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Germanic languages

The Germanic languages make one of the branches of the Indo-European (IE) group of tongues, spoken by the Germanic peoples who dwelled north and east along the borders of the Roman Empire. These tongues share many markers which they have in common, and which no other tongue has; of these the best known is the sound shift known as Grimm's law.

Some Germanic languages made runic alphabets of their own.

Some of the tell-tale marks of Germanic are:

  1. The levelling of the IE tense system into past and present (or common)
  2. The use of a dental ending (/d/ or /t/) instead of switching vowels (ablaut) to show past tense.
  3. Having two distinct types of verb conjugation: weak (regular) and strong (irregular). English has 161 strong verbs; all are of English birth.
  4. The use of strong and weak adjectives. Modern English adjectives don't change except for comparative and superlative; this was not the case with Old English, where adjectives were inflected differently depending on whether they were preceded by an article or demonstrative, or not.
  5. The sound shift known as Grimm's Law.
  6. A great many non-IE roots. There are many Germanic roots that are not found in other IE tongues. These include words for everyday deeds such as "bite" and "chew" and all words about ships and the sea, except "boat". These roots may have been borrowed from the so-called Battle-axe people.
  7. The shifting of stress onto the root of the stem. Though English has an irregular stress, native words always have a fixed stress regardless of what's added to them. This is perhaps the most important change.

Table of contents
1 Family tree
2 See also
3 External links

Family tree

All Germanic languages are thought to be descended from a hypothetical Proto-Germanic. 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.

Mentioned here are only the principal or unusual dialects; individual articles linked to below contain larger family trees. For example, many Low Saxon dialects are discussed on Low Saxon besides just Standard Low Saxon and Plautdietsch.

See also

External links