From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
The Germanic languages make one of the branches of the Indo-European (IE) group of tongues, spoken by the Germanic peoples who dwelled north and east along the borders of the Roman Empire. These tongues share many markers which they have in common, and which no other tongue has; of these the best known is the sound shift known as Grimm's law.
Some early Germanic languages made runic alphabets of their own, but use of these alphabets was comparatively limited. East Germanic languages were written in the Gothic alphabet developed by Bishop Ulfilas for his translation of the Bible into Gothic. Later, Christian priests and monks who spoke and read Latin in addition to their native Germanic tongue began writing the Germanic languages with slightly modified Latin letters. In addition to the standard Latin alphabet, some modern Germanic languages use a variety of accent marks, umlauts, the ess-tsett (ß), Ø, Æ, Å, ð, ȝ from Gaelic, and þ, from runes. Historic printed German is frequently set in a distinctive typeface called Fraktur.
Some of the tell-tale marks of Germanic roots are:
- The levelling of the IE tense system into past and present (or common)
- The use of a dental ending (/d/ or /t/) instead of switching vowels (ablaut) to show past tense.
- Having two distinct types of verb conjugation: weak (regular) and strong (irregular). English has 161 strong verbs; all are of English birth.
- The use of strong and weak adjectives. Modern English adjectives don't change except for comparative and superlative; this was not the case with Old English, where adjectives were inflected differently depending on whether they were preceded by an article or demonstrative, or not.
- The sound shift known as Grimm's Law.
- A great many non-IE roots. There are many Germanic roots that are not found in other IE tongues. These include words for everyday deeds such as "bite" and "chew" and all words about ships and the sea, except "boat". These roots may have been borrowed from the so-called Battle-axe people.
- The shifting of stress onto the root of the stem. Though English has an irregular stress, native words always have a fixed stress regardless of what's added to them. This is perhaps the most important change.
All Germanic languages are thought to be descended from a hypothetical Proto-Germanic. Note that divisions between subfamilies of Germanic are rarely precisely defined; most form continuous clines, with adjacent dialects being mutually intelligible and more separated ones not.
Mentioned here are only the principal or unusual dialects; individual articles linked to below contain larger family trees. For example, many Low Saxon dialects are discussed on Low Saxon besides just Standard Low Saxon and Plautdietsch.
- West Germanic
- High German
- Yiddish (with a significant influx of vocabulary from Hebrew and traditionally written in the Hebrew alphabet)
- Low German
- Anglic (descending from Anglo-Saxon)
- High German
- East Germanic (extinct)
- North Germanic (descending from Old Norse):
Comparison of Selected TermsPlease add to this table.
|goeienaand||goedenavond||good evening||guten Abend||god aften|
|vrou||woman||Frau||frue / kvinde||qino|