TIED Home | Verbix Main Site
The German language
 
Group Germanic (with German, Danish, Dutch etc.), West Germanic (with Frisian, Scots etc.)
Geography Approximately 71 million German-speaking people live in Germany, and several million under foreign administration. In addition, German is spoken by almost 7 million people in Austria, about 300,000 in Luxembourg, 3,400,000 in the northern section of Switzerland, and about 1,500,000 in Alsace-Lorraine. Reliable statistics are not available concerning the number of German-speaking persons who inhabit those regions of eastern Europe from which Germans were expelled at the end of World War II. Outside Europe, the largest number of people using German as their mother tongue live in the United States. An important group of German-speaking people in the U.S. are the so-called Pennsylvania Dutch.
History A descendant of the Old High German language, German is a mixture of dialects spoken over Central Europe before German principalities was united in 1871. Still, dialectal division remains significant: there are Bavarian, Austrian, Swiss, Rhein-Franconian and other High German varieties, some of them are considered separate languages by native speakers. In the 16-17th centuries High German started to penetrate to the north, to the region of the Low German language: this caused a mixture of speech in northern Germany.
Phonetics One of the most interesting processes which took place in the Early Modern German period, was the lengthening of vowels in both open and closed syllables: today the word Name is pronounced as [na:[email protected]] though in Middle High German it was [[email protected]]. Ancient long vowels turned into diphthongs (mn > mein 'my'). Some important mutations connected with morphology disappear. The letter s was transformed into [z] between vowels, and today Germans lesen sounds like [lezen].
Nominal Morphology Of 43 nominal inflections which existed in Old High German, only 9 survived in the modern language. Still, the German tongue remains much more flective than its relatives English or Dutch: the noun preserves four cases (instrumental coincided with dative), adjectives can have strong and weak forms, pronouns and articles are also declined.
Verbal Morphology The number of principle forms of the verb is reduced to three: helfen - half - geholfen 'help - helped - helped' instead of Middle High German helfen - half - hulfen (plural) - geholfen. The tense system acquires new analytical forms - the Future tense with the auxiliary verb werden. The Perfect and Pluperfect tenses are used more and more widely, as well as the passive voice. 
Lexicon Comparing to the Old High German period, plenty of new abstract terms appear in the language shaped by suffixes -keit, -heit, -ung etc. A lot of Latin and Greek scientific and cultural terms are also acquired.
Writing Latin alphabet
Close Contacts Very close to Low German and other West Germanic languages, like Dutch and Afrikaans.
Sample Einmal wollte ich mit meiner Frau Inge den Urlaub in Thringen verbringen. Wir sollten uns aber auf diese Zeit gut vorbereiten. Inge is berufstig und hatte damals viel zu tun. So machte ich mich allein an die Arbeit. 

Once I wanted to spend my vacations with my wife Inge in Thuringia. However, we had to prepare well for this time. Inge works, and then she had a lot to do. So I got down to work alone.

Picture A town in Germany
More info