German Language

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Present and earlier forms of German, English, Dutch-Flemish, Afrikaans,

Yiddish, Frisian, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Icelandic, and Faeroese belong

to the family of languages called Germanic. These languages are a branch of

the Indo-European language family. Of these, English has the largest number of

speakers, considerably more than 300 million.

For some language families there are written records of the parent

language. The Romance languages, for example, are derived from Latin. But in

the case of the Germanic family, there are no records of the parent language,

called by linguists Proto-Germanic. There are, however, historical evidences

of Germanic provided by isolated words and names recorded by Latin authors

beginning in the 1st century BC, and after AD 200 there are Scandinavian

inscriptions. The earliest extensive Germanic text is the Gothic Bible,

translated by Bishop Ulfilas in about AD 350. Like every language spoken over

a large geographical area, Proto-Germanic presumably consisted of dialects

that developed into the modern Germanic languages.

The original Germanic peoples were located in southern Scandinavia and

along the North Sea and Baltic coasts from what is now The Netherlands to

present-day Poland. During the early years of the Roman Empire they gradually

spread southward through present-day Germany, Austria, and parts of

Switzerland. Some tribes conquered the British Isles, Iceland, and the Faeroe

Islands north of Scotland.

German is the national language of Germany and Austria, and it is one of

the three national languages of Switzerland. There are also German-speaking

communities in North America, South Africa, Latin America, and Australia. In

the Western world German is extensively used as a second language. As a

written language, it is quite uniform, differing no more from one country to

another than does English in Great Britain and the United States. Spoken

German, however, exists in...