History of the German Language

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Historical Linguistics

  • how languages change
  • people interested in historical linguistics often see language as not being static
  • - variety; slight grammatical differences from one person to the next
  • - seeds of language change over generations

Diachronic - a historical development (over time)

Synchronic - a snapshot of language just one moment in time

Neither is wrong but historical linguistics focuses on diachronic analysis

Abstraction - not traditional, taking something away from reality 

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Case loss occuring in German over the last several centuries 

  • for the most part nouns are not marked for cas except genitive, dative plural and n-nounss (weak masculine nouns)

Variation - diachronic development


  • mit den Kindern (more Distanzsprache)
  • mit den Kinder (more Nähesprache)
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Relatedness between languages

Mutual intelligibility - can be understood

  • Dialects tend to be theoretically mutually intelligible whereas languages tend not to be (exceptions; Swedish, Danish, Norweigan)
  • Different languages have different degrees of mutual intelligibilty

Max Weinreich "A language is just a dialect with an army and a navy"

e.g. army and navy -> states have these -> nation-states - tend to attatch a language to a nation state

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Languages and Dialects

There is no linguistic way to differentiate between languages and dialects

  • A language is something defined through political parameters not linguistics
  • Mutual intelligibilty - some different languages/dialects can be understood
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