Interesting Facts about the German Language
Posted on March 27, 2014 by Chris
German is spoken by approximately 100 million people which means it’s among the most widely spoken languages in the world and the most widely spoken in the EU.
If you include second language speakers, the total number of German speakers rises to approximately 200 million.
With Deutsch such a popular language, let’s take a look at the history of the German language to see how it developed. This article is not an in-depth piece – we aim to present some interesting facts to you that’ll help you better understand the Deutsch language.
Low and High German
The first Germanic languages departed from other Indo-European languages during the First Germanic Sound Shift, better known as Grimm’s Law, which is estimated to have happened around 1000 BC. The Deutsch language now spoken by over 100 million as a first language derives from other Germanic languages, including Dutch, Scandinavian, and English, and this was created by a shift called the Second Germanic Sound Shift. West Germanic is thought to have branched off at the turn of the first century AD.
Grimm’s Law and the Second Germanic Sound Shift affected stop consonants, as such:
Voiceless Stops become Voiceless Fricatives
IE p t k
Gmc after Grimm’s Law f θ x (> h in Old English)
Voiced Stops become Voiceless Stops
IE b d g
Gmc after Grimm’s Law p t k
Voiced Aspirates become Voiced Fricatives
IE bh dh gh
Gmc after Grimm’s Law ¾ ð
There are five languages which are similar to German in their vocabulary – Luxembourgish, Yiddish, Dutch, the Frisian languages and English. During the Austrian Empire (Habsburg Empire 1526 – 1804), German was the language of commerce and Government, and the language spoken by townspeople until the mid-19th century.
In Switzerland, the German language was standardised in 1901 at the 2nd Orthographical Conference.
The German language is primarily spoken in Germany, where it is the first language for 95% of the population. It is also widely spoken in Austria with 89% of the population speaking it as their first language. Liechtenstein is the only state where German is the sole official spoken language.
There is an estimated 5 million native German speakers living in the US and 1.5 million native German speakers living in Brazil. Canada also enjoys a large number of German speakers, with an estimated number of 450,000.