Talk:German dialects

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 Definition Dialect dominated by the geographical spread of the High German consonant shift, and the dialect continuum that connects the German with the Dutch language. [d] [e]

Notice of intended major revision

Since this article appears to have been brought from Wikipedia (and still exists over in Wikipedia with much the same content), would anyone object if I attempt a complete rewrite (i.e., start over)?

My German sandbox page is a very rough draft (not proofed and needed much more) of what I have in mind for the rewrite. Some of the existing article's sections could become different articles in their own right if we don't want to lose that information.

One beef I have about it as it stands is that its too much like a linguistics textbook. One can go out and buy those. I think we should try to give the big picture here, and then refer people to other places for the gory details.

What do you all think? May I tackle this article? Will anyone be offended if I archive what's here and, well, start over?Pat Palmer 13:05, 3 April 2007 (CDT)

I think that you should use {{speedydelete}} in this article. - Versuri 13:20, 3 April 2007 (CDT)
I decided to go for it. Just started the rewritten article and am trying to get it correctly "cleaned" and categorized.Pat Palmer 14:49, 3 April 2007 (CDT)

German as Dutch

The paragraph about the origins of Dutch seems to be saying that Dutch is basically German. This is likely to be a rather controversial statement, and I'm not sure it's linguistically valid: one could just as easily argue that German is Dutch. Perhaps needs a rethink. John Stephenson 05:02, 4 April 2007 (CDT)

This appears to be something of a controversy; I have already heard from one other person (who is Dutch) objecting to the article, so I will reword it. Just to clarify in advance, however, I intend to claim (and defend if necessary) that from the viewpoint of comparative historical linguistics, there is no distinction in the dialect continuum between the regional Germanic dialects which now lie in the country of Germany and those which lie in the easterns reaches of The Netherlands. This is in fact corroborated at the following website: from a university. Please click on section 6 "19th and 20th century" for subsection "Dialects" and scroll down to the fourth from last paragraph, which states: "The demarcation between Dutch and German dialects is made on the basis of the standard language spoken in the region concerned. Venlo dialect is regarded as Dutch because the inhabitants of Venlo use Dutch in school and in "official" situations; the language of Krefeld on the other hand is treated as a German dialect because High German is the overarching standard language there." Historically from a linguistics viewpoint, the dialects of Dutch-speaking regions are within the same dialect continuumas the various regional Germanic dialects which lie across the river in Germany. The Dutch dialects, however, are in a continuum with the various regions inside Germany; these are called "West Germanic". English is theoretically in the same continuum, but it diverged considerably more from the dialects now within Germany than those in Dutch territory did. This is just a linguistic phenomenon, and not a political one, and I will try to rewrite that part of the article shortly.Pat Palmer 13:33, 4 April 2007 (CDT)
Okay, I've changed it; I think this makes the article much better, and I really appreciate the feedback.Pat Palmer 13:33, 4 April 2007 (CDT)

Dutch = German? NO WAY

This not only is not true as can be seen by the differences in grammatic rules, but also from a historical point of view. German and Dutch have a common ancestor: Mittel Deutsch or Dietsch (guess where Dutch came from) but apart from that the languages developed in totally different ways - mainkly because Germany didn't exist other than as a collection of earlships and kingdoms contrary to the netherlands where a more centralized government, or trade center in the 15th and 16th century, became important. By far more important than the 'peasants' that called themselves germanes. To state Dutch is a German dialect means you know little about the gammar of both languages - since they are rather different. It however is correct to state they have a common ancestor but developed differently. Robert Tito |  Talk  09:13, 7 May 2007 (CDT)

Robert, I know you don't like this concept, so I documented it with what I consider to be reliable sources, and I tried to speak very carefully. So please let's just drop it. I am not saying (and I even included a disclaimer) that Dutch is German. We are violently in agreement.Pat Palmer 17:38, 7 May 2007 (CDT)
Please reread the section. It think the article does not say what you think it is saying.Pat Palmer 17:40, 7 May 2007 (CDT)
Robert, and others, when talking about dialects and standard languages, politics is always a part of the mix. Dutch is very close to Low German but the former is not considered part of "German" because of the political boundaries. Yet realize that the dialect of, say, Venlo is closer to the neighboring dialects of German than it is to Standard Dutch. Why is Swiss German considered German, when from a linguistic point of view it can be argued it is further removed from Standard German (prescriptive grammar) than many Dutch dialects? The history of both German and Dutch is much more complicated than Robert indicates. They do NOT both derive from Mittel Deutsch or Dietsch (in fact, "Mittel Deutsch" is a term that does not exist in historical linguistics). Neither Dutch nor German has only ONE ancestor because neither Dutch nor German is one language at present. Standard Dutch and Standard German are artificial grammars based on compromises of regional variants. The individual dialects have individual ancestors. Low German and High German have vastly different ancestries, though Low German and Dutch share a lot. The exact origin of Dutch remains unknown because Dutch combines features of so many different Germanic dialects (including Frisian, Old English, Saxon, and Low Franconian). High German dialects are a mix of Bavarian, Alemannic (including Swabian), East Franconian, South Franconian, and various forms of Middle or Rhine Franconian dialects. The modern language of German, or Hochdeutsch (Standard German) is mostly East Franconian with some Low German admixtures (very rough description). Michel van der Hoek 13:26, 30 May 2008 (CDT)

Relative ease of learning German

While a consensus exists on the view that similar languages are broadly easier to learn - because there's less to be done - I am not at all sure about some of the material in this passage and the previous one about active word-building, specifically the idea that German kids can learn quicker through compounding. For example, how would they *know* that Handschuh means glove, and not hand-shoe (a shoe that for some reason you put on your hand). Consider that you may be using your adult knowledge of the world to reject this interpretation, because children don't necessarily know that shoes are not for hands. (To digress: do native German speakers take the view that there is no fundamental difference between shoes and gloves, because they both contain Schuh?) Is there any research on this? John Stephenson 05:23, 7 May 2007 (CDT)

I did think about where my information came from. First, I taught German to English speakers for about 4 years, so some of what I wrote is based on my own experience of learning German as an adult and then teaching it to quite a few people later. Second, I recall reading about some studies on this somewhere, but that was some years ago, and I don't remember where. I will try to look into sources when I can. I think it might have been more a cognitive science source than a linguistics one. I only have university library access for a few more weeks (due to a course I'm teaching later this summer) but I will try to follow through. I appreciate your comments. Please don't remove the material just yet; let me see if I can dig up any useful sources.Pat Palmer 09:44, 7 May 2007 (CDT)
Pat, something that came as strange is the following. If german is easy to learn for english native speakers the reciproke should be valid as well. Not the case. Since the structure of the languages are totally different speaking german on a high academic level is very hard, specially for english native speakers. Add to that the possibility to creat =e words on the fly by combining two independent nouns into a new word with a new meaning, as well as the fact that german, as well as dutch, use words that get their meaning only, and not before, in the context of a sentence - I fail to see where the easy comes from. Contrary I would rather say: see how a german native speaker speaks english and writes english and you no doubt will agree to that. Easy to learn, maybe up to the level of 10 year olds but beyond no, I strongly disagree there. Und daß nicht nur wegen meine Kenntnissen der Deutsche Sprache. Robert Tito |  Talk  10:03, 7 May 2007 (CDT)
Robert, I'm afraid I don't agree with "the reciprocal should be the case". English is notoriously difficult for non-native speakers due to its huge vocabulary and odd spellings/pronunciations from many languages. German, on the other hand, has a relatively small vocabulary, and phonetic spelling. I've learned French, German, Spanish, Russian, Latin (and studied a few other languages), and I promise you that German is the easiest of all languages for native English speakers to learn, at least with good teaching and real practice it is. I've also taught German to English speakers for 4 years. I am looking for some sources to support my opinion, however.Pat Palmer 17:22, 7 May 2007 (CDT)


Es gibt KEIN WORT das so verwendet wird. As in standdarddeutsch is an invented word without ANY significant meaning. Germans know only Hochdeutsch (alsdo known as Hoch Deutsch) and dialect versions. Hoch in this way is the standard German, So please remove standarddeutsch as it is non-existent. Robert Tito |  Talk  09:57, 7 May 2007 (CDT)

I agree, but was not going to say anything because my knowledge of German dates back about 15 years. I thought maybe some new movement had come along. I'll go make the change now.Pat Palmer 17:06, 7 May 2007 (CDT)
It is a relatively new useage, but growing fast to avoid the taint (implied by Hochdeutsch) that local forms are lower in status. Here's a reference if you still suspect that it's a neologism that I've coined — just enter Standarddeutsch in the search box...
Duden - Richtiges und gutes Deutsch Bibliographisches Institut is a relatively new publication by F. A. Brockhaus AG, Mannheim in 2007 so you might wish to check this reference for Puder on-line: Wahib Frank 10:31, 8 May 2007 (CDT)

I do like Standarddeutsch and hope it catches on over time, but it is frankly a bit startling. Although I did find 2 uses of Standarddeutsch in that dictionary, I found hundreds of uses of Hochdeutsch. It seems the occurence of Standarddeutsch, though comprehensible, is not yet prevalent. I recommend that we avoid any trend-setting here, so I'll still argue (for the moment) for staying with Hochdeutsch.Pat Palmer 15:33, 8 May 2007 (CDT)
It finally dawned on me, why not use both? So I just added Standarddeutsch back in as a casual alternative to Hochdeutsch. Hope that satisfies everyone.Pat Palmer 15:36, 8 May 2007 (CDT)
The difficulty I have is that although a variety of German is my mother tongue and I have more than 50 years experience of the Queens English, I am not an expert in American useage and I understand that we are principally writing an Encyclopaedia for Americans. For educated Indians, Australians (and, indeed, Austrians) the difficulty with "High German" as a term is that they may tend to think of it in Geographic or linguistic terms. I do think that the article should mention the Rechtschreibreform of Summer 1996 as an example of the trend towards a standard German by the governments of Austria, Germany, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and (very nearly, but not quite,) Luxembourg; even if it may be a case of two steps forward, one step back: (I've just heard from some Italian contacts that the autonomous province of Bozen-Südtirol in Italy has now agreed this initiative and also the German speaking communes of Belgiens.) Wahib Frank 18:24, 8 May 2007 (CDT)
Just found a nice article for those who wish to draw comparisons with English: not much chance that the Australian, Canadian, Indian, UK and US Governments will ever get together to standardise English Orthography, I don't suppose. Wahib Frank 18:40, 8 May 2007 (CDT)


As example can be used: Eisenbahnknotenhinundherschieber, yes it is a real word, and I leave it to the investigative mind to discover its meaning. Compound words - as they also exist in the Netherlands, become part of the standard and official dictionary after (generally) 6 years. During these 6 years a word must still be actively used by newspapers and other sources, spoken language included. After that period these words are part of the official dictionary. This has for instance lead to the addition of very common english words as sh*t, f*ck as part of the official dutch language, similar situations have happened in Germany. (By the way these words are not considered "rude" but at most not smart to use as these are borrowed words from another language.) Robert Tito |  Talk  17:06, 7 May 2007 (CDT)

That's a great example of a long word (initially intimidating to English speakers because of its sheer length). But with a minimum of training, an English learner can soon learn to discern that it means "a thing in a railroad track that shoves connections back and forth" (at least I think that's what it is, out of context). In English we simply say "switch", a word which gives no such graphic indication of why it's needed as the German equivalent. Great example! I remember having to ask what the heck is a switch in a railroad, and why is it needed, etc. A German kid would not need to ask.Pat Palmer 17:29, 7 May 2007 (CDT)
Sorry, but I have to disagree: Eisenbahnknotenhinundherschieber doesn't exist in German. Eisenbahnknoten is a special rail junction, typically a train station with both north-south and east-west railroads, also called Verkehrsknoten ("traffic node"). So the Hin- und herschieben of an Eisenbahnknoten would actually be something like an über-giant mechanism moving the whole train station back and forth!!! The second part -hinundherschieber points to a railway switch. So the correct term would simply be Weiche (or Eisenbahnweiche or at least Schieber, although highly unusual). A Weiche of course often comes with a rail junction, but in German this is simply Eisenbahnkreuzung, not Eisenbahnknoten, which is something quite bigger. //edit: There is also Eisenbahnkreuz, but it is a synonym for Eisenbahnknoten. So in this case the Kreuz is a large Kreuzung.// In addition Hinundherschieber is an improper compound, because the correct alternative would be Verschieber ("mover")—which is however highly unusual in this connection because it normally describes a displacement, e.g. a shifted drum beat—or more elegantly Umsteller ("re-positioning device"). As a side note, Hinundherschieber contains the word und ("and") and is a nounization, not of hinundherschieben, but of hin- und herschieben ("to toggle", "to reciprocate"), comprised of hinschieben ("move away from s.o./sth.") and herschieben ("move back to s.o./sth.). The fact that the German language allows you to contract hin and schieben or her and schieben, doesn't mean that it's allowed to contract hin- und herschieben, not even in non-standard written German, PS: The longest officially accepted compound word in German is Donaudampfschiffahrtselektrizitätenhauptbetriebswerkbauunterbeamtengesellschaft ("The association for subordinate officials of the head office management of the Danube steamboat electrical services"). —Arne Eickenberg 12:02, 8 May 2007 (CDT)
Eisenbahnknotenhinundherschieber seems to be a pseudo-German coinage by Dutch people and thought to be German. (All websites that have this word come with the .nl suffix.) It reminds me a bit of the highly annoying word creations by German public officials, called Beamtendeutsch or Amtsdeutsch, a mitigated variant of the Juristendeutsch ("Jurist German"). Examples: Fahrtrichtungsanzeiger ("driving direction indicator") instead of Blinker ("blinker", "turn signal"); or Eignungsfeststellungsverfahren ("aptitude assessment procedure") instead of Bewerbungsgespräch ("job interview"). Very funny btw: in former East-Germany there is said to have existed the official term Jahresendflügelfigur ("Year's end winged figure") instead of Weihnachtsengel ("Christmas angel"), because the atheist Communist party didn't want any Christian connotations. This could be a legend however, since the word is only known from an East-German satire magazine. In any case, whether true or not, it's a good example of compound building, which has often been used by German language purists to try to exchange seemingly foreign loan words. A good example for this is the word Nase ("nose"). Purists fail to see that this is not a loanword but an Erbwort ("inherited word") from the Latin language (nasus). The purified German word for Nase was proposed as Gesichtserker ("face oriel")!!! However, Erker ("bay", "oriel", "jutty") is actually a true loan word, so the compound Gesichtserker turns out to be "less German". —Arne Eickenberg 12:53, 8 May 2007 (CDT)

ambiguity of words

The possibility in german for words to get their meaning ONLY in the proper context IS COMPLETELY opposing this. You can't understand the german glove compartment without the car, you don't know of somebody it the student or the teacher until the context is clear. This remark about easy to learn because the regularity also is disputable due to the vast amount of exceptions, and when I mean vast I mean tremendous amount. This is contrary to English where the regularity by far outnumbers the German's. The only problem that remains is the huge dictionary of the English language, active and actual are somewhat over 900k words, compared to approximately 500k words in German, excluding compound words. Robert Tito |  Talk  17:14, 7 May 2007 (CDT)

Title of this article

I wonder if this article should not be titled Germanic languages or German dialects. The article that goes under this title should, I think, concern what most people understand "German language" to refer to: Hochdeutsch. Alternatively, we could use "German language" as a disambiguation page, with one page pointing to an article about Germanic languages/dialects and another to Hochdeutsche.

This is all unless the article is planned to be expanded with a lot of info about Hochdeutsch. --Larry Sanger 17:21, 7 May 2007 (CDT) (who lived in Muenchen for six months...)

I don't think it should. Most English speakers have no idea about the dialects; they think all German speakers are able to understand each other when they are 4 years old, as English speakers mostly can (with some obvious exceptions--perhaps there are sufficient differents in British, Indian and American English that children cannot immediately intercommunicate). It is important in any discussion of "German language" intended for English readers to hit them over the head with the dialect thing, because it is simply not well understood. Yes, there are dialects in other languages (Spanish) but they have quite different historic and political ramifications.Pat Palmer 17:26, 7 May 2007 (CDT)
I think Hochdeutsch could get a subarticle.Pat Palmer 17:31, 7 May 2007 (CDT)

But the purpose of articles is not, first and foremost, to correct common misunderstandings, but to report information about the topic. That many English speakers aren't aware of many German dialects isn't a compelling reason, I think, to make the "German language" about all Germanic languages. Again, most people do understand "German language" to mean "Hochdeutsch"; and we ought to name articles according to the name usually given to a topic. Do you disagree? Why not name the article under development here "Germanic languages" or "modern Germanic languages"? --Larry Sanger 20:49, 7 May 2007 (CDT)

English is also a Germanic language, as are Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian, etc. 'Germanic' is the family comprising many of the languages spoken in northern Europe and the UK. If this page is to become something else, a simpler title might be 'German dialects'. (Actually, linguists try to avoid the language-dialect distinction issue by calling them all 'varieties', but this would not be widely understood.) John Stephenson 21:02, 7 May 2007 (CDT)
I'm hoping for precision here: West Germanic dialects would be this article's better name. Germanic dialects also include North Germanic (Icelandic, Danish, Scandi languages). Plain old "German dialects" doesn't have a precise meaning but could be interpreted as meaning those within the geographical confines of the modern German state.Pat Palmer 20:02, 8 May 2007 (CDT)

Right--fine with me. --Larry Sanger 21:07, 7 May 2007 (CDT)

I'm fine with whatever renaming you all come up with. Larry, I wonder if you aren't a bit of an educated elite in this case. In my experience, people really do not generally know (I'm speaking of the "average American" who hasn't traveled a lot or visited Germany) that German is a recent fabrication from many dialects, with the corresponding consequence that children have to learn a "new" language when they first go to school. Maybe rebranding this part of the material under a different title will remove the controversy. I wrote it like I experience it, and it appears we have a really wide spectrum of opinions in here. As someone else said on this page, just wait till we get to the Scandinavian languages. He he. Anyway, someone else please make this decision, as I don't feel objective enough at the moment (but, I trust you all).Pat Palmer 19:57, 8 May 2007 (CDT)
'West Germanic' includes English, Scots, Dutch and Frisian. I think 'German dialects' is the best we can come up with, despite the slight inaccuracy of this. John Stephenson 21:24, 8 May 2007 (CDT)

Switzerland, Luxembourg etc

I removed Switzerland and Luxembourg because (I learned the hard way from angry emails) some people don't like German to be mentioned as an official language of Switzerland unless French is also mentioned (and, is there a third one too?). I think too much detail takes away from the big picture. That kind of detail belongs in an almanac, possibly. If someone wants it here, please consider placing it lower in the article in its own section so we can take plenty of space to explain all about it.Pat Palmer 17:35, 7 May 2007 (CDT)

I don't see why you can't mention that German is an official Swiss language; the others are irrelevant to this article. And yes, to plug an article I've started, there is a third and indeed at some levels a fourth - Italian and Romansh. John Stephenson 21:02, 7 May 2007 (CDT)

Robert's footnote about oberflaechlich

This is Robert Tito's footnote which I am placing here temporarily. Perhaps some version of it belongs in the text proper (or something) but it seems too long for a mere footnote. The footnote seems to make multiple points which we might want to address. To preserve his words for now, here they are:

The word ''superficial'' is however appropriate to explain the active 
word building mechanism in the [[English language]]. An alternative 
German translation of "superficial" is ''vordergründig'', basically 
meaning "ostensible". However, the German word ''Vordergrund'' has 
the English equivalent of "foreground", which itself can be learned 
via active word-building by native English speakers, although the 
English word ''fore'' has become quite rare nowadays. (But the 
mechanism still commonly applies for other words like ''background''.) 
So many languages (including German) come with a mixture of active 
word-building and a second basis of fixed words that derive from 
other languages like Latin (e.g. ''Dichter'' and ''Diktator'', 
from ''dicere''; English: "poet" and "dictator"), Greek (e.g. 
''Symbol''), French (e.g. ''Friseur''; English: "hairdresser") or 
Arabic (e.g. ''Arsenal'').
That was actually my footnote. (^_~) I wanted to show that it's erroneous to present active word building as the main mechanism of the German language. I wanted to do this without changing the text first. Therefore the footnote. German has active word building and fixed words. (So does English.) There are also words of Germanic origin that are fixed for today's German, like krank. A secondary form of active word-building btw applies to the suffices -heit, -keit, -ung and -nis, comparable to -ness, -hood etc. in English: krank > Krankheit ("ill" > "illness") or Kind > Kindheit ("child" > "childhood"). This can be extended to create completely new words in order to give abstracting explanations, where the standard vocabulary is insufficient. PS: Footnotes are allowed to be long; often they must be. —Arne Eickenberg 11:12, 8 May 2007 (CDT)

Ich hatte da, aber daß ist leider ausgefallen, eisenbahnknotenhinundherschieber hin gestellt. I thought that to be a good and funny example of word creation in german, actually the same basically as in dutch. but somehow that got lost. Robert Tito |  Talk 

should we remove Afrikaans, Yiddish, Penn. Dutch from here?

Although these became their own thing, I'm pretty sure each started out on a basis of one (or maybe two blended) West Germanic dialect, which makes them in the same continuum with the local West Germanic dialects in German and surrounding areas. I can read them, which shows how similar they are. I cannot read North Germanic languages half so easily. If we cannot document where these actually originated, perhaps that discussion should be removed from here. Likewise, the discussion of Yiddish belongs somewhere in the articles about German languages (since, again, my perception is that many people don't understand that Yiddish has Germanic underpinnings). So we could remove them (hopefully, archive them) for now and then fold them in somewhere else later on. I'm trying to get a book from the library about these languages; they have been written about but I'm not up to date.Pat Palmer 20:25, 8 May 2007 (CDT)

Robert wrote the comment below before I wrote the stuff above, but I thought they sort of belong together.Pat Palmer 20:25, 8 May 2007 (CDT)


Similarly, in South Africa which was formerly a Dutch colony, a dialect called Afrikaans arose which incorporated many new words and concepts from South African native tribes. Is a quote from the article. Unfortunately the author didn't realize his qualification of Afrikaans as a German dialect is inproper because at the time of the Dutch settlement German as a language didn't exist. Contrary Afrikaans is a dialect of Dutch, as is Dutch Pensilvanian. By the way (off topic) it was one vote difference that gave the americans the english language as default, it might very well have been dutch becuase these were the two languages spoken at that time (a time where Germany only existed as a couple of small empires without any structure at all. For that reason alone calling Dutch a dialect of German is totally besides the truth. Linguistically spoken there are many similarities, as they both have a common ancestor. But to say Dutch is a dialect of German is like saying French is a dialect of Italian. Robert Tito |  Talk  17:39, 7 May 2007 (CDT)

Text here was removed by the Constabulary on grounds of civility. (The author may replace this template with an edited version of the original remarks.)

Text here was removed by the Constabulary on grounds of civility. (The author may replace this template with an edited version of the original remarks.)

These comments about Pennsylvania Dutch are nonsense. Pennsylvania Dutch is and always has been a dialect of German. I can understand the position that Afrikaans is described as a dialect of Dutch, though it is now commonly accepted to describe Afrikaans as a language descended from Dutch. Comments about Dutch and Afrikaans have no place on a page about German dialects. BTW, I created the page for Afrikaans. Michel van der Hoek 13:53, 30 May 2008 (CDT)

English and Spanish, vs. Dutch and German

I'm in the process of bowing out of here to let others finish this article, but I thought it worth trying to explain why I wrote it as I did. English and Spanish have existed in approximately the same written form for hundreds of years "as a single language" that all its common speaker base shared. German and Dutch have not. Both are "official", created languages, amalgums from multiple local dialects within the Germanic language continuum. High German (the official language) is a very new thing (about 100 years old, maybe a little more); I think Dutch (the official language) is about the same age, but I'm not sure exactly. Both are artificial amalgums; local people still speak their NOT-mutually-intelligible dialects as children, then learn the official language for school and public intercourse. This is quite different from English, so English speakers learning about German need to have this explained. Perhaps I emphasized the matter too hard, but to remove it is doing a disservice to readers, in my opinion. Having taught German to Americans, I understand all too well the simplistic misconceptions Americans have about "German" as a language. They think "High German" means the best accent; it is much different from having a "correct" accent. Most don't know that Yiddish and Pennsylvania Dutch are dialects of the same continuum, so much so that a student of Germanic linguistics can pretty easily read all the languages in the West Germanic continuum (including Dutch, Yiddish, Afrikaans, and its local dialects). I know this first hand, as will any student of Germanistik or Germanic linguistics. General linguists may not, because it may not be their area of interest. And yet, most of those local West Germanic dialects are NOT mutually intelligible--they are like different little languages, in a sense. Hochdeutch or High German or Standard German, whatever you call it, is still a trade language and a literary language, but not exactly a spoken language in the sense that English is.Pat Palmer 18:54, 7 May 2007 (CDT)

Pat, many thanks for your apt outline of the issues here. I would only add that "High German" in the linguistic sense is indeed as old as "Low"; what you're describing here is the association of High German with a particular "official" version of "German" nationality and speech, and the sometimes snobby attitude that still clings to it. English, for better or worse, is closer to Low German dialects such as Frisian, and then of course a funny thing happened on the way to its being "English", which was its mingling/mangling with Norman French. I think English speakers have also experienced attitudes about "proper" dialects (even though in the UK, Estuary English is staging a comeback against the old U-speak) -- it's just that there are not many dialects of US and UK English that are called another language.
Russell, I agree that the "High German" vs. "Low German" dialect divisions have existed for centuries. Hochdeutsch the official German language (also called "High German" by English speakers) is a quite different usage; this so-called standard German has not existed for centuries; it began in the early 1800's influenced by Grimm's fairy tales, and was "codified" somewhere around 1900. People are not taught it from birth (usually); they have to learn it. They learn a dialect instead, and learn official German later on. Official German speakers generally cannot understand spoken dialects without training.Pat Palmer 20:08, 7 May 2007 (CDT)
I do agree that German remains a little easier for English speakers to learn (I learnt it in a Lutheran school in the US via a stick-figure book, See It and Say It in German), in part because the top decile of the 10% most frequent words in English is dominated by Anglo-Saxon roots).
I am sorry that misunderstandings have led you to feel a less-than-friendly association here -- it's just that what speakers, and even teachers of a language know, and how they describe that knowledge, can differ from what linguists know, and that both can at times be at variance with the linguistic boundaries drawn by modern nation-states!
I dread to think what we will encounter when we get to Norwegian and Swedish, which are very nearly the same language as well! Cheers to all. Russell Potter 19:04, 7 May 2007 (CDT)

try to conform to historical data: Dutch is an official language as of the rise of the V.O.C., the merchant fleet supported by the Netherlands that dominated the world around 16th and 17th century. The Netherlands then were known as Holland. And unfortunately people in Holland spoke Dutch. They still do, and I think I know as I am Dutch and I live in Holland. The language was at that point standard. The country now known as Belgium as well as Luxemburg were all part of Holland, and not before the middle iof the 19th century Belgium gained its independende as souverein state, where as Luxemburg still is a Duke-dom (or what you may call it). The grand duke of Luxemburg reigns in name of the Dutch monarchy. Cheers, a little history sometime is in place. Robert Tito |  Talk 

page move

I've not been following this discussion very well, so I apologize if this has already been discussed, but shouldn't the page have been moved to "Germanic languages" instead of "German dialects"? --Joe Quick (Talk) 20:41, 8 May 2007 (CDT)

No, because English and many of the languages of northern Europe, such as Swedish, are also Germanic languages. John Stephenson 21:24, 8 May 2007 (CDT)
Right. This article seems to be headed in that direction. With discussions of Dutch and Afrikaans already included, why not expand it to include the others as well? As it is, it certainly doesn't limit its scope to "German dialects." --Joe Quick (Talk) 21:35, 8 May 2007 (CDT)
Rather than just letting the page meander off into any direction, let's have some editorial vision. This page is labeled "German dialects," so we should simply describe the facts related to the different dialects of the German language (High and Low German) as spoken in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Pennsylvania Dutch can be included here, as well as Yiddish. Let's keep other Germanic languages out. I'm hoping to create the appropriate pages when time allows. Michel van der Hoek 13:56, 30 May 2008 (CDT)


I've just reworked the introductory section to try and move it away from its focus on German language and towards the dialect situation. Please hack away at it. John Stephenson 21:30, 8 May 2007 (CDT)

Final Words the conclusion is simple and straightforward

From: De Nederlandse Taalunie De eerste Nederlandssprekenden wisten zelf niet dat ze een nieuwe taal hadden uitgevonden. Talen evolueren voortdurend en je kunt achteraf pas zeggen welke veranderingen zo ingrijpend waren dat er een nieuwe taal is ontstaan. 
Rond het jaar 600 vond de zogenaamde Hoogduitse klankverschuiving plaats. In het oosten verschoof de p aan het begin van een woord naar een pf (pferd). In het westen gebeurde dat niet. Toen begon het Oudnederlands zich af te scheiden van de andere Germaanse talen. De wezenlijke kenmerken van het Nederlands liggen sinds het jaar 800 vast. Vanaf de dertiende eeuw wordt het Middelnederlands gebruikt in officiële documenten, maar dit was nog lang geen eenheidstaal. Die is pas ontstaan vanaf de zestiende eeuw. Belangrijk daarin was de publicatie van de Statenbijbel in 1637.


The first Nederlandssprekenden (Dutch speaking) did not know they had invented a new language. Languages evolve constant and you can afterwards just say which changes were that serious for a new language to arise. Around the year 600 the so-called Hochdeutch consonance shift took place. In the east p moved at the beginning of a word to pf (pferd). In the west that did not happen. Then the Oudnederlands (old dutch) started to break away from of the other Germanic languages. The substantial characteristics of Dutch stayed fixed since the year 800. As from the thirteenth century Dutch is used in official documents, but this still didn't imply it to be a language by itself. That step can be assigned as from the sixteenth century: . Important in this is the publication of the state bible in 1637. Source, the Nederlandse Taalunie. (The Dutch language union, the official linguistic representants of the Dutch language (Flemmish and Dutch), formed by the Belgian and Dutch governments. Members are only professors in the Dutch language and linguistic. They decide about the grammar and the rules of spelling words in the Dutch language.


(By order of the rulers of the united Netherlands this bible was translated to the Dutch language conform the conferences held in 1618 and 1619.)

From this site is can be concluded that:

  • old Dutch originated around 600 when it diverted from the germanic origin
  • it developed further until 800 to a more stable structure
  • around the 13th century Dutch was used by the United Netherlands
  • 1637, the date of the publication of the first state bible is generally seen as the date Dutch was born as an autonomous language continuum.

The Nederlandse Taalunie (Dutch language union) is the official institution created by the governments of the Netherlands, Belgium and Surinam to maintain and guard the Dutch language both in its development as grammar and spelling rules.

Editorial Vision for This Article

I would like to clean up this article. Right now it lacks any editorial vision and includes errors and nonsense. I have already deleted all references to Afrikaans and clarified the relationship between Dutch and German. We should cite more reliable sources than the curious items currently listed in the reference list. I have added the first two items to a proper bibliography.

In this article I think we should talk about the development and subdivision of German and leave out all extraneous material, such as references to Dutch, English, North Germanic, Indo-European etc. except where this is pertinent to something in the development of German. For instance, I think it would be legitimate to include discussions on the Rhenish Fan and the place of certain extreme southern Dutch dialects within this continuum (the use of the pronoun ich in those Dutch dialects) because it is a real question historical linguists have examined.

This page should be a subpage of the page labeled German language. On that other page we should provide a briefer description of essentially the same material. If anyone was hoping to discuss the history of Germanic or its subdivisions (West Germanic, North Germanic, East Germanic, Anglo-Frisian, etc.), please do so on separate pages. Those topics have no place here.

Some material ought to be moved to the page for German language, such as the material about compound words etc, since that material does not really have anything to do with dialectology. I would like to see comments on these proposals. Michel van der Hoek 15:44, 30 May 2008 (CDT)

Michel, I'm happy to see someone taking an interest in cleaning this up. When it was originally started, it was still combined with the main German language article but became mired in a controversy and was split to resolve the impasse. I think the controversy is well past, and I basically agree with you that some of the topics here belong in other articles. Just go for it. Also, I like the way you left a note here explaining your intentions. That is very helpful.Pat Palmer 01:28, 31 May 2008 (CDT)