It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in GermanyAustriaSwitzerlandSouth Tyrol in Italythe German-speaking Community of Belgiumand Liechtenstein. It is one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. There are also strong similarities in vocabulary with DanishNorwegian and Swedishalthough those belong to the North Germanic group.
German is the second most widely spoken Germanic languageafter English. German is also the second most widely taught foreign language in the EU after English at primary school level but third after English and French at lower secondary levelthe fourth most widely taught non-English language in the US after SpanishFrench and American Sign Languageand the second most commonly used scientific language as well as the third most widely used language on websites after English and Russian.
The German-speaking countries are ranked fifth in terms of annual publication of new books, with one tenth of all books including e-books in the world being published in the German language. German is an inflected language with four cases for nouns, pronouns and adjectives nominative, accusative, genitive, dativethree genders masculine, feminine, neutertwo numbers singular, pluraland strong and weak verbs.
It derives the majority of its vocabulary from the ancient Germanic branch of the Indo-European language family. A portion of the words are derived from Latin and Greekand fewer are borrowed from French and Modern English. It is also notable for its broad spectrum of dialectswith many unique varieties existing in Europe and also other parts of the world.
Italy recognizes all the German-speaking minorities in its territory as national historic minorities and protects the varieties of German spoken in several regions of Northern Italy besides South Tyrol.
Low German or Plautdietsch  are alternatively referred to as "languages" or "dialects". The first of these branches survives in modern DanishSwedishNorwegianFaroeseand Icelandicall of which are descended from Old Norse. The East Germanic languages are now extinct, and the only historical member of this branch from which written texts survive is Gothic.
The West Germanic languages, however, have undergone extensive dialectal subdivision and are now represented in modern languages such as EnglishGerman, DutchYiddishAfrikaansand others.
The various regional dialects spoken south of these lines are grouped as High German dialects nos. This classification indicates their historical descent from dialects spoken by the Irminones also known as the Elbe groupIngvaeones or North Sea Germanic groupand Istvaeones or Weser-Rhine group.
German is therefore closely related to the other languages based on High German dialects, such as Luxembourgish based on Central Franconian dialects — no. Also closely related to Standard German are the Upper German dialects spoken in the southern German-speaking countriessuch as Swiss German Alemannic dialects — no. After these High German dialects, standard German is somewhat less closely related to languages based on Low Franconian dialects e.
As has been noted, the former of these dialect types is Istvaeonic and the latter Ingvaeonic, whereas the High German dialects are all Irminonic; the differences between these languages and standard German are therefore considerable. These Anglo-Frisian dialects are all members of the Ingvaeonic family of West Germanic languages which did not take part in the High German consonant shift. This sound shift involved a drastic change in the pronunciation of both voiced and voiceless stop consonants bdgand ptkrespectively.
The primary effects of the shift were the following:. While there is written evidence of the Old High German language in several Elder Futhark inscriptions from as early as the 6th century AD such as the Pforzen bucklethe Old High German period is generally seen as beginning with the Abrogans written c. Following the Abrogans the first coherent works written in OHG appear in the 9th century, chief among them being the Muspillithe Merseburg Charmsand the Hildebrandsliedas well as a number of other religious texts the Georgsliedthe Ludwigsliedthe Evangelienbuchand translated hymns and prayers.
Of particular interest to scholars, however, has been the Hildebrandslieda secular epic poem telling the tale of an estranged father and son unknowingly meeting each other in battle. Linguistically this text is highly interesting due to the mixed use of Old Saxon and Old High German dialects in its composition.
The written works of this period stem mainly from the AlamanniBavarianand Thuringian groups, all belonging to the Elbe Germanic group Irminoneswhich had settled in what is now southern-central Germany and Austria between the 2nd and 6th centuries during the great migration.
In general, the surviving texts of OHG show a wide range of dialectal diversity with very little written uniformity. The early written tradition of OHG survived mostly through monasteries and scriptoria as local translations of Latin originals; as a result, the surviving texts are written in highly disparate regional dialects and exhibit significant Latin influence, particularly in vocabulary.
The German language through the OHG period was still predominantly a spoken language, with a wide range of dialects and a much more extensive oral tradition than a written one. Having just emerged from the High German consonant shift, OHG was also a relatively new and volatile language still undergoing a number of phoneticphonologicalmorphologicaland syntactic changes.
The scarcity of written work, instability of the language, and widespread illiteracy of the time thus account for the lack of standardization up to the end of the OHG period in While there is no complete agreement over the dates of the Middle High German MHG period, it is generally seen as lasting from to Whereas during the Old High German period the Germanic tribes extended only as far east as the Elbe and Saale rivers, the MHG period saw a number of these tribes expanding beyond this eastern boundary into Slavic territory this is known as the Ostsiedlung.
Along with the increasing wealth and geographic extent of the Germanic groups came greater use of German in the courts of nobles as the standard language of official proceedings and literature. While these efforts were still regionally bound, German began to be used in place of Latin for certain official purposes, leading to a greater need for regularity in written conventions.
While the major changes of the MHG period were socio-cultural, German was still undergoing significant linguistic changes in syntax, phonetics, and morphology as well e.
A great wealth of texts survives from the MHG period.Germanic languagesbranch of the Indo-European language family. Scholars often divide the Germanic languages into three groups: West Germanicincluding EnglishGermanand Netherlandic Dutch ; North Germanic, including DanishSwedishIcelandicNorwegianand Faroese ; and East Germanicnow extinct, comprising only Gothic and the languages of the Vandals, Burgundians, and a few other tribes.
In numbers of native speakers, English, with million, clearly ranks third among the languages of the world after Mandarin and Spanish ; German, with some 98 million, probably ranks 10th after Hindi, Bengali, Arabic, Portuguese, Russian, and Japanese.
To these figures may be added those for persons with another native language who have learned one of the Germanic languages for commercial, scientific, literary, or other purposes. The earliest historical evidence for Germanic is provided by isolated words and names recorded by Latin authors beginning in the 1st century bce. From approximately ce there are inscriptions carved in the letter runic alphabet. Later versions of the runic alphabet were used sparingly in England and Germany but more widely in Scandinavia—in the latter area down to early modern times.
All extensive later Germanic texts, however, use adaptations of the Latin alphabet. See table for the names and approximate dates of the earliest recorded Germanic languages. The Germanic languages are related in the sense that they can be shown to be different historical developments of a single earlier parent language.
Although for some language families there are written records of the parent language e. Much of its structure, however, can be deduced by the comparative method of reconstruction a reconstructed language is called a protolanguage; reconstructed forms are marked with an asterisk. Such reconstructions are, in part, merely formulas of relationship.
In other positions e. The above example shows that such reconstructions are more than mere formulas of relationship; they also give some indication of how Proto-Germanic actually sounded.
Occasionally scholars are fortunate enough to find external confirmation of these deductions. By pushing the comparative method still farther back, it can be shown that Germanic is related to a number of other languages, notably Celtic, Italic, Greek, Baltic, Slavic, Iranian, and Indo-Aryan Indic.
All these language groups are subsequent developments of a still earlier parent language for which there are, again, no written records but which can be reconstructed as Proto-Indo-European see Indo-European languages. The special characteristics of the Germanic languages that distinguish them from other Indo-European languages result from numerous phonological and grammatical changes.
Stops are produced with momentary complete stoppage of the breath stream at some point in the vocal tract. In addition to these general changes, there were two special ones. All remaining consonants except z occurred between vowels both singly and doubly e. Germanic languages. Article Media. Info Print Print. Table Of Contents.
Submit Feedback. Thank you for your feedback. Germanic languages Written By: Anthony F. Buccini William G. See Article History.
Get exclusive access to content from our First Edition with your subscription. Subscribe today. Load Next Page. More About. Britannica Websites. Articles from Britannica Encyclopedias for elementary and high school students.This German course includes around 16h of audio MP3 format. Students should be able to make limited practical use of the language in their daily life.
Students will furthermore have the means, given the proper surroundings and personal motivation, for continued rapid and efficient development of proficiency. This is a course in Spoken German; the forms and patterns of the language are intentionally colloquial. The emphasis in instruction is everywhere on speech, and an indispensable component of the learning process are the audio files.
The method of instruction incorporates guided imitation, repetition, memorization, pattern practice, and conversation. Ideally, this course should be undertaken with the help of a German native speaker willing to play the role of a tutor. The tutor's role is to serve as a model for speech and to guide the student to accurate imitation by constant repetition and correction. He must be prepared for constant correction and repetition. Only by constant repetition after an authentic model for speech can habitual fluent and accurate reproduction of the sounds and forms of the foreign language be achieved.
The ultimate goal of the course, as has been stated above, is to speak accurately, fluently and easily. The text provides for the assimilation of all basic forms and patterns of the language by the guided imitation, memorization, and manipulation of a large number of sentences and by practice in confronting several widely occurring everyday situations.
Actual living use of the language in free conversation is a necessary and essential adjunct. The tutor should therefore encourage his students from the start to use the language in every way possible, above and beyond what is provided for in the text. After the first few days of work both students and tutors should avoid the use of English in the classroom for any purpose at all, and they are encouraged to speak German outside the classroom as well.
Only by constant use of the skill he is learning can the student hope to master it and retain it as a useful tool of his profession.
All rights reserved. Design by templated.The Germanic languages are a branch of the Indo-European language family spoken natively by a population of about million people [nb 1] mainly in EuropeNorth AmericaOceania and Southern Africa. The most widely spoken Germanic language, Englishis the world's most widely spoken language with an estimated 2 billion speakers.
The West Germanic languages include the three most widely spoken Germanic languages: English with around — million native speakers;  [nb 2] Germanwith over million native speakers;  and Dutchwith 24 million native speakers.
Other West Germanic languages include Afrikaansan offshoot of Dutch, with over 7. Other North Germanic languages are Faroese and Icelandicwhich are more conservative languages with no significant Low German influence, more complex grammar and limited mutual intelligibility with the others today. The last to die off was Crimean Gothicspoken until the late 18th century in some isolated areas of Crimea.
Some of the West Germanic languages also did not survive past the Migration Period, including Lombardic. As a result of World War IIthe German language suffered a significant loss of Sprachraumas well as moribundness and extinction of several of its dialects. In the 21st century, its dialects are dying out anyway [nb 3] due to Standard German gaining primacy. The common ancestor of all of the languages in this branch is called Proto-Germanicalso known as Common Germanic, which was spoken in about the middle of the 1st millennium BC in Iron Age Scandinavia.
Proto-Germanic, along with all of its descendants, is characterised by a number of unique linguistic features, most famously the consonant change known as Grimm's law.2 Hours of Daily German Conversations - German Practice for ALL Learners
Early varieties of Germanic entered history with the Germanic tribes moving south from Scandinavia in the 2nd century BC, to settle in the area of today's northern Germany and southern Denmark.
LuciaGrenadaBarbadosSt. It is also a recognised language in Nicaragua  and Malaysia. American English -speakers make up the majority of all native Germanic speakers, including also making up the bulk of West Germanic speakers.
German also continues to be spoken as a minority language by immigrant communities in North America, South America, Central America, Mexico and Australia.
Dutch was until an official language in South Africa but evolved in and was replaced by Afrikaansa partially mutually intelligible  daughter language of Dutch. Afrikaans is one of the 11 official languages in South Africa and is a lingua franca of Namibia. It is used in other Southern African nations, as well.
Low German is a collection of very diverse dialects spoken in the northeast of the Netherlands and northern Germany. Scots is spoken in Lowland Scotland and parts of Ulster where the local dialect is known as Ulster Scots.
Frisian is spoken among half a million people who live on the southern fringes of the North Sea in the Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark. Luxembourgish is a Moselle Franconian dialect that is spoken mainly in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourgwhere it is considered to be an official language. Yiddish, once a native language of some 11 to 13 million people, remains in use by some 1.
Limburgish varieties are spoken in the Limburg and Rhineland regions, along the Dutch—Belgian—German border. In addition to being the official language in SwedenSwedish is also spoken natively by the Swedish-speaking minority in Finland, which is a large part of the population along the coast of western and southern Finland.
Swedish is also spoken by some people in Estonia. Danish is an official language of Denmark and in its overseas territory of the Faroe Islandsand it is a lingua franca and language of education in its other overseas territory of Greenlandwhere it was one of the official languages until Danish is also spoken natively by the Danish minority in the German state of Schleswig-Holsteinwhere it is recognised as a minority language.
Norwegian is the official language of Norway. Icelandic is the official language of Iceland. Faroese is the official language of the Faroe Islandsand it is also spoken by some people in Denmark.
Germanic languages by share West Germanic in yellow-red shades and North Germanic in blue shades : [nb 4]. All Germanic languages are thought to be descended from a hypothetical Proto-Germanicunited by subjection to the sound shifts of Grimm's law and Verner's law.
Proto-Germanic itself was likely spoken after c. From the time of their earliest attestation, the Germanic varieties are divided into three groups: WestEastand North Germanic.
Their exact relation is difficult to determine from the sparse evidence of runic inscriptions. The western group would have formed in the late Jastorf cultureand the eastern group may be derived from the 1st-century variety of Gotlandleaving southern Sweden as the original location of the northern group.German languageGerman Deutschofficial language of both Germany and Austria and one of the three official languages of Switzerland.
German is an inflected language with four cases for nouns, pronouns, and adjectives nominative, accusative, genitive, dativethree genders masculine, feminine, neuterand strong and weak verbs. Altogether German is the native language of more than 90 million speakers and thus probably ranks sixth in number of native speakers among the languages of the world after Chinese, English, Hindi-Urdu, Spanish, and Russian.
German is widely studied as a foreign language and is one of the main cultural languages of the Western world. As a written language German is quite uniform; it differs in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland no more than written English does in the United States and the British Commonwealth.
As a spoken languagehowever, German exists in many dialectsmost of which belong to either the High German or Low German dialectal groups. The main difference between High and Low German is in the sound system, especially in the consonants. High German, the language of the southern highlands of Germany, is the official written language.
Old High Germana group of dialects for which there was no standard literary language, was spoken until about in the highlands of southern Germany. During Middle High German times aftera standard language based on the Upper German dialects Alemannic and Bavarian in the southernmost part of the German speech area began to arise. Middle High German was the language of an extensive literature that includes the early 13th-century epic Nibelungenlied.
Modern standard High German is descended from the Middle High German dialects and is spoken in the central and southern highlands of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. It is used as the language of administration, higher educationliterature, and the mass media in the Low German speech area as well. Standard High German is based on, but not identical with, the Middle German dialect used by Martin Luther in his 16th-century translation of the Bible.
Low German, with no single modern literary standard, is the spoken language of the lowlands of northern Germany. The language supplied the Scandinavian languages with many loanwords, but, with the decline of the league, Low German declined as well. Although the numerous Low German dialects are still spoken in the homes of northern Germany and a small amount of literature is written in them, no standard Low German literary or administrative language exists.
Alemannic dialects, which developed in the southwestern part of the Germanic speech area, differ considerably in sound system and grammar from standard High German. These dialects are spoken in Switzerland, western Austria, Swabia, and Liechtenstein and in the Alsace region of France. German language. Article Media. Info Print Print. Table Of Contents.
Submit Feedback. Thank you for your feedback. See Article History. Read More on This Topic. German is spoken throughout a large area in central Europe, where it is the national language of Germany and of Austria and one of the three…. Get exclusive access to content from our First Edition with your subscription.
Subscribe today. Learn More in these related Britannica articles:. German is spoken throughout a large area in central Europe, where it is the national language of Germany and of Austria and one of the three official languages of Switzerland the others are French and Italian, and Romansh has a special status.
From this…. Biblical translations, vernacular liturgies, hymns, and sacred drama had analogous effects elsewhere. For Roman Catholics, especially in Spain, the Reformation was a time of deep religious emotion expressed in art and literature. On all sides of the religious controversy, chroniclers…. The repository of dialectal differences now lies more with the rural populace and the longtime native inhabitants of the cities.British Broadcasting Corporation Home.
Facts, essential phrases plus the German alphabet. Deutsche Welle: Learn German From Germany's international network, including slow news with transcripts. Then try our F1-themed quiz. Share this page. Search term:. Read more. This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets CSS enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience.
Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets CSS if you are able to do so. This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving. A Guide to German Facts, essential phrases plus the German alphabet. Henning Wehn The stand-up comedian finds out what's so funny about German. German test Are you a complete beginner, quite fluent or somewhere in between? Online lessons with audio, games, vocabulary, grammar explanations and exercises For beginners Talk Germanonline video tutorials.
Find a German class close to you. Holiday phrases Listen, read, print out and download. German slang Guide to streetwise German. Settings Sign out.The official language of Germany is Standard Germanwith over 95 percent of the country speaking Standard German or German dialects as their first language.
Recognized minority languages have official status as well, usually in their respective regions. The census and the West-German census did not inquire about language. Recognised minority languages:  . Immigrant languages spoken by sizable [ clarification needed ] communities of first and second-generation dominant origin of the speakers in brackets :. Most Germans learn English as their first foreign language at school. Sometimes French or Latin are taught first, but usually English is, with French and Latin as common second or third foreign languages.
Russian, Italian, Spanish, Polish, Dutch, classical Greek, and other languages are also offered in schools, often depending on the school's geographic location. During the existence of the German Democratic Republic, the most common second language taught in East Germany was Russian, while English and French remained the preferred second languages taught in schools in the Federal Republic of Germany West Germany.
However, German school children's English level isn't as good as the level found in Scandinavian countries. There exist several bilingual kindergartens and even schools in Germany, offering education in German and English, French, Spanish, Japanese, Turkish, and other languages. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Culture Humour Oktoberfest. Mythology and folklore. Mythology Germanic mythology Continental Folklore German legend.
Literature Philosophy. Music and performing arts. Radio Television Cinema Media Television. Flag Coat of arms Deutschlandlied. Retrieved 17 January Statistisches Bumdesamt : Archived from the original PDF on Retrieved CS1 maint: archived copy as title link. Retrieved 31 January Foreign Affairs. Retrieved 4 September Goethe Institut.
Goethe Institut Online. Schuele Lammersieth. Languages of Germany. Standard German. Languages of Europe. Categories : Languages of Germany German language German culture.