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Old High German (OHG, german: Althochdeutsch, German abbr. ) is the earliest stage of the
German language German ( Standard High German: , ) is a West Germanic language mainly spoken in Central Europe Central Europe is an area of Europe between Western Europe and Eastern Europe, based on a common History, historical, Society, social and cultu ...

German language
, conventionally covering the period from around 750 to 1050. There is no standardised or supra-regional form of German at this period, and Old High German is an umbrella term for the group of continental West Germanic dialects which underwent the set of consonantal changes called the Second Sound Shift. At the start of this period, the main dialect areas belonged to largely independent tribal kingdoms, but by 788 the conquests of
Charlemagne Charlemagne ( , ) or Charles the Great ( la, Carolus Magnus; 2 April 748 – 28 January 814) was King of the Franks The Franks—Germanic-speaking peoples that invaded the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century—were first led by i ...

Charlemagne
had brought all OHG dialect areas into a single polity. The period also saw the development of a stable linguistic border between
French
French
and German. The surviving OHG texts were all written in monastic
scriptoria Scriptorium (), literally "a place for writing", is commonly used to refer to a room in medieval European monasteries devoted to the writing, copying and illuminating of manuscripts commonly handled by monastic scribes. However, lay scribes and ...

scriptoria
and, as a result, the overwhelming majority of them are religious in nature or, when secular, belong to the
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an appa ...

Latin
ate literary culture of
Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic, Monotheism, monotheistic religion based on the Life of Jesus in the New Testament, life and Teachings of Jesus, teachings of Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth. It is the Major religious groups, world's ...

Christianity
. The earliest written texts in Old High German,
glosses A gloss is a brief notation, especially a marginalia, marginal one or an interlinear gloss, interlinear one, of the meaning of a word or wording in a text. It may be in the language of the text or in the reader's language if that is different. A ...
and interlinear translations for Latin texts, appear in the latter half of the 8th century. The importance of the church in the production of texts and the extensive missionary activity of the period have left their mark on the OHG vocabulary, with many new
loans In finance Finance is the study of financial institutions, financial markets and how they operate within the financial system. It is concerned with the creation and management of money and investments. Savers and investors have money avai ...
and new coinages to represent the Latin vocabulary of the church. OHG largely preserves the
syntheticA synthetic is an artificial material produced by organic chemistry, organic chemical synthesis. Synthetic may also refer to: In the sense of both "combination" and "artificial" * Synthetic chemical or synthetic compress, produced by the process ...
inflection In linguistic morphology Morphology, from the Greek and meaning "study of shape", may refer to: Disciplines * Morphology (archaeology), study of the shapes or forms of artifacts * Morphology (astronomy), study of the shape of astronomical obj ...
al system inherited from its ancestral Germanic forms, but the end of the period is marked by sound changes which disrupt these patterns of inflection, leading to the more analytic grammar of
Middle High German Middle High German (MHG; german: Mittelhochdeutsch (Mhd.)) is the term for the form of 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 * ...
. In syntax, the most important change was the development of new periphrastic tenses to express the
future The future is the time after the past and present. Its arrival is considered inevitable due to the existence of time and the laws of physics. Due to the apparent nature of reality and the unavoidability of the future, everything that currently ...
and
passive Passive may refer to: * Passive voice, a grammatical voice common in many languages, see also Pseudopassive (disambiguation), Pseudopassive * Passive language, a language from which an interpreter works * Passivity (behavior), the condition of sub ...

passive
.


Periodisation

Old High German is generally dated, following Willhelm Scherer, from around 750 to around 1050. The start of this period sees the beginning of the OHG written tradition, at first with only glosses, but with substantial translations and original compositions by the 9th century. However the fact that the defining feature of Old High German, the Second Sound Shift, may have started as early as the 6th century and is complete by 750, means that some take the 6th century to be the start of the period. Alternatively, terms such as ("pre-OHG") or ("pre-literary OHG") are sometimes used for the period before 750. Regardless of terminology, all recognize a distinction between a pre-literary period and the start of a continuous tradition of written texts around the middle of the 8th century. Differing approaches are taken, too, to the position of
Langobardic Lombardic or Langobardic is an extinct West Germanic language that was spoken by the Lombards (''Langobardi''), the Germanic people who settled in Italy in the sixth century. It was already declining by the seventh century because the invaders qu ...
. Langobardic is an
Elbe Germanic Elbe , german: Elbe, Low German: ''Ilv'' or ''Elv'' , name_etymology = , image = Labe_udoli.jpg , image_size = , image_caption = The Elbe (Labe) near Děčín, Czech Republic , map = Elbe ba ...
and thus
Upper German Upper German ( German: ) is a family of High German dialects spoken primarily in the southern German-speaking area (). Family tree Upper German proper comprises the Alemannic and Bavarian dialect groups. Furthermore, the High Franconian di ...

Upper German
dialect, and it shows early evidence for the Second Sound Shift. For this reason, some scholars treat Langobardic as part of Old High German, but with no surviving texts — just individual words and names in Latin texts — and the speakers starting to abandon the language by the 8th century, others exclude Langobardic from discussion of OHG. As Heidermanns observes, this exclusion is based solely on the external circumstances of preservation and not on the internal features of the language. The end of the period is less controversial. The sound changes reflected in spelling during the 11th century led to the remodelling of the entire system of noun and adjective
declension In linguistics, declension is the changing of the form of a word, generally to express its syntactic function in the sentence, by way of some inflection. The inflectional change of verbs is called Grammatical conjugation, conjugation. Declensions ...
s. There is also a hundred-year "dearth of continuous texts" after the death of
Notker Labeo Notker Labeo (c. 950 – 28 June 1022), also known as Notker the German ( la, Notcerus Teutonicus) or Notker III, was a Benedictine The Benedictines, officially the Order of Saint Benedict ( la, Ordo Sancti Benedicti, abbreviated as OSB), a ...
in 1022. The mid-11th century is widely accepted as marking the transition to
Middle High German Middle High German (MHG; german: Mittelhochdeutsch (Mhd.)) is the term for the form of 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 * ...
.


Territory

Old High German comprises the dialects of these groups which underwent the Second Sound Shift during the 6th Century, namely all of Elbe Germanic and most of the Weser-Rhine Germanic dialects. The Franks in the western part of
Francia Francia, also called the Kingdom of the Franks ( la, Regnum Francorum), Frankish Kingdom, Frankland or Frankish Empire, was the largest in . It was ruled by the during and the . After the in 843, became the predecessor of France, and b ...

Francia
(
Neustria Neustria was the western part of the Francia, Kingdom of the Franks. Neustria included the land between the Loire and the Silva Carbonaria, approximately the north of present-day France, with Paris, Orléans, Tours, Soissons as its main cities. ...
and western
Austrasia Austrasia was a territory which formed the northeastern section of the Merovingian The Merovingian dynasty () was the ruling family of the Franks The Franks ( la, Franci or ) were a group of Germanic peoples whose name was first mention ...
) gradually adopted
Gallo-Romance The Gallo-Romance branch of the Romance languages The Romance languages, less commonly Latin or Neo-Latin languages, are the modern languages that evolved from Vulgar Latin Vulgar Latin, also known as Popular or Colloquial Latin is a rang ...

Gallo-Romance
by the beginning of the OHG period, with the linguistic boundary later stabilised approximately along the course of the
Meuse The Meuse ( , , , ; wa, Moûze ) or Maas ( , ; li, Maos or ) is a major European river, rising in France and flowing through Belgium and the Netherlands before draining into the North Sea The North Sea is a sea of the Atlantic Ocean bet ...

Meuse
and
Moselle The Moselle ( , ; german: Mosel ; lb, Musel ) is a river that rises in the Vosges mountains and flows from western Germany through Luxembourg and north-eastern France. It is a bank (geography), left bank tributary of the Rhine, which it j ...
in the east, and the northern boundary probably a little further south than the current boundary between
French
French
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 * ...
. North of this line, the Franks retained their language, but it was not affected by the Second Sound Shift, which thus separated the
Old Dutch varieties
Old Dutch varieties
from the more easterly Franconian dialects which formed part of Old High German. In the south, the
Lombards The Lombards () or Langobards ( la, Langobardi) were a Germanic people Germanic may refer to: * Germanic peoples The historical Germanic peoples (from lat, Germani) are a category of ancient northern European tribes, first mentioned by G ...
, who had settled in
Northern Italy Northern Italy ( it, Italia settentrionale, it, Nord Italia, label=none, it, Alta Italia, label=none or just it, Nord, label=none) is a geographical and cultural region In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical cha ...
, maintained their dialect until their conquest by
Charlemagne Charlemagne ( , ) or Charles the Great ( la, Carolus Magnus; 2 April 748 – 28 January 814) was King of the Franks The Franks—Germanic-speaking peoples that invaded the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century—were first led by i ...

Charlemagne
in 774. After this the Germanic-speaking population, who were by then almost certainly bilingual, gradually switched to the
Romance language of the native population
Romance language of the native population
, so that Langobardic had died out by the end of the OHG period. At the beginning of the period, no Germanic language was spoken east of a line from
Kieler Förde 250px, Historical map of the vicinity of Kiel, ca. 1888. Kieler Förde is an approximately long inlet of the Baltic Sea on the eastern side of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. Formed by glacier, glacial movement during the last Ice Age, it divides D ...
to the rivers
Elbe The Elbe (, ; cs, Labe ; nds, Ilv or ''Elv''; Upper and dsb, Łobjo), historically in English also Elve, is one of the major river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake o ...

Elbe
and
Saale The Saale (), also known as the Saxon Saale (german: Sächsische Saale) and Thuringian Saale (german: Thüringische Saale), is a river in Germany Germany (german: Deutschland, ), officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in . It ...

Saale
, earlier Germanic speakers in the Northern part of the area having been displaced by the
Slavs Slavs are an ethno-linguistic group An ethnolinguistic group (or ethno-linguistic group) is a group that is unified by both a common ethnicity and language. Most ethnic groups share a first language. However, the term is often used to emphasise ...

Slavs
. This area did not become German-speaking until the
German eastward expansion ' (, literally ''East settling'') is the term for the High Middle Ages, High Medieval migration period of ethnic Germans into and beyond the territories at the eastern periphery of the Holy Roman Empire and the consequences for settlement develop ...

German eastward expansion
("Ostkolonisation") of the early 12th century, though there was some attempt at conquest and missionary work under the
Ottonians The Ottonian dynasty (german: Ottonen) was a Saxon The Saxons ( la, Saxones, german: Sachsen, ang, Seaxan, osx, Sahson, nds, Sassen, nl, Saksen) were a group of early Germanic * * * * peoples whose name was given in the early Middle Age ...
. The Alemannic polity was conquered by
Clovis I Clovis ( la, Chlodovechus; reconstructed Frankish Frankish may refer to: * Franks The Franks ( la, Franci or ) were a group of Germanic peoples The historical Germanic peoples (from lat, Germani) are a category of ancient northern E ...

Clovis I
in 496, and in the last twenty years of the 8th century Charlemagne subdued the Saxons, the Frisians, the Bavarians, and the Lombards, bringing all continental
Germanic-speaking peoples
Germanic-speaking peoples
under Frankish rule. While this led to some degree of Frankish linguistic influence, the language of both the administration and the Church was Latin, and this unification did not therefore lead to any development of a supra-regional variety of Frankish nor a standardized Old High German; the individual dialects retained their identity.


Dialects

There was no standard or supra-regional variety of Old High German—every text is written in a particular dialect, or in some cases a mixture of dialects. Broadly speaking, the main dialect divisions of Old High German seem to have been similar to those of later periods—they are based on established territorial groupings and the effects of the Second Sound Shift, which have remained influential until the present day. But because the direct evidence for Old High German consists solely of
manuscript A manuscript (abbreviated MS for singular and MSS for plural) was, traditionally, any document written by hand – or, once practical typewriter A typewriter is a machine, mechanical or electromechanical machine for typing characters s ...

manuscript
s produced in a few major ecclesiastical centres, there is no
isogloss An isogloss, also called a heterogloss (see Etymology Etymology ()The New Oxford Dictionary of English (1998) – p. 633 "Etymology /ˌɛtɪˈmɒlədʒi/ the study of the class in words and the way their meanings have changed throughout time ...
information of the sort on which modern dialect maps are based. For this reason the dialects may be termed "monastery dialects" (German ''Klosterdialekte''). The main dialects, with their
bishoprics In Ecclesiastical polity, church governance, a diocese or bishopric is the ecclesiastical district under the jurisdiction of a bishop. History In the later organization of the Roman Empire, the increasingly subdivided Roman province, prov ...
and
monasteries A monastery is a building or complex of buildings comprising the domestic quarters and workplaces of monastics, monk A monk (, from el, μοναχός, ''monachos'', "single, solitary" via Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical langua ...
: *
Central German Central German (german: mitteldeutsche Dialekte, mitteldeutsche Mundarten, Mitteldeutsch) is a group of High German dialects spoken from the Rhineland in the west to the former eastern territories of Germany. Central German divides into two sub ...
**
East Franconian East Franconian (german: Ostfränkisch), usually referred to as Franconian (') in German, is a dialect which is spoken in Franconia Franconia (german: Franken; in the Franconian dialect: ''Franggn'' rɑŋgŋ̩ is a region in Germany, char ...
:
Fulda Fulda () (historically in English called Fuld) is a town in Hesse Hesse (, , ) or Hessia (, ; german: Hessen ), officially the State of Hessen (german: links=no, Land Hessen), is a German states, state in Germany. Its capital city is Wiesbaden, ...

Fulda
,
Bamberg Bamberg (, , ) is a town in Upper Franconia Upper Franconia (german: Oberfranken) is a ''Regierungsbezirk A ' () means "governmental district" and is a type of administrative division in Germany. Four of sixteen ' (states of Germany) are s ...

Bamberg
,
Würzburg Würzburg (; Main-Franconian: ) is a List of cities and towns in Germany, city in the traditional region of Franconia in the north of the Germany, German state of Bavaria. Würzburg is the administrative seat of the ''Regierungsbezirk'' Lower Fra ...

Würzburg
**
Middle Franconian West Central German (german: Westmitteldeutsch) belongs to the Central German, Central, High German languages, High German dialect family in the German language. Its dialects are thoroughly Franconian languages, Franconian and comprise the parts of ...
:
Trier Trier ( , ; lb, Tréier ), formerly known in English as Trèves ( ;) and Triers (see also Names of Trier in different languages, names in other languages), is a city on the banks of the Moselle (river), Moselle in Germany. It lies in a valley b ...

Trier
,
Echternach Echternach ( lb, Iechternach or (locally) ) is a commune A commune is an intentional community of people sharing living spaces, interests, values, beliefs, and often property Property (''latin: Res Privata'') in the Abstract and concret ...

Echternach
,
Cologne Cologne ( ; german: Köln ; ksh, Kölle ) is the largest city of Germany, Germany's most populous States of Germany, state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) and the List of cities in Germany by population, fourth-most populous city and one of t ...

Cologne
**
Rhine Franconian __NOTOC__ Rhenish Franconian or Rhine Franconian (German: ) is a dialect chain The term dialect (from Latin , , from the Ancient Greek word , , "discourse", from , , "through" and , , "I speak") is used in two distinct ways to refer to two dif ...
:
Lorsch Lorsch is a town in the in , , 60 km south of . Lorsch is well known for the , which has been named a by . Geography Location Lorsch lies about 5 km west of the ' in the just west of the between to the north and to the south. Th ...

Lorsch
,
Speyer Speyer (, older spelling ''Speier'', known as ''Spire'' in French and formerly as ''Spires'' in English) is a city in Rhineland-Palatinate in Germany with approximately 50,000 inhabitants. Located on the left bank of the river Rhine, Speyer lies ...

Speyer
,
Worms The World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) is a taxonomic database that aims to provide an authoritative and comprehensive list of names of marine organisms. Content The content of the registry is edited and maintained by scientific specialists ...
,
Mainz Mainz (; ) is the capital and largest city of Rhineland-Palatinate Rhineland-Palatinate (german: Rheinland-Pfalz, ) is a western state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine ...

Mainz
,
Frankfurt Frankfurt, officially Frankfurt am Main (; Hessian dialects, Hessian: , "Franks, Frank ford (crossing), ford on the Main (river), Main"; french: Francfort-sur-le-Main), is the most populous city in the States of Germany, German state of Hess ...

Frankfurt
** South Rhine Franconian:
Wissembourg Wissembourg (; South Franconian: ''Weisseburch'', pronounced ; German: ) is a commune in the Bas-Rhin Bas-Rhin (; Alsatian language, Alsatian: ''Unterelsàss'', ' or '; traditional german: links=no, Niederrhein; en, Lower Rhine) is a Departmen ...

Wissembourg
*
Upper German Upper German ( German: ) is a family of High German dialects spoken primarily in the southern German-speaking area (). Family tree Upper German proper comprises the Alemannic and Bavarian dialect groups. Furthermore, the High Franconian di ...

Upper German
** Alemannic:
Murbach Murbach is a Communes of France, commune in the Haut-Rhin Departments of France, department in Grand Est in north-eastern France. Murbach Abbey is located near Murbach. See also * Communes of the Haut-Rhin département References

C ...
, Reichenau, Sankt Gallen,
Strasbourg Strasbourg (, , ; german: Straßburg ; gsw, label=Bas Rhin Alsatian dialect, Alsatian, Strossburi , gsw, label=Haut Rhin Alsatian dialect, Alsatian, Strossburig ) is the Prefectures in France, prefecture and largest city of the Grand Est Re ...

Strasbourg
** Bavarian:
Freising Freising () is a town A town is a human settlement. Towns are generally larger than villages and smaller than city, cities, though the criteria to distinguish between them vary considerably in different parts of the world. Origin a ...

Freising
,
Passau Passau (; bar, label=Central Bavarian, Båssa) is a city in Lower Bavaria, Germany, also known as the Dreiflüssestadt ("City of Three Rivers") as the river Danube is joined by the Inn (river), Inn from the south and the Ilz from the north. P ...

Passau
,
Regensburg Regensburg or is a city in eastern Bavaria, at the confluence of the Danube, Naab and Regen River, Regen rivers. It is capital of the Upper Palatinate subregion of the state in the south of Germany. With more than 150,000 inhabitants, Regens ...

Regensburg
,
Augsburg Augsburg ( , , ; bar, Augschburg, links=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swabian_German, label=Swabian German) is a city A city is a large .Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. London: Penguin.Kuper, A. and Kuper, ...

Augsburg
,
Ebersberg Ebersberg is the seat of the similarly named Ebersberg (district), Ebersberg ''Districts of Germany, Landkreis'' (district) in the Oberbayern ''Regierungsbezirk'' (administrative region) in Bavaria, southern Germany. The ''Ebersberger Forst'' (for ...

Ebersberg
, Wessobrunn,
Benediktbeuern Benediktbeuern is a municipality in the district of in , , 2 kilometers, or 1.25 miles from . The village has 3,602 residents as of 31 December 2019. The medieval Latin name of Benediktbeuern was ''Buria'' (adjective: ''Burana'').Se/ref> Benedi ...
,
Tegernsee Tegernsee is a town A town is a human settlement. Towns are generally larger than villages and smaller than city, cities, though the criteria to distinguish between them vary considerably in different parts of the world. Origin and ...
,
Salzburg Salzburg (, ; literally "Salt Castle"; bar, Soizbuag, label=Bavarian language, Austro-Bavarian) is the List of cities and towns in Austria, fourth-largest city in Austria. In 2020, it had a population of 156,872. The town is on the site of the ...

Salzburg
, Mondsee In addition, there are two poorly attested dialects: *
Thuringian Thuringian is an East Central German dialect group spoken in much of the modern German Free State of Thuringia north of the Rennsteig ridge, southwestern Saxony-Anhalt and adjacent territories of Hesse Hesse (, , ) or Hessia (, ; german: Hess ...
is attested only in four runic inscriptions and some possible glosses. *
Langobardic Lombardic or Langobardic is an extinct West Germanic language that was spoken by the Lombards (''Langobardi''), the Germanic people who settled in Italy in the sixth century. It was already declining by the seventh century because the invaders qu ...
was the dialect of the
Lombards The Lombards () or Langobards ( la, Langobardi) were a Germanic people Germanic may refer to: * Germanic peoples The historical Germanic peoples (from lat, Germani) are a category of ancient northern European tribes, first mentioned by G ...
who invaded
Northern Italy Northern Italy ( it, Italia settentrionale, it, Nord Italia, label=none, it, Alta Italia, label=none or just it, Nord, label=none) is a geographical and cultural region In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical cha ...
in the 6th century, and little evidence of it remains apart from names and individual words in
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an appa ...

Latin
texts, and a few runic inscriptions. It declined after the conquest of the
Lombard Kingdom The term Lombard refers to people or things related to Lombardy Lombardy ( ; it, Lombardia ; lmo, Lombardia, , ) is one of the twenty administrative , in the of the country, with an area of . About 10 million people live in Lombardy, forming mo ...
by the Franks in 774. It is classified as Upper German on the basis of evidence of the Second Sound Shift. The continued existence of a
West Frankish In medieval history, West Francia (Medieval Latin, Latin: ''Francia occidentalis'') or the Kingdom of the West Franks (''regnum Francorum occidentalium'') refers to the western part of the Francia, Frankish Empire established by Charlemagne. It rep ...
dialect in the Western, Romanized part of Francia is uncertain. Claims that this might have been the language of the Carolingian court or that it is attested in the
Ludwigslied
Ludwigslied
, whose presence in a French manuscript suggests
bilingualism in Seattle Seattle ( ) is a port, seaport city on the West Coast of the United States. It is the county seat, seat of King County, Washington, King County, Washington (state), Washington. With a 2020 population of 737,015, it is the la ...
, are controversial.


Literacy

Old High German literacy is a product of the monasteries, notably at
St. Gallen , neighboring_municipalities = Eggersriet Eggersriet is a Municipalities of Switzerland, municipality in the ''Wahlkreis'' (constituency) of St. Gallen (Wahlkreis), St. Gallen in the Cantons of Switzerland, canton of St. Gallen (canton), St. Ga ...
,
Reichenau Island Reichenau Island () is an island in Lake Constance in Southern Germany. It lies almost due west of the city of Konstanz, between the Gnadensee and the Untersee, two parts of Lake Constance. With a total land surface of and a circumference of ...
and
Fulda Fulda () (historically in English called Fuld) is a town in Hesse Hesse (, , ) or Hessia (, ; german: Hessen ), officially the State of Hessen (german: links=no, Land Hessen), is a German states, state in Germany. Its capital city is Wiesbaden, ...

Fulda
. Its origins lie in the establishment of the German church by
Saint Boniface Boniface ( la, Bonifatius; 675 – 5 June 754), born in the Crediton Crediton is a town and civil parishes in England, civil parish in the Mid Devon district of Devon in England. It stands on the A377 road, A377 Exeter to Barnstaple road ...
in the mid 8th century, and it was further encouraged during the
Carolingian Renaissance The Carolingian Renaissance was the first of three medieval renaissances, a period of cultural activity in the Carolingian Empire The Carolingian Empire (800–888) was a large Franks, Frankish-dominated empire in western and central Europe dur ...
in the 9th. The dedication to the preservation of Old High German epic poetry among the scholars of the Carolingian Renaissance was significantly greater than could be suspected from the meagre survivals we have today (less than 200 lines in total between the ''
Hildebrandslied The ''Hildebrandslied'' (; ''Lay'' or ''Song of Hildebrand'') is a heroic lay written in Old High German Old High German (OHG, german: Althochdeutsch, German abbr. ) is the earliest stage of the German language, conventionally covering the per ...
'' and the ''
Muspilli ''Muspilli'' is an Old High German Old High German (OHG, german: Althochdeutsch, German abbr. ) is the earliest stage of the German language, conventionally covering the period from around 750 to 1050. There is no standardised or supra-regional ...

Muspilli
'').
Einhard Einhard (also Eginhard or Einhart; la, E(g)inhardus; 775 – March 14, 840) was a Franks, Frankish scholar and courtier. Einhard was a dedicated servant of Charlemagne and his son Louis the Pious; his main work is a biography of Charlemagne, the ...

Einhard
tells how Charlemagne himself ordered that the epic lays should be collected for posterity.''
Vita Karoli Magni ''Vita Karoli Magni'' (''Life of Charles the Great'') is a biography of Charlemagne Charlemagne ( , ) or Charles the Great ( la, Carolus Magnus; 2 April 748 – 28 January 814) was King of the Franks The Franks—Germanic-speaking ...
'', 29: "He also had the old rude songs that celebrate the deeds and wars of the ancient kings written out for transmission to posterity."
It was the neglect or religious zeal of later generations that led to the loss of these records. Thus, it was Charlemagne's weak successor,
Louis the Pious Louis the Pious (16 April 778 – 20 June 840), also called the Fair, and the Debonaire, was King of the Franks The Franks The Franks ( la, Franci or ) were a group of Germanic peoples whose name was first mentioned in 3rd-century Ro ...

Louis the Pious
, who destroyed his father's collection of epic poetry on account of its pagan content.
Rabanus Maurus Rabanus Maurus Magnentius ( 780 – 4 February 856), also known as Hrabanus or Rhabanus, was a Frankish Frankish may refer to: * Franks The Franks ( la, Franci or ) were a group of Germanic peoples The historical Germanic peoples (from ...
, a student of
Alcuin Alcuin of York (; la, Flaccus Albinus Alcuinus; 735 – 19 May 804) – also called Ealhwine, Alhwin, or Alchoin – was an English scholar, clergyman, poet, and teacher from York, Northumbria. He was born around 735 and became the ...
's and abbot at Fulda from 822, was an important advocate of the cultivation of German literacy. Among his students were
Walafrid Strabo Walafrid, alternatively spelt Walahfrid, surnamed Strabo Strabo''Strabo'' (meaning "squinty", as in strabismus) was a term employed by the Romans for anyone whose eyes were distorted or deformed. The father of Pompey was called " Pompeius Str ...
and
Otfrid of Weissenburg 200px, Otfrid memorial in Wissembourg Otfrid of Weissenburg (german: Otfrid von Weißenburg; la, Otfridus; 800 - after 870 AD) was a monk at the abbey of Weissenburg (modern-day Wissembourg Wissembourg (; South Franconian: ''Weisseburch'', pro ...
. Towards the end of the Old High German period,
Notker Labeo Notker Labeo (c. 950 – 28 June 1022), also known as Notker the German ( la, Notcerus Teutonicus) or Notker III, was a Benedictine The Benedictines, officially the Order of Saint Benedict ( la, Ordo Sancti Benedicti, abbreviated as OSB), a ...
(d. 1022) was among the greatest stylists in the language, and developed a systematic orthography.


Writing system

While there are a few
runic inscriptions A runic inscription is an inscription Epigraphy ( grc, ἐπιγραφή, "inscription") is the study of inscriptions, or epigraphs, as writing Writing is a medium of human communication that involves the representation of a language wit ...

runic inscriptions
from the pre-OHG period, all other OHG texts are written with the Latin
alphabet An alphabet is a standardized set of basic written symbols A symbol is a mark, sign, or word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semanti ...

alphabet
, which, however, was ill-suited for representing some of the sounds of OHG. This led to considerable variations in spelling conventions, as individual scribes and scriptoria had to develop their own solutions to these problems. Otfrid von Weissenburg, in one of the prefaces to his ''Evangelienbuch'', offers comments on and examples of some of the issues which arise in adapting the Latin alphabet for German: "" ("...so also, in many expressions, spelling is difficult because of the piling up of letters or their unfamiliar sound.") The careful orthographies of the OHG ''
Isidor Isidore (; IZ-ə-dawr), also spelled Isador, Isadore and Isidor) is an English and French masculine given name. The name is derived from the Greek name Isídor - Isídōros (Ἰσίδωρος) and can literally be translated to "gift of Isis Is ...
'' or Notker show a similar awareness.


Phonology

The charts show the vowel and consonant systems of the East Franconian dialect in the 9th century. This is the dialect of the monastery of
Fulda Fulda () (historically in English called Fuld) is a town in Hesse Hesse (, , ) or Hessia (, ; german: Hessen ), officially the State of Hessen (german: links=no, Land Hessen), is a German states, state in Germany. Its capital city is Wiesbaden, ...

Fulda
, and specifically of the Old High German ''
Tatian Tatian of Adiabene, or Tatian the Syrian or Tatian the Assyrian, (; la, Tatianus; grc, Τατιανός; syc, ܛܛܝܢܘܣ; c. 120 – c. 180 AD) was an writer and of the 2nd century. Tatian's most influential work is the , a , or "harmony" ...
''. Dictionaries and grammars of OHG often use the spellings of the Tatian as a substitute for genuine standardised spellings, and these have the advantage of being recognizably close to the
Middle High German Middle High German (MHG; german: Mittelhochdeutsch (Mhd.)) is the term for the form of 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 * ...
forms of words, particularly with respect to the consonants.


Vowels

Old High German had six phonemic short vowels and five phonemic long vowels. Both occurred in stressed and unstressed syllables. In addition, there were six diphthongs. Notes: # Vowel length was indicated in the manuscripts inconsistently (though modern handbooks are consistent). Vowel letter doubling, a
circumflex The circumflex is a diacritic in the Latin script, Latin and Greek alphabet, Greek scripts that is used in the written forms of many languages and in various romanization and Transcription (linguistics), transcription schemes. It received its E ...
, or an
acute accent The acute accent, , is a diacritic A diacritic (also diacritical mark, diacritical point, diacritical sign, or accent) is a glyph The term glyph is used in typography File:metal movable type.jpg, 225px, Movable type being assembl ...

acute accent
was generally used to indicate a long vowel. # The short high and mid vowels may have been articulated lower than their long counterparts as in Modern German. This cannot be established from written sources. # All back vowels likely had front-vowel
allophones In phonology, an allophone (; from the Ancient Greek, Greek , ''állos'', "other" and , ''phōnē'', "voice, sound") is one of a set of multiple possible spoken sounds, or ''phone (phonetics), phones'', or signs used to pronounce a single phonem ...
as a result of umlaut. The front-vowel allophones likely became full phonemes in Middle High German. In the Old High German period, there existed (possibly a mid-close vowel) from the umlaut of and but it probably wasn't phonemicized until the end of the period. Manuscripts occasionally distinguish two sounds. Generally, modern grammars and dictionaries use for the mid vowel and for the mid-close vowel.


Reduction of unstressed vowels

By the mid 11th century the many different vowels found in unstressed syllables had almost all been reduced to . Examples: (The Modern German forms of these words are broadly the same as in Middle High German.)


Consonants

The main difference between Old High German and the West Germanic dialects from which it developed is that it underwent the Second Sound Shift. The result of this sound change is that the consonantal system of
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
remains different from all other West Germanic languages, including
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
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 ...
. # There is wide variation in the consonant systems of the Old High German dialects arising mainly from the differing extent to which they are affected by the High German Sound Shift. Precise information about the articulation of consonants is impossible to establish. #In the plosive and fricative series, where there are two consonants in a cell, the first is Fortis (phonetics), fortis the second lenis. The voicing of lenis consonants varied between dialects. #Old High German distinguished long and short consonants. Double-consonant spellings don't indicate a preceding short vowel as in Modern German but true consonant gemination. Double consonants found in Old High German include ''pp, bb, tt, dd, ck'' (for ), ''gg, ff, ss, hh, zz, mm, nn, ll, rr.'' # changes to in all dialects during the 9th century. The status in the Old High German ''Tatian'' (c. 830), reflected in modern Old High German dictionaries and glossaries, is that ''th'' is found in initial position, ''d'' in other positions. # It is not clear whether Old High German had already acquired a palatalized allophone following front vowels as in Modern German. #A geschwänztes Z, curly-tailed ''z'' (''ȥ'') is sometimes used in modern grammars and dictionaries to indicate the alveolar fricative which arose from Common Germanic ''t'' in the High German consonant shift, to distinguish it from the alveolar affricate, represented as ''z''. This distinction has no counterpart in the original manuscripts, except in the OHG ''Isidor'', which uses ''tz'' for the affricate. # The original Germanic fricative ''s'' was in writing usually clearly distinguished from the younger fricative ''z'' that evolved from the High German consonant shift - the sounds of these two graphs seem not to have merged before the 13th century. Now seeing that ''s'' later came to be pronounced before other consonants (as in ''Stein'' , ''Speer'' , ''Schmerz'' (original ''smerz'') or the southwestern pronunciation of words like ''Ast'' ), it seems safe to assume that the actual pronunciation of Germanic ''s'' was somewhere between and , most likely about , in all Old High German up to late Middle High German. A word like ''swaz'', "whatever", would thus never have been but rather , later (13th century) , .


Phonological developments

Here are enumerated the sound changes that transformed West Germanic languages, Common West Germanic into Old High German, not including the Late OHG changes which affected
Middle High German Middle High German (MHG; german: Mittelhochdeutsch (Mhd.)) is the term for the form of 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 * ...
* , > , in all positions ( > already took place in West Germanic). Most but not all High German areas are subject to this change. ** PG *''sibi'' "sieve" > OHG ''sib'' (cf. Old English ''sife''), PG *''gestra'' "yesterday" > OHG ''gestaron'' (cf. OE ''ġeostran'', ''ġ'' being a fricative ) * High German consonant shift: Inherited voiceless plosives are Lenition, lenited into fricatives and affricates, while voiced fricatives are hardened into plosives and in some cases devoiced. ** Ungeminated post-vocalic , , spirantize intervocalically to , , and elsewhere to , , . Cluster is exempt from this. Compare Old English ''slǣpan'' to Old High German ''slāfan''. ** Word-initially, after a resonant and when geminated, the same consonants affricatized to , and , OE ''tam'': OHG ''zam''. *** Spread of > is geographically very limited and is not reflected in Modern Standard German. ** , and are devoiced. *** In Standard German, this applies to in all positions, but to and only when geminated. PG *brugjo > *bruggo > ''brucca'', but *leugan > ''leggen''. * (*''ē²'') and are diphthongized into and respectively. * Proto-Germanic became , except before , , and word finally, where it monophthongizes into ê ( which is also the reflex of unstressed ). ** Similarly > before , and all dentals, otherwise > . PG *''dauþaz'' "death" > OHG ''tôd'', but *''haubudą'' "head" > ''houbit''. *** refers here only to inherited from PIE *k, and not to the result of the consonant shift , which is sometimes written as h. * merges with under ''i''-umlaut and ''u''-umlaut, but elsewhere is (earlier ). In
Upper German Upper German ( German: ) is a family of High German dialects spoken primarily in the southern German-speaking area (). Family tree Upper German proper comprises the Alemannic and Bavarian dialect groups. Furthermore, the High Franconian di ...

Upper German
varieties it also becomes before labials and velars. * fortifies to in all German dialects. * Initial and before another consonant are dropped.


Morphology


Nouns


Verbs


Tense

Germanic had a simple two-tense system, with forms for a present tense, present and preterite. These were inherited by Old High German, but in addition OHG developed three periphrasis, periphrastic tenses: the perfect tense, perfect, pluperfect and
future The future is the time after the past and present. Its arrival is considered inevitable due to the existence of time and the laws of physics. Due to the apparent nature of reality and the unavoidability of the future, everything that currently ...
. The periphrastic past tenses were formed by combining the present or preterite of an auxiliary verb (''wësan'', ''habēn'') with the past participle. Initially the past participle retained its original function as an adjective and showed case and gender endings - for intransitive verbs the nominative, for transitive verbs the accusative. For example:
''After thie thö argangana warun ahtu taga'' (
Tatian Tatian of Adiabene, or Tatian the Syrian or Tatian the Assyrian, (; la, Tatianus; grc, Τατιανός; syc, ܛܛܝܢܘܣ; c. 120 – c. 180 AD) was an writer and of the 2nd century. Tatian's most influential work is the , a , or "harmony" ...
, 7,1)
"When eight days had passed", literally "After that then passed (away) were eight days"
Latin: ''Et postquam consummati sunt dies octo'' (Luke 2:21)

''phīgboum habeta sum giflanzotan'' (Tatian 102,2)
"someone had planted a fig tree", literally "fig-tree had certain (''or'' someone) planted"
Latin: ''arborem fici habebat quidam plantatam'' (Luke 13:6)
In time, however, these endings fell out of use and the participle came to be seen no longer as an adjective but as part of the verb, as in Modern German. This development is generally taken to be the result of a need to translate Latin forms, but parallels in other Germanic languages (particularly Gothic, where the Biblical texts were translated from Greek, not Latin) raise the possibility that it was an independent development. Germanic also had no future tense, but again OHG created periphrastic forms, using an auxiliary verb ''skulan'' (Modern German ''sollen'') and the infinitive, or ''werden'' and the present participle:
''Thu scalt beran einan alawaltenden'' (Otfrid's Evangelienbuch I, 5,23)
"You will bear an almighty [one]"
''Inti nu uuirdist thu suigenti (Tatian 2,9)
"And now you will start to fall silent"
Latin: ''Et ecce eris tacens'' (Luke 1:20)
The present tense continued to be used alongside these new forms to indicate future time (as it still is in Modern German).


Conjugation

The following is a sample Grammatical conjugation, conjugation of a strong verb, ''nëman'' "to take".


Personal pronouns


Syntax

Any description of OHG syntax faces a fundamental problem: texts translated from or based on a Latin original will be syntactically influenced by their source, while the verse works may show patterns that are determined by the needs of rhyme and metre, or that represent literary archaisms. Nonetheless, the basic word order rules are broadly those of Modern Standard German. Two differences from the modern language are the possibility of pro-drop language, omitting a subject pronoun and lack of definite and indefinite article (grammar), articles. Both features are exemplified in the start of the 8th century Alemannic Credo, creed from St Gall: (Modern German, ; English "I believe in God the almighty father"). By the end of the OHG period, however, use of a subject pronoun has become obligatory, while the definite article has developed from the original demonstrative pronoun () and the numeral ("one") has come into use as an indefinite article. These developments are generally seen as mechanisms to compensate for the loss of morphological distinctions which resulted from the weakening of unstressed vowels in the endings of nouns and verbs (see above).


Texts

The early part of the period saw considerable missionary activity, and by 800 the whole of the Frankish Empire had, in principle, been Christianized. All the manuscripts which contain Old High German texts were written in ecclesiastical
scriptoria Scriptorium (), literally "a place for writing", is commonly used to refer to a room in medieval European monasteries devoted to the writing, copying and illuminating of manuscripts commonly handled by monastic scribes. However, lay scribes and ...

scriptoria
by scribes whose main task was writing in Latin rather than German. Consequently, the majority of Old High German texts are religious in nature and show strong influence of ecclesiastical Latin on the vocabulary. In fact, most surviving prose texts are translations of Latin originals. Even secular works such as the are often preserved only because they were written on spare sheets in religious codex, codices. The earliest Old High German text is generally taken to be the Abrogans, a Latin–Old High German glossary variously dated between 750 and 780, probably from Vulgar Latin#Vocabulary, Reichenau. The 8th century Merseburg Incantations are the only remnant of Germanic paganism, pre-Christian German literature. The earliest texts not dependent on Latin originals would seem to be the and the Wessobrunn Prayer, both recorded in manuscripts of the early 9th century, though the texts are assumed to derive from earlier copies. The Bavarian ''
Muspilli ''Muspilli'' is an Old High German Old High German (OHG, german: Althochdeutsch, German abbr. ) is the earliest stage of the German language, conventionally covering the period from around 750 to 1050. There is no standardised or supra-regional ...

Muspilli
'' is the sole survivor of what must have been a vast oral tradition. Other important works are the (Diatessaron, Gospel harmony) of Otfrid of Weissenburg, Otfrid von Weissenburg, the short but splendid and the 9th century . The boundary to Early Middle High German (from ) is not clear-cut. An example of Early Middle High German literature is the .


Example texts

The Lord's Prayer is given in four Old High German dialects below. Because these are translations of a liturgical text, they are best not regarded as examples of idiomatic language, but they do show dialect variation very clearly.


See also

* Old High German literature *
Middle High German Middle High German (MHG; german: Mittelhochdeutsch (Mhd.)) is the term for the form of 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 * ...
* Old High German declension


Notes


Citations


Sources

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Grammars

* *
Online version


Dialects

* *


External links



- links to a range of online texts
Modern English-Old High German dictionary
{{Authority control Old High German, German dialects Languages attested from the 8th century Languages of Germany