German Language History

The language of the first printed book

The German language ranks tenth in the world’s league table of languages. It’s a West Germanic language spoken by about 121 million native speakers. It is an official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Belgium, and Luxembourg. With Germany’s large economy, it is no wonder that German translation services are in higher demand than ever before. Let’s now learn a little more about the history of the German language below.

Around 80 million non-native speakers use the German language. Moreover, standard German is widely taught in schools, universities, and Goethe Institutes worldwide. German is also one of the official languages of the European Union.

The Largest German-Speaking Communities

The largest German-speaking communities live in the United States, Canada, Brazil, and Argentina. You may also hear of people speaking the German language in South America. However, that is where millions of Germans migrated over the last 200 years.

German, as we know it today, has an interesting story. Having originated because of the consonant shift, the German language has a historical significance contributing to its popularity. A consonant shift is a phonological development that makes people pronounce consonants differently. German developed only because people began speaking differently.

The German language was greatly influenced by different regions and areas within Germany. It was also heavily influenced by the countries surrounding Germany. Native German speakers would speak their own dialect depending on where they lived. This could sometimes make communication very difficult between two native German speakers. Luckily, Standard German became more popular in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The middle of the 20th century was a difficult time for German. After the World Wars, some places banned the use of the language. The anti-German sentiment was at an all-time high, and territorial changes dissuaded people in Europe from using the language. Fortunately, the German language fought through with immense resilience and is now the native language of over 100 million people.

Origins & Roots of the German Language

The earliest known examples of the written German language date from the 8th century AD. These writings consist of fragments of an epic poem: the Song of Hildebrand. There are also examples of magical charms and German glosses in Latin manuscripts.

The history of German as we know it today goes back to the Indo-European family of languages. A shift in sounds divided Germany and the German language into two main parts. The Northern German Lowlands did not go through any sound shift. In addition, Low German is the variation of spoken German. Most of central and Southern Germany, however, started pronouncing words differently. This change happened in the wake of the Second Germanic Sound Shift, where the language spoken there was High German.

Old, Middle and New German

Old German refers to a period in the history of the German language that dates back as early as 750 AD. As you might have expected, the language solidified after this time. Local dialects were, therefore, used for writing.

Middle German refers to the history of German between the years 1050 and 1350. A relatively more uniform written language developed in this period of the history of the German language. This written language developed after officials in the Roman Empire began to use the language for official writings. Before this time, it had mostly been used verbally with Latin as the language of choice for official documents.

The next period in German’s history was the Early New German period. One event that occurred in this period was the translation of the Bible into German. These German translations took place in the 16th century and also helped spread the written form of German to those who were already speaking it. This translation also meant that fewer and fewer people were using Latin for any purpose.

German Language Translation Services

Interested in German translations for your texts and content? Are you a Deutsche-speaking organisation that would like to appeal to a more diverse global audience by translating your materials into a foreign language?

At Renaissance Translations, we have a large network of expert German linguists who can provide high-quality German translations for your content in no time. Whether you have a technical document, a website or an app that you would like to translate, we can help you. Contact us today to discuss your specific project needs.