German Language Studies
Old High German
The history of the German language is thought to have begun in the 3rd century A.D. during the migration of Germanic tribes in Europe. It was around this period that phonological changes in the Germanic language took place; this change is also known as the “High German consonant shift.” This resulted in the formation of Old High German.
In those days, High German could be classified into Upper German and Central German. There was no evidence of consistency in written German language texts until the end of the 8th century. The German language was the only language from the West Germanic group that underwent the phonological change, while other languages remained unchanged.
Middle High German
The next period was the Middle High German period, which started in the second half of the 11th century. During this period, the umlaut (two dots) used in the German language was developed. Vowels using the umlaut were found starting in this period. Only three vowels use the umlaut: the a,’ o,’ and u’. The letter j’ was often used in place of the g’. During this period, High German had only two tenses, the present tense, and the past tense, while it had three genders, masculine, feminine, and neuter.
Modern High German
The Middle High German period lasted until the year 1500. After that, the Modern German period started. The Modern German period saw several evolutions of the language. The first German translation also took place during this period when the Bible was translated into the German language. The language during this period continued to be influenced by the Saxon dialect since Saxony was still the dominant state.
Since the 18th century, several well-known writers have made major efforts to standardize German to the German we know today. In around the last decade of the nineteenth century, the orthographic and grammatical rules of German were defined. Finally, written German was standardized at the beginning of the 20th century.
Dialects in Different Countries
Upper German dialects include the German spoken in Switzerland, Italy, Alsace, Liechtenstein, Austria, and southern Germany and include Austro-Bavarian, Alemannic, Swabian, East Franconian, and Alsatian German.
High German dialects, such as Siebenburguisch, Sathmarisch, and Wymysorys, are spoken in Romania and Poland. Yiddish is a distinct dialect spoken by Russian Jews. Some regard it as a different language than German, while others consider it a dialect of High German.
The Central German dialects include Upper Saxon, Lorraine Franconian, South Franconian, Ripuarian, Moselle Franconian, Hessian, and Thuringian. These dialects are spoken in parts of Belgium, the southeast Netherlands, Luxembourg, and parts of France.