German (Deutsch) is a member of the Germanic branch of the Indo-European language family, namely the Western group.
It is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, with an estimated 95 million native speakers and 28 million speakers who also use it as a second language (Ethnologue).
The High German Consonant Shift, also known as the Second German Consonant Shift, which took place during the third and fifth centuries and was probably finished by the ninth century AD, caused German to diverge from other Germanic languages in terms of its sound.
Their impact may be observed by contrasting contemporary German terms with their English equivalents, such as pound-Pfund, apple-Apfel, cat-Katze, heart-Herz, and make-machen.
Germany was divided between a smaller Northern section (without the sound shift) and a more considerable Central and Southern component due to the High German Consonant Shift (with the sound shift).
South of this line is the other nations where German is spoken. The North German Lowlands language is known as Low German as opposed to High German, which is said in the regions where the sound change happened since the consonant shift did not occur there.
Old High German
Up to the 10th and 11th centuries, it was still in use. Its complicated grammar was similar to that of Latin or Slavic languages. Modern German readers will need help understanding it.
Middle High German
Up to the Middle Ages' end, it was still used. Readers of contemporary German can somewhat understand it.
New High German
At the end of the Middle Ages, it began to evolve. Readers of contemporary German can somewhat understand it.
German Language: Dialects
German dialects differ a lot from one another. The dialect continuum from High German to Low German includes all varieties of German.
Only nearby dialects can communicate with one another. Many dialects of German are not understandable to speakers of standard German.
- Compared to High German dialects, Low German dialects are more closely connected to Dutch.
- Upper German and Middle German are two categories for the High German dialects spoken in the upper Rhine area.
- One High German variation, Standard German, emerged in Saxony and became the acknowledged written standard in the 16th and 17th centuries.
- Upper German is the foundation of Austrian and Swiss German.
- Because of their distinctive characteristics, the High German dialects of Ashkenazi Jews are typically regarded as a separate language called Yiddish.
- The regional dialects of the initial colonists served as the basis for the German dialects spoken in colonies formed by German-speaking people; for example, Pennsylvania German (mistakenly referred to as Dutch rather than Deutsch) is based on Palatinate German.
German Language: Grammar
German is a highly inflected language with many Old High German morphological traits intact. Only Icelandic and Faroese have a comparable rich morphology among the Germanic languages.
German Language: Adjectives, articles, pronouns, and nouns
- Nouns can be masculine, feminine, or neutered, depending on gender. Some nouns' genders may be inferred from their ends, but most are arbitrary and must be memorised.
- Singular and plural numerals are present.
- The nominative, accusative, dative, and genitive are the four cases.
- There are two: definite and indeterminate articles.
- In the single, articles and adjectives match nouns in case and gender; in the plural, there is no gender distinction.
- There are strong and weak ends for adjectives.
- There are several case differences for personal pronouns.
German Language: Verb
There are weak verbs (so-called regular verbs that add endings to stems). And strong verbs (also known as irregular verbs since they undergo internal vowel changes when conjugated)
Based on the person (first, second, third) and number, verbs are conjugated (singular and plural).
There are two simple tenses for verbs: present and past, and a variety of compound tenses, made up of auxiliary verbs like haben, sein, and werden plus a past participle or an infinitive.
The three types are indicative, subjunctive/conditional, and imperative moods.
Active and passive voices are present.
Prefixes can be used to clarify and enlarge the meaning of verbs. For instance, the verb aufmachen might mean "to open" by combining the words "out" and "make." Prefixes can occasionally stand alone from the main verb,
German Language: Vocabulary
Most German words come from Proto-Germanic, also known as Common Germanic, which has been identified as the ancestor language of all Germanic languages.
French and English are also borrowed into German. Its scientific vocabulary includes Greek and Latin roots in large part.
English is the most recent source of loanwords. Words are sometimes created by combining local parts, like Weihnachtsmann, which means "Holy Night Man" or "Santa Claus" in English.
German Language: Writing
German was mostly unwritten before the 13th and 14th centuries, and all official papers were written in Latin.
There was a German text of common interest for the first time that spread quickly throughout Germany thanks to Johannes Gutenberg's invention of the printing press (circa 1400–1468) and Martin Luther's (1483–1546) translation of the Bible using a more informal language than had previously been used in writing.
This helped establish a common written language that would be recognised throughout Germany.
The development of German orthography by the Kingdom of Bavaria in 1879 was another significant step toward the unification of the language.
When Konrad Duden (1829–1911) produced his renowned dictionary, which is still regarded as the benchmark for German spelling today, the Kingdom of Prussia followed one year later.
Two changes to orthography have been made since 1880. Today, the Latin alphabet is used to write German. German words' spellings typically serve as a reliable guide to their pronunciation.
German features 26 basic letters in addition to three vowels with an umlaut: ä, ö, Üü, and a unique letter ß that stands in for the letter ss.
- German letter-sound correspondences that stand out include:
- Volkswagen is pronounced with an initial /f/; hence V stands for "f."
- The letter W stands for the sound /v/, as in Wien, pronounced as "Vienna."
- Z stands for "ts," as in "Zeit," which is spoken with an initial "ts."
- u always come after q.
- Only in loanwords will Y and X appear.
- Long vowels are often doubled, followed by a silent h or a single consonant.
- A double consonant usually follows a short vowel.
- ß is the same as ss. It is used when the vowel before it is long, while ss is used when it is temporary.
- Whether they are proper or common nouns, they are all capitalised.
German Language: Word Order
The placement of the verb in German sentences serves as the most significant indicator of word order.
In subordinate sentences, the verb usually comes in last, whereas in significant clauses, it usually comes in first or second. All other sentence components can move about quite freely.
Key Facts about the German Language
- German is the official language of Germany, where 70 million people speak it as their first language and another 8 million people as a second language (alongside Danish, Frisian, and Sorbian as minority languages).
- Austria and Liechtenstein both exclusively have Standard German as their official languages. In Austria, 7.5 million people speak it.
- German, Italian, and Romansch are the co-official languages of Switzerland.
- German is a recognised provincial language in Belgium's German-speaking regions.
- French, Luxembourgish, and German all have official status in Luxembourg.
- The Vatican Swiss Guard speaks German and Italian as their official languages.
- Italy, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, Denmark, France, and Namibia have a regional usage of German.
- One of the 24 official languages of the European Union is German. It is the language with the most significant native-speaker population in the European Union and is spoken by the second-largest number of people in Europe after English.
- The three working languages of the European Commission are French, English, and German.