Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 7

The Germanic languages are a group of related languages that constitute a branch of the Indo-European (IE) language family.

The common ancestor of all the languages in this branch is Proto-Germanic, spoken in approximately the mid-1st millennium BC in Iron Age northern Europe. Proto-Germanic, along with all of its descendants, is characterized by a number of unique linguistic features, most famously the consonant change known as Grimm's law. Early varieties of Germanic enter history with the Germanic peoples settled in northern Europe along the borders of the Roman Empire in the second century BC. The The most group widely spoken Germanic major languages languages, are English and German, such as Dutch with and Faroese with with 23 a

approximately 310-375 million[1][2] and over 100 million[3] native speakers respectively. includes other million[4] and Afrikaans with over 6 million native speakers[5]; and the North Germanic languages including Norwegian, Danish, Swedish, Icelandic, Germanic languages. combined total of about 20 million speakers.[6] The SIL Ethnologue lists 53 different

Characteristics Germanic languages possess several unique features, such as the following: 1. The leveling of the Indo-European verbal system of tense and aspect into the present tense and the past tense (also called the preterite) 2. A large class of verbs that use a dental suffix (/d/ or /t/) instead of vowel alternation (Indo-European ablaut) to indicate past tense; these are called the Germanic weak verbs; the remaining verbs with vowel ablaut are the Germanic strong verbs 3. The use of so-called strong and weak adjectives: different sets of inflectional endings for adjectives depending on the definiteness of the noun phrase (modern English adjectives do not inflect at all, except for the comparative and superlative; this was not the case in Old English, where adjectives were inflected differently depending on the type of determiner they were preceded by)

4. The consonant shift known as Grimm's Law (the consonants in High German have shifted farther yet by the High German consonant shift) 5. A number of words with etymologies that are difficult to link to other IndoEuropean families, but variants of which appear in almost all Germanic languages; see Germanic substrate hypothesis 6. The shifting of stress accent onto the root of the stem and later to the first syllable of the word (though English has an irregular stress, native words always have a fixed stress regardless of what is added to them) Germanic languages differ from each other to a greater degree than do some other language families such as the Romance or Slavic languages. Roughly speaking, Germanic languages differ in how conservative or how progressive each language is with respect to an overall trend toward analyticity. Some, such as Icelandic, and to a lesser extent German, have preserved much of the complex inflectional morphologyinherited from the Proto-Indo-European language. Others, such as English, Swedish, and Afrikaans have moved toward a largely analytic type. Another characteristic of Germanic languages is the verb second or V2 word order, which is quite uncommon cross-linguistically. This feature is shared by all modern Germanic languages except modern English (which nevertheless appears to have had V2 earlier in its history), which has largely replaced the structure with an overall Subject Verb Object syntax.

Writing The earliest evidence of Germanic languages comes from names recorded in the first century by Tacitus (especially from his work Germania), but the earliest Germanic writing occurs in a single instance in the second century BC on the Negau helmet[7]. From roughly the second century AD, certain speakers of early Germanic varieties developed the Elder Futhark, an early form of the Runic alphabet. Early runic inscriptions also are largely limited to personal names, and difficult to interpret. The Gothic language was written in the Gothic alphabet developed by Bishop Ulfilas for his translation of

the Bible in the fourth century. Later, Christian priests and monks who spoke and read Latin in addition to their native Germanic varieties began writing the Germanic languages with slightly modified Latin letters. However, throughout the Viking Age, Runic alphabets remained in common use in Scandinavia. In addition to the standard Latin alphabet, many Germanic languages use a variety of accent marks and extra and letters, the including umlauts, Historical the (Eszett), , , , , , , , , , runes and .

printed German is frequently set in blackletter typefaces (e.g. fraktur or schwabacher).

History All Germanic languages are thought to be descended from a hypothetical ProtoGermanic, united by subjection to the sound shifts of Grimm's lawand Verner's law. These probably took place during the Pre-Roman Iron Age of Northern Europe from ca. 500 BC, but other common innovations separating Germanic from Proto-Indo European suggest a common history of pre-Proto-Germanic speakers throughout the Nordic Bronze Age. From the time of their earliest attestation, the Germanic varieties are divided into three groups, West, East, and North Germanic. Their exact relation is difficult to determine from the sparse evidence of runic inscriptions, and they remained mutually intelligible throughout the Migration period, so that some individual varieties are difficult to classify. The sixth century Lombardic language, for instance, may be a variety originally either Northern or Eastern, before being assimilated by West Germanic as the Lombards settled at the Elbe. The Western group would have formed in the late Jastorf culture, the Eastern group may be derived from the first century variety of Gotland (see Old Gutnish), leaving southern Sweden as the original location of the Northern group. The earliest coherent Germanic text preserved is the fourth century Gothic translation of the New Testament by Ulfilas. Early testimonies of West Germanic are in Old High German (scattered words and sentences sixth century, coherent texts ninth century)

and Old English (coherent texts tenth century). North Germanic is only attested in scattered runic inscriptions, as Proto-Norse, until it evolves into Old Norse by about 800. Longer runic inscriptions survive from the eighth and ninth centuries (Eggjum stone, Rk stone), longer texts in the Latin alphabet survive from the twelfth century (slendingabk), and some skaldic poetry held to date back to as early as the ninth century.

West Germanic languages

(High German, West Germanic) Germanic) Scandinavian

Dutch (Low Franconian, West Germanic)

Low German (West Germanic)

Central German

Upper German (High German, West Germanic)

English (Anglo-Frisian, West East Scandinavian West

Frisian (Anglo-Frisian, West Germanic)North Germanic languages Line dividing the North and West Germanic languages

By about the tenth century, the varieties had diverged enough to make intercomprehensibility difficult. The linguistic contact of the Vikingsettlers of the Danelaw with the Anglo-Saxons left traces in the English language, and is suspected to have facilitated the collapse of Old English grammar that resulted in Middle English from the twelfth century. The East Germanic languages were marginalized from the end of the Migration period. The Burgundians, Goths, and Vandals became linguistically assimilated by their respective neighbors by about the seventh century, with only Crimean Gothic lingering on until the eighteenth century.

During the early Middle Ages, the West Germanic languages were separated by the insular development of Middle English on one hand, and by the High German consonant shift on the continent on the other, resulting in Upper German and Low Saxon, with graded intermediateCentral German varieties. By Early modern times, the span had extended into considerable differences, ranging from Highest Alemannic in the South to Northern Low Saxon in the North and, although both extremes are considered German, they are hardly mutually intelligible. The southernmost varieties had completed the second sound shift, while the northern varieties remained unaffected by the consonant shift. The North Germanic languages, on the other hand, remained more unified, with the peninsular languages largely retaining mutual intelligibility into modern times.

Classification Note that divisions between and among subfamilies of Germanic are rarely precisely defined; most form continuous clines, with adjacentvarieties being mutually intelligible and more separated ones not.

Diachronic The table below shows the succession of the significant historical stages of each language (vertically), and their approximate groupings insubfamilies (horizontally). Horizontal sequence within each group does not imply a measure of greater or lesser similarity.
Proto-Germanic Iron Age

500 BC AD 200

West Germanic East Germanic South Germanic Anglo-Frisian North Germanic

Migrati on



Old Frankish

Old Old Saxon Frisian

Old English



AD 200 700 Vandalic,Burgun

dian, Old High Germa n

Early Middle Ages

700 1100

Old Low Franconian

Runic Old West Norse

Runic Old East Norse

Middle Ages

1100 1350

Middle High Germa n Middle Dutch

Old Early Middle English Icelandi c

Old Norwegian

Early Early Ol Early Ol OldDan d d ish Swedish Gutnish

Late Middle Ages2

1350 1500

Early Modern Age Crimean Gothic

Early New High Germa n

Middle Low Germa n

Late Mid dle English

Early Scots3

Late Ol Middle Late Late Ol d OldFaroe OldNor Late Old Norwegi OldDani d Icelandi se n Gutnish an sh Swedish c

1500 1700

Early Middle Modern Frisian English

Middle Scots



Modern Age

1700 to present

all extinct

Low Franconian Icelandi Norwegi varieties, Faroese Danish Swedish c an includingD utch High Low Germa Frisian Modern Saxon English extinct n varietie Scotsvarieti extinct4 4 varieti varieties varietie s es es s

Note 1: There are conflicting opinions on the classification of Lombardic. Contrary to its isolated position in the table above, it also has been classified as close to either Upper Germanor Old Saxon. See the article on the Lombardic language for more information. Note 2: Late Middle Ages refers to the post-Black Death period. Especially for the language situation in Norway this event was important. Note 3: From Early Northern Middle English[8]. McClure gives Northumbrian Old English[9]. In the Oxford Companion to the English Language (p. 894) the 'sources' of Scots are described as "the Old English of the Kingdom of Bernicia"







from Northern and Midland England in the 12-13c [...]." The historical stages 'EarlyMiddleModern Scots' are used, for example, in the "Concise Scots Dictionary"[10] and "A Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue. Note 4: The speakers of Norn were assimilated to speak the Modern Scots varieties, and the Gutnish language today is practically a dialect of Swedish.