No official regulation
German orthography regulated by the
Council for German Orthography
deu – German
gmh – Middle
goh – Old
gct – Colonia Tovar German
bar – Bavarian
cim – Cimbrian
ksh – Kölsch
sli – Lower Silesian
vmf – Mainfränkisch
mhn – Mócheno
pfl – Palatinate German
sxu – Upper Saxon
wep – Westphalian
yec – Yenish
further information 52-AC (Continental West Germanic)
> 52-ACB (Deutsch & Dutch)
> 52-ACB-d (
Central German incl. 52-ACB–dl & -dm
High German )
+ 52-ACB-e & -f (
Upper German &
Swiss German )
+ 52-ACB-h (émigré German varieties incl. 52-ACB-hc Hutterite
Totalling 285 varieties: 52-ACB-daa to 52-ACB-i
(Co-)Official and majority language Co-official, but not
majority language Statutory minority/cultural language
Non-statutory minority language
THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS IPA PHONETIC SYMBOLS. Without proper
rendering support , you may see question marks, boxes, or other
symbols instead of
Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on
IPA symbols, see Help:IPA .
GERMAN (Deutsch ( listen )) is a West
Germanic language that is
mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and
(co-) official language in
Switzerland , South
Italy ), the
German-speaking Community of
Belgium , and
Liechtenstein . It is also one of the three official languages of
Luxembourg . The languages which are most similar to German are the
other members of the West
Germanic language branch:
Afrikaans , Dutch
, English , the
Frisian languages ,
Low German (Low Saxon) ,
Luxembourgish , and
Yiddish . German is the second most widely spoken
Germanic language , after English.
One of the major languages of the world , German is the first
language of about 95 million people worldwide and the most widely
spoken native language in the
European Union . German also is the
fourth most widely taught non-
English language in the US (after
Spanish , French and
American Sign Language ) and third in the EU
(after English and French; at lower secondary level), the second most
commonly used scientific language as well as the fourth most widely
used language on websites (after English , Russian and Japanese) .
German-speaking countries are ranked fifth in terms of annual
publication of new books, with one tenth of all books (including
e-books) in the world being published in the German language.
German derives most of its vocabulary from the Germanic branch of the
Indo-European language family. A portion of German words are derived
Latin and Greek , and fewer are borrowed from French and English
. With slightly different standardized variants (German , Austrian ,
Swiss Standard German ), German is a pluricentric language . Like
English, German is also notable for its broad spectrum of dialects ,
with many unique varieties existing in Europe and also other parts of
the world. Due to the limited intelligibility between certain
Standard German , as well as the lack of an undisputed,
scientific difference between a "dialect" and a "language", some
German varieties or dialect groups (e.g.
Low German or
are alternatively referred to as "languages" and "dialects".
* 1 Classification
* 2 History
* 2.1 Origins
* 2.2 Modern German
* 2.2.2 Austrian Empire
* 3 Geographic distribution
* 3.1 Europe and
* 3.1.1 German
* 3.1.2 Outside the
* 3.2 Africa
* 3.3 North America
* 3.4 South America
* 3.4.1 Co-official statuses of German or German varieties in Brazil
* 3.5 Oceania
* 3.6 German as a foreign language
* 4.1 Varieties of
* 6.1 Noun inflection
* 6.2 Verb inflection
* 6.2.1 Verb prefixes
* 6.3 Word order
* 6.3.1 Auxiliary verbs
* 6.3.2 Modal verbs
* 6.3.3 Multiple infinitives
* 8.1 Present
* 8.2 Past
* 8.3 Reform of 1996
* 9.1 Vowels
* 9.2 Consonants
* 9.2.1 Consonant spellings
* 9.2.2 Consonant shifts
* 10 Literature
* 11 German loanwords in the
* 12 Organisations
* 12.2 Verein Deutsche Sprache
* 13 See also
* 14 References
* 15 Notes
* 16 Bibliography
* 17 External links
Germanic languages in Europe
Standard German is a West
Germanic language descended from the
Germanic branch of the
Indo-European languages . The Germanic
languages are traditionally subdivided into three branches: North
Germanic , East Germanic , and West Germanic . The first of these
branches survives in modern Danish , Swedish , Norwegian , Faroese ,
and Icelandic , all of which are descended from
Old Norse . The East
Germanic languages are now extinct, and the only historical member of
this branch from which written texts survive is Gothic . The West
Germanic languages, however, have undergone extensive dialectal
subdivision and are now represented in modern languages such as
English , German, Dutch ,
Afrikaans , and others.
Within the West
Germanic language dialect continuum, the Benrath and
Uerdingen lines (running through
Düsseldorf -Benrath and Krefeld
Uerdingen , respectively) serve to distinguish the Germanic dialects
that were affected by the
High German consonant shift (south of
Benrath) from those that were not (north of Uerdingen). The various
regional dialects spoken south of these lines are grouped as High
German dialects (nr. 29-34 on map), while those spoken to the north
comprise the Low German/Low Saxon (nr. 19-24) and
Low Franconian (nr.
25) dialects. As members of the West
Germanic language family, High
German, Low German, and
Low Franconian can be further distinguished
historically as Irminonic ,
Ingvaeonic , and Istvaeonic ,
respectively. This classification indicates their historical descent
from dialects spoken by the
Irminones (also known as the Elbe group),
Ingvaeones (or North Sea Germanic group), and
Standard German is based on
Saxon dialects (nr. 30 on the map), which are
Central German dialects
(nr. 29-31), belonging to the Irminonic
High German dialect group.
German is therefore most closely related to the other languages based
High German dialects, such as
Luxembourgish (based on Central
Franconian dialects - nr. 29), and
Yiddish . Also closely related to
Standard German are the
Upper German dialects spoken in the southern
German-speaking countries , such as
Swiss German (Alemannic dialects -
nr. 34), and the various dialects spoken in
Grand Est , such as
Alsatian (mainly Alemannic, but also Central- and Upper Franconian
(nr. 32) dialects) and
Lorraine Franconian (Central Franconian - nr.
High German dialects, standard German is (somewhat less
closely) related to languages based on
Low Franconian dialects (e.g.
Dutch and Afrikaans) or Low German/Low Saxon dialects (spoken in
Germany and southern
Denmark ), neither of which underwent
High German consonant shift. As has been noted, the former of
these dialect types is Istvaeonic and the latter Ingvaeonic, whereas
High German dialects are all Irminonic; the differences between
these languages and standard German are therefore considerable. Also
related to German are the Frisian languages—North Frisian (spoken in
Schleswig-Holstein nr. 28), Saterland Frisian (spoken in Lower Saxony
- nr. 27), and West Frisian (spoken in the
Netherlands - nr. 26)—as
well as the Anglic languages of English and Scots . These
Anglo-Frisian dialects are all members of the
Ingvaeonic family of
Germanic languages which did not take part in the High German
History of German
The Germanic-speaking area of the
Holy Roman Empire around AD
Old Frisian (Alt-Friesisch)
Old Saxon (Alt-Sächsisch) Old
Franconian (Alt-Fränkisch) Old Alemannic (Alt-Alemannisch) Old
The history of the
German language begins with the High German
consonant shift during the migration period , which separated Old High
German dialects from
Old Saxon . The earliest evidence of Old High
German is from scattered
Elder Futhark inscriptions, especially in
Alemannic , from the sixth century AD; the earliest glosses (Abrogans
) date to the eighth century; and the oldest coherent texts (the
Hildebrandslied , the
Muspilli and the
Merseburg Incantations ) to
the ninth century. Old Saxon, at this time, belonged to the North Sea
Germanic cultural sphere, and
Lower Saxony was to fall under German,
Anglo-Frisian , influence during the existence of the Holy
Roman Empire .
Germany was divided into many different states , the only
force working for a unification or standardization of German for
several hundred years was the general wish of German writers to be
understood by as many readers as possible.
The widespread popularity of the
Bible translated into German by
Martin Luther helped establish modern German
Martin Luther translated the
New Testament in 1522
Old Testament , published in parts and completed in 1534), he
based his translation primarily on the standard bureaucratic language
Saxony (sächsische Kanzleisprache), also known as Meißner
Deutsch (German from the city of
Meissen ). This language was based
on Eastern Upper and Eastern
Central German dialects, and preserved
much of the grammatical system of Middle
High German , unlike the
German dialects in Central and Upper Germany, which had, at
that time, already begun to lose the genitive case and the preterite
Copies of Luther's
Bible featured a long list of glosses for each
region that translated words which were unknown in the region into the
Roman Catholics initially rejected Luther's
translation, and tried to create their own Catholic standard of the
German language (gemeines Deutsch) – the difference in relation to
"Protestant German" was minimal. It was not until the middle of the
18th century that a widely accepted standard was created, ending the
period of Early New
High German .
Until about 1800, standard German was mainly a written language: in
Germany , the local
Low German (or Low Saxon) dialects
Standard German , which was markedly different, was often
learned as a foreign language with uncertain pronunciation. Northern
German pronunciation was considered the standard in prescriptive
pronunciation guides though; however, the actual pronunciation of
Standard German varies from region to region.
Ethnolinguistic map of Austria-
Hungary , 1910, with
German-speaking areas shown in red
German was the language of commerce and government in the Habsburg
Empire , which encompassed a large area of Central and Eastern Europe.
Until the mid-19th century, it was essentially the language of
townspeople throughout most of the Empire. Its use indicated that the
speaker was a merchant or someone from an urban area, regardless of
Some cities, such as
Prague (German: Prag) and
German: Ofen), were gradually Germanized in the years after their
incorporation into the Habsburg domain. Others, such as Pozsony
(German: Pressburg, now
Bratislava ), were originally settled during
the Habsburg period, and were primarily German at that time. Prague,
Bratislava as well as cities like
Zagreb (German: Agram),
Ljubljana (German: Laibach), contained significant German
In the eastern provinces of
Siebenbürgen), German was the predominant language not only in the
larger towns – such as Temeswar (
Timișoara ), Hermannstadt (
and Kronstadt (
Brașov ) – but also in many smaller localities in
the surrounding areas.
Deutsches Wörterbuch (1854) by the
Brothers Grimm helped to
standardize German orthography.
The most comprehensive guide to the vocabulary of the German language
is found within the
Deutsches Wörterbuch . This dictionary was
created by the
Brothers Grimm and is composed of 16 parts which were
issued between 1852 and 1860. In 1872, grammatical and orthographic
rules first appeared in the
Duden Handbook .
In 1901, the 2nd Orthographical Conference ended with a complete
standardization of the
German language in its written form and the
Duden Handbook was declared its standard definition. The Deutsche
Bühnensprache (literally, German stage language) had established
conventions for German pronunciation in theatre (
three years earlier; however, this was an artificial standard that did
not correspond to any traditional spoken dialect. Rather, it was based
on the pronunciation of
Standard German in Northern Germany, although
it was subsequently regarded often as a general prescriptive norm,
despite differing pronunciation traditions especially in the
Upper-German-speaking regions that still characterize the dialect of
the area today – especially the pronunciation of the ending -ig as
instead of . In Northern Germany,
Standard German was a foreign
language to most inhabitants, whose native dialects were subsets of
Low German. It was usually encountered only in writing or formal
speech; in fact, most of
Standard German was a written language, not
identical to any spoken dialect, throughout the German-speaking area
until well into the 19th century.
Official revisions of some of the rules from 1901 were not issued
until the controversial
German orthography reform of 1996 was made the
official standard by governments of all German-speaking countries.
Media and written works are now almost all produced in Standard German
(often called Hochdeutsch, "High German") which is understood in all
areas where German is spoken.
Geographical distribution of German speakers
Approximate distribution of native German speakers (assuming a
rounded total of 95 million) worldwide.
Germany (78.3%) Austria
Italy (South Tyrol) (0.4%) Other
Due to the
German diaspora as well as German being the third most
widely taught foreign language in the US and the EU amongst others,
the geographical distribution of German speakers (or "Germanophones")
spans all inhabited continents. As for the number of speakers of any
language worldwide, an assessment is always compromised by the lack of
sufficient, reliable data. For an exact, global number of native
German speakers, this is further complicated by the existence of
several varieties whose status as separate "languages" or "dialects"
is disputed for political and/or linguistic reasons, including
quantitatively strong varieties like certain forms of Alemannic (e.g.,
Alsatian ) and Low German/
Plautdietsch . Mostly depending on the
inclusion or exclusion of certain varieties, it is estimated that
approximately 90–95 million people speak German as a first language
, 10-25 million as a second language , and 75–100 million as a
foreign language . This would imply approximately 175-220 million
German speakers worldwide. It is estimated that also including all
persons who are or were taking German classes, i.e., regardless of
their actual proficiency, would amount to about 280 million people
worldwide with at least some knowledge of German.
Approximate distribution of native speakers of German or a German
variety outside Europe
Ethnologue 2016 unless referenced otherwise)
Numbers of speakers should not be summed up per country, as they most
likely overlap considerably.
Table includes varieties with disputed statuses as separate language.
LOW GERMAN "> The
German language in Europe: "GERMAN
SPRACHRAUM ": German is official language (de jure or de facto) and
first language of the majority of the population German is a
co-official language, but not the first language of the majority of
the population German (or a German dialect) is a legally recognized
minority language (Squares: Geographic distribution too
dispersed/small for map scale) German (or a variety of German) is
spoken by a sizeable minority, but has no legal recognition
Main article: List of territorial entities where German is an
The area in central Europe where the majority of the population
speaks German as a first language and has German as a (co-)official
language is called the "German
Sprachraum ". It comprises an estimated
88 million native speakers and 10 million who speak German as a second
language (e.g. immigrants). Excluding regional minority languages,
German is the only official language of
Germany (de facto, not specified in the constitution ),
Austria (de jure),
* 17 cantons of
Switzerland (de jure), and
Liechtenstein (de jure).
It is a co-official language of the
* Italian Autonomous Province of
South Tyrol (also majority
Belgium (as majority language only in the German-speaking
* four cantons of
Switzerland , and
Outside The Sprachraum
Although expulsions and (forced) assimilation after the two World
Wars greatly diminished them, minority communities of mostly bilingual
German native speakers exist in areas both adjacent to and detached
from the Sprachraum.
Within Europe and Asia, German is a recognized minority language in
the following countries:
Bosnia and Herzegovina (see also:
Czech Republic (see also:
Germans in the
Czech Republic )
Denmark (see also:
North Schleswig Germans )
Hungary (see also:
Italy (outside of South Tyrol; see also: Cimbrian ,
Walser German )
Kazakhstan (see also:
Poland (see also German minority in
Poland ; German is auxiliary
language in 31 communes ; )
Romania (see also:
Russia (see also:
Slovakia (see also:
Carpathian Germans )
Ukraine (see also:
France , the
High German varieties of Alsatian and Moselle
Franconian are identified as "regional languages ", but the European
Charter for Regional and Minority Languages of 1998 has not yet been
ratified by the government. In the
Netherlands , the
Frisian , and
Low German languages are protected regional languages
according to the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages;
however, they are widely considered separate languages and neither
German nor Dutch dialects.
German language in Namibian everyday life Main
German language in
Namibia was a colony of the
German Empire from 1884 to 1919. Mostly
descending from German settlers who immigrated during this time,
25–30,000 people still speak German as a native tongue today. The
period of German colonialism in
Namibia also led to the evolution of a
Standard German-based pidgin language called "
Namibian Black German ",
which became a second language for parts of the indigenous population.
Although it is nearly extinct today, some older Namibians still have
some knowledge of it.
German, along with English and
Afrikaans was a co-official language
Namibia from 1984 until its independence from
South Africa in 1990.
At this point, the Namibian government perceived
Afrikaans and German
as symbols of apartheid and colonialism, and decided English would be
the sole official language, claiming that it was a "neutral" language
as there were virtually no English native speakers in
Namibia at that
Afrikaans and several indigenous languages became
"national languages" by law, identifying them as elements of the
cultural heritage of the nation and ensuring that the state
acknowledged and supported their presence in the country. Today,
German is used in a wide variety of spheres, especially business and
tourism, as well as the churches (most notably the German-speaking
Evangelical Lutheran Church in
Namibia (GELK) ), schools (e.g. the
Deutsche Höhere Privatschule Windhoek ), literature (German-Namibian
authors include Giselher W. Hoffmann), radio (the Namibian
Broadcasting Corporation produces radio programs in German), and music
(e.g. artist EES ). The Allgemeine Zeitung is one of the three
biggest newspapers in
Namibia and the only German-language daily in
Mostly originating from different waves of immigration during the
19th and 20th centuries, an estimated 12,000 people speak German or a
German variety as a first language in
South Africa . One of the
largest communities consists of the speakers of "Nataler Deutsch ", a
Low German , concentrated in and around Wartburg . The
small town of
Kroondal in the North-West Province also has a mostly
German speaking population. The South African constitution identifies
German as a "commonly used" language and the Pan South African
Language Board is obligated to promote and ensure respect for it. The
community is strong enough that several German International schools
are supported such as the
Deutsche Schule Pretoria .
German language in the
United States , Pennsylvania
German language ,
Plautdietsch , and
In the United States, the states of
North Dakota and
South Dakota are
the only states where German is the most common language spoken at
home after English. German geographical names can be found throughout
the Midwest region of the country, such as New Ulm and many other
Minnesota ; Bismarck (North Dakota's state capital), Munich ,
Karlsruhe , and Strasburg (named after a town near Odessa in Ukraine)
in North Dakota;
New Braunfels , Fredericksburg , Weimar, and Muenster
in Texas; Corn (formerly Korn), Kiefer and Berlin in Oklahoma; and
Kiel , Berlin , and Germantown in Wisconsin.
Between 1843 and 1910, more than 5 million
overseas, mostly to the United States. German remained an important
language in churches, schools, newspapers, and even the administration
United States Brewers\' Association through the early 20th
century, but was severely repressed during
World War I . Over the
course of the 20th century, many of the descendants of 18th century
and 19th century immigrants ceased speaking German at home, but small
populations of speakers are still found in
Hutterites , Dunkards and some
Mennonites historically spoke Hutterite
German and a West
Central German variety of German known as
Pennsylvania German or
North Dakota (Hutterite Germans, Mennonites, Russian
Germans , Volga Germans, and
Baltic Germans ),
South Dakota , Montana
Texas German ),
Oklahoma , and
Ohio (72,570). A significant group of German
Amana Colonies and continue to practice speaking their heritage
language. Early twentieth century immigration was often to St. Louis ,
Chicago , New York ,
German-language newspapers in the U.S. in 1922
The dialects of German which are or were primarily spoken in colonies
or communities founded by German-speaking people resemble the dialects
of the regions the founders came from. For example, Hutterite German
resembles dialects of Carinthia .
Texas German is a dialect spoken in
the areas of
Texas settled by the
Adelsverein , such as New Braunfels
and Fredericksburg. In the
Amana Colonies in the state of Iowa, Amana
German is spoken.
Plautdietsch is a large minority language spoken in
Mexico by the
Mennonite communities, and is spoken by more
than 200,000 people in Mexico.
Pennsylvania German is a West Central
German dialect spoken by most of the
Amish population of Pennsylvania,
Indiana and resembles Palatinate German dialects.
Hutterite German is an
Upper German dialect of the Austro-Bavarian
variety of the German language, which is spoken by Hutterite
Canada and the United States. Hutterite is spoken in
the U.S. states of Washington ,
North Dakota , South Dakota
Minnesota ; and in the Canadian provinces of
Manitoba . Its speakers belong to some Schmiedleit,
Lehrerleit, and Dariusleit Hutterite groups, but there are also
speakers among the older generations of Prairieleit (the descendants
Hutterites who chose not to settle in colonies). Hutterite
children who grow up in the colonies learn to speak Hutterite German
before learning English, the standard language of the surrounding
areas, in school. Many of these children, though, continue with German
Grammar School, in addition to public school, throughout a student's
Canada , there are 622,650 speakers of German according to the
most recent census in 2006, with people of German ancestry (German
Canadians ) found throughout the country. German-speaking communities
are particularly found in
British Columbia (118,035) and Ontario
(230,330). There is a large and vibrant community in the city of
Ontario , which was at one point named Berlin. German
immigrants were instrumental in the country's three largest urban
Toronto , and
Vancouver ; post-Second World War
immigrants managed to preserve a fluency in the
German language in
their respective neighborhoods and sections. In the first half of the
20th century, over a million German-Canadians made the language
Canada's third most spoken after French and English .
Mexico there are also large populations of German ancestry ,
mainly in the cities of:
Mexico City ,
Mazatlán , Tapachula
Ecatepec de Morelos , and larger populations scattered in the states
of Chihuahua ,
Durango , and
Municipalities where Pomeranian dialects are co-official in
Espírito Santo ,
Brazil . Main articles:
Brazilian German and
Colonia Tovar dialect
In Brazil, the largest concentrations of German speakers are in the
Rio Grande do Sul (where Riograndenser Hunsrückisch
developed), Santa Catarina , Paraná ,
São Paulo and Espírito Santo
. There are also important concentrations of German-speaking
Bolivia . In the 20th century, over 100,000 German political refugees
and invited entrepreneurs settled in
Latin America , in countries such
Costa Rica ,
Panama , Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic, to
establish German-speaking enclaves, and reportedly there is a small
German immigration to Puerto Rico . In most locations where German
immigrants settled, the vast majority of their descendants no longer
speak German, as they have been largely assimilated into the host
language and culture of the specific location of settlement; generally
Spanish or Portuguese.
Co-official Statuses Of German Or German Varieties In Brazil
Espírito Santo (statewide cultural language)
Laranja da Terra
Santa Maria de Jetibá
Rio Grande do Sul
Santa Maria do Herval
* Santa Catarina
* Antônio Carlos
Australia , the state of South
Australia experienced a pronounced
wave of immigration in the 1840s from Prussia (particularly the
Silesia region). With the prolonged isolation from other German
speakers and contact with
Australian English , a unique dialect known
Barossa German has developed and is spoken predominantly in the
Barossa Valley near
Adelaide . Usage of German sharply declined with
the advent of
World War I , due to the prevailing anti-German
sentiment in the population and related government action. It
continued to be used as a first language into the twentieth century
but now its use is limited to a few older speakers.
German migration to
New Zealand in the 19th century was less
pronounced than migration from Britain, Ireland, and perhaps even
Scandinavia. Despite this there were significant pockets of
German-speaking communities which lasted until the first decades of
the 20th century. German-speakers settled principally in
Nelson , and Gore . At the last census (2006), 37,500 people in New
Zealand spoke German, making it the third most spoken European
language after English and French and overall the ninth most spoken
There is also an important German creole being studied and recovered,
Unserdeutsch , spoken in the former German colony of German New
Guinea , across
Micronesia and in northern
Australia (i.e. coastal
Queensland and Western
Australia ), by a few elderly people.
The risk of its extinction is serious and efforts to revive interest
in the language are being implemented by scholars.
GERMAN AS A FOREIGN LANGUAGE
Knowledge of German as a foreign language in the EU member
Turkey ), in per cent of the adult population (+15), 2005.
Like French and Spanish , German has become a classic second foreign
language in the western world, as English (Spanish in the US) is well
established as the first foreign language. German ranks second
(after English) among the best known foreign languages in the EU (on a
par with French) as well as in
Russia . In terms of student numbers
across all levels of education, German ranks third in the EU (after
English and French) as well as in the
United States (after Spanish
and French). In 2015, approximately 15.4 million people were in the
process of learning German across all levels of education worldwide.
As this number remained relatively stable since 2005 (± 1 million),
roughly 75–100 million people able to communicate in German as
foreign language can be inferred assuming an average course duration
of three years and other estimated parameters. According to a 2012
survey, 47 million people within the EU (i.e., up to two thirds of the
75-100 million worldwide) claimed to have sufficient German skills to
have a conversation. Within the EU, not counting countries where it is
an official language, German as a foreign language is most popular in
Northern Europe , namely the
Czech Republic ,
Denmark , the
Poland . German was once and, to some extent, is still, a lingua
franca in those parts of Europe.
Standard German originated not as a traditional dialect of a specific
region but as a written language . However, there are places where the
traditional regional dialects have been replaced by new vernaculars
based on standard German; that is the case in large stretches of
Germany but also in major cities in other parts of the
country. It is important to note, however, that the colloquial
standard German differs greatly from the formal written language,
especially in grammar and syntax, in which it has been influenced by
Standard German differs regionally between German-speaking countries
in vocabulary and some instances of pronunciation and even grammar and
orthography . This variation must not be confused with the variation
of local dialects . Even though the regional varieties of standard
German are only somewhat influenced by the local dialects, they are
very distinct. German is thus considered a pluricentric language .
In most regions, the speakers use a continuum from more dialectal
varieties to more standard varieties according to circumstances.
VARIETIES OF STANDARD GERMAN
The national and regional standard varieties of German.
In German linguistics ,
German dialects are distinguished from
varieties of standard German . The varieties of standard German refer
to the different local varieties of the pluricentric standard German.
They differ only slightly in lexicon and phonology. In certain
regions, they have replaced the traditional German dialects,
especially in Northern Germany.
German Standard German
Austrian Standard German
Austrian Standard German
Swiss Standard German
In the German-speaking parts of
Switzerland , mixtures of dialect and
standard are very seldom used, and the use of
Standard German is
largely restricted to the written language, though about 10% of the
Swiss residents speak
High German (aka Standard German) at home, but
mainly due to German immigrants. This situation has been called a
medial diglossia .
Swiss Standard German is used in the Swiss
education system, whereas
Austrian Standard German
Austrian Standard German is officially used
in the Austrian education system.
A mixture of dialect and standard does not normally occur in Northern
Germany either. The traditional varieties there are Low German,
Standard German is a
High German "variety". Because their
linguistic distance to it is greater, they do not mesh with Standard
German the way that
High German dialects (such as Bavarian, Swabian,
German dialects The continental West Germanic
Low German (Low Saxon) (yellow) and Low Franconian
(orange) dialects The
Central German dialects The Upper
German is a member of the West
Germanic language of the Germanic
family of languages , which in turn is part of the Indo-European
language family . The
German dialects are the traditional local
varieties; many of them are hardly understandable to someone who knows
only standard German, and they have great differences in lexicon ,
phonology and syntax . If a narrow definition of language based on
mutual intelligibility is used, many
German dialects are considered to
be separate languages (for instance in the
Ethnologue ). However, such
a point of view is unusual in German linguistics.
The German dialect continuum is traditionally divided most broadly
High German and
Low German , also called Low Saxon . However,
High German dialects and Low Saxon/
Low German dialects
do not belong to the same language. Nevertheless, in today's Germany,
Low German is often perceived as a dialectal variation of
Standard German on a functional level even by many native speakers.
The same phenomenon is found in the eastern Netherlands, as the
traditional dialects are not always identified with their Low
Low German origins, but with Dutch.
The variation among the
German dialects is considerable, with often
only neighbouring dialects being mutually intelligible. Some dialects
are not intelligible to people who know only Standard German. However,
German dialects belong to the dialect continuum of
High German and
Low German was the lingua franca of the
Hanseatic League . It
was the predominant language in Northern
Germany until the 16th
century. In 1534, the
Luther Bible was published. The translation is
considered to be an important step towards the evolution of the Early
High German . It aimed to be understandable to a broad audience
and was based mainly on Central and
Upper German varieties. The Early
High German language gained more prestige than
Low German and
became the language of science and literature. Around the same time,
the Hanseatic League, based around northern ports, lost its importance
as new trade routes to
Asia and the
Americas were established, and the
most powerful German states of that period were located in Middle and
The 18th and 19th centuries were marked by mass education in Standard
German in schools. Gradually,
Low German came to be politically viewed
as a mere dialect spoken by the uneducated. Today, Low Saxon can be
divided in two groups: Low Saxon varieties with a reasonable Standard
German influx and varieties of
Standard German with a Low Saxon
influence known as
Missingsch . Sometimes, Low Saxon and Low
Franconian varieties are grouped together because both are unaffected
High German consonant shift. However, the proportion of the
population who can understand and speak it has decreased continuously
World War II .
High German languages
High German is divided into
Central German ,
High Franconian (a
transitional dialect), and
Upper German .
Central German dialects
include Ripuarian ,
Moselle Franconian ,
Rhine Franconian , Central
Hessian , East Hessian ,
North Hessian ,
Thuringian , Silesian German
Lorraine Franconian , Mittelalemannisch ,
North Upper Saxon , High
Prussian , Lausitzisch-neumärkisch and Upper Saxon . It is spoken in
the southeastern Netherlands, eastern Belgium, Luxembourg, parts of
France and parts of
Germany roughly between the river Main and the
southern edge of the Lowlands. Modern
Standard German is mostly based
on Central German, but the common (linguistically incorrect) German
term for modern
Standard German is Hochdeutsch, High German.
Moselle Franconian varieties spoken in
Luxembourg have been
officially standardised and institutionalised and are usually
considered a separate language known as
High Franconian dialects are East Franconian and South
Upper German dialects include Northern
Austro-Bavarian , Central
Austro-Bavarian , Southern
Austro-Bavarian , Swabian , East Franconian
Alemannic German , Highest
Alemannic German , Alsatian and Low
Alemannic German . They are spoken in parts of the Alsace, southern
Germany, Liechtenstein, Austria, and the German-speaking parts of
Switzerland and Italy.
Wymysorys is a
High German dialect of
Poland native to
High German dialects of
High German varieties spoken by Ashkenazi Jews (mostly in
Russian Empire ) have several unique features, and are
usually considered as a separate language,
Yiddish . It is the only
Germanic language that does not use the
Latin script as the basis of
its standard alphabet .
German is a fusional language with a moderate degree of inflection ,
with three grammatical genders ; as such, there can be a large number
of words derived from the same root.
Declension of the German definite articles (all equivalent to
English "the"). Further information:
Grammatical gender in German
German nouns inflect by case, gender and number:
* four cases : nominative , accusative , genitive and dative .
* three genders : masculine, feminine and neuter. Word endings
sometimes reveal grammatical gender: for instance, nouns ending in
-ung (-ing), -schaft (-ship), -keit or heit (-hood, -ness) are
feminine, and nouns ending in -chen or -lein (diminutive forms) are
neuter and nouns ending in -ismus (
-ism ) are masculine. Others are
more variable, sometimes depending on the region in which the language
is spoken; and some endings are not restricted to one gender, e.g. -er
(-er ), e.g. Feier (feminine), celebration, party, Arbeiter
(masculine), labourer, and Gewitter (neuter), thunderstorm.
* two numbers: singular and plural.
This degree of inflection is considerably less than in Old High
German and other old
Indo-European languages such as
Latin , Ancient
Greek , and
Sanskrit , and it is also somewhat less than, for
Old English , modern Icelandic and Russian . The three
genders have collapsed in the plural. With four cases and three
genders plus plural, there are 16 permutations of case and
gender/number, but there are only six forms of the definite article ,
which together cover all 16 permutations. In nouns, inflection for
case is required in the singular for strong masculine and neuter
nouns, in the genitive and sometimes in the dative. Both of these
cases are losing ground to substitutes in informal speech . The dative
noun ending is considered somewhat old-fashioned in many contexts and
is often dropped, but it is still used in proverbs and the like, in
formal speech and in written language. Weak masculine nouns share a
common case ending for genitive, dative and accusative in the
singular. Feminine nouns are not declined in the singular. The plural
has an inflection for the dative. In total, seven inflectional endings
(not counting plural markers) exist in German: -s, -es, -n, -ns, -en,
In German orthography, nouns and most words with the syntactical
function of nouns are capitalised to make it easier for readers to
determine the function of a word within a sentence (Am Freitag ging
ich einkaufen. – "On Friday I went shopping."; Eines Tages kreuzte
er endlich auf. – "One day he finally showed up.") This convention
is almost unique to German today (shared perhaps only by the closely
Luxembourgish language and several insular dialects of the
North Frisian language ), but it was historically common in other
languages such as Danish (which abolished the capitalization of nouns
in 1948) and English.
Like the other Germanic languages, German forms noun compounds in
which the first noun modifies the category given by the second,:
Hundehütte ("dog hut"; specifically: "dog kennel"). Unlike English,
whose newer compounds or combinations of longer nouns are often
written in "open" with separating spaces, German (like some other
Germanic languages) nearly always uses the "closed" form without
spaces, for example: Baumhaus ("tree house"). Like English, German
allows arbitrarily long compounds in theory (see also English
compounds ). The longest German word verified to be actually in
(albeit very limited) use is
which, literally translated, is "beef labelling supervision duty
assignment law" . However, examples like this are perceived by native
speakers as excessively bureaucratic, stylistically awkward or even
The inflection of standard
German verbs includes:
* two main conjugation classes: weak and strong (as in English).
Additionally, there is a third class, known as mixed verbs, whose
conjugation combines features of both the strong and weak patterns.
* three persons : first, second and third.
* two numbers : singular and plural.
* three moods : indicative , imperative and subjunctive (in addition
to infinitive )
* two voices : active and passive. The passive voice uses auxiliary
verbs and is divisible into static and dynamic. Static forms show a
constant state and use the verb ’’to be’’ (sein). Dynamic
forms show an action and use the verb “to become’’ (werden).
* two tenses without auxiliary verbs (present and preterite ) and
four tenses constructed with auxiliary verbs (perfect , pluperfect ,
future and future perfect ).
* the distinction between grammatical aspects is rendered by
combined use of subjunctive and/or preterite marking so the plain
indicative voice uses neither of those two markers; the subjunctive by
itself conveys secondhand information; subjunctive plus preterite
marks the conditional state; and the preterite alone shows either
plain indicative (in the past), or functions as a (literal)
alternative for either second-hand-information or the conditional
state of the verb, when necessary for clarity.
* the distinction between perfect and progressive aspect is and has,
at every stage of development, been a productive category of the older
language and in nearly all documented dialects, but, strangely enough,
it is now rigorously excluded from written usage in its present
* disambiguation of completed vs. uncompleted forms is widely
observed and regularly generated by common prefixes (blicken ,
The meaning of basic verbs can be expanded and sometimes radically
changed through the use of a number of prefixes. Some prefixes have a
specific meaning; the prefix ZER- refers to destruction, as in
ZERreißen (to tear apart), ZERbrechen (to break apart), ZERschneiden
(to cut apart). Other prefixes have only the vaguest meaning in
themselves; VER- is found in a number of verbs with a large variety of
meanings, as in VERsuchen (to try) from suchen (to seek), VERnehmen
(to interrogate) from nehmen (to take), VERteilen (to distribute) from
teilen (to share), VERstehen (to understand) from stehen (to stand).
Other examples include the following: haften (to stick), VERhaften
(to detain); kaufen (to buy), VERkaufen (to sell); hören (to hear),
AUFhören (to cease); fahren (to drive), ERfahren (to experience).
German verbs have a separable prefix, often with an adverbial
function. In finite verb forms, it is split off and moved to the end
of the clause and is hence considered by some to be a "resultative
particle". For example, mitgehen, meaning "to go along", would be
split, giving Gehen Sie mit? (Literal: "Go you with?"; Idiomatic: "Are
you going along?").
Indeed, several parenthetical clauses may occur between the prefix of
a finite verb and its complement (ankommen = to arrive, er kam an = he
arrived, er ist angekommen = he has arrived): Er KAM am Freitagabend
nach einem harten Arbeitstag und dem üblichen Ärger, der ihn schon
seit Jahren immer wieder an seinem Arbeitsplatz plagt, mit fraglicher
Freude auf ein Mahl, das seine Frau ihm, wie er hoffte, bereits
aufgetischt hatte, endlich zu Hause AN.
A selectively literal translation of this example to illustrate the
point might look like this: He "came" on Friday evening, after a hard
day at work and the usual annoyances that had time and again been
troubling him for years now at his workplace, with questionable joy,
to a meal which, as he hoped, his wife had already put on the table,
finally at home "on".
German word order is generally with the
V2 word order restriction and
also with the
SOV word order restriction for main clauses . For polar
questions, exclamations and wishes, the finite verb always has the
first position. In subordinate clauses, the verb occurs at the very
German requires for a verbal element (main verb or auxiliary verb )
to appear second in the sentence . The verb is preceded by the topic
of the sentence. The element in focus appears at the end of the
sentence. For a sentence without an auxiliary, these are some
possibilities: Der alte Mann gab mir gestern das Buch. (The old man
gave me yesterday the book; normal order) Das Buch gab mir gestern der
alte Mann. (The book gave me yesterday the old man) Das Buch gab der
alte Mann mir gestern. (The book gave the old man me yesterday) Das
Buch gab mir der alte Mann gestern. (The book gave me the old man
yesterday) Gestern gab mir der alte Mann das Buch. (Yesterday gave
me the old man the book, normal order) Mir gab der alte Mann das Buch
gestern. ( me gave the old man the book yesterday (entailing: as for
you, it was another date))
The position of a noun in a German sentence has no bearing on its
being a subject, an object or another argument. In a declarative
sentence in English, if the subject does not occur before the
predicate, the sentence could well be misunderstood.
However, German's flexibile word order allows one to emphasise
Normal word order: Der Direktor betrat gestern um 10 Uhr mit einem
Schirm in der Hand sein Büro. The manager entered yesterday at 10
o'clock with an umbrella in the hand his office.
Object in front: Sein Büro betrat der Direktor gestern um 10 Uhr
mit einem Schirm in der Hand. His office entered the manager yesterday
at 10 o'clock with an umbrella in the hand. The object Sein Büro
(his office) is thus highlighted; it could be the topic of the next
Adverb of time in front: Gestern betrat der Direktor um 10 Uhr mit
einem Schirm in der Hand sein Büro. (aber heute ohne Schirm)
Yesterday entered the manager at 10 o'clock with an umbrella in the
hand his office. (but today without umbrella)
Both time expressions in front: Gestern um 10 Uhr betrat der
Direktor mit einem Schirm in der Hand sein Büro. Yesterday at 10
o'clock entered the manager with an umbrella in the hand his office.
The full-time specification Gestern um 10 Uhr is highlighted.
Another possibility: Gestern um 10 Uhr betrat der Direktor sein
Büro mit einem Schirm in der Hand. Yesterday at 10 o'clock the
manager entered his office with an umbrella in his hand. Both the
time specification and the fact he carried an umbrella are
Swapped adverbs: Der Direktor betrat mit einem Schirm in der Hand
gestern um 10 Uhr sein Büro. The manager entered with an umbrella in
the hand yesterday at 10 o'clock his office. The phrase mit einem
Schirm in der Hand is highlighted.
Swapped object: Der Direktor betrat gestern um 10 Uhr sein Büro
mit einem Schirm in der Hand. The manager entered yesterday at 10
o'clock his office with an umbrella in his hand. The time
specification and the object sein Büro (his office) are lightly
The flexible word order also allows one to use language "tools" (such
as poetic meter and figures of speech ) more freely.
When an auxiliary verb is present, it appears in second position, and
the main verb appears at the end. This occurs notably in the creation
of the perfect tense . Many word orders are still possible: Der alte
Mann hat mir heute das Buch gegeben. (The old man has me today the
book given.) Das Buch hat der alte Mann mir heute gegeben. (THE BOOK
has the old man me today given.) Heute hat der alte Mann mir das Buch
gegeben. (TODAY has the old man me the book given.)
The main verb may appear in first position to put stress on the
action itself. The auxiliary verb is still in second position.
Gegeben hat mir der alte Mann das Buch heute. (GIVEN has me the old
man the book 'TODAY\'.) The bare fact that the book has been given is
emphasized, as well as 'today'.
Sentences using modal verbs place the infinitive at the end. For
example, the English sentence "Should he go home?" would be rearranged
in German to say "Should he (to) home go?" (Soll er nach Hause
gehen?). Thus, in sentences with several subordinate or relative
clauses, the infinitives are clustered at the end. Compare the similar
clustering of prepositions in the following (highly contrived) English
sentence: "What did you bring that book that I do not like to be read
to out of up for?"
German subordinate clauses have all verbs clustered at the end. Given
that auxiliaries encode future , passive , modality , and the perfect
, very long chains of verbs at the end of the sentence can occur. In
these constructions, the past participle in ge- is often replaced by
the infinitive. Man nimmt an, dass der Deserteur wohl erschossenV
wordenpsv seinperf sollmod One suspects that the deserter probably
shot become be should. ("It is suspected that the deserter probably
had been shot") Er wusste nicht, dass der Agent einen
Nachschlüssel hatte machen lassen He knew not that the agent a
picklock had make let Er wusste nicht, dass der Agent einen
Nachschlüssel machen lassen hatte He knew not that the agent a
picklock make let had ("He did not know that the agent had had a
The order at the end of such strings is subject to variation, but the
latter version is unusual.
ÖWB , Austrian
Dictionary from 1985.
Most German vocabulary is derived from the Germanic branch of the
European language family. However, there are a significant amount of
loanwords from other languages, in particular from
Latin , Greek ,
Italian , French and most recently English. In the early 19th
Joachim Heinrich Campe estimated that one fifth of the total
German vocabulary was of French or
Latin words were already imported into the predecessor of the German
language during the
Roman Empire and underwent all the characteristic
phonetic changes in German. Their origin is thus no longer
recognizable for most speakers (e.g. Pforte, Tafel, Mauer, Käse,
Latin porta, tabula, murus, caseus, Colonia). Borrowing
Latin continued after the fall of the
Roman Empire during
Christianization, mediated by the church and monasteries. Another
important influx of
Latin words can be observed during Renaissance
humanism . In a scholarly context, the borrowings from
continued until today, in the last few decades often indirectly
through borrowings from English. During the 15th to 17th centuries,
the influence of Italian was great, leading to many Italian loanwords
in the fields of architecture, finance, and music. The influence of
French language in the 17th to 19th centuries resulted in an even
greater import of French words. The English influence was already
present in the 19th century, but it did not become dominant until the
second half of the 20th century.
At the same time, the effectiveness of the
German language in forming
equivalents for foreign words from its inherited Germanic stem
repertory is great. Thus,
Notker Labeo was able to translate
Aristotelian treatises in pure (Old High) German in the decades after
the year 1000. The tradition of loan translation was revitalized in
the 18th century, with linguists like
Joachim Heinrich Campe , who
introduced close to 300 words that are still used in modern German.
Even today, there are movements that try to promote the
(substitution) of foreign words deemed unnecessary with German
alternatives. It is claimed that this would also help in spreading
modern or scientific notions among the less educated and as well
democratise public life.
As in English, there are many pairs of synonyms due to the enrichment
of the Germanic vocabulary with loanwords from
Latin and Latinized
Greek. These words often have different connotations from their
Germanic counterparts and are usually perceived as more scholarly.
* Historie – "historical", (Geschichte, geschichtlich)
* Humanität – "humaneness", (Menschlichkeit)
* Millennium – "millennium", (Jahrtausend)
* Perzeption – "perception", (Wahrnehmung)
* Vokabular – "vocabulary", (Wortschatz)
The size of the vocabulary of German is difficult to estimate. The
Deutsches Wörterbuch (The German Dictionary) initiated by Jacob and
Wilhelm Grimm already contained over 330,000 headwords in its first
edition. The modern German scientific vocabulary is estimated at nine
million words and word groups (based on the analysis of 35 million
sentences of a corpus in Leipzig, which as of July 2003 included 500
million words in total).
Duden is the de facto official dictionary of the German language,
first published by Konrad
Duden in 1880. The
Duden is updated
regularly, with new editions appearing every four or five years. As of
August 2013 it is in its 26th edition and in 12 volumes, each
covering different aspects such as loanwords , etymology ,
pronunciation , synonyms , and so forth.
The first of these volumes, Die deutsche Rechtschreibung (English:
German Orthography), has long been the prescriptive source for the
spelling of German. The
Duden has become the bible of the German
language, being the definitive set of rules regarding grammar,
spelling and usage of German.
Österreichisches Wörterbuch ("Austrian Dictionary"),
ÖWB , is the official dictionary of the German language
in the Republic of
Austria . It is edited by a group of linguists
under the authority of the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education,
Arts and Culture (German: Bundesministerium für Unterricht, Kunst und
Kultur). It is the Austrian counterpart to the German
contains a number of terms unique to
Austrian German or more
frequently used or differently pronounced there. A considerable
amount of this "Austrian" vocabulary is also common in Southern
Germany , especially
Bavaria , and some of it is used in Switzerland
as well. The most recent edition is the 42nd from 2012. Since the 39th
edition from 2001 the orthography of the
ÖWB was adjusted to the
German spelling reform of 1996 . The dictionary is also officially
used in the Italian province of
South Tyrol .
German orthography and
German braille German
alphabet , one of Austria's elementary school handwriting programs
German alphabet , elementary school handwriting program in some
West German states
German is written in the
Latin alphabet. In addition to the 26
standard letters, German has three vowels with Umlaut , namely ä, ö
and ü, as well as the Eszett or scharfes s (sharp s),
ß . In
Switzerland "ss" is used instead of "ß". Additionally, when written
in capitals, "ß" is replaced with "ss" in Germany, whereas in Austria
it is traditionally replaced with "sz" (the same digraph used in
Hungarian for the "s" sound); there are some exceptions to these rules
Written texts in German are easily recognisable as such by
distinguishing features such as umlauts and certain orthographical
features – German is the only major language that capitalizes all
nouns, a relic of a widespread practice in
Northern Europe in the
early modern era (including English for a while, in the 1700s) – and
the frequent occurrence of long compounds. The longest German word
that has been published is
made of 79 characters. Because legibility and convenience set certain
boundaries, compounds consisting of more than three or four nouns are
almost exclusively found in humorous contexts. (In contrast, although
English can also string nouns together, it usually separates the nouns
with spaces. For example, "toilet bowl cleaner".)
German orthography reform of 1996 ,
ß replaced ss after
long vowels and diphthongs and before consonants, word-, or
partial-word-endings. In reformed spelling,
ß replaces ss only after
long vowels and diphthongs. Because there is no capital
ß , it is
always written as "SS" when capitalization is required. For example,
Maßband (tape measure) is capitalized MASSBAND. An exception is the
ß in legal documents and forms when capitalizing names. To
avoid confusion with similar names, an "ß" is used instead of "SS".
(So: "KREßLEIN" instead of "KRESSLEIN".) A capital
ß has been
proposed and included in
Unicode character U+1E9E),
but it is not yet recognized as standard German. In
Switzerland , ß
is not used at all.
Umlaut vowels (ä, ö, ü) are commonly transcribed with ae, oe, and
ue if the umlauts are not available on the keyboard or other medium
used. In the same manner
ß can be transcribed as ss. Some operating
systems use key sequences to extend the set of possible characters to
include, amongst other things, umlauts; in
Microsoft Windows this is
Alt codes . German readers understand these transcriptions
(although they appear unusual), but they are avoided if the regular
umlauts are available because they are a makeshift, not proper
spelling. (In Westphalia and Schleswig-Holstein, city and family names
exist where the extra e has a vowel lengthening effect, e.g. Raesfeld
, Coesfeld and Itzehoe , but this use of the letter e after a/o/u
does not occur in the present-day spelling of words other than proper
(Listen to a German speaker recite the alphabet in German)
Problems playing this file? See media help .
There is no general agreement on where letters with umlauts occur in
the sorting sequence. Telephone directories treat them by replacing
them with the base vowel followed by an e. Some dictionaries sort each
umlauted vowel as a separate letter after the base vowel, but more
commonly words with umlauts are ordered immediately after the same
word without umlauts. As an example in a telephone book Ärzte occurs
after Adressenverlage but before Anlagenbauer (because Ä is replaced
by Ae). In a dictionary Ärzte comes after Arzt, but in some
dictionaries Ärzte and all other words starting with Ä may occur
after all words starting with A. In some older dictionaries or
indexes, initial Sch and St are treated as separate letters and are
listed as separate entries after S, but they are usually treated as
S+C+H and S+T.
Written German also typically uses an alternative opening inverted
comma (quotation mark ) as in „Guten Morgen!“.
A Russian dictionary from 1931, showing the "German alphabet"
– the 3rd and 4th columns of each half are
Fraktur and Kurrent
respectively, with the footnote explaining ligatures used in Fraktur.
2nd Orthographic Conference (German) ,
Fraktur dispute , and
German orthography reform of 1944
Until the early 20th century, German was mostly printed in
blackletter typefaces (mostly in
Fraktur , but also in
and written in corresponding handwriting (for example
Sütterlin ). These variants of the
Latin alphabet are very different
from the serif or sans-serif Antiqua typefaces used today, and the
handwritten forms in particular are difficult for the untrained to
read. The printed forms, however, were claimed by some to be more
readable when used for
Germanic languages . (Often, foreign names in
a text were printed in an Antiqua typeface even though the rest of the
text was in Fraktur.) The Nazis initially promoted
Schwabacher because they were considered
Aryan , but they abolished
them in 1941, claiming that these letters were Jewish. It is also
believed that the Nazi régime had banned this script as they realized
Fraktur would inhibit communication in the territories occupied
World War II .
Fraktur script however remains present in everyday life in pub
signs, beer brands and other forms of advertisement, where it is used
to convey a certain rusticality and antiquity.
A proper use of the long s , (langes s), ſ , is essential for
writing German text in
Fraktur typefaces. Many Antiqua typefaces
include the long s also. A specific set of rules applies for the use
of long s in German text, but nowadays it is rarely used in Antiqua
typesetting. Any lower case "s" at the beginning of a syllable would
be a long s, as opposed to a terminal s or short s (the more common
variation of the letter s), which marks the end of a syllable; for
example, in differentiating between the words Wachſtube (guard-house)
and Wachstube (tube of polish/wax). One can easily decide which "s" to
use by appropriate hyphenation, (Wach-ſtube vs. Wachs-tube). The long
s only appears in lower case .
REFORM OF 1996
German orthography reform of 1996
The orthography reform of 1996 led to public controversy and
considerable dispute. The states (Bundesländer) of North
Bavaria would not accept it. The dispute landed
at one point in the highest court, which made a short issue of it,
claiming that the states had to decide for themselves and that only in
schools could the reform be made the official rule – everybody else
could continue writing as they had learned it. After 10 years, without
any intervention by the federal parliament, a major revision was
installed in 2006, just in time for the coming school year. In 2007,
some traditional spellings were finally invalidated, whereas in 2008,
on the other hand, many of the old comma rules were again put in
The most noticeable change was probably in the use of the letter ß,
called scharfes s (Sharp S) or ess-zett (pronounced ess-tsett).
Traditionally, this letter was used in three situations:
* After a long vowel or vowel combination,
* Before a t, and
* At the end of a syllable
Thus Füße, paßt, and daß. Currently only the first rule is in
effect, thus Füße, passt, and dass. The word Fu
ß 'foot' has the
ß because it contains a long vowel, even though that letter
occurs at the end of a syllable. The logic of this change is that an
'ß' is a single letter whereas 'ss' obviously are two letters, so the
same distinction applies as for instance between the words den and
Spoken German in Goethe\'s Faust
In German, vowels (excluding diphthongs; see below) are either short
or long, as follows:
Short /ɛ/ is realized as in stressed syllables (including secondary
stress ), but as in unstressed syllables. Note that stressed short
/ɛ/ can be spelled either with e or with ä (for instance, hätte
"would have" and Kette "chain" rhyme). In general, the short vowels
are open and the long vowels are close. The one exception is the open
/ɛː/ sound of long Ä; in some varieties of standard German, /ɛː/
and /eː/ have merged into , removing this anomaly. In that case,
pairs like Bären/Beeren 'bears/berries' or Ähre/Ehre 'spike (of
wheat)/honour' become homophonous (see:
Captain Bluebear ).
In many varieties of standard German, an unstressed /ɛr/ is not
pronounced , but vocalised to .
Whether any particular vowel letter represents the long or short
phoneme is not completely predictable, although the following
* If a vowel (other than i) is at the end of a syllable or followed
by a single consonant, it is usually pronounced long (e.g. Hof ).
* If a vowel is followed by h or if an i is followed by an e, it is
* If the vowel is followed by a double consonant (e.g. ff, ss or
tt), ck, tz or a consonant cluster (e.g. st or nd), it is nearly
always short (e.g. hoffen ). Double consonants are used only for this
function of marking preceding vowels as short; the consonant itself is
never pronounced lengthened or doubled, in other words this is not a
feeding order of gemination and then vowel shortening .
Both of these rules have exceptions (e.g. hat "has" is short despite
the first rule; Mond , "moon " is long despite the second rule). For
an i that is neither in the combination ie (making it long) nor
followed by a double consonant or cluster (making it short), there is
no general rule. In some cases, there are regional differences: In
Hessen ), the o in the proper name "Hoffmann" is
pronounced long, whereas most other
Germans would pronounce it short;
the same applies to the e in the geographical name "
Mecklenburg " for
people in that region. The word Städte "cities", is pronounced with a
short vowel by some (
Jan Hofer , ARD Television ) and with a long
vowel by others (
Marietta Slomka ,
ZDF Television). Finally, a vowel
followed by ch can be short (Fach "compartment", Küche "kitchen")
or long (Suche "search", Bücher "books") almost at random. Thus,
Lache is homographous between Lache "puddle" and Lache "manner of
laughing" (colloquial) or lache! "laugh!" (imperative).
German vowels can form the following digraphs (in writing) and
diphthongs (in pronunciation); note that the pronunciation of some of
them (ei, äu, eu) is very different from what one would expect when
considering the component letters:
ai, ei, ay, ey
Additionally, the digraph ie generally represents the phoneme /iː/,
which is not a diphthong. In many varieties, an /r/ at the end of a
syllable is vocalised. However, a sequence of a vowel followed by such
a vocalised /r/ is not a phonemic diphthong: Bär "bear", er "he",
wir "we", Tor "gate", kurz "short", Wörter "words".
In most varieties of standard German, syllables that begin with a
vowel are preceded by a glottal stop .
With approximately 25 phonemes, the German consonant system exhibits
an average number of consonants in comparison with other languages.
One of the more noteworthy ones is the unusual affricate /p͡f/. The
consonant inventory of the standard language is shown below.
* 1/x/ has two allophones, and , after back and front vowels,
* 2/r/ has three allophones in free variation: , and . In the
syllable coda , the allophone is found in many varieties.
* 3 The voiceless stops /p/, /t/, /k/ are aspirated except when
preceded by a sibilant , exactly as in English.
* 4 The voiced stops /b/, /d/, /ɡ/ are devoiced to /p/, /t/, /k/,
respectively, in word-final position.
* 5/d͡ʒ/ and /ʒ/ occur only in words of foreign (usually English
or French) origin.
* Where a stressed syllable has an initial vowel, it is preceded by
. As its presence is predictable from context, is not considered a
* C standing by itself is not a German letter. In borrowed words, it
is usually pronounced (before ä, äu, e, i, ö, ü, y) or (before
a, o, u, and consonants). The combination CK is, as in English, used
to indicate that the preceding vowel is short.
* CH occurs often and is pronounced either (after ä, ai, äu, e,
ei, eu, i, ö, ü and consonants; in the diminutive suffix -chen; and
at the beginning of a word), (after a, au, o, u), or at the
beginning of a word before a, o, u and consonants. CH never occurs at
the beginning of an originally German word. In borrowed words with
initial Ch before front vowels (Chemie "chemistry" etc.), is
considered standard. However, Upper
Germans and Franconians (in the
geographical sense) replace it with , as German as a whole does before
darker vowels and consonants such as in Charakter, Christentum. Middle
Germans (except Franconians) will borrow a from the French model.
Both agree in considering each other's variant, and Upper
the standard in , as particularly awkward and unusual.
* DSCH is pronounced (e.g. Dschungel /ˈd͡ʒʊŋəl/ "jungle") but
appears in a few loanwords only.
* F is pronounced as in "father".
* H is pronounced as in "home" at the beginning of a syllable.
After a vowel it is silent and only lengthens the vowel (e.g. Reh =
roe deer ).
* J is pronounced in Germanic words (Jahr ) (like "y" in "year").
In recent loanwords, it follows more or less the respective languages'
* L is always pronounced , never * (the English "dark L ").
* Q only exists in combination with U and is pronounced . It appears
in both Germanic and
Latin words (quer ; Qualität ). But as most
words containing q are Latinate, the letter is considerably rarer in
German than it is in English.
* R is usually pronounced in a guttural fashion (a voiced uvular
fricative or uvular trill ) in front of a vowel or consonant (Rasen ;
Burg ). In spoken German, however, it is commonly vocalised after a
vowel (er being pronounced rather like – Burg ). In some varieties,
the R is pronounced as a "tongue-tip" r (the alveolar trill ).
* S in German is pronounced (as in "zebra") if it forms the
syllable onset (e.g. Sohn ), otherwise (e.g. Bus ). In
Switzerland and often in Southern Germany, it is always pronounced . A
SS indicates that the preceding vowel is short. ST and SP at the
beginning of words of German origin are pronounced and ,
ß (a letter unique to German called scharfes S or Eszett ) was a
ligature of a double S and of an SZ and is always pronounced .
Blackletter typeface, it traditionally replaced SS at
the end of a syllable (e.g. ich muss → ich muß; ich müsste → ich
müßte); within a word it contrasts with SS in indicating that the
preceding vowel is long (compare in Maßen "with moderation" and in
Massen "in loads"). The use of
ß has recently been limited by the
latest German spelling reform and is no longer used for SS after a
short vowel (e.g. ich mu
ß and ich müßte were always pronounced with
a short U/Ü);
Liechtenstein already abolished it in
* SCH is pronounced (like "sh" in "shine").
* TION in
Latin loanwords is pronounced .
* TH is found, rarely, in loanwords and is pronounced if the
loanword is from Greek, and usually as in the original if the loanword
is from English (though some, mostly older, speakers tend to replace
the English th-sound with ).
* V is pronounced in a limited number of words of Germanic origin,
such as Vater , Vogel "bird", von "from, of", vor "before, in front
of", voll "full" and the prefix ver-. It is also used in loanwords,
where it is normally pronounced . This pronunciation is common in
words like Vase, Vikar, Viktor, Viper, Ventil, vulgär, and English
loanwords; however, pronunciation is by some people in some in the
very south. The only non-German word in which "v" is always pronounced
"f" is Eva (Eve).
* W is pronounced as in "vacation" (e.g. was ).
* Y is pronounced as when long, and when short (as in Hygiene ;
Labyrinth or Gymnasium /ɡʏmˈnaːziʊm/), except in ay and ey which
are both pronounced . It is also often used in loanwords and
pronounced like in the original language like in Style or Recycling.
* Z is always pronounced (e.g. zog ), except in loanwords. A TZ
indicates that the preceding vowel is short.
For more details on this topic, see
High German consonant shift .
German does not have any dental fricatives (as English TH). The TH
sounds, which the
English language still has, disappeared on the
continent in German with the consonant shifts between the 8th and the
10th centuries. It is sometimes possible to find parallels between
English and German by replacing the English TH with D in German:
"Thank" → in German Dank, "this" and "that" → dies and das, "thou
" (old 2nd person singular pronoun) → du, "think" → denken,
"thirsty" → durstig and many other examples.
Likewise, the GH in Germanic English words, pronounced in several
different ways in modern English (as an F, or not at all), can often
be linked to German CH: "to laugh" → lachen, "through" and
"thorough" → durch, "high" → hoch, "naught" → nichts, "light"
→ leicht or Licht, "sight" → Sicht, "daughter" → Tochter,
"neighbour" → Nachbar.
German language is used in
German literature and can be traced
back to the
Middle Ages , with the most notable authors of the period
Walther von der Vogelweide
Walther von der Vogelweide and
Wolfram von Eschenbach . The
Nibelungenlied , whose author remains unknown, is also an important
work of the epoch. The fairy tales collections collected and published
by Jacob and
Wilhelm Grimm in the 19th century became famous
throughout the world.
Reformer and theologian
Martin Luther , who was the first to
Bible into German, is widely credited for having set the
basis for the modern "High German" language. Among the most well known
German poets and authors are Lessing , Goethe , Schiller , Kleist ,
Hoffmann , Brecht and Heine . Thirteen German-speaking people have won
Nobel Prize in literature :
Theodor Mommsen , Rudolf Christoph
Paul von Heyse ,
Gerhart Hauptmann ,
Carl Spitteler , Thomas
Nelly Sachs ,
Hermann Hesse ,
Heinrich Böll ,
Elias Canetti ,
Günter Grass ,
Elfriede Jelinek and
Herta Müller .
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
GERMAN LOANWORDS IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE
English has taken many loanwords from German, often without any
change of spelling (aside from, often, the elimination of umlauts and
not capitalizing nouns):
MEANING OF GERMAN WORD
to descend by rope / to fastrope
onset / entry / math / approach
connection / access / annexation
automation / machine
novel concerned with the personal development or education of the
flash / lightning
delikatessen / delicatessen
delicate / delicious food items
lit. "double going / living person alive", look-alike of somebody
professional position within a theatre or opera company that deals
mainly with research and development of plays or operas
lit. "replacement", typically used to refer to an inferior
substitute for a desired substance or item
feast / celebration
ski jumping for distance on alpine equipment
snug feeling, cosiness, good nature, geniality
form or shape / creature / scheme; refers to a concept of
health / bless you! (when someone sneezes)
meteo. "holy shine" / halo
lit. mil. "area behind the front-line": interior / backwoods
out of order, not working
lit. "cats' lament": hangover, crapulence
lit. "children's garden" – nursery or preschool
fake art, something produced exclusively for sale
cabbage salad (bastardized)
herb, cabbage in some dialects
guiding theme (the verb leiten means "to guide, to lead")
lit. "taking goods by force" (original meaning "to take away
furniture" shifted in German and was borrowed by English both during
Thirty Years War )
lit. "rumbling ghost"
diplomacy based on practical objectives rather than ideals
empire or realm
backpack (Ruck → Rücken which means "back")
shredded and salted cabbage fermented in its own juice
taking pleasure in someone else's misfortune
lit. "place/area/room of a language": area where a certain language
lit. "jammed": inhibited, uptight
lit. "forest dieback", dying floral environment
desire, pleasure, or inclination to travel or walk
lit. "perception of the world": ideology
lit. "wonder child": child prodigy, whiz kid
lit. "spirit of the times": the spirit of the age; the trend at
chess term lit. "compulsion to move"
The use and learning of the
German language are promoted by a number
Goethe-Institut (named after the famous German
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe ) aims to enhance the knowledge of
German culture and language within Europe and the rest of the world.
This is done by holding exhibitions and conferences with
German-related themes, and providing training and guidance in the
learning and use of the German language. For example, the
Goethe-Institut teaches the Goethe-Zertifikat German language
VEREIN DEUTSCHE SPRACHE
The Dortmund-based Verein Deutsche Sprache (VDS), which was founded
in 1997, supports the
German language and is the largest language
association of citizens in the world. The VDS has more than
thirty-five thousand members in over seventy countries. Its founder,
statistics professor Dr. Walter Krämer, has remained chairperson of
the association from its beginnings.
Deutsche Welle logo
The German state broadcaster
Deutsche Welle is the equivalent of the
BBC World Service and provides radio and television broadcasts
in German and 30 other languages across the globe. Its German
language services are tailored for
German language learners by being
spoken at slow speed.
Deutsche Welle also provides an e-learning
website to learn German.
German family name etymology
List of German exonyms
List of German expressions in English
List of German words of French origin
* List of non-English-language newspapers in New South Wales#German
List of pseudo-German words adapted to English
List of terms used for Germans
Names for the German language
* ^ Mikael Parkvall, "Världens 100 största språk 2010" (The
World's 100 Largest Languages in 2010), in
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* ^ A B C D E "
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Sanders: Sachsensprache, Hansesprache, Plattdeutsch:
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* ^ Fahlbusch, Erwin and Bromiley, Geoffrey William. The
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Wm. B. Eerdmans; Brill, 1999–2003, 1:244.
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* ^ Jacob Grimm, Geschichte der deutschen Sprache (Leipzig 1848)
* ^ Anstalt G. Freytag & Berndt (1911). Geographischer Atlas zur
Vaterlandskunde an der österreichischen Mittelschulen. Vienna: K. u.
k. Hof-Kartographische. "Census December 31st 1910"
* ^ A magyar szent korona országainak 1910. évi
népszámlálása. Első rész. A népesség főbb adatai. (in
Hungarian). Budapest: Magyar Kir. Központi Statisztikai Hivatal
* ^ Synopsis of the
Deutsches Wörterbuch (in English) at the
Language Research Centre, Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and
Humanities, retrieved 27 June 2012.
* ^ Gerhard Weiss, Up-to-Date and with a Past: The "Duden" and Its
History, 1995, The Publisher as Teacher, 6 DOI, online from jstor
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2000, Nr. 1, S. 30-54.
* ^ Theodor Siebs: Deutsche Bühnenaussprache (zuletzt als:
Deutsche Aussprache. Reine und gemässigte Hochlautung mit
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* ^ "
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* ^ "Map on page of Polish Commission on
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от 21.05.2002 N 5-09 устав муниципального".
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10,1% Hochdeutsch und 4,6% Englisch
* ^ nl:Nederduits
* ^ some of which might be reborrowings from Germanic Frankish
* ^ This phenomenon is known in German as
Denglisch or in English
Germish or Denglisch.
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Language and Literature’s
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(1: The Publisher as Teacher): 7–21.
JSTOR 3531328 . doi
* ^ Zur Definition und sprachwissenschaftlichen Abgrenzung
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407 Seiten; 1,3 MB) Archived 14 May 2014 at the
Wayback Machine .,
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entstand aus den Beiträgen der Tagung „Österreichisches
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* ^ Facsimile of Bormann\'s Memorandum (in German)
The memorandum itself is typed in Antiqua, but the
is printed in Fraktur.
"For general attention, on behalf of the Führer, I make the
It is wrong to regard or to describe the so-called Gothic script as a
German script. In reality, the so-called Gothic script consists of
Schwabach Jew letters. Just as they later took control of the
newspapers, upon the introduction of printing the Jews residing in
Germany took control of the printing presses and thus in
Schwabach Jew letters were forcefully introduced.
Today the Führer, talking with Herr Reichsleiter Amann and Herr Book
Publisher Adolf Müller, has decided that in the future the Antiqua
script is to be described as normal script. All printed materials are
to be gradually converted to this normal script. As soon as is
feasible in terms of textbooks, only the normal script will be taught
in village and state schools.
The use of the Schwabach Jew letters by officials will in future
cease; appointment certifications for functionaries, street signs, and
so forth will in future be produced only in normal script.
On behalf of the Führer, Herr Reichsleiter Amann will in future
convert those newspapers and periodicals that already have foreign
distribution, or whose foreign distribution is desired, to normal
script". * ^ Kapr, Albert (1993). Fraktur: Form und Geschichte der
gebrochenen Schriften. Mainz: H. Schmidt. p. 81. ISBN 3-87439-260-0 .
* ^ "Mittelschulvorbereitung Deutsch". Mittelschulvorbereitung.ch.
Retrieved 15 March 2010.
* ^ For a history of the German consonants see
Fausto Cercignani ,
The Consonants of German: Synchrony and Diachrony, Milano, Cisalpino,
* ^ "Learning German, Experiencing Culture – Goethe-Institut".
Goethe.de. Retrieved 24 January 2012.
* ^ "Verein Deutsche Sprache e.V.". Vds-ev.de. Retrieved 18 July
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* ^ The status of
Low German as a German variety or separate
language is subject to discussion.
* ^ The status of
Luxembourgish as a German variety or separate
language is subject to discussion.
* ^ The status of
Plautdietsch as a German variety or separate
language is subject to discussion.
Fausto Cercignani , The Consonants of German: Synchrony and
Diachrony, Milano, Cisalpino, 1979.
Michael Clyne , The German
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