German is included in the group of Indo-Germanic languages that is indeed a large family with many other popular languages. The most important languages in the Indo-Germanic language family are Danish, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian, and English. Presently, German is the official language in Germany and Austria. Over 120 million speakers all over the world speak German in almost eight notable countries.
German is mainly used in Germany and Austria as well as Switzerland. However, the local dialects of Swiss German are largely unintelligible for Germans and Austrians also. Let us take a look at the history of the German language and the different variants that the language has been through at different phases.
History of the German language
The history of the German language is classified into three major periods known as the Old German, Middle German, and Modern German periods. The earliest known records of the German language can be traced back to the start of the Old German era i.e., 750 AD. During this period, local dialects dominated the written language due to the lack of a standard language.
During the second phase or the Middle German period, the start of different chancelleries of the Holy Roman Empire led to the development of a comparatively uniform written language in the 14th century. The Middle German period lasted from 1050 AD to 1500 AD, and it was aimed at replacing Latin in the official documents. However, the origins of the Modern German language start with the Middle Saxon language that was spoken from 1100 AD to 1500 AD after it was classified into West Low Saxon and East Low Saxon.
During the course of the 18th century, many exceptional writers contributed to the refinement of the form of modern standard German. German dialects, differing from standard German in grammar as well as pronunciation, are particularly evident in regions of Germany, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, and France. The first grammatical and orthographic rules for the German language came forward in 1880 in the Duden Handbook that was considered as the gold standard definition of the German language in 1901.
The next milestone in the history of the German language was the German spelling reform of 1996 that was prominently advocated by government representatives in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Liechtenstein. Following the reform, German spelling with changes is taught in the majority of schools, while traditional, as well as reformed spelling, continue to exist in the media.
Types of German languages throughout history
- The Old German period had Old High German and Old Saxon as the prominent languages.
- During the Middle German Period, Classic Middle High German and Late Middle High German came into existence. In addition, the Middle German Period also gave birth to Early New High German in 1350 AD.
- The standard literary language or the New High German came into existence in 1600 AD with major credit to Martin Luther’s work on the translation of the New Testament into an East Middle German style from original Hebrew in 1522.
With diverse dialect variations, including Bavarian, Platt German, Innsbruck, Swabian, Berlin German, and Swiss-German, the German language truly speaks of continuous improvement.
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