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Origin of German Language

By Communiqua

Origins

The history of the German language begins with the High German consonant shift during the migration period, which separated Old High German dialects from Old Saxon. The earliest evidence of Old High German is from scattered Elder Futhark inscriptions, especially in Alemannic, from the sixth century AD; the earliest glosses (Abrogans) date to the eighth century; and the oldest coherent texts (the Hildebrandslied, the Muspilli and the Merseburg Incantations) to the ninth century. Old Saxon, at this time, belonged to the North Sea Germanic cultural sphere, and Lower Saxony was to fall under German, rather than Anglo-Frisian, influence during the existence of the Holy Roman Empire.

Because Germany was divided into many different states, the only force working for a unification or standardization of German for several hundred years was the general wish of German writers to be understood by as many readers as possible.

Modern German

Germany

When Martin Luther translated the Bible (the New Testament in 1522 and the Old Testament, published in parts and completed in 1534), he based his translation primarily on the standard bureaucratic language used in Saxony (sächsische Kanzleisprache), also known as Meißner-Deutsch (German from the city of Meissen). This language was based on Eastern Upper and Eastern Central German dialects, and preserved much of the grammatical system of Middle High German, unlike the spoken German dialects in Central and Upper Germany, which had, at that time, already begun to lose the genitive case and the preterite tense.

Copies of Luther's Bible featured a long list of glosses for each region that translated words which were unknown in the region into the regional dialect. Roman Catholics initially rejected Luther's translation, and tried to create their own Catholic standard of the German language (gemeines Deutsch) – the difference in relation to "Protestant German" was minimal. We at Communiqua provide german classes in chennai at Purasawalkam. It was not until the middle of the 18th century that a widely accepted standard was created, ending the period of Early New High German.

Until about 1800, standard German was mainly a written language: in urban northern Germany, the local Low Saxon or Low German dialects were spoken. Standard German, which was markedly different, was often learned as a foreign language with uncertain pronunciation. Northern German pronunciation was considered the standard in prescriptive pronunciation guides; however, the actual pronunciation of Standard German varies from region to region.

Austrian Empire

German was the language of commerce and government in the Habsburg Empire, which encompassed a large area of Central and Eastern Europe. Until the mid-19th century, it was essentially the language of townspeople throughout most of the Empire. Its use indicated that the speaker was a merchant or someone from an urban area, regardless of nationality.

Some cities, such as Prague (German: Prag) and Budapest (Buda, German: Ofen), were gradually Germanized in the years after their incorporation into the Habsburg domain. Others, such as Pozsony (German: Pressburg, now Bratislava), were originally settled during the Habsburg period, and were primarily German at that time. Most cities remained primarily non-German, but some cities, such as Prague, Budapest, Bratislava, Zagreb (German: Agram), and Ljubljana (German: Laibach), contained significant German minorities.

In the eastern provinces of Banat and Transylvania (German: Siebenbürgen), German was the predominant language not only in the larger towns – such as Temeswar (Timișoara), Hermannstadt (Sibiu) and Kronstadt (Brașov) – but also in many smaller localities in the surrounding areas.

Standardization

The most comprehensive guide to the vocabulary of the German language is found within the Deutsches Wörterbuch. This dictionary was created by the Brothers Grimm and is composed of 16 parts which were issued between 1852 and 1860. In 1872, grammatical and orthographic rules first appeared in the Duden Handbook.

In 1901, the 2nd Orthographical Conference ended with a complete standardization of the German language in its written form and the Duden Handbook was declared its standard definition. The Deutsche Bühnensprache (literally, German stage language) had established conventions for German pronunciation in theatre (Bühnendeutsch) three years earlier; however, this was an artificial standard that did not correspond to any traditional spoken dialect. Rather, it was based on the pronunciation of Standard German in Northern Germany, although it was subsequently regarded often as a general prescriptive norm, despite differing pronunciation traditions especially in the Upper-German-speaking regions that still characterize the dialect of the area today – especially the pronunciation of the ending -ig as [ɪk] instead of [ɪç]. In Northern Germany, Standard German was a foreign language to most inhabitants, whose native dialects were subsets of Low German. It was usually encountered only in writing or formal speech; in fact, most of Standard German was a written language, not identical to any spoken dialect, throughout the German-speaking area until well into the 19th century.

Official revisions of some of the rules from 1901 were not issued until the controversial German orthography reform of 1996 was made the official standard by governments of all German-speaking countries. Media and written works are now almost all produced in Standard German (often called Hochdeutsch, "High German") which is understood in all areas where German is spoken.

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