The German language is one of the integral parts of our life whether we want it or not. From the first moments each of us comes into contact with our mother tongue, we acquire the basic rules for the correct articulation of individual sounds and our vocabulary expands over the years. One of the world’s official languages is the German language, which is becoming increasingly popular among those who associate their future with the speech of our western neighbours. This decision is influenced by the growing demand for the German language, and many graduates of German language studies, for example, intend to work as translators in the future. However, it’s worth mentioning what the German language really is and how it has changed throughout history.

Generally about German language, a little bit words about the language our western neighbours

The German language belongs to the western group of the Germanic languages and is spoken by approximately 128 million people. It can be treated as a group of West Germanic languages that constitute the standard German language, referred to as Hochdeutsch. It should be mentioned that the current German is not a homogeneous language, but is the consequence of numerous changes in its structure during several linguistic periods: Old High German (Althochdeutsch), Middle High German (Mittelhochdeutsch) and Early New High German (Frühneuhochdeutsch).There is a brief characterisation below.

What will surprise us in the Old High German period?

The Old High German period began in the year 800; during this linguistic period it was not possible to speak of a uniform German language. The Germanic tribes living in the region of current Germany spoke a language that was a combination of Bavarian and Frankish. A characteristic feature of the vocabulary of the Old High German period was the writing of German nouns in lower case. Moreover, an important point is that this language is completely incomprehensible for the current naïve German speakers. For instance:

-buoh – book ( current German – Buch)

– hunt – dog (current German – Hund)

– fuoren – leader (current German – Führer)

– queman – come (current German – kommen)

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The characteristic of the Middle High German period (Mittelhochdeutsch)

The next linguistic period influencing the further development of German is Middle High German, which lasted from 1050 to 1350 and was based on the Swabian dialect. A characteristic feature of the language of the Middle High German period (Mittelhochdeutsch) is that it was more intelligible to the current native speaker of German, but despite this, a modern German would not be able to understand the general sense of utterance. Selected words from this period show similarities with the vocabulary of the Old High German period. The differences between the vocabulary of the Middle High German period and the modern language can be observed below.

– buoch – book (current German: Buch)

– hunt – dog (current German: Hund)

– vüeren – leader (current German: Führer)

– kömen – come (current German: kommen)

The Early High German period (Frühneuhochdeutsch) and the current German language

The Early High German period lasted from 1350 to 1650 and is the period showing the greatest affinity with modern German. One example of this form of German is the Bible translated by Martin Luther, published 1534.

To sum up, German as a non-unified language is a kind of consequence of numerous linguistic processes affecting its structure and further development. It’s worth mentioning that the largest amount of vocabulary comes from the Old High German period. If you work in a translation agency, as a translator or in any other profession that involves lokalization or teaching of German, it is worth getting to know the origins of the language. Learning the German language will certainly bring us many benefits, because German is one of the most widely spoken languages in the European Union and the official language in as many as five countries: Germany, Austria, Belgium, Lichtenstein and Luxemburg.

(translation M.F.)

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