High German

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High German, or Hochdeutsch, (the stage is called New High German) is the name of the standard form of Modern German. It is a West Germanic and is related to Low German, Dutch, and Anglo-Saxon/Modern English. Today it is the official language of Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Liechtenstein.

High German
HochDeutsch
Spoken in: Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Liechtenstein (Deutschland, Schweiz, Österreich, Liechtenstein)
Conworld: Real world
Total speakers: 105 million
Genealogical classification: Indo-European
Germanic
West Germanic
     German
High German
Basic word order: SVO, OVS/V2
Morphological type: inflecting
Morphosyntactic alignment: nominative-accusative
Created by:
unknown 1800-Present C.E.

Outline of the History of High German

High German has 4 primary written stages, similar to English. The four stages are as follows:

The last stage is the Modern German of today.

Difference between High and Low German

High German differs from other West German languages such as Low German, English, and Dutch in that High German when through the High German Consonant Shift. The High German Consonant Shift (or HGCS) is the sound shift where;

  1. Non-geminated voicless stops became fricatives,
  2. Geminated, nasal-adjacent and liquid-adjacent voiceless stops became affricates,
  3. Voiced stops became voiceless stops, and finally
  4. All interdental fricatives (/ð/ and /θ/) became the dental stop and/or Alveolar stop // and /d/.

The last stage was shared by Low German and Dutch.

All of these stages occur in the Highest of High German dialects, but Standard High German does not have all of them. The shift of /k/>/kx/ in stage 2 did not occur in the standard, although it did in Upper German dialects, such as Southern Bavarian. Also the only part of stage 3 which actually became part of standard High German was /d/>/t/. The other two happened only in the Highest of High German or Upper German dialects

Orthography

High German is written with the Latin alphabet. It has extra letters which represent some of the sounds of the German language, which are not otherwise found in the Latin alphabet. These include Ö ö, Ü ü, Ä ä, ß.

Phonology

Consonants


Consonants
Bilabial Labiod. Alveolar Post-alv. Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ŋ
Plosive p b t d k g
Fricative f v s z ʃ (ʒ) ç x h
Affricate pf ʦ ʧ (ʤ) (kx)
Approximants j
Trill r
Lateral Approximant l
  • The diagraph ch is /x/ after a back vowel, and /ç/ elsewhere.
  • v and f are (usually) both pronounced /f/, and w is pronounced /v/.
  • /ŋ/ occurs as ng and /ŋk/ is nk.
  • sch is pronounced /ʃ/. tsch is pronounced /ʧ/.
  • Initially s is pronounced /z/ before vowels, and /ʃ/ before a consonant (such as st and sp).
  • j is pronounced /j/.
  • The spellings tz and z are pronounced /ʦ/.
  • ß and ss are pronounced /s/.
  • German has final devoicing. This means that all voiced consonants with voiceless forms become those voiceless forms, at the end of the word.

Vowels


Vowels
Front Central Back
Unround Rounded Unrounded Rounded
High iː - ɪ yː - ʏ uː - ʊ
Mid eː - ɛ øː - œ ə oː - ɔ
Low aː/a
All entries are: Tense - Lax
  • In order to form the long version of a vowel, add -h after the vowel or in rare cases double the vowel, although that is more common in Low German and Dutch.
  • Final e is pronounced /ə/.
  • ü is pronounced /yː/, /ʏ/.
  • ö is pronounced /øː/, /œ/.
  • ä is pronounced /eː/, /ɛ/.

Diphthongs

  • eu and äu are pronounced /ɔʏ/, /ɔɪ/.
  • ei and ai are pronounced /aɪ/.
  • au is pronounced /aʊ/.

Grammar

The General Stuff

Gender and Number

Nouns, Adjectives, Articles, and to some extent Pronouns are all affected by Gender and Number. There are three genders and two numbers in High German. The three genders are Masculine, Feminine, and Neuter, and the numbers are Singular and Plural. Usually all forms of the Plural are the same, when it comes to adjectives and articles.

Case

In German, there are four cases, Nominative, Accusative, Genitive, and Dative. These affect articles, pronouns, adjectives, and nouns. The prepositions of German also affect whether an phrase is genitive, dative, or accusative.

Articles

There are definite articles and indefinite articles in German as well as in English. Articles are affected by case, gender, and number. The plural is the same across the genders.

Definite

Cases Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural (all Genders)
Nominative der die das die
Genitive des der des der
Dative dem der dem den
Accusative den die das die

Indefinite

Cases Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural (all Genders)
Nominative ein eine ein meine†
Genitive eines einer eines meiner
Dative einem einer einem meinen
Accusative einen eine ein meine

† There is no plural form of ein, but there are other indefinite article-style words that do, such as mein which means my.

Nouns

Gender is arbitrary in German, but Nouns referring to living being usually are the gender of that being. The ending of a noun is usually helpful in figuring out which gender a noun is, although it is not always the case.

Also, the first letter all German nouns is always capitalized.

Genders of Nouns

  • Masculine
    • Nouns ending with -en are usually masculine (that are not derived from verbs). Ex. Der Garten, der Norden.
    • Nouns ending -er are usually masculine. Ex. Der Lehrer, die Amerikaner
    • Nouns ending with -ismus are masculine. Ex. Der Feminismus, Der Kommunismus,
  • Feminine
    • To convert masculine nouns ending to feminine, add -in to it. Ex. Die Lehrerin, Die Freundin.
    • Most nouns ending with -e. Ex. Die Frage, Die Straße,
    • Nouns ending with -ion, -ik, -ie, -unft, -tät, -ei, -heit, -keit, -schaft, and -ung are almost always feminine. Ex. Die Logik, Die Magie, Die Universität, Die Vorlesung, Die Gesundheit, etc.
  • Neuter
    • Young living beings are Neuter. Ex. Das Kind, Das Lamm, Das Baby,
    • The ending -chen and -lein are diminutives and are always neuter. Ex. Das Mädchen, Das Märchen.

-lein is used more in the south than in the north, so it's less common in the standard form of German.

    • Metals and infinitive-nouns are always neuter. Ex. Das Gold, Das Metall, Das Singen, Das Essen,

Forming the Plural

The formation of the plural is different for many different nouns. The idea of the Umlaut is important in forming the plural as well.

  • For monosyllabic words, the plural is usually for by adding -e in the masculine and feminine and -er in some neuter nouns.
  • For Polysyllabic masculine and neuter nouns, many take no ending, but most others take -e as an ending.
  • For most Polysyllabic feminine nouns that end with -e, -er or -el, the ending is -n or -en. If the ending is -in then the total ending is -innen.
  • Foreign words (except those from Latin) and new words usually take the ending -s.

Noun Declensions

There are many different kinds of German Nouns. Here are a few fully declined ones:
Masculine:

Cases Tag 'Day' Tage 'Days' Apfel 'Apple' Äpfel'Apples'
Nominative Der Tag Die Tage Der Apfel Die Äpfel
Genitive Des Tag(e)s Der Tage Des Apfels Der Äpfel
Dative Dem Tag(e) Den Tagen Dem Apfel Den Äpfeln
Accusative Den Tag Die Tage Den Apfel Die Äpfel

Feminine:

Cases Hand 'Hand' Hände 'Hands' Freude 'Joy' Freuden 'Joys'
Nominative Die Hand Die Hände Die Freude Die Freuden
Genitive Der Hand Der Hände Der Freude Der Freuden
Dative Der Hand Den Händen Der Freude Den Freuden
Accusative Die Hand Die Hände Die Freude Die Freuden

Neuter:

Cases Schiff 'Ship' Schiffe 'Ships' Volk 'Folk, People' Völker 'Folks, Peoples'
Nominative Das Schiff Die Schiffe Das Volk Die Völker
Genitive Des Schiff(e)s Der Schiffe Des Volk(e)s Der Völker
Dative Dem Schiff(e) Den Schiffen Dem Volk(e) Den Völkern
Accusative Das Schiff Die Schiffe Das Volk Die Völker

Personal Pronouns

First person:

Cases Singular Plural
Nominative ich wir
Genitive meiner uns(e)rer
Dative mir uns
Accusative mich uns

Second person:

Cases Singular Informal Plural Informal Plural/Singular Formal
Nominative du ihr Sie‡
Genitive deiner eu(e)rer Ihrer
Dative dir euch Ihnen
Accusative dich euch Sie

‡The formal plural pronoun Sie is the same form as the 3rd person plural pronoun sie but is also always capitalized.

Third person:

Cases Mascu. Sing. Fem. Sing. Neut. Sing. Plural
Nominative er sie es sie
Genitive seiner ihrer seiner ihrer
Dative ihm ihr ihm ihnen
Accusative ihn sie es sie

Possessive Pronouns

Attributively-used they agree with the noun they refer to in case, number and gender. They stand always in front of the noun.

Cases 1st Sg. 2nd Sg. 3rd Sg. masc. 3rd Sg. fem. 3rd Sg. neut. 1st Pl. 2nd Pl. 3rd Pl. 2nd Formal
Nominative Sg. m./n. mein dein sein ihr sein unser euer ihr Ihr
Nominative Sg. f meine deine seine ihre seine unsere eure ihre Ihre
Nominative Pl. meine deine seine ihre seine unsere eure ihre Ihre
Genitive Sg. m./n. meines deines seines ihres seines unseres eures ihres Ihres
Genitive Sg. f. meiner deiner seiner ihrer seiner unserer eurer ihrer Ihrer
Genitive Pl. meiner deiner seiner ihrer seiner unserer eurer ihrer Ihrer
Dative Sg. m./n. meinem deinem seinem ihrem seinem unserem eurem ihrem Ihrem
Dative Sg. f. meiner deiner seiner ihrer seiner unserer eurer ihrer Ihrer
Dative Pl. meinen deinen seinen ihren seinen unseren euren ihren Ihren
Accusative Sg. m. meinen deinen seinen ihren seinen unseren euren ihren Ihren
Accusative Sg. f. meine deinen seine ihre seine unsere eure ihre Ihre
Accusative Sg. n. mein dein sein ihr sein unser euer ihr Ihr
Accusative Pl. meine deine seine ihre seine unsere eure ihre Ihre

mein Haus - my house
deiner Frau - of your wife, to your wife
ihrem Buch - to her book

Predicatively-used they function as follows:

Cases 1st Sg. 2nd Sg. 3rd Sg. masc. 3rd Sg. fem. 3rd Sg. neut. 1st Pl. 2nd Pl. 3rd Pl. 2nd Formal
Masculine Sg. meiner deiner seiner ihrer seiner unserer eurer ihrer Ihrer
Feminine Sg. meine deine seine ihrer seine unsere eure ihre Ihre
Neuter Sg. meines deines seines ihres seines unseres eures ihres Ihres
Plural meine deine seine ihre seine unsere eure ihre Ihre

Dieser Baum ist meiner. - This tree is mine.
Seines ist es nicht. - This isn't his.

Adjectives and Adverbs

Adjectives

German adjectives have different behaviours and patterns depending on whether there are articles or not, and whether those articles are definite or indefinite. Predicate adjectives take no endings.


Gut = Good With Definite articles and demonstratives, so-called der-Words:

Cases Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural (all Genders)
Nominative Der gute Hund Die gute Katze Das gute Boot Die guten Völker
Genitive Des guten Hundes Der guten Katze Des guten Bootes Der guten Völker
Dative Dem guten Hunde Der guten Katze Dem guten Boot Den guten Völkern
Accusative Den guten Hund Die gute Katze Das gute Boot Die guten Völker

With the Indefinite articles and possessives, so-called ein-words:

Cases Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural (all Genders)
Nominative ein guter Hund eine gute Katze ein gutes Boot Meine guten Völker
Genitive eines guten Hundes einer guten Katze eines guten Bootes Meiner guten Völker
Dative einem guten Hunde einer guten Katze einem guten Boot Meinen guten Völkern
Accusative einen guten Hund eine gute Katze ein gutes Boot Meine guten Völker

Articles without articles of any form:

Cases Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural (all Genders)
Nominative guter Hund gute Katze gutes Boot Meine guten Völker
Genitive guten Hundes guter Katze guten Bootes Meiner guten Völker
Dative gutem Hunde guter Katze gutem Boot Meinen guten Völkern
Accusative guten Hund gute Katze gutes Boot Meine guten Völker

Adverbs

In High German, the change from an adjective to an adverb does not require an ending, as it would in Modern English or French. The adverb form is usually the same as the nominative masculine form of the adjective.

The Word Order for Adverbs usually follows a pattern of the ordering of 1. Time, 2. Manner, and 3. Place. This means Gut in German can mean both well and good. There are other words which are strictly adverbs, such as sehr, which means very.


Prepositions

Prepositions are classified by the cases that follow them. Some have the accusative case follow, some the dative, and some the genitive. However some take either accusative or dative, based on whether or not it is a there is motion involved.

Accusative

bis - until, as far as
durch - through, by means of
entlang - along, down
für - for
gegen - against, around
ohne - without
um - around

Dative

aus - out of, from, made of,
außer - at,
bei - at, near, with,
gegenüber von - opposite, across from,
mit - with
nach - to, after, according to,
seit - since, for a period of time,
von - from, of, by
zu - to

Accusative and Dative

an - on, to go to,
auf - on, to, in, at
hinter - behind,
in - in, into, to,
neben - next to, beside,
über - over, above, across,
unter - under,
vor - in front of, before
zwischen - between,

Genitive

anstatt - instead of,
statt - instead of,
trotz - in spite of
während - during
wegen - because of,

Conjunctions

There are different conjunctions which affect a sentence in different ways. Coordinating Conjunctions usually do not affect the word or of a German sentence, whereas Subordinating Conjunctions usually involve the transposed word order mentioned below.

Coordinating Conjunctions

aber - but
denn - because, for
oder - or
sondern - but, rather,
und - and

Subordinating Conjunctions

als, wann, wenn - when
bevor - before
bis - until
da - since,
damit - so that,
dass - that
ob - whether, if
obwohl - although
seit - since
während - while
weil - because
wenn - if

Verbs

Main Page: High German Verbs
German Verbs have two major subdivisions, Strong and Weak. German verbs are conjugated according to 3 persons, 2 numbers, 2 inflecting tenses, and 3 moods, although German is rather intermediate when it comes to verbal inflection. The German Strong Verbs often have some patterns and classifications which are used for identifying them.

The infinitive of a verb is formed by adding -en to the end.

The imperative is formed, in the 2nd person singular informal by only the verb stem, the 2nd person plural informal is formed by adding -t to the stem. The 2nd personal formal is formed by adding -en to the stem and adding Sie afterwards. The "let's" or first person plural imperative is formed by adding -en and wir after words or, as in English, with the imperative of lassen and uns. Examples: Verb: Gehen - to go
Geh nach Hause!
Geht nach Hause!
Gehen Sie nach Hause!
Go home!
Gehen wir nach Hause. / Lass uns nach Hause gehen. (speaking to one person) / Lasst uns nach Hause gehen. (speaking to several persons) - let's go home.

Modals

There are a few verbs which are essential for German. These are called Modals or Modal Auxiliaries. There are 6 primary modals, and one which has a subjunctive form in common use. The latter would be Möchten which is the subjunctive of Mögen. The modal in the present tense is as follows:

Present tense
Infinitive dürfen may, to be allowed können can, to be able, müssen must, to have to, sollen should, mögen to like, möchten would like, wollen to want,
sing. pl. sing. pl. sing. pl. sing. pl. sing. pl. sing. pl. sing. pl.
1st person darf dürfen kann können muss müssen soll sollen mag mögen möchte möchten will wollen
2nd person darfst dürft kannst könnt musst müsst sollst sollt magst mögt möchtest möchtet willst wollt
3rd person darf dürfen kann können muss müssen soll sollen mag mögen möchte möchten will wollen

Auxiliaries

The most important auxiliaries are sein (to be), werden (to become, shall, will), and haben (to have). Sein and Haben are both used to form the Present Perfect tense, and Werden is used to form the Future tense.

Present tense
Infinitive Sein to be Haben to have Werden to become
sing. pl. sing. pl. sing. pl.
1st person bin sind habe haben werde werden
2nd person bist seid hast habt wirst werdet
3rd person ist sind hat haben wird werden
Imperfect Tense
sing. pl. sing. pl. sing. pl.
1st person war waren hatte hatten wurde wurden
2nd person warst wart hattest hattet wurdest wurdet
3rd person war waren hatte hatten wurde wurden
Perfect Form
sing. pl. sing. pl. sing. pl.
1st person bin gewesen sind gewesen habe gehabt haben gehabt bin geworden sind geworden
2nd person bist gewesen seid gewesen hast gehabt habt gehabt bist geworden seid geworden
3rd person ist gewesen sind gewesen hat gehabt haben gehabt ist geworden sind geworden

Present Tense

In the present tense, German verbs follow a common pattern. Quite a few verbs have change or umlaut the vowel in the second person informal singular and the third person singular. Verbs that end with an alveolar fricative or affricate have identical du-forms and er, sie, es forms. Verbs ending -d or -t insert an -e- in the du, ihr, and er, sie, es forms. Here are examples:

Present tense
Infinitive Lernen To Learn Antworten to answer Heißen to be called Fahren to drive, go
sing. pl. sing. pl. sing. pl. sing. pl.
1st person lerne lernen antworte antworten heiße heißen fahre fahren
2nd person lernst lernt antwortest antwortet heißt heißt fährst fahrt
3rd person lernt lernen antwortet antworten heißt heißen fährt fahren

Perfect Tense

The present perfect is used in High German in the same senses that English uses the Simple Past and the Perfect tenses. For weak verbs, in order to form the Present tense, first a form of haben (or sein) must be used, and at the end of the clause comes the verb. For the verb, ge- must be attached to beginning of the stem and -t must be attached to the end. In many strong verbs, ge- is still often attached, but sometimes -en is the ending. Also many strong verbs involve a vowel stem change as well.

Most Verbs take haben as the auxiliary verb, but verbs of motion and select others take the verb sein as the auxiliary.

Present Perfect Tense
Infinitive Lernen To Learn Antworten to answer Heißen to be called Fahren to drive, go
sing. pl. sing. pl. sing. pl. sing. pl.
1st person habe gelernt haben gelernt habe geantwortet haben geantwortet habe geheißen haben geheißen habe gefahren haben gefahren
2nd person hast gelernt habt gelernt hast geantwortet habt geantwortet hast geheißen habt geheißen hast gefahren habt fahren
3rd person hat gelernt haben gelernt hat geantwortet haben geantwortet hat geheißen haben geheißen hat gefahren haben gefahren

Imperfect

The Imperfect tense in High German is used more as a written tense than as a spoken one, although a few key words are used more often in speech as well, such as the Modals and Auxiliaries. The Imperfect tense is used to describe something that happened a while in the past. It differs greatly from the Romance and Slavic Language idea of Imperfect. It is used in telling stories of things that happened a long time ago.

Imperfect tense
Infinitive Lernen To Learn Antworten to answer Heißen to be called Fahren to drive, go
sing. pl. sing. pl. sing. pl. sing. pl.
1st person lernte lernten antwortete antworteten hieß hießen fuhr fuhren
2nd person lerntest lerntet antwortetest antwortetet hießest hießt fuhrst fuhrt
3rd person lernte lernten antwortete antworteten hieß hießen fuhr fuhren

Word Order

German word order is fairly unique and has particular features with which a learner must become acquainted. The normal order is SVO, and occasional OVS, because German has a structure know as V2 or 2nd Position Verb rule, as described here:

"...I find German to be the strangest in the area of syntax. German has several interesting word order issues. Now a simple German sentence can be SVO. But German, as well as most other Germanic language such as Norwegian, Danish, Swedish, and Dutch, follow what I call the 2nd Position Verb rule. This states that no matter where the objects and subjects move, the conjugated verb or Finite verb stays in the second position. So this means that SVO or OVS are very common. Here is an example, You can say in German:

Ich sehe den Himmel. (I see the sky.) or
Den Himmel sehe ich. (The sky see I.)
We can see how the verb stays when the other elements move. Now for questions it is acceptable to have a verb in the first position, using a standard inverted word order. However for many statements the verb second ideal needs to stay in place." [1]

Timothy Patrick Snyder

However, German and Dutch both have a unique trait in having something called Transposed or Dependent Clause word order. This type of word order only occurs inside<i> dependent clauses, and what happens is that the inflected or finite verb is sent to the end. It is described as this:

"Now the pattern that Dutch and German have, but is not really shared with the other Germanic languages, is the movement of the conjugated verb to the end of a dependent clause. This might seem strange at first, but one must learn to notice it. An example would be:

Der Mann, den ich gestern sah, ist gegangen.
(The man, whom I yesterday saw, left.)
Instead of; The man, whom I saw yesterday, left." [2]

Timothy Patrick Snyder

Another interesting feature is the movement of the Infinitives and Past Participles to the end of the sentence. This is a trait that written German got from Latin, and then it became common in spoken German as well. It also leads to idioms such as Ich kann Deutsch. (Lit. I can German, but means, I can speak German) which comes from the expression Ich kann Deutsch sprechen. In the cases of Transposed word order, the inverted verb goes <i>after<i> the infinitives and participles.

High German Conlangs

Below are conlangs that are mainly based on Old High German, Middle High German, and modern High German dialects:

Sources and External Links


An Introduction to Basic Word Order by Timothy Patrick Snyder

Stern, Guy, and Everett Bleiler. Essential German Grammar. Mineola, New York. Dover Publications inc, 1961.

Dippmann, Gerda, and Johanna Watzinger-Tharp. A Practical review of German Grammar. New Jersey, Prentice-Hall inc. 2000.

Page written by Timothy Patrick Snyder.

Translations

This article is one of quite a few pages about Natlangs.

Indo-european natlangs:

Balto-Slavic Natlangs: Czech * Russian
Celtic Natlangs: Revived Middle Cornish * Pictish
Germanic Natlangs:
North Germanic Natlangs: Norwegian
West Germanic Natlangs: Anglo-Saxon * Dutch * English (Old English * Middle English * Modern English * Scots) * German (High German * Low German)
Indo-Iranian Natlangs: Pahlavi
Italic Natlangs: French * Italian * Latin * Spanish
Debated: Cimmerian

Uralic Natlangs: Finnish * Khanty * Mansi * Mordvinic * Proto-Uralic
Altaic (controversial): Japanese
Sino-Tibetan Natlangs:
Uto-Aztecan Natlangs: Nahuatl

-

Isolate Natlangs: Basque * *
Hypothetical/debated Natlangs and Natlang families: Danubian * Europic (obsolete)