Days of the Week
Special Features of the German Language
German is used in several countries either as the primary language or as an official second language
German comes in many dialects which are in general not mutually intelligible: Dutch and its Belgian variety Flemish are official languages in the Netherlands and in Belgium (they are closely related to the Low German languages of Germany's North); Afrikaans which developed out of the Dutch spoken by Dutch settlers is an official language in South Africa; Luxemburgish (from High German) is an official language in Luxemburg and Yiddish, which developed out of Middle High German dialects and is now spoken by several million Jews throughout the world.
German is used as the official language of Germany and of Austria. It is also used as one of the four official languages of Switzerland (along with French, Italian, and Romansh)
The German language is spoken as a dialect throughout Luxembourg and by much of the population of the regions of eastern France formerly known as Alsace and Lorraine. It is also spoken in the north-Italian border regions of Tirol and Ticino (formerly parts of Austria), and in isolated communities widely scattered throughout eastern Europe; especially in Slovenia, Slovakia, Romania (Transylvania), and Russia (Volga region).
Beyond Europe, German dialects continue to be spoken in large emigrant communities in southern Brazil, South Africa, Australia, and the United States; especially in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Texas.
Modern German belongs to the group of so-called Germanic languages; including the Scandinavian, Dutch, Flemish, and English languages, that are descended from a common prehistoric ancestor referred to by linguists as “proto-Germanic”. “Proto-Germanic” is itself a branch of the Indo-European family of languages that also includes the Celtic, Italic, Slavic, Albanian, Greek, Baltic, Armenian, Iranian, and Indic language groups.
Historically, German falls into three main periods: Old German (A.D. 750 to A.D. 1050); Middle German (about 1050 to 1500); and Modern German (approximately 1500 to the present). The earliest existing records in German date back to about A.D. 750. During this first period, local dialects were used in writing, and there was no standard language.
In the middle period a relatively uniform written language developed by government officials after the various chancelleries of the Holy Roman Empire began. It was during the 14th century, that the use of a combination of certain dialects of Middle High German was used instead of the Latin that had dominated official writings.
During the 18th century, a number of outstanding writers gave modern-standard German the form it has today. "Standard German" is now considered to be the language of church, state, education, and literature. A corresponding norm for spoken High German, influenced by the written standard, is used in education, the theater, and public broadcasting via radio and television.
German dialects that differ substantially from standard German, not only in pronunciation but also in grammar, are found in regions of Germany, Eastern France, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein; Letzeburgesch, an official language of Luxembourg, is a German dialect spoken by about 400,000 people.
The modern period is usually said to begin with the German used by Luther, which became the basis of Modern High German, or "modern standard German". The spread of uniformity in written German has also been helped by printers, who, like Luther, wanted to attract as many readers as possible.