German language

West Germanic language spoken mainly in Central Europe

German (Deutsch) is a West Germanic Language mainly spoken in Western Europe and Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, and Austria, Switzerland. German is most similar to its cousin language, English, other languages within the West Germanic language branch, including Dutch, Frisian Language, and Low German. It also contains close similarities in vocabulary to some languages in the North Germanic group as does its relative languages, such as Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish, that evolved from Old Norse.


  • The two great conceptual revolutions of twentieth-century science, the overturning of classical physics by Werner Heisenberg and the overturning of the foundations of mathematics by Kurt Gödel, occurred within six years of each other within the narrow boundaries of German-speaking Europe. ...A study of the historical background of German intellectual life in the 1920s reveals strong links between them. Physicists and mathematicians were exposed simultaneously to external influences that pushed them along parallel paths. ...Two people who came early and strongly under the influence of Spengler's philosophy were the mathematician Hermann Weyl and the physicist Erwin Schrödinger. ...Weyle and Schrödinger agreed with Spengler that the coming revolution would sweep away the principle of physical causality. The erstwhile revolutionaries David Hilbert and Albert Einstein found themselves in the unaccustomed role of defenders of the status quo, Hilbert defending the primacy of formal logic in the foundations of mathematics, Einstein defending the primacy of causality in physics. In the short run, Hilbert and Einstein were defeated and the Spenglerian ideology of revolution triumphed, both in physics and in mathematics. Heisenberg discovered the true limits of causality in atomic processes, and Gödel discovered the limits of formal deduction and proof in mathematics. And, as often happens in the history of intellectual revolutions, the achievement of revolutionary goals destroyed the revolutionary ideology that gave them birth. The visions of Spengler, having served their purpose, rapidly became irrelevant.
  • As a philologist, Victor Klemperer was struck by the way the Nazis delighted in euphemistic neologisms like Volkstumskampf (ethnic conflict) and Flurbereinigung (fundamental cleansing). This daily subversion of the German language, he believed, was far more effective than the more overt kinds of propaganda. Sanitized language also made the cycle of ethnic violence easier to live with.
    • Niall Ferguson, The War of the World: Twentieth-Century Conflict and the Descent of the West (2006), p. 455
  • Сердцеведением и мудрым познаньем жизни отзовется слово британца; легким щеголем блеснет и разлетится недолговечное слово француза; затейливо придумает свое, не всякому доступное, умно-худощавое слово немец; но нет слова, которое было бы так замашисто, бойко так вырвалось бы из-под самого сердца, так бы кипело и животрепетало, как метко сказанное русское слово.
    • Translation: The sayings of the Briton resound with the wisdom of the heart and sage comprehension of life; the Frenchman's short-lived phrase is brilliant as a sprightly dandy and soon fades away; the German fancifully contrives his intellectually thin sayings, not within the grasp of all; but there are no sayings of so wide a sweep and so bold an aim, none that burst from the very heart, bubble up and vibrate with life like an aptly uttered Russian saying.
    • Nikolai Gogol. Originally written in 1835—1852, the "Poem in prose" Dead Souls, Chapter V finale, in the 1922 translation by Constance Garnett
  • During the last century it was lamentable for those who had to witness it, to notice how in these circles I have just mentioned the word 'Germanize' was frivolously played with, though the practice was often well intended. I well remember how in the days of my youth this very term used to give rise to notions which were false to an incredible degree. Even in Pan-German circles one heard the opinion expressed that the Austrian Germans might very well succeed in Germanizing the Austrian Slavs, if only the Government would be ready to co-operate. Those people did not understand that a policy of Germanization can be carried out only as regards human beings. What they mostly meant by Germanization was a process of forcing other people to speak the German language. But it is almost inconceivable how such a mistake could be made as to think that a Nigger or a Chinaman will become a German because he has learned the German language and is willing to speak German for the future, and even to cast his vote for a German political party. Our bourgeois nationalists could never clearly see that such a process of Germanization is in reality de-Germanization; for even if all the outstanding and visible differences between the various peoples could be bridged over and finally wiped out by the use of a common language, that would produce a process of bastardization which in this case would not signify Germanization but the annihilation of the German element. In the course of history it has happened only too often that a conquering race succeeded by external force in compelling the people whom they subjected to speak the tongue of the conqueror and that after a thousand years their language was spoken by another people and that thus the conqueror finally turned out to be the conquered.
  • Not only in Austria, however, but also in the Reich, these so-called national circles were, and still are, under the influence of similar erroneous ideas. Unfortunately, a policy towards Poland, whereby the East was to be Germanized, was demanded by many and was based on the same false reasoning. Here again it was believed that the Polish people could be Germanized by being compelled to use the German language. The result would have been fatal. A people of foreign race would have had to use the German language to express modes of thought that were foreign to the German, thus compromising by its own inferiority the dignity and nobility of our nation.
  • I am a German nationalist. This means that I proclaim my nationality. My whole thought and action belongs to it. I am a socialist. I see no class and no social estate before me, but that community of the Folk, made up of people who are linked by blood, united by a language, and subject to a same general fate. I love this Folk and hate only its majority of the moment, because I view the latter to be just as little representative of the greatness of my Folk as it is of its happiness.
  • The people from Prague and other Czechs should be whipped who speak half Czech and half German (...) And who could enumerate how the Czech language has already been corrupted, so that the true Czech hears they speak, but he does not understand them. And from that arises envy, anger, conflict, strife and Czech humiliation.
  • Most commonly, Holocaust survivors respond with habitual panic when exposed to triggers that in some way symbolize the Holocaust. Such Holocaust associated triggers may include any or all of the following: crowded trains, train stations, medical exams, a knock at the door, uniforms, extermination (of insects), yellow color, selections, gas, shower, barbed wire, discarding food (especially bread), fences, cruelty, barking dogs, any major disaster or discrimination, separations, the smell of burned flesh, closed spaces, an oven, standing in line, the freezing cold, music by Wagner, the German language and German products in general. Any of these stimuli may create a violent emotional response in the survivor who at that moment is thrown back to a life-threatening situation during the Holocaust. In addition, happy occasions such as weddings, Jewish holidays and family celebrations may also evoke sudden grief reactions, as they remind survivors of their immense loss and all the people who are absent because they were so brutally killed. As a consequence, there is frequently a contradictory effort both to remember and to forget, both to approach and to avoid the traumatic event in a compulsively repeated fashion. Like a broken record that is spinning around and around, intrusive experienced images and painful memories keep coming back while at the same time there is a conscious effort to avoid them and not to think about them.
    • Natan P.F. Kellermann, ‘’The Long-term Psychological Effects and Treatment of Holocaust Trauma’’, p. 4.
  • For my own part I have never been able to understand how he [Hitler] was capable, with his unmelodious and raucous voice, with his crude, often un-Germanically constructed sentences, and with a conspicuous rhetoric entirely at odds with the character of the German language, of winning over the masses with his speeches, of holding their attention and subjugating them for such appalling lengths of time.
  • For many Germans, self-determination was both persecution and promise. About ten million speakers of the German language, former subjects of the Habsburg monarchy, remained beyond Germany’s borders. Some three million such people inhabited the northwestern rim of Czechoslovakia, right at the border of Czechoslovakia and Germany. There were more Germans in Czechoslovakia than there were Slovaks. Almost the entire population of Austria, resting between Czechoslovakia and Germany, were German speakers. Austria was nevertheless required by the Treaty of St. Germain to exist as a separate state, although much of its population would have preferred accession to Germany. Adolf Hitler, the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party established in 1920, was an Austrian and an advocate of an Anschluss: a unification of Austria and Germany. Such goals of national unity, dramatic as they were, actually concealed the full measure of Hitler’s ambitions.
  • Whenever the literary German dives into a sentence, that is the last you are going to see of him till he emerges on the other side of his Atlantic with his verb in his mouth.
  • Some German words are so long that they have a perspective. Observe these examples:
These things are not words, they are alphabetical processions. And they are not rare; one can open a German newspaper any time and see them marching majestically across the page,—and if he has any imagination he can see the banners and hear the music, too. They impart a martial thrill to the meekest subject. I take a great interest in these curiosities. "Whenever I come across a good one, I stuff it and put it in my museum. In this way I have made quite a valuable collection. When I get duplicates, I exchange with other collectors, and thus increase the variety of my stock. Here are some specimens which I lately bought at an auction sale of the effects of a bankrupt bric-a-brac hunter:
Of course when one of these grand mountain ranges goes stretching across the printed page, it adorns and ennobles that literary landscape,—but at the same time it is a great distress to the new student, for it blocks up his way; he cannot crawl under it, or climb over it or tunnel through it. So he resorts to the dictionary for help; but there is no help there. The dictionary must draw the line somewhere,—so it leaves this sort of words out. And it is right, because these long things are hardly legitimate words, but are rather combinations of words, and the inventor of them ought to have been killed.
  • This last summer, when I was on my way back to Vienna from the Appetite-Cure in the mountains, I fell over a cliff in the twilight, and broke some arms and legs and one thing or another, and by good luck was found by some peasants who had lost an ass, and they carried me to the nearest habitation, which was one of those large, low, thatch-roofed farm-houses, with apartments in the garret for the family, and a cunning little porch under the deep gable decorated with boxes of bright colored flowers and cats; on the ground floor a large and light sitting-room, separated from the milch-cattle apartment by a partition; and in the front yard rose stately and fine the wealth and pride of the house, the manure-pile. That sentence is Germanic, and shows that I am acquiring that sort of mastery of the art and spirit of the language which enables a man to travel all day in one sentence without changing cars.
  • Mark Twain, Christian Science, Ch. 1

See also

Wikipedia has an article about: