The varieties of standard German refer to the different local varieties of the pluricentric standard German. They differ only slightly in lexicon and phonology. In certain regions, they have replaced the traditional German dialects, especially in Northern Germany. Swiss Standard German is used in the Swiss education system, whereas Austrian Standard German is officially used in the Austrian education system. A mixture of dialect and standard does not normally occur in Northern Germany either. Because their linguistic distance to it is greater, they do not mesh with Standard German the way that High German dialects such as Bavarian, Swabian, Hessian can.
German is a member of the West Germanic language of the Germanic family of languages , which in turn is part of the Indo-European language family. The German dialects are the traditional local varieties; many of them are hardly understandable to someone who knows only standard German, and they have great differences in lexicon , phonology and syntax. If a narrow definition of language based on mutual intelligibility is used, many German dialects are considered to be separate languages for instance in the Ethnologue.
However, such a point of view is unusual in German linguistics. The variation among the German dialects is considerable, with often only neighbouring dialects being mutually intelligible. Some dialects are not intelligible to people who know only Standard German. Middle Low German was the lingua franca of the Hanseatic League. It was the predominant language in Northern Germany until the 16th century. In , the Luther Bible was published.
The translation is considered to be an important step towards the evolution of the Early New High German. It aimed to be understandable to a broad audience and was based mainly on Central and Upper German varieties. The Early New High German language gained more prestige than Low German and became the language of science and literature. Around the same time, the Hanseatic League, based around northern ports, lost its importance as new trade routes to Asia and the Americas were established, and the most powerful German states of that period were located in Middle and Southern Germany.
The 18th and 19th centuries were marked by mass education in Standard German in schools. Gradually, Low German came to be politically viewed as a mere dialect spoken by the uneducated.
Today, Low Saxon can be divided in two groups: Low Saxon varieties with a reasonable Standard German influx [ clarification needed ] and varieties of Standard German with a Low Saxon influence known as Missingsch. Sometimes, Low Saxon and Low Franconian varieties are grouped together because both are unaffected by the High German consonant shift. However, the proportion of the population who can understand and speak it has decreased continuously since World War II.
The largest cities in the Low German area are Hamburg and Dortmund. The Low Franconian dialects are the dialects that are more closely related to Dutch than to Low German. Most of the Low Franconian dialects are spoken in the Netherlands and in Belgium , where they are considered as dialects of Dutch, which is itself a Low Franconian language.
These dialects are more closely related to Dutch also North Low Franconian than the South Low Franconian dialects also referred to as East Limburgish and, east of the Rhine , Bergish , which are spoken in the south of the German Low Franconian language area.
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The High German varieties spoken by the Ashkenazi Jews have several unique features, and are considered as a separate language, Yiddish , written with the Hebrew alphabet. Modern Standard German is mostly based on Central German dialects. These dialects are considered as.
Luxembourgish as well as the Transylvanian Saxon dialect spoken in Transylvania are based on Moselle Franconian dialects. They consist of the East- and South Franconian dialects. The East Franconian dialect branch is one of the most spoken dialect branches in Germany. These dialects are spoken in the region of Franconia and in the central parts of Saxon Vogtland. The largest cities in the South Franconian area are Karlsruhe and Heilbronn. The Upper German dialects are the Alemannic dialects in the west, and the Bavarian dialects in the east.
The Alemannic dialects are considered as Alsatian in Alsace. The largest cities in the Bavarian area are Vienna and Munich. German is a fusional language with a moderate degree of inflection , with three grammatical genders ; as such, there can be a large number of words derived from the same root. German nouns inflect by case, gender and number:. This degree of inflection is considerably less than in Old High German and other old Indo-European languages such as Latin , Ancient Greek and Sanskrit , and it is also somewhat less than, for instance, Old English , modern Icelandic or Russian.
The three genders have collapsed in the plural. In nouns, inflection for case is required in the singular for strong masculine and neuter nouns only in the genitive only in archaic use in the dative , and even this is losing ground to substitutes in informal speech. Weak masculine nouns share a common case ending for genitive, dative and accusative in the singular.
Feminine nouns are not declined in the singular. The plural has an inflection for the dative. In total, seven inflectional endings not counting plural markers exist in German: In German orthography, nouns and most words with the syntactical function of nouns are capitalised to make it easier for readers to determine the function of a word within a sentence Am Freitag ging ich einkaufen. Like the other Germanic languages, German forms noun compounds in which the first noun modifies the category given by the second,: Unlike English, whose newer compounds or combinations of longer nouns are often written in "open" with separating spaces, German like some other Germanic languages nearly always uses the "closed" form without spaces, for example: Like English, German allows arbitrarily long compounds in theory see also English compounds.
However, examples like this are perceived by native speakers as excessively bureaucratic, stylistically awkward or even satirical. The meaning of basic verbs can be expanded and sometimes radically changed through the use of a number of prefixes. Other prefixes have only the vaguest meaning in themselves; ver- is found in a number of verbs with a large variety of meanings, as in ver suchen to try from suchen to seek , ver nehmen to interrogate from nehmen to take , ver teilen to distribute from teilen to share , ver stehen to understand from stehen to stand. Other examples include the following: Many German verbs have a separable prefix, often with an adverbial function.
In finite verb forms, it is split off and moved to the end of the clause and is hence considered by some to be a "resultative particle". For example, mitgehen , meaning "to go along", would be split, giving Gehen Sie mit? German word order is generally with the V2 word order restriction and also with the SOV word order restriction for main clauses. For polar questions, exclamations and wishes, the finite verb always has the first position.
In subordinate clauses, the verb occurs at the very end. German requires for a verbal element main verb or auxiliary verb to appear second in the sentence. The verb is preceded by the topic of the sentence. The element in focus appears at the end of the sentence. For a sentence without an auxiliary, these are some possibilities:. The position of a noun in a German sentence has no bearing on its being a subject, an object or another argument. In a declarative sentence in English, if the subject does not occur before the predicate, the sentence could well be misunderstood.
The flexible word order also allows one to use language "tools" such as poetic meter and figures of speech more freely. When an auxiliary verb is present, it appears in second position, and the main verb appears at the end. This occurs notably in the creation of the perfect tense.
Many word orders are still possible:. The main verb may appear in first position to put stress on the action itself. The auxiliary verb is still in second position. Sentences using modal verbs place the infinitive at the end. For example, the English sentence "Should he go home? Thus, in sentences with several subordinate or relative clauses, the infinitives are clustered at the end. Compare the similar clustering of prepositions in the following highly contrived English sentence: German subordinate clauses have all verbs clustered at the end.
Given that auxiliaries encode future , passive , modality , and the perfect , very long chains of verbs at the end of the sentence can occur. In these constructions, the past participle in ge- is often replaced by the infinitive. Most German vocabulary is derived from the Germanic branch of the European language family. Latin words were already imported into the predecessor of the German language during the Roman Empire and underwent all the characteristic phonetic changes in German.
Their origin is thus no longer recognizable for most speakers e. Borrowing from Latin continued after the fall of the Roman Empire during Christianization, mediated by the church and monasteries. Another important influx of Latin words can be observed during Renaissance humanism. In a scholarly context, the borrowings from Latin have continued until today, in the last few decades often indirectly through borrowings from English.
During the 15th to 17th centuries, the influence of Italian was great, leading to many Italian loanwords in the fields of architecture, finance, and music. The influence of the French language in the 17th to 19th centuries resulted in an even greater import of French words. The English influence was already present in the 19th century, but it did not become dominant until the second half of the 20th century.
At the same time, the effectiveness of the German language in forming equivalents for foreign words from its inherited Germanic stem repertory is great. The tradition of loan translation was revitalized in the 18th century, with linguists like Joachim Heinrich Campe , who introduced close to words that are still used in modern German. Even today, there are movements that try to promote the Ersatz substitution of foreign words deemed unnecessary with German alternatives. As in English, there are many pairs of synonyms due to the enrichment of the Germanic vocabulary with loanwords from Latin and Latinized Greek.
These words often have different connotations from their Germanic counterparts and are usually perceived as more scholarly. The size of the vocabulary of German is difficult to estimate. The modern German scientific vocabulary is estimated at nine million words and word groups based on the analysis of 35 million sentences of a corpus in Leipzig, which as of July included million words in total.
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The Duden is the de facto official dictionary of the German language, first published by Konrad Duden in The Duden is updated regularly, with new editions appearing every four or five years. As of August [update] , it is in its 27th edition and in 12 volumes, each covering different aspects such as loanwords , etymology , pronunciation , synonyms , and so forth. The first of these volumes, Die deutsche Rechtschreibung German Orthography , has long been the prescriptive source for the spelling of German. The Duden has become the bible of the German language, being the definitive set of rules regarding grammar, spelling and usage of German.
It is the Austrian counterpart to the German Duden and contains a number of terms unique to Austrian German or more frequently used or differently pronounced there. The most recent edition is the 42nd from The dictionary is also officially used in the Italian province of South Tyrol. This is a selection of cognates in both English and German.
Instead of the usual infinitive ending -en German verbs are indicated by a hyphen "-" after their stems. Words that are written with capital letters in German are nouns. German is written in the Latin alphabet. Because legibility and convenience set certain boundaries, compounds consisting of more than three or four nouns are almost exclusively found in humorous contexts. In contrast, although English can also string nouns together, it usually separates the nouns with spaces.
For example, "toilet bowl cleaner". Some operating systems use key sequences to extend the set of possible characters to include, amongst other things, umlauts; in Microsoft Windows this is done using Alt codes.
German readers understand these transcriptions although they appear unusual , but they are avoided if the regular umlauts are available because they are a makeshift, not proper spelling. In Westphalia and Schleswig-Holstein, city and family names exist where the extra e has a vowel lengthening effect, e. There is no general agreement on where letters with umlauts occur in the sorting sequence.
Telephone directories treat them by replacing them with the base vowel followed by an e. Some dictionaries sort each umlauted vowel as a separate letter after the base vowel, but more commonly words with umlauts are ordered immediately after the same word without umlauts. These variants of the Latin alphabet are very different from the serif or sans-serif Antiqua typefaces used today, and the handwritten forms in particular are difficult for the untrained to read.
The printed forms, however, were claimed by some to be more readable when used for Germanic languages. The Nazis initially promoted Fraktur and Schwabacher because they were considered Aryan , but they abolished them in , claiming that these letters were Jewish. The Fraktur script however remains present in everyday life in pub signs, beer brands and other forms of advertisement, where it is used to convey a certain rusticality and antiquity.
Many Antiqua typefaces include the long s also. A specific set of rules applies for the use of long s in German text, but nowadays it is rarely used in Antiqua typesetting. The long s only appears in lower case. The orthography reform of led to public controversy and considerable dispute.
After 10 years, without any intervention by the federal parliament, a major revision was installed in , just in time for the coming school year. In , some traditional spellings were finally invalidated, whereas in , on the other hand, many of the old comma rules were again put in force. Traditionally, this letter was used in three situations:. In German, vowels excluding diphthongs; see below are either short or long , as follows:. In general, the short vowels are open and the long vowels are close. Whether any particular vowel letter represents the long or short phoneme is not completely predictable, although the following regularities exist:.
Both of these rules have exceptions e. For an i that is neither in the combination ie making it long nor followed by a double consonant or cluster making it short , there is no general rule. In some cases, there are regional differences: In central Germany Hessen , the o in the proper name "Hoffmann" is pronounced long, whereas most other Germans would pronounce it short; the same applies to the e in the geographical name " Mecklenburg " for people in that region.
With approximately 25 phonemes, the German consonant system exhibits an average number of consonants in comparison with other languages. The consonant inventory of the standard language is shown below. German does not have any dental fricatives as English th. The th sounds, which the English language still has, disappeared on the continent in German with the consonant shifts between the 8th and the 10th centuries.
Likewise, the gh in Germanic English words, pronounced in several different ways in modern English as an f , or not at all , can often be linked to German ch: The German language is used in German literature and can be traced back to the Middle Ages , with the most notable authors of the period being Walther von der Vogelweide and Wolfram von Eschenbach. The Nibelungenlied , whose author remains unknown, is also an important work of the epoch. The fairy tales collections collected and published by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm in the 19th century became famous throughout the world.
Reformer and theologian Martin Luther , who was the first to translate the Bible into German, is widely credited for having set the basis for the modern "High German" language. Thirteen German-speaking people have won the Nobel Prize in literature: English has taken many loanwords from German, often without any change of spelling aside from, often, the elimination of umlauts and not capitalizing nouns:. The government-backed Goethe-Institut  named after the famous German author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe aims to enhance the knowledge of German culture and language within Europe and the rest of the world.
This is done by holding exhibitions and conferences with German-related themes, and providing training and guidance in the learning and use of the German language. The Dortmund-based Verein Deutsche Sprache VDS , which was founded in , supports the German language and is the largest language association of citizens in the world. The VDS has more than thirty-five thousand members in over seventy countries. Its founder, statistics professor Dr. The German state broadcaster Deutsche Welle is the equivalent of the British BBC World Service and provides radio and television broadcasts in German and 30 other languages across the globe.
Deutsche Welle also provides an e-learning website to learn German. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For other uses, see Deutsch disambiguation and German disambiguation. Not to be confused with Germanic languages. Co- Official and majority language. Co-official, but not majority language. Early New High German. Geographical distribution of German speakers.
Italy South Tyrol 0. German is official language de jure or de facto and first language of the majority of the population. German is a co-official language, but not the first language of the majority of the population. German or a German dialect is a legally recognized minority language Squares: German or a variety of German is spoken by a sizeable minority, but has no legal recognition.
List of territorial entities where German is an official language. German language in Namibia. Brazilian German and Colonia Tovar dialect. Grammatical gender in German. German orthography and German braille. Listen to a German speaker recite the alphabet in German. German orthography reform of High German consonant shift. Deutsch disambiguation German family name etymology German toponymy Germanism linguistics List of German exonyms List of German expressions in English List of German words of French origin List of pseudo-German words adapted to English List of terms used for Germans List of territorial entities where German is an official language Names for the German language.
Retrieved 24 July Europeans and their languages" PDF report. Archived from the original PDF on 6 January Retrieved 11 October Retrieved 3 May Retrieved 7 July Retrieved 28 September Retrieved August 6, Old English and its closest relatives: An Anthology of German Literature. Zur Geschichte der Deutschen Sprache. A history of the German language: University of Washington Press.
A history of German: Geschichte der deutschen Sprache. The Encyclopedia of Christianity. For a short period in the late s, Germany was economically united with the borders described in the anthem, and a democratic constitution was being drafted, and with the black-red-gold flag representing it. However, after the two largest German monarchies, Prussia and Austria, put an end to this liberal movement toward national unification.
August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben wrote the text in on holiday on the North Sea island of Heligoland , then a possession of the United Kingdom now part of Germany. Hoffmann von Fallersleben intended " Das Lied der Deutschen " to be sung to Haydn's tune, as the first publication of the poem included the music. In the third stanza, with a call for " Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit " unity and justice and freedom , Hoffmann expressed his desire for a united and free Germany where the rule of law , not monarchical arbitrariness, would prevail.
In the era after the Congress of Vienna , influenced by Metternich and his secret police , Hoffmann's text had a distinctly revolutionary and at the same time liberal connotation, since the appeal for a united Germany was most often made in connection with demands for freedom of the press and other civil rights. Its implication that loyalty to a larger Germany should replace loyalty to one's local sovereign was then a revolutionary idea.
Germany, Germany above all, Above all in the world, When, for protection and defense, It always stands brotherly together. German women , German loyalty, German wine and German song Shall retain in the world Their old beautiful chime And inspire us to noble deeds During all of our life. Unity and justice and freedom For the German fatherland! Towards these let us all strive Brotherly with heart and hand!
Unity and justice and freedom Are the safeguards of fortune;: After the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in , " Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser " became the official anthem of the emperor of the Austrian Empire. With those new lyrics, the song continued to be the anthem of Imperial Austria and later of Austria-Hungary. Austrian monarchists continued to use this anthem after in the hope of restoring the monarchy.
The adoption of the Austrian anthem's melody by Germany in was not opposed by Austria. During the time of the German Empire it became one of the most widely known patriotic songs. The song became very popular after the Battle of Langemarck during World War I , when, supposedly, several German regiments, consisting mostly of students no older than 20, attacked the British lines on the Western front singing the song, suffering heavy casualties.
They are buried in the Langemark German war cemetery in Belgium. The official report of the army embellished the event as one of young German soldiers heroically sacrificing their lives for the Fatherland. In reality the untrained troops were sent out to attack the British trenches and were mown down by machine guns and rifle fire. This report, also known as the "Langemarck Myth", was printed on the first page in newspapers all over Germany. It is doubtful whether the soldiers would have sung the song in the first place: Nonetheless, the story was widely repeated.
The melody used by the "Deutschlandlied" was still in use as the anthem of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until its demise in In the black, red and gold tricolour, the colours of the 19th century liberal revolutionaries advocated by the political left and centre, was adopted rather than the previous black, white and red of Imperial Germany. Thus, in a political trade-off, the conservative right was granted a nationalistic composition — though Ebert advocated using only the lyrics' third stanza which was done after World War II.
In this way, the first verse became closely identified with the Nazi regime. After its founding in , West Germany did not have a national anthem for official events for some years, despite the growing need for the purpose of diplomatic procedures. In lieu of an official national anthem, popular German songs such as the Trizonesien-Song , a carnival song mocking the occupying Allied powers, were used at some sporting events. Different musical compositions were discussed or used, such as the fourth movement of Ludwig van Beethoven 's Ninth Symphony , which is a musical setting of Friedrich Schiller 's poem "An die Freude" " Ode to Joy ".
Though the black, red and gold colours of the national flag had been incorporated into Article 22 of the West German constitution , a national anthem was not specified. On 29 April , Chancellor Konrad Adenauer asked President Theodor Heuss in a letter to accept " Das Lied der Deutschen " as the national anthem, with only the third stanza being sung on official occasions. President Heuss agreed to this on 2 May This exchange of letters was published in the Bulletin of the Federal Government. Since it was viewed as the traditional right of the President as head of state to set the symbols of the state, the " Deutschlandlied " thus became the national anthem.
As the lyrics of this anthem called for "Germany, united Fatherland", they were no longer officially used, from about ,  after the DDR abandoned its goal of uniting Germany under communism. With slight adaptations, the lyrics of " Auferstanden aus Ruinen " can be sung to the melody of the " Deutschlandlied " and vice versa. In the s and 80s, efforts were made by conservatives in Germany to reclaim all three stanzas for the anthem. On 7 March , months before reunification , the Federal Constitutional Court declared only the third stanza of Hoffmann's poem to be legally protected as a national anthem under German penitential law; Section 90a of the Criminal Code Strafgesetzbuch makes defamation of the national anthem a crime — but does not specify what the national anthem is.
The opening line of the third stanza, " Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit " "Unity and Justice and Freedom" , is widely considered to be the national motto of Germany, although it was never officially proclaimed as such. The first verse, which is no longer part of the national anthem and is not sung on official occasions, names three rivers and one strait — the Meuse Maas in German , Adige Etsch and Neman Memel Rivers and the Little Belt strait — as the boundaries of the German Sprachbund.
As the song was written before German unification, there was never an intention to deliniate borders of Germany as a nation-state. Nevertheless, these geographical references have been variously criticized as irredentist or misleading. The Belt strait and the Neman later became actual boundaries of Germany the Belt until , the Neman until , whereas the Meuse and Adige were not parts of the German Reich as of Today, no part of any of the four places mentioned in the " Deutschlandlied " lies in Germany. In an ethnic sense, none of these places formed a distinct ethnic border. The Duchy of Schleswig to which the Belt refers was inhabited by both Germans and Danes, with the Danes forming a clear majority near the strait.
Around the Adige there was a mix of German, Venetian and Gallo-Italian speakers, and the area around the Neman was not homogeneously German, but also accommodated Lithuanians. The Meuse if taken as referencing the Duchy of Limburg , nominally part of the German Confederation for 28 years due to the political consequences of the Belgian Revolution , was ethnically Dutch with few Germans. Nevertheless, such nationalistic rhetoric was relatively common in 19th-century public discourse.
Despite the text and tune of the song being quite peaceful compared to some other national anthems, the song has frequently been criticised for its generally nationalistic tone, the immodest geographic definition of Germany given in the first stanza, and the alleged male-chauvinistic attitude in the second stanza.
German president Theodor Heuss , upon request from chancellor Konrad Adenauer , declared the Lied der Deutschen the national anthem of the German Federal Republic in May , along with the provision that only the third verse was to be sung at official occasions. As a result, the Lied implicitly in its entirety was declared the national anthem, with the provision that the third verse would have precedence. The inclusion of the first two verses was met with criticism at the time.
The first two verses are therefore no longer part of the national anthem, and the performance of the first verse in some cases has been portrayed as controversial.
In , Pete Doherty was supposed to sing the German national anthem live on radio at Bayerischer Rundfunk in Munich. As he sang the first verse, he was booed by the audience. A spokesperson for Bayerischer Rundfunk welcomed the response, stating that otherwise further cooperation with Doherty would not have been possible. When the first verse was played as the German national anthem at the canoe sprint world championships in Hungary in August , German athletes were reportedly "appalled".
Similarly, in the first verse was mistakenly sung by Will Kimble, a U. In an unsuccessful attempt to drown out the soloist, German tennis players and fans started to sing the third verse instead. Hoffmann von Fallersleben also intended the text to be used as a drinking song ; the second stanza's toast to German wine, women and song are typical of this genre.
Unity and justice and freedom For the German fatherland; This let us all pursue, Brotherly with heart and hand. Unity and justice and freedom Are the pledge of fortune.