German (Deutsch) is one of the world's major languages, a member of the western group of Germanic languages. It is spoken primarily in Germany, Austria, the major part of Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Südtirol (South Tyrol) region of Italy, the Opole (Oppeln) Voivodship of Poland, parts of Belgium, parts of Romania and the Alsace (Elsass) region of France. Additionally, several former colonial possessions of these countries, such as Namibia, have sizable German-speaking populations, and there are German-speaking minorities in several eastern European countries, including Russia, Hungary and Slovenia, and in the United States. Approximately 125 Million people have German as their mother tongue. German is the third most popular foreign language worldwide, and the second most popular in Europe (after English), USA and East Asia (Japan). It is an official language of the European Union.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Status
3 Dialects of German
4 Development of the German language
5 Language Codes
6 See also
7 Reference
8 External links


The dialects that participated in the second German vowel shift during medieval times are regarded as those of the German language.

As a consequence of the colonization patterns, the Völkerwanderung (pronounced: 'fœl ker 'van der ung), the routes for trade and communication (chiefly the rivers), and of physical isolation (high mountains and deep forests) very different regional dialects developed. These dialects, sometimes mutually unintelligible, were used across the Holy Roman Empire. As Germany was divided into many different states, there was for long no force working for a unification or standardization of German, until Martin Luther translated the Bible (the New Testament in 1521 and the Old Testament in 1534).

The regional variety (dialect) into which Martin Luther translated the Bible is now regarded as the guideline language upon which Standard German is built. Media and written works are almost all produced in this variety of High German (usually called Standard German in English or Hochdeutsch in German) which is understood in all areas of German languages (except by pre-school children in areas which speak only dialect - but in the age of TV even they usually learn to understand Standard German before school age).

The first dictionary of the Brothers Grimm, the 16 parts of which were issued between 1852 and 1960, was and still is the most complete census of the words of the German language. In 1860, grammatical and orthographical rules first appeared in the Duden Handbook. In 1901, this was declared the standard definition of the German language in these matters. Official revisions of some of these rules were not issued until 1998.


German is the only official language in Germany, Liechtenstein and Austria; it shares official status in Belgium (with French and Dutch), Italy (with Italian, French and Slovenian), Switzerland (with French, Italian and Romansh), Luxembourg (with French and Luxembourgish). It is one of 11 official languages in the European Union.

It is also a minority language in Denmark, France, Russia, Tajikistan, Poland, Romania, Togo, Cameroon, the USA, Namibia, Paraguay, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Ukraine, Croatia, Moldavia, Australia, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania.

Increasing influence from the English language has affected German recently.

Dialects of German

The term "German" is used for several dialects of Germany and surrounding countries and in North America.

The dialects of Germany are typically divided into Low German and High German. The Low German dialects, or Low Saxon as they are sometimes known more precisely, are more closely related to Lower Franconian languages like Dutch than to the High German dialects, and from a linguist's perspective are not part of the German language proper. The High German dialects spoken by Germanic communities in the former Soviet union and Ashkenazi Jews have several unique features, and are usually considered the separate language Yiddish. There are also distinctive dialects of German which are or were primarily spoken in North America, including Pennsylvania German, Texas German, and Hutterite German.

The modern dialects of German proper are divided into Middle German and Upper German; Standard German is a Middle German dialect, while Austrian and Swiss German are Upper German. A moderately complete listing of these dialects may be found at High German.

Development of the German language

Language Codes

See also


  • George O. Curme, A Grammar of the German Language (1904, 1922) - the most complete and authoritative work in English

External links