Explore the rich history and modern usage of the German language. Learn about its evolution and cultural significance in today’s society.
German is a very homogeneous written language; variations between Germany, Austria, and Switzerland are comparable to those between written English in the United States and the British Commonwealth.
However, there are numerous dialects of spoken German, most of which fall into the High German or Low German dialectal categories.
The sound system, particularly the consonants, is the primary distinction between High German and Low German. The official written language is High German, which is the dialect spoken in Germany’s southern highlands.
The first written examples of the German language are inscriptions on stones and other things from the fourth and fifth centuries CE. The Germanic people had a writing system known as the Runic alphabet before changing to the Latin alphabet, which is how these inscriptions were written.
During the Middle Ages, German dialects such as Low German (spoken in the north) and High German (spoken in the south) continued to develop and diverge. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, German underwent a dramatic alteration known as the Orthographic Conference of 1876.
By standardizing spelling and grammar, this modification intends to make the German language easier to learn and use. Following the end of World War II, the German language saw substantial modifications as new words and idioms representing current life and technology were introduced.
Today’s German speakers include native speakers, people who speak it as a second language, and those who use it as a lingua franca for business and other purposes.
History of German: origins
Before we can even begin to discuss German, we must first journey to some time between 1000 and 450 BCE, when the Indo-European proto-language—the “ancestor language” of related languages—underwent the First Germanic Sound Shift, or shift in pronunciation.
Because written records from that era are so scarce, it is only possible to reconstruct the specifics of this Pre- or Proto-German today. Even while the early Germanic tribes did leave a few Runes on graves and ritual objects, stories and songs were almost entirely transmitted orally.
However, certain Germanic words have persisted in modern usage in modified forms. Examples are brauda (Brot, or “bread”) and grpan (greifen, or “to grip”).
History of German: unification
The German language had many varieties and standards by the time the 16th century came around. They eventually merged.
The dialects of southern and central Germany were combined to create Neuhochdeutsch, sometimes known as New High German, the language that is still spoken today (with small modifications).
With the notable exception of Dutch, which was a German dialect in the Middle Ages until becoming its language in the 16th century, the northern German dialects did not create their written languages.
History of German: dialects today
German, unlike English, French, or Spanish, never became a global language (maybe because of its difficult grammar?). Furthermore, there are still many German dialects that developed hundreds of years ago, making the German language now anything but homogeneous.
In general, they become more noticeable the further south you go, which explains why a resident of Hamburg might have a difficult time following a conversation in a coffee shop in Vienna.
German frequently has multiple terms for the same object due to the diversity of dialects; one only needs to recall the terms for “comfortable house shoes”: Schlappen, Latschen, Pantoffeln, Puschen, Finken, and Patschen.
Interesting facts about German, English, and dialects in Germany
You will encounter a distinct dialect wherever you go in Germany, which your high school German class most likely did not prepare you for. For instance, the dialect and accent of Bavaria have been mocked as the “German that even Germany doesn’t understand.”
Despite sharing a common progenitor, English and German have numerous differences, including differences in vocabulary, syntax, and pronunciation. English, for example, has no cases, whereas German has four (nominative, accusative, dative, and genitive).
In addition to Hochdeutsch (High German), the official version of the German language, regional dialects spoken in Germany include Bavarian, Swabian, and Low German.
These dialects are often based on the regional language and culture, and they might differ significantly from one region of the country to the next. Latin, Greek, French, and English words have long been integrated into the German language.
As a result, many common German words share parallels with words in other languages, making it easier for learners to absorb new terminology. Despite its reputation for being difficult to master, German is one of the easiest languages for English speakers to learn due to the similarities between the two languages.
In actuality, more than 60% of the English-German lexicon is common, making it easy for German speakers to grasp many English words and vice versa. Learn more German words that you can use when you visit Germany.
Learn more about the German language and its origin
In conclusion, many cultural and political forces have impacted the history of the German language, which is rich and diverse.
The German language has had a major impact on history, from its earliest beginnings as a dialect used by tribes in central Europe to its usage as a language of administration and commerce under the Holy Roman Empire to its current status as the official language of Germany.
Over 100 million people speak German today, making it one of the most significant languages in Europe. No matter if you’re a student, a businessperson, or just a fan of the German language, you can’t dispute the influence it has had on both the modern and historical globe.