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The town of Shakhty, the Rostov region, 85-B Pobeda Revolutsii Str., 3rd floor, office 5

Office tel./fax: +7 (8636) 279-161. Mobile phone numbers: +7 (918) 529-09-62, +7 (903) 437-42-26

e-mail: info@jbs-ltd.com 

The German language

German (Deutsch) is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90– 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union.

Origins

The history of the language begins with the High German consonant shift during the migration period, separating Old High German dialects from Old Saxon. The earliest testimonies of Old High German are from scattered Elder Futhark inscriptions, especially in Alemannic, from the 6th century AD; the earliest glosses (Abrogans) date to the 8th; and the oldest coherent texts (the Hildebrandslied, the Muspilli and the Merseburg Incantations) to the 9th century. Old Saxon at this time belongs to the North Sea Germanic cultural sphere, and Low Saxon was to fall under German rather than Anglo-Frisian influence during the Holy Roman Empire.

As Germany was divided into many different states, the only force working for a unification or standardization of German during a period of several hundred years was the general preference of writers trying to write in a way that could be understood in the largest possible area.

Modern German

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 mainly on the bureaucratic standard 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 already at that time began to lose the genitive case and the preterit). In the beginning, copies of the Bible had a long list for each region, which translated words unknown in the region into the regional dialect. Roman Catholics rejected Luther's translation in the beginning and tried to create their own Catholic standard (gemeines Deutsch) — which, however, differed from «Protestant German» only in some minor details. It took until the middle of the 18th century to create a standard that was widely accepted, thus ending the period of Early New High German.

Until about 1800, standard German was almost only a written language. At this time, people in urban northern Germany, who spoke dialects very different from Standard German, learned it almost like a foreign language and tried to pronounce it as closely to the spelling as possible. Prescriptive pronunciation guides used to consider northern German pronunciation to be the standard. However, the actual pronunciation of Standard German varies from region to region.

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. It indicated that the speaker was a merchant, an urbanite, not their 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 Bratislava (German: Pressburg), were originally settled during the Habsburg period and were primarily German at that time. A few cities such as Milan (German: Mailand) remained primarily non-German. However, most cities were primarily German during this time, such as Prague, Budapest, Bratislava, Zagreb (German: Agram), and Ljubljana (German: Laibach), though they were surrounded by territory that spoke other languages.

In 1901, the 2nd Orthographical Conference ended with a complete standardization of German language in its written form while the Deutsche Bühnensprache (literally, German stage language) had already established rules for German three years earlier, which were later to become obligatory for general German pronunciation.

Media and written works are now almost all produced in Standard German (often called Hochdeutsch in German) which is understood in all areas where German is spoken.

The first dictionary of the Brothers Grimm, the 16 parts of which were issued between 1852 and 1860, remains the most comprehensive guide to the words of the German language. In 1860, grammatical and orthographic rules first appeared in the Duden Handbook. In 1901, this was declared the standard definition of the German language. Official revisions of some of these rules were not issued until 1998, when the German spelling reform of 1996 was officially promulgated by governmental representatives of all German-speaking countries. Since the reform, German spelling has been in an eight-year transitional period during which the reformed spelling is taught in most schools, while traditional and reformed spellings co-exist in the media. See German spelling reform of 1996 for an overview of the public debate concerning the reform, with some major newspapers and magazines and several known writers refusing to adopt it.

(from Wikipedia the free encyclopedia)