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The Germanic languages are a branch of the
Indo-European The Indo-European languages are a language family native to western and southern Eurasia. It comprises most of the languages of Europe together with those of the northern Indian subcontinent and the Iranian Plateau. Some European languages of ...
language family A language family is a group of language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an apparent answer to the painful divisions b ...
spoken natively by a population of about 515 million people mainly in
Europe Europe is a continent A continent is any of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, up to seven geographical regions are commonly regarded as continents. Ordered ...

Europe
,
North America North America is a continent A continent is any of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, up to seven geographical regions are commonly regarded as continen ...

North America
,
Oceania Oceania (, , ) is a geographic region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of the Eart ...

Oceania
and
Southern Africa Southern Africa is the south South is one of the cardinal directions or compass points. South is the opposite of north and is perpendicular to the east and west. Etymology The word ''south'' comes from Old English ''sūþ'', from earlier Pr ...
. The most widely spoken Germanic language,
English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the World language, leading lan ...

English
, is also the world's most widely spoken language with an estimated 2 billion speakers. All Germanic languages are derived from
Proto-Germanic Proto-Germanic (abbreviated PGmc; also called Common Germanic) is the reconstructed Reconstruction may refer to: Politics, history, and sociology *Reconstruction (law), the transfer of a company's (or several companies') business to a new ...
, spoken in
Iron Age The Iron Age is the final epoch of the three-age division of the prehistory Prehistory, also known as pre-literary history, is the period of human history Human history, or world history, is the narrative of Human, humanity's pa ...
Scandinavia Scandinavia; : ''Skadesi-suolu''/''Skađsuâl''. ( ) is a in , with strong historical, cultural, and linguistic ties. In English usage, ''Scandinavia'' can refer to , , and , sometimes more narrowly to the , or more broadly to include , th ...

Scandinavia
. The
West Germanic languages The West Germanic languages constitute the largest of the three branches of the Germanic Germanic may refer to: * Germanic peoples, an ethno-linguistic group identified by their use of the Germanic languages ** List of ancient Germanic peoples a ...
include the three most widely spoken Germanic languages:
English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the World language, leading lan ...

English
with around 360–400 million native speakers;
German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citizens of Germany, see also German nationality law * German language The German la ...

German
, with over 100 million native speakers; and
Dutch Dutch commonly refers to: * Something of, from, or related to the Netherlands * Dutch people () * Dutch language () *Dutch language , spoken in Belgium (also referred as ''flemish'') Dutch may also refer to:" Castle * Dutch Castle Places * ...
, with 24 million native speakers. Other West Germanic languages include
Afrikaans Alaric speaking Afrikaans. Afrikaans (, ) is a West Germanic language spoken in South Africa South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the southernmost country in Africa. With over Demographics of South Africa, 5 ...
, an offshoot of Dutch, with over 7.1 million native speakers;
Low German : : : : : , minority = (70,000) (30,000) (8,000) , familycolor = Indo-European , fam2 = Germanic Germanic may refer to: * Germanic peoples, an ethno-linguistic group identified by their use of the Germanic langua ...
, considered a separate collection of unstandardized dialects, with roughly 4.35-7.15 million native speakers and probably 6.7–10 million people who can understand itTaaltelling Nedersaksisch
H. Bloemhoff. (2005). p88.
STATUS UND GEBRAUCH DES NIEDERDEUTSCHEN 2016
A. Adler, C. Ehlers, R. Goltz, A. Kleene, A. Plewnia (2016)
Saxon, Low
''Ethnologue''.
(at least 2.2 million in
Germany ) , image_map = , map_caption = , map_width = 250px , capital = Berlin Berlin (; ) is the and by both area and population. Its 3,769,495 inhabitants, as of 31 December 2019 makes it the , according to population within city l ...

Germany
(2016) and 2.15 million in the Netherlands (2003));
Yiddish Yiddish (, or , ''yidish'' or ''idish'', , ; , ''Yidish-Taytsh'', ) is a West Germanic The West Germanic languages constitute the largest of the three branches of the Germanic languages, Germanic family of languages (the others being the ...

Yiddish
, once used by approximately 13 million
Jews Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2 , Israeli pronunciation ) or Jewish people are an ethnoreligious group and nation originating from the Israelites Israelite origins and kingdom: "The first act in the long drama of Jewish history is ...

Jews
in pre-
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literatur ...
Europe, now with approximately 1.5 million native speakers; Scots, with 1.5 million native speakers; Limburgish varieties with roughly 1.3 million speakers along the
Dutch Dutch commonly refers to: * Something of, from, or related to the Netherlands * Dutch people () * Dutch language () *Dutch language , spoken in Belgium (also referred as ''flemish'') Dutch may also refer to:" Castle * Dutch Castle Places * ...

Dutch
Belgian Belgian may refer to: * Something of, or related to, Belgium Belgium, ; french: Belgique ; german: Belgien officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a country in Western Europe Western Europe is the region of Europe Europe is a contine ...

Belgian
German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citizens of Germany, see also German nationality law * German language The German la ...

German
border; and the
Frisian languages The Frisian (, ) languages are a closely related group of West Germanic languages The West Germanic languages constitute the largest of the three branches of the Germanic Germanic may refer to: * Germanic peoples, an ethno-linguistic group i ...
with over 0.5 million native speakers in the Netherlands and Germany. The largest
North Germanic languages The North Germanic languages make up one of the three branches of the Germanic languages—a sub-family of the Indo-European languages—along with the West Germanic languages and the extinct East Germanic languages. The language group is also r ...

North Germanic languages
are
Swedish Swedish or ' may refer to: * Anything from or related to Sweden, a country in Northern Europe * Swedish language, a North Germanic language spoken primarily in Sweden and Finland * Swedish alphabet, the official alphabet used by the Swedish langua ...
,
Danish Danish may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to the country of Denmark * A national or citizen of Denmark, also called a "Dane", see Demographics of Denmark * Danish people or Danes, people with a Danish ancestral or ethnic identity * Danis ...
and
Norwegian Norwegian, Norwayan, or Norsk may refer to: *Something of, from, or related to Norway, a country in northwestern Europe *Norwegians, both a nation and an ethnic group native to Norway *Demographics of Norway *The Norwegian language, including the t ...
, which are in part mutually intelligible and have a combined total of about 20 million native speakers in the
Nordic countries The Nordic countries (also known as the Nordics or ''Norden''; lit. 'the North') are a geographical and cultural region In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical characteristics (physical geography), human impac ...

Nordic countries
and an additional five million second language speakers; since the Middle Ages these languages have however been strongly influenced by the West Germanic language
Middle Low German Middle Low German or Middle Saxon (autonym: ''Sassisch'', i.e. "Saxon", Standard German, Standard High German: ', Dutch language, Modern Dutch: ') is a developmental stage of Low German. It developed from the Old Saxon language in the Middle ...
, and Low German words account for about 30–60% of their vocabularies according to various estimates. Other extant North Germanic languages are
Faroese Faroese ( ) or Faroish ( ) may refer to anything pertaining to the Faroe Islands, e.g.: *the Faroese language * the Faroese people {{Disambiguation Language and nationality disambiguation pages ...
,
Icelandic Icelandic refers to anything of, from, or related to Iceland and may refer to: *Icelandic people *Icelandic language *Icelandic alphabet *Icelandic cuisine See also

* Icelander (disambiguation) * Icelandic Airlines, a predecessor of Icelandai ...
, and
Elfdalian Elfdalian or Övdalian ( or , pronounced in Elfdalian, or in Swedish) is a North Germanic language variety spoken by up to 3,000 people who live or have grown up in the locality of Älvdalen ('), which is located in the southeastern part of ...
, which are more conservative languages with no significant Low German influence, more complex grammar and limited mutual intelligibility with the others today.Holmberg, Anders and Christer Platzack (2005). "The Scandinavian languages". In ''The Comparative Syntax Handbook,'' eds
Guglielmo CinqueGuglielmo Cinque (born 1948 in La Spezia La Spezia (, or , ; in the local Spezzino dialect) is the capital city of the province of La Spezia and is located at the head of the Gulf of La Spezia in the southern part of the Liguria region of Italy ...
and Richard S. Kayne. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press
Excerpt at Durham University
.
The East Germanic branch included
Gothic Gothic or Gothics may refer to: People and languages *Goths or Gothic people, the ethnonym of a group of East Germanic tribes **Gothic language, an extinct East Germanic language spoken by the Goths **Crimean Gothic, the Gothic language spoken by ...
, , and Vandalic, all of which are now extinct. The last to die off was
Crimean Gothic Crimean Gothic was an East Germanic language spoken by the Crimean Goths in some isolated locations in Crimea Crimea (; ; uk, Крим, Krym; crh, Къырым, translit=Kirim/Qırım; grc, Κιμμερία/Ταυρική, translit=K ...
, spoken until the late 18th century in some isolated areas of
Crimea Crimea; crh, Къырым, translit=Kirim/Qırım; grc, Κιμμερία/Ταυρική, translit=Kimmería/Taurikḗ is a peninsula A peninsula ( la, paeninsula from ' "almost" and ' "island") is a landform surrounded by water on mos ...

Crimea
. The SIL ''
Ethnologue ''Ethnologue: Languages of the World'' (stylized as Ethnoloɠue) is an annual reference publication in print and online that provides statistics and other information on the living language A language is a structured system of communicatio ...
'' lists 48 different living Germanic languages, 41 of which belong to the Western branch and six to the Northern branch; it places Riograndenser Hunsrückisch German in neither of the categories, but it is often considered a German dialect by linguists. The total number of Germanic languages throughout history is unknown as some of them, especially the East Germanic languages, disappeared during or after the
Migration Period The Migration Period, also known as the Barbarian Invasions (from the Roman and Greek perspective), is a term sometimes used for the period in the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and collection, the ...
. Some of the West Germanic languages also did not survive past the Migration Period, including Lombardic. As a result of
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literatur ...
and subsequent mass expulsion of Germans, the German language suffered a significant loss of ''
Sprachraum In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include ...
'', as well as moribundity and extinction of several of its dialects. In the 21st century, its dialects are dying out due to
Standard German Standard High German (SHG), less precisely Standard German or High German (not to be confused with High German The High German languages or High German dialects (german: hochdeutsche Mundarten) comprise the varieties of German spoken south ...
gaining primacy. The common ancestor of all of the languages in this branch is called
Proto-Germanic Proto-Germanic (abbreviated PGmc; also called Common Germanic) is the reconstructed Reconstruction may refer to: Politics, history, and sociology *Reconstruction (law), the transfer of a company's (or several companies') business to a new ...
, also known as Common Germanic, which was spoken in about the middle of the 1st millennium BC in
Iron Age Scandinavia Iron Age Scandinavia (or Nordic Iron Age) refers to the Iron Age, as it unfolded in Scandinavia. Beginnings The 6th and 5th centuries BC were a tipping point for exports and imports on the European continent. The ever-increasing conflicts and w ...
. Proto-Germanic, along with all of its descendants, notably has a number of unique linguistic features, most famously the
consonant In articulatory phonetics The field of articulatory phonetics is a subfield of phonetics that studies articulation and ways that humans produce speech. Articulatory phoneticians explain how humans produce speech sounds via the interaction of d ...
change known as "
Grimm's law Grimm's law (also known as the First Germanic Sound Shift) is a set of sound laws A sound change, in historical linguistics, is a language change, change in the pronunciation of a language over time. A sound change can involve the replacement ...
." Early varieties of Germanic entered history when the
Germanic tribes This list of ancient s is an inventory of ancient Germanic cultures, tribal groupings and other alliances of Germanic tribes and civilisations in ancient times. The information comes from various ancient historical documents, beginning in the 2nd ...
moved south from
Scandinavia Scandinavia; : ''Skadesi-suolu''/''Skađsuâl''. ( ) is a in , with strong historical, cultural, and linguistic ties. In English usage, ''Scandinavia'' can refer to , , and , sometimes more narrowly to the , or more broadly to include , th ...

Scandinavia
in the 2nd century BC to settle in the area of today's northern Germany and southern Denmark.


Modern status


West Germanic languages

English is an
official language An official language is a language given a special status in a particular country, state, or other jurisdiction. Typically the term "official language" does not refer to the language used by a people or country, but by its government (e.g. judiciar ...

official language
of
Belize Belize () is a Caribbean The Caribbean (, ; es, Caribe; french: Caraïbes; ht, Karayib; also gcf, label=Antillean Creole, Kawayib; nl, Caraïben; Papiamento: ) is a region of the Americas that comprises the Caribbean Sea, its surroundi ...

Belize
,
Canada Canada is a country in the northern part of North America. Its Provinces and territories of Canada, ten provinces and three territories extend from the Atlantic Ocean, Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, Pacific and northward into the Arctic Oce ...

Canada
,
Nigeria Nigeria (), officially the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a country in West Africa West Africa or Western Africa is the westernmost region of . The defines Western Africa as the 17 countries of , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , and as we ...

Nigeria
,
Falkland Islands The Falkland Islands (; es, Islas Malvinas, ) are an archipelago An archipelago ( ), sometimes called an island group or island chain, is a chain, cluster or collection of island An island (or isle) is an isolated piece ...

Falkland Islands
,
Saint Helena Saint Helena () is a British possession in the South Atlantic Ocean. It is a remote volcanic tropical island west of the coast of south-western Africa, and east of Rio de Janeiro Rio de Janeiro (; ;), or simply Rio, is the List of larges ...

Saint Helena
,
Malta Malta ( , , ), officially known as the Republic of Malta ( mt, Repubblika ta' Malta ) and formerly Melita, is a Southern European island country consisting of an archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea. It lies south of Italy, east of Tunisi ...

Malta
,
New Zealand New Zealand ( mi, Aotearoa ''Aotearoa'' (; commonly pronounced by English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon Engl ...

New Zealand
,
Ireland Ireland ( ; ga, Éire ; Ulster Scots dialect, Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the Atlantic Ocean, North Atlantic. It is separated from Great Britain to its east by the North Channel (Great Britain and Ireland), North Channel, the Irish Sea ...

Ireland
,
South Africa South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the Southern Africa, southernmost country in Africa. With over Demographics of South Africa, 60 million people, it is the world's List of countries by population, 23rd-most ...

South Africa
,
Philippines The Philippines (; fil, Pilipinas, links=no), officially the Republic of the Philippines ( fil, Republika ng Pilipinas, links=no), * bik, Republika kan Filipinas * ceb, Republika sa Pilipinas * cbk, República de Filipinas * hil, Republ ...

Philippines
,
Jamaica Jamaica (; ) is an island country An island country or an island nation is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is often referred to as the land of an individual's birth, residence or ...

Jamaica
,
Dominica Dominica ( or ; Kalinago : ; french: Dominique; Dominican Creole French Dominican Creole French is a French-based creole, which is the generally spoken language in Dominica Dominica ( or ; Kalinago language: ; french: Dominique; Do ...

Dominica
,
Guyana Guyana ( or ), officially the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, is a country on the northern mainland of South America South America is a entirely in the and mostly in the , with a relatively small portion in the . It can also be ...

Guyana
,
Trinidad and Tobago Trinidad and Tobago (, ), officially the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, is the southernmost island country in the Caribbean The Caribbean (, ; es, Caribe; french: Caraïbes; ht, Karayib; also gcf, label=Antillean Creole Antillean C ...

Trinidad and Tobago
,
American Samoa American Samoa ( sm, Amerika Sāmoa, ; also ' or ') is an unincorporated territory of the United States Under United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a countr ...

American Samoa
,
Palau Palau (), officially the Republic of Palau ( pau, Beluu er a Belau) and historically ''Belau'', ''Palaos'' or ''Pelew'', is an island country An island country or an island nation is a country A country is a distinct territory, t ...

Palau
,
St. Lucia Saint Lucia (, ; french: Sainte-Lucie) is an island country in the West Indies in the eastern Caribbean Sea on the boundary with the Atlantic Ocean. The island was previously called Iyonola, the name given to the island by the native Arawaks, ...

St. Lucia
,
Grenada Grenada ( ; Grenadian Creole French: ) is an island country in the West Indies in the Caribbean Sea at the southern end of the Grenadines island chain. Grenada consists of the island of Grenada itself, two smaller islands, Carriacou and Peti ...

Grenada
,
Barbados Barbados is an in the of the , in the region of , and the most easterly of the Caribbean Islands. It is in length and up to in width, covering an area of . It is in the western part of the North Atlantic, east of the and the . Barbad ...

Barbados
, St. Vincent and the Grenadines,
Puerto Rico Puerto Rico (; abbreviated PR; tnq, Boriken, ''Borinquen''), officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico ( es, link=yes, Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico, lit=Free Associated State of Puerto Rico) is a Caribbean island and Unincorporated ...

Puerto Rico
,
Guam Guam (; ch, Guåhan ) is an in the subregion of the western . It is the and territory of the United States (reckoned from the ); in , it is the largest and southernmost of the and the largest island in Micronesia. Guam's capital is , and t ...

Guam
,
Hong Kong Hong Kong (; , ), officially the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (HKSAR), is a List of cities in China, city and Special administrative regions of China, special administrative region of China on the ...

Hong Kong
,
Singapore Singapore (), officially the Republic of Singapore, is a sovereign state, sovereign island city-state in maritime Southeast Asia. It lies about one degree of latitude () north of the equator, off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, bor ...

Singapore
,
Pakistan Pakistan, . Pronounced variably in English as , , , and . officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, is a country in South Asia. It is the world's List of countries and dependencies by population, fifth-most populous country, with a popul ...

Pakistan
,
India India, officially the Republic of India (Hindi: ), is a country in South Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by area, seventh-largest country by area, the List of countries and dependencies by population, second-most populous ...

India
,
Papua New Guinea Papua New Guinea (PNG; , ; tpi, Papua Niugini; ho, Papua Niu Gini), officially the Independent State of Papua New Guinea ( tpi, Independen Stet bilong Papua Niugini; ho, Independen Stet bilong Papua Niu Gini), is a country in Oceania ...

Papua New Guinea
,
Namibia Namibia (, ), officially the Republic of Namibia, is a country in Southern Africa Southern Africa is the south South is one of the cardinal directions or compass points. South is the opposite of north and is perpendicular to the east a ...

Namibia
,
Vanuatu Vanuatu ( or ; ), officially the Republic of Vanuatu (french: link=no, République de Vanuatu; Bislama: ''Ripablik blong Vanuatu''), is an island country located in the South Pacific Ocean. The archipelago, which is of volcanic origin, is ea ...

Vanuatu
, the
Solomon Islands Solomon Islands is a sovereign country consisting of six major islands and over 900 smaller islands in Oceania, to the east of Papua New Guinea and northwest of Vanuatu. It has a land area of , and a population of 652,858. Its capital, Honi ...
and former British colonies in
Asia Asia () is 's largest and most populous , located primarily in the and . It shares the continental of with the continent of and the continental landmass of with both Europe and . Asia covers an area of , about 30% of Earth's total lan ...

Asia
,
Africa Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most populous continent, after Asia in both cases. At about 30.3 million km2 (11.7 million square miles) including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of Earth's total surface area and 20% of i ...

Africa
and
Oceania Oceania (, , ) is a geographic region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of the Eart ...

Oceania
. Furthermore, it is the ''
de facto ''De facto'' ( ; , "in fact") describes practices that exist in reality, even though they are not officially recognized by laws. It is commonly used to refer to what happens in practice, in contrast with ''de jure'' ("by law"), which refers to th ...
'' language of the
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some prefer to use Britain as shorth ...

United Kingdom
, the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...

United States
and
Australia Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a Sovereign state, sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australia (continent), Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous List of islands of Australia, sma ...

Australia
, as well as a language in
Nicaragua Nicaragua (; ), officially the Republic of Nicaragua (), is the largest country A country is a distinct territorial body or political entity A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who have a collective iden ...

Nicaragua
and
Malaysia Malaysia ( ; ) is a country in Southeast Asia Southeast Asia, also spelled South East Asia and South-East Asia, and also known as Southeastern Asia or SEA, is the geographical southeastern subregion of Asia, consisting of the regions ...

Malaysia
. German is a language of
Austria Austria (, ; german: Österreich ), officially the Republic of Austria (german: Republik Österreich, links=no, ), is a landlocked A landlocked country is a country that does not have territory connected to an ocean or whose coastli ...

Austria
,
Belgium Belgium ( nl, België ; french: Belgique ; german: Belgien ), officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a country in Western Europe Western Europe is the western region of Europe. The region's countries and territories vary depending on cont ...

Belgium
,
Germany ) , image_map = , map_caption = , map_width = 250px , capital = Berlin Berlin (; ) is the and by both area and population. Its 3,769,495 inhabitants, as of 31 December 2019 makes it the , according to population within city l ...

Germany
,
Liechtenstein Liechtenstein ( ; ), officially the Principality of Liechtenstein (german: link=no, Fürstentum Liechtenstein), is a German-speaking The German language (, ) is a West Germanic language mainly spoken in Central Europe Central Europ ...

Liechtenstein
,
Luxembourg Luxembourg ( ; lb, Lëtzebuerg ; french: link=no, Luxembourg; german: link=no, Luxemburg), officially the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, ; french: link=no, Grand-Duché de Luxembourg ; german: link=no, Großherzogtum Luxemburg is a landlocked ...

Luxembourg
and
Switzerland , french: Suisse(sse), it, svizzero/svizzera or , rm, Svizzer/Svizra , government_type = Federalism, Federal semi-direct democracy under an assembly-independent Directorial system, directorial republic , leader_title1 = Fe ...

Switzerland
and has regional status in
Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic ( it, Repubblica Italiana, links=no ), is a country consisting of Italian Peninsula, a peninsula delimited by the Alps and List of islands of Italy, several islands surrounding it, whose ...

Italy
,
Poland Poland, officially the Republic of Poland, is a country located in Central Europe. It is divided into 16 Voivodeships of Poland, administrative provinces, covering an area of , and has a largely Temperate climate, temperate seasonal cli ...

Poland
,
Namibia Namibia (, ), officially the Republic of Namibia, is a country in Southern Africa Southern Africa is the south South is one of the cardinal directions or compass points. South is the opposite of north and is perpendicular to the east a ...

Namibia
and
Denmark Denmark ( da, Danmark, ) is a Nordic country The Nordic countries, or the Nordics, are a geographical and cultural region In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical characteristics ( physical geography), hu ...

Denmark
. German also continues to be spoken as a minority language by immigrant communities in North America, South America, Central America,
Mexico Mexico, officially the United Mexican States, is a List of sovereign states, country in the southern portion of North America. It is borders of Mexico, bordered to the north by the United States; to the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; to ...

Mexico
and Australia. A German dialect,
Pennsylvania German The Pennsylvania Dutch (''Pennsilfaanisch-Deitsch''), also referred to as the Pennsylvania Germans, are a cultural group formed through those who emigrated primarily from the territory in Europe Europe is a continent A continent is ...
, is still used among various populations in the American state of
Pennsylvania Pennsylvania ( , elsewhere ; pdc, Pennsilfaani), officially the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, is a landlocked A landlocked country is a country that does not have territory connected to an ocean or whose coastlines lie on endorheic basi ...

Pennsylvania
in daily life. Dutch is an official language of
Aruba Aruba ( , , ) is an island and a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands , national_anthem = ) , image_map = Kingdom of the Netherlands (orthographic projection).svg , map_width = 250px , image_map2 = File:KonDerNed-10-10- ...

Aruba
,
Belgium Belgium ( nl, België ; french: Belgique ; german: Belgien ), officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a country in Western Europe Western Europe is the western region of Europe. The region's countries and territories vary depending on cont ...

Belgium
,
Curaçao Curaçao ( ; ; pap, Kòrsou, ) is a Lesser Antilles The Lesser Antilles ( es, link=no, Antillas Menores; french: link=no, Petites Antilles; pap, Antias Menor; nl, Kleine Antillen) are a group of islands in the Caribbean Sea The Cari ...
, the
Netherlands ) , national_anthem = ( en, "William of Nassau") , image_map = EU-Netherlands.svg , map_caption = , image_map2 = BES islands location map.svg , map_caption2 = , image_map3 ...

Netherlands
,
Sint Maarten Sint Maarten (, ) is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands , national_anthem = ) , image_map = Kingdom of the Netherlands (orthographic projection).svg , map_width = 250px , image_map2 = File:KonDerNed-10-10-10.png , ...

Sint Maarten
, and
Suriname Suriname (, sometimes spelled Surinam), officially known as the Republic of Suriname ( nl, Republiek Suriname ), is a country on the northeastern Atlantic coast of South America. Borders of Suriname, It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the ...

Suriname
. The Netherlands also colonized
Indonesia Indonesia ( ), officially the Republic of Indonesia ( id, Republik Indonesia, links=yes ), is a country in Southeast Asia Southeast Asia, also spelled South East Asia and South-East Asia, and also known as Southeastern Asia or SEA, is t ...
, but Dutch was scrapped as an official language after
Indonesian independence The Proclamation of Indonesian Independence ( id, Proklamasi Kemerdekaan Indonesia, or simply ''Proklamasi'') was read at 10:00 in the morning of Friday, 17 August 1945. The declaration marked the start of the diplomatic and armed resistance of t ...
. Today, it is only used by older or traditionally educated people. Dutch was until 1984 an official language in South Africa but evolved into and was replaced by
Afrikaans Alaric speaking Afrikaans. Afrikaans (, ) is a West Germanic language spoken in South Africa South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the southernmost country in Africa. With over Demographics of South Africa, 5 ...
, a partially mutually intelligible
daughter language In historical linguistics, a daughter language, also known as descendant language, is a language descended from another language, its mother language, through a process of Genetic (linguistics), genetic descent. If more than one language has develo ...
of Dutch. Afrikaans is one of the 11 official languages in South Africa and is a ''
lingua franca A lingua franca (; ; for plurals see ), also known as a bridge language, common language, trade language, auxiliary language, vehicular language, or link language, is a language or dialect The term dialect (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a ...
'' of
Namibia Namibia (, ), officially the Republic of Namibia, is a country in Southern Africa Southern Africa is the south South is one of the cardinal directions or compass points. South is the opposite of north and is perpendicular to the east a ...

Namibia
. It is used in other
Southern African Southern Africa is the southernmost region of the African continent, variably defined by geography or geopolitics, and including several countries. The term ''southern Africa'' or ''Southern Africa'', generally includes Angola, Botswana, Eswati ...
nations, as well.
Low German : : : : : , minority = (70,000) (30,000) (8,000) , familycolor = Indo-European , fam2 = Germanic Germanic may refer to: * Germanic peoples, an ethno-linguistic group identified by their use of the Germanic langua ...
is a collection of very diverse dialects spoken in the northeast of the Netherlands and northern Germany. Scots is spoken in Scottish Lowlands, Lowland Scotland and parts of Ulster (where the local dialect is known as Ulster Scots dialects, Ulster Scots). Frisian is spoken among half a million people who live on the southern fringes of the North Sea in the Netherlands and Germany. Luxembourgish is a Moselle Franconian dialects, Moselle Franconian dialect that is spoken mainly in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, where it is considered to be an official language. Similar varieties of Moselle Franconian are spoken in small parts of Belgium, France, and Germany. Yiddish, once a native language of some 11 to 13 million people, remains in use by some 1.5 million speakers in Jewish communities around the world, mainly in North America, Europe, Israel, and other regions with Jewish population by country, Jewish populations. Limburgish variety (linguistics), varieties are spoken in the Province of Limburg (1815–1839), Limburg and Rhineland regions, along the Dutch–Belgian–German border.


North Germanic languages

In addition to being the official language in Sweden,
Swedish Swedish or ' may refer to: * Anything from or related to Sweden, a country in Northern Europe * Swedish language, a North Germanic language spoken primarily in Sweden and Finland * Swedish alphabet, the official alphabet used by the Swedish langua ...
is also spoken natively by the Finland Swedes, Swedish-speaking minority in Finland, which is a large part of the population List of municipalities of Finland in which Finnish is not the sole official language, along the coast of western and southern Finland. Swedish is also one of the two official languages in Finland, along with Finnish language, Finnish, and the only official language in Åland. Swedish is also spoken by some people in Estonia.
Danish Danish may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to the country of Denmark * A national or citizen of Denmark, also called a "Dane", see Demographics of Denmark * Danish people or Danes, people with a Danish ancestral or ethnic identity * Danis ...
is an official language of Denmark and in its overseas territory of the Faroe Islands, and it is a ''lingua franca'' and language of education in its other overseas territory of Greenland, where it was one of the official languages until 2009. Danish, a locally recognized minority language, is also natively spoken by the Danish minority in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein.
Norwegian Norwegian, Norwayan, or Norsk may refer to: *Something of, from, or related to Norway, a country in northwestern Europe *Norwegians, both a nation and an ethnic group native to Norway *Demographics of Norway *The Norwegian language, including the t ...
is the official language of Norway. Norwegian is also the official language in the overseas territories of Norway such as Svalbard, Jan Mayen, Bouvet island, Queen Maud Land and Peter I island.
Icelandic Icelandic refers to anything of, from, or related to Iceland and may refer to: *Icelandic people *Icelandic language *Icelandic alphabet *Icelandic cuisine See also

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is the official language of Iceland.
Faroese Faroese ( ) or Faroish ( ) may refer to anything pertaining to the Faroe Islands, e.g.: *the Faroese language * the Faroese people {{Disambiguation Language and nationality disambiguation pages ...
is the official language of the Faroe Islands, and is also spoken by some people in Denmark.


Statistics


History

All Germanic languages are thought to be descended from a hypothetical
Proto-Germanic Proto-Germanic (abbreviated PGmc; also called Common Germanic) is the reconstructed Reconstruction may refer to: Politics, history, and sociology *Reconstruction (law), the transfer of a company's (or several companies') business to a new ...
, united by subjection to the sound shifts of
Grimm's law Grimm's law (also known as the First Germanic Sound Shift) is a set of sound laws A sound change, in historical linguistics, is a language change, change in the pronunciation of a language over time. A sound change can involve the replacement ...
and Verner's law. These probably took place during the Pre-Roman Iron Age of Northern Europe from c. 500 BC. Proto-Germanic itself was likely spoken after c. 500 BC, and Proto-Norse from the 2nd century AD and later is still quite close to reconstructed Proto-Germanic, but other common innovations separating Germanic from Proto-Indo-European suggest a common history of pre-Proto-Germanic speakers throughout the Nordic Bronze Age. From the time of their earliest attestation, the Germanic varieties are divided into three groups: West Germanic languages, West, East Germanic languages, East, and North Germanic languages, 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 culture, and the eastern group may be derived from the 1st-century Old Gutnish, variety of Gotland, leaving southern Sweden as the original location of the northern group. The earliest period of Elder Futhark (2nd to 4th centuries) predates the division in regional script variants, and linguistically essentially still reflect the Common Germanic stage. The Vimose inscriptions include some of the oldest datable Germanic inscriptions, starting in c. 160 AD. The earliest coherent Germanic text preserved is the 4th-century
Gothic Gothic or Gothics may refer to: People and languages *Goths or Gothic people, the ethnonym of a group of East Germanic tribes **Gothic language, an extinct East Germanic language spoken by the Goths **Crimean Gothic, the Gothic language spoken by ...
translation of the New Testament by Ulfilas. Early testimonies of West Germanic are in Old Frankish/Old Dutch (the 5th-century Bergakker inscription), Old High German (scattered words and sentences 6th century and coherent texts 9th century), and Old English language, Old English (oldest texts 650, coherent texts 10th century). North Germanic is only attested in scattered runic inscriptions, as Proto-Norse language, Proto-Norse, until it evolves into Old Norse by about 800. Longer runic inscriptions survive from the 8th and 9th centuries (Eggjum stone, Rök stone), longer texts in the Latin alphabet survive from the 12th century (Íslendingabók), and some skaldic poetry dates back to as early as the 9th century. By about the 10th century, the varieties had diverged enough to make mutual intelligibility difficult. The linguistic contact of the Viking settlers of the Danelaw with the Anglo-Saxons left traces in the English language and is suspected to have facilitated the collapse of Old English grammar that, combined with the influx of Romance languages, Romance Old French vocabulary after the Norman Conquest, resulted in Middle English from the 12th century. The East Germanic languages were marginalized from the end of the Migration Period. The Burgundians, Goths, and Vandals became linguistically assimilated by their respective neighbors by about the 7th century, with only Crimean Gothic language, Crimean Gothic lingering on until the 18th century. During the early Middle Ages, the West Germanic languages were separated by the insular development of Middle English on one hand and by the High German consonant shift on the continent on the other, resulting in Upper German and Low German, Low Saxon, with graded intermediate Central German varieties. By early modern times, the span had extended into considerable differences, ranging from Highest Alemannic German, Highest Alemannic in the South to Northern Low Saxon in the North, and, although both extremes are considered German, they are hardly mutually intelligible. The southernmost varieties had completed the second sound shift, while the northern varieties remained unaffected by the consonant shift. The North Germanic languages, on the other hand, remained unified until well past 1000 AD, and in fact the mainland Scandinavian languages still largely retain mutual intelligibility into modern times. The main split in these languages is between the mainland languages and the island languages to the west, especially
Icelandic Icelandic refers to anything of, from, or related to Iceland and may refer to: *Icelandic people *Icelandic language *Icelandic alphabet *Icelandic cuisine See also

* Icelander (disambiguation) * Icelandic Airlines, a predecessor of Icelandai ...
, which has maintained the grammar of Old Norse virtually unchanged, while the mainland languages have diverged greatly.


Distinctive characteristics

Germanic languages possess a number of defining features compared with other Indo-European languages. Some of the best-known are the following: # The sound changes known as Grimm's Law and Verner's Law, which shifted the values of all the Indo-European stop consonants (for example, original * became Germanic * in most cases; compare ''three'' with Latin , ''two'' with Latin , ''do'' with Sanskrit ). The recognition of these two sound laws were seminal events in the understanding of the regular nature of linguistic sound change and the development of the comparative method (linguistics), comparative method, which forms the basis of modern historical linguistics. # The development of a strong stress (language), stress on the first syllable of the word, which triggered significant phonological reduction of all other syllables. This is responsible for the reduction of most of the basic English, Norwegian, Danish and Swedish words into monosyllables, and the common impression of modern English and German as consonant-heavy languages. Examples are Proto-Germanic → ''strength'', → ''ant'', → ''head'', → ''hear'', → German "autumn, harvest", → German "witch, hag". # A change known as Germanic umlaut, which modified vowel qualities when a high front vocalic segment (, or ) followed in the next syllable. Generally, back vowels were fronted, and front vowels were raised. In many languages, the modified vowels are indicated with a Diaeresis (diacritic), diaeresis (e.g., in German, pronounced , respectively). This change resulted in pervasive alternations in related words — still extremely prominent in modern German but present only in remnants in modern English (e.g., ''mouse/mice'', ''goose/geese'', ''broad/breadth'', ''tell/told'', ''old/elder'', ''foul/filth'', ''gold/gild''). # Large numbers of vowel qualities. English has around 11–12 vowels in most dialects (not counting diphthongs), Standard Swedish has 17 Monophthong, pure vowels (monophthongs), standard German and Dutch 14, and
Danish Danish may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to the country of Denmark * A national or citizen of Denmark, also called a "Dane", see Demographics of Denmark * Danish people or Danes, people with a Danish ancestral or ethnic identity * Danis ...
at least 11. The Amstetten dialect of Bavarian German has 13 distinctions among long vowels alone, one of the largest such inventories in the world. # ''V2 word order, Verb second'' (V2) word order, which is uncommon cross-linguistically. Exactly one noun phrase or adverbial element must precede the verb; in particular, if an adverb or prepositional phrase precedes the verb, then the subject must immediately follow the finite verb. In modern English, this survives only in a few relics, known in the EFL classroom as "inversion": examples include some constructions with ''here'' or ''there'' (''Here comes the sun; there are five continents''), verbs of speech after a quote (''"Yes", said John''), sentences beginning with certain conjunctions (''Hardly had he said this when...; Only much later did he realize...'') and sentences beginning with certain adverbs of motion to create a sense of drama (''Over went the boat; out ran the cat; Pop Goes The Weasel''). However it is common in all other modern Germanic languages. Other significant characteristics are: # The reduction of the various grammatical tense, tense and grammatical aspect, aspect combinations of the Indo-European verbal system into only two: the present tense and the past tense (also called the preterite). # A large class of verbs that use a dental suffix ( or ) instead of Apophony, vowel alternation (Indo-European ablaut) to indicate past tense. These are called the Germanic weak verbs; the remaining verbs with vowel ablaut are the Germanic strong verbs. # A distinction in definiteness of a noun phrase that is marked by different sets of inflectional endings for adjectives, the so-called strong and weak adjectives. A similar development happened in the Balto-Slavic languages. This distinction has been lost in modern English but was present in Old English and remains in all other Germanic languages to various degrees. # Some words with etymologies that are difficult to link to other Indo-European families but with variants that appear in almost all Germanic languages. See Germanic substrate hypothesis. #Discourse marker, Discourse particles, which are a class of short, unstressed words which speakers use to express their attitude towards the utterance or the hearer. This word category seems to be rare outside of the Germanic languages. English doesn't make extensive use of discourse particles; an example would be the word 'just', which the speaker can use to express surprise. Note that some of the above characteristics were not present in Proto-Germanic but developed later as areal features that spread from language to language: * Germanic umlaut only affected the North Germanic languages, North and
West Germanic languages The West Germanic languages constitute the largest of the three branches of the Germanic Germanic may refer to: * Germanic peoples, an ethno-linguistic group identified by their use of the Germanic languages ** List of ancient Germanic peoples a ...
(which represent all modern Germanic languages) but not the now-extinct East Germanic languages, such as
Gothic Gothic or Gothics may refer to: People and languages *Goths or Gothic people, the ethnonym of a group of East Germanic tribes **Gothic language, an extinct East Germanic language spoken by the Goths **Crimean Gothic, the Gothic language spoken by ...
, nor Proto-Germanic, the common ancestor of all Germanic languages. * The large inventory of vowel qualities is a later development, due to a combination of Germanic umlaut and the tendency in many Germanic languages for pairs of long/short vowels of originally identical quality to develop distinct qualities, with the length distinction sometimes eventually lost. Proto-Germanic had only five distinct vowel qualities, although there were more actual vowel phonemes because length and possibly nasality were phonemic. In modern German, long-short vowel pairs still exist but are also distinct in quality. * Proto-Germanic probably had a more general S-O-V-I word order. However, the tendency toward V2 order may have already been present in latent form and may be related to Wackernagel's Law, an Indo-European law dictating that sentence clitics must be placed second. Roughly speaking, Germanic languages differ in how conservative or how progressive each language is with respect to an overall trend toward analytic language, analyticity. Some, such as
Icelandic Icelandic refers to anything of, from, or related to Iceland and may refer to: *Icelandic people *Icelandic language *Icelandic alphabet *Icelandic cuisine See also

* Icelander (disambiguation) * Icelandic Airlines, a predecessor of Icelandai ...
and, to a lesser extent, German, have preserved much of the complex inflectional morphology inherited from
Proto-Germanic Proto-Germanic (abbreviated PGmc; also called Common Germanic) is the reconstructed Reconstruction may refer to: Politics, history, and sociology *Reconstruction (law), the transfer of a company's (or several companies') business to a new ...
(and in turn from Proto-Indo-European language, Proto-Indo-European). Others, such as English,
Swedish Swedish or ' may refer to: * Anything from or related to Sweden, a country in Northern Europe * Swedish language, a North Germanic language spoken primarily in Sweden and Finland * Swedish alphabet, the official alphabet used by the Swedish langua ...
, and
Afrikaans Alaric speaking Afrikaans. Afrikaans (, ) is a West Germanic language spoken in South Africa South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the southernmost country in Africa. With over Demographics of South Africa, 5 ...
, have moved toward a largely analytic type.


Linguistic developments

The subgroupings of the Germanic languages are defined by shared innovations. It is important to distinguish innovations from cases of linguistic conservatism. That is, if two languages in a family share a characteristic that is not observed in a third language, that is evidence of common ancestry of the two languages ''only if'' the characteristic is an innovation compared to the family's proto-language. The following innovations are common to the Northwest Germanic languages (all but
Gothic Gothic or Gothics may refer to: People and languages *Goths or Gothic people, the ethnonym of a group of East Germanic tribes **Gothic language, an extinct East Germanic language spoken by the Goths **Crimean Gothic, the Gothic language spoken by ...
): * The lowering of /u/ to /o/ in initial syllables before /a/ in the following syllable: → ''bode'', Icelandic "messages" ("a-Umlaut", traditionally called ''Brechung'') * "Labial umlaut" in unstressed medial syllables (the conversion of /a/ to /u/ and /ō/ to /ū/ before /m/, or /u/ in the following syllable) * The conversion of /ē1/ into /ā/ (vs. Gothic /ē/) in stressed syllables. In unstressed syllables, West Germanic also has this change, but North Germanic has shortened the vowel to /e/, then raised it to /i/. This suggests it was an areal change. * The raising of final /ō/ to /u/ (Gothic lowers it to /a/). It is kept distinct from the nasal /ǭ/, which is not raised. * The monophthongization of /ai/ and /au/ to /ē/ and /ō/ in non-initial syllables (however, evidence for the development of /au/ in medial syllables is lacking). * The development of an intensified demonstrative ending in /s/ (reflected in English "this" compared to "the") * Introduction of a distinct ablaut grade in Class VII Germanic strong verb, strong verbs, while Gothic uses reduplication (e.g. Gothic ''haihait''; ON, OE ''hēt'', preterite of the Gmc verb ''*haitan'' "to be called") as part of a comprehensive reformation of the Gmc Class VII from a reduplicating to a new ablaut pattern, which presumably started in verbs beginning with vowel or /h/ (a development which continues the general trend of de-reduplication in Gmc); there are forms (such as OE dial. ''heht'' instead of ''hēt'') which retain traces of reduplication even in West and North Germanic The following innovations are also common to the Northwest Germanic languages but represent areal feature, areal changes: * Proto-Germanic /z/ > /r/ (e.g. Gothic ''dius''; ON ''dȳr'', OHG ''tior'', OE ''dēor'', "wild animal"); note that this is not present in Proto-Norse and must be ordered after West Germanic languages, West Germanic loss of final /z/ * Germanic umlaut The following innovations are common to the
West Germanic languages The West Germanic languages constitute the largest of the three branches of the Germanic Germanic may refer to: * Germanic peoples, an ethno-linguistic group identified by their use of the Germanic languages ** List of ancient Germanic peoples a ...
: * Loss of final /z/. In single-syllable words, Old High German retains it (as /r/), while it disappears in the other West Germanic languages. * Change of [ð] (fricative allophone of /d/) to stop [d] in all environments. * Change of /lþ/ to stop /ld/ (except word-finally). * West Germanic gemination of consonants, except ''r'', before /j/. This only occurred in short-stemmed words due to Sievers' law. Gemination of /p/, /t/, /k/ and /h/ is also observed before liquids. * Labiovelar consonants become plain velar when non-initial. * A particular type of ''umlaut'' /e-u-i/ > /i-u-i/. * Changes to the 2nd person singular past-tense: Replacement of the past-singular stem vowel with the past-plural stem vowel, and substitution of the ending ''-t'' with ''-ī''. * Short forms (''*stān, stēn'', ''*gān, gēn'') of the verbs for "stand" and "go"; but note that
Crimean Gothic Crimean Gothic was an East Germanic language spoken by the Crimean Goths in some isolated locations in Crimea Crimea (; ; uk, Крим, Krym; crh, Къырым, translit=Kirim/Qırım; grc, Κιμμερία/Ταυρική, translit=K ...
also has ''gēn''. * The development of a gerund. The following innovations are common to the Ingvaeonic subgroup of the
West Germanic languages The West Germanic languages constitute the largest of the three branches of the Germanic Germanic may refer to: * Germanic peoples, an ethno-linguistic group identified by their use of the Germanic languages ** List of ancient Germanic peoples a ...
, which includes English, Frisian, and in a few cases Dutch and Low German, but not High German: * The so-called Ingvaeonic nasal spirant law, with loss of /n/ before voiceless fricatives: e.g. ''*munþ'', ''*gans'' > Old English ''mūþ, gōs'' > "mouth, goose", but German ''Mund, Gans''. * The loss of the Germanic reflexive pronoun . Dutch has reclaimed the reflexive pronoun from Middle High German . * The reduction of the three Germanic verbal plural forms into one form ending in ''-þ''. * The development of Class III weak verbs into a relic class consisting of four verbs (''*sagjan'' "to say", ''*hugjan'' "to think", ''*habjan'' "to have", ''*libjan'' "to live"; cf. the numerous Old High German verbs in ''-ēn''). * The split of the Class II weak verb ending ''*-ō-'' into ''*-ō-/-ōja-'' (cf. Old English ''-ian'' < ''-ōjan'', but Old High German ''-ōn''). * Development of a plural ending *-ōs in a-stem nouns (note, Gothic also has ''-ōs'', but this is an independent development, caused by terminal devoicing of ''*-ōz''; Old Frisian has ''-ar'', which is thought to be a late borrowing from
Danish Danish may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to the country of Denmark * A national or citizen of Denmark, also called a "Dane", see Demographics of Denmark * Danish people or Danes, people with a Danish ancestral or ethnic identity * Danis ...
). Cf. modern English plural ''-(e)s'', but German plural ''-e''. * Possibly, the monophthongization of Germanic ''*ai'' to ''ē/ā'' (this may represent independent changes in Old Saxon and Anglo-Frisian). The following innovations are common to the Anglo-Frisian subgroup of the Ingvaeonic languages: * Raising of nasalized ''a, ā'' into ''o, ō''. * Anglo-Frisian brightening: Fronting of non-nasal ''a, ā'' to ''æ,ǣ'' when not followed by ''n'' or ''m''. * Metathesis (linguistics), Metathesis of ''CrV'' into ''CVr'', where ''C'' represents any consonant and ''V'' any vowel. * Monophthongization of ''ai'' into ''ā''.


Common linguistic features


Phonology

The oldest Germanic languages all share a number of features, which are assumed to be inherited from Proto-Germanic. Phonologically, it includes the important sound changes known as Grimm's Law and Verner's Law, which introduced a large number of fricatives; late Proto-Indo-European had only one, /s/. The main vowel developments are the merging (in most circumstances) of long and short /a/ and /o/, producing short /a/ and long /ō/. That likewise affected the diphthongs, with PIE /ai/ and /oi/ merging into /ai/ and PIE /au/ and /ou/ merging into /au/. PIE /ei/ developed into long /ī/. PIE long /ē/ developed into a vowel denoted as /ē1/ (often assumed to be phonetically ), while a new, fairly uncommon long vowel /ē2/ developed in varied and not completely understood circumstances. Proto-Germanic had no front rounded vowels, but all Germanic languages except for
Gothic Gothic or Gothics may refer to: People and languages *Goths or Gothic people, the ethnonym of a group of East Germanic tribes **Gothic language, an extinct East Germanic language spoken by the Goths **Crimean Gothic, the Gothic language spoken by ...
subsequently developed them through the process of i-umlaut. Proto-Germanic developed a strong stress accent on the first syllable of the root, but remnants of the original free PIE accent are visible due to Verner's Law, which was sensitive to this accent. That caused a steady erosion of vowels in unstressed syllables. In Proto-Germanic, that had progressed only to the point that absolutely-final short vowels (other than /i/ and /u/) were lost and absolutely-final long vowels were shortened, but all of the early literary languages show a more advanced state of vowel loss. This ultimately resulted in some languages (like Modern English) losing practically all vowels following the main stress and the consequent rise of a very large number of monosyllabic words.


Table of outcomes

The following table shows the main outcomes of Proto-Germanic vowels and consonants in the various older languages. For vowels, only the outcomes in stressed syllables are shown. Outcomes in unstressed syllables are quite different, vary from language to language and depend on a number of other factors (such as whether the syllable was medial or final, whether the syllable was open syllable, open or closed syllable, closed and (in some cases) whether the preceding syllable was light syllable, light or heavy syllable, heavy). Notes: * ''C-'' means before a vowel (word-initially, or sometimes after a consonant). * ''-C-'' means between vowels. * ''-C'' means after a vowel (word-finally or before a consonant). Word-final outcomes generally occurred ''after'' deletion of final short vowels, which occurred shortly after Proto-Germanic and is reflected in the history of all written languages except for Proto-Norse. * The above three are given in the order ''C-'', ''-C-'', ''-C''. If one is omitted, the previous one applies. For example, ''f, -[v]-'' means that ''[v]'' occurs after a vowel regardless of what follows. * Something like ''a(…u)'' means "''a'' if /u/ occurs in the next syllable". * Something like ''a(n)'' means "''a'' if /n/ immediately follows". * Something like ''(n)a'' means "''a'' if /n/ immediately precedes".


Morphology

The oldest Germanic languages have the typical complex inflected morphology of old Indo-European languages, with four or five noun cases; verbs marked for person, number, tense and mood; multiple noun and verb classes; few or no articles; and rather free word order. The old Germanic languages are famous for having only two tenses (present and past), with three PIE past-tense aspects (imperfect, aorist, and perfect/stative) merged into one and no new tenses (future, pluperfect, etc.) developing. There were three moods: indicative, subjunctive (developed from the PIE optative mood) and imperative. Gothic verbs had a number of archaic features inherited from PIE that were lost in the other Germanic languages with few traces, including dual endings, an inflected passive voice (derived from the PIE mediopassive voice), and a class of verbs with reduplication in the past tense (derived from the PIE perfect). The complex tense system of modern English (e.g. ''In three months, the house will still be being built'' or ''If you had not acted so stupidly, we would never have been caught'') is almost entirely due to subsequent developments (although paralleled in many of the other Germanic languages). Among the primary innovations in Proto-Germanic are the preterite present verbs, a special set of verbs whose present tense looks like the past tense of other verbs and which is the origin of most modal verbs in English; a past-tense ending; (in the so-called "weak verbs", marked with ''-ed'' in English) that appears variously as /d/ or /t/, often assumed to be derived from the verb "to do"; and two separate sets of adjective endings, originally corresponding to a distinction between indefinite semantics ("a man", with a combination of PIE adjective and pronoun endings) and definite semantics ("the man", with endings derived from PIE ''n''-stem nouns). Note that most modern Germanic languages have lost most of the inherited inflectional morphology as a result of the steady attrition of unstressed endings triggered by the strong initial stress. (Contrast, for example, the Balto-Slavic languages, which have largely kept the Indo-European pitch accent and consequently preserved much of the inherited morphology.)
Icelandic Icelandic refers to anything of, from, or related to Iceland and may refer to: *Icelandic people *Icelandic language *Icelandic alphabet *Icelandic cuisine See also

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and to a lesser extent modern German best preserve the Proto–Germanic inflectional system, with four noun cases, three genders, and well-marked verbs. English and Afrikaans are at the other extreme, with almost no remaining inflectional morphology. The following shows a typical masculine ''a''-stem noun, Proto-Germanic ''*fiskaz'' ("fish"), and its development in the various old literary languages:


Strong vs. weak nouns and adjectives

Originally, adjectives in Proto-Indo-European followed the same declensional classes as nouns. The most common class (the ''o/ā'' class) used a combination of ''o''-stem endings for masculine and neuter genders and ''ā''-stems ending for feminine genders, but other common classes (e.g. the ''i'' class and ''u'' class) used endings from a single vowel-stem declension for all genders, and various other classes existed that were based on other declensions. A quite different set of "pronominal" endings was used for pronouns, determiner (linguistics), determiners, and words with related semantics (e.g., "all", "only"). An important innovation in Proto-Germanic was the development of two separate sets of adjective endings, originally corresponding to a distinction between indefinite semantics ("a man") and definite semantics ("the man"). The endings of indefinite adjectives were derived from a combination of pronominal endings with one of the common vowel-stem adjective declensions – usually the ''o/ā'' class (often termed the ''a/ō'' class in the specific context of the Germanic languages) but sometimes the ''i'' or ''u'' classes. Definite adjectives, however, had endings based on ''n''-stem nouns. Originally both types of adjectives could be used by themselves, but already by Proto-Germanic times a pattern evolved whereby definite adjectives had to be accompanied by a determiner (linguistics), determiner with definite semantics (e.g., a definite article, demonstrative pronoun, possessive pronoun, or the like), while indefinite adjectives were used in other circumstances (either accompanied by a word with indefinite semantics such as "a", "one", or "some" or unaccompanied). In the 19th century, the two types of adjectives – indefinite and definite – were respectively termed "strong" and "weak", names which are still commonly used. These names were based on the appearance of the two sets of endings in modern German. In German, the distinctive case endings formerly present on nouns have largely disappeared, with the result that the load of distinguishing one case from another is almost entirely carried by determiners and adjectives. Furthermore, due to regular sound change, the various definite (''n''-stem) adjective endings coalesced to the point where only two endings (''-e'' and ''-en'') remain in modern German to express the sixteen possible inflectional categories of the language (masculine/feminine/neuter/plural crossed with nominative/accusative/dative/genitive – modern German merges all genders in the plural). The indefinite (''a/ō''-stem) adjective endings were less affected by sound change, with six endings remaining (''-, -e, -es, -er, -em, -en''), cleverly distributed in a way that is capable of expressing the various inflectional categories without too much ambiguity. As a result, the definite endings were thought of as too "weak" to carry inflectional meaning and in need of "strengthening" by the presence of an accompanying determiner, while the indefinite endings were viewed as "strong" enough to indicate the inflectional categories even when standing alone. (This view is enhanced by the fact that modern German largely uses weak-ending adjectives when accompanying an indefinite article, and hence the indefinite/definite distinction no longer clearly applies.) By analogy, the terms "strong" and "weak" were extended to the corresponding noun classes, with ''a''-stem and ''ō''-stem nouns termed "strong" and ''n''-stem nouns termed "weak". However, in Proto-Germanic – and still in
Gothic Gothic or Gothics may refer to: People and languages *Goths or Gothic people, the ethnonym of a group of East Germanic tribes **Gothic language, an extinct East Germanic language spoken by the Goths **Crimean Gothic, the Gothic language spoken by ...
, the most conservative Germanic language – the terms "strong" and "weak" are not clearly appropriate. For one thing, there were a large number of noun declensions. The ''a''-stem, ''ō''-stem, and ''n''-stem declensions were the most common and represented targets into which the other declensions were eventually absorbed, but this process occurred only gradually. Originally the ''n''-stem declension was not a single declension but a set of separate declensions (e.g., ''-an'', ''-ōn'', ''-īn'') with related endings, and these endings were in no way any "weaker" than the endings of any other declensions. (For example, among the eight possible inflectional categories of a noun — singular/plural crossed with nominative/accusative/dative/genitive — masculine ''an''-stem nouns in Gothic include seven endings, and feminine ''ōn''-stem nouns include six endings, meaning there is very little ambiguity of "weakness" in these endings and in fact much less than in the German "strong" endings.) Although it is possible to group the various noun declensions into three basic categories — vowel-stem, ''n''-stem, and other-consonant-stem (a.k.a. "minor declensions") — the vowel-stem nouns do not display any sort of unity in their endings that supports grouping them together with each other but separate from the ''n''-stem endings. It is only in later languages that the binary distinction between "strong" and "weak" nouns become more relevant. In Old English, the ''n''-stem nouns form a single, clear class, but the masculine ''a''-stem and feminine ''ō''-stem nouns have little in common with each other, and neither has much similarity to the small class of ''u''-stem nouns. Similarly, in Old Norse, the masculine ''a''-stem and feminine ''ō''-stem nouns have little in common with each other, and the continuations of the masculine ''an''-stem and feminine ''ōn/īn''-stem nouns are also quite distinct. It is only in Middle Dutch and modern German that the various vowel-stem nouns have merged to the point that a binary strong/weak distinction clearly applies. As a result, newer grammatical descriptions of the Germanic languages often avoid the terms "strong" and "weak" except in conjunction with German itself, preferring instead to use the terms "indefinite" and "definite" for adjectives and to distinguish nouns by their actual stem class. In English, both two sets of adjective endings were lost entirely in the late Middle English period.


Classification

Note that divisions between and among subfamilies of Germanic are rarely precisely defined; most form continuous clines, with adjacent variety (linguistics), varieties being mutually intelligible and more separated ones not. Within the Germanic language family are East Germanic, West Germanic, and North Germanic. However, East Germanic languages became extinct several centuries ago. All living Germanic languages belong either to the West Germanic languages, West Germanic or to the North Germanic languages, North Germanic branch. The West Germanic group is the larger by far, further subdivided into Anglo-Frisian on one hand and Continental West Germanic on the other. Anglo-Frisian notably includes English and all its English language, variants, while Continental West Germanic includes German (Standard German, standard register and German dialects, dialects), as well as Dutch (Standard Dutch, standard register and Dutch dialects, dialects). East Germanic includes most notably the extinct Gothic and Crimean Gothic languages. Modern classification looks like this. For a full classification, see List of Germanic languages. * West Germanic languages, West Germanic ** High German languages (includes
Standard German Standard High German (SHG), less precisely Standard German or High German (not to be confused with High German The High German languages or High German dialects (german: hochdeutsche Mundarten) comprise the varieties of German spoken south ...
and German dialects, its dialects) *** Upper German **** Alemannic German **** Austro-Bavarian German ***** Mòcheno language ***** Cimbrian language ***** Hutterite German ***Wymysorys language, Wymysorys ***Hunsrik language, Hunsrik *** Yiddish language, Yiddish *** High Franconian (a transitional dialect between Upper and Central German) *** Central German **** East Central German **** West Central German ***** Luxembourgish language, Luxembourgish *****
Pennsylvania German The Pennsylvania Dutch (''Pennsilfaanisch-Deitsch''), also referred to as the Pennsylvania Germans, are a cultural group formed through those who emigrated primarily from the territory in Europe Europe is a continent A continent is ...
**
Low German : : : : : , minority = (70,000) (30,000) (8,000) , familycolor = Indo-European , fam2 = Germanic Germanic may refer to: * Germanic peoples, an ethno-linguistic group identified by their use of the Germanic langua ...
*** West Low German *** East Low German *** Plautdietsch (Mennonite Low German) ** Low Franconian languages, Low Franconian ***
Dutch Dutch commonly refers to: * Something of, from, or related to the Netherlands * Dutch people () * Dutch language () *Dutch language , spoken in Belgium (also referred as ''flemish'') Dutch may also refer to:" Castle * Dutch Castle Places * ...
and Dutch dialects, its dialects ***
Afrikaans Alaric speaking Afrikaans. Afrikaans (, ) is a West Germanic language spoken in South Africa South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the southernmost country in Africa. With over Demographics of South Africa, 5 ...
(a separate standard language) *** Limburgish language, Limburgish (an European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, official minority language) ** Anglo-Frisian languages, Anglo-Frisian *** Anglic languages, Anglic (or English) ****
English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the World language, leading lan ...

English
and English dialects, its dialects **** Scots in Scotland and Ulster *** Frisian languages, Frisian ****West Frisian language, West Frisian ****Saterland Frisian language, East Frisian *****Saterland Frisian language, Saterland Frisian (last remaining dialect of East Frisian) ****North Frisian language, North Frisian * North Germanic languages, North Germanic ** West Scandinavian ***
Norwegian Norwegian, Norwayan, or Norsk may refer to: *Something of, from, or related to Norway, a country in northwestern Europe *Norwegians, both a nation and an ethnic group native to Norway *Demographics of Norway *The Norwegian language, including the t ...
(of Western branch origin, but heavily influenced by the Eastern branch) ***
Icelandic Icelandic refers to anything of, from, or related to Iceland and may refer to: *Icelandic people *Icelandic language *Icelandic alphabet *Icelandic cuisine See also

* Icelander (disambiguation) * Icelandic Airlines, a predecessor of Icelandai ...
***
Faroese Faroese ( ) or Faroish ( ) may refer to anything pertaining to the Faroe Islands, e.g.: *the Faroese language * the Faroese people {{Disambiguation Language and nationality disambiguation pages ...
*** Elfdalian language, Elfdalian ** East Scandinavian ***
Danish Danish may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to the country of Denmark * A national or citizen of Denmark, also called a "Dane", see Demographics of Denmark * Danish people or Danes, people with a Danish ancestral or ethnic identity * Danis ...
***
Swedish Swedish or ' may refer to: * Anything from or related to Sweden, a country in Northern Europe * Swedish language, a North Germanic language spoken primarily in Sweden and Finland * Swedish alphabet, the official alphabet used by the Swedish langua ...
**** Dalecarlian dialects ** Modern Gutnish, Gutnish * East Germanic languages, East Germanic **
Gothic Gothic or Gothics may refer to: People and languages *Goths or Gothic people, the ethnonym of a group of East Germanic tribes **Gothic language, an extinct East Germanic language spoken by the Goths **Crimean Gothic, the Gothic language spoken by ...
† ***
Crimean Gothic Crimean Gothic was an East Germanic language spoken by the Crimean Goths in some isolated locations in Crimea Crimea (; ; uk, Крим, Krym; crh, Къырым, translit=Kirim/Qırım; grc, Κιμμερία/Ταυρική, translit=K ...
† (relationship to earlier Gothic unclear) ** Burgundian language (Germanic), Burgundian † ** Vandalic


Writing

The earliest evidence of Germanic languages comes from names recorded in the 1st century by Tacitus (especially from his work ''Germania (book), Germania''), but the earliest Germanic writing occurs in a single instance in the 2nd century BC on the Negau helmet. From roughly the 2nd century AD, certain speakers of early Germanic varieties developed the Elder Futhark, an early form of the runic alphabet. Early runic inscriptions also are largely limited to personal names and difficult to interpret. The Gothic language was written in the Gothic alphabet developed by Bishop Ulfilas for his translation of the Bible in the 4th century.Fausto Cercignani, Cercignani, Fausto, ''The Elaboration of the Gothic Alphabet and Orthography'', in "Indogermanische Forschungen", 93, 1988, pp. 168–185. Later, Christianity, Christian priests and monks who spoke and read Latin in addition to their native Germanic varieties began writing the Germanic languages with slightly modified Latin letters. However, throughout the Viking Age, runic alphabets remained in common use in Scandinavia. Modern Germanic languages mostly use an alphabet derived from the Latin Alphabet. In print, German used to be predominately set in blackletter typefaces (e.g., fraktur (typeface), fraktur or schwabacher) Antiqua–Fraktur dispute, until the 1940s, while ''Kurrent'' and, since the early 20th century, ''Sütterlin'' were formerly used for German handwriting. Yiddish is written using an adapted Hebrew alphabet.


Vocabulary comparison

The table compares cognates in several different Germanic languages. In some cases, the meanings may not be identical in each language.


See also

* List of Germanic languages * Language families and languages * List of Germanic and Latinate equivalents * Germanization * Anglicization * Germanic name * Germanic verb and its various subordinated articles * Germanic placename etymology * German name * German placename etymology * Isogloss * South Germanic languages


Footnotes


Notes


Sources

* * * * * * * * *


Germanic languages in general

* * *


Proto-Germanic

* * ;Gothic * *


Old Norse

* *


Old English

* * * * * * * * *


Old High German

* *


External links


Germanic Lexicon Project

'Hover & Hear' pronunciations
of the same Germanic words in dozens of Germanic languages and 'dialects', including English accents, and compare instantaneously side by side

* [https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Appendix:Swadesh_lists_for_Germanic_languages Swadesh lists of Germanic basic vocabulary words] (from Wiktionary'
Swadesh-list appendix

Germanic languages fragments
YouTube (14:06) {{DEFAULTSORT:Germanic Languages Germanic languages, Indo-European languages