German (Deutsch) is a Germanic language with about 121 million speakers in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Belgium, Italy, France, Denmark, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, Luxembourg, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, United States, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Australia, South Africa and Namibia.
The earliest known examples of written German date from the 8th century AD and consist of fragments of an epic poem, the Song of Hildebrand, magical charms and German glosses in Latin manuscripts. A short Latin-German dictionary, the Abrogans, was written during the 760s.
German literature started to take off during the 12th and 13th centuries in the form of poems, epics and romances. Well known examples include the epic Nibelungenlied (the Song of the Nibelungs) and Gottfried von Straßburg's Tristan. The language used is now known as mittelhochdeutsche Dichtersprache (Middle High German poetic language). During this period Latin was gradually replaced by German as the language of official documents.
Varieties of German used in writingEdit
- High German (Hochdeutsch): High German began to emerge as the standard literary language during the 16th century. Martin Luther's translation of the Bible, which he completed in 1534, marks the beginning of this process. The language he used, based partly on spoken German, became the model for written German.
- Swiss German (Schweizerdeutsch or Schwyzerdütsch)A variety of German spoken by about 4 million people in Switzerland, occasionally appears in writing in novels, newspapers, personal letters and diaries.