- High German languages
Infobox Language family
region=predominantly central and southern
Germany, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, northern and central Switzerland, Austria, Poland, Alsaceand Bolzano-Bozen
child4=Central German dialects
child5=Upper German dialects
The High German languages (in German, "Hochdeutsch") are any of the varieties of standard German, Luxembourgish and Yiddish, as well as the local German
dialects spoken in central and southern Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Luxembourgand in neighbouring portions of Belgium, France( Alsaceand northern Lorraine), Italy, and Poland. The language is also spoken in diaspora in Romania(" Transylvania"), Russia, the United States, Argentina, Chile, and Namibia.
As a technical term, the "high" in
High Germanis a geographical reference to where the dialect family that forms High Germanoriginates. It refers to the mountainous areas of central and southern Germany and the Alps. This is opposed to Low German, which is spoken along the flat sea coasts of the north. [See the definition of "high" in the Oxford English Dictionary (Concise Edition): "... situated far above ground, sealevel, etc; upper, inland, as ... High German".] High German can be subdivided into Upper Germanand Central German("Oberdeutsch, Mitteldeutsch").
Please note that there is a difference between how linguists use the term "
Hochdeutsch" and how German popular culture uses the term. The average German speaker will always assume that the term " Hochdeutsch" refers to standard German as opposed to dialect, and not to an entire linguistic branch of the German language. This is possibly due to a folk etymologythat interprets the term "hoch" in the sense of "higher" in a cultural sense, i.e. as the "elevated" way of speaking. In English discourse, on the other hand, the term "High German" is never used to mean "Standard German."
High German as used in Southern Germany, Bavaria and Austria was an important basis for the development of standard German.
The historical forms of the language are
Old High Germanand Middle High German.
High German are distinguished from other West Germanic varieties in that they took part in the
High German consonant shift(c. AD 500).To see this, compare German "Pfanne" with English "pan" (IPA| [pf] to IPA| [p] ), German "zwei" with English "two" (IPA| [ts] to IPA| [t] ), German "machen" with English "make" (IPA| [x] to IPA| [k] ).In the High Alemannic dialects, there is a further shift; "Sack" (like English "sack") is pronounced IPA| [z̥akx] (IPA| [k] to IPA| [kx] ).
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 has never been an original "Proto-High German". For this and other reasons, the idea of representing the relationships between West Germaniclanguage forms in a tree diagram at all is controversial among linguists; what follows should be used with care in the light of this caveat.
Central German(German: "Mitteldeutsch")
East Central German
Berlin Brandenburgish(mostly in Berlinand Brandenburg)
Thuringian Upper Saxon(mostly in Thuringia, Saxony-Anhaltand Saxony)
German Lusatian(in Saxony and Brandenburg)
Lower Silesian language(mostly in Lower Silesia, in Poland)
** Transylvanian Saxon (in
West Central German
*** "Middle Franconian"
Moselle Franconian, including the Luxembourgish language
** Transitional areas between "Central German" and "Upper German"
East Franconian German
South Franconian German
** Pennsylvania German (in the
United Statesand Canada)
Upper German(German: "Oberdeutsch")
*** Low Alemannic (including one
Swiss Germandialect: Basel German)
Alsatian language(but often also classified as within Low Alemannic)
*** High Alemannic (including many
*** Highest Alemannic (including
** Austro-Bavarian ("On the use of dialects and Standard German in Austria, see
Northern Austro-Bavarian(spoken in Upper Palatinate)
Central Austro-Bavarian(includes the dialects of Upper Bavaria, Lower Bavaria, Upper Austria, Lower Austriaand Vienna— "see" Viennese language)
Southern Austro-Bavarian(includes the dialects of Tyrol, Carinthia and Styria)
*** Cimbrian (northeastern
Mócheno( Trentino, in Italy)
Hutterite German(in Canadaand the United States)
**Western Yiddish (
***Northeastern Yiddish (
Lithuania, Latvia, Belarus, Russia, northeastern Poland)
***Central Yiddish (
***Southeastern Yiddish (
Ukraine, Bessarabia, Romania)
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