The Info List - Middle High German

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MIDDLE HIGH GERMAN (abbreviated MHG, German : Mittelhochdeutsch, abbr. Mhd.) is the term for the form of German spoken in the High Middle Ages . It is conventionally dated between 1050 and 1350, developing from Old High German
Old High German
and into Early New High German . High German is defined as those varieties of German which were affected by the Second Sound Shift ; the Middle Low German and Middle Dutch languages spoken to the North and North West, which did not participate in this sound change , are not part of MHG.

While there is no standard MHG, the prestige of the Hohenstaufen court gave rise in the late 12th century to a supra-regional literary language (mittelhochdeutsche Dichtersprache) based on Swabian , an Alemannic dialect. This historical interpretation is complicated by the tendency of modern editions of MHG texts to use normalised spellings based on this variety (usually called "Classical MHG"), which make the written language appear more consistent than is actually the case in the manuscripts. Scholars are uncertain as to whether the literary language reflected a supra-regional spoken language of the courts.

An important development in this period was the Ostsiedlung
, the eastward expansion of German settlement beyond the Elbe
line which marked the limit of Old High German
Old High German
. This process started in the 11th century, and all the East Central German dialects are a result of this expansion.

"Judeo-German", the precursor of the Yiddish
language, sees attestation in the 13th–14th centuries, as a variety of Middle High German written in Hebrew characters.


* 1 Periodisation * 2 Dialects

* 3 Writing system

* 3.1 Vowels * 3.2 Consonants

* 4 Phonology

* 4.1 Vowels

* 4.1.1 Short and Long Vowels * 4.1.2 Diphthongs

* 4.2 Consonants

* 5 Grammar

* 5.1 Pronouns

* 5.1.1 Personal pronouns * 5.1.2 Possessive pronouns

* 5.2 Articles

* 5.3 Nouns

* 5.3.1 Strong nouns * 5.3.2 Weak nouns

* 5.4 Verbs

* 5.4.1 Strong verbs * 5.4.2 Weak verbs

* 6 Vocabulary

* 7 Sample texts

* 7.1 Iwein * 7.2 Nibelungenlied

* 8 Literature * 9 See also * 10 Notes * 11 References * 12 Sources * 13 Further reading * 14 External links


German territorial expansion in the Middle High German
High German
period (from Walter Kuhn) ------------------------- Germanic peoples before AD 700 Ostsiedlung
, 8th–11th centuries Expansion in the 12th century Expansion in the 13th century Expansion in the 14th century Territories unsettled by 1400

The Middle High German
High German
period is generally dated from 1050 to 1350. An older view puts the boundary with New High German
High German
around 1500.

There are several phonological criteria which separate MHG from the preceding Old High German
Old High German

* the weakening of unstressed vowels to ⟨e⟩: OHG taga, MHG tage ("days") * the full development of Umlaut and its use to mark a number of morphological categories * the devoicing of final stops : OHG tag > MHG tac ("day")

Culturally, the two periods are distinguished by the transition from a predominantly clerical written culture, in which the dominant language was Latin
, to one centred on the courts of the great nobles, with German gradually expanding its range of use. The rise of the Hohenstaufen
dynasty in Swabia
makes the South West the dominant region in both political and cultural terms.

Demographically, the MHG period is characterised by a massive rise in population, terminated by the demographic catastrophe of the Black Death (1348). Along with the rise in population goes a territorial expansion eastwards ( Ostsiedlung
), which saw German-speaking settlers colonise land previously under Slav control.

Linguistically, the transition to Early New High German is marked by four vowel changes which together produce the phonemic system of modern German, though not all dialects participated equally in these changes:

* Diphthongisation of the long high vowels /iː yː uː/ > /aɪ̯ ɔʏ̯ aʊ̯/: MHG hût > NHG Haut ("skin") * Monophthongisation of the high centering diphthongs /iə yə uə/ > /iː yː uː/: MHG huot > NHG Hut ("hat") * lengthening of stressed short vowels in open syllables: MHG sagen /zaɡən/ > NHG sagen /zaːɡən/ ("say") * The loss of unstressed vowels in many circumstances: MHG vrouwe > NHG Frau ("lady")

The centres of culture in the ENHG period are no longer the courts but the towns.


The dialect map of Germany
by the end of the Middle High German period was much the same as that at the start of the 20th century, though the boundary with Low German
Low German
was further south than it now is:

* Central German

* West Central German

* Central Franconian * Rhine Franconian

* East Central German

* Thuringian * Upper Saxon * Silesian * High Prussian
High Prussian

* Upper German
Upper German

* East Franconian * South Rhine Franconian

* Alemannic

* South Alemannic * Alsatian * Swabian

* Bavarian

* North Bavarian * Central Bavarian * South Bavarian

With the exception of Thuringian, the East Central German dialects are new dialects resulting from the Ostsiedlung


Middle High German
High German
texts are written in the Latin
alphabet . There was no standardised spelling, but modern editions generally standardise according to a set of conventions established by Karl Lachmann in the 19th century. There are several important features in this standardised orthography which are not characteristics of the original manuscripts :

* the marking of vowel length is almost entirely absent from MHG manuscripts. * the marking of umlauted vowels is often absent or inconsistent in the manuscripts. * a curly-tailed z (⟨ȥ ⟩ or ⟨ʒ⟩) is used in modern handbooks and grammars to indicate the /s/ or /s/-like sound which arose from Germanic /t/ in the High German
High German
consonant shift . This character has no counterpart in the original manuscripts which typically use ⟨s⟩ or ⟨z⟩ to indicate this sound * the original texts often use ⟨i⟩ and ⟨u⟩ for the semi-vowels /j/ and /w/.

A particular problem is that many manuscripts are of much later date than the works they contain; as a result, they bear the signs of later scribes having modified the spellings, with greater or lesser consistency, in accord with conventions of their time. In addition, there is considerable regional variation in the spellings that appear in the original texts, which modern editions largely conceal.


The standardised orthography of MHG editions uses the following vowel spellings:

* Short vowels : ⟨a e i o u⟩ and the umlauted vowels ⟨ä ö ü⟩ * Long vowels : ⟨â ê î ô û⟩ and the umlauted vowels ⟨æ œ iu⟩ * Closing diphthongs : ⟨ei ou⟩; and the umlauted diphthong ⟨öu eu oi⟩ * Opening diphthongs : ⟨ie uo⟩; and the umlauted diphthong ⟨üe⟩

Grammars (as opposed to textual editions) often distinguish between ⟨ë⟩ and ⟨e⟩, the former indicating the mid-open /ɛ/ which derived from Germanic /e/, the latter (often with a dot beneath it) indicating the mid-close /e/ which results from primary umlaut of short /a/. No such orthographic distinction is made in MHG manuscripts.


The standardised orthography of MHG editions uses the following consonant spellings:

* Stops : ⟨p t k/c/q b d g⟩ * Affricates : ⟨pf/ph tz/z⟩ * Fricatives : ⟨v f s ȥ sch ch h⟩ * Nasals : ⟨m n⟩ * Liquids : ⟨l r⟩ * Semivowels : ⟨w j⟩


The charts show the vowel and consonant systems of classical MHG. The spellings indicated are the standard spellings used in modern editions – there is much more variation in the manuscripts.


Short And Long Vowels




CLOSE i iː y ⟨ü⟩ yː ⟨iu⟩

u uː


MID ɛ ɛː ø ⟨ö⟩ øː ⟨œ⟩

o oː

OPEN-MID æ ⟨ä⟩ æː ⟨æ⟩


a aː


* Not all dialects distinguish the three unrounded mid front vowels. * It is probable that the short high and mid vowels are lower than their long equivalents, as in Modern German, but this is impossible to establish from the written sources. * The ⟨e⟩ found in unstressed syllables may indicate or schwa .


MHG diphthongs are indicated by the spellings: ⟨ei⟩, ⟨ie⟩, ⟨ou⟩, ⟨öu⟩ and ⟨eu⟩, ⟨üe⟩, ⟨uo⟩, having the approximate values of /ei/, /iə/, /ou/, /øy/, /eu/, /yə/, and /uo/, respectively.




t d

k ⟨k, c⟩ ɡ


t͡s ⟨z⟩



ŋ ⟨ng⟩


f v ⟨f, v⟩ s z ⟨ȥ⟩ ⟨s⟩ ʃ ⟨sch⟩

x ⟨ch, h⟩ h




r l

* Precise information about the articulation of consonants is impossible to establish, and will have varied between dialects. * In the plosive and fricative series, where there are two consonants in a cell, the first is fortis the second lenis . The voicing of lenis consonants varied between dialects. * MHG has long consonants, and the following double consonant spellings indicate not vowel length as in Modern German orthography, but rather genuine double consonants: pp, bb, tt, dd, ck (for /kk/), gg, ff, ss, zz, mm, nn, ll, rr. * It is reasonable to assume that /x/ had an allophone after back vowels, as in Modern German.



Middle High German
High German
pronouns of the first person refer to the speaker; those of the second person refer to an addressed person; and those of the third person refer to person or thing of which one speaks. The pronouns of the third person may be used to replace nominal phrases . These have the same gender , number and case as the original nominal phrase.

Personal Pronouns

Personal Pronouns


NOMINATIVE ich du ër sie ëz wir ir sie

ACCUSATIVE mich dich in sie ëz uns iuch sie

DATIVE mir dir im ir im uns iu in

GENITIVE mîn dîn sîn ir sîn unser iuwer ir

Possessive Pronouns

The possessive pronouns mîn, dîn, sîn, ir, unser, iuwer are used like adjectives and hence takes on adjective endings following the normal rules. This includes unser and iuwer, despite the fact that they already end in -er.


The inflected forms of the article depend on the number, the case and the gender of the corresponding noun. The definite article has the same plural forms for all three genders.

Definite article (strong)


NOMINATIVE dër daȥ diu die / diu

ACCUSATIVE dën daȥ die die / diu

DATIVE dëm dër dën

GENITIVE dës dër dër



The instrumental case , only existing in the neuter singular, is used only with prepositions : von diu, ze diu, etc. In all the other genders and in the plural it is substituted with the dative: von dëm, von dër, von dën.


Middle High German
High German
nouns were declined according to four cases (nominative , genitive , dative , accusative ), two numbers (singular and plural ) and three genders (masculine, feminine and neuter), much like Modern High German, though there are several important differences.

Strong Nouns

dër tac day m. diu zît time f. daȥ wort word n.


NOMINATIVE dër tac die tage diu zît die zîte daȥ wort diu wort

GENITIVE dës tages dër tage dër zît dër zîte dës wortes dër worte

DATIVE dëm tage dën tagen dër zît dën zîten dëm worte dën worten

ACCUSATIVE dën tac die tage die zît die zîte daȥ wort diu wort

Weak Nouns

dër veter (male) cousin m. diu zunge tongue f. daȥ herze heart n.


NOMINATIVE dër veter die veteren diu zunge die zungen daȥ herze diu herzen

GENITIVE dës veteren dër veteren dër zungen dër zungen dës herzen dër herzen

DATIVE dëm veteren dën veteren dër zungen dën zungen dëm herzen dën herzen

ACCUSATIVE dën veteren die veteren die zungen die zungen daȥ herze diu herzen

Note that ⟨ë⟩ is a short, open /ɛ/, so MHG dër /dɛr/ as opposed to modern /deːr/.


Main article: Middle High German
High German

Verbs were conjugated according to three moods (indicative , subjunctive (conjunctive) and imperative ), three persons, two numbers (singular and plural ) and two tenses (present tense and preterite ) There was a present participle, a past participle and a verbal noun that somewhat resembles the Latin
gerund , but that only existed in the genitive and dative cases.

An important distinction is made between strong verbs (that exhibited ablaut ) and weak verbs (that didn't).

Furthermore, there were also some irregular verbs.

Strong Verbs

The present tense conjugation went as follows:

nëmen to take


1. SG. ich nIme ich nëme

2. SG. du nIm(e)st du nëmest

3. SG. ër nIm(e)t er nëme

1. PL. wir nëmen wir nëmen

2. PL. ir nëm(e)t ir nëmet

3. PL. sie nëment sie nëmen

* IMPERATIVE: 2.sg.: nim, 2.pl.: nëmet * PRESENT PARTICIPLE: nëmende * INFINITIVE: nëmen * VERBAL NOUN: genitive: nëmen(n)es, dative: ze nëmen(n)e

The bold vowels demonstrate umlaut ; the vowels in brackets were dropped in rapid speech.

The preterite conjugation went as follows:

genomen haben to have taken


1. SG. ich nAm ich næme

2. SG. du næme du næmest

3. SG. ër nAm er næme

1. PL. wir nâmen wir næmen

2. PL. ir nâmet ir næmet

3. PL. sie nâmen sie næmen


Weak Verbs

The present tense conjugation went as follows:

suochen to seek


1. SG. ich suoche ich suoche

2. SG. du suoch(e)st du suochest

3. SG. ër suoch(e)t er suoche

1. PL. wir suochen wir suochen

2. PL. ir suoch(e)t ir suochet

3. PL. sie suochent sie suochen

* IMPERATIVE: 2.sg: suoche, 2.pl: suochet * PRESENT PARTICIPLE: suochende * INFINITIVE: suochen * VERBAL NOUN: genitive: suochennes, dative: ze suochenne

The vowels in brackets were dropped in rapid speech.

The preterite conjugation went as follows:

gesuocht haben to have sought


1. SG. ich suochete ich suochete

2. SG. du suochetest du suochetest

3. SG. ër suochete er suochete

1. PL. wir suocheten wir suocheten

2. PL. ir suochetet ir suochetet

3. PL. sie suochetent sie suocheten

* PAST PARTICIPLE: gesuochet


THIS SECTION NEEDS EXPANSION with: what is perhaps a foremost reader interest, the characteristic vocabulary of this period in the language, where material can be gathered from other sections, and added, to cover words that "passed away" in this period, words that are essentially unchanges, words that are so changed as to be unrecognisable, etc.. You can help by adding to it . (April 2017)



B of Hartmann von Aue's Iwein (Gießen, UB, Hs. 97), folio 1r

The text is the opening of Hartmann von Aue 's Iwein (c. 1200)



Swer an rehte güete wendet sîn gemüete, dem volget sælde und êre. des gît gewisse lêre künec Artûs der guote, der mit rîters muote nâch lobe kunde strîten. er hât bî sînen zîten gelebet alsô schône daz er der êren krône dô truoc und noch sîn name treit. des habent die wârheit sîne lantliute: sî jehent er lebe noch hiute: er hât den lop erworben, ist im der lîp erstorben, sô lebet doch iemer sîn name. er ist lasterlîcher schame iemer vil gar erwert, der noch nâch sînem site vert.

Whoever to true goodness Turns his mind He will meet with fortune and honour. We are taught this by the example of Good King Arthur who with knightly spirit knew how to strive for praise. In his day He lived so well That he wore the crown of honour And his name still does so. The truth of this is known To his countrymen: They affirm that he still lives today: He won such fame that Although his body died His name lives on. Of sinful shame He will forever be free Who follows his example.

COMMENTARY: This text shows many typical features of Middle High German poetic language. Most Middle High German
High German
words survive into modern German in some form or other: this passage contains only one word (jehen 'say' 14) which has since disappeared from the language. But many words have changed their meaning substantially. Muot (6) means 'state of mind', where modern German Mut means courage. Êre (3) can be translated with 'honour', but is quite a different concept of honour from modern German Ehre; the medieval term focusses on reputation and the respect accorded to status in society.


C of the Nibelungenlied , fol.1r

The text is the opening strophe of the Nibelungenlied (c. 1204).


Uns ist in alten mæren wunders vil geseit von helden lobebæren, von grôzer arebeit, von freuden, hôchgezîten, von weinen und von klagen, von küener recken strîten muget ir nu wunder hœren sagen.


In alten Erzählungen wird uns viel Wunderbares berichtet von ruhmreichen Helden, von hartem Streit, von glücklichen Tagen und Festen, von Schmery und Klage: vom Kampf tapferer Recken: Davon könnt auch Ihr nun Wunderbares berichten hören.


In ancient tales many marvels are told us of renowned heroes, of great hardship of joys, festivities, of weepeing and lamenting of bold warriors' battles — now you may hear such marvels told!

COMMENTARY: All the MHG words are recognizable from Modern German, though mære ("tale") and recke ("warrior") are archaic and lobebære ("praiseworthy") has given way to lobenswert. Words which have changed in meaning include arebeit, which means "strife" or "hardship" in MHG, but now means "work", and hôchgezît ("festivity") which now, as Hochzeit, has the narrower meaning of "wedding".


Main article: Medieval German literature

The following are some of the main authors and works of MHG literature:

* Lyric

* Minnesang

* Codex Manesse
Codex Manesse
* Reinmar von Hagenau * Walther von der Vogelweide
Walther von der Vogelweide
* Heinrich Frauenlob

* Oswald von Wolkenstein

* Epic

* Nibelungenlied * Kudrun

* Courtly Romance

* Hartmann von Aue 's Erec and Iwein * Wolfram von Eschenbach 's Parzival * Gottfried von Strassburg 's Tristan
* Ulrich von Türheim 's Rennewart and Willehalm * Rudolf von Ems 's works * Konrad von Würzburg 's works * Eilhart von Oberge 's Tristrant

* Spielmannsdichtung

* König Rother * Herzog Ernst

* Chronicles

* Annolied * Jans der Enikel
Jans der Enikel
's Weltchronik and Fürstenbuch * Kaiserchronik

* Law

* Sachsenspiegel


* High German
High German
consonant shift * Matthias von Lexer


* ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Middle High German". Glottolog 2.7 . Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. * ^ Keller 1978 , p. 236. * ^ A B Lindgren 1980 , p. 580. * ^ Waterman 1976 , p. 83. * ^ A B Rautenberg 1985 , p. 1120. * ^ Roelcke 1998 , pp. 804-811: tabulates the various periodisations. * ^ Roelcke 1998 , p. 812. * ^ A B Waterman 1976 , p. 85. * ^ Keller 1978 , p. 276. * ^ Brockhaus 1995 , p. 6. * ^ Waterman 1976 , pp. 87f.. * ^ Keller 1979 , p. 337. * ^ Keller 1979 , pp. 237: "the population appears to have increased about fivefold." * ^ Keller 1979 , pp. 336. * ^ Keller 1979 , pp. 238-239. * ^ Rautenberg 1985 , p. 1121. * ^ Waterman & 1976 103 . * ^ Eggers1985 , p. 1300: "Zu Beginn der frnhd. Periode ist die Stadt längst zum Kultur-, Wirtschafts- und Sozialfaktor geworden." * ^ A B Schmidt 2013 , p. 278. * ^ A B Keller 1978 , p. 257. * ^ Paul 1989 , pp. 5-10. * ^ Paul 1989 , p. 10. * ^ Paul 1989 , pp. 26ff. * ^ A B Paul 1989 , p. 30. * ^ A B C Paul 1989 , p. 31. * ^ A B Paul 1989 , p. 32. * ^ Paul 1989 , p. 29. * ^ Paul 1989 , p. 19. * ^ Edwards 2007 , p. 2. * ^ A B Lexer 1999 . * ^ Bartsch & De Boor 1998 . * ^ Brackert 1970 . * ^ Edwards 2010 .


* Brockhaus, Wiebke (1995). Final Devoicing in the Phonology of German. Tübingen: De Gruyter. ISBN 9783484303362 . * Keller, R.E. (1979). The German Language. London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 0-571-11159-9 . * Lexer, Matthias (1999). Mittelhochdeutsches Taschenwörterbuch (38 ed.). Stuttgart: S. Hirzel Verlag. ISBN 978-3777604930 . Retrieved 5 May 2017. * Lindgren KB (1980). "Mittelhochdeutsch". In Althaus HP, Henne H, Wiegand HE. Lexikon der Germanistischen Linguistik. III (2 ed.). Tübingen: Niemeyer. pp. 580–584. ISBN 3-484-10391-4 . * Paul, Hermann (1989). Wiehl, Peter & Grosse, Sigfried, eds. Mittelhochdeutsche Grammatik (23rd ed.). Tübingen: Niemeyer. ISBN 3484102330 . CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link ) * Rautenberg U (1985). "Soziokulturelle Voraussetzung und Sprachraum des Mittelhochdeutschen". In Besch W, Reichmann O, Sonderegger S. Sprachgeschichte. 2.2. Berlin, New York: Walter De Gruyter. pp. 1120–29. ISBN 3-11-009590-4 . * Roelcke T (1998). "Die Periodisierung der deutschen Sprachgeschichte". In Besch W, Betten A, Reichmann O, Sonderegger S. Sprachgeschichte. 2.1 (2nd ed.). Berlin, New York: Walter De Gruyter. pp. 798–815. ISBN 3-11-011257-4 . * Waterman, John T. (1976). A History of the German Language (Revised ed.). University of Washington Press. ISBN 0-295-73807-3 . * Wells, C. J. (1987). German: A Linguistic History to 1945. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-815809-2 .


* Bartsch, Karl; De Boor, Helmut, eds. (1988). Das Nibelungenlied (22 ed.). Mannheim: F.A. Brockhaus. ISBN 3-7653-0373-9 . * Brackert, Helmut, ed. (1970). Das Nibelungenlied. Mittelhochdeutscher Text und Übertragung. Frankfurt-am-Main: Fischer. ISBN 3436013137 . * Edwards, Cyril, ed. (2007). Hartmann von Aue. Iwein or the Knight with the Lion. Arthurian Romances. III. Cambridge: D.S.Brewer. ISBN 978-0-19-923854-5 . * Edwards, Cyril, ed. (2010). The Nibelungenlied. Oxford World's Classics. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-1-84384-084-8 .


* Walshe, M.O'C. (1974). A Middle High German
High German
Reader: With Grammar, Notes and Glossary, Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198720823 . * Wright, Joseph ">

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