Alsatian dialects are spoken and understood by large sections of the population, particularly in the country and among the older generation. Code-switching between French and dialect is frequent.
It is difficult to judge how far standard German is known and used. At any event it has become in practice a foreign language even though there has been voluntary teaching of German in schools since The state has not encouraged any of the varieties of German, and French has gained ground. There is a limited amount of German material available in the shape of bilingual newspapers and dialect plays and poems.
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German dialect has become a badge of identity for many in the community. Magenau treats some of the characteristics of written German in Alsace. This area was until part of the AustroHungarian Empire and was given to Italy without any plebiscite. From to there was a policy of active Italianization. Since German and Italian have been co-official languages. German is used by , speakers Schools have to be provided for both German and Italian pupils and officials have to know both languages, theoretically at any rate. A problem is that many Italian speakers do not know German well enough.
At home German speakers use a Bavarian dialect. There is, thus, no general colloquial variety—only dialect or standard German. There are other German speakers, using chiefly dialect, in several valleys in northern Italy but they only represent a very small minority numerically. A plebiscite was held in the province of Slesvig in to decide where the border between Denmark and Germany should be drawn.
The German minority live in mixed villages, nowhere is there a continual area of German settlement. They regard themselves more as a cultural and ethnic minority. German is not used in the family circle but in schools, church and in the large number of clubs of various kinds. There are eighteen private German schools and a newspaper, Der Nordschleswiger. Exact numbers are difficult to ascertain because any linguistic information in census returns is purely voluntary.
German seems to be well established because of its status as a cultural language. This division into periods is for the most part arbitrary, being based on linguistic or cultural criteria; it must not be supposed that the periods are separated from each other by rigid boundaries. Schildt is a condensed survey while Wells is a more detailed work.
The road to standard New High German has been a long and tortuous one.
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The oldest stage of the language is called Old High German and is taken to run from to An introductory text is Penzl ; Robinson —46 is a brief overview with an illustrative text. Sonderegger is an excellent work for more advanced students. The first OHG texts appear from the late eighth century. The oldest book in German is considered to be a Latin-German glossary called Abrogans c.
Old High German — is primarily the product of the clerical culture which existed in scriptoria such as the monasteries of Fulda in central Germany, Reichenau in southern Germany and St Gallen in Switzerland. It is more realistic to speak of several kinds of OHG than of one particular kind, since all the literary monuments from OHG times show quite a marked difference in spelling and form according to where they come from. It is normally assumed that the differences in writing reflected dialectal differences in pronunciation, each dialect region having one or more centres which produced literary works.
Among the centres of the Bavarian dialect were Mondsee and Freising. The so-called Isidor c. It probably came from the South Franconian region, possibly Lorraine, but its exact provenance is uncertain. Another important work claimed to have been written in the same dialect is the Lay of Ludwig Ludwigslied c.
Otfrid, who was a monk at Weissenburg now Wissembourg in Alsace , wrote his Evangelienbuch c. These tendencies remained fragmentary, being dependent on clerical culture. A more detailed analysis is given in Sonderegger Middle High German is usually regarded as extending from to and was widely used for works of literature.
Apart from the figure of the Holy Roman Emperor, there was no real centralized power but rather a struggle between dynasties. It is controversial as to whether a standard MHG existed. The normalized forms of grammars and texts, such as the one in 1. It is undeniable, however, that MHG writers avoided forms which were felt to be consciously dialectal. The language of the MHG poets was also not completely uniform, although poets tended to avoid rhymes which were too obviously characteristic of their particular region.
In the period that follows, —, there is a veritable explosion in the use of German by writers not skilled in Latin. The upsurge and growth of the independent towns meant that German was used for local laws and business dealings. For example, during the thirteenth century legal documents in many towns came to be written in German: in Strasburg in , Freiburg in , Augsburg in , Schaffhausen in and Vienna in The language of these legal documents varied from town to town.
A useful collection of these kinds of texts is Boesch Many preachers, particularly mystics, used German in their sermons. The new technical sciences, such as mining, used German for their instructional manuals. The lack of any political power centre meant that different scribal varieties arose in each main area. In non-literary texts there was thus a great deal of regional variation. Previously it had extended in the east as far as the rivers Elbe and Saale, but in the Middle Ages colonists pushed into Slavonic territories and founded villages and towns which soon grew into areas of German settlement; some groups even travelled as far as present-day Hungary and Romania.
All the German territory east of the Elbe was colonized in the thirteenth century; East Prussia was invaded by the knights of the Teutonic Order for the first time in and German farmers established themselves in that territory after The settlers came from many parts of Germany and were of three main kinds: the nobles and military who built castles to subdue the land; craftsmen and artisans who worked in the towns which had grown up around the castles; and the farmers who came later when it was safe to set up farms and till the land.
The main reasons for this expansion were overcrowding and the lack of land for farms in the west.
As they were Low German speakers the dialect of these newly settled areas became Low German. The settlers in the area along the axis Leipzig-Dresden-Breslau came from various parts of Germany: the Rhineland, Hesse, East Franconia and Bavaria giving rise to a mixed dialect in this East Central basin. The two most influential events in the early modern period were the invention of printing and the Reformation. Printing, using movable type, was perfected in Mainz by Johannes Gutenberg c.
Using a wide range of texts from this period, Keller —96 shows how these varieties differed from each other. The other decisive event to occur in the sixteenth century was the Reformation. Martin Luther — was instrumental in focusing attention on the written language of the East Central German area, in particular Wittenberg, where Low and High German met. His translation of the Bible and his extensive publications sounded the death knell for Low German and also for Upper German UG as the varieties which would shape the incipient standard.
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Friedrich, H. I speak according to the Saxon Chancery, which all the princes and kings in Germany follow; all Imperial Towns, princely courts write according to the Saxon Chancery of our prince, therefore that is the most common German language. It may have differed in a number of ways from other regional written languages such as das gemeine Deutsch lit. It was this variety of German which Martin Luther used for his works, including his translation of the Bible, and it quickly spread to most Protestant areas of German-speaking Europe. By the beginning of the seventeenth century it had ousted Low German as a written language and by the latter half of the seventeenth century it was the main basis of the written language used in Switzerland.
Its progress was not so quick in the Roman Catholic south-east but by the middle of the eighteenth century it had found acceptance even there. This ECG written variety of German underwent changes in orthography, grammar and vocabulary in the seventeenth century.
Luther, however, had laid the foundations for the acceptance of one variety of written German as a standard. What was important was that the East Central German area had become the focus of attention. Although traditionally New High German is normally regarded as extending from to the present day, with Early New High German from to , according to more recent opinion it is more realistic to talk about NHG as starting during the first quarter of the eighteenth century. Several theories have been advanced to explain the rise of NHG. Konrad Burdach — emphasized the importance of the language of the Chancery of Prague in influencing the language of other areas and Alois Bernt — sought to support his claim philologically, but without success.
According to Theodor Frings — , NHG was in fact dialectologically a mixture of features from several different dialects. In the East Central German basin he sought to show that there had developed a lingua franca called by him die koloniale Ausgleichsprache which was formed from the dialects used by the settlers. In more recent times the emphasis has shifted away from the dialectal-geographical approach to a graphemic approach, studying a wide range of written sources. The main questions have been: What features have been selected by the NHG standard?
Where have they been selected from? Why have they been selected?