German Language History

About 80 million non-native speakers utilize the German language, which is a West Germanic language spoken by 121 million native speakers. When taken as a whole, this places German as the 10th most spoken language in the world. In Europe, where German originated, speaking the language is very common! Originally spoken by the German people, it is now extensively spoken in many other EU nations. It is true that Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Belgium, and Luxembourg recognize German as their official language. In addition, it is the second most spoken language in Europe and one of the official languages of the European Union. Furthermore, there are sizable German-speaking populations in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, and the United States. Additionally, you could hear of German speakers in South America. where, for the past 200 years, millions of Germans have immigrated. Additionally, more people are picking up German as a second language.

Due to its popularity in Europe and the fascinating background of German language and culture, standard German is now taught in many schools, colleges, and Goethe Institutes across the globe. Businesses are moving their operations to Germany as a result of the country’s robust economy. It makes sense that German is rising to prominence as a language. You can learn more about the intriguing history of German language and culture by reading this article. We start in 750 AD, when the German people used Old German, and we move through how the language changed over time to become the one we speak today. We additionally look at the writing system, alphabet, and the effects of the two World Wars on language.


German Language Origin

The Indo-European language family is where German as we know it now originated. There was a “Germanic Sound Shift” in the ancestral language around 750 BCE, resulting in new German word pronunciations. The Germanic tribes spoke this language. The lexicon grew and became profoundly affected by Latin when the Romans arrived in 55 BCE.

A second sound shift that separated German from other West Germanic languages occurred around 600 CE. Old German is the name given to this dialect of the German language. While Northern Germany persisted in using the outdated pronunciation, it became the language used by Germans in Southern and Central Germany. The accents and dialects of the Nordic countries reflect this.

People carried on talking German in this manner until the advent of Middle German during the Middle Ages. Between 1050 and 1350 CE, governmental decentralization and economic expansion led to the development of numerous regional languages. The pronunciation has also evolved, becoming more in line with modern German. Specifically, when speaking German, vowel sounds were weaker and articles were required to indicate the case of nouns.

The Largest German-Speaking Communities

The United States, Canada, Brazil, and Argentina are home to the greatest German-speaking populations. It’s possible that you’ve heard about German speakers in South America. But over the past 200 years, millions of Germans have moved there.

The history of German as we know it is fascinating. The consonant shift gave rise to the German language, which has historical significance that adds to its appeal. A phonological change that causes people to pronounce consonants differently is known as a consonant shift. It was only when people started speaking differently that German emerged.

The various regions and localities inside Germany had a major influence on the German language. It was also greatly impacted by the nations that surrounded Germany. German native speakers would speak a dialect specific to their area of residence. This could occasionally make it quite difficult for two native German speakers to communicate. Fortunately, Standard German gained popularity in the 1800s and 1900s.

For Germans, the mid-1900s was a challenging period. Certain locations outlawed the language’s usage following the World Wars. At its peak, anti-German prejudice was widespread, and language use throughout Europe was discouraged by shifting borders. Thankfully, the German language persevered and is currently spoken natively by more than 100 million people.

Alphabets & Writing System

The earliest known examples of the written German language date from the 8th century AD. These writings consist of fragments of an epic poem: The Song of Hildebrand. There are also examples of magical charms and German glosses in Latin manuscripts. These first texts were written using the Latin alphabet. The Latin alphabet is still used for writing the German language today.

The language of German is almost instantly recognisable from other texts written in the Latin alphabet by the number of umlauts. German is also the only major language that capitalises all nouns, which was common in Northern European languages until the 1700s. It died out of other languages but persisted throughout the history of German, and the unique grammatical rule still stands.Speaking German and reading written text aloud is easy once you know the spelling rules. The pronunciation of almost every word can be derived from the writing system. However, the converse is not true! Determining the spelling of a word from pronunciation alone is challenging. Spelling is also changing. The most recent example is the addition of ẞ to replace “ss” in German language spelling, which became official in 2017.


Modern “German Language”

The Early New German period was the following phase in German history. Martin Luther’s 1545 German translation of the Bible was one important event that took place during this time. The dissemination of the German language in written form among German speakers was aided by these translations. Additionally, new vocabulary was introduced to communicate biblical stories.

The translation served as a centralized version of German, which was more significant. German began to replace Latin in the production of more books, and advances in technology made it simpler to print texts. Both the level of literacy and the unity of the many dialects of German were greatly enhanced. By the 18th century, the written form of the German language that we know today had been created.

When German possessions were established spelling became more unified when they came together to form the German Reich in the 19th century. Before being codified in 1901, vocabulary also grew to incorporate more business and technical terms, frequently borrowed from English or French. With all printed materials and media published in Standard High German, which is understandable by all German-speaking communities, the German language is still evolving today.

German Language Translation Services

Despite the turbulent history of German culture, the German language continues to maintain its leading position in Europe, and the number of second-language German-speaking people is increasing. Therefore, German translations are in high demand. They can help your content appeal to a more diverse audience and improve global prospects.

At Renaissance Translations, we have an extensive network of expert German linguists who can provide high-quality German translations for your content in no time. Whether you have a document, a website or an app that you would like to translate, we can help you. Contact us today to discuss your specific project needs and translate your content into the language of Germany.

Impact Of The World Wars

World War I was one of the most significant turning points in German cultural history. Its current prominence as a global language was significantly impacted by World War I. A complete prohibition on teaching German language to students was put in place in 14 US states starting in 1917, including Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, and California. As a result, there were many fewer German speakers in the US.

The scene from before World War I was quite different from this one. Beginning in the 17th century, German immigrants came to the US, where they eventually accounted for more than 10% of the population by 1900. German was consequently taught in schools and widely utilized, eventually becoming the world’s official language. The German ban was lifted in the 1920s, but its consequences persisted for much longer.

After World War II, there was also a discernible shift in the German language. Many terms that implied German colonization or superiority were dropped after years of militarization. Following World War II, Germany’s territory decreased as well, and minority group dialects that fled to neighboring nations are becoming extinct. 

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