High German

From Academic Kids

Language classification
Indo-European languages
Germanic languages
West Germanic languages
High German


High German (in German, Hochdeutsch) is any of several German dialects spoken in Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, and Luxembourg (as well as in neighbouring portions of Belgium, France (Alsace), Italy, Poland, and Romania (Transylvania) and in some areas of former colonial settlement, for example in Namibia). "High" refers to the mountainous areas of southern Germany and the Alps, as opposed to "Low German" spoken along the flat sea coasts of the north. High German can be subdivided into Upper German and Central German (Oberdeutsch, Mitteldeutsch).

High German as used in Southern Germany, Bavaria and Austria was an important basis for the developement of standard German. It is distinguished from Low German mainly by its participation in the High German consonant shift. Some vocabulary (culinary mostly) is unique to Bavaria and Austria.

The German term Hochdeutsch is also used loosely, but not by linguists, to mean standard written German as opposed to dialect, because the standard language developed out of High rather than Low German. This is based on a misunderstanding, and the attempt to rationalise it by suggesting that "high" means "official" doesn't solve the problem. Fortunately, in English, "High German" has never been used to mean "Standard German".

The historical forms of the language are Old High German and Middle High German. The term "High German" also sometimes includes Yiddish, which developed out of Middle High German, but today can no longer be seen as a German dialect.

High German (and Yiddish) are distinguished from other Western Germanic dialects in that they took part in the second (High German) consonant shift (c. 500 ad). To see this, compare German Pfanne with English pan ( to ), German zwei with English two ( to ), German machen with English make ( to ). In the High Alemannic dialects, there is a further shift; Sack (like English "sack") is pronounced ( to ).

The name "High German" contrasts with "Low German", a term variously used to refer to the Low Saxon dialects originating from around the Baltic city of Lbeck; these dialects together with the Low Franconian languages (Dutch, West Flemish, and Afrikaans); or all of the Western Germanic languages other than High German (including English and Frisian).

Family tree

Note that divisions between subfamilies of Germanic are rarely precisely defined; most form continuous clines, with adjacent dialects being mutually intelligible and more separated ones not. In particular, there never has been an original "Proto-High German".

External links

de:Hochdeutsch nl:Hoogduits


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