Germanic languages

Topics: Germanic languages, Runic alphabet, Germanic peoples Pages: 9 (4397 words) Published: May 29, 2014

Classification of Modern Germanic Languages and their Distribution

Classification of languages means their placement into families or phyla [‘failə] on the basis of lexical or typological similarity or shared ancestry. Languages may thus be classified either genetically or typologically. A genetic classification assumes that certain languages are related in that they have evolved from a common ancestral language. This form of classification employs ancient records as well as hypothetical reconstructions of the earlier forms of languages, called protolanguages. Typological classification is based on similarities in language structure. As for the English language, genetically (historically) it belongs to the Germanic or Teutonic group of languages of the Indo-European linguistic family. Old Germanic languages comprised 3 groups: East Germanic, North Germanic and West Germanic. East Germanic languages no longer exist, as they are dead. Only one language belonging to this group is known, Gothic, as a written document came down to us in this language. It is a translation of the Bible made in the 4th century A.D. by the Gothic Bishop Ulfilas from the Greek language. Modern Germanic languages embrace 2 groups: North Germanic and West Germanic as they have survived until today. The table below illustrates their division and distribution. Researchers are not unanimous in their estimation of the number of Germanic languages and their distinction. Until recently Dutch and Flemish were named as separate languages, now there is a common term for them – the Netherlandic (Netherlandish) (Note 7) language as spoken in The Netherlands, together with the same language in northern Belgium, which is popularly called Flemish. In the European Middle Ages, the language was called Dietsc, or Duutsc, historically equivalent to German Deutsch and meaning simply “language of the people,” as contrasted with Latin, which was the language of religion and learning. The form Duutsc was borrowed into English and gives modern “Dutch.” The official name of the language is Nederlands, or Netherlandic. In the Netherlands it is also called Hollands (Hollandish), reflecting the fact that the standard language is based largely on the dialect of the old province of Holland (now North Holland and South Holland). Frisian and Faroese are regarded as dialects since they are spoken over small politically dependent areas (Note 8); British English and American English are sometimes thought to be 2 independent languages. By one estimate, the number of people speaking Germanic languages amounts to 440 million (T.A. Rastorguyeva) plus an indefinite number of bilingual nations with English spoken as one of the official languages.

Table 1
Germanic Languages

East Germanic

North Germanic

West Germanic
dead, no longer exist
- Gothic, came down to us in the translation of the Bible by the Gothic Bishop Ulfilas, 4th A.D. (the Scandinavian group)
Swedish (Sweden, partly in Finland)
Norwegian (Norway, partly in Denmark)
Danish (Denmark, partly in Sweden)
Icelandic (Iceland)
Faroese (the Faroe Islands)
English (Britain, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Caribbean Islands, etc) German ( Germany, Austria, Luxemburg, Liechtenstein, partly in Switzerland Dutch (the Netherlands)
Flemish (Flanders, Belgium)
Afrikaans (the South African Republic)
Frisian (partly in the Netherlands and Germany( might be viewed as a dialect) Yiddish (the language of the Jewish population of Eastern Europe spoken in X-XII c.c.); in different countries)

Old Germanic Languages and their Classification

The history of the Germanic group begins with the appearance of what is known as the Proto-Germanic (PG) language also termed Common or Primitive Germanic, Primitive Teutonic or simple Germanic. PG is the linguistic ancestor or the parent-language of the Germanic group. It is believed to have split from the IE related tongues...
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