German language

German language

Overview
German is a West Germanic language
West Germanic languages
The West Germanic languages constitute the largest of the three traditional branches of the Germanic family of languages and include languages such as German, English, Dutch, Afrikaans, the Frisian languages, and Yiddish...

, related to and classified alongside English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 and Dutch
Dutch language
Dutch is a West Germanic language and the native language of the majority of the population of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second...

. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages
World language
A world language is a language spoken internationally which is learned by many people as a second language. A world language is not only characterized by the number of its speakers , but also by its geographical distribution, and its use in international organizations and in diplomatic relations...

 and is the most widely-spoken first language
First language
A first language is the language a person has learned from birth or within the critical period, or that a person speaks the best and so is often the basis for sociolinguistic identity...

 in the European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

.

German is primarily spoken in Germany
Languages of Germany
The official language of Germany is Standard German, with over 95% of the country speaking Standard German or German dialects as their first language...

 (where it is the first language for more than 95% of the population), Austria
Languages of Austria
The Languages of Austria include German, the official language and lingua franca, Austro-Bavarian, the main language outside Vorarlberg, Alemannic, the main language in Vorarlberg, and several minority languages.-German:...

 (89%), Switzerland (65%), the majority of Luxembourg
Luxembourg
Luxembourg , officially the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg , is a landlocked country in western Europe, bordered by Belgium, France, and Germany. It has two principal regions: the Oesling in the North as part of the Ardennes massif, and the Gutland in the south...

, and Liechtenstein
Liechtenstein
The Principality of Liechtenstein is a doubly landlocked alpine country in Central Europe, bordered by Switzerland to the west and south and by Austria to the east. Its area is just over , and it has an estimated population of 35,000. Its capital is Vaduz. The biggest town is Schaan...

 - the latter princedom being the only state with German as only official and spoken language.

Other European German-speaking communities are found in Northern Italy
Northern Italy
Northern Italy is a wide cultural, historical and geographical definition, without any administrative usage, used to indicate the northern part of the Italian state, also referred as Settentrione or Alta Italia...

 (in South Tyrol
South Tyrol
South Tyrol , also known by its Italian name Alto Adige, is an autonomous province in northern Italy. It is one of the two autonomous provinces that make up the autonomous region of Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol. The province has an area of and a total population of more than 500,000 inhabitants...

 and in some municipalities in other provinces), in the East Cantons of Belgium
Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

, in the French
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 regions of Alsace
Alsace
Alsace is the fifth-smallest of the 27 regions of France in land area , and the smallest in metropolitan France. It is also the seventh-most densely populated region in France and third most densely populated region in metropolitan France, with ca. 220 inhabitants per km²...

 and Lorraine
Lorraine (région)
Lorraine is one of the 27 régions of France. The administrative region has two cities of equal importance, Metz and Nancy. Metz is considered to be the official capital since that is where the regional parliament is situated...

, and in some border villages of the former South Jutland County
South Jutland County
South Jutland County is a former county on the south-central portion of the Jutland Peninsula in southern Denmark....

 of Denmark
Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

.

German-speaking communities can also be found in parts of the Czech Republic
Czech Republic
The Czech Republic is a landlocked country in Central Europe. The country is bordered by Poland to the northeast, Slovakia to the east, Austria to the south, and Germany to the west and northwest....

, Slovakia
Slovakia
The Slovak Republic is a landlocked state in Central Europe. It has a population of over five million and an area of about . Slovakia is bordered by the Czech Republic and Austria to the west, Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east and Hungary to the south...

, Hungary
Hungary
Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

, Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

, Romania
Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

, Serbia
Serbia
Serbia , officially the Republic of Serbia , is a landlocked country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe, covering the southern part of the Carpathian basin and the central part of the Balkans...

, Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 and Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan , officially the Republic of Kazakhstan, is a transcontinental country in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Ranked as the ninth largest country in the world, it is also the world's largest landlocked country; its territory of is greater than Western Europe...

.
Discussion
Ask a question about 'German language'
Start a new discussion about 'German language'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Recent Discussions
Encyclopedia
German is a West Germanic language
West Germanic languages
The West Germanic languages constitute the largest of the three traditional branches of the Germanic family of languages and include languages such as German, English, Dutch, Afrikaans, the Frisian languages, and Yiddish...

, related to and classified alongside English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 and Dutch
Dutch language
Dutch is a West Germanic language and the native language of the majority of the population of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second...

. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages
World language
A world language is a language spoken internationally which is learned by many people as a second language. A world language is not only characterized by the number of its speakers , but also by its geographical distribution, and its use in international organizations and in diplomatic relations...

 and is the most widely-spoken first language
First language
A first language is the language a person has learned from birth or within the critical period, or that a person speaks the best and so is often the basis for sociolinguistic identity...

 in the European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

.

Europe


German is primarily spoken in Germany
Languages of Germany
The official language of Germany is Standard German, with over 95% of the country speaking Standard German or German dialects as their first language...

 (where it is the first language for more than 95% of the population), Austria
Languages of Austria
The Languages of Austria include German, the official language and lingua franca, Austro-Bavarian, the main language outside Vorarlberg, Alemannic, the main language in Vorarlberg, and several minority languages.-German:...

 (89%), Switzerland (65%), the majority of Luxembourg
Luxembourg
Luxembourg , officially the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg , is a landlocked country in western Europe, bordered by Belgium, France, and Germany. It has two principal regions: the Oesling in the North as part of the Ardennes massif, and the Gutland in the south...

, and Liechtenstein
Liechtenstein
The Principality of Liechtenstein is a doubly landlocked alpine country in Central Europe, bordered by Switzerland to the west and south and by Austria to the east. Its area is just over , and it has an estimated population of 35,000. Its capital is Vaduz. The biggest town is Schaan...

 - the latter princedom being the only state with German as only official and spoken language.

Other European German-speaking communities are found in Northern Italy
Northern Italy
Northern Italy is a wide cultural, historical and geographical definition, without any administrative usage, used to indicate the northern part of the Italian state, also referred as Settentrione or Alta Italia...

 (in South Tyrol
South Tyrol
South Tyrol , also known by its Italian name Alto Adige, is an autonomous province in northern Italy. It is one of the two autonomous provinces that make up the autonomous region of Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol. The province has an area of and a total population of more than 500,000 inhabitants...

 and in some municipalities in other provinces), in the East Cantons of Belgium
Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

, in the French
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 regions of Alsace
Alsace
Alsace is the fifth-smallest of the 27 regions of France in land area , and the smallest in metropolitan France. It is also the seventh-most densely populated region in France and third most densely populated region in metropolitan France, with ca. 220 inhabitants per km²...

 and Lorraine
Lorraine (région)
Lorraine is one of the 27 régions of France. The administrative region has two cities of equal importance, Metz and Nancy. Metz is considered to be the official capital since that is where the regional parliament is situated...

, and in some border villages of the former South Jutland County
South Jutland County
South Jutland County is a former county on the south-central portion of the Jutland Peninsula in southern Denmark....

 of Denmark
Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

.

German-speaking communities can also be found in parts of the Czech Republic
Czech Republic
The Czech Republic is a landlocked country in Central Europe. The country is bordered by Poland to the northeast, Slovakia to the east, Austria to the south, and Germany to the west and northwest....

, Slovakia
Slovakia
The Slovak Republic is a landlocked state in Central Europe. It has a population of over five million and an area of about . Slovakia is bordered by the Czech Republic and Austria to the west, Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east and Hungary to the south...

, Hungary
Hungary
Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

, Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

, Romania
Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

, Serbia
Serbia
Serbia , officially the Republic of Serbia , is a landlocked country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe, covering the southern part of the Carpathian basin and the central part of the Balkans...

, Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 and Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan , officially the Republic of Kazakhstan, is a transcontinental country in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Ranked as the ninth largest country in the world, it is also the world's largest landlocked country; its territory of is greater than Western Europe...

. In Russia, forced expulsions after World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 and massive emigration to Germany in the 1980s and 1990s have depopulated most of these communities.

Overseas




German-speaking communities can be found in the former German colony of Namibia
Namibia
Namibia, officially the Republic of Namibia , is a country in southern Africa whose western border is the Atlantic Ocean. It shares land borders with Angola and Zambia to the north, Botswana to the east and South Africa to the south and east. It gained independence from South Africa on 21 March...

, independent from South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

 since 1990, as well as in the other countries of German emigration such as the US, Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

, Dominican Republic
Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is a nation on the island of La Hispaniola, part of the Greater Antilles archipelago in the Caribbean region. The western third of the island is occupied by the nation of Haiti, making Hispaniola one of two Caribbean islands that are shared by two countries...

, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay
Paraguay
Paraguay , officially the Republic of Paraguay , is a landlocked country in South America. It is bordered by Argentina to the south and southwest, Brazil to the east and northeast, and Bolivia to the northwest. Paraguay lies on both banks of the Paraguay River, which runs through the center of the...

, Uruguay
Uruguay
Uruguay ,officially the Oriental Republic of Uruguay,sometimes the Eastern Republic of Uruguay; ) is a country in the southeastern part of South America. It is home to some 3.5 million people, of whom 1.8 million live in the capital Montevideo and its metropolitan area...

, Chile
Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

, Peru
Peru
Peru , officially the Republic of Peru , is a country in western South America. It is bordered on the north by Ecuador and Colombia, on the east by Brazil, on the southeast by Bolivia, on the south by Chile, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean....

, Venezuela
Venezuela
Venezuela , officially called the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela , is a tropical country on the northern coast of South America. It borders Colombia to the west, Guyana to the east, and Brazil to the south...

 (where the dialect Alemán Coloniero
Alemán Coloniero
Alemán Coloniero, spoken in Colonia Tovar, Venezuela, is a dialect that belongs to the Low Alemannic branch of German.-Characteristics:The language, like other Alemannic dialects, is not mutually intelligible with Standard German. It is spoken by descendants of Germans from the Black Forest region...

 developed), South Africa and Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

. In Namibia, German Namibians
German Namibians
German Namibians are a community of people descended from ethnic German colonists who settled in present-day Namibia. In 1883, the German trader Adolf Lüderitz bought what would become the southern coast of Namibia and founded the city of Lüderitz...

 retain German educational institutions.

In Brazil
Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

 the largest concentrations of German speakers are in Rio Grande do Sul
Rio Grande do Sul
Rio Grande do Sul is the southernmost state in Brazil, and the state with the fifth highest Human Development Index in the country. In this state is located the southernmost city in the country, Chuí, on the border with Uruguay. In the region of Bento Gonçalves and Caxias do Sul, the largest wine...

 (where Riograndenser Hunsrückisch
Riograndenser Hunsrückisch
Riograndenser Hunsrückisch , spoken in parts of Brazil, is a Brazilian West Germanic language derived primarily from the Hunsrückisch dialect of the German Language....

 developed), Santa Catarina
Santa Catarina (state)
Santa Catarina is a state in southern Brazil with one of the highest standards of living in Latin America. Its capital is Florianópolis, which mostly lies on the Santa Catarina Island. Neighbouring states are Rio Grande do Sul to the south and Paraná to the north. It is bounded on the east by...

, Paraná
Paraná (state)
Paraná is one of the states of Brazil, located in the South of the country, bordered on the north by São Paulo state, on the east by the Atlantic Ocean, on the south by Santa Catarina state and the Misiones Province of Argentina, and on the west by Mato Grosso do Sul and the republic of Paraguay,...

, São Paulo
São Paulo
São Paulo is the largest city in Brazil, the largest city in the southern hemisphere and South America, and the world's seventh largest city by population. The metropolis is anchor to the São Paulo metropolitan area, ranked as the second-most populous metropolitan area in the Americas and among...

 and Espírito Santo
Espírito Santo
Espírito Santo is one of the states of southeastern Brazil, often referred to by the abbreviation "ES". Its capital is Vitória and the largest city is Vila Velha. The name of the state means literally "holy spirit" after the Holy Ghost of Christianity...

. There are also important concentrations of German-speaking descendants in Argentina
Argentina
Argentina , officially the Argentine Republic , is the second largest country in South America by land area, after Brazil. It is constituted as a federation of 23 provinces and an autonomous city, Buenos Aires...

, Venezuela
Venezuela
Venezuela , officially called the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela , is a tropical country on the northern coast of South America. It borders Colombia to the west, Guyana to the east, and Brazil to the south...

, Paraguay
Paraguay
Paraguay , officially the Republic of Paraguay , is a landlocked country in South America. It is bordered by Argentina to the south and southwest, Brazil to the east and northeast, and Bolivia to the northwest. Paraguay lies on both banks of the Paraguay River, which runs through the center of the...

 and Chile
Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

. In the 20th century, over 100,000 German political refugees
Refugee
A refugee is a person who outside her country of origin or habitual residence because she has suffered persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or because she is a member of a persecuted 'social group'. Such a person may be referred to as an 'asylum seeker' until...

 and invited entrepreneurs settled in Latin America
Latin America
Latin America is a region of the Americas where Romance languages  – particularly Spanish and Portuguese, and variably French – are primarily spoken. Latin America has an area of approximately 21,069,500 km² , almost 3.9% of the Earth's surface or 14.1% of its land surface area...

, in countries such as Costa Rica
Costa Rica
Costa Rica , officially the Republic of Costa Rica is a multilingual, multiethnic and multicultural country in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Caribbean Sea to the east....

, Panama
Panama
Panama , officially the Republic of Panama , is the southernmost country of Central America. Situated on the isthmus connecting North and South America, it is bordered by Costa Rica to the northwest, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The...

, Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic, to establish German-speaking enclaves, and reportedly there is a small German immigration to Puerto Rico
German immigration to Puerto Rico
German immigration to Puerto Rico increased when German businessmen immigrated to Puerto Rico during the early part of the 19th century. However, it was the economic and political situation in Europe during the early 19th century plus, the fact that the Spanish Crown issued the Royal Decree of...

. Nearly all inhabitants of the city of Pomerode
Pomerode
Pomerode is a Brazilian city in the state of Santa Catarina, in Southern Brazil. It is located in the valley of the Itajaí-Açu river, not very far from the city of Blumenau, one of the largest cities in the state....

 in the state of Santa Catarina
Santa Catarina (state)
Santa Catarina is a state in southern Brazil with one of the highest standards of living in Latin America. Its capital is Florianópolis, which mostly lies on the Santa Catarina Island. Neighbouring states are Rio Grande do Sul to the south and Paraná to the north. It is bounded on the east by...

 in Brazil
Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

 can speak German. However, in most other locations where German immigrants settled, the vast majority of their descendents no longer speak German, as they have been largely assimilated into the host language and culture of the specific location of settlement; generally English in North America, and Spanish, or Portuguese in Latin America.
Country German speaking population (outside Europe)
 United States 5,000,000
 Brazil 3,000,000
 Argentina 500,000
 Canada 450,000 – 620,000
 Australia 110,000
 South Africa 75,000 (German expatriate citizens alone)
 Bolivia 60,000
 Chile 40,000
 Paraguay 30,000 – 40,000
 Namibia 30,000 (German expatriate citizens alone)
 Mexico 200,000
 Venezuela 10,000




In the United States, the states of North Dakota
North Dakota
North Dakota is a state located in the Midwestern region of the United States of America, along the Canadian border. The state is bordered by Canada to the north, Minnesota to the east, South Dakota to the south and Montana to the west. North Dakota is the 19th-largest state by area in the U.S....

 and South Dakota
South Dakota
South Dakota is a state located in the Midwestern region of the United States. It is named after the Lakota and Dakota Sioux American Indian tribes. Once a part of Dakota Territory, South Dakota became a state on November 2, 1889. The state has an area of and an estimated population of just over...

 are the only states where German is the most common language spoken at home after English (the second most spoken language in other states is either Spanish or French). An indication of the German presence can be found in the names of such places as New Ulm and many other towns in Minnesota; Bismarck
Bismarck, North Dakota
Bismarck is the capital of the U.S. state of North Dakota and the county seat of Burleigh County. It is the second most populous city in North Dakota after Fargo. The city's population was 61,272 at the 2010 census, while its metropolitan population was 108,779...

 (state capital), Munich
Munich, North Dakota
As of the census of 2000, there were 268 people, 112 households, and 73 families residing in the city. The population density was 436.3 people per square mile . There were 124 housing units at an average density of 201.9 per square mile . The racial makeup of the city was 97.76% White, 0.37% from...

, Karlsruhe
Karlsruhe, North Dakota
-External links:*...

, and Strasburg
Strasburg, North Dakota
As of the census of 2000, there were 549 people, 216 households, and 136 families residing in Strasburg. The population density was 1,823.0 people per square mile . There were 245 housing units at an average density of 813.5 per square mile . The racial makeup of the town was 96.72% White, 0.18%...

 in North Dakota; New Braunfels and Muenster in Texas; and Kiel, Berlin
Berlin, Wisconsin
Berlin is a city in Green Lake and Waushara Counties in the U.S. state of Wisconsin. The population was 5,305 at the 2000 census. The city is located mostly within the Town of Berlin in Green Lake County; only a small portion of the city extends into the Town of Aurora in Waushara...

 and Germantown
Germantown, Wisconsin
Germantown is a village in Washington County, Wisconsin, United States. The population was 18,260 at the 2000 census. The village surrounds the Town of Germantown...

 in Wisconsin.

Between 1843 and 1910, more than 5 million Germans emigrated overseas, mostly to the United States. Over the course of the 20th century many of the descendants of 18th century and 19th century immigrants ceased speaking German at home, but small populations of elderly (as well as some younger) speakers can be found in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...

 (Amish
Amish
The Amish , sometimes referred to as Amish Mennonites, are a group of Christian church fellowships that form a subgroup of the Mennonite churches...

, Hutterites, Dunkards and some Mennonites historically spoke Hutterite German
Hutterite German
Hutterite German is an Upper German dialect of the Austro-Bavarian variety of the German language, which is spoken by Hutterite communities in Canada and the United States...

 and a West Central German
West Central German
West Central German belongs to the Central, High German dialect family in the German language. Its dialects are thoroughly Franconian including the following sub-families:* Central Franconian...

 variety of Pennsylvania Dutch
Pennsylvania German language
The Pennsylvania German language is a variety of West Central German possibly spoken by more than 250,000 people in North America...

), Kansas
Kansas
Kansas is a US state located in the Midwestern United States. It is named after the Kansas River which flows through it, which in turn was named after the Kansa Native American tribe, which inhabited the area. The tribe's name is often said to mean "people of the wind" or "people of the south...

 (Mennonites and Volga German
Volga German
The Volga Germans were ethnic Germans living along the River Volga in the region of southern European Russia around Saratov and to the south. Recruited as immigrants to Russia in the 18th century, they were allowed to maintain German culture, language, traditions and churches: Lutherans, Reformed,...

s), North Dakota (Hutterite Germans, Mennonites, Russian Germans
History of Germans in Russia and the Soviet Union
The German minority in Russia and the Soviet Union was created from several sources and in several waves. The 1914 census puts the number of Germans living in Russian Empire at 2,416,290. In 1989, the German population of the Soviet Union was roughly 2 million. In the 2002 Russian census, 597,212...

, Volga Germans, and Baltic Germans), South Dakota
South Dakota
South Dakota is a state located in the Midwestern region of the United States. It is named after the Lakota and Dakota Sioux American Indian tribes. Once a part of Dakota Territory, South Dakota became a state on November 2, 1889. The state has an area of and an estimated population of just over...

, Montana
Montana
Montana is a state in the Western United States. The western third of Montana contains numerous mountain ranges. Smaller, "island ranges" are found in the central third of the state, for a total of 77 named ranges of the Rocky Mountains. This geographical fact is reflected in the state's name,...

, Texas
Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

 (Texas German
Texas German
Texas German is a dialect of the German language that is spoken by descendants of German immigrants who settled in the Texas Hill Country region in the mid-19th century. These immigrants founded the towns of New Braunfels, Fredericksburg, Boerne, Schulenburg, Weimar, Walburg, and Comfort...

), Wisconsin
Wisconsin
Wisconsin is a U.S. state located in the north-central United States and is part of the Midwest. It is bordered by Minnesota to the west, Iowa to the southwest, Illinois to the south, Lake Michigan to the east, Michigan to the northeast, and Lake Superior to the north. Wisconsin's capital is...

, Indiana
Indiana
Indiana is a US state, admitted to the United States as the 19th on December 11, 1816. It is located in the Midwestern United States and Great Lakes Region. With 6,483,802 residents, the state is ranked 15th in population and 16th in population density. Indiana is ranked 38th in land area and is...

, Oregon
Oregon
Oregon is a state in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. It is located on the Pacific coast, with Washington to the north, California to the south, Nevada on the southeast and Idaho to the east. The Columbia and Snake rivers delineate much of Oregon's northern and eastern...

, Louisiana
Louisiana
Louisiana is a state located in the southern region of the United States of America. Its capital is Baton Rouge and largest city is New Orleans. Louisiana is the only state in the U.S. with political subdivisions termed parishes, which are local governments equivalent to counties...

 and Oklahoma
Oklahoma
Oklahoma is a state located in the South Central region of the United States of America. With an estimated 3,751,351 residents as of the 2010 census and a land area of 68,667 square miles , Oklahoma is the 28th most populous and 20th-largest state...

. A significant group of German Pietists in Iowa
Iowa
Iowa is a state located in the Midwestern United States, an area often referred to as the "American Heartland". It derives its name from the Ioway people, one of the many American Indian tribes that occupied the state at the time of European exploration. Iowa was a part of the French colony of New...

 formed the Amana Colonies
Amana Colonies
The Amana Colonies are a group of settlements of radical German Pietists in Iowa, USA, comprising seven villages. Calling themselves the Ebenezer Society or the Community of True Inspiration , they first settled in New York state near Buffalo in what is now the Town of West Seneca...

 and continue to practice speaking their heritage language. Early twentieth century immigration was often to St. Louis
St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis is an independent city on the eastern border of Missouri, United States. With a population of 319,294, it was the 58th-largest U.S. city at the 2010 U.S. Census. The Greater St...

, Chicago
Chicago
Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...

, New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.

In Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, there are 622,650 speakers of German according to the most recent census in 2006, while people of German ancestry (German Canadians) are found throughout the country. German-speaking communities are particularly found in British Columbia
British Columbia
British Columbia is the westernmost of Canada's provinces and is known for its natural beauty, as reflected in its Latin motto, Splendor sine occasu . Its name was chosen by Queen Victoria in 1858...

 (118,035) and Ontario
Ontario
Ontario is a province of Canada, located in east-central Canada. It is Canada's most populous province and second largest in total area. It is home to the nation's most populous city, Toronto, and the nation's capital, Ottawa....

 (230,330). There is a large and vibrant community in the city of Kitchener, Ontario
Kitchener, Ontario
The City of Kitchener is a city in Southern Ontario, Canada. It was the Town of Berlin from 1854 until 1912 and the City of Berlin from 1912 until 1916. The city had a population of 204,668 in the Canada 2006 Census...

, which was at one point named Berlin. German immigrants were instrumental in the country's three largest urban areas: Montreal
Montreal
Montreal is a city in Canada. It is the largest city in the province of Quebec, the second-largest city in Canada and the seventh largest in North America...

, Toronto
Toronto
Toronto is the provincial capital of Ontario and the largest city in Canada. It is located in Southern Ontario on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario. A relatively modern city, Toronto's history dates back to the late-18th century, when its land was first purchased by the British monarchy from...

, and Vancouver
Vancouver
Vancouver is a coastal seaport city on the mainland of British Columbia, Canada. It is the hub of Greater Vancouver, which, with over 2.3 million residents, is the third most populous metropolitan area in the country,...

; while post-Second World War immigrants managed to preserve a fluency in the German language in their respective neighborhoods and sections. In the first half of the 20ᵗʰ century, over a million German-Canadian
German-Canadian
German Canadians are Canadians of ethnic German ancestry. The 2006 Canadian census put the number of Canadians of German ethnicity at 3,179,425. Only a small fraction of German Canadians are descendants of immigrants from what is today Germany...

s made the language Canada's third most spoken after French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

 and English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

.

In Mexico there are also large populations of German ancestry
German Mexican
A German Mexican is a Mexican citizen of German descent or origin....

, mainly in the cities of: Mexico City
Mexico City
Mexico City is the Federal District , capital of Mexico and seat of the federal powers of the Mexican Union. It is a federal entity within Mexico which is not part of any one of the 31 Mexican states but belongs to the federation as a whole...

, Puebla
Puebla
Puebla officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Puebla is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided in 217 municipalities and its capital city is Puebla....

, Mazatlán
Mazatlán
Mazatlán is a city in the Mexican state of Sinaloa; the surrounding municipio for which the city serves as the municipal seat is Mazatlán Municipality. It is located at on the Pacific coast, across from the southernmost tip of the Baja California peninsula.Mazatlán is a Nahuatl word meaning...

, Tapachula
Tapachula
Tapachula is a town and with a hot, humid climate in the Mexican state of Chiapas. It is located in southern part of the state on the Soconusco coastal plain, near the border with Guatemala, at 14.91° N 92.27° W...

, and larger populations scattered in the states of Chihuahua, Durango
Durango
Durango officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Durango is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. The state is located in Northwest Mexico. With a population of 1,632,934, it has Mexico's second-lowest population density, after Baja...

, and Zacatecas
Zacatecas
Zacatecas officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Zacatecas is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided in 58 municipalities and its capital city is Zacatecas....

. German ancestry is also said to be found in neighboring towns around Guadalajara, Jalisco
Guadalajara, Jalisco
Guadalajara is the capital of the Mexican state of Jalisco, and the seat of the municipality of Guadalajara. The city is located in the central region of Jalisco in the western-pacific area of Mexico. With a population of 1,564,514 it is Mexico's second most populous municipality...

 and much of Northern Mexico, where German influence was immersed into the Mexican culture. Standard German is spoken by the affluent German communities in Puebla, Mexico City, Nuevo León
Nuevo León
Nuevo León It is located in Northeastern Mexico. It is bordered by the states of Tamaulipas to the north and east, San Luis Potosí to the south, and Coahuila to the west. To the north, Nuevo León has a 15 kilometer stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border adjacent to the U.S...

, San Luis Potosí
San Luis Potosí
San Luis Potosí officially Estado Libre y Soberano de San Luis Potosí is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided in 58 municipalities and its capital city is San Luis Potosí....

 and Quintana Roo
Quintana Roo
Quintana Roo officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Quintana Roo is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided in 10 municipalities and its capital city is Chetumal....

.

The dialects of German which are or were primarily spoken in colonies or communities founded by German-speaking people resemble the dialects of the regions the founders came from. For example, Pennsylvania German resembles Palatinate German
Palatinate German
Palatine German is a West Franconian dialect of German which is spoken in the Rhine Valley roughly in an area between the cities of Zweibrücken, Kaiserslautern, Alzey, Worms, Ludwigshafen am Rhein, Mannheim, Heidelberg, Speyer, Landau, Wörth am Rhein and the border to the Alsace region in France...

 dialects, and Hutterite German resembles dialects of Carinthia
Carinthia (state)
Carinthia is the southernmost Austrian state or Land. Situated within the Eastern Alps it is chiefly noted for its mountains and lakes.The main language is German. Its regional dialects belong to the Southern Austro-Bavarian group...

. Texas German
Texas German
Texas German is a dialect of the German language that is spoken by descendants of German immigrants who settled in the Texas Hill Country region in the mid-19th century. These immigrants founded the towns of New Braunfels, Fredericksburg, Boerne, Schulenburg, Weimar, Walburg, and Comfort...

 is a dialect spoken in the areas of Texas settled by the Adelsverein
Adelsverein
Society for the Protection of German Immigrants in Texas, better known as Adelsverein , organized on April 20, 1842, was a colonial attempt to establish a new Germany within the borders of Texas.-History:...

, such as New Braunfels and Fredericksburg. In the Amana Colonies
Amana Colonies
The Amana Colonies are a group of settlements of radical German Pietists in Iowa, USA, comprising seven villages. Calling themselves the Ebenezer Society or the Community of True Inspiration , they first settled in New York state near Buffalo in what is now the Town of West Seneca...

 in the state of Iowa, Amana German is spoken. Plautdietsch
Plautdietsch
Plautdietsch, or Mennonite Low German, was originally a Low Prussian variety of East Low German, with Dutch influence, that developed in the 16th and 17th centuries in the Vistula delta area of Royal Prussia, today Polish territory. The word is another pronunciation of Plattdeutsch, or Low German...

 is a large minority language
Minority language
A minority language is a language spoken by a minority of the population of a territory. Such people are termed linguistic minorities or language minorities.-International politics:...

 spoken in Northern Mexico by the Mennonite
Mennonite
The Mennonites are a group of Christian Anabaptist denominations named after the Frisian Menno Simons , who, through his writings, articulated and thereby formalized the teachings of earlier Swiss founders...

 communities, and is spoken by more than 200,000 people in Mexico. Pennsylvania Dutch
Pennsylvania German language
The Pennsylvania German language is a variety of West Central German possibly spoken by more than 250,000 people in North America...

 is a dialect of German spoken by the Amish
Amish
The Amish , sometimes referred to as Amish Mennonites, are a group of Christian church fellowships that form a subgroup of the Mennonite churches...

 population of Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Ohio.

Hutterite German
Hutterite German
Hutterite German is an Upper German dialect of the Austro-Bavarian variety of the German language, which is spoken by Hutterite communities in Canada and the United States...

 is an Upper German dialect of the Austro-Bavarian
Austro-Bavarian
Bavarian , also Austro-Bavarian, is a major group of Upper German varieties spoken in the south east of the German language area.-History and origin:...

 variety of the German language, which is spoken by Hutterite communities in Canada and the United States. Hutterite is spoken in the U.S. states of Washington, Montana
Montana
Montana is a state in the Western United States. The western third of Montana contains numerous mountain ranges. Smaller, "island ranges" are found in the central third of the state, for a total of 77 named ranges of the Rocky Mountains. This geographical fact is reflected in the state's name,...

, North Dakota
North Dakota
North Dakota is a state located in the Midwestern region of the United States of America, along the Canadian border. The state is bordered by Canada to the north, Minnesota to the east, South Dakota to the south and Montana to the west. North Dakota is the 19th-largest state by area in the U.S....

, South Dakota
South Dakota
South Dakota is a state located in the Midwestern region of the United States. It is named after the Lakota and Dakota Sioux American Indian tribes. Once a part of Dakota Territory, South Dakota became a state on November 2, 1889. The state has an area of and an estimated population of just over...

, and Minnesota
Minnesota
Minnesota is a U.S. state located in the Midwestern United States. The twelfth largest state of the U.S., it is the twenty-first most populous, with 5.3 million residents. Minnesota was carved out of the eastern half of the Minnesota Territory and admitted to the Union as the thirty-second state...

; and in the Canadian provinces of Alberta
Alberta
Alberta is a province of Canada. It had an estimated population of 3.7 million in 2010 making it the most populous of Canada's three prairie provinces...

, Saskatchewan
Saskatchewan
Saskatchewan is a prairie province in Canada, which has an area of . Saskatchewan is bordered on the west by Alberta, on the north by the Northwest Territories, on the east by Manitoba, and on the south by the U.S. states of Montana and North Dakota....

 and Manitoba
Manitoba
Manitoba is a Canadian prairie province with an area of . The province has over 110,000 lakes and has a largely continental climate because of its flat topography. Agriculture, mostly concentrated in the fertile southern and western parts of the province, is vital to the province's economy; other...

. Its speakers belong to some Schmiedleit, Lehrerleit, and Dariusleit Hutterite groups, but there are also speakers among the older generations of Prairieleit (the descendants of those Hutterites who chose not to settle in colonies). Hutterite children who grow up in the colonies learn and speak first Hutterite German before learning English in the public school, the standard language of the surrounding areas. Many colonies, though, continue with German Grammar School, separate from the public school, throughout a student's elementary education.

In Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, the state of South Australia
South Australia
South Australia is a state of Australia in the southern central part of the country. It covers some of the most arid parts of the continent; with a total land area of , it is the fourth largest of Australia's six states and two territories.South Australia shares borders with all of the mainland...

 experienced a pronounced wave of Germans arriving in the 1840s from Prussia (particularly the Silesia
Silesia
Silesia is a historical region of Central Europe located mostly in Poland, with smaller parts also in the Czech Republic, and Germany.Silesia is rich in mineral and natural resources, and includes several important industrial areas. Silesia's largest city and historical capital is Wrocław...

 region). With the prolonged isolation from other German speakers and contact with Australian English
Australian English
Australian English is the name given to the group of dialects spoken in Australia that form a major variety of the English language....

 some have suggested a unique dialect formed known as Barossa German
Barossa German
Barossa German refers to a dialect of German, which was once common in South Australia. The prominent South Australian writer, Colin Thiele , whose grandparents were German immigrants, referred to "Barossa Deutsch" as: "that quaintly inbred and hybrid language evolved from a century of linguistic...

 spoken predominantly in the Barossa Valley
Barossa Valley
The Barossa Valley is a major wine-producing region and tourist destination of South Australia, located 60 km northeast of Adelaide. It is the valley formed by the North Para River, and the Barossa Valley Way is the main road through the valley, connecting the main towns on the valley floor of...

 near Adelaide
Adelaide
Adelaide is the capital city of South Australia and the fifth-largest city in Australia. Adelaide has an estimated population of more than 1.2 million...

. Usage sharply declined with the advent of World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, the prevailing anti-German sentiment in the population and related government action. It continued to be used as a first language into the twentieth century but now its use is limited to a few older speakers.

There is also an important German creole
German-based creole languages
A German creole, more properly a German-based creole language, is a creole language with a significant influence from the German language....

 being studied and recovered, named Unserdeutsch, spoken in the former German colony of Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea , officially the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, is a country in Oceania, occupying the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and numerous offshore islands...

, across Micronesia
Micronesia
Micronesia is a subregion of Oceania, comprising thousands of small islands in the western Pacific Ocean. It is distinct from Melanesia to the south, and Polynesia to the east. The Philippines lie to the west, and Indonesia to the southwest....

 and in northern Australia (i.e. coastal parts of Queensland
Queensland
Queensland is a state of Australia, occupying the north-eastern section of the mainland continent. It is bordered by the Northern Territory, South Australia and New South Wales to the west, south-west and south respectively. To the east, Queensland is bordered by the Coral Sea and Pacific Ocean...

 and Western Australia
Western Australia
Western Australia is a state of Australia, occupying the entire western third of the Australian continent. It is bounded by the Indian Ocean to the north and west, the Great Australian Bight and Indian Ocean to the south, the Northern Territory to the north-east and South Australia to the south-east...

), by a few elderly people. The risk of its extinction is serious and efforts to revive interest in the language are being implemented by scholars.

Internet


According to Global Reach
Global reach
Global Reach is a business initiative to increase the access between a company and their current and potential customers through the use of the Internet. The Internet allows the company to market themselves and attract new customers to their website where they can provide product information and...

 (2004), 6.9% of the Internet population is German. According to Netz-tipp (2002), 7.7% of webpages are written in German, making it second only to English in the European language group. They also report that 12% of Google's users use its German interface.

Some older statistics included in 1998 Babel found somewhat similar demographics. FUNREDES (1998) and Vilaweb (2000) both found that German is the third most popular language used by websites, after English and Japanese
Japanese language
is a language spoken by over 130 million people in Japan and in Japanese emigrant communities. It is a member of the Japonic language family, which has a number of proposed relationships with other languages, none of which has gained wide acceptance among historical linguists .Japanese is an...

.

History



Origins


The history of the language begins with the High German consonant shift
High German consonant shift
In historical linguistics, the High German consonant shift or second Germanic consonant shift is a phonological development that took place in the southern parts of the West Germanic dialect continuum in several phases, probably beginning between the 3rd and 5th centuries AD, and was almost...

 during the migration period
Migration Period
The Migration Period, also called the Barbarian Invasions , was a period of intensified human migration in Europe that occurred from c. 400 to 800 CE. This period marked the transition from Late Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages...

, separating Old High German
Old High German
The term Old High German refers to the earliest stage of the German language and it conventionally covers the period from around 500 to 1050. Coherent written texts do not appear until the second half of the 8th century, and some treat the period before 750 as 'prehistoric' and date the start of...

 dialects from Old Saxon
Old Saxon
Old Saxon, also known as Old Low German, is the earliest recorded form of Low German, documented from the 8th century until the 12th century, when it evolved into Middle Low German. It was spoken on the north-west coast of Germany and in the Netherlands by Saxon peoples...

. The earliest testimonies of Old High German are from scattered Elder Futhark
Elder Futhark
The Elder Futhark is the oldest form of the runic alphabet, used by Germanic tribes for Northwest Germanic and Migration period Germanic dialects of the 2nd to 8th centuries for inscriptions on artifacts such as jewellery, amulets, tools, weapons and runestones...

 inscriptions, especially in Alemannic
Alemannic German
Alemannic is a group of dialects of the Upper German branch of the Germanic language family. It is spoken by approximately ten million people in six countries: Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, France and Italy...

, from the 6th century AD; the earliest glosses (Abrogans
Abrogans
The Abrogans, or Codex Abrogans , is probably the oldest extant book written in the German language. It is a manuscript dictionary of synonyms from Latin into Old High German dating from the 8th century . Several copies were made, but only one has survived to the present, that in the library of St...

) date to the 8th; and the oldest coherent texts (the Hildebrandslied, the Muspilli
Muspilli
Muspilli is one of but two surviving pieces of Old High German epic poetry , dating to around 870. One large fragment of the text has survived in the margins and empty pages of a codex marked as the possession of Louis the German and now in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek . The beginning and end of...

 and the Merseburg Incantations
Merseburg Incantations
The Merseburg Incantations are two medieval magic spells, charms or incantations, written in Old High German. They are the only known examples of Germanic pagan belief preserved in this language...

) to the 9th century. Old Saxon
Old Saxon
Old Saxon, also known as Old Low German, is the earliest recorded form of Low German, documented from the 8th century until the 12th century, when it evolved into Middle Low German. It was spoken on the north-west coast of Germany and in the Netherlands by Saxon peoples...

 at this time belongs to the North Sea Germanic
Ingvaeonic
Ingvaeonic , also known as North Sea Germanic, is a postulated grouping of the West Germanic languages that comprises Old Frisian, Old English and Old Saxon....

 cultural sphere, and Low Saxon
Low German
Low German or Low Saxon is an Ingvaeonic West Germanic language spoken mainly in northern Germany and the eastern part of the Netherlands...

 was to fall under German rather than Anglo-Frisian influence during the Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

.

As Germany was divided into many different states
States of Germany
Germany is made up of sixteen which are partly sovereign constituent states of the Federal Republic of Germany. Land literally translates as "country", and constitutionally speaking, they are constituent countries...

, the only force working for a unification or standardization
Standard language
A standard language is a language variety used by a group of people in their public discourse. Alternatively, varieties become standard by undergoing a process of standardization, during which it is organized for description in grammars and dictionaries and encoded in such reference works...

 of German during a period of several hundred years was the general preference of writers trying to write in a way that could be understood in the largest possible area.

Modern German


When Martin Luther
Martin Luther
Martin Luther was a German priest, professor of theology and iconic figure of the Protestant Reformation. He strongly disputed the claim that freedom from God's punishment for sin could be purchased with money. He confronted indulgence salesman Johann Tetzel with his Ninety-Five Theses in 1517...

 translated the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 (the New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

 in 1522 and the Old Testament
Old Testament
The Old Testament, of which Christians hold different views, is a Christian term for the religious writings of ancient Israel held sacred and inspired by Christians which overlaps with the 24-book canon of the Masoretic Text of Judaism...

, published in parts and completed in 1534), he based his translation mainly on the bureaucratic standard language used in Saxony (sächsische Kanzleisprache), also known as Meißner-Deutsch (German from the city of Meissen
Meissen
Meissen is a town of approximately 30,000 about northwest of Dresden on both banks of the Elbe river in the Free State of Saxony, in eastern Germany. Meissen is the home of Meissen porcelain, the Albrechtsburg castle, the Gothic Meissen Cathedral and the Meissen Frauenkirche...

). This language was based on Eastern Upper and Eastern Central German dialects and preserved much of the grammatical system of Middle High German
Middle High German
Middle High German , abbreviated MHG , is the term used for the period in the history of the German language between 1050 and 1350. It is preceded by Old High German and followed by Early New High German...

 (unlike the spoken German dialects in Central and Upper Germany, which already at that time began to lose the genitive case
Genitive case
In grammar, genitive is the grammatical case that marks a noun as modifying another noun...

 and the preterit). In the beginning, copies of the Bible had a long list for each region, which translated words unknown in the region into the regional dialect. Roman Catholics rejected Luther's translation in the beginning and tried to create their own Catholic standard (gemeines Deutsch) — which, however, differed from "Protestant German" only in some minor details. It took until the middle of the 18th century to create a standard that was widely accepted, thus ending the period of Early New High German
Early New High German
Early New High German is a term for the period in the history of the German language, generally defined, following Wilhelm Scherer, as the period 1350 to 1650.Alternative periodisations take the period to begin later; e.g...

.
Until about 1800, standard German was almost only a written language. At this time, people in urban northern Germany
Northern Germany
- Geography :The key terrain features of North Germany are the marshes along the coastline of the North Sea and Baltic Sea, and the geest and heaths inland. Also prominent are the low hills of the Baltic Uplands, the ground moraines, end moraines, sandur, glacial valleys, bogs, and Luch...

, who spoke dialects very different from Standard German
Standard German
Standard German is the standard variety of the German language used as a written language, in formal contexts, and for communication between different dialect areas...

, learned it almost like a foreign language and tried to pronounce it as closely to the spelling as possible. Prescriptive pronunciation guides used to consider northern German pronunciation
German phonology
This article is about the phonology of the German language based on standard German. It deals with current phonology and phonetics as well as with historical developments thereof, including geographical variants .Since German is a pluricentric language, there are a number of different...

 to be the standard. However, the actual pronunciation of Standard German varies from region to region.

German was the language of commerce and government in the Habsburg Empire, which encompassed a large area of Central and Eastern Europe. Until the mid-19th century it was essentially the language of townspeople throughout most of the Empire. It indicated that the speaker was a merchant
Merchant
A merchant is a businessperson who trades in commodities that were produced by others, in order to earn a profit.Merchants can be one of two types:# A wholesale merchant operates in the chain between producer and retail merchant...

, an urbanite, not their nationality. Some cities, such as Prague
Prague
Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. Situated in the north-west of the country on the Vltava river, the city is home to about 1.3 million people, while its metropolitan area is estimated to have a population of over 2.3 million...

 (German: Prag) and Budapest
Budapest
Budapest is the capital of Hungary. As the largest city of Hungary, it is the country's principal political, cultural, commercial, industrial, and transportation centre. In 2011, Budapest had 1,733,685 inhabitants, down from its 1989 peak of 2,113,645 due to suburbanization. The Budapest Commuter...

 (Buda
Buda
For detailed information see: History of Buda CastleBuda is the western part of the Hungarian capital Budapest on the west bank of the Danube. The name Buda takes its name from the name of Bleda the Hun ruler, whose name is also Buda in Hungarian.Buda comprises about one-third of Budapest's...

, German: Ofen), were gradually Germanized in the years after their incorporation into the Habsburg domain. Others, such as Bratislava
Bratislava
Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia and, with a population of about 431,000, also the country's largest city. Bratislava is in southwestern Slovakia on both banks of the Danube River. Bordering Austria and Hungary, it is the only national capital that borders two independent countries.Bratislava...

 (German: Pressburg), were originally settled during the Habsburg period and were primarily German at that time. A few cities such as Milan
Milan
Milan is the second-largest city in Italy and the capital city of the region of Lombardy and of the province of Milan. The city proper has a population of about 1.3 million, while its urban area, roughly coinciding with its administrative province and the bordering Province of Monza and Brianza ,...

 (German: Mailand) remained primarily non-German. However, most cities were primarily German during this time, such as Prague, Budapest, Bratislava, Zagreb
Zagreb
Zagreb is the capital and the largest city of the Republic of Croatia. It is in the northwest of the country, along the Sava river, at the southern slopes of the Medvednica mountain. Zagreb lies at an elevation of approximately above sea level. According to the last official census, Zagreb's city...

 (German: Agram), and Ljubljana
Ljubljana
Ljubljana is the capital of Slovenia and its largest city. It is the centre of the City Municipality of Ljubljana. It is located in the centre of the country in the Ljubljana Basin, and is a mid-sized city of some 270,000 inhabitants...

 (German: Laibach), though they were surrounded by territory that spoke other languages.

In 1901, the 2nd Orthographical Conference ended with a complete standardization of German language in its written form while the Deutsche Bühnensprache (literally, German stage
Stage (theatre)
In theatre or performance arts, the stage is a designated space for the performance productions. The stage serves as a space for actors or performers and a focal point for the members of the audience...

 language) had already established rules for German three years earlier.

Media and written works are now almost all produced in Standard German (often called Hochdeutsch in German) which is understood in all areas where German is spoken.

The first dictionary of the Brothers Grimm
Brothers Grimm
The Brothers Grimm , Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm , were German academics, linguists, cultural researchers, and authors who collected folklore and published several collections of it as Grimm's Fairy Tales, which became very popular...

, the 16 parts of which were issued between 1852 and 1860, remains the most comprehensive guide to the words of the German language. In 1860, grammatical and orthographic rules first appeared in the Duden Handbook. In 1901, this was declared the standard definition of the German language. Official revisions of some of these rules were not issued until 1998, when the German spelling reform of 1996
German spelling reform of 1996
The German orthography reform of 1996 was an attempt to simplify the spelling of the German language and thus to make it easier to learn, without substantially changing the rules familiar to all living users of the language....

 was officially promulgated by governmental representatives of all German-speaking countries. Since the reform, German spelling has been in an eight-year transitional period during which the reformed spelling is taught in most schools, while traditional and reformed spellings co-exist in the media. See German spelling reform of 1996
German spelling reform of 1996
The German orthography reform of 1996 was an attempt to simplify the spelling of the German language and thus to make it easier to learn, without substantially changing the rules familiar to all living users of the language....

 for an overview of the public debate concerning the reform, with some major newspapers and magazines and several known writers refusing to adopt it.

Reform of 1996 and beyond


The German spelling reform of 1996 led to public controversy and considerable dispute. Some states (Bundesländer) would not accept it (North Rhine Westphalia
North Rhine-Westphalia
North Rhine-Westphalia is the most populous state of Germany, with four of the country's ten largest cities. The state was formed in 1946 as a merger of the northern Rhineland and Westphalia, both formerly part of Prussia. Its capital is Düsseldorf. The state is currently run by a coalition of the...

 and Bavaria
Bavaria
Bavaria, formally the Free State of Bavaria is a state of Germany, located in the southeast of Germany. With an area of , it is the largest state by area, forming almost 20% of the total land area of Germany...

). The dispute landed at one point in the highest court, which made a short issue of it, claiming that the states had to decide for themselves and that only in schools could the reform be made the official rule—everybody else could continue writing as they had learned it. After 10 years, without any intervention by the federal parliament, a major revision was installed in 2006, just in time for the coming school year. In 2007, some traditional spellings were finally invalidated. The only sure and easily recognizable symptom of a text's being in compliance with the reform is the -ss at the end of words, such as dass and muss. Classic spelling forbade this ending, instead using daß and muß.
The cause of the controversy evolved around the question of whether a language is part of the culture which must be preserved or a means of communicating information which has to allow for growth.

Standard German


Standard German originated not as a traditional dialect of a specific region, but as a written language
Written language
A written language is the representation of a language by means of a writing system. Written language is an invention in that it must be taught to children, who will instinctively learn or create spoken or gestural languages....

. However, there are places where the traditional regional dialects have been replaced by standard German; this is the case in vast stretches of Northern Germany
Northern Germany
- Geography :The key terrain features of North Germany are the marshes along the coastline of the North Sea and Baltic Sea, and the geest and heaths inland. Also prominent are the low hills of the Baltic Uplands, the ground moraines, end moraines, sandur, glacial valleys, bogs, and Luch...

, but also in major cities in other parts of the country.

Standard German differs regionally, between German-speaking countries, in vocabulary
Vocabulary
A person's vocabulary is the set of words within a language that are familiar to that person. A vocabulary usually develops with age, and serves as a useful and fundamental tool for communication and acquiring knowledge...

 and some instances of pronunciation
Pronunciation
Pronunciation refers to the way a word or a language is spoken, or the manner in which someone utters a word. If one is said to have "correct pronunciation", then it refers to both within a particular dialect....

, and even grammar
Grammar
In linguistics, grammar is the set of structural rules that govern the composition of clauses, phrases, and words in any given natural language. The term refers also to the study of such rules, and this field includes morphology, syntax, and phonology, often complemented by phonetics, semantics,...

 and orthography
Orthography
The orthography of a language specifies a standardized way of using a specific writing system to write the language. Where more than one writing system is used for a language, for example Kurdish, Uyghur, Serbian or Inuktitut, there can be more than one orthography...

. This variation must not be confused with the variation of local dialects . Even though the regional varieties of standard German are only to a certain degree influenced by the local dialects, they are very distinct. German is thus considered a pluricentric language
Pluricentric language
A pluricentric language is a language with several standard versions, both in spoken and in written forms. This situation usually arises when language and the national identity of its native speakers do not, or did not, coincide.-English:...

.

In most regions, the speakers use a continuum of mixtures from more dialectal varieties to more standard varieties according to situation.

In the German-speaking parts of Switzerland
Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

, mixtures of dialect and standard are very seldom used, and the use of standard German is largely restricted to the written language. Therefore, this situation has been called a medial diglossia
Diglossia
In linguistics, diglossia refers to a situation in which two dialects or languages are used by a single language community. In addition to the community's everyday or vernacular language variety , a second, highly codified variety is used in certain situations such as literature, formal...

. Swiss Standard German
Swiss Standard German
Swiss Standard German, referred to by the Swiss as Schriftdeutsch, or Hochdeutsch, is one of four official languages in Switzerland, besides French, Italian and Romansh...

 is used in the Swiss, Austrian Standard German officially in the Austrian education system.

Official status


Standard German is the only official language
Official language
An official language is a language that is given a special legal status in a particular country, state, or other jurisdiction. Typically a nation's official language will be the one used in that nation's courts, parliament and administration. However, official status can also be used to give a...

 in Liechtenstein; it shares official status in Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 (with Danish
Danish language
Danish is a North Germanic language spoken by around six million people, principally in the country of Denmark. It is also spoken by 50,000 Germans of Danish ethnicity in the northern parts of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, where it holds the status of minority language...

, Frisian, Romany
Romany
Romany relates or may refer to:*The Romani people, also known as Gypsies*Romani language or Romany language, the language of the Romani people*"Romany", the pseudonym of a broadcaster and writer of Romani descent, George Bramwell Evens...

 and Sorbian
Sorbian languages
The Sorbian languages are classified under the Slavic branch of the Indo-European languages. They are the native languages of the Sorbs, a Slavic minority in the Lusatia region of eastern Germany. Historically the language has also been known as Wendish or Lusatian. Their collective ISO 639-2 code...

 as minority languages), in Austria (with Slovene, Croatian
Croatian language
Croatian is the collective name for the standard language and dialects spoken by Croats, principally in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Serbian province of Vojvodina and other neighbouring countries...

, and Hungarian
Hungarian language
Hungarian is a Uralic language, part of the Ugric group. With some 14 million speakers, it is one of the most widely spoken non-Indo-European languages in Europe....

), Switzerland (with French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

, Italian
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

 and Romansh), Belgium (with Dutch
Dutch language
Dutch is a West Germanic language and the native language of the majority of the population of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second...

 (Flemish) and French) and Luxembourg (with French and Luxembourgish
Luxembourgish language
Luxembourgish is a High German language spoken mainly in Luxembourg. About 320,000 people worldwide speak Luxembourgish.-Language family:...

). It is used as an official regional language in Italy (South Tyrol
South Tyrol
South Tyrol , also known by its Italian name Alto Adige, is an autonomous province in northern Italy. It is one of the two autonomous provinces that make up the autonomous region of Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol. The province has an area of and a total population of more than 500,000 inhabitants...

), as well as in the cities of Sopron
Sopron
In 1910 Sopron had 33,932 inhabitants . Religions: 64.1% Roman Catholic, 27.8% Lutheran, 6.6% Jewish, 1.2% Calvinist, 0.3% other. In 2001 the city had 56,125 inhabitants...

 (Hungary), Krahule (Slovakia
Slovakia
The Slovak Republic is a landlocked state in Central Europe. It has a population of over five million and an area of about . Slovakia is bordered by the Czech Republic and Austria to the west, Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east and Hungary to the south...

) and several cities in Romania. It is the official command language (with Italian) of the Vatican
Vatican City
Vatican City , or Vatican City State, in Italian officially Stato della Città del Vaticano , which translates literally as State of the City of the Vatican, is a landlocked sovereign city-state whose territory consists of a walled enclave within the city of Rome, Italy. It has an area of...

 Swiss Guard
Swiss Guard
Swiss Guards or Schweizergarde is the name given to the Swiss soldiers who have served as bodyguards, ceremonial guards, and palace guards at foreign European courts since the late 15th century. They have had a high reputation for discipline, as well as loyalty to their employers...

.

German has an officially recognized status as regional or auxiliary language in Denmark (South Jutland region), Italy (Gressoney valley), Namibia, Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 (Opole
Bilingual communes in Poland
The bilingual status of gminas in Poland is regulated by the Act of 6 January 2005 on National and Ethnic Minorities and on the Regional Languages, which permits certain gminas with significant linguistic minorities to introduce a second, auxiliary language to be used in official contexts...

 region), and Russia (Asowo and Halbstadt).

German is one of the 23 official languages of the European Union
Languages of the European Union
The languages of the European Union are languages used by people within the member states of the European Union. They include the twenty-three official languages of the European Union along with a range of others...

. It is the language with the largest number of native speakers in the European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

, and is the second-most spoken language in Europe, just behind English and ahead of French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

.

German as a foreign language



German is the third-most taught foreign language
Foreign language
A foreign language is a language indigenous to another country. It is also a language not spoken in the native country of the person referred to, i.e. an English speaker living in Japan can say that Japanese is a foreign language to him or her...

 in the English-speaking world, after French and Spanish.

German is the main language of about 90 – 98 million million people in Europe (as of 2004), or 13.3% of all Europeans, being the second most spoken native language in Europe after Russian
Russian language
Russian is a Slavic language used primarily in Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It is an unofficial but widely spoken language in Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Turkmenistan and Estonia and, to a lesser extent, the other countries that were once constituent republics...

, above French (66.5 million speakers in 2004) and English (64.2 million speakers in 2004). It is therefore the most spoken first language in the EU. It is the second most known foreign language in the EU. It is one of the official languages of the European Union, and one of the three working language
Working language
A working language is a language that is given a unique legal status in a supra-national company, society, state or other body or organization as its primary mean of communication...

s of the European Commission
European Commission
The European Commission is the executive body of the European Union. The body is responsible for proposing legislation, implementing decisions, upholding the Union's treaties and the general day-to-day running of the Union....

, along with English and French. Thirty-two percent of citizens of the EU-15 countries say they can converse in German (either as a mother tongue or as a second or foreign language). This is assisted by the widespread availability of German TV by cable or satellite.

Dialects



German is a member of the western branch of the Germanic
Germanic languages
The Germanic languages constitute a sub-branch of the Indo-European language family. The common ancestor of all of the languages in this branch is called Proto-Germanic , which was spoken in approximately the mid-1st millennium BC in Iron Age northern Europe...

 family of languages
Language family
A language family is a group of languages related through descent from a common ancestor, called the proto-language of that family. The term 'family' comes from the tree model of language origination in historical linguistics, which makes use of a metaphor comparing languages to people in a...

, which in turn is part of the Indo-European language family. The German dialect continuum is traditionally divided most broadly into High German
High German languages
The High German languages or the High German dialects are any of the varieties of standard German, Luxembourgish and Yiddish, as well as the local German dialects spoken in central and southern Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Luxembourg and in neighboring portions of Belgium and the...

 and Low German
Low German
Low German or Low Saxon is an Ingvaeonic West Germanic language spoken mainly in northern Germany and the eastern part of the Netherlands...

.

The variation among the German dialects is considerable, with only the neighboring dialects being mutually intelligible. Some dialects are not intelligible to people who only know standard German. However, all German dialects belong to the dialect continuum of High German and Low Saxon languages.

Low German


Middle Low German
Middle Low German
Middle Low German is a language that is the descendant of Old Saxon and is the ancestor of modern Low German. It served as the international lingua franca of the Hanseatic League...

 was the lingua franca
Lingua franca
A lingua franca is a language systematically used to make communication possible between people not sharing a mother tongue, in particular when it is a third language, distinct from both mother tongues.-Characteristics:"Lingua franca" is a functionally defined term, independent of the linguistic...

 of the Hanseatic League
Hanseatic League
The Hanseatic League was an economic alliance of trading cities and their merchant guilds that dominated trade along the coast of Northern Europe...

. It was the predominant language in Northern Germany. This changed in the 16th century, when in 1534 the Luther Bible
Luther Bible
The Luther Bible is a German Bible translation by Martin Luther, first printed with both testaments in 1534. This translation became a force in shaping the Modern High German language. The project absorbed Luther's later years. The new translation was very widely disseminated thanks to the printing...

 by Martin Luther was printed. This translation is considered to be an important step towards the evolution of the Early New High German
Early New High German
Early New High German is a term for the period in the history of the German language, generally defined, following Wilhelm Scherer, as the period 1350 to 1650.Alternative periodisations take the period to begin later; e.g...

. It aimed to be understandable to a broad audience and was based mainly on Central
Central German
Central German is a group of High German dialects spoken from the Rhineland in the west to the former eastern territories of Germany.-History:...

 and Upper German
Upper German
Upper German is a family of High German dialects spoken primarily in southern Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Northern Italy.-Family tree:Upper German can be generally classified as Alemannic or Austro-Bavarian...

 varieties. The Early New High German language gained more prestige than Low German
Low German
Low German or Low Saxon is an Ingvaeonic West Germanic language spoken mainly in northern Germany and the eastern part of the Netherlands...

 and became the language of science and literature. Other factors were that around the same time, the Hanseatic league lost its importance as new trade routes to Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

 and the Americas
Americas
The Americas, or America , are lands in the Western hemisphere, also known as the New World. In English, the plural form the Americas is often used to refer to the landmasses of North America and South America with their associated islands and regions, while the singular form America is primarily...

 were established, and that the most powerful German states of that period were located in Middle and Southern Germany.

The 18th and 19th centuries were marked by mass education
Education
Education in its broadest, general sense is the means through which the aims and habits of a group of people lives on from one generation to the next. Generally, it occurs through any experience that has a formative effect on the way one thinks, feels, or acts...

 of Standard German
Standard German
Standard German is the standard variety of the German language used as a written language, in formal contexts, and for communication between different dialect areas...

 in schools. Slowly, Low German was pushed back and back until it was nothing but a language spoken by the uneducated and at home. Today Low Saxon can be divided in two groups: Low Saxon varieties with a reasonable standard German influx and varieties of Standard German with a Low Saxon influence known as Missingsch
Missingsch
Missingsch is a type of Low-German-coloured dialect or sociolect of German. It is characterised by Low-German-type structures and the presence of numerous loanwords from Low German in High German.- Description :...

. Sometimes, Low Saxon and Low Franconian varieties are grouped together because both are unaffected by the High German consonant shift. However, the part of the population capable of speaking and responding to it, or of understanding it has decreased continuously since World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

.

High German


High German is divided into Central German
Central German
Central German is a group of High German dialects spoken from the Rhineland in the west to the former eastern territories of Germany.-History:...

, High Franconian (a transitional dialect), and Upper German. Central German dialects include Ripuarian, Moselle Franconian
Moselle Franconian
Moselle Franconian is a group of West Central German dialects, part of the Central Franconian language area.It is spoken in the southern Rhineland and along the course of the Moselle River, from the Siegerland in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia throughout western Rhineland-Palatinate and...

, Rhine Franconian
Rhine Franconian
Rhine Franconian , or Rhenish Franconian, is a dialect family of West Central German. It comprises the German dialects spoken across the western regions of the states of Saarland, Rhineland-Palatinate, and Hesse in Germany...

, Central Hessian, East Hessian, North Hessian, Thuringian, Silesian German
Silesian German
Silesian German language , is a German dialect/language spoken in Silesia. Today, the area is mainly in southwestern Poland, but as well as in northeastern Czech Republic and in eastern Germany...

, Lorraine Franconian
Lorraine Franconian
Lorraine Franconian is a designation, in practice ambiguous, for dialects of West Central German , a group of High German dialects spoken in the Moselle département in the north-eastern French region of Lorraine.The term Lorraine Franconian has multiple denotations...

, Mittelalemannisch
Alemannic German
Alemannic is a group of dialects of the Upper German branch of the Germanic language family. It is spoken by approximately ten million people in six countries: Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, France and Italy...

, North Upper Saxon
North Upper Saxon
North Upper Saxon is a Central German dialect spoken in Eastern Germany. It borders to Upper Saxon German, Lausitzisch-Neumärkisch, Thuringian dialect and Brandenburgisch....

, High Prussian
High Prussian
High Prussian is a dialect of East Central German that developed in the region of East Prussia. The dialect developed from High German, brought in by Silesian German settlers in the 13th—15th centuries, and was influenced by the Baltic Old Prussian language...

, Lausitzisch-Neumärkisch and Upper Saxon. It is spoken in the southeastern Netherlands, eastern Belgium, Luxembourg, parts of France, and parts of Germany approximately between the River Main and the southern edge of the Lowlands. Modern Standard German is mostly based on Central German, but it should be noted that the common (but not linguistically correct) German term for modern Standard German is Hochdeutsch, that is, High German.

The Moselle Franconian varieties spoken in Luxembourg have been officially standardised and institutionalised and are therefore usually considered a separate language known as Luxembourgish
Luxembourgish language
Luxembourgish is a High German language spoken mainly in Luxembourg. About 320,000 people worldwide speak Luxembourgish.-Language family:...

.

The two High Franconian dialects are East Franconian
East Franconian German
East Franconian is a dialect which is spoken in northern Bavaria and other areas in Germany around Nuremberg, Bamberg, Coburg, Würzburg, Hof, Bayreuth, Bad Mergentheim, Crailsheim and Suhl...

 and South Franconian
South Franconian German
South Franconian is a dialect which is spoken in the northern Baden region in Germany around Karlsruhe, Pforzheim and Rastatt....

.

Upper German dialects include Northern Austro-Bavarian
Northern Austro-Bavarian
Northern Bavarian is a dialect of the Bavarian language, together with Central Bavarian and Southern Bavarian. The language is mostly spoken in the Upper Palatinate, although not in Regensburg, which is a primarily Central Bavarian–speaking area, according to a linguistic survey done in the late...

, Central Austro-Bavarian
Central Austro-Bavarian
The Central Bavarian Germanic dialects forming a subgroup of the Bavarian dialects. The subgroup covers all dialects spoken along the rivers Isar and Danube, on the northern side of the Alps....

,
Southern Austro-Bavarian
Southern Austro-Bavarian
Southern Bavarian, or Southern Austro-Bavarian, is a cluster of Germanic dialects of the Bavarian group.They are primarily spoken in the Austrian federal-states of Tyrol, Carinthia and Styria, in the southern parts of Salzburg and Burgenland as well as in the Italian province of South Tyrol...

, Swabian
Swabian German
Swabian is one of the Alemannic dialects of High German. It is spoken in Swabia, a region which covers much of Germany's southwestern state Baden-Württemberg, including its capital Stuttgart, the rural area known as the Swabian Alb, and Bavaria...

, East Franconian
East Franconian German
East Franconian is a dialect which is spoken in northern Bavaria and other areas in Germany around Nuremberg, Bamberg, Coburg, Würzburg, Hof, Bayreuth, Bad Mergentheim, Crailsheim and Suhl...

, High Alemannic German
High Alemannic German
High Alemannic is a branch of Alemannic German and is often considered to be part of the German language, even though it is only partly intelligible to non-Alemannic speakers....

, Highest Alemannic German
Highest Alemannic German
Highest Alemannic is a branch of Alemannic German and is often considered to be part of the German language, even though mutual intelligibility with Standard German and other non-Alemannic German dialects is very limited....

, Alsatian
Alsatian language
Alsatian is a Low Alemannic German dialect spoken in most of Alsace, a region in eastern France which has passed between French and German control many times.-Language family:...

 and Low Alemannic German
Low Alemannic German
Low Alemannic is a branch of Alemannic German and is often considered to be part of the German language, even though it is only partly intelligible to speakers of German.Variants:*Vorarlbergisch*Upper Rhenish*Alsatian, spoken in the Alsace, France...

. They are spoken in parts of the Alsace, southern Germany, Liechtenstein, Austria, and the German-speaking parts of Switzerland and Italy.

Wymysorys is a High German dialect of Poland, and Sathmarisch
Sathmarisch
Sathmarisch is a dialect of High German. Sathmarisch is or was spoken in Romania in Satu Mare by persons of Swabian speaking German origin. Most speakers have emigrated into Western Germany.-External links:*...

 and Siebenbürgisch
Siebenbürgisch
The Transylvanian Saxon is the dialect of the Transylvanian Saxons. It belongs to the West Central German group of High German dialects....

 are High German dialects of Romania. The High German varieties spoken by Ashkenazi Jews (mostly in the former Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

) have several unique features, and are usually considered as a separate language, Yiddish. It is the only Germanic language that does not use the Latin alphabet
Latin alphabet
The Latin alphabet, also called the Roman alphabet, is the most recognized alphabet used in the world today. It evolved from a western variety of the Greek alphabet called the Cumaean alphabet, which was adopted and modified by the Etruscans who ruled early Rome...

 as its standard script
Official script
An official script is a writing system that is specifically designated to be official in the constitutions or other applicable laws of countries, states, and other jurisdictions. Akin to an official language, an official script is much rarer. It is used primarily where an official language is in...

.

German dialects versus varieties of standard German


In German linguistics
Linguistics
Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. Linguistics can be broadly broken into three categories or subfields of study: language form, language meaning, and language in context....

, German dialect
Dialect
The term dialect is used in two distinct ways, even by linguists. One usage refers to a variety of a language that is a characteristic of a particular group of the language's speakers. The term is applied most often to regional speech patterns, but a dialect may also be defined by other factors,...

s are distinguished from varieties
Variety (linguistics)
In sociolinguistics a variety, also called a lect, is a specific form of a language or language cluster. This may include languages, dialects, accents, registers, styles or other sociolinguistic variation, as well as the standard variety itself...

 of standard German
Standard German
Standard German is the standard variety of the German language used as a written language, in formal contexts, and for communication between different dialect areas...

.
  • The German dialects are the traditional local varieties. They are traditionally traced back to the different German tribes. Many of them are hardly understandable to someone who knows only standard German, since they often differ from standard German in lexicon
    Lexicon
    In linguistics, the lexicon of a language is its vocabulary, including its words and expressions. A lexicon is also a synonym of the word thesaurus. More formally, it is a language's inventory of lexemes. Coined in English 1603, the word "lexicon" derives from the Greek "λεξικόν" , neut...

    , phonology
    Phonology
    Phonology is, broadly speaking, the subdiscipline of linguistics concerned with the sounds of language. That is, it is the systematic use of sound to encode meaning in any spoken human language, or the field of linguistics studying this use...

     and syntax
    Syntax
    In linguistics, syntax is the study of the principles and rules for constructing phrases and sentences in natural languages....

    . If a narrow definition of language
    Language
    Language may refer either to the specifically human capacity for acquiring and using complex systems of communication, or to a specific instance of such a system of complex communication...

     based on mutual intelligibility
    Mutual intelligibility
    In linguistics, mutual intelligibility is recognized as a relationship between languages or dialects in which speakers of different but related languages can readily understand each other without intentional study or extraordinary effort...

     is used, many German dialects are considered to be separate languages (for instance in the Ethnologue
    Ethnologue
    Ethnologue: Languages of the World is a web and print publication of SIL International , a Christian linguistic service organization, which studies lesser-known languages, to provide the speakers with Bibles in their native language and support their efforts in language development.The Ethnologue...

    ). However, such a point of view is unusual in German linguistics.
  • The varieties of standard German refer to the different local varieties of the pluricentric
    Pluricentric language
    A pluricentric language is a language with several standard versions, both in spoken and in written forms. This situation usually arises when language and the national identity of its native speakers do not, or did not, coincide.-English:...

     standard German. They only differ slightly in lexicon and phonology. In certain regions, they have replaced the traditional German dialects, especially in Northern Germany.

Grammar


German is an inflected language
Fusional language
A fusional language is a type of synthetic language, distinguished from agglutinative languages by its tendency to overlay many morphemes in a way that can be difficult to segment....

 with three grammatical gender
Grammatical gender
Grammatical gender is defined linguistically as a system of classes of nouns which trigger specific types of inflections in associated words, such as adjectives, verbs and others. For a system of noun classes to be a gender system, every noun must belong to one of the classes and there should be...

s; as such, there can be a large number of words derived from the same root.

Noun inflection


German nouns
German nouns
A German noun has one of three specific grammatical genders and belongs to one of three declension classes, only partly dependent of gender. A fourth declension is used for plural declension. These features remain unaltered by inflection but must be considered in this process. The grammatical...

 inflect into:
  • one of four cases
    Grammatical case
    In grammar, the case of a noun or pronoun is an inflectional form that indicates its grammatical function in a phrase, clause, or sentence. For example, a pronoun may play the role of subject , of direct object , or of possessor...

    : nominative, genitive, dative
    Dative case
    The dative case is a grammatical case generally used to indicate the noun to whom something is given, as in "George gave Jamie a drink"....

    , and accusative
    Accusative case
    The accusative case of a noun is the grammatical case used to mark the direct object of a transitive verb. The same case is used in many languages for the objects of prepositions...

    .
  • one of three genders
    Grammatical gender
    Grammatical gender is defined linguistically as a system of classes of nouns which trigger specific types of inflections in associated words, such as adjectives, verbs and others. For a system of noun classes to be a gender system, every noun must belong to one of the classes and there should be...

    : masculine, feminine, or neuter. Word endings sometimes reveal grammatical gender; for instance, nouns ending in ...ung (ing), ...schaft (-ship), ...keit or ...heit (-hood) are feminine, while nouns ending in ...chen or ...lein (diminutive
    Diminutive
    In language structure, a diminutive, or diminutive form , is a formation of a word used to convey a slight degree of the root meaning, smallness of the object or quality named, encapsulation, intimacy, or endearment...

     forms) are neuter and nouns ending in ...ismus (-ism) are masculine. Others are controversial, sometimes depending on the region in which it is spoken. Additionally, ambiguous endings exist, such as ...er (-er
    Agent noun
    In linguistics, an agent noun is a word that is derived from another word denoting an action, and that identifies an entity that does that action. For example, "driver" is an agent noun formed from the verb "drive". The endings "-er", "-or", and "-ist" are commonly used in English to form agent...

    ), e.g. Feier (feminine), Eng. celebration, party, Arbeiter (masculine), Eng. labourer, and Gewitter (neuter), Eng. thunderstorm.
  • two numbers: singular and plural


Although German is usually cited as an outstanding example of a highly inflected language, the degree of inflection is considerably less than in Old High German
Old High German
The term Old High German refers to the earliest stage of the German language and it conventionally covers the period from around 500 to 1050. Coherent written texts do not appear until the second half of the 8th century, and some treat the period before 750 as 'prehistoric' and date the start of...

 or in other old Indo-European languages
Indo-European languages
The Indo-European languages are a family of several hundred related languages and dialects, including most major current languages of Europe, the Iranian plateau, and South Asia and also historically predominant in Anatolia...

 such as Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

, Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

, or Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

, or, for instance, in modern Icelandic
Icelandic language
Icelandic is a North Germanic language, the main language of Iceland. Its closest relative is Faroese.Icelandic is an Indo-European language belonging to the North Germanic or Nordic branch of the Germanic languages. Historically, it was the westernmost of the Indo-European languages prior to the...

 or Russian
Russian language
Russian is a Slavic language used primarily in Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It is an unofficial but widely spoken language in Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Turkmenistan and Estonia and, to a lesser extent, the other countries that were once constituent republics...

. The three genders have collapsed in the plural, which now behaves, grammatically, somewhat as a fourth gender. With four cases and three genders plus plural there are 16 distinct possible combinations of case and gender/number, but presently there are only six forms of the definite article
Article (grammar)
An article is a word that combines with a noun to indicate the type of reference being made by the noun. Articles specify the grammatical definiteness of the noun, in some languages extending to volume or numerical scope. The articles in the English language are the and a/an, and some...

 used for the 16 possibilities. Inflection for case on the noun itself is required in the singular for strong masculine and neuter nouns in the genitive and sometimes in the dative. Both of these cases are losing way to substitutes in informal speech
Natural language
In the philosophy of language, a natural language is any language which arises in an unpremeditated fashion as the result of the innate facility for language possessed by the human intellect. A natural language is typically used for communication, and may be spoken, signed, or written...

. The dative ending is considered somewhat old-fashioned in many contexts and often dropped, but it is still used in sayings and in formal speech or in written language. Weak masculine nouns share a common case ending for genitive, dative and accusative in the singular. Feminines are not declined in the singular. The plural does have an inflection for the dative. In total, seven inflectional endings (not counting plural markers) exist in German: -s, -es, -n, -ns, -en, -ens, -e.

In the German orthography, nouns and most words with the syntactical function of nouns are capitalised, which is supposed to make it easier for readers to find out what function a word has within the sentence (Am Freitag ging ich einkaufen. — "On Friday I went shopping."; Eines Tages kreuzte er endlich auf. — "One day he finally showed up.") This convention is almost unique to German today (shared perhaps only by the closely related Luxemburgish language and several insular dialects of the North Frisian language
North Frisian language
North Frisian is a minority language of Germany, spoken by about 10,000 people in North Frisia. The language is part of the larger group of the West Germanic Frisian languages.-Classification:...

), although it was historically common in other languages such as Danish and English.

Like most Germanic languages, German forms noun compounds
Compound (linguistics)
In linguistics, a compound is a lexeme that consists of more than one stem. Compounding or composition is the word formation that creates compound lexemes...

 where the first noun modifies the category given by the second, for example: Hundehütte (Eng. dog hut; specifically: doghouse). Unlike English, where newer compounds or combinations of longer nouns are often written in open form with separating spaces, German (like the other German languages) nearly always uses the closed form without spaces, for example: Baumhaus (Eng. tree house). Like English, German allows arbitrarily long compounds, but these are rare. (See also English compounds.)

The longest German word verified to be actually in (albeit very limited) use is Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz
Rinderkennzeichnungs- und Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz
Rinderkennzeichnungs- und Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz is a law of the German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern of 2000, dealing with the supervision of the labeling of beef.The name is an example of the virtually unlimited compounding of nouns that is...

, which, literally translated, is "beef labelling supervision duty assignment law" [from Rind (cattle), Fleisch (meat), Etikettierung(s) (labelling), Überwachung(s) (supervision), Aufgaben (duties), Übertragung(s) (assignment), Gesetz (law)].

Verb inflection


Standard German verbs inflect into:
  • one of primarily two conjugation
    Grammatical conjugation
    In linguistics, conjugation is the creation of derived forms of a verb from its principal parts by inflection . Conjugation may be affected by person, number, gender, tense, aspect, mood, voice, or other grammatical categories...

     classes: weak
    Germanic weak verb
    In Germanic languages, including English, weak verbs are by far the largest group of verbs, which are therefore often regarded as the norm, though historically they are not the oldest or most original group.-General description:...

     and strong
    Germanic strong verb
    In the Germanic languages, a strong verb is one which marks its past tense by means of ablaut. In English, these are verbs like sing, sang, sung...

     (as in English). Additionally, there is a third class, known as mixed verbs, which exhibit inflections combining features of both the strong and weak patterns.
  • three persons
    Grammatical person
    Grammatical person, in linguistics, is deictic reference to a participant in an event; such as the speaker, the addressee, or others. Grammatical person typically defines a language's set of personal pronouns...

    : 1st, 2nd, 3rd.
  • two numbers
    Grammatical number
    In linguistics, grammatical number is a grammatical category of nouns, pronouns, and adjective and verb agreement that expresses count distinctions ....

    : singular and plural
  • three moods
    Grammatical mood
    In linguistics, grammatical mood is a grammatical feature of verbs, used to signal modality. That is, it is the use of verbal inflections that allow speakers to express their attitude toward what they are saying...

    : indicative, imperative
    Imperative mood
    The imperative mood expresses commands or requests as a grammatical mood. These commands or requests urge the audience to act a certain way. It also may signal a prohibition, permission, or any other kind of exhortation.- Morphology :...

    , subjunctive
    Subjunctive mood
    In grammar, the subjunctive mood is a verb mood typically used in subordinate clauses to express various states of irreality such as wish, emotion, possibility, judgment, opinion, necessity, or action that has not yet occurred....

  • two voices
    Voice (grammar)
    In grammar, the voice of a verb describes the relationship between the action that the verb expresses and the participants identified by its arguments . When the subject is the agent or doer of the action, the verb is in the active voice...

    : active and passive; the passive being composed and dividable into static and dynamic.
  • two non-composed tenses
    Grammatical tense
    A tense is a grammatical category that locates a situation in time, to indicate when the situation takes place.Bernard Comrie, Aspect, 1976:6:...

     (present
    Present tense
    The present tense is a grammatical tense that locates a situation or event in present time. This linguistic definition refers to a concept that indicates a feature of the meaning of a verb...

    , preterite
    Preterite
    The preterite is the grammatical tense expressing actions that took place or were completed in the past...

    ) and four composed tenses (perfect, pluperfect, future
    Future tense
    In grammar, a future tense is a verb form that marks the event described by the verb as not having happened yet, but expected to happen in the future , or to happen subsequent to some other event, whether that is past, present, or future .-Expressions of future tense:The concept of the future,...

     and future perfect
    Future Perfect
    -Album Credits:*Produced by T-Bone Burnett*All Songs Written by Autolux*Engineered by Mike Piersante*Mixed by Dave Sardy*Mastered by Stephen Marcussen *Artwork by Carla Azar-Vinyl releases:...

    )
  • distinction between grammatical aspect
    Grammatical aspect
    In linguistics, the grammatical aspect of a verb is a grammatical category that defines the temporal flow in a given action, event, or state, from the point of view of the speaker...

    s is rendered by combined use of subjunctive and/or preterite marking; thus: neither of both is plain indicative voice, sole subjunctive conveys second-hand information, subjunctive plus preterite marking forms the conditional state, and sole preterite is either plain indicative (in the past), or functions as a (literal) alternative for either second-hand-information or the conditional state of the verb, when one of them may seem indistinguishable otherwise.
  • distinction between perfect and progressive aspect
    Continuous and progressive aspects
    The continuous and progressive aspects are grammatical aspects that express incomplete action in progress at a specific time: they are non-habitual, imperfective aspects. It is a verb category with two principal meaning components: duration and incompletion...

     is and has at every stage of development been at hand as a productive category of the older language and in nearly all documented dialects, but, strangely enough, is nowadays rigorously excluded from written usage in its present normalised form.
  • disambiguation of completed vs. uncompleted forms is widely observed and regularly generated by common prefixes (blicken - to look, erblicken - to see [unrelated form: sehen - to see]).

Verb prefixes


The meaning of base verbs can be expanded, and sometimes radically changed, through the use of any number of prefixes. Some prefixes have a meaning themselves; the prefix zer- refers to the destruction of things, as in zerreißen (to tear apart), zerbrechen (to break apart), zerschneiden (to cut apart). Others do not have more than the vaguest meaning in and of themselves; the use of ver- is found in a number of verbs with a large variety of meanings, as in versuchen (to try), vernehmen (to interrogate), verteilen (to distribute), verstehen (to understand).

Other examples include haften (to stick), verhaften (to detain); kaufen (to buy), verkaufen (to sell); hören (to hear), aufhören (to cease); fahren (to drive), erfahren (to experience).
Separable prefixes

Many German verbs
German verbs
German verbs may be classified as either weak, with a dental consonant inflection, or strong, showing a vowel gradation . Both of these are regular systems. Most verbs of both types are regular, though various subgroups and anomalies do arise. The only completely irregular verb in the language is...

 have a separable prefix, often with an adverbial function. In finite verb
Finite verb
A finite verb is a verb that is inflected for person and for tense according to the rules and categories of the languages in which it occurs. Finite verbs can form independent clauses, which can stand on their own as complete sentences....

 forms this is split off and moved to the end of the clause, and is hence considered by some to be a "resultative particle". For example, mitgehen meaning "to go along" would be split, giving Gehen Sie mit? (Literal: "Go you with?" ; Formal: "Are you going along?").

Indeed, several parenthetic
Parenthetical referencing
Parenthetical referencing, also known as Harvard referencing, is a citation style in which partial citations are enclosed within parentheses and embedded in the text, either within or after a sentence, as opposed to the footnote style...

al clauses may occur between the prefix of a finite verb and its complement; e.g.
Er kam am Freitagabend nach einem harten Arbeitstag und dem üblichen Ärger, der ihn schon seit Jahren immer wieder an seinem Arbeitsplatz plagt, mit fraglicher Freude auf ein Mahl, das seine Frau ihm, wie er hoffte, bereits aufgetischt hatte, endlich zu Hause an .

A literal translation of this example might look like this:
He -rived on Friday evening, after a hard day at work and the usual annoyances that had been repeatedly troubling him for years now at his workplace, with questionable joy, to a meal which, as he hoped, his wife had already served him, finally at home ar-.

Word order


Word order is generally less rigid than in Modern English. There are two common word order
Word order
In linguistics, word order typology refers to the study of the order of the syntactic constituents of a language, and how different languages can employ different orders. Correlations between orders found in different syntactic subdomains are also of interest...

s: one is for main clause
Clause
In grammar, a clause is the smallest grammatical unit that can express a complete proposition. In some languages it may be a pair or group of words that consists of a subject and a predicate, although in other languages in certain clauses the subject may not appear explicitly as a noun phrase,...

s and another for subordinate clauses. In normal affirmative sentences the inflected verb always has position 2. In polar questions, exclamations, and wishes it always has position 1. In subordinate clauses the verb is supposed to occur at the very end, but in speech this rule is often disregarded.

German requires that a verbal element (main verb or auxiliary verb
Auxiliary verb
In linguistics, an auxiliary verb is a verb that gives further semantic or syntactic information about a main or full verb. In English, the extra meaning provided by an auxiliary verb alters the basic meaning of the main verb to make it have one or more of the following functions: passive voice,...

) appear second in the sentence. The verb is preceded by the topic of the sentence. The element in focus appears at the end of the sentence. For a sentence without an auxiliary this gives, amongst other options:
(The old man gave me yesterday the book; normal order)
(The book gave [to] me yesterday the old man)
(The book gave the old man [to] me yesterday)

(Yesterday gave [to] me the old man the book, normal order)
([To] me gave the old man the book yesterday (entailing: as for you, it was another date))


The position of a noun in a German sentence has no bearing on its being a subject, an object, or another argument. In a declarative sentence
Sentence (linguistics)
In the field of linguistics, a sentence is an expression in natural language, and often defined to indicate a grammatical unit consisting of one or more words that generally bear minimal syntactic relation to the words that precede or follow it...

 in English if the subject does not occur before the predicate the sentence could well be misunderstood. This is not the case in German.

Auxiliary verbs


When an auxiliary verb
Auxiliary verb
In linguistics, an auxiliary verb is a verb that gives further semantic or syntactic information about a main or full verb. In English, the extra meaning provided by an auxiliary verb alters the basic meaning of the main verb to make it have one or more of the following functions: passive voice,...

 is present, the auxiliary appears in second position, and the main verb appears at the end. This occurs notably in the creation of the perfect. Many word orders are still possible, e.g.:
(The old man has given me the book today.)
(The book has the old man given me today.)
(Today the old man has given me the book.)

Modal verbs


Sentences using modal verbs place the infinitive at the end. For example, the sentence in Modern English "Should he go home?" would be rearranged in German to say "Should he (to) home go?" . Thus in sentences with several subordinate or relative clauses the infinitives are clustered at the end. Compare the similar clustering of prepositions in the following English sentence: "What did you bring that book which I don't like to be read to out of up for?"

Multiple infinitives


German subordinate clauses have all verbs clustered at the end. Given that auxiliaries encode future
Future
The future is the indefinite time period after the present. Its arrival is considered inevitable due to the existence of time and the laws of physics. Due to the nature of the reality and the unavoidability of the future, everything that currently exists and will exist is temporary and will come...

, passive
Passive voice
Passive voice is a grammatical voice common in many of the world's languages. Passive is used in a clause whose subject expresses the theme or patient of the main verb. That is, the subject undergoes an action or has its state changed. A sentence whose theme is marked as grammatical subject is...

, modality
Modality (semiotics)
In semiotics, a modality is a particular way in which the information is to be encoded for presentation to humans, i.e. to the type of sign and to the status of reality ascribed to or claimed by a sign, text or genre. It is more closely associated with the semiotics of Charles Peirce than Saussure...

, and the perfect, this can lead to very long chains of verbs at the end of the sentence. In these constructions, the past participle in ge- is often replaced by the infinitive.

Man nimmt an, dass der Deserteur wohl erschossenV wordenpsv seinperf solltemod

One suspects that the deserter probably shot become be should

("It is suspected that the deserter probably should have been shot")

The order at the end of such strings is subject to variation, though the latter version is unusual.

Er wusste nicht, dass der Agent einen Nachschlüssel hatte machen lassen

He knew not that the agent a picklock had make let

Er wusste nicht, dass der Agent einen Nachschlüssel machen lassen hatte

He knew not that the agent a picklock make let had

("He did not know that the agent had had a picklock made")

Vocabulary


Most German vocabulary is derived from the Germanic branch of the Indo-European language family, although there are significant minorities of words derived from Latin and Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

, and a smaller amount from French and most recently English. At the same time, the effectiveness of the German language in forming equivalents for foreign words from its inherited Germanic stem repertory is great. Thus, Notker Labeo
Notker Labeo
Notker Labeo , also known as Notker Teutonicus i.e. "the German", Notker the German, or Notker III, was a Benedictine monk and the first commentator on Aristotle active in the Middle Ages. "Labeo" means "the thick lipped"...

 was able to translate Aristotelian treatises in pure (Old High) German in the decades after the year 1000. Overall, German has fewer Romance-language loanwords than English or even Dutch.

Even today, many low-key non-academic movements try to promote the Ersatz
Ersatz
Ersatz means 'substituting for, and typically inferior in quality to', e.g. 'chicory is ersatz coffee'. It is a German word literally meaning substitute or replacement...

 (substitution) of virtually all foreign words with ancient, dialectal, or neologous German alternatives. It is claimed that this would also help in spreading modern or scientific notions among the less educated, and thus democratise public life, too.

The modern German scientific vocabulary has nine million words and word groups (based on the analysis of 35 million sentences of a corpus in Leipzig, which as of July 2003 included 500 million words in total).

Orthography


German is written in the Latin alphabet. In addition to the 26 standard letters, German has three vowels with Umlaut
Umlaut (diacritic)
The diaeresis and the umlaut are diacritics that consist of two dots placed over a letter, most commonly a vowel. When that letter is an i or a j, the diacritic replaces the tittle: ï....

, namely ä, ö and ü, as well as the Eszett or scharfes s (sharp s), ß
ß
In the German alphabet, ß is a letter that originated as a ligature of ss or sz. Like double "s", it is pronounced as an , but in standard spelling, it is only used after long vowels and diphthongs, while ss is used after short vowels...

.

Written texts in German are easily recognisable as such by distinguishing features such as umlauts
Germanic umlaut
In linguistics, umlaut is a process whereby a vowel is pronounced more like a following vowel or semivowel. The term umlaut was originally coined and is used principally in connection with the study of the Germanic languages...

 and certain orthographical
German orthography
German orthography, although largely phonemic, shows many instances of spellings that are historic or analogous to other spellings rather than phonemic. The pronunciation of almost every word can be derived from its spelling, once the spelling rules are known, but the opposite is not generally the...

 features—German is the only major language that capitalizes all nouns—and the frequent occurrence of long compounds (the longest German word
Donaudampfschiffahrtselektrizitätenhauptbetriebswerkbauunterbeamtengesellschaft
The compound word |compounding]] of nouns that is possible in many Germanic languages. According to the 1996 Guinness Book of World Records, it is the longest word published in the German language, having 79 letters....

 is made of 79 characters).

Present


Before the German spelling reform of 1996
German spelling reform of 1996
The German orthography reform of 1996 was an attempt to simplify the spelling of the German language and thus to make it easier to learn, without substantially changing the rules familiar to all living users of the language....

, ß replaced ss after long vowels
Vowel length
In linguistics, vowel length is the perceived duration of a vowel sound. Often the chroneme, or the "longness", acts like a consonant, and may etymologically be one, such as in Australian English. While not distinctive in most dialects of English, vowel length is an important phonemic factor in...

 and diphthongs and before consonants, word-, or partial-word-endings. In reformed spelling, ß replaces ss only after long vowels and diphthongs. Since there is no capital ß
Capital ß
Capital sharp s is the contestable majuscule of eszett. Sharp s is nearly unique among the letters of the Latin alphabet in that it has no traditional upper case form . This is because it never occurs initially in German text, and traditional German printing never used all-caps...

, it is always written as SS when capitalization is required. For example, Maßband (tape measure) is capitalized MASSBAND. An exception is the use of ß in legal documents and forms when capitalizing names. To avoid confusion with similar names, a "ß" is to be used instead of "SS". (So: "KREßLEIN" instead of "KRESSLEIN".) A capital ß
Capital ß
Capital sharp s is the contestable majuscule of eszett. Sharp s is nearly unique among the letters of the Latin alphabet in that it has no traditional upper case form . This is because it never occurs initially in German text, and traditional German printing never used all-caps...

 has been proposed and included in Unicode
Unicode
Unicode is a computing industry standard for the consistent encoding, representation and handling of text expressed in most of the world's writing systems...

, but it is not yet recognized as standard German. In Switzerland
Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

, ß is not used at all.

Umlaut vowels (ä, ö, ü) are commonly transcribed with ae, oe, and ue if the umlauts are not available on the keyboard used. In the same manner ß can be transcribed as ss. Some Operating Systems use key sequences to extend the set of possible characters to include, amongst other things, umlauts; in Microsoft Windows
Microsoft Windows
Microsoft Windows is a series of operating systems produced by Microsoft.Microsoft introduced an operating environment named Windows on November 20, 1985 as an add-on to MS-DOS in response to the growing interest in graphical user interfaces . Microsoft Windows came to dominate the world's personal...

 this is done using Alt codes
Alt codes
On personal computers running the Microsoft Windows or DOS operating systems, additional characters to those available in the current keyboard layout can be typed using an Alt code: pressing and holding the Alt key while entering a character code with the keyboard's numeric keypad...

. German readers understand those transcriptions (although they look unusual), but they are avoided if the regular umlauts are available because they are considered a makeshift, not proper spelling. (In Westphalia and Schleswig-Holstein, city and family names exist where the extra e has a vowel lengthening effect, e.g. Raesfeld ˈraːsfɛlt, Coesfeld [ˈkoːsfɛlt] and Itzehoe [ɪtsəˈhoː], but this use of the letter e after a/o/u does not occur in the present-day spelling of words other than proper noun
Proper noun
A proper noun or proper name is a noun representing a unique entity , as distinguished from a common noun, which represents a class of entities —for example, city, planet, person or corporation)...

s.)

There is no general agreement on where these umlauts occur in the sorting sequence. Telephone directories treat them by replacing them with the base vowel followed by an e. Some dictionaries sort each umlauted vowel as a separate letter after the base vowel, but more commonly words with umlauts are ordered immediately after the same word without umlauts. As an example in a telephone book
Telephone directory
A telephone directory is a listing of telephone subscribers in a geographical area or subscribers to services provided by the organization that publishes the directory...

 Ärzte occurs after but before Anlagenbauer (because Ä is replaced by Ae). In a dictionary Ärzte comes after Arzt, but in some dictionaries Ärzte and all other words starting with "Ä" may occur after all words starting with "A". In some older dictionaries or indexes, initial Sch and St are treated as separate letters and are listed as separate entries after S, but they are usually treated as S+C+H and S+T.

Written German also typically uses an alternative opening inverted comma (quotation mark
Quotation mark
Quotation marks or inverted commas are punctuation marks at the beginning and end of a quotation, direct speech, literal title or name. Quotation marks can also be used to indicate a different meaning of a word or phrase than the one typically associated with it and are often used to express irony...

) as in „Guten Morgen!”.

Past



Until the early twentieth century, German was mostly printed in blackletter
Blackletter
Blackletter, also known as Gothic script, Gothic minuscule, or Textura, was a script used throughout Western Europe from approximately 1150 to well into the 17th century. It continued to be used for the German language until the 20th century. Fraktur is a notable script of this type, and sometimes...

 typefaces (mostly in Fraktur
Fraktur (typeface)
Fraktur is a calligraphic hand and any of several blackletter typefaces derived from this hand. The word derives from the past participle fractus of Latin frangere...

, but also in Schwabacher
Schwabacher
The German word Schwabacher refers to a specific blackletter typeface. The term derives from the town of Schwabach.-Characteristics:The small-letter g and the capital-letter H have particularly distinctive forms.-History:...

) and written in corresponding handwriting
Penmanship
Penmanship is the technique of writing with the hand using a writing instrument. The various generic and formal historical styles of writing are called hands, whilst an individual personal style of penmanship is referred to as handwriting....

 (for example Kurrent
Kurrent
Kurrent is an old form of German language handwriting based on late medieval cursive writing, also known as Kurrentschrift or Alte Deutsche Schrift...

 and Sütterlin
Sütterlin
Sütterlinschrift , or Sütterlin for short, is the last widely used form of the old German blackletter handwriting . In Germany, the old German cursive script developed in the 16th century, replacing the Gothic handwriting at the same time that bookletters developed into the Fraktur typeface...

). These variants of the Latin alphabet are very different from the serif or sans serif
Sans-serif
In typography, a sans-serif, sans serif or san serif typeface is one that does not have the small projecting features called "serifs" at the end of strokes. The term comes from the French word sans, meaning "without"....

 Antiqua typefaces used today, and particularly the handwritten forms are difficult for the untrained to read. The printed forms however were claimed by some to be actually more readable when used for printing Germanic languages. The Nazis initially promoted Fraktur and Schwabacher since they were considered Aryan
Aryan
Aryan is an English language loanword derived from Sanskrit ārya and denoting variously*In scholarly usage:**Indo-Iranian languages *in dated usage:**the Indo-European languages more generally and their speakers...

, although they later abolished them in 1941 by claiming that these letters were Jewish. The Fraktur script remains present in everyday life through road signs, pub signs, beer brands and other forms of advertisement, where it is used to convey a certain rusticality and oldness.

A proper use of the long s
Long s
The long, medial or descending s is a form of the minuscule letter s formerly used where s occurred in the middle or at the beginning of a word, for example "ſinfulneſs" . The modern letterform was called the terminal, round, or short s.-History:The long s is derived from the old Roman cursive...

, (langes s), ſ
Long s
The long, medial or descending s is a form of the minuscule letter s formerly used where s occurred in the middle or at the beginning of a word, for example "ſinfulneſs" . The modern letterform was called the terminal, round, or short s.-History:The long s is derived from the old Roman cursive...

, is essential to write German text in Fraktur typefaces. Many Antiqua typefaces include the long s
Long s
The long, medial or descending s is a form of the minuscule letter s formerly used where s occurred in the middle or at the beginning of a word, for example "ſinfulneſs" . The modern letterform was called the terminal, round, or short s.-History:The long s is derived from the old Roman cursive...

, also. A specific set of rules applies for the use of long s in German text, but it is rarely used in Antiqua typesetting, recently. Any lower case "s" at the beginning of a syllable would be a long s, as opposed to a terminal s or short s (the more common variation of the letter s), which marks the end of a syllable; for example, in differentiating between the words Wachſtube (=guard-house) and Wachstube (=tube of floor polish). One can decide which "s" to use by appropriate hyphenation, easily ("Wach-ſtube" vs. "Wachs-tube"). The long s only appears in lower case.

Phonology


Vowels


German vowels (excluding diphthongs; see below) come in short and long varieties, as detailed in the following table:
A Ä E I O Ö U Ü
short /a/ /ɛ/ /ɛ/, /ə/ /ɪ/ /ɔ/ /œ/ /ʊ/ /ʏ/
long /aː/ /ɛː/ /eː/ /iː/ /oː/ /øː/ /uː/ /yː/

Short /ɛ/ is realized as [ɛ] in stressed syllables (including secondary stress
Secondary stress
Secondary stress is the weaker of two degrees of stress in the pronunciation of a word; the stronger degree of stress is called 'primary'. The International Phonetic Alphabet symbol for secondary stress is a short vertical line preceding and at the foot of the stressed syllable: the nun in ...

), but as [ə] in unstressed syllables. Note that stressed short /ɛ/ can be spelled either with e or with ä (hätte 'would have' and Kette 'chain', for instance, rhyme). In general, the short vowels are open and the long vowels are closed. The one exception is the open /ɛː/ sound of long Ä; in some varieties of standard German, /ɛː/ and /eː/ have merged into [eː], removing this anomaly. In that case, pairs like Bären/Beeren 'bears/berries' or Ähre/Ehre 'spike (of wheat)/honour' become homophonous.

In many varieties of standard German, an unstressed /ɛr/ is not pronounced [ər], but vocalised to [ɐ].

Whether any particular vowel letter represents the long or short phoneme is not completely predictable, although the following regularities exist:
  • If a vowel (other than i) is at the end of a syllable or followed by a single consonant, it is usually pronounced long (e.g. Hof [hoːf]).
  • If the vowel is followed by a double consonant (e.g. ff, ss or tt), ck, tz or a consonant cluster
    Consonant cluster
    In linguistics, a consonant cluster is a group of consonants which have no intervening vowel. In English, for example, the groups and are consonant clusters in the word splits....

     (e.g. st or nd), it is nearly always short (e.g. hoffen [ˈhɔfən]). Double consonants are used only for this function of marking preceding vowels as short; the consonant itself is never pronounced lengthened or doubled, in other words this is not a feeding order
    Feeding order
    In phonology and historical linguistics, if two rules are in feeding order, rule A creates new contexts in which rule B can apply. It would not have been possible for rule B to apply otherwise...

     of gemination
    Gemination
    In phonetics, gemination happens when a spoken consonant is pronounced for an audibly longer period of time than a short consonant. Gemination is distinct from stress and may appear independently of it....

     and then vowel shortening.

Both of these rules have exceptions (e.g. hat [hat] 'has' is short despite the first rule; Mond [moːnt], 'moon
Moon
The Moon is Earth's only known natural satellite,There are a number of near-Earth asteroids including 3753 Cruithne that are co-orbital with Earth: their orbits bring them close to Earth for periods of time but then alter in the long term . These are quasi-satellites and not true moons. For more...

' is long despite the second rule). For an i that is neither in the combination ie (making it long) nor followed by a double consonant or cluster (making it short), there is no general rule. In some cases, there are regional differences: In central Germany (Hessen), the o in the proper name "Hoffmann" is pronounced long while most other Germans would pronounce it short; the same applies to the e in the geographical name "Mecklenburg" for people in that region. The word Städte 'cities', is pronounced with a short vowel [ˈʃtɛtə] by some (Jan Hofer, ARD Television) and with a long vowel [ˈʃtɛːtə] by others (Marietta Slomka, ZDF Television). Finally, a vowel followed by ch can be short (Fach [fax] 'compartment', Küche [ˈkʏçə] 'kitchen') or long (Suche [ˈzuːxə] 'search', Bücher [ˈbyːçɐ] 'books') almost at random. Thus, Lache is homographous: (Lache) [laːxə] 'puddle' and (lache) [laxə] 'manner of laughing' (coll.), 'laugh!' (Imp.).

German vowels can form the following digraphs (in writing) and diphthongs (in pronunciation); note that the pronunciation of some of them (ei, äu, eu) is very different from what one would expect when considering the component letters:
spelling ai, ei, ay, ey au äu, eu
pronunciation /aɪ̯/ /aʊ̯/ /ɔʏ̯/

Additionally, the digraph ie generally represents the phoneme /iː/, which is not a diphthong. In many varieties, an /r/ at the end of a syllable is vocalised. However, a sequence of a vowel followed by such a vocalised /r/ is not considered a diphthong: Bär [bɛːɐ̯] 'bear', er [eːɐ̯] 'he', wir [viːɐ̯] 'we', Tor [toːɐ̯] 'gate', kurz [kʊɐ̯ts] 'short', Wörter [vœɐ̯tɐ] 'words'.

In most varieties of standard German, syllables that begin with a vowel are preceded by a glottal stop
Glottal stop
The glottal stop, or more fully, the voiceless glottal plosive, is a type of consonantal sound used in many spoken languages. In English, the feature is represented, for example, by the hyphen in uh-oh! and by the apostrophe or [[ʻokina]] in Hawaii among those using a preservative pronunciation of...

 [ʔ].

Consonants


With approximately 25 phonemes, the German consonant system exhibits an average number of consonants in comparison with other languages. One of the more noteworthy ones is the unusual affricate /p͡f/. The consonant inventory of the standard language is shown below.
Bilabial
Bilabial consonant
In phonetics, a bilabial consonant is a consonant articulated with both lips. The bilabial consonants identified by the International Phonetic Alphabet are:...

Labiodental
Labiodental consonant
In phonetics, labiodentals are consonants articulated with the lower lip and the upper teeth.-Labiodental consonant in IPA:The labiodental consonants identified by the International Phonetic Alphabet are:...

Alveolar
Alveolar consonant
Alveolar consonants are articulated with the tongue against or close to the superior alveolar ridge, which is called that because it contains the alveoli of the superior teeth...

Postalveolar
Postalveolar consonant
Postalveolar consonants are consonants articulated with the tongue near or touching the back of the alveolar ridge, further back in the mouth than the alveolar consonants, which are at the ridge itself, but not as far back as the hard palate...

Palatal
Palatal consonant
Palatal consonants are consonants articulated with the body of the tongue raised against the hard palate...

Velar
Velar consonant
Velars are consonants articulated with the back part of the tongue against the soft palate, the back part of the roof of the mouth, known also as the velum)....

Uvular
Uvular consonant
Uvulars are consonants articulated with the back of the tongue against or near the uvula, that is, further back in the mouth than velar consonants. Uvulars may be plosives, fricatives, nasal stops, trills, or approximants, though the IPA does not provide a separate symbol for the approximant, and...

Glottal
Glottal consonant
Glottal consonants, also called laryngeal consonants, are consonants articulated with the glottis. Many phoneticians consider them, or at least the so-called fricative, to be transitional states of the glottis without a point of articulation as other consonants have; in fact, some do not consider...

Plosive p3  b4 t3  d4 k3  ɡ4
Affricate
Affricate consonant
Affricates are consonants that begin as stops but release as a fricative rather than directly into the following vowel.- Samples :...

pf ts tʃ  (dʒ)5
Fricative
Fricative consonant
Fricatives are consonants produced by forcing air through a narrow channel made by placing two articulators close together. These may be the lower lip against the upper teeth, in the case of ; the back of the tongue against the soft palate, in the case of German , the final consonant of Bach; or...

f  v s  z ʃ  (ʒ)5 x1 h
Nasal
Nasal consonant
A nasal consonant is a type of consonant produced with a lowered velum in the mouth, allowing air to escape freely through the nose. Examples of nasal consonants in English are and , in words such as nose and mouth.- Definition :...

m n ŋ
Approximant
Approximant consonant
Approximants are speech sounds that involve the articulators approaching each other but not narrowly enough or with enough articulatory precision to create turbulent airflow. Therefore, approximants fall between fricatives, which do produce a turbulent airstream, and vowels, which produce no...

l j
Rhotic
Rhotic consonant
In phonetics, rhotic consonants, also called tremulants or "R-like" sounds, are liquid consonants that are traditionally represented orthographically by symbols derived from the Greek letter rho, including "R, r" from the Roman alphabet and "Р, p" from the Cyrillic alphabet...

r2

  • 1/x/ has two allophones, [x] and [ç], after back and front vowels, respectively.
  • 2/r/ has three allophones in free variation: [r], [ʁ] and [ʀ]. In the syllable coda
    Syllable coda
    In phonology, a syllable coda comprises the consonant sounds of a syllable that follow the nucleus, which is usually a vowel. The combination of a nucleus and a coda is called a rime. Some syllables consist only of a nucleus with no coda...

    , the allophone [ɐ] is found in many varieties.
  • 3 The voiceless stops /p/, /t/, /k/ are aspirated
    Aspiration (phonetics)
    In phonetics, aspiration is the strong burst of air that accompanies either the release or, in the case of preaspiration, the closure of some obstruents. To feel or see the difference between aspirated and unaspirated sounds, one can put a hand or a lit candle in front of one's mouth, and say pin ...

     except when preceded by a sibilant.
  • 4 The voiced stops /b/, /d/, /ɡ/ are devoiced to /p/, /t/, /k/, respectively, in word-final position.
  • 5/d͡ʒ/ and /ʒ/ occur only in words of foreign origin.
  • Where a stressed syllable has an initial vowel, it is preceded by [ʔ]. As its presence is predictable from context, [ʔ] is not considered a phoneme.

Consonant spellings

  • c standing by itself is not a German letter. In borrowed words, it is usually pronounced [t͡s] (before ä, äu, e, i, ö, ü, y) or [k] (before a, o, u, and consonants). The combination ck is, as in English, used to indicate that the preceding vowel is short.
  • ch occurs most often and is pronounced either [ç] (after ä, ai, äu, e, ei, eu, i, ö, ü and consonants; in the diminutive suffix -chen; and at the beginning of a word), [x] (after a, au, o, u), or [k] at the beginning of a word before a, o, u and consonants. Ch never occurs at the beginning of an originally German word. In borrowed words with initial Ch before bright vowels (Chemie "chemistry" etc.), [ç] is considered standard, but is itself practically absent from language in use. Upper Germans and Franconians (in the popular, not linguistic sense) will replace them with [k], as German as a whole does before darker vowels and consonants such as in Charakter, Christentum. Middle Germans (saving Franconians) will borrow a [ʃ] from the French model. Both agree in considering each other's variant, and Upper Germans also the standard in [ç], as particularly awkward and unusual.
  • dsch is pronounced [d͡ʒ] (like j in Jungle) but appears in a few loanwords only.
  • f is pronounced [f] as in "father".
  • h is pronounced [h] as in "home" at the beginning of a syllable. After a vowel it is silent and only lengthens the vowel (e.g. Reh = roe deer
    Roe Deer
    The European Roe Deer , also known as the Western Roe Deer, chevreuil or just Roe Deer, is a Eurasian species of deer. It is relatively small, reddish and grey-brown, and well-adapted to cold environments. Roe Deer are widespread in Western Europe, from the Mediterranean to Scandinavia, and from...

    ).
  • j is pronounced [j] in Germanic words (Jahr [jaːɐ]). In younger loanwords, it follows more or less the respective languages' pronunciations.
  • l is always pronounced [l], never *[ɫ] (the English "dark L").
  • q only exists in combination with u and appears in both Germanic and Latin words (quer; Qualität). The digraph qu is pronounced [kv].
  • r is usually pronounced in a guttural
    Guttural R
    In linguistics, guttural R refers to pronunciation of a rhotic consonant as a guttural consonant. These consonants are usually uvular, but can also be realized as a velar, pharyngeal, or glottal rhotic...

     fashion (a voiced uvular fricative [ʁ] or uvular trill
    Uvular trill
    The uvular trill is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is , a small capital R...

     [ʀ]) in front of a vowel or consonant (Rasen [ˈʁaːzən]; Burg [buʁk]). In spoken German, however, it is commonly vocalised after a vowel (er being pronounced rather like [ˈɛɐ]—Burg [buɐk]). In some varieties, the r is pronounced as a "tongue-tip" r (the alveolar trill
    Alveolar trill
    The alveolar trill is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents dental, alveolar, and postalveolar trills is , and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is r. It is commonly called the rolled R, rolling R, or trilled R...

     [r]).
  • s in Germany, is pronounced [z] (as in "zebra") if it forms the syllable onset (e.g. Sohn [zoːn]), otherwise [s] (e.g. Bus [bʊs]). In Austria and Switzerland, it is always pronounced [s]. A ss [s] indicates that the preceding vowel is short. st and sp at the beginning of words of German origin are pronounced [ʃt] and [ʃp], respectively.
  • ß (a letter unique to German called scharfes S or Eszett
    ß
    In the German alphabet, ß is a letter that originated as a ligature of ss or sz. Like double "s", it is pronounced as an , but in standard spelling, it is only used after long vowels and diphthongs, while ss is used after short vowels...

    ) was a ligature of a double s and of a sz and is always pronounced [s]. Originating in Blackletter
    Blackletter
    Blackletter, also known as Gothic script, Gothic minuscule, or Textura, was a script used throughout Western Europe from approximately 1150 to well into the 17th century. It continued to be used for the German language until the 20th century. Fraktur is a notable script of this type, and sometimes...

     typeface, it traditionally replaced ss at the end of a syllable (e.g. ich muss → ich muß; ich müsste → ich müßte); within a word it contrasts with ss [s] in indicating that the preceding vowel is long (compare in Maßen [in ˈmaːsən] "with moderation" and in Massen [in ˈmasən] "in loads"). The use of ß has recently been limited by the latest German spelling reform and is no longer used for ss after a short vowel (e.g. "ich muß" and "ich müßte" were always pronounced with a short U/Ü); Switzerland and Liechtenstein already abolished it in 1934.
  • sch is pronounced [ʃ] (like "sh" in "shine").
  • tion in Latin loanwords is pronounced [tsion].
  • v is pronounced [f] in words of Germanic origin, to wit, Vater [ˈfaːtɐ], Vogel "bird", von "from, of", vor "before, in front of", voll "full" (yet "to fill" is notwithstandingly spelt füllen) and the prefix ver-. It is also used in loanwords, where it is supposed to be pronounced [v]. This pronunciation is retained for example in Vase, Vikar, Viktor, Viper, Ventil, vulgär, and English loanwords; however, pronunciation tends to [f] the further you travel south. They have reached a plain f in Bavaria and Swabia.
  • w is pronounced [v] as in "vacation" (e.g. was [vas]).
  • y only appears in loanwords and is traditionally considered a vowel.
  • z is always pronounced [t͡s] (e.g. zog [t͡soːk]). A tz indicates that the preceding vowel is short.

Consonant shifts


German does not have any dental fricative
Dental fricative
The dental fricative or interdental fricative is a fricative consonant pronounced with the tip of the tongue against the teeth. There are two types, both written as th in English:*Voiced dental fricative *Voiceless dental fricative...

s (as English th). The th sounds, which the English language still has, survived on the continent up to Old High German and then disappeared in German with the consonant shifts between the 8th and the 10th centuries. It is sometimes possible to find parallels between English and German by replacing the English th with d in German: "Thank" → in German "Dank", "this" and "that" → "dies" and "das", "thou
Thou
The word thou is a second person singular pronoun in English. It is now largely archaic, having been replaced in almost all contexts by you. It is used in parts of Northern England and by Scots. Thou is the nominative form; the oblique/objective form is thee , and the possessive is thy or thine...

" (old 2nd person singular pronoun) → "du", "think" → "denken", "thirsty" → "durstig" and many other examples.

Likewise, the gh in Germanic
Germanic languages
The Germanic languages constitute a sub-branch of the Indo-European language family. The common ancestor of all of the languages in this branch is called Proto-Germanic , which was spoken in approximately the mid-1st millennium BC in Iron Age northern Europe...

 English words, pronounced in several different ways in modern English (as an f, or not at all), can often be linked to German ch: "to laugh" → "lachen", "through" and "thorough" → "durch", "high" → "hoch", "naught" → "nichts", "light" → "leicht", "sight" → "Sicht" etc.

Cognates with English



A sizable fraction of English vocabulary is cognate
Cognate
In linguistics, cognates are words that have a common etymological origin. This learned term derives from the Latin cognatus . Cognates within the same language are called doublets. Strictly speaking, loanwords from another language are usually not meant by the term, e.g...

 with German words, although the common ancestry may be somewhat obscured by various shifts in phonetics (e.g. the High German consonant shift
High German consonant shift
In historical linguistics, the High German consonant shift or second Germanic consonant shift is a phonological development that took place in the southern parts of the West Germanic dialect continuum in several phases, probably beginning between the 3rd and 5th centuries AD, and was almost...

), meaning and orthography.

For example:
  • the High German consonant shift *p→ff led to such cognates as German Schiff with English ship.
  • Ger. Baum (meaning "tree") is cognate with the English word beam, as may be seen in the name of trees such as the hornbeam
    Hornbeam
    Hornbeams are relatively small hardwood trees in the genus Carpinus . Though some botanists grouped them with the hazels and hop-hornbeams in a segregate family, Corylaceae, modern botanists place the hornbeams in the birch subfamily Coryloideae...

     and the whitebeam
    Whitebeam
    The whitebeams are members of the Rosaceae family, comprising subgenus Aria of genus Sorbus, and hybrids involving species of this subgenus and members of subgenera Sorbus, Torminaria and Chamaemespilus. They are deciduous trees with simple or lobed leaves, arranged alternately...

    .

Words borrowed by English



English has taken many loanword
Loanword
A loanword is a word borrowed from a donor language and incorporated into a recipient language. By contrast, a calque or loan translation is a related concept where the meaning or idiom is borrowed rather than the lexical item itself. The word loanword is itself a calque of the German Lehnwort,...

s from German, often without any change of spelling:
German word English loanword Meaning of German word
Abseilen abseil  to descend by rope / to fastrope
Angst angst
Angst
Angst is an English, German, Danish, Norwegian and Dutch word for fear or anxiety . It is used in English to describe an intense feeling of apprehension, anxiety or inner turmoil...

 
fear
Ansatz ansatz
Ansatz
Ansatz is a German noun with several meanings in the English language.It is widely encountered in physics and mathematics literature.Since ansatz is a noun, in German texts the initial a of this word is always capitalised.-Definition:...

 
onset / entry / math. approach
Anschluss anschluss
Anschluss
The Anschluss , also known as the ', was the occupation and annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany in 1938....

 
connection / access / annexation
Automat automat
Automat
An automat is a fast food restaurant where simple foods and drink are served by coin-operated and bill-operated vending machines.-Concept:Originally, the machines took only nickels...

 
automation / machine
Bildungsroman bildungsroman
Bildungsroman
In literary criticism, bildungsroman or coming-of-age story is a literary genre which focuses on the psychological and moral growth of the protagonist from youth to adulthood , and in which character change is thus extremely important...

 
novel concerned with the personal development or education of the protagonist
Blitz Blitz
The Blitz
The Blitz was the sustained strategic bombing of Britain by Nazi Germany between 7 September 1940 and 10 May 1941, during the Second World War. The city of London was bombed by the Luftwaffe for 76 consecutive nights and many towns and cities across the country followed...

 
flash / lightning
Bratwurst bratwurst
Bratwurst
A bratwurst is a sausage usually composed of veal, pork or beef. The plural in German is Bratwürste....

 
fried sausage
Delikatessen delikatessen/delicatessen delicate / delicious food items
Doppelgänger doppelgänger
Doppelgänger
In fiction and folklore, a doppelgänger is a paranormal double of a living person, typically representing evil or misfortune...

 
lit. "double going/living person alive", look-alike of somebody
Edelweiß edelweiss
Edelweiss
Edelweiss , Leontopodium alpinum, is a well-known European mountain flower, belonging to the sunflower family.-Names:The common name comes from German edel, meaning "noble", and weiß "white", thus signifying "noble whiteness".The scientific name Leontopodium is a Latin adaptation of Greek...

 
edelweiss flower
Fest fest feast / celebration
Gedankenexperiment Gedankenexperiment  thought experiment
Geländesprung gelandesprung ski jumping for distance on alpine equipment
Gemütlichkeit gemuetlichkeit  snug feeling, cosiness, good nature, geniality
Gestalt Gestalt  form or shape / creature / scheme; refers to a concept of 'wholeness'
Gesundheit! Gesundheit! (Amer.) health / bless you! (when someone sneezes)
Heiligenschein heiligenschein
Heiligenschein
Heiligenschein is an optical phenomenon which creates a bright spot around the shadow of the viewer's head. It is created when the surface on which the shadow falls has special optical characteristics. Dewy grass is known to exhibit these characteristics, and creates a Heiligenschein...

 
meteo. "holy shine" / gloriole
Hinterland hinterland
Hinterland
The hinterland is the land or district behind a coast or the shoreline of a river. Specifically, by the doctrine of the hinterland, the word is applied to the inland region lying behind a port, claimed by the state that owns the coast. The area from which products are delivered to a port for...

 
lit. mil. "area behind the front-line": interior / backwoods
kaputt kaput  (etymology unclear, possibly French, Yiddish or Latin) out of order, not working
Katzenjammer katzenjammer
Katzenjammer
Worbey & Farrell, are a British piano musical comedy duo comprising Steven Worbey and Kevin Farrell. The word Katzenjammer is German, meaning "discordant sound" and is also sometimes used to indicate a general state of depression or bewilderment. It's sometimes used in reference to a hangover...

 
lit. "cats' lament": hangover, crapulence
Kindergarten kindergarten
Kindergarten
A kindergarten is a preschool educational institution for children. The term was created by Friedrich Fröbel for the play and activity institute that he created in 1837 in Bad Blankenburg as a social experience for children for their transition from home to school...

 
lit. "childrens' garden" - nursery or preschool
Kitsch kitsch
Kitsch
Kitsch is a form of art that is considered an inferior, tasteless copy of an extant style of art or a worthless imitation of art of recognized value. The concept is associated with the deliberate use of elements that may be thought of as cultural icons while making cheap mass-produced objects that...

 
fake art, something produced exclusively for sale
Kraut kraut
Kraut
Kraut is a German word recorded in English from 1918 onwards as a derogatory term for a German, particularly a German soldier during World War I and World War II. Its earlier meaning in English was as a synonym for sauerkraut, a traditional German and central European food.- Etymological...

 
herb, cabbage in some dialects
Leitmotiv leitmotif
Leitmotif
A leitmotif , sometimes written leit-motif, is a musical term , referring to a recurring theme, associated with a particular person, place, or idea. It is closely related to the musical idea of idée fixe...

 
guiding theme (the verb "leiten" means "to guide, to lead")
plündern (v.) to plunder  lit. "taking goods by force" (original meaning "to take away furniture" shifted in German and was borrowed by English both during the Thirty Years War)
Poltergeist poltergeist
Poltergeist
A poltergeist is a paranormal phenomenon which consists of events alluding to the manifestation of an imperceptible entity. Such manifestation typically includes inanimate objects moving or being thrown about, sentient noises and, on some occasions, physical attacks on those witnessing the...

 
lit. "rumbling ghost" (artificial compound, not originally German)
Realpolitik realpolitik
Realpolitik
Realpolitik refers to politics or diplomacy based primarily on power and on practical and material factors and considerations, rather than ideological notions or moralistic or ethical premises...

 
diplomacy based on practical objectives rather than ideals
Reich reich
Reich
Reich is a German word cognate with the English rich, but also used to designate an empire, realm, or nation. The qualitative connotation from the German is " sovereign state." It is the word traditionally used for a variety of sovereign entities, including Germany in many periods of its history...

 
empire or realm
Rucksack rucksack  backpack (Ruck→"Rücken" which means "back")
Sauerkraut sauerkraut
Sauerkraut
Sauerkraut , directly translated from German: "sour cabbage", is finely shredded cabbage that has been fermented by various lactic acid bacteria, including Leuconostoc, Lactobacillus, and Pediococcus. It has a long shelf-life and a distinctive sour flavor, both of which result from the lactic acid...

 
sour cabbage
Schadenfreude schadenfreude
Schadenfreude
Schadenfreude is pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others. This German word is used as a loanword in English and some other languages, and has been calqued in Danish and Norwegian as skadefryd and Swedish as skadeglädje....

 
taking pleasure in someone else's misfortune
Sprachraum sprachraum
Sprachraum
Sprachraum is a linguistic term used to designate a geographical region/district where a language, dialect, group or family of languages is spoken. The German word Sprachraum literally means "language area"....

 
lit. "place/area/room of a language": area where a certain language is spoken
Übermensch ubermensch
Übermensch
The Übermensch is a concept in the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche posited the Übermensch as a goal for humanity to set for itself in his 1883 book Thus Spoke Zarathustra ....

 
superhuman
verklemmt verklemmt lit. "jammed": inhibited, uptight
Waldsterben waldsterben  lit. "forest dieback", dying floral environment
Wanderlust wanderlust
Wanderlust
Wanderlust is a strong desire for or impulse to wander or travel and explore the world.-Etymology:The loanword from German language became an English term in 1902 as a reflection of what was then seen as a characteristically German predilection for wandering that may be traced back to German...

 
desire, pleasure, or inclination to travel or walk
Weltanschauung weltanschauung  lit. "perception of the world": ideology
Wunderkind wunderkind  lit. "wonder child": child prodigy, whiz kid
Zeitgeist zeitgeist
Zeitgeist
Zeitgeist is "the spirit of the times" or "the spirit of the age."Zeitgeist is the general cultural, intellectual, ethical, spiritual or political climate within a nation or even specific groups, along with the general ambiance, morals, sociocultural direction, and mood associated with an era.The...

 
lit. "spirit of the times": the spirit of the age; the trend at that time

Promotion of the German language


The use and learning of the German language are promoted by a number of organisations. The government-backed Goethe Institut (named after the famous German author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a German writer, pictorial artist, biologist, theoretical physicist, and polymath. He is considered the supreme genius of modern German literature. His works span the fields of poetry, drama, prose, philosophy, and science. His Faust has been called the greatest long...

) aims to enhance the knowledge of German culture and language within Europe and the rest of the world. This is done by holding exhibitions and conferences with German-related themes, and providing training and guidance in the learning and use of the German language. For example the Goethe Institut teaches the Goethe-Zertifikat German language qualification.

The German state broadcaster Deutsche Welle
Deutsche Welle
Deutsche Welle or DW, is Germany's international broadcaster. The service is aimed at the overseas market. It broadcasts news and information on shortwave, Internet and satellite radio on 98.7 DZFE in 30 languages . It has a satellite television service , that is available in four languages, and...

 is the equivalent of the British BBC World Service
BBC World Service
The BBC World Service is the world's largest international broadcaster, broadcasting in 27 languages to many parts of the world via analogue and digital shortwave, internet streaming and podcasting, satellite, FM and MW relays...

 and provides radio and television broadcasts in German and a variety of other languages across the globe. Its German language services are tailored for German language learners by being spoken at slow speed. Deutsche Welle also provides an E-learning website to learn German.

General references


  • Fausto Cercignani
    Fausto Cercignani
    Fausto Cercignani is an Italian scholar, essayist and poet.- Biography :Born to Tuscan parents, Fausto Cercignani studied in Milan, where he graduated in foreign languages and literatures with a dissertation dealing with English at Shakespeare’s time...

    , The Consonants of German: Synchrony and Diachrony, Milano, Cisalpino, 1979.
  • Michael Clyne
    Michael Clyne
    Michael George Clyne, AM, FAHA, FASSA was an Australian linguist, academic and intellectual. He was a scholar in various fields of linguistics, including sociolinguistics, pragmatics, bilingualism and multilingualism, second language learning, contact linguistics and intercultural communication...

    , The German Language in a Changing Europe (1995) ISBN 0521499704
  • George O. Curme
    George Oliver Curme
    George Oliver Curme, Sr. was an American grammarian and philologist. He is best known for his Grammar of the German Language , andA Grammar of the English Language ....

    , A Grammar of the German Language (1904, 1922) — the most complete and authoritative work in English
  • Anthony Fox, The Structure of German (2005) ISBN 0199273995
  • W.B. Lockwood, German Today: The Advanced Learner's Guide (1987) ISBN 0198158505
  • Ruth H. Sanders. German: Biography of a Language (Oxford University Press; 2010) 240 pages. Combines linguistic, anthropological, and historical perspectives in a "biography" of German in terms of six "signal events" over millennia, including the Battle of Kalkriese, which blocked the spread of Latin-based language north.


External links