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the language of the Germans living in the Federal Republic of Germany (56 million people), the German Democratic Republic (17 million), and West Berlin (2.1 million); of the Austrians (approximately 7 million; 1970, estimate); and of part of the population of Switzerland. It is one of the two official languages of Luxembourg. German is spoken by more than 85 million people. Separate regions with German-speaking populations exist in the USSR, the USA, and several other countries. German belongs to the West Germanic group of Indo-European languages; it is based on the closely related tribal dialects of the Franks, Alamanni (Alemanni), and Bavarians.
The history of the German language is divided into three periods: Old High German (eighth through 11th centuries), Middle High German (12th and 13th centuries), and New High German, which is in turn subdivided into Early New High German (14th through 16th centuries), and New High German proper (since the 17th century). A writing system based on the Latin alphabet came into existence in the eighth century. The literature of the Old High German period is primarily clerical; writings from this period contain features of different West Germanic dialects. No common literary language existed during this period.
The Middle High German period is represented by a considerable number of clerical and secular literary texts. Twelfth- and 13th-century courtly lyric poetry reveals a tendency toward the unification of the language of the German people based on the Alamannic and East Frankish dialects. In the 15th century, supradialectal tendencies appeared in various local dialects of the language, especially in the Augsburg literary variant (Ge-meindeutsch). The colonization of Slavic and Lithuanian lands east of the Elbe enlarged the area of German language distribution and led to the formation of mixed East Middle German colonial dialects. From the 14th century, German was increasingly used in various written business transactions. The written literary language of the East Middle German region served as the basis for linguistic consolidation, which occurred slowly owing to feudal disunity.
From the second half of the 15th century, book printing, begun by J. Gutenberg, played an important role in the formation of a national literary language. In the 16th century, the Reformation and the Peasants’ War intensified the drive toward linguistic unification; M. Luther’s translation of the Bible into German played a significant role in this drive. East Middle German literary norms spread to northern Germany and also influenced the language of the south (Austria, Bavaria, Switzerland) and west. In the 18th and early 19th centuries, the standardization of the language continued under the influence of periodical publications and classical German literature. In the late 19th century, the norms for the literary “stage” pronunciation (Bühnendeutsch) were established (to a considerable extent, artificially).
The phonological system of the modern German literary language consists of 16 vowel phonemes (seven long closed vowels and seven short open vowels a, e, i, o, ö, u, ü, a long open [∊:], and a reduced [ə]), three diphthongs [ae, ao, cɸ], 19 consonant phonemes, and two affricates [pf, ts]. Vowels at the beginning of a word or root are pronounced with a hard on-glide [’aof]; the voiceless consonants p, t, and k are aspirated. Voiced consonants in final syllable or word position are devoiced. The hard-soft consonant opposition, an important phonological feature of several Slavic languages, does not exist in German.
Morphological features include synthetic and analytic methods of expressing grammatical categories and the categories of gender (masculine, feminine, and neuter), number (singular and plural), and case (nominative, genitive, dative, and accusative) in the noun system. Gender is marked by the article (sometimes by a derivational suffix), number is marked by an inflectional suffix and the article, and noun case is marked by an article and, in certain instances, also by an inflectional ending. The system of verb conjugation, in which forms are marked for person and number, has six tenses, three moods, and two voices. There are two basic types of conjugation: the weak conjugation, which uses productive inflectional suffixes, and the strong conjugation, in which forms are made by ablaut (there is a limited number of strong verbs). Compounding is a characteristic feature of the noun (for example, Völkerfreundschaft and Volkseigentum). Syntax is characterized by predominantly verbal-type sentences and fixed position of the personal form of the verb. The impersonal part of the predicate usually occupies the final position in an independent sentence (forming, with the personal form, a “framelike” construction) and the next-to-last position in a subordinate clause. The adjectival attribute is also enclosed within the frame formed by the article and noun.
Normative differences, chiefly in vocabulary and pronunciation, exist in the modern German literary language of the German Democratic Republic, the Federal Republic of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Certain regional differences have been preserved in the spoken language; these differences are also reflected in literature.
REFERENCESGukhman, M. M. Ot iazyka nemetskoi narodnosti k nemetskomu natsional’nomu iazyku, parts 1–2. Moscow-Leningrad, 1955–59.
Zhirmunskii, V. M. Nemetskaia dialektologiia. Moscow-Leningrad, 1956.
Zhirmunskii, V. M. Istoriia nemetskogo iazyka, 5th ed. Moscow, 1965.
Brinkmann, H. Die deutsche Sprache: Gestalt und Leistung, 2nd ed. Düsseldorf, 1971.
Fleischer, W. Wortbildung der deutschen Gegenwartssprache, 2nd ed. Leipzig, 1971.
Admoni, W. G. Der deutsche Sprachbau, 3rd ed. Berlin, 1972.
Der Grosse Duden. Mannheim, 1962.
Wörterbuch der deutschen Gegenwartssprache. vols. 1–4. Berlin, 1961–72.
Wörterbuch der deutschen Aussprache. Leipzig, 1964.
B. A. ABRAMOV and N. N. SEMENIUK
German writing normally uses four non-ASCII characters: "????", the first three have "umlauts" (two dots over the top): A O and U and the last is a double-S ("scharfes S") which looks like the Greek letter beta (except in capitalised words where it should be written "SS"). These can be written in ASCII in several ways, the most common are ae, oe ue AE OE UE ss or sz and the TeX versions "a "o "u "A "O "U "s.
See also ABEND, blinkenlights, DAU, DIN, gedanken, GMD, kluge.
Usenet newsgroup: news:soc.culture.german. ftp://src.doc.ic.ac.uk/usenet/news-info/soc.answers/german-faq, ftp://alice.fmi.uni-passau.de/pub/dictionaries/german.dat.Z.