Today German is spoken by more than 100 million people. There are two principal divisions of the German language: High German, or Hochdeutsch, and Low German, or Plattdeutsch. One of the most striking differences between them is the result of a consonant shift (usually referred to as the second, or High German, sound shift) that took place before the 8th cent.
German a Germanic language, is a member of the Indo-European language family. At some time during the disintegration of the Indo-European Community a group of tribes made their way to north-west Europe and there developed a Bronze Age Culture probably around 2 000 BC. Instruction in the German language is supported on all continents, with the emphasis on the EU and those nations aspiring to become members of it. As European integration continues, ever greater importance is attached to competence in foreign languages. In Germany, teaching foreign languages is accorded great importance, and it is equally in Germany’s interest that the teaching of German as a foreign language is treated in a similar vein in our EU partner nations.
German is one of the large group of Indo-Germanic languages, and within this group is one of the Germanic languages, related to Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, Dutch, as well as to English.
At the end of the Middle Ages there were a large number of regional written languages.
German is used as the official language of Germany and of Austria. Historically, German falls into three main periods: Old German (c. 750—c. 1050); Middle German (c.1050—c.1500); and Modern German (c.1500 to the present). The earliest existing records in German date back to about 750. In this first period, local dialects were used in writing, and there was no standard language.
In the middle period a relatively uniform written language developed in government after the various chancelleries of the Holy Roman Empire began, in the 14th cent., to use a combination of certain dialects of Middle High German in place of the Latin that until then had dominated official writings.
The Middle Saxon language is an ancestor of the modern Low Saxon. It was spoken from about 1100 to 1500, splitting into West Low Saxon and East Low Saxon. The neighbour languages within the dialect continuum of the West Germanic languages were Middle Dutch in the West and Middle High German in the South, later substituted by Early New High German.
During the 18th cent. a number of outstanding writers gave modern standard German essentially the form it has today. It is now the language of church and state, education and literature. A corresponding norm for spoken High German, influenced by the written standard, is used in education, the theater, and broadcasting.
German dialects that differ substantially from standard German, not only in pronunciation but also in grammar, are found in regions of Germany, E France, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein; Lëtzeburgesch, an official language of Luxembourg, is a German dialect spoken by about 400,000 people there.
In 1880, grammatical and orthographic rules first appeared in the Duden Handbook. In 1901, this was declared the standard definition of the German language. Standard German orthography subsequently went essentially unrevised until 1998, when the German spelling reform of 1996 was officially promulgated by governmental representatives of Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland.
Since the reform, German spelling has been in an eight-year transitional period where the reformed spelling is taught in most schools, while traditional and reformed spelling co-exist in the media.
The German language specifically, developed as its own language sometime in the late 19th-century. The following diagram, composed by linguistic scholars in an attempt to explain the phenomenon of different dialects of different geographical areas nicely illustrates this development. Linguists continue to stress, however, that a language tree as such may create very definite splits when in fact language dialects tend to be better defined as blends.
Some other facts about German you might be interested in knowing.
In no particular order, here are some of the numbers about German:
- German is the most widely spoken native language in the EU.
- Germany boasts a 99% literacy rate.
- German belongs to the three most learned languages in the world as well as the ten most widely spoken languages in the world.
- German is among the top five most widely used languages on the Internet.
- One fourth of the tourists in the U.S. are German speaking.
- Germany is the second most popular European destination for American tourists.
- German is the official language in seven countries (Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Luxemburg, as well as parts of Italy and Belgium).
- German is spoken by over 100 million people world-wide.
- With 22 %, German-Americans represent the largest ethnic group in America today (according to the 1990 Census). Some prominent examples include Albert Einstein, Levi Strauss, Henry Kissinger, and Werner von Braun.