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Ahnenerbe
Sunday, August 21st, 2016, 10:50 AM
Standard English, as we have seen, is closely cognate to Standard High German. But what are the detailed relationships among English, German, and the other Germanic languages? How do we know about the earlier states of relation among the related Germanic languages?

First of all, just to reinforce what we've already learned: English and German are cognate. Neither is the source of the other. Each descends from some unknown, prehistoric language which is the source of both.

There must have been a primitive Germanic language that is the source of modern Germanic languages. The evidence from cognates is overwhelming - take, for instance, the site developed by Cathy Ball that presents versions of the Lord's Prayer (https://forums.skadi.net/showthread.php?t=138393) in different Germanic languages.

Given this cognate evidence, and the principles of reconstruction that we have used already this semester, linguists reconstruct a family tree for the Germanic languages. It has three main groups:


- Eastern (now extinct and represented only by texts in Gothic)
- Northern (the Scandinavian languages)
- Western, which in turn has two main groups: German and Anglo-Frisian.


So both modern German and modern English descend from a primitive West Germanic language family, but they are on different sides of the family. German is a closer cousin to English than either language is to Danish or Swedish.

There was clearly one group of speakers of a single Indo-European dialect, proto-Germanic; these people probably settled in southern Sweden and in Denmark between four and five thousand years ago. About 2,500 years ago, maybe a little later, these people migrated into the European continent proper, keeping mainly to the north, east of the Rhine and west of the Vistula river.

Proto-Germanic had many key distinguishing features that help to explain differences between modern Germanic languages and the Indo-European languages that they are cognate with. The best-known is Grimm's Law; here's a little program that shows how Grimm's Law works.

Proto-Germanic had two main verb systems: "strong" and "weak" verbs. These are the same that have come down to us in the present-day English contrast between "sing," which has past and past participle "sang" and "sung" and is "strong"; and "walk", which has past and past participle "walked" and is "weak."

That's not a value judgment, BTW; it's just an arbitrary classification that distinguishes the two main varieties of verb.

Proto-Germanic was a language that inflected nouns in cases. The cases were nominative, accusative, genitive and dative. Basically, nominative is the form that is used for the subject of a sentence and accusative for the direct object. Genitive is what we'd now call "possessive," and dative is the indirect-object case, also used after some prepositions.

Proto-Germanic shares these inflectional systems with Latin and Greek and other I-E languages, leading us to believe that I-E had a very similar inflectional system. The system has been greatly simplified in modern German and lost for the most part in English--but not lost entirely.

In Gothic (the earliest attested Germanic language, but not the source of the others, just a member of the Eastern branch of the family), the first and second person personal pronouns are (nominative) ik, þu, weis and jus; (accusative) mik, þuk, uns and izwis; (genitive) meina, þeina, unsara, and izwara.

These words are cognate to English I, thou, we, you; me, thee, us, you; mine, thine, ours, yours. We still have a fairly elaborate declension system for our personal pronouns, which have retained this conservative feature because they are in continuous use.

Our nouns, however, have lost all case distinctions except singular/plural and genitive/all other: dog/dogs/dog's /dogs' is the only declension that most English nouns can undergo.

Here are some other interesting things about proto-Germanic grammar: instead of just two numbers, singular and plural, pronouns had a third number, dual. Proto-Germanic was a gendered language with three genders, masculine feminine and neuter. Verb conjugations were complicated, with indicative and subjunctive moods fully elaborated.

The history of the diffusion of the Germanic languages is the history of barbarian migrations at the end of the Western Roman Empire. Not all of these migrations resulted in much linguistic change. Germanic languages continued to be spoken in the Germanic home lands of Scandinavia and central Germany, and are of course till spoken there today. These include German and Dutch on the Continent, and the Scandinavian languages in the northern regions.

But the Germanic peoples, as the maps show, went many other places during the years 300-1100. In some of these places their conquests were pretty superficial. The Ostrogoths conquered Italy and the Visigoths conquered Spain; the Vandals made it all the way to North Africa--but their impact on the later languages of those areas is negligible.

Similar things can be said of the Vikings, who settled Iceland and had a great influence on language in the North of England, but in Normandy and Ireland were basically assimilated into the local population and acquired French and Irish respectively. The Franks, who conquered Gaul, gave their name to the place but left relatively little impression on the Gaulish Latin that became modern French.

The most linguistically successful conquest by Germanic tribes was the one we are most interested in: between 400 and 600 CE, Angles and Saxons came from the North Sea coast of the Continent and settled in Britain, which till then had been a province of the Roman Empire that, like Gaul and Spain, was previously inhabited by Celts.

The Celtic languages of Britain are therefore the immediate substrate for the English language. The Romans, though they organized the province of Britain politically, laid out roads and major cities, and made Britain an important part of the Empire, never imposed their language to the degree that they had in Gaul and Spain.

Britain was therefore still mostly a British-speaking country when the Angles and Saxons arrived (and this is a key to the present-day usage of national terms--"British" is a recent revival of an ancient term that is used today to signify the United Kingdom as a nation. "English" means the culture of the part of Britain that was settled by the Angles and Saxons, and refers to just one of the three nations on the island of Great Britain (England; the other two are Wales and Scotland).

The Celtic substrate in England disappeared with about the same completeness as the American Indian language substrate has disappeared in most of North America. The Celtic words that survive in England today are few, and mostly place-names. Most of these are rivers: the Thames, the Trent, the Avon, the Derwent. Two county names are Celtic: Devon and Kent, as are the Corn- of Cornwall and the Cumber- of Cumberland.

The Latin substrate in English has left a few more traces, but nothing very substantial. Again there are place-names, especially those that end in -chester (from the Latin castra, "camp"). There are a few other words that were borrowed into West Germanic from Latin--we have seen wine (vinum) and cheese (caesum); here we should also add street (strata), which became the word for the Roman roads that still criss-cross Britain today.

Some other borrowings are of interest: church (from the Greek kuriakon), which is part of common West Germanic and probably comes directly from Greek--though if you read the OED article on church you will see perhaps the most complicated and disputed etymology in the whole dictionary. Also kitchen, which comes from the Latin cucina--still the same word in Italian--and enters Old English and other Germanic languages very early, before 1000.

The Angles and Saxons took the most fertile and temperate parts of the island of Britain for themselves, forcing the native British into Wales and Cornwall in the west. They also conquered most of Scotland, forcing native Scots out of the north of the island.

Yet the Celtic languages survived in Wales, Cornwall, and Ireland, and from Ireland the Scottish highlands were resettled by Celts who spoke a Gaelic language very similar to Irish. The contact and conflict between English speakers and Celtic speakers in Britain is still a political controversy today, and has never been fully resolved. The Welsh language has had a strong comeback in recent years, and Scots Gaelic survives.

Cornish, the other major British language, died out about 250 years ago. One should always remember that English in England is surrounded by near Celtic neighbors which are very dissimilar to it in linguistic terms.


https://forums.skadi.net/attachment.php?attachmentid=112138&stc=1&d=1471830605

Ernst Haeckel's semi-linear evolutionary tree of the Indo-Germanic and Aryan languages (from the 5th ed. of The Evolution of Man, 1910)

Source: Unknown

Wulfaz
Sunday, August 21st, 2016, 03:43 PM
Very good post, thank you!

The old Visigothic language is just phantastic, it looks like as a mixing of German and Latin. I just suggest to everyone that check this language on the Internet. The Visigothic is not the proper Proto-Germanic, however it is closer to that with own 1700 years old as to the modern German or English.

Thusnelda
Sunday, August 21st, 2016, 05:32 PM
In Gothic (the earliest attested Germanic language, but not the source of the others, just a member of the Eastern branch of the family), the first and second person personal pronouns are (nominative) ik, þu, weis and jus; (accusative) mik, þuk, uns and izwis; (genitive) meina, þeina, unsara, and izwara.
Well, that´s very interesting, because that Gothic genitive cases write and sound like the current Standard German ones: Meine, deine, unsere! In Bavarian, "unsere" is even spoken as "unsare"...

If Gothic is that unrelated with German, how comes that these three genitive cases are basically exact the same? Not just similar, but the same.

Regardless of the aforementioned point, I think that English sciencific texts are more and more inunderstandable to me. :( The flood of Latin words in scientific texts is dissatisfying and disturbing. A few highlighted examples, there are even more "normal" ones in the quote, of course:


Proto-Germanic was a language that inflected nouns in cases. The cases were nominative, accusative, genitive and dative. Basically, nominative is the form that is used for the subject of a sentence and accusative for the direct object. Genitive is what we'd now call "possessive, and dative is the indirect-object case, also used after some prepositions

Given this cognate evidence, and the principles of reconstruction that we have used already this semester, linguists reconstruct a family tree for the Germanic languages.it's just an arbitrary classification that distinguishes the two main varieties of verb....


It´s not nice to read, I feel more and more angered and have less "tolerance". English people should please clean their language from at least 50% of Latin (lean)words. "arbitary", "cognate"...I had to google them.

Shadow
Sunday, August 21st, 2016, 09:04 PM
When English speakers study German and learn this:

Proto-Germanic was a language that inflected nouns in cases. The cases were nominative, accusative, genitive and dative. Basically, nominative is the form that is used for the subject of a sentence and accusative for the direct object. Genitive is what we'd now call "possessive, and dative is the indirect-object case, also used after some prepositions

Given this cognate evidence, and the principles of reconstruction that we have used already this semester, linguists reconstruct a family tree for the Germanic languages.it's just an arbitrary classification that distinguishes the two main varieties of verb....
------------------------------------

It brings up all sorts of questions IN ENGLISH! This is because both languages are sister languages and everyone realizes the connection. So, for instance in English there is some confusion regarding the word Who vs. the word Whom. The nominative-dative relationship in German makes it clear which one should be used. But there should be an English word "Whon" for the accusative and there is not---this is the source of the confusion in English. Likewise, the German word "zwischen" takes the dative. But in English there seems to be endless confusion in using the English word "between". You hear "between he and me" when it obviously should be between him and me. My point is in using English is tricky situations you can rely on the more conservative German form to be correct.

Shadow
Sunday, August 21st, 2016, 09:10 PM
Well, that´s very interesting, because that Gothic genitive cases write and sound like the current Standard German ones: Meine, deine, unsere! In Bavarian, "unsere" is even spoken as "unsare"...

If Gothic is that unrelated with German, how comes that these three genitive cases are basically exact the same? Not just similar, but the same.

Regardless of the aforementioned point, I think that English sciencific texts are more and more inunderstandable to me. :( The flood of Latin words in scientific texts is dissatisfying and disturbing. A few highlighted examples, there are even more "normal" ones in the quote, of course:



It´s not nice to read, I feel more and more angered and have less "tolerance". English people should please clean their language from at least 50% of Latin (lean)words. "arbitary", "cognate"...I had to google them.

Having read a portion of Faust in school, I am interested in German dialects. You may resent the word dialect applied to Bavarian and if so I am sorry for this, I just do not know any other way to state this issue. Austrians seem to hate it when I call their language German.

Once I heard a German, an engineer, use the word "zu" for "zwei" and it made me think how much closer this word zu was to our word two. This guy was a northern German. This is one tiny example but it has always seemed to me there is a section of Germany in the north whose dialect is Plattdeutsch which is much, much closer to English that anyone wants to admit.

Thusnelda
Sunday, August 21st, 2016, 10:36 PM
Once I heard a German, an engineer, use the word "zu" for "zwei" and it made me think how much closer this word zu was to our word two. This guy was a northern German. This is one tiny example but it has always seemed to me there is a section of Germany in the north whose dialect is Plattdeutsch which is much, much closer to English that anyone wants to admit.
Well, that could be, but there´re also other examples where, for example, Bavarian dialect is nearer to English than Standard German - by coindcidence or not.

English: The fire is hot
Bavarian:: As Feia is hoaß
German: Das Feuer ist heiß

Keep in mind that Bavarian "Feia" is exactly spellt like "fire", "is"="is" and that "hoaß" is closer to "hot" (mind the "o") than "heiß".

Another example:

English: Cold is the wind
Bavarian: Koid is da Wind
German: Kalt ist der Wind

Again, Bavarian "Koid" is almost spoken like the English "Cold", the German "Kalt" is more distant by the "a"-sound.

Shadow
Sunday, August 21st, 2016, 11:04 PM
Well, that could be, but there´re also other examples where, for example, Bavarian dialect is nearer to English than Standard German - by coindcidence or not.

English: The fire is hot
Bavarian:: As Feia is hoaß
German: Das Feuer ist heiß

Keep in mind that Bavarian "Feia" is exactly spellt like "fire", "is"="is" and that "hoaß" is closer to "hot" (mind the "o") than "heiß".

Another example:

English: Cold is the wind
Bavarian: Koid is da Wind
German: Kalt ist der Wind

Again, Bavarian "Koid" is almost spoken like the English "Cold", the German "Kalt" is more distant by the "a"-sound.

That round German O is hard for English speakers.

SpearBrave
Monday, August 22nd, 2016, 02:54 AM
Well, that could be, but there´re also other examples where, for example, Bavarian dialect is nearer to English than Standard German - by coindcidence or not.

English: The fire is hot
Bavarian:: As Feia is hoaß
German: Das Feuer ist heiß

Keep in mind that Bavarian "Feia" is exactly spellt like "fire", "is"="is" and that "hoaß" is closer to "hot" (mind the "o") than "heiß".

Another example:

English: Cold is the wind
Bavarian: Koid is da Wind
German: Kalt ist der Wind

Again, Bavarian "Koid" is almost spoken like the English "Cold", the German "Kalt" is more distant by the "a"-sound.

This is very true, personally knowing a lot of German immigrants here in America I can say that Bavarians pick up English much quicker than some of the Northern dialects.

I can also understand bayerisch much better than standard German, this though may have to do with my family ties and where they are from. All the same though the two sound much closer than standard German and English.

Englisc
Monday, August 22nd, 2016, 02:51 PM
Well, that could be, but there´re also other examples where, for example, Bavarian dialect is nearer to English than Standard German - by coindcidence or not.

English: The fire is hot
Bavarian:: As Feia is hoaß
German: Das Feuer ist heiß

Keep in mind that Bavarian "Feia" is exactly spellt like "fire", "is"="is" and that "hoaß" is closer to "hot" (mind the "o") than "heiß".

Another example:

English: Cold is the wind
Bavarian: Koid is da Wind
German: Kalt ist der Wind

Again, Bavarian "Koid" is almost spoken like the English "Cold", the German "Kalt" is more distant by the "a"-sound.
This is very interesting. I know we have some north German people on here - if you're reading these, how would those sound like in your local dialect?

I know that High German (Standard German) originates more in the south of Germany, thus the name. But going on what you say here, it sounds less like English, atleast in some places.

I wonder which English dialect is closest to German. I would guess Scots, as I presume it is more "pure"and less Norman. There are some Scots words I know of that come from German for sure.

Thusnelda
Monday, August 22nd, 2016, 11:23 PM
Recent linguist studies lean towards the opinion that the Bavarian dialect is extremely closely related with Langobardic, the ancient dialect spoken by the Germanic tribe of the Langobards ("Longbeards") who are usually seen as the main root in the becoming of the Bavarian people. In fact, it seems that old Langobardic is closer to modern Bavarian dialect than modern Alemannic dialect (the other Upper-German language group) to modern Bavarian dialect.

I hope I can find the sources again, I read it not a long time ago.

It´s also worth of notice that the Bavarian dialect is the only one of the German dialects that has adopted East-Germanic, therefore Gothic, leanwords, for example:

Dult, Maut, Erchtag, Irta and Pfinztag <-- These words are Gothic leanwords, and they´re only known in Bavarian dialect. "Dult" is a funfair, "Maut" is a (street) toll, "Erchtag" and "Irta" are traditional Bavarian words for "Tuesday" and "Pfinztag" is the word for Thursday.

There´s a scientific chapter about it: http://opac.regesta-imperii.de/lang_de/anzeige.php?buchbeitrag=Gotische+Lehnw%C 3%B6rter+im+Bairischen%3A+ein+Beitrag+zu r+sprachlichen+Fr%C3%BChgeschichte+des+B airischen&pk=153244

"Gothic lanwords in Bavarian dialect - a contribution to the linguistic early history of Bavarian dialect". It´s a chapter in a book with the name "Early medieval ethnogenesis in the Alpine region", written by Peter Wiesinger.

The East-Germanic (Gothic) language family has died out long time ago, in contrast to the West-Germanic- and North-Germanic language groups. So I wonder why Bavarian is so unique in the German lands. We know that the the Goths crossed the lands of today´s Bavaria on their large trecks.

In my view, the Langobards to a larger extend and the Goths to a smaller extend played a major role in the creation of the Bavarian tribe, and so our dialect and our mentality is incomparable to other Germans. :P Sometimes I would even tend to say that we´re not German but something special.

Not German, not Austrian -> Bavarian!

Sigurd
Thursday, August 25th, 2016, 10:20 AM
There was clearly one group of speakers of a single Indo-European dialect, proto-Germanic; these people probably settled in southern Sweden and in Denmark between four and five thousand years ago.

This is outdated information, current research postulates the area of today's Lower Saxony as the most likely Germanic Urheimat. :)


Proto-Germanic was a language that inflected nouns in cases. The cases were nominative, accusative, genitive and dative.

This is incorrect, as this is the current case system in f.ex. German. Proto-Germanic is likely to have at least five, possibly seven or eight of the original eight or nine (depending how one judges the Hethitic Allative) Indo-Germanic casus.

Old High German and Old English retain remnants of an Instrumental case, which makes it a given for Proto-Germanic. Gothic also retains some limited Vocative forms. There is no proof of a long retention of Locative or Ablative cases, however old N. Germanic Dative has numerous original Locative endings, whilst Gothic retains some Ablative reflexes in adverbial constructions.

This means it's well possibly that a given pre-Germanic or proto-Germanic era continued a similar inventory than is retained to this day in Balto-Slavic languages (some scholars postulate erstwhile Germanic-Baltic-Slavic linguistic unity, basing this mostly on prosody, notably the existence of trimoraic vowels in some of the ancient material).

Th would suggest that Ablative - except in remnants - was first to go, and probably in a pre-Germanic era (Lithuanian, as the most conservative language in Europe has merged the Abtlative and Dative, this is basically true for Germanic languages as well), whilst Locative was probably carried into the proto-Germanic era, but soon lost. :)


Genitive is what we'd now call "possessive,"

The old, inherited Genitive is really much more diverse than that, and takes many functions in several Indo-Germanic languages to this date, notably the Slavic languages.

Standard German also has some remnants of this importance, some prepositions and verbs command genitive exclusively (albeit disappearing in common parlance in favour of the Dative, and long so in most dialects), the view of genitive as a "possessive case" is a very Anglocentric position.


Here are some other interesting things about proto-Germanic grammar: instead of just two numbers, singular and plural, pronouns had a third number, dual.

In some cases, the dual forms were retained in several Indo-Germanic languages (in f.ex. Slovenian it's still productive), albeit used mostly in a plural context these days:

The most notable are the Bavarian pronouns "ees, enker" instead of "ihr, eier", this is originally a dual form. One might like to notice also that "dual" is - albeit often a natural pair - a number that may originally also refer to groups of natural threes or fours; this is basically one theory why some languages declense numerals and ordinals up to four.


Proto-Germanic was a gendered language with three genders, masculine feminine and neuter.

This is still the case in German, and very productive, including some words that hop the boundary of natural gender, notably das Kind "the child" or das Mädchen "the girl". Some that are now f.ex. masculine used to be neuter (notably dialectal Baam, pl. Baama, that's the old neuter Nom/Acc Pl. -a)


The Ostrogoths conquered Italy and the Visigoths conquered Spain; the Vandals made it all the way to North Africa--but their impact on the later languages of those areas is negligible.

Some vocabulary was retained, we see this f.ex. in the fact, that no Western Romance tongue has stuck to its own word for "war" (German word Kriegswirren is etymologically speaking a figure etymologica, both meaning "war"): guerro, guerre (< Frankish *werra < PG *werza) instead of bello, belle (< Latin bellum < Old Latin duellum).

The phonological dimension is uncertain. Some have conjecture that the richness of the spoken Spanish language in fricatives and spirants is either due to Celtiberian, Visigothic, Arabic, or internal dynamics. The test is out. ;)


Most of these are rivers: the Thames, the Trent, the Avon, the Derwent. Two county names are Celtic: Devon and Kent, as are the Corn- of Cornwall and the Cumber- of Cumberland.

How one could forget about place-names alongside these, is beyond me. Most of Anglo-Norman Scottish Lowlands are rich in Celtic place names, they also pervade England to some extent, and most notable is of course York, which was re-interpreted by different forms of folk etymology no less than three times!


Again there are place-names, especially those that end in -chester (from the Latin castra, "camp").

...forgetting all towns ending in -minster.


Ernst Haeckel's semi-linear evolutionary tree of the Indo-Germanic and Aryan languages (from the 5th ed. of The Evolution of Man, 1910)[/CENTER]

It over-rates the influence of Low German on the advent of today's Standard German. Most of the differences in inherited words is because Old High German (Low German did not undergo most of the High German consonant shift) did all the interesting things on the consonants whilst Old English performed all the interesting things on the vowels, Low German naturally taking an intermediate position.

High German: Ich rauche (an) meiner Pfeife.
Low German: Ik rooke (an) mine Pipe.
English: ~I reek [smoke] mine pipe (of course it's [main] and [paip], but that's later parallel development]

Sigurd
Thursday, August 25th, 2016, 10:22 AM
I split my replies due to length :)



If Gothic is that unrelated with German, how comes that these three genitive cases are basically exact the same? Not just similar, but the same.

Conservative vowels. English us is, when we see it in written form, also identical to German uns for the simple exception of the /n/ dropping out and the /u/ lengthening (making a later shift possible)


Regardless of the aforementioned point, I think that English sciencific texts are more and more inunderstandable to me. :(

Blame all those intellectuals beginning in the renaissance era. As if the English language hadn't already Frenchified enough, they thought it sounded sophisticated if they talked all-Latin.

That's why the common man's English is really Germanic in feel, but the learnt man's English is an awfully Latinate mess. :P


Well, that could be, but there´re also other examples where, for example, Bavarian dialect is nearer to English than Standard German - by coindcidence or not.

The /oa/ is a later parallel development, better visible in words like Loab vs. loaf or broat vs. broad - another English term untertaking this is actually the non-Latinate word for a street, road, which is quite literally a form of way which allows to be ridden on. :)

It's funny because in reality, dialect is of course always more archaic than the standard language, and we see this because we still basically say OHG bruoder, muoter, liob, huot, ruota, muot, tiuri as Bruada, Muata, liab, Huat, Ruatn, Muat, tuir (at least here) --- English would be brother, mother (both originally with a long /o/), (love), hood, rood, modd, dear,...

This pervades to vocabulary of course: the Alemannic do "liesna und luaga" (listen and look), the Tyrolese do "schnackseln" when they have sex (yea, that's LG snakken, Nordic snacka/snakke, English snack and snatch) - the Semantic relation between "visiting the girl next door for a talk" and the bodies doing the talking is probably too obvious to need to elaborate. :P

Shadow
Thursday, August 25th, 2016, 06:27 PM
Two people have mentioned the differences between German and English regarding scientific language. Here is really the biggest difference between the two languages. English uses Latin based words and German uses new words made up of other German words. So you have to learn your languages scientific words and then you have to learn the other languages scientific words and then for each science, you have to relearn the whole thing over again.

Also mentioned was the Frenchification of English. I've got a flash, to get on a Ph.D. program in German language for any school of any repute you have to pass a French proficiency test. Latin has contributed to the German language. Latin and French have contributed to the English language as well.