The German Language or Deutsch (pronunciation: Deu = doy; tsch = ch --- Doy-ch) is a west Germanic language spoken mainly in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Belgium, Luxembourg, Italy. It is a minor language in Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Namibia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, South Africa, Vatican City and Venezuela. You can also find a significant German speaking population in United States, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Australia, Chile, Paraguay, New Zealand and Peru.
Standard German (Hosh Deutsch) has 90 million native speakers. Other varieties of German have 30 million speakers. 80 million people speak German as a second language and many others study it as a foreign language. So, in all there are 200 million German speakers.
History of German Language
German was found to be developed and written in fragments around AD 760’s; in epics like “Song of Hildebrand”, magical charms and glossary in Latin manuscripts. A Latin-German dictionary called “Abrogans” was also written around the same time.
The real flourishing period of German language was 12th and 13th century when German Literature masterpieces were created in the form of prose, poetry, epics and romances like Nibelungenlied (the Song of the Nibelungs) and Gottfried von Straßburg's Tristan. A further impetus was received with the invention of the printing press in the 14th century.
Varieties of German in writing
The German Language has undergone many changes with regards to style of writing. From usage of Latin in the beginning. German Language has had its periods of different writing styles.
The style of writing used in “The Song of the Nibelungs” and “Tristan” is now known as Mittelhochdeutsche Dichtersprache (Middle High German poetic language).
Gradually German rapidly became the official language replacing Latin in official documents.
The other varieties of German in writing are:
8 Surprising Facts about the German Language
German is the 11th most spoken language in the world with 90 million native speakers. In Europe, it beats all other languages to be the number one most common mother tongue. About 16 percent of Europe’s population speaks German as first language.
In classical Romance languages, nouns are dual gender; masculine and feminine; which gives headache while learning English and English speakers. German is perhaps the only language which has a third neutral gender for uncommon words which are neither masculine, nor feminine.
In all languages, the time is described with respect to the previous hour. In German, time is counted with respect to the next hour. For example; if a German tells you that it is halb drei (“half three”), it means that it is half an hour until three o’clock i.e. 2.30 PM.
German language is notorious for long words such as “kraftfahrzeughaftpflichtversicherung”, which means automobile liability insurance. German language makes use of extensive compounds of words which build on each other and create monster words.
German wins the race against Mandarin, Russian and Spanish to be the third most commonly taught language in the world after English and French.
The invention of Printing Press created the first printed book which is now known as the “Gutenberg Bible” which was completed in 1454.
German and English use Roman characters extensively; except, the German language has an extra consonant ß, and represents the double S. It is never used in the beginning of any word. Although for non-German keywords SS can be a replacement for ß. While in practice, Masse and Maße mean completely different things – mass and dimensions respectively.
In comparison, English and German share 60 percent of their vocab against French which shares on 27 percent.
Uniqueness of German Language
German Script Styles
After the decline of Latin as the script of writing German, there arose a number of styles of scripts to write the German language.
This script style was used in printing and writing the language from 16th century until 1940. Fraktur is a Latin word which means broken script or fractured script. The name is symbolic of its ornamental curlicues which break the continuity of the word.
This style of script was used for other languages such as Finnish, Czech, Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian. It is still used by speakers of Pennsylvania Dutch on signs and business publicity.
It is a style of connected handwriting that was used between 15th to 20th centuries, especially in German speaking countries. It is based on late medieval cursive writing and is understood to be the written counterpart to blackletter typefaces.
Just like blackletter, Kurrent is characterized by its abrupt changes in directions. The letters however are always connected. Gaps and same stroke writing are avoided on paper and air. Gaps and same stroke can happen in Roman cursive; Kurrent uses strokes besides each other.
It was also a style of writing masters who embellished it with decorations like caps, ascenders and descenders. This style gave rise to a typical proportion with rather small x-height. Over a time, Kurent became an independent script within Latin. The only problem with this script is that the small x-height in comparison of zig-zag patterns and similar letter shapes; makes it decorative and less legible.
The colloquial name became “Deutsche Schrift” (German Script).
Sütterlinschrift (Sütterlin script) is a widely used form of Kurrent that evolved alongside German Blackletter and Fraktur scripts. The name Sütterlin is nowadays often used to refer to all varieties of old German handwriting, although only this specific script was taught in all German schools from 1915 to 1941. The Nazi replaced it with Antiqua script, but was again used post war until 1970. It is no longer a primary script.
The Sütterlin contains (e), with two vertical bars close together, where the Umlaut Diacritic from a small (e) written over modified vowel can be seen. It also had the long s (?), as well as several standard ligatures such as ? (f-f), ? (?-t), ? (s-t), and of course ß (?-z or ?-s). Sütterlin is illegible.
This is a typical blackletter typeface which evolved in 15th century. It used to be the most common typeface until mid-16 century until it was replace by Fraktur. The lower case “g” and upper case “H” has a distinct form and appeared more popular and vibrant.
It is a typeface which was used for decorative writing or calligraphy during 15th and 16th century where letters flow and strokes connect together in continuity. After Fraktur, this typeface became popular.
This was used in German language until 20th century. Fraktur is one of its most common style.
Extra Letters – Umlaute and Diacritic
It is a sound change in which a vowel is pronounced more like a following vowel or a semi-vowel. It is a form of assimilation where one sound is modified to sound like an adjacent sound.
The most common forms are:
The diaeresis indicates that two adjoining letters that would normally form a digraph and be pronounced as one are instead to be read as separate vowels in two syllables. The diaeresis indicates that a vowel should be pronounced apart from the letter that precedes it.
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