- Simon PicklSimon PicklUniversity of Salzburg, German Studies
(High) German is both a group of closely related West Germanic varieties and a standardized language derived from this group that comprises a wide range of dialects and colloquial varieties in addition to its standardized form. The two terms have related, and to an extent overlapping, but distinct meanings: German refers to a Standard Average European language spoken predominantly in Central Europe by some 96 million speakers and by minority speech communities around the globe. High German has a double meaning: On the one hand, it is another term for Standard German. On the other hand, it refers to the High German linguistic group within West Germanic, the linguistic basis for the German language. As such, it is defined by the High German consonant shift, a sound change that affected Germanic obstruents and set it apart from its immediate neighbors within (West) Germanic, that is, Low German and Low Franconian. The High German consonant shift around the 7th century, together with the onset of written transmission in the 8th century, marks the beginning of the history of (High) German. Traditional dialects perpetuate patterns of areal variation that arose in the wake of this sound change. Standard German developed out of High German written varieties, especially based on East Central German, through processes of leveling, koineization, metalinguistic reasoning, and codification. During that process, the emergent supra-regional norm superseded Low German in northern Germany and Upper German regional norms in the south, as well as influencing spoken registers, but (Standard) German remains a pluricentric and pluriareal language. Today, colloquial, regional varieties that combine features of Standard German and traditional dialects dominate oral language use, and in social media the written language, too, is developing new colloquial forms that build on standard orthography as well as on regional, informal forms of spoken language usage.
- Historical Linguistics
- Language Families/Areas/Contact