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Germanic languages.

Germanic languages. - раздел Лингвистика, Введение в спецфилологию   Plan: 1) Modern Germanic Languages. 2) The ...



1) Modern Germanic languages.

2) The earliest period of Germanic history. Protogermanic.

3) East Germanic.

4) North Germanic.

5) WestGermanic.



Genetically English belongs to the Indo-European Family of Languages. And to the Germanic and Teutonic group of languages.


The Germanic languages in the modern world:




The history of the Germanic group begins with the appearance of Protogermanic (PG) which is also termed as common or primitive Germanic, primitive Teutonic or Simpligermanic. This language is the ancestor or the parent-language of Germanic group.

Teutones settled on the southern coast of the Baltic sea in the region of Elba. This place is regarded as the original home of Teutones and here they developed their first linguistic features which make them a separate group in the I-E family.

- The first mention of Germanic tribes was made by Pitheas, a Greek historian and geographer of the 4th century BC.

- In the 1st century BC in “commentaries on the Gallic war” Julius Caesar described some militant Germanic tribes.

- 1st century A.D. Pliny the Elder, a prominent roman scientist and writer in “natural history” made a classified list of Germanic tribes, grouping them under 6 headings.

- 2nd century A.D. Roman historian Tacitus compiled a detail description of the life and customs of the ancient Teutones.

- F. Engels made extensive use of these sources in the papers “on the history of the ancient Germans”. In his work he described the evolution of the economic and social structure of the Teutones.

Towards the beginning of our era the common period of Germanic History came to an end. The Teutones had extended over a large territory and PG language broke into 3 branches: EG, NG, WG.



The EG subgroup was formed by the tribes living in the Eastern Europe. The most powerful tribe was the Goths. They were among the first Teutones to leave the coast of the Baltic Sea and start on the Great Migration. The Gothic language (now dead) has been preserved in written records (4th-6th century). The Goths were the first Teutons to become Christians. In the 4th century Ulfilas, the west Gothic bishop made a translation of Gospels using a modified form of the Greek alphabet. It was written on red parchment with silver and golden letters and was known as “Silver Codex”, one of the earliest texts in the languages of the Germanic group.

The other EG languages have no written traces. Some of the tribal names have survived in place-names (Andalusia).


The teutons who stayed in Scandinavia after the departure of the Goths gave rise to the north-germanic subgroup of languages. NG group consisted of the tribes living on the southern coast of Scandinavian Peninsula and northern Denmark. That’s why the language of NG is called “Old North” (or old Scandinavian).

This language used in runic alphabet. And the first written records date from the 3rd to 9th century AD.

The disintegration of Old North into separate dialects and languages began after the 9th century when the Scandinavians started out on their sea voyages.

The principal linguistic differentiation in Scandinavia corresponded to the political division into Sweden, Denmark and Norway. The three kingdoms constantly fought for dominance and the relative position of the three languages altered. Swedish and Norwegian languages were influenced by the Danish because Denmark was the most powerful kingdom.

The earliest written records of these three languages date from the 13th century.

The NG subgroup includes two more languages: Icelandic, Faroese, whose origin goes back to Viking Age.


The WG tribes dwelt in the lowlands between the Oder and the Elbe, bordering on the Slavonian tribes in the East and the Celtic tribes in the south. On the eve of their Great Migrations of the 4th and 5th century the WG included several tribes: Franconians (Francs) occupied the lower basin of the Rhine; The Angles and Frisians, the Jutes and the Saxons inhabited the coastal area of the modern Netherlands, Germany and southern part of Denmark.

A group of tribes known as High Germans lived in mountainous regions of Germany. Low Germans lived in the lowland areas. HG included a number of tribes whose names are known since the early Middle Ages. They are: the Alemanians, the Swabians, the Bavarians.

The history of the English language start in the 5th century AD. A group of WG tribes (Angles, Saxons, Frisians, Jutes) started out on their invasion of the British isles. Their dialects in the British isles developed into English language. The first English written records have come down from the 7th century.


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