Germanic languages

The Germanic languages ​​are a branch of the Indo-European language family. They comprise about 15 languages ​​with approximately 500 million native speakers, over 700 million, including a second language. A characteristic phenomenon of all Germanic languages ​​over the other Indo-European languages ​​are the changes in consonantism by the Germanic sound shift.

This article is the overall presentation of the Germanic languages ​​. On subgroups and individual languages ​​and their dialects is referenced. The Germanic proto-language ( Proto-Germanic ) is treated in a separate article.

  • 7.1 Protogermanisch and its spin-offs
  • 7.2 Vocabulary, loanwords
  • 7.3 Article
  • 9.1 General
  • 9.2 Etymological Dictionaries

The great Germanic languages

A total of nine Germanic languages ​​each have more than one million speakers.

  • English is the speaker most Germanic language with approximately 340 million native speakers and 180 million second and third speakers.
  • German is spoken by approximately 100 million native speakers, and at least 80 million secondary speakers.

Other Germanic languages ​​, each with more than one million speakers are:

  • Dutch ( 25 million )
  • Swedish ( 10 million )
  • Afrikaans (6 million, with second speakers 16 million )
  • Danish ( 5.5 million )
  • Norwegian ( 5 million ) ( Bokmål and Nynorsk )
  • Low German (ca. 5 million first-and second speaker; position as an independent language controversial )
  • Yiddish (3 million; position as an independent language controversial )

The west-north -west division of the Germanic languages

The Germanic languages ​​are divided generally in Western, Northern and Ostgermanisch (see below the detailed classification). The language border between North and West Germanic is today marked by the German - Danish border, and was formerly a little further south on the Eider. Within the two major language groups, there are smooth transitions through local dialects.

  • West Germanic languages

The West Germanic languages ​​include German, Yiddish, Luxembourgish, Low German, Pennsylvania Dutch, Dutch, Afrikaans, English and Frisian.

  • North Germanic Languages

These include: Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Faroese and Icelandic.

  • East Germanic languages

All East Germanic languages ​​are extinct. The bestüberlieferte East Germanic language is Gothic.

The classification of Germanic languages

Classification of modern Germanic languages

The Germanic branch of the Indo-European today comprises 15 languages ​​with a total of around 500 million speakers. Some of these languages ​​are used by some researchers considered only as dialects ( see below). These 15 languages ​​according to their degree of relationship be classified as follows ( the numbers of speakers relate to native speakers):

Germanic ( 15 languages ​​with a total of 490 million speakers ):

  • German - Dutch:
  • German:
  • Low German:
  • Dutch:
  • Anglo - Frisian:
  • Scandinavian: ( Festlandskandinavisch, Ostnordisch )
  • Icelandic - Faroese: ( Inselskandinavisch, Westnordisch )
  • All East Germanic languages ​​are extinct

The basis of this classification is the web link " Classification of Indo-European languages ​​" based on the Germanic primarily on Robinson in 1992. The current numbers of speakers come from Ethnologue 2005 and official country statistics.

Luxembourgish, Yiddish, Plautdietsch, simpler Pennsylvania and Low German are not recognized by all researchers as separate languages, while others consider again Schwyzerdütsch and Scottish ( Scots ) as another independent West Germanic languages. Some Skandinavisten the two variants of the Norwegian ( Bokmål and Nynorsk ) are considered separate languages, although Nynorsk is genetically rather then assign the group Icelandic - Faroese.

Historical classification

While the above classification only provides a breakdown of today's existing Germanic languages ​​, the following presentation is intended to give a historical insight, as well as the extinct Germanic languages ​​are listed. Unused, but exploitable intermediate members are asterisked. There are particular about the historical structure of the West Germanic languages ​​so far no complete consensus, the following historically oriented representation (after Maurer 1942, dtv - Atlas German language, 2001 ) but the majority are represented research direction again. Here, the West Germanic is conceived not as an original genetic unit, it has emerged only later from its components north Seeger manic, Weser -Rhine Germanic and Elbgermanisch by convergence. From this plot it is also clear that the dialects of the various branches of the German " West Germanic " belong, German is thus integrated into a historical Germanic family tree only in the form of its dialects.

  • * Germanic * North Seeger Manic Old Frisian † Mittelfriesisch † Frisian (V West Frisian, North Frisian, East Frisian or Saterländisch )
  • Middle Low German † ( New ) Low German West Low German Nedersaksisch ( in the NE. Netherlands)
  • Northern Low Saxon
  • Westphalian
  • Eastphalian
  • Mecklenburgisch - Anterior Pomeranian
  • Ostpommersch
  • Low Prussian
  • Brandenburg (North, Central and Südmärkisch )
  • West Altniederfränkisch † Means Low Franconian ( Middle Dutch ) † Neuniederfränkisch (Lower Rhine )
  • Dutch ( Dutch, Flemish ) Afrikaans
  • Simpler Pennsylvania
  • Hessian- Thuringian
  • East Frankish
  • Saxon ( with Upper Saxon, Erzgebirgisch )
  • Bohemian
  • Silesian
  • High Prussian
  • Semnonisch †
  • Hermundurisch †
  • Quadisch †
  • Lombard †
  • Markomannisch †
  • Bavarian ( North Bavarian, South Bohemian, Bavarian - Austrian funds; South Bavarian, Tyrolean )
  • Alemannisch Niederalemannisch ( Swabian, Alsatian, the Baden, Bodenseealemannisch )
  • High Alemannic ( Swiss German, Höchstalemannisch )
  • Old Norse † West Nordic † Old Icelandic † Icelandic
  • Faroese
  • Norwegian Nynorsk
  • Old Swedish † Swedish
  • Norwegian Bokmål
  • Gothic † Krimgotisch †

Special case of German

The obvious " problem case " this historical classification is the German, especially the high German. The three historical stages - Old High German, Middle High German and New High German - are tangible only as the union of dialects that belong to different branches of the above classification.

So Old High German is a summary altmitteldeutscher and altoberdeutscher dialects and dialect groups:

  • Old High German Altmitteldeutsch Rhine Franconian
  • Central Franconian
  • East Frankish
  • Alemannisch
  • Altbairisch

Middle High German also consists of Central and Upper German dialects:

  • Middle High German Medium Medium German Rhine Franconian
  • Central Franconian
  • Thuringian
  • Upper Saxon
  • Silesian
  • East Frankish
  • Bavarian
  • Alemannisch

The NHG develops from Central and Upper German dialects. Details in the article German language.

Germanic writings

Since about the 2nd century AD, the Germanic tribes have used their own characters, the runes. The result was the so-called Elder Futhark, an early form of runes, which until about 750 AD in use. The traditional Gothic Bible of the 4th century has its own script, namely that developed by Bishop Ulfilas Gothic alphabet. Later, the Germanic languages ​​written with Latin characters. Examples of modified letters are the yogh ( ȝ ) and the Latinized runes Thorn ( þ) and Wunjo ( Ƿ ).

Germanic word equations

The following tables provide some word equations in the fields of kinship terms, body parts, animal names, environmental terms, pronouns, verbs, and numerals for important old and neugermanische languages ​​together. One recognizes the high degree of relatedness of the Germanic languages ​​as a whole, the particular similarity of the West Germanic and North Germanic languages ​​with each other, the stronger deviation of the Gothic from both groups and ultimately the relationship of German to the Indo-European (last column, where the deviations are of course larger). Here the laws of Germanic (first) and High German (second) sound shift can be checked (for a detailed treatment in the next section ). Since the Germanic and Indo-European forms are reconstructed, they are provided with an *.

Germanic word equations I - nouns

Aue ** = ewe ( veraltend, scenic )

Germanic word equations II - pronouns, verbs, numerals

An unborn child wear ** = ge - bear

Source of these tables is the web link " Germanic word equations ", which in turn was compiled on the basis of several etymological dictionaries, including Kluge 2002, 1966 Onions and Pokorny 1959.

Germanic sound shift

The Germanic languages ​​differ from other Indo-European languages ​​by a characteristic, just the " Germanic " consonant shift, which is distinguished in German as the "first " of a subsequent " second " sound shift. The following table brings word equations, which show that transition of the Indo-European to the corresponding proto- Germanic consonants. Since the High German parallels are specified, the table is also the second sound shift from the (proto - ) Germanic and High German. Reconstructed proto- Germanic and Indo-European forms are indicated by asterisks, corresponding consonants in bold text.

For example, while Latin and Greek receive the " Indo-European " largely consonant, undergoes the Germanic one, according to legal change of Tenues / p, t, k /, mediae / b, d, g / and mediae - Aspiratae / bh, dh, gh /. The English and Low German preserve until today this " Germanic " consonant, whereas the transition to the High German consonant shift, a second group of these consonants. Overall, the following phonetic laws arise:

Germanic and High German sound shift

Remarks on the history of language

Protogermanisch and its spin-offs

Some researchers suggest that the proto- Germanic dialect formed a group within the Western Indo-European languages ​​with the precursors of the Baltic and Slavic languages. This assumption is supported not least by a newer lexicostatistical work. These preforms Germanischer could have taken according to their geographical position to an intermediate position between the Celtic- Italic in the southwest and the Baltoslawischen in the southeast already in the late 3rd and early 2nd millennium BC.

The proto- Germanic had then released from this group, after which it shows clear interactions with early Finnish languages.

For a so-called Germanic " homeland " brings the Onomast Jürgen Udolph the argument that can be Germanic local waters and name evidence with a focus on the wider area of the resin. However, this observation is basically just an undisturbed since the appointment of Germanic settlement, not the time frame. Other hand, a time frame provide archaeological finds on the basis of similar, unbroken traditions in the space between the proposed Udolph resin surrounding areas to southern Scandinavia since about the 12th century BC

The proto- Germanic language (also called " Proto-Germanic " or " Gemeingermanisch " ) was largely reconstructed by linguistic comparisons. This undeveloped preform should be to about 100 BC, remained relatively uniform in the so-called common Germanic period. As a peculiarity in that the Indo-European Germanic some native words used quite idiosyncratic falls (for example, see = " follow [ the eyes ] ", cf Latin sequi ). According to Euler ( 2009) split the extinct as a first language, almost exclusively through the Gothic handed down from East Germanic. In the 1st century AD, then the West Germanic had split from the North Germanic languages.

Vocabulary, loanwords

The proto- Germanic vocabulary contains a number of loanwords non- Germanic origin. Are striking, for example, borrowing in the field of shipbuilding and navigation from a previously unknown substrate language, probably in the western Baltic. In contrast, borrowings are mainly attributed to the Celtic influence in the field of social organization. These observations suggest an origin of the Germanic close as an immigrant language. Valuable information on both the Germanic sound-forms as well as prehistoric neighborhood relations still give in Baltic - Finnic languages ​​obtained loans from Germanic, such as Finnish kuningas (King) from Germanic: * kuningaz, rengas (ring) from Germanic: * hrengaz ( / z / is voiced / s / ).


The Germanic originally knew neither the specific nor the indefinite article, as well as Latin. The West Germanic then formed the definite article " the ", " the, and" the " from the demonstrative pronoun. The indefinite article were formed in the West Germanic and in most North Germanic languages ​​(such as in the Romance languages ​​) from the number word for " 1". The modern Icelandic has developed no indefinite article. See also: Article ( part of speech ).