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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

BiT(Ts~Eye View of Teutonic Grammar   289
It had DO metropolis comparable to London, Paris, Rome, or Madrid.
The Berlin of to-day does not enjoy a supremacy which these capitals
had earned three hundred years ago Till the present generation German
was not the language of a single political unit in the sense that Icelandic
has been for a thousand years When Napoleon's campaigns brought
about the downfall of the Holy Roman Empire, German was the
common literary medium of a loose confederation of sovereign states
with no common standard of speech. Modern Germany as a political
unity begins after the battle of Sedan The union of all the High Ger-
man-speaking peoples outside Switzerland did not come about till
Hitler absorbed Austria in the Third Reich
In the fourteenth century, that is to say about the time when English
became the official language of the English judiciary, the secretariat of
the chancelleries of the Holy Roman Empire gave up the use of Latin
They started to write in German The royal chancellery of Prague set
the fashion, and the court of the Elector of Saxony fell into step This
administrative German, a language with archaic features like that of
our own law courts, was the only common standard when the task of
translating the Bible brought Luther face to face with a medley of
local dialects. "I speak," he tells us, "according to the usage of the
Saxon chancellery which is followed by all the princes and kings of
Germany All the imperial cities, all the courts of princes, wnte accord-
ing to the usage of the Saxon chancellery which is that of my own
prince."
Luther's Bible made this archaic German the printed and written
language of the Protestant states, north and south At first, the Catholic
countries resisted In time they also adopted the same standard Its
spread received much help from the printers who had a material
interest in using spelling and grammatical forms free from all too
obvious provincialisms By the middle of the eighteenth century
Germany already had a standardized literary and written language
During the nineteenth century what had begun as a paper language
also came to be a spoken language Still, linguistic unification has never
gone so far in Germany as in France Most German children are
nurtured on local dialects They do not get their initiation to the spoken
and written norm till they reach school, and those who remain in the
country habitually speak a local vernacular In the larger towns most
people speak a language which stands somewhere between dialect and
what is taught in school, but the pronunciation even of educated people,
who deliberately pursue the prescribed model, usually betrays the