germany and Austria and one of the three official languages of Switzerland. German belongs to the West Germanic (West Germanic languages) group of the Indo-European language (Indo-European languages) family, along with English (English language), Frisian (Frisian language), and Dutch (Dutch language) (Netherlandic, Flemish).

      The recorded history of Germanic languages begins with their speakers' first contact with the Romans, in the 1st century BC. At that time and for several centuries thereafter, there was only a single “Germanic” language, with little more than minor dialect differences. Only after about the 6th century AD can one speak of a “German” (i.e., High German) language.

      German is an inflected language with four cases for nouns, pronouns, and adjectives (nominative, accusative, genitive, dative), three genders (masculine, feminine, neuter), and strong and weak verbs. Altogether German is the native language of more than 90 million speakers and thus probably ranks sixth in number of native speakers among the languages of the world (after Chinese, English, Hindi-Urdu, Spanish, and Russian). German is widely studied as a foreign language and is one of the main cultural languages of the Western world.

      As a written language German is quite uniform; it differs in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland no more than written English does in the United States and the British Commonwealth. As a spoken language, however, German exists in many dialects, most of which belong to either the High German or Low German dialectal groups. The main difference between High and Low German is in the sound system, especially in the consonants. High German, the language of the southern highlands of Germany, is the official written language.

High German (Hochdeutsch)
       Old High German, a group of dialects for which there was no standard literary language, was spoken until about 1100 in the highlands of southern Germany. During Middle High German times (after 1100), a standard language based on the Upper German dialects (Alemannic and Bavarian) in the southernmost part of the German speech area began to arise. Middle High German was the language of an extensive literature that includes the early 13th-century epic Nibelungenlied.

      Modern standard High German is descended from the Middle High German dialects and is spoken in the central and southern highlands of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. It is used as the language of administration, higher education, literature, and the mass media in the Low German speech area as well. Standard High German is based on, but not identical with, the Middle German dialect used by Martin Luther in his 16th-century translation of the Bible. Within the modern High German speech area, Middle and Upper German dialect groups are differentiated, the latter group including Austro-Bavarian, Alemannic (Swiss German), and High Franconian.

Low German (Plattdeutsch, or Niederdeutsch)
      Low German, with no single modern literary standard, is the spoken language of the lowlands of northern Germany. It developed from Old Saxon and the Middle Low German speech of the citizens of the Hanseatic League. The language supplied the Scandinavian languages with many loanwords, but, with the decline of the league, Low German declined as well.

      Although the numerous Low German dialects are still spoken in the homes of northern Germany and a small amount of literature is written in them, no standard Low German literary or administrative language exists.

Other major dialects
      Alemannic dialects, which developed in the southwestern part of the Germanic speech area, differ considerably in sound system and grammar from standard High German. These dialects are spoken in Switzerland, western Austria, Swabia, and Liechtenstein and in the Alsace region of France. Yiddish (Yiddish language), the language of the Ashkenazic Jews (Jews whose ancestors lived in Germany in the European Middle Ages), also developed from High German.

* * *


Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • German language — German Deutsch Pronunciation [ˈdɔʏtʃ] Spoken in Primarily in German speaking Europe, as a minority language and amongst the German diaspora worldwide …   Wikipedia

  • German language — noun the standard German language; developed historically from West Germanic • Syn: ↑German, ↑High German • Derivationally related forms: ↑German (for: ↑German), ↑Germanic (for …   Useful english dictionary

  • German language in Europe — German language skills of European Union citizens plus Croatia, Turkey and some Microstates …   Wikipedia

  • German language literature — German literature comprises those literary texts written in the German language.This includes literature written in Germany itself as well as German language Swiss and Austrian literature, and to a lesser extent works of the German… …   Wikipedia

  • List of German-language radio stations — German radio stations = ARD*NDR (Norddeutscher Rundfunk / North German Broadcasting)Target area: Northern Germany (Hamburg, Lower Saxony, Schleswig Holstein, Mecklenburg Western Pomerania) **NDR 1 (Oldies), completely different versions for each… …   Wikipedia

  • Pennsylvania German language — Pennsylvania German, Pennsylvania Dutch Deitsch, Pennsilfaanisch Deitsch Spoken in USA, Canada Region Pennsylvania; Ohio; Indiana; Ontario; and elsewhere …   Wikipedia

  • The Awful German Language — is an 1880 essay by Mark Twain published as Appendix D in A Tramp Abroad.[1] The essay is a humorous exploration of the frustrations a native English speaker has with learning German as a second language. Contents 1 Background 2 Text …   Wikipedia

  • Names for the German language — The origin of the name for the German language varies between languages, in a similar way to the various names for Germany. Contents 1 Italian 2 Slavonic 3 Finnish and Estonian 4 North Germanic languages …   Wikipedia

  • AP German Language — Advanced Placement German Language (also known as AP German Language or AP German) is a course and examination provided by the College Board through the Advanced Placement Program. This course is designed to give high school students the… …   Wikipedia

  • List of German-language poets — This list contains the names of individuals (of any ethnicity or nationality) who wrote poetry in the German language. Most are identified as German poets, but some are not German. All, though, wrote poetry in the German language. See also: List… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.