West Germanic languages

The West Germanic languages constitute the largest of the three branches of the Germanic family of languages (the others being the North Germanic and the extinct East Germanic languages).

The three most prevalent West Germanic languages are English, German, and Dutch. The family also includes other High and Low German languages including Afrikaans and Yiddish (which are daughter languages of Dutch and German, respectively), in addition to other Franconian languages, like Luxembourgish, and Ingvaeonic (North Sea Germanic) languages next to English, such as the Frisian languages and Scots. Additionally, several creoles, patois, and pidgins are based on Dutch and English as they were languages of colonial empires.

West Germanic
EthnicityWest Germanic peoples
Geographic
distribution
Originally between the Rhine, Alps, Elbe, and North Sea; today worldwide
Linguistic classificationIndo-European
Subdivisions
ISO 639-5gmw
Linguasphere52-AB & 52-AC
Glottologwest2793[1]

History

Germanic languages in Europe
The Germanic languages in Europe:
North Germanic languages
  Danish
West Germanic languages
  Scots
  Dutch
  German
Dots indicate areas where multilingualism is common.

Origins

The West Germanic languages share many lexemes not existing in North Germanic and/or East Germanic—archaisms as well as common neologisms.

Existence of a West Germanic proto-language

Most scholars doubt that there was a Proto-West-Germanic proto-language common to the West Germanic languages and no others, though a few maintain that Proto-West-Germanic existed.[2] Most agree that after East Germanic broke off (an event usually dated to the 2nd or 1st century BC), the remaining Germanic languages, the Northwest Germanic languages, divided into four main dialects:[3] North Germanic, and the three groups conventionally called "West Germanic", namely

  1. North Sea Germanic, ancestral to Anglo-Frisian and Old Saxon
  2. Weser-Rhine Germanic, ancestral to Low Franconian and the Central German dialects of Old High German)
  3. Elbe Germanic, ancestral to the Upper German dialects of Old High German and the extinct Langobardic language.

Although there is quite a bit of knowledge about North Sea Germanic or Anglo-Frisian (due to characteristic features of its daughter languages, Anglo-Saxon/Old English and Old Frisian), linguists know almost nothing about "Weser-Rhine Germanic" and "Elbe Germanic". In fact, these two terms were coined in the 1940s to refer to groups of archaeological findings rather than linguistic features. Only later were these terms applied to hypothetical dialectal differences within both regions. Even today, the very small number of Migration Period runic inscriptions from this area—many of them illegible, unclear or consisting only of one word, often a name—is insufficient to identify linguistic features specific to the two supposed dialect groups.

Evidence that East Germanic split off before the split between North and West Germanic comes from a number of linguistic innovations common to North and West Germanic,[4] including:

  • The lowering of Proto-Germanic ē (/ɛː/, also written ǣ) to ā.[5]
  • The development of umlaut.
  • The rhotacism of /z/ to /r/.
  • The development of the demonstrative pronoun ancestral to English this.

Under this view, the properties that the West Germanic languages have in common separate from the North Germanic languages are not necessarily inherited from a "Proto-West-Germanic" language, but may have spread by language contact among the Germanic languages spoken in central Europe, not reaching those spoken in Scandinavia or reaching them much later. Rhotacism, for example, was largely complete in West Germanic at a time when North Germanic runic inscriptions still clearly distinguished the two phonemes. There is also evidence that the lowering of ē to ā occurred first in West Germanic and spread to North Germanic later, since word-final ē was lowered before it was shortened in West Germanic, whereas in North Germanic the shortening occurred first, resulting in e that later merged with i. However, there are also a number of common archaisms in West Germanic shared by neither Old Norse nor Gothic. Some authors who support the concept of a West Germanic proto-language claim that not only shared innovations can require the existence of a linguistic clade but that there can be also archaisms that cannot be explained simply as retentions later lost in the North and/or East because this assumption can produce contradictions with attested features of these other branches.

The debate on the existence of a Proto-West-Germanic clade was recently summarized:

That North Germanic is .. a unitary subgroup [of Proto-Germanic] is completely obvious, as all of its dialects shared a long series of innovations, some of them very striking. That the same is true of West Germanic has been denied, but I will argue in vol. ii that all the West Germanic languages share several highly unusual innovations that virtually force us to posit a West Germanic clade. On the other hand, the internal subgrouping of both North Germanic and West Germanic is very messy, and it seems clear that each of those subfamilies diversified into a network of dialects that remained in contact for a considerable period of time (in some cases right up to the present).[6]

The reconstruction of Proto-West-Germanic

Several scholars have published reconstructions of Proto-West-Germanic morphological paradigms[7] and many authors have reconstructed individual Proto-West-Germanic morphological forms or lexemes. The first comprehensive reconstruction of the Proto-West-Germanic language was published in 2013 by Wolfram Euler.[8]

Dating Early West Germanic

If indeed Proto-West-Germanic existed, it must have been between the 2nd and 4th centuries. Until the late 2nd century AD, the language of runic inscriptions found in Scandinavia and in Northern Germany were so similar that Proto-North-Germanic and the Western dialects in the south were still part of one language ("Proto-Northwest-Germanic"). After that, the split into West and North Germanic occurred. By the 4th and 5th centuries the great migration set in which probably help diversify the West Germanic family even more.

It has been argued that, judging by their nearly identical syntax, the West Germanic dialects were closely enough related to have been mutually intelligible up to the 7th century.[9] Over the course of this period, the dialects diverged successively. The High German consonant shift that occurred mostly during the 7th century AD in what is now southern Germany, Austria, and Switzerland can be considered the end of the linguistic unity among the West Germanic dialects, although its effects on their own should not be overestimated. Bordering dialects very probably continued to be mutually intelligible even beyond the boundaries of the consonant shift. In fact, many dialects of Limburgish and Ripuarian are still mutually intelligible today.

Middle Ages

During the Early Middle Ages, the West Germanic languages were separated by the insular development of Old and Middle English on one hand, and by the High German consonant shift on the continent on the other.

The High German consonant shift distinguished the High German languages from the other West Germanic languages. By early modern times, the span had extended into considerable differences, ranging from Highest Alemannic in the South (the Walliser dialect being the southernmost surviving German dialect) to Northern Low Saxon in the North. Although both extremes are considered German, they are not mutually intelligible. The southernmost varieties have completed the second sound shift, whereas the northern dialects remained unaffected by the consonant shift.

Of modern German varieties, Low German is the one that most resembles modern English. The district of Angeln (or Anglia), from which the name English derives, is in the extreme northern part of Germany between the Danish border and the Baltic coast. The area of the Saxons (parts of today's Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony) lay south of Anglia. The Anglo-Saxons, two Germanic tribes, were a combination of a number of peoples from northern Germany and the Jutland Peninsula.

Family tree

Einteilung der Germanen nach Maurer.en
Grouping of the main Germanic languages, including historical dialects, according to Friedrich Maurer.

Note that divisions between subfamilies of continental Germanic languages are rarely precisely defined; most form dialect continua, with adjacent dialects being mutually intelligible and more separated ones not.

Comparison of phonological and morphological features

The following table shows a list of various linguistic features and their extent among the West Germanic languages. Some may only appear in the older languages but are no longer apparent in the modern languages.

Old English Old Frisian Old Saxon Old Dutch Old Central
German
Old Upper
German
Palatalisation of velars Yes Yes No No No No
Unrounding of front rounded vowels Yes Yes No No No No
Loss of intervocalic *-h- Yes Yes Developing Yes Developing No
Class II weak verb ending *-(ō)ja- Yes Yes Sometimes No No No
Merging of plural forms of verbs Yes Yes Yes No No No
Ingvaeonic nasal spirant law Yes Yes Yes Rare No No
Loss of the reflexive pronoun Yes Yes Most dialects Most dialects No No
Loss of final *-z in single-syllable words Yes Yes Yes Yes No No
Reduction of weak class III to four relics Yes Yes Yes Yes No No
Monophthongization of *ai, *au Yes Yes Yes Usually Partial Partial
Diphthongization of *ē, *ō No No Rare Yes Yes Yes
Final-obstruent devoicing No No No Yes Developing No
Loss of initial *h- before consonant No No No Yes Yes Developing
Loss of initial *w- before consonant No No No No Most dialects Yes
High German consonant shift No No No No Partial Yes

Phonology

The original vowel system of West Germanic was similar to that of Proto-Germanic; note however the lowering of the long front vowels.

Monophthong phonemes of West Germanic
Front Central Back
unrounded unrounded rounded
short long short long short long
Close i u
Mid e o
Open æ: a

The consonant system was also essentially the same as that of Proto-Germanic. Note, however, the particular changes described above, as well as West Germanic gemination.

Morphology

Nouns

The noun paradigms of Proto-West Germanic have been reconstructed as follows:[10]

Case Nouns in -a- (m.) Nouns in -ja- Nouns in -ija- Nouns in -a- (n.) Nouns in -ō- Nouns in -i- Nouns in -u- Nouns in -u- (n.)
Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
Nominative *dagă *dagō, -ōs *harjă *harjō, -ōs *hirdijă *hirdijō, -ijōs *joką *joku *gebu *gebō *gasti *gastī *sunu *suniwi, -ō *fehu (?)
Vocative *dag *hari *hirdī
Accusative *dagą *dagą̄ *harją *harją̄ *hirdiją *hirdiją̄ *gebā *gebā *gastį *gastį̄ *sunų *sunų̄
Genitive *dagas *dagō *harjas *harjō *hirdijas *hirdijō *jokas *jokō *gebā *gebō *gastī *gastijō *sunō *suniwō *fehō
Dative *dagē *dagum *harjē *harjum *hirdijē *hirdijum *jokē *jokum *gebē *gebōm *gastim *suniwi, -ō *sunum *fehiwi, -ō
Instrumental *dagu *harju *hirdiju *joku *gebu *sunu *fehu

West Germanic vocabulary

The following table compares a number of Frisian, English, Dutch and German words with common West Germanic (or older) origin. The grammatical gender of each term is noted as masculine (m.), feminine (f.), or neuter (n.) where relevant.

West Frisian English Dutch German Old English Old High German Proto-West-Germanic[11] Proto-Germanic
kaam comb kam m. Kamm m. camb m. camb m. kąbă [see inscription of Erfurt-Frienstedt], *kambă m. *kambaz m.
dei day dag m. Tag m. dæġ m. tag m. *dagă m. *dagaz m.
rein rain regen m. Regen m. reġn m. regan m. *regnă m. *regnaz m.
wei way weg m. Weg m. weġ m. weg m. *wegă m. *wegaz m.
neil nail nagel m. Nagel m. næġel m. nagal m. *naglă m. *naglaz m.
tsiis cheese kaas m. Käse m. ċēse, ċīese m. chāsi, kāsi m. *kāsī m. *kāsijaz m. (late Proto-Germanic, from Latin cāseus)
tsjerke church
kirk (Scotland)
kerk f. Kirche f. ċiriċe f. chirihha, *kirihha f. *kirikā f. *kirikǭ f. (from Ancient Greek kuriakón "belonging to the lord")
sibbe sibling[note 1] sibbe f. Sippe f. sibb f. "kinship, peace" sippa f., Old Saxon: sibbia sibbju, sibbjā f. *sibjō f. "relationship, kinship, friendship"
kaai f. key sleutel m. Schlüssel m. cǣġ(e), cǣga f. "key, solution, experiment" sluzzil m. *slutilă m., *kēgă f. *slutilaz m. "key"; *kēgaz, *kēguz f. "stake, post, pole"
ha west have been ben geweest bin gewesen
twa skiep two sheep twee schapen n. zwei Schafe n. twā sċēap n. zwei scāfa n. *twai skēpu n. *twai(?) skēpō n.
hawwe have hebben haben habban, hafian habēn *habbjană *habjaną
ús us ons uns ūs uns *uns *uns
brea bread brood n. Brot n. brēad n. "fragment, bit, morsel, crumb" also "bread" brōt n. *braudă m. *braudą n. "cooked food, leavened bread"
hier hair haar n. Haar n. hēr, hǣr n. hār n. *hǣră n. *hērą n.
ear ear oor n. Ohr n. ēare n. < pre-English *ǣora ōra n. *aura < *auza n. *auzǭ, *ausōn n.
doar door deur f. Tür f. duru f. turi f. *duru f. *durz f.
grien green groen grün grēne gruoni *grōnĭ *grōniz
swiet sweet zoet süß swēte s(w)uozi (< *swōti) *swōtŭ *swōtuz
troch through door durch þurh duruh *þurhw
wiet wet nat nass wǣt naz (< *nat) *wǣtă / *nată *wētaz / *nataz
each eye oog n. Auge n. ēaġe n. < pre-English *ǣoga ouga n. *auga n. *augō n.
dream dream droom m. Traum m. drēam m. "joy, pleasure, ecstasy, music, song" troum m. *draumă m. *draumaz (< *draugmaz) m.
stien stone steen m. Stein m. stān m. stein m. *staină m. *stainaz m.
bed bed bed n. Bett n. bedd n. betti n. *badjă n. *badją n.

Other words, with a variety of origins:

West Frisian English Dutch German Old English Old High German Proto-West-Germanic[11] Proto-Germanic
tegearre together samen
tezamen
zusammen tōgædere
samen
tōsamne
saman
zisamane
*tōgadur
*samana
hynder horse paard n.
ros n. (dated)
Pferd n. / Ross n. hors n. eoh m. (h)ros n. / pfarifrit n. / ehu- (in compositions) *hrussă n. / *ehu m. *hrussą n., *ehwaz m.

Note that some of the shown similarities of Frisian and English vis-à-vis Dutch and German are secondary and not due to a closer relationship between them. For example, the plural of the word for "sheep" was originally unchanged in all four languages and still is in some Dutch dialects and a great deal of German dialects. Many other similarities, however, are indeed old inheritances.

Notes

  1. ^ Original meaning "relative" has become "brother or sister" in English.

References

  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "West Germanic". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. ^ Robinson (1992): p. 17-18
  3. ^ Kuhn, Hans (1955–56). "Zur Gliederung der germanischen Sprachen". Zeitschrift für deutsches Altertum und deutsche Literatur. 86: 1–47.
  4. ^ Robinson, Orrin W. (1992). Old English and Its Closest Relatives. Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047-2221-8.
  5. ^ But see Cercignani, Fausto, Indo-European ē in Germanic, in «Zeitschrift für vergleichende Sprachforschung», 86/1, 1972, pp. 104–110.
  6. ^ Ringe, Don. 2006: A Linguistic History of English. Volume I. From Proto-Indo-European to Proto-Germanic, Oxford University Press, p. 213-214.
  7. ^ H. F. Nielsen (1981, 2001), G. Klingenschmitt (2002) and K.-H. Mottausch (1998, 2011)
  8. ^ Wolfram Euler: Das Westgermanische – von der Herausbildung im 3. bis zur Aufgliederung im 7. Jahrhundert — Analyse und Rekonstruktion (West Germanic: From its Emergence in the 3rd Century to its Split in the 7th Century: Analyses and Reconstruction). 244 p., in German with English summary, London/Berlin 2013, ISBN 978-3-9812110-7-8.
  9. ^ Graeme Davis (2006:154) notes "the languages of the Germanic group in the Old period are much closer than has previously been noted. Indeed it would not be inappropriate to regard them as dialects of one language. They are undoubtedly far closer one to another than are the various dialects of modern Chinese, for example. A reasonable modern analogy might be Arabic, where considerable dialectical diversity exists but within the concept of a single Arabic language." In: Davis, Graeme (2006). Comparative Syntax of Old English and Old Icelandic: Linguistic, Literary and Historical Implications. Bern: Peter Lang. ISBN 3-03910-270-2.
  10. ^ Ringe and Taylor. The Development of Old English. Oxford University Press. pp. 114–115.
  11. ^ a b sources: Ringe, Don / Taylor, Ann (2014) and Euler, Wolfram (2013), passim.

Bibliography

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  • Bammesberger, Alfred (Ed.) (1991), Old English Runes and their Continental Background. Heidelberg: Winter.
  • Bammesberger, Alfred (1996). The Preterite of Germanic Strong Verbs in Classes Fore and Five, in "North-Western European Language Evolution" 27, 33–43.
  • Bremmer, Rolf H., Jr. (2009). An Introduction to Old Frisian. History, Grammar, Reader, Glossary. Amsterdam / Philadelphia: Benjamins Publishing Company.
  • Euler, Wolfram (2002/03). "Vom Westgermanischen zum Althochdeutschen" (From West Germanic to Old High German), Sprachaufgliederung im Dialektkontinuum, in Klagenfurter Beiträge zur Sprachwissenschaft, Vol. 28/29, 69–90.
  • Euler, Wolfram (2013) Das Westgermanische – von der Herausbildung im 3. bis zur Aufgliederung im 7. Jahrhundert – Analyse und Rekonstruktion (West Germanic: from its Emergence in the 3rd up until its Dissolution in the 7th Century CE: Analyses and Reconstruction). 244 p., in German with English summary, Verlag Inspiration Un Limited, London/Berlin 2013, ISBN 978-3-9812110-7-8.
  • Härke, Heinrich (2011). Anglo-Saxon Immigration and Ethnogenesis, in: „Medieval Archaeology” No. 55, 2011, pp. 1–28.
  • Hilsberg, Susan (2009). Place-Names and Settlement History. Aspects of Selected Topographical Elements on the Continent and in England, Magister Theses, Universität Leipzig.
  • Klein, Thomas (2004). "Im Vorfeld des Althochdeutschen und Altsächsischen" (Prior to Old High German and Old Saxon), in Entstehung des Deutschen. Heidelberg, 241–270.
  • Kortlandt, Frederik (2008). Anglo-Frisian, in „North-Western European Language Evolution“ 54/55, 265 – 278.
  • Looijenga, Jantina Helena (1997). Runes around the North Sea and on the Continent AD 150–700; Text & Contents. Groningen: SSG Uitgeverij.
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  • Mees, Bernard (2002). The Bergakker inscription and the beginnings of Dutch, in „Amsterdamer Beiträge zur älteren Germanistik” 56, 23–26.
  • Mottausch, Karl-Heinz (1998). Die reduplizierenden Verben im Nord- und Westgermanischen: Versuch eines Raum-Zeit-Modells, in "North-Western European Language Evolution" 33, 43–91.
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  • Page, Raymond I. (1999). An Introduction to English Runes, 2. edition. Woodbridge: Bogdell Press.
  • Page, Raymond I. (2001). Frisian Runic Inscriptions, in Horst Munske et al., "Handbuch des Friesischen". Tübingen, 523–530.
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External links

Anglo-Frisian languages

The Anglo-Frisian languages are the West Germanic languages which include Anglic (or English) and Frisian.

The Anglo-Frisian languages are distinct from other West Germanic languages due to several sound changes: the Ingvaeonic nasal spirant law, Anglo-Frisian brightening, and palatalization of /k/:

English cheese and West Frisian tsiis, but Dutch kaas, Low German Kees, and German Käse

English church and West Frisian tsjerke, but Dutch kerk, Low German Kerk, Kark, and German KircheThe early Anglo-Frisian and Old Saxon were spoken by intercommunicating populations, which led to shared linguistic traits through assimilation. English and Frisian have a proximal ancestral form in common before their divergence. Geography isolated the settlers of Great Britain from Continental Europe, except from contact with communities capable of open water navigation. This resulted in Old Norse and Norman language influences on Modern English, whereas Modern Frisian was subject to contact with the southernly Germanic populations, restricted to the continent.

Benrath line

In German linguistics, the Benrath line (German: Benrather Linie) is the maken–machen isogloss: dialects north of the line have the original /k/ in maken (to make), while those to the south have the innovative /x/ (machen). The Line runs from Benrath (part of Düsseldorf) and Aachen to eastern Germany near Frankfurt an der Oder in the area of Berlin and Dessau and later in Prussian dividing Low Prussian dialect and High Prussian dialect.

The High German consonant shift (3rd to 9th centuries AD), in which the (northern) Low German dialects for the most part did not participate, affected the southern varieties of the West Germanic dialect continuum. This shift is traditionally seen to distinguish the High German varieties from the other West Germanic languages.

The impact of the High German consonant shift increases gradually to the South. The Benrath line does not mark the northernmost effect of the High German consonant shift, since the Uerdingen line, the ik–ich isogloss, lies slightly further north; and some of the peripheral changes associated with the shift did affect Low German.

Central Franconian dialects

Central Franconian (German: mittelfränkische Dialekte, mittelfränkische Mundarten, Mittelfränkisch) refers to the following continuum of West Central German dialects:

Ripuarian (spoken in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, in eastern Belgium, and the southeastern tip of Dutch Limburg)

Moselle Franconian (in German Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland, in eastern Belgium and French Lorraine)

Luxembourgish (in Luxembourg and the adjacent areas of Belgium and France)Luxembourgish is often included within Moselle Franconian, but sometimes regarded as a separate group. The German-speaking Community of Belgium comprises both Ripuarian and Moselle Franconian dialects. The Central Franconian dialects are part of the Rhinelandic continuum stretching from the Low Franconian language area in the northwest to the Rhine Franconian dialects in the southeast.

Along with Limburgish, Central Franconian has a simple tone system called pitch accent.The Central Franconian language area is not to be confused with the Bavarian administrative district of Middle Franconia, where East Franconian dialects are spoken.

The Central Franconian dialects are of particular interest to linguists because of the tonal distinctions made between different words, for example (Ripuarian) zɛɪ (tonal accent 1) "sieve" vs. zɛɪ (tonal accent 2) "she". See Pitch-accent languages#Franconian dialects.

Elbe Germanic

Elbe Germanic, also called Irminonic, is a term introduced by the German linguist Friedrich Maurer (1898–1984) in his book, Nordgermanen und Alemanen, to describe the unattested proto-language, or dialectal grouping, ancestral to the later Alemannic, Lombardic, Thuringian and Bavarian dialects. During Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, its supposed descendants had a profound influence on the neighboring West Central German dialects and, later, in the form of Standard German, on the German language as a whole.

Genisteae

Genisteae is a tribe of trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants in the subfamily Faboideae of the legume family Fabaceae. It includes a number of well-known plants including broom, lupine (lupin), gorse and laburnum.

The tribe's greatest diversity is in the Mediterranean, and most genera are native to Europe, Africa, the Canary Islands, India and southwest Asia. However, the largest genus, Lupinus, is most diverse in North and South America. Anarthrophytum and Sellocharis are also South American and Aryrolobium ranges into India.

Germanic languages

The Germanic languages are a branch of the Indo-European language family spoken natively by a population of about 515 million people mainly in Europe, North America, Oceania, and Southern Africa.

The West Germanic languages include the three most widely spoken Germanic languages: English with around 360-400 million native speakers; German, with over 100 million native speakers; and Dutch, with 24 million native speakers. Other West Germanic languages include Afrikaans, an offshoot of Dutch, with over 7.1 million native speakers; Low German, considered a separate collection of unstandardized dialects, with roughly 0.3 million native speakers and probably 6.7–10 million people who can understand it (at least 5 million in Germany and 1.7 million in the Netherlands); Yiddish, once used by approximately 13 million Jews in pre-World War II Europe, and Scots, both with 1.5 million native speakers; Limburgish varieties with roughly 1.3 million speakers along the Dutch–Belgian–German border; and the Frisian languages with over 0.5 million native speakers in the Netherlands and Germany.

The main North Germanic languages are Danish, Faroese, Icelandic, Norwegian and Swedish, which have a combined total of about 20 million speakers.

The East Germanic branch included Gothic, Burgundian, and Vandalic, all of which are now extinct. The last to die off was Crimean Gothic, spoken until the late 18th century in some isolated areas of Crimea.The SIL Ethnologue lists 48 different living Germanic languages, 41 of which belong to the Western branch and six to the Northern branch; it places Riograndenser Hunsrückisch German in neither of the categories, but it is often considered a German dialect by linguists. The total number of Germanic languages throughout history is unknown as some of them, especially the East Germanic languages, disappeared during or after the Migration Period. Some of the West Germanic languages also did not survive past the Migration Period, including Lombardic. As a result of World War II, the German language suffered a significant loss of Sprachraum, as well as moribundness and extinction of several of its dialects. In the 21st century, its dialects are dying out anyway due to Standard German gaining primacy.The common ancestor of all of the languages in this branch is called Proto-Germanic, also known as Common Germanic, which was spoken in about the middle of the 1st millennium BC in Iron Age Scandinavia. Proto-Germanic, along with all of its descendants, is characterised by a number of unique linguistic features, most famously the consonant change known as Grimm's law. Early varieties of Germanic entered history with the Germanic tribes moving south from Scandinavia in the 2nd century BC, to settle in the area of today's northern Germany and southern Denmark.

High German consonant shift

In historical linguistics, the High German consonant shift or second Germanic consonant shift is a phonological development (sound change) that took place in the southern parts of the West Germanic dialect continuum in several phases. It probably began between the third and fifth centuries and was almost complete before the earliest written records in High German were produced in the ninth century. The resulting language, Old High German, can be neatly contrasted with the other continental West Germanic languages, which for the most part did not experience the shift, and with Old English, which remained completely unaffected.

High German languages

The High German languages or High German dialects (German: hochdeutsche Mundarten) comprise the varieties of German spoken south of the Benrath and Uerdingen isoglosses in central and southern Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, and Luxembourg, as well as in neighboring portions of France (Alsace and northern Lorraine), Italy (South Tyrol), the Czech Republic (Bohemia), and Poland (Upper Silesia). They are also spoken in diaspora in Romania, Russia, the United States, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Chile, and Namibia.

The High German languages are marked by the High German consonant shift, separating them from Low German and Low Franconian (Dutch) within the continental West Germanic dialect continuum.

Ingvaeonic nasal spirant law

In historical linguistics, the Ingvaeonic nasal spirant law (also called the Anglo-Frisian or North Sea Germanic nasal spirant law) is a description of a phonological development that occurred in the Ingvaeonic dialects of the West Germanic languages. This includes Old English, Old Frisian, and Old Saxon, and to a lesser degree Old Dutch (Old Low Franconian).

Meuse-Rhenish

Meuse-Rhenish (German: Rheinmaasländisch, Dutch: Maas-Rijnlands, and French: francique rhéno-mosan) is a modern term that refers to the literature written in the Middle Ages in the greater Meuse-Rhine area. This area stretches in the northern triangle roughly between the rivers Meuse (in Belgium and the Netherlands) and Rhine (in Germany). It also applies to the Low Franconian dialects that have been spoken in that area in continuation from mediaeval times up to now.

It includes varieties of South Guelderish (Zuid-Gelders) and Limburgish in the Belgian and Dutch provinces of Limburg, and their German counterparts Low Rhenish (German: Niederrheinisch) including East Bergish in German Northern Rhineland. Although some dialects of this group are spoken within the language area where German is the standard, they actually are Low Franconian in character, and are more closely related to Dutch than to High German, and could therefore also be called Dutch (see also Dutch dialects). With regard to this German part only, Meuse-Rhenish equals the total of Low Rhenish vernaculars.

North Sea Germanic

North Sea Germanic, also known as Ingvaeonic , is a postulated grouping of the northern West Germanic languages, consisting of Old Frisian, Old English and Old Saxon and their descendants.

Ingvaeonic is named after the Ingaevones, a West Germanic cultural group or proto-tribe along the North Sea coast, mentioned by both Tacitus and Pliny the Elder (the latter mentioning that tribes in the group included the Cimbri, the Teutoni, and the Chauci). It is not thought of as a monolithic proto-language but rather as a group of closely related dialects that underwent several areal changes in relative unison.

The grouping was first proposed in Nordgermanen und Alemannen (1942) by German linguist and philologist Friedrich Maurer as an alternative to the strict tree diagrams that had become popular following the work of 19th-century linguist August Schleicher and assumed the existence of a special Anglo-Frisian group. The other groupings are Istvaeonic, from the Istvaeones, including Dutch, Afrikaans and related languages; and Irminonic, from the Irminones, including the High German languages.

Ripuarian language

Ripuarian (; also Ripuarian Franconian; German: Ripuarisch, ripuarische Mundart, ripuarischer Dialekt, ripuarisch-fränkische Mundart, Ribuarisch) is a German dialect group, part of the West Central German language group.

Together with the Moselle Franconian which includes the Luxembourgish language, Ripuarian belongs to the larger Central Franconian dialect family and also to the Rhinelandic linguistic continuum with the Low Franconian languages.

It is spoken in the Rhineland south of the Benrath line — from northwest of Düsseldorf and Cologne to Aachen in the west and to Waldbröl in the east.

The language area also comprises the north of the German-speaking Community of Belgium as well as the southern edge of the Limburg province of the Netherlands, especially Kerkrade (Kirchroa). The name derives from the Ripuarian Franks (Rheinfranken), who settled in the area from the 4th century onward.

The most well known Ripuarian language is Kölsch, the local dialect of Cologne. Dialects belonging to the Ripuarian group almost always call themselves Platt like Öcher Platt (of Aachen) or Eischwiele Platt (of Eschweiler), Kirchröadsj Platt (of Kerkrade) Bocheser Platt (of Bocholtz) or Bönnsch Platt (of Bonn). Most of the more than one hundred Ripuarian dialects are bound to one specific village or municipality. Usually there are small distinctive differences between neighbouring dialects (which are, however, easily noticeable to locals), and increasingly bigger differences between the more distant dialects. These are described by a set of isoglosses called the Rhenish fan in linguistics. The way people talk, even if they are not using Ripuarian, often allows them to be traced precisely to a village or city quarter where they learned to speak.

Separable verb

A separable verb is a verb that is composed of a lexical core and a separable particle. In some sentence positions, the core verb and the particle appear in one word, whilst in others the core verb and the particle are separated. The particle cannot be accurately referred to as a prefix because it can be separated from the core verb. German, Dutch, Afrikaans and Hungarian are notable for having many separable verbs. Separable verbs challenge theories of sentence structure because when they are separated, it is not evident how the compositionality of meaning should be understood.The separation of such verbs is called tmesis.

Southeast Limburgish dialect

Southeast Limburgish (Dutch: Zuidoost-Limburgs, Ripuarian: Süüdoß-Limburjesch), also referred to as Southern Meuse-Rhenish, is a subdivision of what recently has been named Meuse-Rhenish. Both terms denote a rather compact grouping of Low Franconian varieties, spoken in the Limburg and Lower Rhineland regions, near the common Dutch/Flemish (Belgium) and Dutch/German borders. These dialectal varieties differ notably from Dutch and Flemish at the one side, and no less from German at the other. In the Netherlands and Belgium this group is often included in the generic term Limburgish. Limburgish was recently recognised as a regional language (streektaal) in the Netherlands and as such it receives moderate protection under chapter 2 of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.

The linguistic border of the Limburgish varieties to the South is the Benrath line, to the North it is the Uerdingen line. This means Southeast Limburgish is different in nature from the other Limburgish varieties.

Stadsfries dialects

Stadsfries or Town Frisian (Dutch: Stadsfriesch, Stadfriesch, Stadsfries, Stadfries; West Frisian: stedsk, stedfrysk) is a set of dialects spoken in certain cities in the province of Friesland in the northern Netherlands, namely Leeuwarden, Sneek, Bolsward, Franeker, Dokkum, Harlingen, Stavoren, and to some extent in Heerenveen. For linguistic reasons, the outlying and insular dialects of Midsland (Terschelling), Ameland, Het Bildt, and Kollum are also sometimes tied to Stadsfries.

The vocabulary of Stadsfries is derived primarily from Dutch. The dialects began in the late 15th century, when Frisia lost its political independence to the Netherlands. For many living in Frisia, learning Dutch became a necessity. The result was a mixture of Hollandic dialect vocabulary and West Frisian grammar and other language principles. Since this process began, the West Frisian language itself has evolved, such that Stadsfries is further away from modern Frisian than it is from Old Frisian. Norval Smith states that Stadsfries is a Frisian–Dutch mixed language.The name of the dialect group, Stadsfries, is not an endonym but is instead a Dutch term for the language. Stad (German: Stadt) is a Germanic term for "city" or "town", seen in English place names such as "Hempstead". In Stadsfries, the term for the dialect group is Stadsfrys or Stads, or each dialect is known simply by a name derived from the particular city name, such as Liwwarders for the dialect of Leeuwarden. In West Frisian, the dialects are known as stedsk ("city-ish"), which does not indicate the idea that Stadsfries is a form of Frisian. To indicate this difference, one can call (West) Frisian-proper Boerenfries ("farmer-Frisian").

Were

Were and wer are archaic terms for adult male humans and were often used for alliteration with wife as "were and wife" in Germanic-speaking cultures, and in the Old English construction werman, paired with the parallel wifman, denoting males and females respectively, which share structure with the current English woman. (Old English: were, Old Dutch: wer, Gothic: waír, Old Frisian: wer, Old Saxon: wer, Old High German: wer, Old Norse: verr).

Weser-Rhine Germanic

Weser-Rhine Germanic (German Weser-Rhein-Germanisch) is a term introduced by the German linguist Friedrich Maurer for the group of prehistoric West Germanic dialects ancestral to Low Franconian and Rhine Franconian, and ultimately to Dutch and the West Central German dialects. It is a replacement for the older term Istvaeonic, with which it is essentially synonymous. The term Rhine-Weser-Germanic is sometimes preferred.

West Germanic gemination

West Germanic gemination was a sound change that took place in all West Germanic languages around the 3rd or 4th century AD. It affected consonants directly followed by /j/, which were generally lengthened or geminated in that position. Because of Sievers' law, only consonants immediately after a short vowel were affected by the process.

Language subgroups
Reconstructed
Historical languages
Modern languages
Diachronic features
Synchronic features
Language histories

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