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President of the Ohio University ; 7\anslator of Weirs Order of Words, Etc. 

"Glib is the tongue of man, and many words are therein 
of every kind, and wide is the range of his speech hither and 

Hind xx : 248-9. 



. 1893 . 

Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1893, by 

In the office of the Librarian of Congress at Washington, D. C. 

" Von alien Orgamsmen gehen die sprachlichen u 
nerstes Wesen am ndchsten an; macht dock die 
den Menschen." SCHLEICHER. 

"In detn Menschen liegt ein Elwas, eine qitahlas occult a ^ 
wenn man so will, das ihn von alien Thieren ausnahmslos 
sondert. Dieses Etwas nennen wir Vernunft, wenn wir es 
als inner e Wirksamkeit den ken, wir nennen es Sprache, 
sobald wir es als Auszeres, als Erscheinung gewahren und 
auffassen. Keine Vernunft ohne Sprache, keine Sprache 
ohne Vernunft. Die Sprache ist der Rubicon, welcher das 
Thier vom Menschen scheidel, welchen kein Thier jemals 
ilberschreiten wird." MAX MiJLLER. 

"Alle Geschichte beruht bei uns auf dem Gegensatz des 
religwsen und pohtischen Lebens, aiif- der Anerkennung 
beider als selbstdndig neben einander ; nie hat der Glaube 
uns die trdischen Aufgaben vergessen lassen, die dem Men- 
schen dock auch obliegen und die ihn beschaftigen, so lange 
er im Schweisz seines Angesichts sein Brot essen musz. 
Diese irdischen Aufgaben verlangen vor allem eine wiri- 
schaftliche Ordnung, in der sie allein gelost werden konnen, 
ein Recht, wodurch das duszere Leben gepflegt und ge- 
schult wird, und einen Staat, der den zeithchen Bedurf- 
niszen entsprichl und das Recht im innern wie auch nach 
auszen zur Erjitllung bringt." ARNOLD. 















1. Extent of Territory, 69 

2. The Written Language and Folk-Speech, . . . .72 

3. Unification in a Common Literary Language, . . 77 

4. Uniformity in the Spoken Language, . . . . 101 

5. Some Disadvantages of Uniformity, . . . . 110 

6. Characteristics of the New High German, . . .113 

The Influence of Analogy, ( What is Analogy? ) . . 122 

1. Changes of Meaning, 156 

2. Coinage of New Words, 174 

3. The Influence of Foreign Language on the German . . 181 




Vi 'lahlr i if ('(!/< n/x. 


Tin. INI I.KCTIONS OK THI: Ni:\v Hn;n <;KI;MA.\ 

1. The Noun, or Substantive, 2:>7 

12. The Pronoun, . . . 250 

3. The Adjective, iVtf 

4. The Verb, 255 



The Noun, 280 

The Verb, 2S5 


Names of Persons, 292 

Names of Places, . . . ., 30 



1WAS led to prepare this volume under the conviction 
that there are persons enough in this country inter- 
ested in the historical development of the German lan- 
guage to justify the undertaking. My object has been to 
produce a book that would be read with interest, and could 
be read with profit, by people whose knowledge of Ger- 
man does not extend much beyond the rudiments and 
who know next to nothing of comparative philology. 
While not primarily intended as a manual for the class- 
room, it is believed that it can be used with advantage in 
connection with any German grammar. It has been my 
constant aim to make duly prominent the common origin 
of the English and German languages, and to use the 
facts of the one to elucidate, as far as possible, the facts 
of the other. It is only by the study of what has been 
that we are able to understand what is. I have now and 
then called attention to those general phenomena which 
all languages exhibit in common, and have thus, in a 
slight measure, invaded the domain of the comparative 
philologist. It has also been my special object to show 
the relation of dialects to the language of literature, so 
that I would fain hope this volume may contribute some- 
what to dissipate the erroneous notions so widely preva- 
lent on this subject. The importance and persistence 
of the dialects of the German make it particularly well 
fitted for exhibiting the relation of the two modes of 
speech to each other. 

My original plan was to prepare a translation of 
BehaghePs Geschichte der deutchen Sprache. But I 
soon became convinced that the author's point of view 

viii A History of the German Language 

ought not to be that of one who has before his mind's eye 
an English-speaking public. One who writes for Ger- 
mans can count on a more thorough and more general 
knowledge of phonetics, and on a larger measure of pop- 
ular interest in the exposition of its laws. Professor Be- 
haghel accordingly confined himself more closely to, 
and expressed himself more briefly on, this part of his 
subject than seemed to me advisable in an English work. 
Besides, I am inclined to believe that most of my readers 
will share with me the belief that a word or a sentence is 
of more general interest as the visible expression of a 
thought than as an exemplification of a phonetic law. 
Though the statement may seem to involve a contradic- 
tion, the literary and pedagogical sides of my subject 
have been made more prominent than the scientific and 
technical. It seemed to me better, in the long run, to 
arouse an interest in the subject that would stimulate 
further inquiry than to furnish indisputable facts, even sup- 
posing such a thing to be possible. When we recall that 
Comparative Philology has been several times rewritten, 
both in general and particular, during the last two or three 
decades, and that many of its problems are still unsolved, 
such a course must be regarded as decidedly advisable. 

The result has been that while my book is based on that 
of Professor Behaghel, it contains a good deal of matter 
that he might not approve, and for which it would be un- 
just to hold him responsible. I desire, however, to ex- 
press my great obligations to his excellent volume and to 
the clear manner with which he treats his theme. I know 
no German writer on this subject who combines in an 
equal degree both learning and lucidity. I have also 
made some use of Kluge's Etymologisches Woerterbuch 
der deutschen Sprache; Socin, Schriftsprache und Dia- 
lekte im Deutschen; Welker's Dialektgedichte, Skeat's 
Principles of English Etymology, first and second series ; 
Paul's Grundriss der germanischen Philologie ; and Balg's 

A History of the German Language ix 

Glossary of the Gothic Language. I have likewise 
profited by the lectures of the late Professor von Keller, 
of Tuebingen, with whom I read the Heliand more than a 
score of years ago. Several other works have been named 
where they throw light on special subjects discussed in 
the volume. I am under special obligations to my 
brother, O. B. Super, Professor of Modern Languages in 
Dickinson College, for suggestions and assistance. His 
co-operation has, I feel sure, added no little to the value 
of my work. 

It is probable that I have fallen into some errors in trac- 
ing the origin and development of words. The path of the 
linguistic sciences is thickly strewn with defunct and decay- 
ing etymologies, and that I have added some to the num- 
ber is more than probable. Nevertheless, I have adopted 
none for which I did not have competent I would fain 
believe the best authorities, so that I have reason to be- 
lieve my mistakes will be found to be comparatively few. 
It should be remembered, too, that the necessity of being 
brief, may now and then lead the reader to think that I 
have been mistaken, where a fuller discussion of the point 
in question would show that I am probably correct in the 
conclusion I have accepted. Against premature ver- 
dicts of this sort I know of no remedy except a careful 
examination of the evidence on which I have proceeded. 
The chain may occasionally seem to be broken merely 
because some of its links have not been exposed to view. 

I would fain believe that under more favorable condi- 
tions I could have produced a better book than I have. 
Most of it was written at long intervals, in brief periods of 
an hour or two in length. The official demands of a 
laborious position ; daily recurring duties as a teacher ; 
frequent calls for editorial work in another field, made 
such large drafts on my time that but little was left for 
any self-assumed task. What could have been done 
under fairly favorably conditions in a little more than a 

x -I //itifnri/ of the German Language 

year, occupied me nearly four years. All this can be no 
excuse for any errors of fact the volume may contain, but 
it may be some palliation for minor defects in their ar- 
rangement and for infelicities of style of which I fear at- 
tentive readers will find only too many. For these the 
generous indulgence of the reader is asked. My experi- 
ence is but a counterpart of hundreds, perhaps thousands, 
of American teachers : whatever they do in the line of 
systematic study except so far as it serves the immediate 
purposes of the school and class-room, is generally at the 
sacrifice of no little personal ease and at the expense of 
hours of rest and recreation. 

If this volume contributes somewhat to the better 
knowledge of a language, which, in my opinion, embodies 
a larger number of excellencies than any other of ancient 
or modern times, except the Greek, I shall feel that my 
labor has not been in vain. 

I am not unaware that we have a number of American 
scholars whose attainments in Germanic Philology are 
much superior to mine, and who are in position to pro- 
duce a better book than this. As they have not, however, 
thus far undertaken the task, at least so far as the public 
is informed, I am led to put forth this modest work in the 
hope that it may, at least, prepare the way for something 
more excellent. CHARLES W. SUPER. 

Athens, <9., June, 1892. 


SO far as we know, the Germans from the remotest 
times have lived substantially in the same place 
where we now find them. It was formerly believed that 
they had originally emigrated from Asia, but many of the 
best authorities at present favor the theory that the 
Aryans originated in Europe; and if this is true, the Ger- 
mans must have come into existence on or near the terri- 
tory which they now occupy. 

When we ask the question intelligently, What was the original 
abode of the Aryan race? we can only mean, What part of the 
earth's surface did they occupy before splitting up into the frag- 
ments that subsequently developed into a number of nationalities? 
To ansWer this we have nothing except the slender evidence of a 
very limited vocabulary which was formed in accordance with the 
fauna, flora and general topographical conditions among which the 
race originally dwelt. But if in their unity they wandered about, as 
it is universally admitted they did, over countries having substan- 
tially the same physical characteristics, their vocabulary would not 
change either by increase or elimination. If these conditions 
changed, new words would be formed, which would correspond to 
the new habitat. But how are we now to distinguish these from the 
older stratum, if the people who used them were still homogeneous ? 
Do the primitive words that still survive, date from the beginning of 
their career, or from the time when they had become comparatively 
stable? The inquiry must always remain barren of trustworthy re- 
sults, fascinating as it is for the student of language. 

The first mention that is made of the Germans is found 
in a description of a voyage made by Pytheas of Massilia 
about 340 B. C. He speaks of them as Teutones and calls 
them a part of the great Skythian stock. This mistake 
on his part in confounding Germans and Skythians is at- 
tributable to the ignorance of the writer. To the Greeks 
all the people of northern and eastern Europe were 
Skythians, wherever definite knowledge ended there the 

1 -2 A History of the German Language 

Skythians began. For the name "German" we are 
directly indebted to the Romans, who received it from the 
Kelts. It probably means " neighbors," the Germans being 
for a long time the only foreign nation with whom the 
western Kelts came into contact. There are other signifi- 
cations of the name proposed, one of the best authen- 
ticated being u dwellers in the forest." 

Pytheas probably advanced along the coast of the North 
Sea as far as the mouth of the Eider, and in the region of 
the Elbe, according to his account, was the dividing line 
between Kelts and Teutons. I^ater investigations tend 
to show that Pytheas was correct in this matter, for many 
of the proper names in northwestern Germany, especially 
in the valley of the Ems, are now known to be of Keltic 

The dividing line on the south of the Germans was the 
Hercynian Forest, which is merely a general term for the 
range of hills and mountains extending entirely through 
central Germany. Hercynia is itself a Keltic name 
allied to Kymric erchymiad, elevation. Precisely at what 
time they extended their boundaries westward, it is impos- 
sible to say, but the extension in that direction occurred 
earlier than in a southern direction, for in Csesar's time 
the Rhine was substantially the boundary between the 
two nations, the Menapii being the only Keltic tribe still 
remaining east of the Rhine, and they only in part. It 
was about this time that the Volcse, who were then living 
in the valley of the Main, were driven out by the Mar- 
comanni and Chatti. Near the same time three German 
tribes, the Vangiones, Nemeti and Triboci settled along 
the Rhine, occupying the territory in the above order from 
the mouth of the Neckar to the Swiss boundary. Shortly 
before this (about 72 B. C.) Ariovistus had led his Ger- 
mans across the Rhine and settled in eastern Gaul. 

On the east, the Germans were shut in by the Slavs 
who were pressing westward. A line drawn from Keen- 

A History of the German Language 13 

igsberg, in Prussia, to the confluence of the Bug and 
Vistula and then following the latter to its source, will 
indicate the boundary between Slavs and Germans. 

Although Sweden has been regarded by some as the 
original home of the Germans, it is more likely that that 
country was at one time inhabited entirely by Finns, and 
that these were gradually driven northward by the en- 
croachments of the Germans, who crossed over either 
from Germany or Denmark. Certain it is that Finnish 
antiquities have been found in almost every part of 

But this limited space soon proved too small for a 
people who increased so rapidly as the Germans, and 
emigration became a necessity, especially since their 
eastern neighbors not only prohibited expansion in that 
direction, but were actually crowding them westward. 
However, there is not much doubt that the rapid in- 
crease of population common among the Germans will 
furnish a sufficient explanation of these vast swarms of 

The first of the German tribes to leave their homes en 
masse was the Bastarnse, who are found north and west of 
the mouth of the Danube as early as the second century 
B. C. Next came the great emigration of the Cimbri and 
Teutons. The latter started from the shores of the North 
Sea, and there is a tradition that they were compelled to 
leave their homes on account of an incursion of the 
ocean; which is not improbable, since the whole north- 
west coast of Germany is so little elevated above the sea 
level that the tide can only be kept out by artificial means. 
Notwithstanding the dykes, about 15,000 persons perished 
in a single night in 1634 by a high tide on the west coast 
of Schleswig-Holstein. These Teutons moved toward the 
southeast, and the Cimbri, who lived on the left bank of 
the Elbe in the region of the present Magdeburg, joined 
them in their expedition and formed its van-guard. On 

14 A History of the German Language 

their march they came in contact with the Boii, a 
Keltic tribe living in what is now called Bohemia (i. e. 
home or land of the Boii). Prevented from settling here, 
they continued their journey to the southeast, across 
the Danube, through Pannonia until they came into the 
land of the Scordisci, a Keltic tribe living about the 
junction of the Save and the Danube. They must have 
arrived here about 114 B. C. Defeated in a battle with the 
Scordisci, they retreated toward the northwest, and on 
their way met and defeated the Roman Consul, Papirius 
Carbo, at Noreia, 113 B. C. They then advanced west- 
ward, passing apparently unhindered through the territory 
of the Helvetians, and arriving on the Rhone, on the 
confines of the Roman Province, 109 B. C. Here they 
defeated the Consul Silvanus, but instead of marching 
directly into Italy, they began to plunder Gaul, which 
they subjugated almost entirely. In the year 105 they 
gained another great victory over the Romans at Arausio 
(Orange) after which the Cimbri separated from the 
Teutons and returned into the heart of Gaul. They soon 
afterwards made an expedition into Spain and plundered 
the northwestern part of it, but having been defeated by 
the Keltiberians, they returned to Gaul in the year 103 
B. C. In the year following, the Teutons were defeated 
and nearly annihilated by Marius at Aquae Sextiae, in the 
Province, and the Cimbri at Vercellae, in northwestern 
Italy, in the following year. 

It does not lie within the scope of the present volume 
to give in this Introduction a history of the various Ger- 
man tribes. Such a history must, from the nature of the 
case, consist largely of the discussion of obscure points and 
contradictory, or, at least, apparently contradictory state- 
ments made by ancient writers about them. But it will 
be proper to give a brief account of those tribes that made 
expeditions beyond the German territory, and for a while 
exerted an influence upon the destinies of the countries 

A History of the German Language 15 

through which they passed, or in which they sojourned 
for a greater or less time. We shall thus get a fuller in- 
sight into the character of the German people than their 
language alone is able to give us. Such a preliminary 
sketch is the more important for the reason that it relates, 
for the most part, to a period from which the existing lin- 
guistic remains are very scanty. 

The German nation as such is some eight hundred 
years old ; but during most of this time it was broken up 
into an almost countless number of different governments 
under many different names, and varying greatly in ex- 
tent of territory. At the beginning of this period the 
tribal differences had been to a considerable extent oblit- 
erated, and tribal affinities no longer formed a bond be- 
tween the subjects of the different rulers. 

The Bastarnse were, according to Zeuss, the first Ger- 
man tribe of whom we have any fairly definite knowledge. 
At this time they dwelt about the headwaters of the 
Vistula. They are subsequently found north and west of 
the Danube. In the reign of Perseus, king of Macedon, 
they formed an alliance with this monarch against the 
Romans. Still later they are found in the service of 
Mithridates, king of Pontus. In fact, they appear several 
times among the enemies of Rome, until the time of the 
emperor Probus, toward the close of the third century> 
when they disappear from history. 

We first hear of the Burgundians in the present pro- 
vince of Posen. In the third century of our era they 
emigrated toward the southwest, and lived, during nearly 
the whole of the fourth century, along the upper Main. 
Toward the end of the century they came to the Rhirie, 
where they founded a kingdom with Worms as its capital. 
It is here that the legends of the Nibelungen find them. 
In consideration of their services to the Romans as mer- 
cenary troops, they were permitted to establish themselves 
in eastern Gaul, especially in the basin of the Rhone. 

16 A History of the German Language 

Toward the close of the ninth century we find in this 
region two Burgnndian kingdoms, one of which was called 
the ( 'cisjuran,'' the other the '' transjuran." These ex- 
isted separately for some twenty-five years, when they were 
again united. For more than four centuries Burgundy 
was regarded as at least nominally a part of the German 
Empire. The dukedom of Burgundy lay north of these 
two kingdoms, and under a succession of ambitious rulers 
played an important part in the history of France. 
Though varying considerably, at different times in extent 
of territory, it had a separate existence until near the close 
of the seventeenth century, when it shared the destiny 
that had befallen the larger part of the Burgundian king- 
doms much earlier, and was absorbed by France. 

The Lombards, whose tribal affinities allied them with 
the Suevi, first appear about the lower course of the Elbe. 
They were probably the last of the German tribes to leave 
their homes en masse. For a long time they do not seem 
to have played a prominent part in the various tribal 
wars and expeditions. So late as the middle of the fifth 
century they were subjects of the Heruli in Moravia. 
Subsequently they defeated these and made themselves 
masters of considerable territory in what is now Hungary. 
Later still they formed a union with a horde of Saxons 
with whom they marched across the Alps, and before the 
end of the sixth century they had made themselves mas- 
ters of all northern Italy. Here they founded a kingdom, 
with Milan as its capital, that lasted two hundred years. 
Their history, which is a turbulent one, can be traced 
until the time of Karl the Great, who made their territory 
a part of his empire. Though never numerous, they main- 
tained their supremacy by their valor. Few traces of 
them now remain, the most conspicuous being the name 
Lombardy, which is still applied to that part of Italy 
which they once held in subjection. 

The Vandals first emerge into the dim light of history 

A History of the German Language 17 

dwelling along the mid-course of the Oder. Like most of 
their brethren they joined various expeditions against the 
Romans, but subsequently adopted a more settled life in 
Pannonia. About the beginning of the fifth century they 
forced their way across Gaul into Spain, where they 
founded a kingdom, the name of which is still preserved 
in that of the province Andalusia. They afterward passed 
over into Africa, subdued" its northern portion, captured 
Carthage, which they made their capital, built large fleets 
with which they plundered the islands of the Mediter- 
ranean, as well as the adjacent coasts, and finally took 
Rome itself. As is wont to be the case, they now began 
to degenerate by reason of their prosperity and fancied 
security. In the year 524 their King Gelimer was 
defeated by the Roman general Belisarius, and taken to 
Constantinople to grace his triumph, while the kingdom 
of the Vandals was made a part of the Eastern Empire. 

The Goths had a tradition that their original home was 
on an island called Scandzia, and there may be some con- 
nection between their name and that of the southermost 
province of Sweden. In the time of Tacitus they lived 
along the lower course of the Vistula. Probably about 
the middle of the second century they started on their 
long march toward the southwest, which ended by their 
settling in the regions north and west of the Black Sea. 
Here they soon appear as Eastern and Western Goths, 
these appellations designating the relative geographical 
positions which their two main divisions occupy to each 
other. For a period of nearly two centuries they made 
occasional incursions into the Roman empire. It was in 
one of these raids that they burned the splendid temple of 
Artemis in the year 260. (See Acts of the Apostles, 
chapter 19.) A few years before the beginning of the 
fifth century the Eastern Gothic tribes were subdued by 
the Huns, but the Western Goths continued to plunder 
southeastern Europe, and crossing over into Italy they 

18 A History of the German Language 

finally captured Rome itself in 410. Still continuing to- 
move westward they are found for three centuries longer 
in France, Spain, and Africa, when they disappear from 
history. The remembrance of their former presence is 
still preserved in the name of the Spanish province, Cata- 
lonia (Gotalonia). The Eastern Goths, as subjects of the 
Huns, took part in several of the expeditions of their king 
Attila. After the death of this monarch they achieved 
their independence, and settled in what is now Austria 
proper. Somewhat later they made an expedition into 
Italy, the northern portion of which they brought under 
subjection, and finally extended their rule over the entire 
peninsula. After varying fortunes they disappear as a 
separate people, toward the end of the sixth century. 

A glance at the map of Europe in the last quarter of the 
fifth century, when their power was at its zenith, shows 
the following territory in the possession of the Germans : 
The Suevi were masters of the northwestern portion of the 
Iberian peninsula. Their kingdom was about as large as 
Portugal. The Western Goths possessed the remainder 
of the peninsula and France as far northward as the river 
Loire. The kingdom of the Burgundians lay in the basin 
of the Rhone. The Franks held sway over an extensive 
territory lying on both sides of the Rhine between 
Treves, Mayence and the North Sea. North and east 
of them were the Saxons. Toward the south between the 
Franks and the Burgundians were the Alemani, and east 
of the Saxons, Franks and Alemani were the Thuringians,. 
a people whose eastern boundary cannot be defined. The 
head-waters of the Oder were occupied by the Longobardi ; 
directly south of them dwelt the Heruli ; and still further 
south, between the Danube and the river Aluta, were the 
lands of the Gepids. West of the last two tribes lay the 
kingdom of the Ostrogoths, some of whom were, however,, 
in Illyria and subjects of the Eastern Empire. The 
Rugians had settled in the Grand Duchy of Austria on 

A History of the German Language 1& 

both sides of the Danube. From here to the Mediter- 
ranean, including Italy and Sicily, stretched the kingdom 
of Odoacer, while the Vandals held in subjection most of 
Africa west of the Great Syrtis, Corsica, Sardinia, and the 
Balearic Isles. The Saxons and Angles had just begun to 
make settlements on the coast of England. / 

After this brief survey of the earliest history of the Ger- 
mans we next proceed to define the relation of the Teu- 
tonic to the other most important languages of the world. 
It seems important to do so here, though we shall find it 
necessary to repeat some of our statements farther along. 

The German is an important member of the great family 
of languages variously designated as the Aryan, the Indo- 
Germanic and the Indo-European. This family is usually 
divided by philologists into nine different groups or 
branches of which three belong to Asia and six to Europe. 

The Keltic, the mosc westerly of these groups, is at 
present the native speech of three or four millions of 
people in Scotland, Wales, Ireland and a few departments 
of France. Aside from a small number of inscriptions 
found chiefly in the region of the central Saone little is 
known of the Keltic in its earliest forms. The oldest 
monuments of the Welsh dialect date from the eighth 
century and consist chiefly of legendary poems and chroni- 
cles. The Breton, another dialect of the Keltic, was 
probably transplanted into France in the fifth century. 
It closely resembles the Welsh though its literary monu- 
ments are not older than the fourteenth century. Some- 
what later it is largely represented in glosses to Latin 
authors and in the Middle Ages it possessed an extensive 
literature in the form of Chronicles, Legends, and Laws. 

The Slavic is the most easterly of the European groups 
and is spoken by about ninety millions of people. 
Numerically it is the first in importance of the exclusively 
continental groups. It is the principal language of Russia 
in Europe, and to it belong the Polish, the Bohemian (or 

i!i> A Histoi'y of the German Language 

Czech), the Servian, the Bulgarian and a number of less 
important dialects. The earliest monuments of the Polish 
language date from the tenth century, and Bohemia had 
an extensive literature dating from the Middle Ages and ex- 
tending to the time of the Hussite wars. The alphabet of 
the Slavic was adapted from the Greek though very in- 
adequate to its intended purpose, by the brothers Cyrillus 
and Methodius who first preached Christianity to the 
Bulgarians in the ninth century. Its oldest literary re- 
mains are the Gospels translated by the missionaries and 
some liturgical works in the Old Bulgarian, which, though 
not the mother of the other Slavic tongues, stands in the 
relation of an older sister. Where this language was 
spoken has not been definitely determined, but probably 
somewhere in the region between the Black and Adriatic 
Seas. Slavic dialects are still used to some extent in 
Saxony and Prussia and at one time a considerable por- 
tion of what is now Germany was occupied by Slavs. 

The Lithuanian group is spoken by about two and 
a half millions of people in northeastern Prussia and the 
adjoining territory of Russia. Its literature is of very little 
importance and it hardly at any time attained the dignity 
of a written language. But this group is of great interest 
to philologists because it has conserved in a remarkable 
degree some prominent characteristics of the primitive 
Indo-European language. 

The Italian group has no extant literature of any im- 
portance of earlier date than the comedies of Plautus, 
though there are some fragments of older date both in 
Latin and other Italic dialects. Its most important ex- 
tant representatives are the French, the Spanish, the 
Portuguese, and the Italian. 

The Greek group has been confined from the remotest 
times to substantially the same territory it now occupies. 
Its literary monuments are several centuries older than 
those of any other European language. It has never been 

A History of the German Language ^ 21 

spoken by a very large number of persons, but its influ- 
ence upon the civilization of the world has been much 
greater than that of any other group. Its dialects have 
diverged less, generally speaking, from the parent lan- 
guage than has been the case with any other member of 
the Indo-European stock, and modern Greek is still sub- 
stantially the same language it was nearly three thousand 
years ago. 

The Germanic or Teutonic group embraces the Ger- 
man proper, the Dutch, the English, the Danish, 
and the Swedish. German proper is the native language 
of about sixty millions of people in continental Europe, 
but the Teutonic group of languages is not only spoken 
by a larger number of persons than any other of the Indo- 
European stock, but it represents the most potent influ- 
ence in literature, science and all the arts of civilized life. 
Its oldest extant literature is represented by the Maeso- 
Gothic dialect and dates from the close of the fourth cen- 
tury. This dialect was at that time spoken in the region 
of the lower Danube, probably in what is now Bulgaria. 

The earliest literary monuments of the German lan- 
guage, aside from the translation of the Bible by Ulfilas,. 
are confined, roughly speaking, to southwestern Germany. 
We first meet with the so-called glosses or interlinear 
translations of Latin texts into German, and lists of Latin 
words arranged either alphabetically or according to 
subjects with their equivalents in German. These were 
prepared for pedagogical purposes. There are extant two 
longer poems dating from the ninth century the old 
Saxon Heliand, a sort of New Testament history by an 
unknown author, and Otfried's Harmony of the Gospels. 
Toward the end of the eleventh century we meet with sev- 
eral longer religious poems. Nevertheless, the literature of 
the ninth, tenth and eleventh centuries, must be called 
scanty, and all of it together makes a volume of but mod- 
erate size. To the close of the eighth century belong like- 

Ji' A History of the German Language 

wise some brief translations of liturgies and catechetical 
writings. The ninth century adds some other religious 
writings and translated portions of the Bible. The Com- 
mentary of Notker is usually assigned to about the year 
1000, and it is believed that Willeram's Paraphrase of the 
Song of Solomon is about a century younger. Both these 
contain a liberal intermixture of Latin. 

This literature is somewhat widely distributed, but it 
belongs chiefly to Austrian Germany, Bavaria, eastern 
Switzerland, Alsatia and Fulda, once an independent 
bishopric, but now a part of Prussia. The Heliand above 
mentioned is of a more northern origin. With the twelfth 
century German poetry entered upon a career of rapid 
development and toward its close the culmination of the 
first classical period had been attained. It was, however, 
still confined chiefly to South Germany, and it is only in 
the two following centuries that there is an intellectual 
movement northward. The prose literature of the 
twelfth century consists chiefly of sermons, and its mass is 
largely increased during the thirteenth and fourteenth cen- 
turies. To the first part of the thirteenth century must 
be assigned the so-called Sachsenspiegel, a collection of 
provincial laws, and this is a few decades earlier than the 
Schwabenspiegel, a similar collection. These are the first 
legal writings in German. Of about the same age is the 
first historical work in the native language, a Chronicle of 
the World, in Low-German. Toward the close of the 
thirteenth century we begin to meet with German title- 
deeds and other official documents. With the fourteenth 
century they increase in number rapidly. The earliest of 
these belong to southwestern Germany, but before the end 
of the thirteenth century they are met with in almost all 
parts of the nation, except the eastern parts of what is 
now Prussia. The German is employed to considerable 
extent for purposes of historical narration, and in the fif- 
teenth century literature proper (belles lettres) is exten- 

A History of the German Language 23 

sively cultivated. During this period many devotional 
books and translations of portions of the Bible were pub- 
lished and widely read. The rise of Protestantism was 
favorable to the cultivation of German, and in the six- 
teenth century it had become the recognized medium for 
the adherents of this faith, while the Latin continued to 
be the official language of the Church of Rome. But the 
rise of the German universities was unfavorable to the 
German language. The Latin continued to be the means 
of communication among the learned in all the profes- 
sions, and the use of the German was considered unworthy 
of the scholar. According to Paulsen seventy per cent, 
of the books printed in Germany about the year 1570 were 
in the Latin language. At no other time does the Ger- 
man seem to have been so far in the background, and from 
this point it begins to move slowly to the front. But not 
until 1680 were more German books published than Latin. 
In 1730 only about one-third of the issues from the press 
were Latin, and toward the close of the century this lan- 
guage had virtually ceased to be in general use even 
among scholars. The proportion of Latin and German 
seems to have varied considerably in the writings pertain- 
ing to the different professions and departments of learn- 
ing. In the domain of Protestant theology German 
probably predominated from the first, except in purely 
doctrinal discussions. In historical works German was 
chiefly used as early as the end of the seventeenth cen- 
tury ; it also predominated for philosophy and medicine at 
the beginning of the eighteenth century. For writings 
on jurisprudence Latin continued to be chiefly employed 
until about the middle of the eighteenth century, when 
for the first time German works are in the majority. At 
the universities Latin was exclusively used in the lectures 
until 1687. From this time German came into use grad- 
ually, but Latin was not entirely superseded until quite 
recently. It was largely owing to this preference for 

24 A History of the German Language 

Latin as the language of books that the Germans were the 
latest of all the important nations of Europe to develop a 
modern classical literature. For about two hundred years 
anterior to the appearance of Goethe, Germany produced 
hardly a single work belonging to the department of 
belles lettres. The best intellects devoted themselves to 
the study of antique life, and the literature in which it is 
embodied, in apparent ignorance of the unlimited capabil- 
ities of their mother tongue. This unwise and almost ex- 
clusive devotion to foreign languages had a deleterious 
effect on even those authors who wrote in German. Not 
having had the rhetorical training of the writers of an- 
tiquity their sentences are generally long and lumbering, 
inartistically constructed and heavy. 

During a part of the eighteenth century this predilec- 
tion for foreign languages and literature manifested itself 
in a new direction, and French was cultivated to a consid- 
able extent. This was especially the case among the 
nobility, and those who aped their manners. It is chiefly 
due to the influence and writings of Lessing, Goethe, and 
Schiller that modern German literature attained the high 
place it now holds. 



THERE is, perhaps, nothing that we can study and 
investigate that is more mysterious than lan- 
guage. We may divide . and subdivide, and analyze 
as much as we please, there always remains a resi- 
duum that defies our closest scrutiny. We know that 
a word belonging to an unfamiliar foreign language affects 
the mind, the sensorium, differently from one to which we 
are accustomed. We may say that one enters the intel- 
lect, while the other only enters the ear. We talk about 
an awakened image, a responsive chord ; but there is no 
real image and no actual chord. These are but figures of 
speech taken from the material world intended to illus- 
trate, as well as they may, psychic processes. They are 
symbols of which the value is pretty generally under- 
stood, but they are only symbols. We have no name and 
no designation for the thing itself. no words that in the 
first instance were used, only of mental operations. Lan- 
guage is something with which we operate, something of 
which the power and functions are well known, but of its 
essence we know little or nothing. We often talk of lan- 
guage as if it was something external, or as if it were the 
dead matter that we find written or printed, when in 
truth it has no existence, is not language in the proper 
sense of the word, if it is not vitalized by life and -thought. 
The body of language, the living and only real word 
exists but the moment it is uttered; its imperfect image is 
sometimes fixed on the printed page, or on some plastic 
substance ; which, however, tells us nothing until brought 
in contact with the living, thinking mind. 

I'd A History of the German Language 

There are languages that are not written ; tens of 
thousands of dialects exist, or have existed, that were 
never put in books or on paper, and yet they were or are 
as truly human speech as those that are the custodians of 
the most extensive literature. We are too apt to regard 
the language we find written or printed as the only real 
language, when, in fact, it is nothing more than its faint 
image. I look at the instrument with which I write. I 
think of it as the pen, die Feder, la plume, designating it 
by a different name in each language with which I am 
acquainted. Here the thing awakens in my mind what I 
may call a vocal image, even though I do not necessarily 
give it voice. Or I hear some one pronounce the name of 
the object, and it at once brings before my '' mind's eye "" 
the concept of the pen, and so there goes on incessantly 
in the world, and has gone on for countless ages, this 
transition from concept to vocal expression, this transla- 
tion of thought into words; and from vocal expression 
to concept, the transmutation of vocal expression into 
thought. We think, then speak or write ; others speak or 
write, and their words stimulate thought in us. 


Matters of every day occurrence rarely attract our atten- 
tion or stimulate us to reflection. Nothing is more com- 
mon than the words that make up our speech the sen- 
tences we meet in our ordinary reading. These things 
are, however, rarely the subject of remark among the illit- 
erate, to whom language is something that exists as a mat- 
ter of course. But among people of intelligence there is 
a lively interest in the phenomena of speech or language, 
and they are frequently the theme of friendly discussion. 
How are certain facts to be explained ? If we ourselves 

A History of the German Language 27 

always used the same form of expression for the same 
thought, or saw others doing so, there is no doubt that 
questions of language would interest us as little as the 
observation that water flows down hill, or that iron rusts. 
But the phenomena of speech do not have this uniformity 5 
our attention is continually drawn to differences in the 
time, the place, and the personality of the speaker. 

While it may seem perfectly natural for the educated 
man of the present day to take note of these phenomena, 
and in accordance with the scientific spirit of our time, to 
arrange them so far as may be in categories, the world, 
has made slow progress toward this attainment. 

The Hebrews had no grammar of their language until 
more than a thousand years after Christ. The Greeks 
made no scientific study of their language during its 
Golden Age ; and not till it had sunk far in decay, or 
about half a century B. C., was the first Greek gram- 
mar composed. This became the basis of nearly all 
subsequent grammars of both the Greek and Latin lan- 
guages. The grammatical study of the Teutonic lan- 
guages, in a truly scientific spirit, dates from the appear- 
ance of Grimm's Deutsche Grammatik, at the beginning 
of the present century. But good grammars of either 
English or German for young learners are hardly older 
than the present generation. It is the different ways in 
which the same thought may be expressed that more than 
anything else awakens reflection upon language. These 
differences are not merely casual, but are the necessary 
phenomena which make up the life of a language. To 
record and explain, as far as it can be done, the changes 
which a language undergoes, is to write its history. This 
present work is intended to be a brief resume of the most 
important changes the German language has undergone 
from the earliest period within our knowledge up to our 
day ; for it is only after a study of its growth that we are 
in a position to understand its present structure. 

28 A History of the German Language 

The German language, as the term is generally under- 
stood and as it is here employed, is the speech used by 
the different members of the German family, but this 
should be carefully distinguished from the Germanic 
family, which is more comprehensive. Its territory is in 
the main, that embraced within the German empire, but 
extending ^bmewhat beyond its borders so as to include 
a part of Switzerland, German Austria, contiguous por- 
tions of Russia, and settlements in other parts of the 
world. The language of the Netherlands may also be 
reckoned as belonging to the German. 

Authorities differ considerably as to the number of per- 
sons whose native speech is German. Meyer's Lexicon 
gives the number of Germans in the empire as 42,000,000, 
and a recent writer in the London Times, as 47,000,000. 
Hovelacque estimates those in Austria at 9,000,000, and 
in Switzerland at 2,000,000. Morfill puts the number of 
Germans in the Russian empire at about 1,240,000, and 
Meyer- Waldeck at 2,000,000. The following table is be- 
lieved to be substantially correct : 

Number of Germans in the Empire 45,000,000 

Number of Germans in Austria - - - 10,000,000 

Number of Germans in Switzerland - - 1,800,000 

Number of Germans in Russia - - - 1,500,000 

Number of Germans in France - 150,000 

Number of Germans in Holland - 100,000 

Number of Germans in Italy - - - - 30,000 

X umber of Germans in all other lands - 100,000 

Total 58,680,000 

The Allgemeine Erdkunde, published by Tempsky, in 
Prague, says that Europe contains one hundred and five 
millions of people belonging to the Germanic race ; 
ninety-eight belonging to the Romanic ; ninety-six be- 
longing to the Slavic; and three millions belonging to 
other Indo-European races. About thirty millions are not 
of Indo-European stock. 

A History of the German Language 29 

The census of the United States for 1880 shows that 
there were in this country at that date about two million 
persons who were natives of the German Empire. The 
number of persons whose father or mother was a native 
German was considerably larger. These should be added 
to the table given above. 

If we wish to examine the beginnings of the Geiman 
language and to trace its historical development from its 
inception it will not suffice to confine ourselves within the 
limits above prescribed. Our first and introductory chap- 
ter will take us far beyond these. It will be necessary to 
consider the language in its remotest discoverable rela- 


The different members of the German family are only a 
fragment of a larger whole ; they are a portion of the great 
Germanic stock to which belong, among the nations of 
our time, the English and the Scandinavians. The sepa- 
ration of the Germans proper from their remaining kins- 
folk, necessarily brought with it a change in their lan- 
guage. If, therefore, there is an agreement on any point 
in the structure of the German and Scandinavian lan- 
guages, it may in most cases be assumed with confidence 
that it takes us back to a period anterior to that separa- 
tion. A comparative study of the different Germanic dia- 
lects enables us then to form a pretty correct idea of the lan- 
guage used by all the Germanic tribes in common. This 
language is called the General Germanic or Primitive 
Teutonic speech. 

But the science of language enables us to do more. By 
it w.e are placed in position to prove that just as the 
English and Scandinavians are related to the Germans in 
a certain degree of kinship, so the latter are in turn 

30 A History of the German Language 

related, but more remotely, to a larger circle of people of 
the same blood. This larger circle embraces the natives 
of India, of Iran, of Armenia, as well as the Greeks, the 
Italians, whose chief representatives were the ancient 
Romans, the Kelts, the Slavs and the Lithuanians. All 
these formed, at one time in the far distant past, a homo- 
geneous nation, and spoke a common language, now gen- 
erally known as the Indo-Germanic The people them- 
selves are called Indo-Europeans or Aryans. It is possi- 
ble to form a fairly definite idea of this language by a com- 
parison of the various languages that are descended from 
it. No amount of research can take us further back than 
this point. The attempt has been made by several differ- 
ent scholars to show that ultimately a relationship existed 
also between the Indo-European and Semitic languages, 
the best known of which is the Hebrew, and the most im- 
portant, the Arabic, but the results of their labors have 
convinced few competent scholars. 

See, for instance, Andreas Raabe, Gemeinschaftliche Grammatik 
der arischen und der semitischen Sprachen, Leipzig, 1874; Delitzsch 
Studien ueber Indogermanisch-Semitische Wurzelverwandschaft, 
Leipzig, 1873 ; and von Raumer, Die Urverwandschaft der semiti- 
schen und der arischen Spracheu, in Kuhn's Zeitschrift, Band XXII^ 
More accessible are the articles Philology and Shemitic Languages in 
McClintock and Strong's Cyclopedia. They are written by different 
authors and maintain radically different views. The belief seems to 
be gaining ground that all languages are descended from one parent 
speech, though it is at present held for anthropological rather than 
linguistic reasons. 

But if it is as yet impossible for the most thorough in- 
vestigation to penetrate beyond the point above indicated, 
this does not prove or even make it probable that the 
Indo-European bore a close resemblance to the primitive 
human speech. It was, on the contrary, a highly devel- 
oped language that postulates a long period of formation 
and development, and, so far as structure is concerned, 
there is no radical difference between Indo-European (or 
Indo-Germanic) and Germanic. The former had about 

A History of the German Language 31 

the same and an equal number of sounds as the latter ; in 
richness of grammatical forms it was superior. In the 
structure of the complete sentence it was, however, in- 
ferior, though it already exhibits the principle of subordi- 
nating one sentence to another by means of conjunctions. 
The following pages set forth the most important 
sounds of the Indo-European tongue, together with the 
specific terms used to designate them. It is customary to 
divide them into vowels and consonants. The vowels 

$imnle! a ' e ' *' ' u > short ' 
m l )le \a, e, i, 6, u, long. 

Compound (or diphthongs) ai, an, ei, en. 

Until a few years ago, philologists, almost without exception, held 
to the opinion that the vowel system of the Indo-European had but 
three sounds, namely, a, i, u. Herein they followed such leaders as 
Grimm, Schleicher, and Curtius. The investigations of the so-called 
" Junggrammatiktr" (neo-grammarians) have, however, caused this 
view to be generally abandoned by all except those whose long ser- 
vice in defense of the old theory has made it morally impossible for 
them to adjust themselves to the newest discoveries. 

The consonants are divided into sonants (voiced) and 
surds (voiceless). Of the former class the Indo-European 
possessed the semi-vowels j (English y) and w, the liquids 
r and 1, and the nasals m and n ; of the latter there were 
two classes : 

(a) Simple and momentary, because they did not ad- 

mit of lengthening ; 

(b) Continuative, or enduring. 

The momentary or explosive consonants are further 
sub-divided into gutturals, k and g; labials, p and b; and 
dentals, t and d ; or into tenues k, t, p ; and medials, g, 


The continuative consonants, or those that may be in- 
definitely prolonged, sometimes called fricatives or spir- 
ants, are chiefly represented by s. 

8:2 A History of the German Language 

The compound consonants are combinations of the 
media with the letter h. thus forming gh, dh, and bh. 

These two letters were, however, sounded separately, 
somewhat as in log-house, god-head, etc. 

At a time, which cannot now be determined, the Ger- 
manic language separated from the primitive Indo- 
European tongue in other words changes began to take 
place in one part of this tongue, from which the remain- 
ing portion continued free. When we examine the list of 
words which the Germanic has in common with the Greek 
and Latin, we notice that the vowels and sonant con- 
sonants are, in the main, the same in all three, but that the 
surds, except s, have, in all cases, undergone a change ; 
however, with such regularity and consistency that we 
commonly find a certain consonant in Greek and Latin 
represented by a certain other consonant in the Germanic. 
This phenomenon of sound-shifting is usually called 
Grimm's Law, for the reason that Jacob Grimm, acting on 
a suggestion of the Danish philologist Rask, first clearly 
stated the conditions under which it takes place This 
law. however, expresses only the first of two similar 
changes that took place during the life of the Germanic 
language. The facts may be ranged under three general 
heads : 

(1) The tenuis of the Indo-European, which is repre- 
sented for us by the Greek and Latin, becomes a spirant 
(fricative) in the Germanic. It is necessary to make a dis- 
tinction here which could fitly be omitted in describing 
the sounds of the Indo-European. Just as there are surd 
and sonant, or voiceless and voiced momentary-conso- 
nants, so there are likewise surd and sonant fricatives. 
Now, the spirant that represents the Indo-European tenuis 
is voiceless. It is also to be remarked that the guttural 
spirant is represented in the Germanic by h. Accordingly 
k becomes h, p becomes f, and t becomes th, pronounced 
as in "third." The following words illustrate this law: 

A History of the German Language 




Kap&La cord-is Herz heart 

cornu Horn horn 

cauis Hund hound 

KUTrrj capulum Heft haft 





Vater (fater) 



penna (petua) 












M T W 



Bruder (bruodar) bro-ther 
Mutter (muotarj mo-ther 
Va ter ( fata r) fa-ther 

NOTE. - These three examples are given because they illustrate the 
phonetic law in a general way, though they do not all strictly be- 
long to the same category. See also page 51. 

These lists might be considerably extended, and the 
student will do well to search for other examples. It 
needs to be kept in mind that the object here is to give 
equivalents in form, as far as possible, though not in 
meaning ; for the farther we go from the parent speech 
the more widely do the significations of words generally 
part asunder. The four words for "father" and 
" mother " have precisely the same meaning in the four 
languages above given, but the Greek <f>pdrr)p is not the 
same in sense with the other words placed opposite. So 
"canis" and " Hund '' mean the same thing, but the 
meaning of "hound" is more restricted. The words 
placed with TTCT- and TrAe- or TrAo-, are all related both in form 
and signification, but the minor differences are important- 
It will be noticed that the English often bears a closer re- 

1 Ifistory of the German Language 

semblance to the primitive Germanic than the modern 

(2) The law, stated in its most general terms, is that 
the Indo-European aspirates appear as mediae in the Ger- 
manic. We need to remember, then, that the primitive 
gh, dh, and bh correspond to the Greek x, # and <, and to 
the Latin h, f and f. We thus get : 











Thiire, Thor 










buck (wheat) 
burg, bury 

<f>epa> fero ge(baren) 

<f>r)-yos fagus Buche 

<j>paK- farcio(frac-) Burg 

We saw above that the Greek word for ''brother " is not 
-derived from the same root with the Latin and Germanic, 
but from one entirely different, as is evident from the 
word a8eA<ds. "We notice a similar omission in the Latin, 
where the place of the missing word for daughter has been 
taken by *' filia." There are comparatively few words of 
the original Aryan that have representatives, or descend- 
ants, in all the branches into which it subsequently split. 

But the facts do not, in all cases, accord with the law 
stated above. Some dialects have g only at the beginning 
of words or not at all ; in its stead they have a voiced gut- 
tural spirant. Some dialects again, especially the Low 
German, do not have a labial middle mute (b) in the in- 
terior of words, but supply its place with a sonant spirant, 

A History of the German Language 


a sound lying between the German f and w, and which 
may be represented by bh. These spirants have not pro- 
ceeded from mediae ; they maintain their original place. 
It is evident that our second law is not of universal appli- 
cation. It is probable that all the aspirates of the Indo- 
European first become spirant, and these afterward in 
part passed into mediae, or middle mutes, and in part 
have persisted to the present time. 

(3) The mediae become tenues (the middle mutes be- 
come smooth). 



gen a 

















cild (?). 







And, perhaps, 

Kawx/fo cannabis Hanf hemp 

There is no example where this change occurs initially. 
The syllable -thorp or -thorpe is lound as an affix in many names of 
persons and places, as Tbthorpe, Althorpe, Wilstrop. In England 
these names occur chiefly in those portions where the Danes made 
permanent settlements. The metathesis of r is very common in Ihe 
Indo-European languages, and is often found in words that have 
passed from Anglo-Saxon into English, as urnaii - run, brid 
bird, etc. 

Owing to these shiftings a marked change passed over 
the vocalization of the Indo-European. The Germanic no 
longer, possesses aspirates ; but the number of spirants, 
the only representative of which was s in the primitive 
tongue has considerably increased. 

36 A History of the German Language 

These three sets of consonant shiftings had no connec- 
tion with each other, and were not contemporaneous. In 
fact, it can be shown that the transformation of media to- 
tenuis is much more recent than the other two changes. 
Neither is there any connection of cause and effect be- 
tween them. It cannot be said that the media shifted to 
tenuis because the aspirates became media in order to 
avoid the concurrence of certain sounds ; that is, in order 
to prevent the coincidence of the old sound with a differ- 
ent new one ; for, to say nothing of other causes, such a 
trend toward differentiation which should operate to pre- 
vent the coming together of certain sounds and verbal 
forms, is entirely foreign to the language It has hitherto- 
been impossible to assign any valid reasons for the shift- 
ings we have just explained ; and every theory that has 
been proposed is too fanciful to merit a place here. 

But the laws that we set forth underlie an apparent ex- 
ception. We find that the Indo-European k, t, and p are 
represented not only by h, th, and f, but also by g, d, and 
b. Besides the correspondence exhibited in (1) above, we 
find also the following : 


BaKWfjiL dico zeigen 

KAuros (in)clytus laut loud 

capio heben heave 

In the first series we have the Latin and Greek k-sound 
represented by the German g ; in the second, the Latin 
and Greek t by the English d ; and in the third, p by b. 
How shall these exceptions be accounted for? 

A study of the laws of accentuation in the different lan- 
guages furnishes an explanation. We shall have frequent 
occasion to show that the accent plays an important part 
in the fortunes of words. Now, the Indo-European ac- 
cent and the Germanic are not the same; that is, the orig- 
inal accent was not persistent. The Germanic tongues 
now place the chief stress on the same syllable, both in 

A History of the German Language 37 

radical and derivative words. In such words as Hauser, 
hauslich and Hduslichkeit^ the accent remains on the word 
HOMS, from which they are derived. So in English we 
say head, heady, headstrong, headstrongness, and even 
interest, interesting, interestingly and disinterestedness; 
for, though these words were not originally English, there 
is a constant tendency to naturalize loan-words by bringing 
them under its own laws of accent. As a rule, the first 
syllable of a word carries the accent. The case was other- 
wise in the Indo-European where it shifted from one sylla- 
ble to another in the same word. A familiar illustration 
is furnished by the nominatives M^p and avS/aes which be- 
come in the genitive Fqrpos and dvS/awv. Any syllable * may 
receive the accent. This mobility of the Indo-European 
accent continued into the Germanic period, and had an 
influence on the displacement of the smooth mutes. If it 
preceded one of these letters, or sounds, which may be 
represented thus k, t, p, the tenuis was changed 
into a spirant; if it followed, the result was a middle mute 
(media). This law will be further exemplified on the fol- 
lowing pages. 

These laws are of great importance because they enable 
us to distinguish the words of pure Germanic stock from 
those of later introduction. Only words in which 
these consonantal shiftings have taken place are of native 
origin ; but those in which gutturals correspond to gut- 
turals, labials to labials, or dentals to dentals, are not 
originally related. The German Kopf cannot, therefore, 
be cognate with the Latin . " caput," nor Fiichs with 
" fuscus.'' It is true hammer and " chamber }> are identical 
with the Latin " camera, " but this is not a word of German 
origin, but simply borrowed from the Latin. In like 
manner Dom is the Germanized form ot the Latin 
" domus." 

By means of Verner's Law as the law just given is 
called from the name of its discoverer we are enabled to 

38 1 t J/ixtory of the German Language 

determine the place of the accent in Aryan words. In 
those cases where an Indo-European k or t or p corre- 
sponds to German sonant the accent must have followed 
these letters ; where they are represented by a spirant it 
preceded them. Or, more fully : Indo-European k, t, 
or p are sometimes represented by h, th, or f, and 
sometimes by g, d, or b. How the accent de- 
termines which of the two it shall be may be seen 
by the following examples : The Latin pater, mater and 
frater all have the original medial t ; but in German the 
words appear as Vater, Mutter and Bruder. We find, 
however, that the two former had in the pre-Teutonic 
period the accent on the final syllable, while the latter had 
it on the first. 

The Greek ^-ra. represents the original accent. Here 
CTT- alone would, according to Grimm's Law, become sef, 
and we find, for example, capt-us appear as haft. But the 
exception above noted gives us the O. H. G. sib-im, a 
word that also has the Gothic consonants, while regularly 
we should get sif-un. The cases where h stands in place 
of the regular g are comparatively rare. 

An article in the Eclectic Review for July, 1892, by Max Muller, 
reprinted from the Nineteenth Century, and entitled, u On the 
Enormous Antiquity of the East," incidentally discusses the effect 
of the shifting accent on certain English words. 


These two processes, namely, the rotation of the conso- 
nants above given, and the shifting of the accent, achieved 
the independent existence of the primitive Germanic 
tongue. It still possessed considerable wealth in forms. 
The verb had a separate form for the passive voice and the 
noun one to be used in answering the questions, where? 

A History of the German Language 39- 

whence? wherewith? The verb has also suffered consid- 
erable curtailment in its tenses. But the Germanic verb 
exhibits a mode of expressing time that is peculiar to ' 
itself; i. e., it did not exist in the earlier language. This 
is the so-called weak preterit, klagte, legte, and corres- 
ponds to what most English grammarians call the regular 
verb. In the structure of its sentences the primitive 
Teutonic used methods no longer in use in the German. 
To express cause or time the latter is obliged to employ a 
subordinate sentence ; but the primitive Germanic, like the 
Greek and Latin, could do this by means of a noun and 
participle : als der vaier kam was faderi kumondi. In like 
manner where the modern German employs als or denn to 
designate a comparison, the parent tongue could, like the 
Greek and Latin, make use of a case. Niu saiwala mais 
ist fodemai jah leik wastjom? Matt. vi. 25. Here " than 
food" and " than raiment" (garments), is expressed by 
nouns in the dative case. 

The Germans and the primitive Germanic language 
first broke up into three grand divisions, each embracing 
three groups of tribes whose members were more closely 
related to those within than to those without. The first 
is called the Gothic, the second the Scandinavian. These 
two probably resemble each other more closely than either 
resembles the third group. They are usually called the 
East Germanic, and the third group the West Germanic. 
It is reasonable to suppose that the last named, though 
still constituting a homogeneous people, separated from 
the main s'ock some time before it split into two 

The first appearance of the ancient Goths on the stage 
of history is a brilliant episode in the national life of the 
Germans. In the plentitude of their native power they 
founded a monarchy on Roman territory. Not long, how- 
ever, were they able to resist the seductive influences of 
Roman civilization. Rome yielded to the superior cul- 

40 A History of the German Language 

ture of Greece, though her all-conquering arms and invin- 
cible valor easily destroyed her political independence. 
-So the Germans all along the line of contact were in their 
turn subdued by Roman arts and Roman letters. The 
language of the Goths fell into decay ; though doubtless a 
considerable portion of its vocabulary passed into Italian, 
Spanish and Portuguese, where it is still preserved. The 
syntax of these languages, likewise bears traces of Ger- 
manic influence. But no written memorials exist from 
which we may learn the language in which Gelimer sang 
the sorrows of captivity ; we know next to nothing of the 
speech of the Gepidse and the Bastarnse ; nor have the 
Ostro-Goths left us any written memorials of their exis- 
tence. Of the Visi-Goths the branch that once dwelt in 
the Balkan peninsula we possess somewhat extended 
literary monuments in their own tongue. These are the 
oldest existing remnants of any Germanic language. They 
comprise fragments of a translation of the Bible made for 
the most, part by Wulfila or Ulfilas, the first bishop of the 
Goths, about A. D. 350. 

This translation, while to some extent under the influ- 
ence of the Greek and Latin, from which it was made, 
furnishes a fair sample of the language of the Goths. In 
its sounds it does not differ materially from the primitive 
Teutonic type, and affords us in the main a true picture 
of the same. In richness of etymological forms, it has, 
however, suffered some losses, and is somewhat less prim- 
itive in certain regards than the West Germanic dialects 
that have come down to us from a much later period. 

Speaking accurately, the extant remains of Gothic literature com- 
prise the larger portion of the four Gospels, Paul's Letters to the 
Romans, Corinthians, Ephesians, Galatians, Philippiaris, Colossians, 
Thessalonians, to Timothy, Titus and Philemon. There are a few 
fragments of Ezra and Nehemiah, of a Commentary on the Gospel of 
John, some charters of the time of Theodoric the Great, and a few 
additional trifles. As an interval of several centuries lies between 
the Gothic as we know it and any other German dialect, it may in- 

A History of the German Language 41 

terest the reader to compare a specimen with modern German. We 
accordingly subjoin a sample of each : 

Atta unsar thu in himinam, veihnai namo thein ; quimai 
Vater unser du in Himmeln geweihet werde Name dein komme 
thiudinassus theins; vairthai vilja theins, swe in himina, jah 
Herrschaft dein werde wille dein sowie in Himmel, aueh 
ana airthai ; hlaif unsarana thana sinteinau gif uns himma 
auf Erden Brod unseres dies fortwahrende gieb uns diesen 
daga, jah aflet uns thatei skulans sijaima svasve jah veis 
Tag und erlasse uns das Schuldige wir seien sowie auch wir 
afletam thaim skulam unsaraim; jah ni briggais ims in 
erlassen diesen Schuldigen unseren und tncht bringest uns in 
fraistubnyai, ak lausei uns of thamma ubilin ; unte theina 1st 
Versuchung sondern lose uns ab diesem Uebel denn dein ist 
thiudangardi jah mahts jah vulthusin aivins. Amen. 
Herrscherhaus und Macht und Glauz in Ewigkeit. Amen. 

" The remnants of the Gothic consist of about 3,000 native words; 
of which, however, a large majority are compounded out of a com- 
paratively small number of simpler words. Some of the simpler 
words are not preserved ; but their existence in the time of Ulfilas or 
previously is certified by their compounds. Unfortunately the 3,000 
and odd words are but a fraction of the whole Gothic vocabulary. 
Of the language* of native song and saga, of war and sport, of political, 
social, and family life, of the older national religion, of commerce, 
agriculture, and other arts ; and of the terminology of natural ob- 
jects, celestial and terrestrial, animal, vegetable, and mineral ; either 
very scanty specimens or none at all are preserved. This loss is the 
more to be regretted because Ulfilas shows, in the treatment of alien 
subjects and events, not only ease and elegance, but sometimes an 
exuberance and sometimes a precision and refinement of expression 
that even surpass his model." Douse, An Introduction to the Gothic 
of Ulfilas. London, 1886. 

Only a small fragment of the Goths preserved a separate 
existence until comparatively recent times. These dwelt 
in the Crimea where they were visited in the sixteenth 
century by a Belgian physician named Busbecq, who has 
left some record of their language, and a list of words 
which he heard, in Constantinople. 

We do not have the Scandinavian or Norse in its unified 
form, but only in the various languages into which it sub- 
sequently broke up ; from these, however, it is possible to 

4il A History of the German Language 

construct the original. It embraces the Swedish, the 
Norwegian, the Danish and the Icelandic. There are no 
manuscripts in these languages of earlier date than the 
twelfth century. Neither have we access to the third and, 
for us, most important branch of the Germanic languages 
in its primitive unity. We have no means of knowing 
when the Visi-Goths separated from their brethren, nor 
where this separation took place. Neither is it possible to 
ascertain the extent of territory covered by the various 
languages during the first centuries of our era before the 
time when the literary monuments begin. In that proto- 
historic period the Germanic tribes were a mass that was 
almost constantly in motion. 

Ancient tribes and tribal names disappear; new confed- 
eracies and new names appear on the pages of history. It 
is not until the sixth century, or about the time when the 
conquest of Britain was achieved, that the shifting masses 
become to some extent stationary. At this period the 
West Germanic tribes embraced the following sub-divi- 
sions as nearly as can now be made out : The Lombards, 
the Bavarians, the Alemanians, the Burgundians, the 
Franks, the Hessians, the Thuringians, the Angles, the 
Saxons, the Jutes, and the Frisians. The German 
tongue anciently extended over a larger territory than at 
present. It included Great Britain about as far north as 
the river Clyde, while in the west and south of the 
European continent it was bounded by the Atlantic ocean 
and the Pyrenees. Its southern limit was the summit of 
the Alps. It must be remembered, however, that the 
German occupation of much of this territory was not ex- 
clusive. It was still settled by other nationalities, chiefly 
Kelts, over whom they had gained the supremacy by 
conquest. On the other hand its eastern boundary was 
considerably farther westward than it now is. Here the 
Elbe was the limit, and the country lying east of this river 
was settled by Slavs. 

A History of the German Language 43 

If we had documents written in the dialects of the 
various tribes above named, dating from the fourth or fifth 
century, they would, in all probability, exhibit but slight 
divergencies from each other and from the Gothic. 

The main difference between the Gothic and the Scandi- 
navian on the one hand, and the West Germanic on the 
other, lies in the inflection of the verb. In the former the 
second person of the singular number of the preterit of the 
strong verb ends in t. For example, namt (du nahmsf], 
gaft (du gadst)=(tls6u gavest)? In the West Germanic 
tongues the equivalent forms end in i, as nami, gabi. 

But at the period from which we possess MSS. written in 
the West Germanic, or at least a number of verbal forms, the 
various branches of the original tongue diverge considerably 
from each other, and likewise from the Gothic ; and these 
divergencies kept getting wider. The Germanic language 
of Britain has gone farthest from the primitive type. 
This is the speech of the Angles, Saxons and Jutes, gen- 
erally known as the Anglo-Saxon, but which is also called 
u English ? ' by those who insist that the language of Eng- 
land has remained substantially unchanged since the con- 
quest of Hengist and Horsa. This difference was caused 
partly by the insular position of Britain and partly by the 
subsequent fate of its inhabitants. The Norman conquest 
tinged the vocabulary of the natives with a considerable 
admixture of Romanic words; besides which the frequent 
irruptions of the Danes, and their subsequent temporary 
occupation of the island, were doubtless not without their 
effect on the language. 

The English, however, does not further concern us here ; 
nor does the Frisian, a language, or rather a dialect, still 
spoken on the islands and along the coast of the North 
Sea. It differs considerably from the other Germanic 
dialects of the continent. There remain, therefore, for 
our further consideration : the Lombards, the Bavarians, 
the Alemanians, the Burgundians, the Franks, the 

44 A History of the German Language 

Hessians, the Thuringians, and those of the Saxons and 
Angles who remained behind when their fellow-tribes- 
men crossed over into Britain. The history of the Ger- 
man language naturally falls into three great epochs or 
periods, an older, a middle, and a modern. 


This period closes about the year 1100 ; but the reader 
should remember that in a matter so largely subject to 
the laws of growth and decay as language, to assign defi- 
nite dates that are of much value, is impossible. The be- 
ginning of this period is not coincident with any particu- 
lar year. We can hardly say more than that it may be 
put about the time when credible history begins, and is in 
the main coeval with the epoch from which the earliest 
contemporary literary and historical documents have come 
down to us. These documents are, however, by no means 
entitled to the epithet u literary," in the proper sense of 
that term ; often they do not even consist of connected 
discourse. The oldest German poetry, like that of all other 
nations, had its life in oral tradition ; and, if now and then, 
a fragment was written down, it would have been little 
short of a miracle if it had survived the hostility of the 
clergy to the national songs and sagas and the reminiscences 
of heathendom which they perpetuated. The language 
of science and learning, of public intercourse, of law, was 
the Latin, and continued to be for several centuries longer. 
It is true, Charles the Great (Charlemagne) made earnest 
efforts to place his mother-tongue in honor. He gave 
German names to the months, caused a German Grammar 
to be compiled, and took great pains to collect from Ger- 
man minstrels the ancient heroic songs of his country- 
men. But his son Lewis, who was wholly under the in- 
fluence of the priests, was zealous in undoing the work of 

A History of the German Language 45 

his father. The Latin has, however, preserved a quantity 
of material that is valuable for the history of the German 
language ; this is especially true of the records and title- 
deeds pertaining to persons and places within the German 
territory. These documents contain a large number of 
German words ; chiefly proper names, it is true, furnished 
with Latin terminations. By a judicious use of this 
material we are enabled to some extent to recover the 
native pronunciation and the inflection of the substantive, 
and to get some idea of German word-formation. But its 
greatest value is historical because of the dates and names 
of places given. Many of the words in these Latin parch- 
ments are accompanied with glosses, that is, translations 
of single Latin words for pedagogical purposes. These 
are either written over the words in the text which they 
-are designed to elucidate, where they are called interlinear 
glosses, or are brought together into little lexicons or 
glossaries. With the age of Charles the Great connected 
and continuous records begin. They consist chiefly of 
translations of biblical and ecclesiastical works, a number 
of Christian hymns, and some meager remnants of popular 
poetry. This literature, if we choose to call it by so dig- 
nified a name, is by no means equally distributed among 
the various Germanic tribes. The Angles have no share 
at all in it, and of their dialect only a few words of uncer- 
tain authenticity now remain ; neither have the Hessians, 
nor the Thuringians, nor the Lombards, nor the Burgun- 
dians. The Saxon portion is small ; still less that of the 
Franks along the lower Rhine. The largest portion falls 
to the rest of the Franks, the Bavarians, and Alemanians, 
or territorially to the country along the Rhine from Con- 
stance to the Moselle, and about the head-waters of the 
Danube. This is the section of Germany in which Chris- 
tianity first gained a firm foot-hold. 

There is a special reason for the absence of records in 
the language of the Lombards and the Burgundians. At 

46 A History of the German Language 

the beginning of the period that here concerns us the ter- 
ritory embraced by the Germanic tongues had been con- 
siderably curtailed. The fate that overtook the Goths on 
Roman soil was shared by the Burgundians, the Lom- 
bards and the Western Franks ; their language was dis- 
placed by the Latin and its descendants. Still, these lan- 
guages did not remain iree from Teutonic influence, least 
of all, the French. Many French military terms are de- 
rived from the German, and also words relating to feudal- 
ism and law. The French word la guerre is itself of Ger- 
manic origin, and related to wirren^ the O. H. G. being 
werra. Strangely enough in this case the English word 
u war " clearly bears the family traits, while the modern 
German has displaced it by Kneg, a vocable of obscure an- 
cestry. The gender of an entire class of French words 
those ending in eur, such as " la fureur," " la couleur " 
that would according to the rules of the language to which 
they belong be masculine, has been changed to feminine 
by the influence of the German. 

With these facts before us, we are now able to draw the 
southern and western boundary of the German language. 
The line begins on the shores of the North Sea near the 
straits of Dover between Gravelines and Dunkirk, runs 
southward almost to the river Lys, then eastward between 
Maestricht and Liege as far as the river Meuse, thence 
southeastward toward Malmedy, thence southward toward 
Longwy, but leaving both these towns on the French side. 
From here it passes southward as far as Pfalzburg (Phals- 
bourg), thence southward, west of Colmar, to the point where 
the little river Liitzel crosses the boundary between the Ger- 
man empire and Switzerland. From here it runs eastward 
to the river Birs, then follows the western boundary of the 
Swiss canton of Solothurn (Soleure) in a direct line to Lake 
Biel (Bienne) and the foot of Lake Neuchatel, thence it 
passes across Lake. Murten (Morat) and the town of the 
same name, through Freiburg, thence almost directly 

A History of the German Language 47 

south toward the Matterhorn, crossing the Rhone at Siders 
(Sierre). From the Matterhorn its course is eastward by 
Monte Rosa, then northeastward as far as the St. Gott- 
hard, whence it follows the northern boundary of the 
Orisons, about as far as the town of Tamins, thence east- 
ward past the city of Chur (Coire) in the direction of 
Klagenfurt in Austria. It will thus be seen that the pres- 
ent eastern boundary of France is very nearly the line 
that for many centuries separated the French from the 
German language. 

The internal changes that took place in the language 
during this period were chiefly confined to the consonants. 
Here, too, a process of shifting took place, it being the sec- 
ond of a similar character. This is like the first in the 
fact that the transitions took place independently of each 
other, and at different times. In the case of the second 
shifting we are able to follow its course and observe its re- 
sults almost step by step by means of contemporary docu- 
ments still in existence. The two shifts, however, differ 
in so far that the second affected a much smaller number 
of consonants than the first. 

The different parts of the territory occupied by the Ger- 
man, participated in the second shift in a much more un- 
equal degree than the first. Its influence was earliest felt 
and is the most marked in the south. The farther we 
come north the feebler is the wave-beat of the movement. 
The extreme north exhibits but faint traces of it. By this 
fact we are enabled to distinguish the various dialects, 
each being marked by the distance its characteristic con- 
sonants have moved away from their original value. 

The earliest and most complete shifting was that made 
by the smooth mutes (tenues) k, t, and p. This began 
and went farthest with the Germanic t. But it is neces- 
sary to make a distinction between initial t on the one 
hand, and medial or internal, and final t on the other. 
The former did not pass into a simple sound, but into a 

48 A History of the German Language 

compound of tenuis and spirant, a so-called affricative. In 
old documents this is usually indicated by z which was 
pronounced tz or ts. The Low German teihn became zehn 
in High German. Here the English has preserved the 
original sound in the word ten. Medial and final t was 
changed into a spirant. But while the Indo-European t 
was transformed into the German th (See ante, p 33), 
the new spirant of the second shift had passed into a 
sound which the MSS. also generally indicate by z. Its 
pronunciation probably bore a close resemblance to the 
German s, or rather ss, with which it subsequently be- 
came identical It is by this change of t to z, which took 
place about the year 600, that a most important dialectic 
difference was marked, namely, that between Low Ger- 
man and High German, between the north and south of 
Germany. In the Low German it is retained ; in the 
High German it has been superseded by the other sound. 
Where u that " or " dat " was regularly used in the terri- 
tory of the former ; where dasz, that of the latter. The 
philologist Schleicher was in the habit of designating the 
one class as '* dat-languages," and the latter as " dasz- 
languages ; " for it must not be forgotten that there were, 
as there still are, many other minor divergencies between 
them. Generally speaking, the consonants of the Low 
German underwent few changes, and we shall often have 
occasion in the future to employ words from its vocabu- 
lary as representatives of the General Germanic. 

The fate of k like that of t depends upon its position in 
a word. When initial or final it was aspirated throughout 
the entire High German territory to ch ; for the English 
" to speak " we get the High German sprecheu, Low Ger- 
man sprecken. The L. G. ik, A.-S. u ic, v corresponds to the 
H. G. ich. Only in one dialect of the L. G., the West Fran- 
conian, it becomes ch when final. Initial k generally per- 
sists over the whole region, except in certain districts be- 
longing to the Bavarian and Alemanian where it has given 
place to kch and ch. 

A History of the German Language 49 

P both initial and medial becomes f whenever k 
changes to ch : Low German, schap, slapen, Eng. 
"sheep," "sleep," are equivalent to H. G. schaj, 
schlafen. When initial, it becomes pf in the Alemanian, 
Bavarian and part of the Franconian. The linguistic 
province of the latter lies along the river Main and south 
of its eastern portion. The dividing line between the two 
sections, the northern p and the southern pf, runs be- 
tween Bruchsal and Heidelberg, so far as it lies in Baden. 
In respect to the dialects of middle Germany, which we 
shall consider more at length further on, it may be here 
remarked incidentally, that pf is likewise one of the char- 
acteristics of the Thuringian, the Upper Saxon and 
the Silesian. 

Of spirants the hard h and f remain unchanged ; but th 
passed into d everywhere, even in^the Low German. For 
example, brother is equivalent to Bmder, in which case 
the English has preserved a close resemblance to the 
Gothic brothar. The sonant labial mute was turned into 
an explosive (the same sound it already had as an initial 
letter) in the Alemanian, the Bavarian and some of the 
other High German dialects. Here it was the same 
sound that had already taken its place initially. The 
transformation of this labial mute is of prime importance 
for a general characterization of the Germanic dialects. 
Throughout the territory occupied by the Low German, 
the difference between b and p was the same as in the 
Romanic languages ; the vocal chords were at rest while 
the sound represented by p was produced, but in the case 
of b they were in a state of vibration and a faint m was 
heard in connection with it. In Central Germany the at- 
tendant sound was gradually lost ; as a result, a distinction 
ceased to be made between p and b. The habit is still al- 
most universal among the illiterate, and even the educated 
often unwittingly fall into it. But still farther south the 
distinction is again observed ; in the Alemanian and 

50 A History of the German Lang "age 

Bavarian the b is pronounced with less and the p with 
greater force. This state of things prevailed as early as 
the O. H. G. period. The effect of this phonetic change 
was to displace b as the representative of the weaker labial 
mute on High German' territory, though it remained on 
Low, as it no longer represented the Romanic b ; but p 
was used in its stead. For example, the N. H. G. Buck 
and the Eng. " book '' have the same initial, but its O. H. 
G equivalent is puoh. The late Latin " bedellus " still 
survives in our " beadle, 1 ' but its O. H. G. representative 
is petit, N. H. G. Pedell. Between the Bavarian and 
the Alemanian there was this further difference that the 
latter generally retained initial b while the former turned 
it into p here also. 

The fate of the soft guttural mute (g) was similar to 
that just described, in so far as it was developed out 
of the spirant. In the districts possessed by the Low Ger- 
man, the distinction between the Romanic g and k was 
preserved, but in Middle Germany the former lost its 
sonancy and then became virtually identical with k. 
In the Bavarian, Alemanian and the South Franconian 
there is some difference in the energy with which the two 
letters are uttered. In the oldest stage of the two former 
this middle mute is sometimes written g and sometimes k. 
This indicates that these letters were intended to repre- 
sent a sound which partook of the nature of both. In the 
High German the d loses its sonancy under all circum- 
stances and is replaced by t. The Gothic dags and Eng- 
lish " day '' is tac and tag in O. H. G. 

These differences prevail during the entire further de- 
velopment of the language represented by the three stages 
pointed out above. In view of these divisions it is cus- 
tomary to speak of Old, Middle and New Low German,, 
and of Old, Middle and New High German. 

With these facts before us we are now prepared to see 
how the principle of consonantal mutation or shifting ap- 

A History of the German Language 51 

pears when applied to individual words. This plan is 
preferable to the mere presentation of literal equivalents. 
It may be well to call attention again to an important fact 
in the history of words, namely, that widely diverse mean- 
ings are often developed from the same radical syllable. 

Indo-European k corresponds to Greek or Latin k or c, 
Germanic h. Sanskrit kalamas ; Greek KaXd^rj Latin 
calamus ; English halm or haulm. 

Indo-European t corresponds to Latin t, Low German 
th, High German d. Sanskrit tarsh ; Latin torreo ; 
Gothic thaursjan ; English thirst ; High German Durst. 

Indo-European p corresponds to Greek or Latin p, Ger- 
manic f. Sanskrit padas ; Greek Latin &-, ped, pod- ; 
Gothic fotus ; English foot ; High German Fusz. 

Indo-European gh corresponds to Greek Latin g, Ger- 
manic g. The primitive form would probably be ghans, 
but Sanskrit hansas ; Greek Latin xn v , (h)anser ; A.-S. 
gos ; English goose, gander ; High German Gans. 

Indo-European dh corresponds to Greek 0, Latin f, Low 
German d, High German t. Hypothetical dhur ; Greek 
Ovpa- Latin fores ; Gothic daur; English door from A.-S- 
duru ; O. H. G. tor. 

Indo-European bh corresponds to Greek <, Latin f, 
Low German b, High German b or p. Sanskrit bhag ; 
Greek <^yo's ; Latin fagus ; Gothic boka ; English book, 
buckwheat and beech ; A.-S. boc ; O. H. G. buoh and 
puoh ; N. H. G. Buche and Buch. It should, however, 
be mentioned that the original identity of these two 
words in Teutonic is not quite certain. 

r>L! A History of the German Language 

Indo-European g corresponds to Germanic k or ch. 
Sanskrit gaus, where the Greek and Latin are /Sous and 
bos; Gothic kos (hypothetical); English cow from A.-S. 
cii; O. H. G. chuo; N. H. G. Kuh. 

Indo-European d corresponds to Greek-Latin 3 and d, 
Germanic t, N. H. G. z. Sanskrit dagan ; Greek-Latin 
Se'/oDj decem ; Gothic taihun ; English ten, from A.-S. 
tyn ; N. H. G. zehn. 

Indo-European b corresponds to Latin p, Germanic p, 
N. H. G. p or pf. Latin pondo ; Gothic pund and Eng- 
lish pound ; N. H. G. Pfund ; but Gothic sleps, English 
sleep ; O. H. G. slafan and slaf ; from which it will be 
seen that the mutation of a consonant at the end of a syl- 
lable is sometimes different from that at the beginning. 

Very few words can be found that have congeners in a 
majority of the languages of the Indo-European stock. 
This will explain the gaps in our series above. In a few 
instances the phonetic laws here set forth are subject to 
slight modifications. These I have not thought necessary 
to exhibit because my object is to show general principles 
rather than minute facts. A mute does not generally un- 
dergo the same transformation at the beginning, the mid- 
dle and end of a word. 

When philologists speak of the Indo-Europeau the Ursprache - 
as having split up into the various branches still represented in dif- 
ferent languages of Europe and Asia, they do not mean that this took 
place simultaneously. Neither did the General Germanic break into 
several linguistic fragments. That phonetic changes always take 
place slowly is abundantly proved by the testimony of those that 
have taken place within historic times. The oldest records of the 
Sanskrit probably do not go further back than the sixteenth century 
B. C. At this period it had already diverged considerably from the 
primitive stage. Where the people who spoke this language dwelt 
we do not know. Very likely they were wanderers with no fixed 
place of abode. Of the Greek we have no remains earlier than the 
eleventh or twelfth century B. C., while those of the Italic dialects 

A History of the German Language 53 

are several centuries younger. The history of both Greeks and 
Italians before these dates rests on a very insecure foundation. Of 
the Germanic tongues, as we have seen, there are but faint traces 
earlier than the fourth century after Christ. But we have occasional 
notices of German tribes in the fourth century B. C. These, too, ap- 
pear now at one place, now at another, in both Europe and Asia. 
The various consonantal shifts that play so important a part in the 
history of the Aryan languages must be regarded as having taken 
place from the parent speech, and not from any of its branches. Yet 
it is possible and even probable that this primitive speech broke up 
into two or more different parts, one or more of which were again 
further sub-divided. Nor do we know the causes of this differentia- 
tion. They were probably climatic and topographical the result of 
slight changes in the vocal organs of the different people. We do not 
know when the Primitive German languages shifted from the Aryan, 
but it was at a prehistoric period ; for we find the process almost com- 
plete in the earliest Gothic known to us. The bifurcation of the 
Primitive Germanic into High and Low German was much later, 
and took place in historic times. It seems to have been in progress 
during the period lying between the sixth and the tenth centuries 
after Christ. It began, as we have, seen, in South Germany and 
moved northward until its energy had gradually spent itself before 
it reached the region of the lower Rhine. It could be proven by the 
testimony of the German language, if no other were forthcoming, 
that those who spoke it were originally a homogeneous mass when 
they began their independent career which first separated into two 
main divisions. The minor divergences that still exist partake more 
or less of the chief characteristics of one or the other of these 

The lines which bound the various dialects have chang- 
ed but little from the earliest times except that the L. G. 
has been gradually losing ground before the encroach- 
ments of the H. G. We shall, therefore, not go far wrong 
if we supply the missing links in the older boundaries by 
the linguistic facts gathered from more recent observa- 
tions. The dividing line between Low and High German 
passes nearly east and west. Beginning on the Meuse at 
a point midway between Liege and Msestricht it passes 
down the Meuse as far as Roermonde (Ruremond) and 
from here eastward past Diiesseldorf to Elberfeld. Here 
it turns south and runs parallel with the Rhine almost to 

/U A History of the German Language 

the little river Sieg. Bending thence to the northeast it 
passes in an almost direct course past Minden, and thence 
to Magdeburg on the Elbe. This line marked off the ter- 
ritory of the O. L. G. which embraced the Saxons and a 
portion of the Franks. Their two dialects are called the 
Old Saxon and the Low Franconian. 

The boundary between the Franconian and the Upper 
German in the valley of the Rhine is formed by the forest 
of Hagenau in Northern Alsace and the lower course of 
the Murg, a small river that flows into the Rhine from the 
southeast, a short distance from Carlsruhe. Following the 
Murg a little way it turns nearly east a little south of the 
city of Calw in Wurtemberg, crossing the river Nagold it 
runs northeast as far as the Neckar, near Besigheim, 
thence directly east to Ellwangen. Here it turns north- 
east again to Feuchtwangen, then southeast to Wasser- 
trued, whence it runs off in the direction of the Fichtel 

The dividing line between the Alemanian and Bavarian 
is formed in the main by the rivers Woernitz and Lech, 
the one flowing southward, the other northward into the 
Danube, at no great distance from the city of Augsburg, 
though the Alemanian is also spoken on the right bank of 
the Lech in its upper course. 

The differences between the dialects were in earlier 
times much less marked than at present. Taking them as 
a whole and comparing them with the Gothic on the one 
hand and the German as written to-day on the other, they 
are found to be more closely akin to the former than to 
the latter or N. H. G. Compared with this the dissimi- 
larity is greatest in the form of the individual words. A 
majority of these now end in a monotonous , but in the 
olden time almost any of the long or short vowels might 
terminate a word. The sensuous impression produced by 
the older language with its plenitude of sonorous vowels is 
very different from the modern. 

A History of the German Language 55 

There is one other peculiarity to which it is proper to 
-call attention. A number of words that now begin with 1 
were in the O. H. G. preceded by an h. The modern 
Ludwig (Lewis, Louis), for instance, was Hiudwig. This 
combination of consonants is not found in the Romanic 
tongues, and when those whose native language was 
French tried to reproduce it they employed chl. For this 
reason Chlodwig is no other than Ludwig ; Chlotar, than 

In the course of the tenth and eleventh centuries the 
German language gradually assumes a different character. 
The vowels of the final syllable that had been long, began 
to be shortened, while the weakening of the short vowels 
to e becomes more and more general. This movement 
does not begin over the whole German territory at the 
same time, and advances more rapidly in some parts than 
in others. The South is, generally speaking, more con- 
servative than the North. The transformation is about 
completed by the middle of the twelfth century. By this 
time a leading feature of the O. H. G. has accordingly 
been obliterated, and the period of the M. H. G. and the 
M. L. G. begins. But here, too, it is impossible to assign 
definite dates to what was a continuous organic develop- 
ment. The Upper German, for example, conserved some 
of its vowels in certain positions until far into the middle 
period. * 

The surviving literary monuments of the O. H. G. 
period are the following, though they do not all belong to 
O. H. G. dialects. The oldest and most important is the 
translation of the Bible by Ulfilas, which has already been 
spoken of. There is a tradition that he included the 
whole of the Old and New Testament in his work except 
the Book of Kings, and that he omitted this because he 
feared lest its narration of military achievements might 
tend to excite the martial spirit of his countrymen, to 
which they were, in his judgment, already too prone. 

56 A History of the German Language 

The history of the only existing codex of Ulfilas is sufficiently re- 
markable to merit a brief notice here. It is one of the many in- 
stances where our knowledge of important facts of antiquity is wholly 
dependent upon the existence of a single record, often imperfect, as in 
this case. Nothing was known of this codex until the sixteenth 
century when it was discovered in the Abbey of Werdeu, a town not 
far from Duesyeldorf in Prussia. It came into the possession of the 
emperor Rudolf II. in Prague ; and when this city was taken by the 
Swedes in 164S, it was removed to Stockholm. Not long afterward 
it was transferred to Holland, but was again acquired by a Swede, 
count de la Gardie, who had it bound in silver, and subsequently 
presented it to the library of the University of Upsala, where it now 
is. The letters with which the MSS. is written are chiefly of silver, 
but partly of gold on purple colored parchment, whence it is called 
the codex argenteus. It originally consisted of 330 leaves; but all 
except 177 have been lost. A few fragments of the same translation 
are in other European libraries. 

All the extant literature of the O, H. G. consists of 
translations and is consequently of little value except for 
the language. A nearly complete list is here given, We 
name first, The Rule of St. Benedict, translated about 780 
by a monk of St. Gall, and Tatian's Harmony of the Gos- 
pels made about a century later. A very important docu- 
ment, both linguistically and historically, are the recipro- 
cal oaths of the kings and people, often called the Stras- 
burg oaths. In the year 842 the kingdom of the Franks 
was divided between Lewis the German, who received 
Austrasia (Germany), and Charles the Bald, who received 
Neustria (France). The latter took an oath in French, 
the former in German. The old and the modern German 
are as follows : 

In godes minna ind in thes Christianes folches ind unser bedhero 
Aus Liebe zu Oott und zu des Christlichen Volkes und unser beider 

ge(h)altnissi fon, thesemo daze frammordes so frarn so mir got 
Erhaltung von diesem Tage fortan so weit als mir Oott 

gewisci iudi mahd furgibit, so haldih tesan (thesan) minanbruodher, 
Wissen und Macht yibt so halte ich diesen meinen Cruder 

soso man mit rehtu sinan bruodher seal, in thin thaz er mig 
sowie man mit JRecht seinen Bruder soil, in dem dasz er mir 

A History of the German Language 57 

so sama duo ; indi mit Ludhereu in nohheiiiiu thing ne gegango, 
ebenso thue ; und mit Lothar in kein Ding nicht geheich, 

the minan willon imo ce scadheu werdhen. 
das meines Willens ihm zu Schaden werde. 

This fragment illustrates some of the phonetic changes 
that have already been discussed. 

A translation and elucidation of the Psalms by Notker 
Labeo, of the end of the tenth century. 

A translation with commentary of the Song of Solomon 
by Williram, a monk of Bbersberg, made in the eleventh 

The oldest German poetry extant consists of fragments 
of the Song of Hildebrand. It is composed in Low Ger- 
man mixed with High German. Its form is alliterative 
verse, and commemorates the combat of one Hildebrand 
with his son Hadubrand. It seems to have been commit- 
ted to writing near the beginning of the ninth century, 
but it is evidently a reminiscence of an earlier age. 

Of uncertain date, but probably belonging to the be- 
ginning of the ninth century, is another Harmony of the 
Gospels in the Old Saxon, known as the Heliand. This 
also is in alliterative form and in the opinion of Grimm 
represents the dialect spoken in the district lying between 
Miinster, Essen and Cleves. A specimen is given below 
chiefly for the purpose of exhibiting the form of versifica- 
tion in general use among the ancient Germans : 

Tho ward thar so managumu manne 

mod after Kriste 
gihuorben, hugiskefti, sidor sie is 

helagon \verk 

selbon gisahon, huand eo er sulic ni ward 
wundar on weroldi. Than was eft thes 

werodes so filu, 

so modstarke man, ni weldun the maht godes 
antkennien kudliko, ac sie wid is craft mikil 
wunnun mid iro wordun ; Warun im waltendes 
lera so leda. 

58 A History of the German Language 

The alliteration is not only plainly marked in the above 
brief extract, but might easily be retained in an English 
translation. In each line there are three or more princi- 
pal words having the same initial sound. We may cite 

r , . , - . </ f ' 

current words that have but slightly Or not all varied from 
the meaning they had more than a thousand years ago : 
Many, man, mood, holy, work, self, saw, so, like, were, 
wonder, world, and numerous others. 

Ekkehard, a monk of St. Gall, who died in 973, when a 
young man composed a poem called " Waltharius," pat- 
terned after Vergil and Prudentius. It commemorates the 
flight of Walter of Aquitaine and his beloved Hildegunde. 
Though written in Latin it is valuable for its reminis- 
cences of German heroic poetry. 

To the O. H. G. belongs the so-called Wessobrunn 
Prayer, the distinctive epithet of which is due to the fact 
that the MS. was discovered in the monastery of Wesso- 
brunn (Weiszenbrunn) in Bavaria. Though Christian in 
sentiment its form is distinctly pagan, and it is the first 
known attempt to unite the new and the old religion in this 
way. Similar in poetic form, that is, alliterative, equally 
fragmentary and belonging to about the same epoch- 
about A. D. 900 is another poem called Muspilli. This, 
though a Christian composition, is pervaded with mytho- 
logical reminiscences. There is some reason to believe 
that it was composed by King Lewis the German. The 
only secular production proper belonging to this period is 
a fragment of a description of the earth, commonly known 
as Merigarto (see-girt garden) of the eleventh century. 
When complete this poem seems to have been very long. 
The extant portion treats chiefly of the earth and certain 
miraculous fountains. 

Krist, a poem composed by a monk named Otfried, 
completed about 868, is the first example in German of 
the use of rhyme. It embraces five books or cantos and 
owes its form probably to early Latin hymns. The author 

A History of the German Language 59 

seems to have been an Alsatian or a Swabian, and this 
work is probably the first attempt of a German to con- 
struct an artificial epic. There exists also a Song of King 
Lewis (III.) the paean of victory over the Normans in 881. 
Its probable author was one Hucbald, who died in 930, and 
who was during his lifetime a favorite of Charles the Bald 
and his son Lewis 

The above enumeration includes everything in the form 
of connected discourse, except a few fragments belonging 
to the O. H. G. period. Though generally included in 
histories of German literature all this matter belongs 
rather to a history of the German language, because its 
literary value is slight, and its linguistic value inestimable. 
The extant remains of the Anglo-Saxon are more exten- 
sive than that of any other Germanic dialect, and the lan- 
guage differs little from the Old Saxon. But as it existed 
for the most part separate from the rest, it may be left out 
of account here. It is, however, true of both the conti- 
nental and the insular Teutonic that it was committed to 
writing under the impulse of Christianity. For the former, 
the inspiration proceeded primarily from two literary cen- 
ters, the school at Fulda in Germany, and St. Gall in 
Switzerland. The latter monastery was founded about 
600, the former nearly 150 years later. 


The middle period is usually designated as the Middle 
High German from the dialects that played the most im- 
portant part during this time. The picture which the 
provinces occupied by the German language present dur- 
ing this period, is much more varied than before. The 
causes that brought about this greater activity are various. 
In the first place those districts which hitherto Have fur- 
nished us few linguistic monuments, or had taken no part 

60 A History of the German Language 

at all in the literary movements of the times, now come 
under observation. This is true of the Low German ter- 
ritory, and of the northern portions of the High German, 
Franconian from Mainz to Cologne, the Hessian and the 
Thuringian. The latter dialects, spoken between the 
Main and the Low German border, are now called Middle 
German At the same time the whole area embraced by 
the German language was a good deal enlarged. In pro- 
portion as the Slavic power was forced back by German 
valor and the conquered land occupied by German settlers 
their language gained a firm footing east of the Elbe. 
Saxony and Silesia and, in part, Bohemia are won for 
the Teutonic tongue, so that in the fourteenth and fifteenth 
centuries German literature was cultivated to a consider- 
able extent in the latter country. Brandenburg, Mecklen- 
burg, Pomerania and Prussia were likewise germanized. 

The ancient kingdom of Prussia had, however, never 
been, properly speaking, Slavic territory, but was inhab- 
ited by German tribes from the earliest times, though it 
was not subdued and Christianized until the thirteenth 
century, the two processes going hand in hand. At this 
time the German outposts toward the east were pushed 
forward as far as the Niemen. In the southeast the German 
language also greatly extended its boundaries at the ex- 
pense of the Magyar, and planted a number of linguistic 
oases in this region. 

The newly acquired lands, nevertheless, did not form a 
continuous and homogenous whole, a statement that is 
especially true of the north. In some of the settlements 
the Low German was the spoken language ; in others the 
High German. But the latter bears traces of the Middle 
German. Saxony and Silesia are now to be regarded as 
belonging to Central Germany, and likewise the lands of 
the Teutonic Knights. The Marches, or Viceroyalties, 
and the* coast region, on the other hand, were colonized by 
Low German immigrants. 

A History of the German Language 61 

But the German language gains during this period not 
only in extent of territory, but likewise in what may be 
called intensity. Until now its sway was not fully acknowl- 
edged in its own home ; in several departments the lan- 
guage used was exclusively Latin. Hitherto prose writ- 
ings that were not translations were few and of limited ex- 
tent. In the M. H. G. period this condition of things is 
changed. German pulpit oratory receives a great impetus 
through the zealous labors of the Mystics, particularly 
from about the middle of the thirteenth century. The 
language of jurisprudence, too, begins to put on a 
German garb. About 1230 a famous book of laws known 
as the Sachsenspiegel was published. This Saxons' 
Looking-glass is a compilation of observances and cus- 
toms to which immemorial usage had given the sanction 
of laws. It was first written in Latin, a fact that is sig- 
nificant of this transition period, and afterward translated 
into German by the compiler, a nobleman named Eike or 
Eko of Repgow. City archives now begin to be kept in 
German. In Switzerland those dating from the seventh 
and eighth decades of the thirteenth century are quite 
numerous. Their frequency in Germany proper is nearly 
half a century later. It should be noted that the writings 
of this period were called into existence by the needs of 
practical life, and belong in no sense to literature. 
Nevertheless, literary prose is not wholly lacking for 
there are beginnings of written history both in this form 
and in verse. We may even speak of works of a scientific 
character, if we include under this head the philosophical 
and theosophical treatises of the Mystics that were written 
in the vernacular. In the main, however, the language 
of scientific investigation and discussion is still the Latin. 
The more general cultivation and the larger use of the 
German during these periods are not the outgrowth of a 
conscious or unconscious national impulse; they are 
rather the result of slackening interest in the monasterial 

iii A History of the German Language 

education of the times, the effect of a sort of torpidity 
that gradually creeps over the civil life of the community. 

It were a mistake to suppose that this more extensive 
use of the German language is a matter of small import to 
its inner life. When any member of the human body is 
drawn into new and unaccustomed activity its muscles 
and sinews are called into requisition to an extent not be- 
fore experienced There is growth and development 
where there was little or none before. So, too, language 
grows with extended usage ; every new task assigned to 
it exercises an influence upon its words and upon the 
structure and arrangement of its sentences. The more 
numerous and manifold the written materials belonging to 
the periods under consideration become, the more clear and 
distinct do the features of the various dialects stand out, 
and the more definitely are we able to trace the boundary 
lines between them. 

The dividing line between the Middle and Low German 
dialects did not remain permanently the same during the 
period under discussion ; the latter retreated slowly before 
the former. This is true more especially of the territory 
between the Harz mountains and the river Saale. In 1300 
the east and west boundary line was not far from the 50th 
parallel of north latitude, passing the Saale above Merse- 
burg; but two hundred years later it was, as it is to-day, a 
good deal farther north, and crossed the Saale below the 
mouth of the Bode, not far from its confluence with the Elbe. 
The entire Mansfeld district, and particularly Halle, has 
undergone a change in its folk-speech. The linguistic 
character of the Middle German, as might be inferred from 
its geographical position, make it a bond of union no less 
than a stage of transition between the Upper and Lower 
German. The consonants have not in all cases shared in 
the High German rotation of mutes, while the vowels have 
remained substantially as in the Upper German. In a 
large number of syllables long vowels in the Low German 

A History of the German Language 63 

correspond to diphthongs in the Upper German, though 
less in the Lower Franconian than elsewhere. We thus 
get the following scheme : 

M. H. G. M. I,. G. KXG. 

stein sten stone 

weisz wet wot 

zwei twe two 

bourn bom beam 

ouch 6k 

stoup stof 

brief bref brief 

fiel fel fell 

heisz het hight 

gout god good 

huon hon 

truoc drog 

In all cases the exceptions are confined to the border 
territory. The Middle German exhibits the Upper Ger- 
man sounds in both vowels and consonants. It is not un- 
til pretty well along in our period that a tendency becomes 
manifest to simplify certain double sounds, as, for in- 
stance, where the Upper German has brif, huon, pro- 
nounced almost like two syllables, we find in the Middle 
German such forms as bref, Hun, etc 

We have some contemporary documents intended to de- 
scribe the salient characteristics of the different dialects. 
One of these is in poetic form, written about 1300 by a 
schoolmaster of Bamberg. But such descriptions are of 
little value, even when an honest attempt is made to rep- 
resent the living sounds. Speaking generally, and apply- 
ing the remark to other languages as well as German, it 
may be said that the number of signs in common use is 
almost always and everywhere inadequate to represent the 
sounds in actual use. A single sound is sometimes indi- 
cated by two or more characters, examples of which are 

64 A History of (he German Language 

particularly abundant in English, while sometimes. the 
same character is pronounced in two or more different 
ways, as may be seen in the case of our letter a. Still it 
must be said that the English is more anomalous than any 
other language, but it exhibits, though in excessive de- 
gree, a common tendency. The result is that we have a 
greater conformity in written characters than is warranted 
by the underlying phonetic facts. 

We are led to conclude that there must have existed a 
clearly recognized difference between the living speech in- 
herited by every individual and the language of our writ- 
ten memorials. It would seem that there grew up grad- 
ually a written language apart from the various dialects in 
current use, in part as a medium of literary intercourse, 
and in part as the fashionable speech of the upper classes. 
We even read of three such written languages, a M. H. G. 
which is regarded as the language of court circles, a M. G. 
and a L. G. The view that postulates the existence of a 
L. G. or M. G. written tongue is undoubtedly erroneous, 
and it is very questionable whether there was a M. H. G. 
The Switzer Ulrich of Zazichoven ; the Swabian Hartmann 
of Aue ; the Alastian Godfrey of Strasburg ; the Fran- 
conian Wolfram of Eschenbach, all of whom flourished 
about the year 1200, exhibit divergencies enough in their 
vocabulary to preclude the possibility of a recognized 
unity of speech. But be this as it may, many facts 
come to our notice indicative of the general tendency that 
the German mind is in process of preparation for such 
a language ; a mingling of dialects becomes evident, and 
the attempt is made by one writer here and another there 
to use a dialect that is foreign to him, while the language 
of certain districts evidently preponderates over that of 
others. The more actively the various sections of Ger- 
many interest themselves in fostering poetry, the more 
frequent literary intercourse becomes, the more attention 
is given to the multiplication of manuscripts, the oftener 

A History of the German Language 65 

it happens that the native tongue of the copyist is differ- 
ent from that of his copy. As a result the MS. he pro- 
duces will be a mixture of different dialects. The result- 
ing text may in turn be used by a copyist from another 
part of Germany, which will make his work a mixture of 
a still greater number of elements Not only are poems 
transported from place to place, but poets also lead a sort 
of nomadic life. We are informed that Wolfram of Eschen- 
bach spent some time in Thuringia ; his writings embody 
peculiarities that are foreign to his native Upper Fran- 
conian. The fairest flowers of German mediaeval poetry 
blossomed on H. G. soil. The political supremacy and 
the literary centers that attract rising talent from all parts 
of the land are on H. G. territory. We accordingly find 
several poets who, though natives of L. G. districts, never- 
theless aspire to the use of H. G or M. G. speech. The 
preponderance of the H. G. is also shown by its encroach- 
ment upon L. G. territory a fact of which we have before 
spoken. Occasional records in L. G. that exhibit a style 
of expression somewhat above the mere local folk-speech 
betray a leaning toward the M. G. Alongside of these 
main lines of development growing out of the circum- 
stances of the times, certain preferences for this and that 
dialect manifest themselves that are merely a passing 
fashion. It was, for example, good form at certain periods 
during the 13th century, in Upper Germany to intersperse 
one's speech with words and phrases from the L. G. This 
was called zu flaemen. Ulrich of Lichtenstein says 
bluomekm instead of bliiemelin, and Meyer Helmbrecht, 
the courtly son of a peasant addresses his sister with vil 
Hebe suster kinder kin, snster being the Lower Franconian 
for Schwester. In Austria, on the other hand, it was re- 
garded as an evidence of good-breeding, about the middle 
of the 14th century, to use the Swabian idiom. 

66 . 1 History of the German Language 


Few people of this country know how great is the lack 
of homogeneity existing among all the more widely spoken 
languages of Europe. This diversity of speech, however, 
prevails only among the illiterate, and not among the edu- 
cated. Those who are of the present generation in the 
United States and whose education has been sufficient to 
enable them to read and write their mother tongue fairly 
well, speak English so nearly alike that the peculiarities 
are rarely sufficient to betray the particular section to 
which they belong. Even the speech of the wholly illit- 
erate has but little local color. But in Germany the 
birth-marks inhere, as a general thing, in the speech of all, 
no matter what their education may have been. It is 
only the language of the stage that is entirely free from 
localism. Almost every university in Germany contains 
one or more professors from all parts of the empire, and in 
almost every case an expert would detect their native 
province after listening for a short time to their lectures. 
Public sentiment is strongly against obliterating these 
local peculiarities This pride of birth is so generally felt 
and recognized that to speak without any traces of a dia- 
lect is regarded as a mark of affectation. 

Most Americans who study German and many native 
Germans are unaware of the great variety the language 
presents. But the same is true as regards French, or 
Italian, or Spanish, or any of the more widely spoken lan- 
guages. The local French of Normandy and that of 
Provence are widely dissimilar, and both are unlike the 
literary French. The Italian of Lombardy and Calabria 
are unlike in many respects, and both differ from the 
native speech of the Tuscans. The illiterate natives of 
these provinces have great .difficulty in understanding the 
natives of every other, though, as would be expected, the 
most widely sundered dialects have the fewest points in com- 

A History of the German Language 67 

mon. A Pomeranian cannot understand a Bernese, while 
an Oldenburger finds less difficulty in comprehending 
good Saxon English than good New High German, be- 
cause there is a greater similarity between the two lan- 
guages or dialects lying close together than those that are 
farther apart. It is a well established fact that Lessing and 
Schiller spoke with a marked dialectic accent and adhered 
as tenaciously to their local German as Carlyle did to his 
"broad Scotch." But the only difference in their written 
German is that of style. 

While the divergences are greatest at the two extremes, 
they shade off into one another so gradually that it is al- 
most impossible to discover where they begin or end. 
This is not only trae of the varieties of the same speech, 
but also of languages that are wholly unlike when scien- 
tifically examined. Border languages partake of a more 
or less mixed character. The boundaries between two 
distinct governments may mark the limits of the official 
language, but they cannot prohibit the intercourse of the 
people and the use of a medium by means of which they 
make themselves mutually understood. Perhaps the only 
circumstances under which two contiguous languages are 
kept from commingling at all, is when they are separated 
by natural barriers that are almost impassable. Within 
the territory of the same language the dialects shade off 
into each* other by almost imperceptible degrees. Careful 
observers claim that they can detect differences in the 
speech of the people of two villages that are only a few 
miles apart. From the nature of the case this must be so. 
If the extreme eastern and extreme western or the ex- 
treme northern and extreme southern portions of a coun- 
try having the same language are yet linguistically wide 
apart it is evident that this must result from almost im- 
perceptible gradations between points lying close together. 

The historical study of dialects, as well as the history of 
primitive peoples, proves beyond a doubt that they began 

68 A History of the German Language 

in a unity from which they diverged more and more with- 
out, however, entirely obliterating their native character- 
istics. But after a time the centrifugal force has spent 
itself and a centripetal force begins to make itself felt. 
The latter is sometimes moral, sometimes political, often 
both. In the case of the Greek, the moral force predom- 
inated. It was the intellectual preponderance of the Attic 
dialect that in the course of time made it the basis of the 
Greek of the civilized world. It was the political power 
of Rome that gradually carried the language of a small dis- 
trict into every country subdued by Roman arms. The 
same cause made the language of Northern Gaul the lan- 
guage of classic French literature. Farther along it will 
be shown how moral causes brought into existence the 
New High German. Finally, however, moral causes pro- 
duce the most lasting effects. Military force alone will 
not permanently hold in subjection a people who are in- 
tellectually the superiors of their conquerors. In the end 
the victory remains with civilization and culture. These 
survive because human experience has demonstrated that 
they are the fittest. Power in the end remains where 
there is the most knowledge. 

Among modern languages the German embraces the 
largest number of dialects that are interesting to the stu- 
dent of language. The Germans themselves have assid- 
uously studied many of them, while several embody a lit- 
erature of considerable extent and value. This is chiefly 
owing to the absence of a strong central government and 
the existence of a large number of capitals scattered over 
Germany. Natural jealousies were fostered by these 
means, though they could not obliterate race characteris- 
tics. Dialectic differences are chiefly of two kinds, for 
they rarely affect the structure of the sentence. They may 
consist in the use of different words for the same object, 
or they may consist in differences of pronunciation of 
words that are written precisely alike. Sometimes a word 

A History of the German Language 69 

is the same in two or more dialects, but has not the same 
gender. The Germans themselves are not agreed as to 
how certain letters of their language are to be pro- 
nounced. But here, too, as has so often happened in the 
course of human events, political power and intellectual 
preponderance are gradually deciding the question. The 
pronunciation of the more conservative Prussians is des- 
tined to become the norm for all students of German. 
This is not, however, saying that a time will ever come 
when there will no longer be German dialects. The per- 
sistence of local peculiarities of speech among a compara- 
tively stationary population is one of the best attested facts 
of history. So far as the German is concerned some of 
these can be traced back more than a thousand years, and 
they are likely to be still in existence a thousand years 
hence. The fact that it can be traced in almost unbroken 
continuity for fifteen centuries and has a longer career of 
uninterrupted development than any other language of 
western Europe, gives to German a unique place among 
the languages of the civilized world. 


The changes in the territorial boundaries of the Ger- 
man language during this period are not as great as dur- 
ing the former, nevertheless several of considerable im- 
portance took place. The loss of French Flanders is a 
serious one for the German. In the seventeeth century 
the Flemish tongue extended beyond Boulogne ; at the 
beginning of the eighteenth the dividing line between it 
and the French was near Calais ; now it is, as before 
stated, east of Gravelines. In Alsace-Lorraine the Ger- 
man suffered losses at different times by the encroach- 
ments of the French. Since 1870 these have ceased. In 
the south, the German is slowly retreating before the 

70 A History of the German language 

Romanish and the Italian. The German oases upon 
Italian territory known as the setti communi and the tredeci 
communi have become almost obliterated. In the s'rug- 
gle between the German and the Czech, which took place 
where the outposts of the former had pressed upon the ter- 
ritory of the latter, the German was not able to hold what 
it had gained. Here the opposition to the German is par- 
ticularly strong. In Poland the Teutonic has been slowly 
but steadily gaining ground for about two centuries. 
Northward the German has likewise acquired some terri- 
tory at the expense of the Danish during the last two 
decades. The oasis in Lusatia inhabited by Wends is 
gradually becoming smaller. A remarkable restriction in 
the use of the German language took place within Ger- 
man territory in the time under consideration. During 
the M. H. G. period there was a clearly marked tendency 
toward the use of German prose in scientific and literary 
discussion. This tendency not only ceased, but a strong 
reaction set in. At no period in the history of the Ger- 
man tongue is the popular mind so active as in the six- 
teenth ; no other has called into being such masterpieces 
of native eloquence and popular satire. Church hymns 
of the very highest merit and folk-songs of the same order 
belong to this period. This impulse was due to Luther 
more than to any other man ; but he was only the leader 
of a movement in which a large portion of the German 
people took part. The most tangible evidence of his 
labors in behalf of his mother-tongue is his translation of 
the Bible, completed in 1534. Of this about forty editions 
were published in the next twenty-five years, and nearly 
twice as many of the New Testament portion alone. 

But at the same time the use of the Latin language is re- 
vived both in prose and poetry. The Humanists as the 
friends of liberal culture based on a knowledge of Greek 
and Roman antiquity are commonly called carried on 
their controversies and their correspondence in Latin. 

A History of the German Language 71 

Terence was raised from the dead, as it were, to see his 
comedies performed on the stage of the Latin schools. 
Almost every scholar^ translated his name into Latin or 
Greek as nearly as it could be done. In this way a great 
deal of talent and literary ability that would naturally 
have been employed in the development of the German 
language was wasted ; for scholars sought their models in 
the past, chiefly in Cicero, under conditions which made 
even an approach to him impossible. A dead language, 
like a cadaver, may be useful for dissection and study, but 
growth and development are as far from the one as from 
the other. But in the course of the seventeenth century 
the unlimited authority of the Latin begins to be ques- 
tioned and signs of a linguistic rebellion appear here and 
there. We see a conscious effort on the part of German 
patriots to restore their grand old native tongue to its 
place of honor and to rescue it from under the haughty 
dominion of the foreigner. The situation was in this re- 
spect different from what it had been in the preceding 
period, where the increasing use of German was the al- 
most unconscious but natural result of the conditions of 
^society. The foremost German savant of the seventeenth 
century Leibniz stands on the dividing line between 
what may be called the old and the new era. Though his 
principal works were written in Latin, his German writ- 
ings give clear evidence that he appreciated the worth of 
his mother tongue, and in them he champions its culti- 
vation, albeit his pleas failed to produce the effect they 
might have had from the importance and influence of their 
author had they been published during his life. Younger 
contemporaries took more decisive steps than he. In the 
winter of 1687-8, Christian Thomasius gave at Leipzig the 
first course of lectures ever delivered in the German. 
During the latter year he also began to issue the pioneer 
of German literary periodicals. This step required no lit- 
tle courage, for as was to be expected, his colleagues with 

72 A History of the German Language 

few exceptions raised an outcry against such a " desecra- 
tion" of the professional office. Christian Wolf born in 
1679 made German the language of Philosophy. In the 
wake of Philosophy appeared critical and historical writ- 
ings. By the middle of the eighteenth century the Ger- 
man language is master of the field. Since that time the 
importance of Latin has been on a steady decline. In 
larger works it is only used when the writers expect to 
be read beyond the boundaries of Germany ; and even 
then but rarely, because the most valuable contributions 
to science, history and literature are soon translated into 
the chief languages of Europe. The use of Latin is now 
confined almost exclusively to dissertations on subjects 
connected with classical philology. 


The most important difference between the M. H. G. 
and the N. H. G. is not mainly one of pronunciation, as 
we. have seen was the case in the transition from the O. 
H. G. to the M. H. G., although there is considerable dif- 
ference in this respect between the M. H. G. and the N. 
H. G. The salient features of the language of the New 
High German period are of a different kind. In this 
period for the first time we observe a definite and designed 
purpose to create a uniform written language which shall 
be above all the existing dialects. We now distinctly rec- 
ognize two currents in the German language. The one 
is, to use Behaghel's figure, that of the dialects or folk- 
speech, each of the latter flowing in its well-worn and 
natural bed, and each resembling the other only in its 
general features. In fact, every one of these may be 
likened to a separate rivulet, small and unimportant when 
compared with the main stream. The other is the written 
language moving in an artificial channel, provided with 

A History of the German Language 73 

many sluices and filters for the purpose of keeping out the 
scum, the sediment and the earthy taste. The difference 
between the natural and the artificial is here as in every 
other case very marked. The process of unimpeded de- 
velopment is seen only in the dialects. The water that 
flows in a channel made by the hand of man the writ- 
ten language, is a preparation found in nature no oftener 
than brooks that flow with distilled water. 

No belief could be more erroneous, yet it is one held 
even to-day by many intelligent persons that dialects are 
a corruption of written speech. Continuing the metaphor, 
we may say that the fall of the two channels is very un- 
like ; the development to drop the figure in a language 
that is merely spoken is, generally speaking, much more 
rapid than where a language is both spoken and written. 
The former is facilitated by the natural conditions of the 
situation. A dialect or patois is handed down from gen- 
eration to generation by means of the mobile and quickly 
vanishing spoken word, and at most but two or three 
generations act upon the child by their manner of speech. 
With a written language the case is otherwise ; he who 
learns it is in a certain sense under the spell of the written 
or printed character. This continually calls him back to 
an established norm, and not only brothers and sisters, 
parents and grandparents are the instructors of the young, 
but often words and modes of speech are held up for imi- 
tation that belong to former centuries. We should, how- 
ever, guard against supposing that the printed character 
does more than fix a language to the eye ; it cannot check 
changes of pronunciation. These take place in spite of it. 
The French and English languages, and to a less extent 
the German, as printed, exhibit their status as it was in 
the main one or more centuries ago, but we do not pro- 
nounce as we write. We still write English substantially 
as Shakespere did, yet it is doubtful whether he pro- 
nounced three consecutive words, taken at random from 

74 A History of the German Language 

his plays, as they are pronounced to-day. In many cases, 
nevertheless, the dialects are more conservative than the 
written language, and the uneducated use words that are 
unknown to those who have always been accustomed to 
the language of books. Such words have generally been 
preserved through oral transmission, though they have not 
been admitted into books, except for special purposes. 
When, then, we say that a written language is more con- 
servative than one that is spoken, it is well not to take the 
statement as unconditionally true. 

To characterize generally the development of the dia- 
lects of the N. H. G. period it may be said that the inflec- 
tions suffer abrasion as the inflected words are handed 
down from generation to generation. But the fate of the 
different dialects was widely diverse, and their number is 
at present, legion. In the single canton of Bern, which 
contains less than 2,700 square miles, or about one-third 
as many as New Jersey, and not much above half a million 
of inhabitants, not less than thirteen different dialects have 
been recognized. One who has. accustomed himself to 
note minute differences of language is generally able to 
discover the native district of a German from his mode 
of speech. Some dialects are marked by a peculiarity of 
intonation." Those of the Saxons, the Thuringians and 
the German Russians are characterized by a sort of sing- 
song tone. Then, too, the general impression made by a 
language differs from that of another according as the 
voice moves in longer or shorter intervals ; that is, the 
distance between the rising and falling inflections is 
greater in some cases than in others. In this regard the 
intervals are in general less among the North Germans 
than among those of the South. There is also a differ- 
ence in the rapidity of utterance ; in the North, the people 
talk faster than in the South. We have already, in speak- 
ing of the rotation of mutes, called attention to the fact 
that from time immemorial diversities have existed be- 

A History of the German Language 75 

tween the individual sounds, or tones. The same tone 
has not everywhere the same color. So far as the conso- 
nants are concerned these differences are substantially the 
same as they were in the O. H. G. and M. H. G. periods. 
The vowels, on the other hand, especially the long ones 
and the diphthongs, have undergone many mutations. 
We may cite, as a case in point, the M. H. G. diphthong, 
ei, that is pronounced in the different H. G. dialects as e'i, 
as ai, as ai, and a, and oi or 6i and oa. Less numerous 
than the diversities in the vowel sounds, that often vary as 
one passes from village to village, are the variations in the 
word formation, the manner of composition and deri- 
vation, and in the structure of the sentence. The Low 
and Middle German makes diminutives by affixing -ken 
and -chen to the regular designation, as Handeken, Hand- 
chen; the Upper German by means of -li or -le, as Handli, 
Handle. It is only in the Low German that we find terms 
of endearment terminating in -ing, as Vatting, Mutting, 
Lining and Mining. To represent the same ideas the 
Alemanian has words ending in -z, ,as Aetti ( compare 
Gothic Atta\ Bi'iebi, Ruodi. In many of the Upper Ger- 
man dialects the verbs formed with the prefix zer- are 
lacking; instead of zerbrechen, zerschlagen, zerreiszen, 
we find verbreche, verreisze, etc. In place of the prefix 
er- the Bavarian has der-, making derschlagen, though it 
may be that this comes from an original er-, just as 
minder was originally minner. The Alemanian, except- 
ing the Swabian and some of the Franconian dialects, 
make no distinction between the nominative and the accu- 
sative case, except in the personal pronoun. Ich hab der 
v alter net gsehe means ich habe den vater mcht gesehen. 
On the other hand, the L. G. is without the ending er in 
the nominative case of the adjective and puts in its stead 
the accusative, hei is en gauden Mann, en wohren Held, 
for er ist ein guter Mann, ein wahrer Heide. The per- 
sonal pronoun of the third plural hen, sie, has generally 

76 A History of the German Language 

been displaced in the L,. G. by the dative (h)em, ehr, a 
fate similar to that which has overtaken the English ac- 
cusatives for which we have the datives him, her, them. 
The Upper, or South German, dialects have all given up 
the imperfect tense of the verb and put in its place the 
perfects with sein and haben. In the use of this perfect 
the L. G. shows a much stronger preference for the auxil- 
iary haben than the H. G. In the former we hear, dat 
hett slicht gahn, for, das is t schlecht gegangen; and even 
dat hett gaud west, for, das ist gut gewesen. The use of 
the prepositions with the dative case has, in most of the 
Iv. G. dialects, suffered considerable loss to the gain of the 
accusative : dat was in dat johr 1829, for das war in dem 
jahr, or, ut dit holt, for, aus dies em Hols, or, an de Post, 
for, an der Brust. The Alemanian no longer, or at least 
rarely, uses the relative pronoun ; in its place he has sub- 
stituted the adverb wo, as 's HMS, wo abbrennt isch. In 
dependent sentences' the L. G. and M. G. dialects employ 
the preterit tense, subjunctive mood, as, mer secht er war 
gstorbe ; on the other hand the Bavarian and the Aleman- 
ian use the subjunctive present, as, mer seit, er sig gstorbe 
(it is said he has died). What would be expressed in 
book-German by, hieraus war nicht viel zu entnehmen, 
would be in L. G. with a change in the order of the words, 
hir was nich vel ut tau nemen. The diversities in the vo- 
cabulary are great and numerous. Almost every com- 
munity employs words that are not understood at a few 
leagues distance ; other words again are peculiar to large 
sections of country. To this class belong for the Upper 
German losen for horen, lupfen for emporheben ; for the L. 
G. kiken meaning sehen and trecken meaning ziehen. Of- 
ten when the same words are found in different dialects 
they have not the same signification. In the Alemanian 
the verb lehren is equivalent to the H. G. lernen as well 
as to lehren; in the South Franconian both significations 
are included in lernen. It is well known that in English 

A History of the German Language 77 

the word "learn" often does duty for both itself and the 
verb "teach". It is characteristic of the L G. that he 
uses all in the sense of schon, and that he applies schon 
not only to things visible, but also to objects that have an 
agreeable taste or an agreeable smell. Peculiar to the 
South or Upper German is the use of Schmuts for Fett, 
and schmecken, which can properly be applied only to the 
taste, instead of nechen. Quite remarkable is the dis- 
placement which the meanings of the verbs signifying 
"to go" have experienced on Upper German territory : in 
one section the simple verb gehen is used as about equiva- 
lent to fortgehen (depart); here gehen, meaning to be in 
motion, is expressed by laufen, but for the H. G. laufen 
(go quickly) we find spring en used, while for spring en 
(leap) a number of different verbs are employed. There 
is not space here to define with any approach to complete- 
ness the local peculiarities of the various German dia- 
lects ; nor have they as yet been thoroughly investigated 
and the results recorded. Many words have, doubtless, 
perished beyond recovery with the generations that used 
them. A large number of careful observers are however 
busy in this field and not a day passes which does not 
contribute its increment to the vocabulary of the German 
language in its widest sense. 


The same considerations of incomplete investigation 
hold good when we turn to the artificial structure of the 
N. H. G. and its history, which we found to be true in 
regard to the dialects. Nevertheless it is possible to 
sketch a picture of its development in its most important 
outlines. It is customary to designate Luther as the cre- 
ator of the German language as it is now written and to 
place its beginning about the commencement of the six- 
teenth century. Taken literally, the statement is not true. 
For, strictly speaking, Luther did not create the language 

78 A History of the German Language 

that he reformed and brought to honor; besides Germany 
had not, by a good deal, even after he entered upon his 
public career, a real and recognized unity of speech. The 
roots of the German book-language lie farther back, and 
extend into the preceding period. In order that a cer- 
tain type of speech may gain the ascendency over another, 
or over every other, it must be supported by some gener- 
ally recognized authority, and this authority must be suf- 
ficiently continuous to produce a permanent impression. 
It may be chiefly political as in the case of ancient Rome, 
or modern France and Spain ; or it may be chiefly moral 
and literary as in the case of ancient Greece and modern 
Italy. It will then obtain recognition in proportion to its 
similarity to other types. Such authority the official Ger- 
man of the empire must of necessity have had. It was 
the language in which records were kept, edicts promul- 
gated, charters granted, and so on, beginning with about 
the year 1325. Before this time the Latin was chiefly used, 
or German bristling with Latin. Luther himself leaves 
us in no doubt as to his method of procedure. He says in 
v/one place, U I use the common German tongue in order 
that both North Germans and South Germans may under- 
stand me. I speak according to the Saxon chancery which 
is followed by all princes and kings in Germany. The 
emperor Maximilian and the elector, duke of Saxony have 
drawn the German languages into one language in the 
Roman empire.'' It proved to be a fact of great signifi- 
cance in the development of the German language that 
the German emperors belonged to the same dynasty, with 
one brief interregnum, for almost a century, from the 
accession of Charles IV. in 1347. Their court was in the 
capital of Bohemia, a land upon which bordered Middle 
and Upper German territory, as well as the Upper Saxon 
and Austrian dialects. The official language or Kanzlei- 
sprache of the Bohemian metropolis was a sort of com- 
promise between two elements, and the type had become so 

A History of the German Language 79 

firmly fixed that when the imperial crown passed from the 
house Luxemburg to that of Hapsburg in 1438, there was 
no change made in the official language. And not only was 
this language used in the imperial chancery for official 
communications ; for while formerly those documents 
which bore the official signature of the emperor were of a 
very varied character so far as their language was con- 
cerned and contained many provincialisms, those begin- 
ning with the era of Frederick III., especially those dating 
from the time of Maximilian and bearing the official sig- 
nature, exhibit a designed uniformity in language no mat- 
ter in what part of Germany they were composed. It fol- 
lowed from the nature of the conditions that the official 
records of the minor courts or chanceries were patterned 
after these. That of the Elector of Saxony, who was one 
of the most influential of the subordinate sovereigns, ex- 
ercised an important influence. The linguistic territory 
within its jurisdiction belonged to the Middle German, 
and its official language accordingly bore the same char- 
acter until the middle of the fifteenth century when it be- 
gins to approximate very plainly to that of the imperial 
chancery. This is owing partly to the introduction of Up- 
per German peculiarities, and partly to the fact that the 
development of the Middle German exhibits a tendency 
to approximate in its pronunciation to the same speech. 
Both these tendencies progressed more rapidly because 
they were recorded in the official language than they would 
have done without such support. Here, then, we have two 
courts that form, in a sense, the nucleus of a unity that 
was destined to draw others to itself. This was the first 
step and a long one ; but it was nothing more. The uni- 
fication was entirely superficial and affected the speech of 
but a small portion of the people. It was not organic. 
One fact is of itself weighty evidence in this distinction. 
The very sovereigns whose chancery-jargon had become a 
pattern for their peers in official communications still 

80 A History of the German Language 

used their native dialect in their private correspondence. 
But further, this official language was ill-suited to become 
the medium through which a national literature should 
find utterance, because the thoughts therein set forth had 
a rather narrow range and it exhibited a preference for 
traditional formulas and stereotyped expressions. Its in- 
fluence was thus limited almost exclusively to the domain 
of sounds and word-formation. For a reconstruction of 
the language as a whole and to bring about complete uni- 
fication much was still lacking. 

It was Luther who did the decisive deed. The author- 
ity inherent in legal documents is relatively weak and 
limited ; not many persons read them. Luther's imposing 
figure moved the German people to its deepest depths. 
He dealt with questions that laid hold upon their hearts 
and feelings, no matter what their social condition. How 
mightily religious questions move the Teutonic mind may 
be seen in the effect produced by the English translation 
of the Bible made about half a century after Luther's. 
Its phraseology has made such an impression on English 
diction that it is still plainly discernible. Of necessity 
the weighty thoughts with which Luther's words were 
freighted and which gave them such wide currency had 
an important influence on German style. Not only his 
thoughts but the form in which they were expressed were 
well calculated to make a lasting impression on the minds 
of his readers. This is true in the largest measure of his 
translation of the Bible and of his hymns. The particular 
form in which Luther expressed himself was thus, in its 
very nature, the pledge of a far-reaching influence ; for 
with clear discernment he selected those words and ex- 
pressions that had already, in a certain sense, gained more 
or less currency. This has already in part been pointed 
out. But the more one studies his life and career the more 
one becomes impressed with the fact that he was a genius 
of the highest order. Not only was he a man of transcen- 

A History of the German Language 81 

dant ability in certain directions, bnt he was great in a 
variety of senses. He possessed what rarely accompanies 
genius extraordinary tact. The task which he under- 
took was no light one, yet he executed it with a skill never 
equalled before or since on an equally large scale. In the 
first place he made himself an authority, and did so by the 
force of natural talents alone. To do this he had to gain 
the confidence and affection of his countrymen. When 
he had gained the needed authority he knew how to use 
it effectively; or perhaps it would be more correct to say 
that by a wise use of his influence he kept on increasing 
it. The times, the man, and the occasion all came to- 
gether, that made him in a sense the creator of a language. 
HOW T clearly he discerned one phase of the work before 
him may be seen from some of his remarks on translating. 
Says he, "One who would talk German does not ask the 
Latin how he shall do it; he must ask the mother in the 
home, the children on the streets, the common man in the 
market-place and note carefully how they talk, then trans- 
late accordingly. They will then understand what is said 
to them because it is German. When Christ says, " ex 
abundantia cordis os loquitur,' I would translate, if I 
followed the papists, aus dem Ueberflusz des Hersens redet 
der Mund. But tell me is this talking German? What 
German understands such stuff? No, the mother in the 
home and the plain man would say, Wesz das Hers volt 
ist, des gehet der Mund ilber. 

"L/uther came from the elemental class of society ; not 
from the ranks of abject, degraded poverty, the proletariat, 
but from the class which earns its daily bread in the sweat 
of its brow, and which next to the peasant class is the 
basis of the social structure. Hence, he retained through- 
out life a sympathy with the laborer and the peasant, and 
a power of adapting his expressions to their shrewd, idio- 
matic, and terse idiom, and hence, of course, the natural- 
ness and vigor of his diction. Furthermore, his experience 

82 A History of the German Language 

in the matter of dialect was greater than that of any other 
man. No one of his contemporaries was brought in con- 
tact with so many men of such varied conditions and such 
varied modes of speech. He was for years the father-con- 
fessor, in the truest and best sense, for all Protestantism. 
Whoever was in doubt of mind or distress of body or es- 
tate wrote or went in person to the great reformer and was 
sure of a full and honest answer. Luther's modest and 
quiet abode was the goal of a pilgrimage second to none 
of the Crusades. All the secrets of the soul, all the troubles 
of social and political life, were poured into his sympathiz- 
ing heart in every German jargon, from the rasping gut- 
terals of the Swiss Rhine to the lisping sibilants of the 
half-Slavic Drina. Let us add to this an inborn gift of ex- 
pression, a delicate ear for proprieties of speech and vocal 
utterance, a quick perception of what was most available, 
and a sturdy common sense in recognizing what was at- 
tainable, and we shall begin to realize how it was that 
Luther became the Luther who personifies to us the abid- 
ing element of German thought and speech." 

There are nevertheless certain points connected with 
the spread of Luther's German upon which we are not yet 
fully informed. But it is safe to say that its triumphal 
march was not so rapid as the phrase u Luther, the creator 
of the N. H. G. language'' would lead one to suppose. It 
met with vigorous opposition in several quarters. To sep- 
arate Luther's language from his personality was no 
easy matter. It was the bearer of Protestant ideas. This 
circumstance made its progress in Roman Catholic coun- 
tries a slow one. How closely his language was associated 
with the doctrines he taught may be inferred from the 
single fact that Gottsched's Sprachiehre, published just 
before the middle of the eighteenth century, was for some 
time a prohibited book in countries that still adhered to 
the old belief. Nay, even in Protestant lands progress 
was slow. German particularism, not unfrequently a syn- 

A History of the German Language 83 

onym for the narrowest sectionalism, sometimes entered 
the lists in defense of local peculiarities in language, no 
less than in other affairs. Even as late as the middle of the 
seventeenth century or after, Thomas Platter, in Protestant 
Basel writes his autobiography in the Alemanian dialect. 
In 1671 the authorities of the Canton of Bern issued a 
rescript to the clergy in which they are exhorted to refrain 
from the use of an uncommon and novel German, u which 
only annoys the intelligent and neither instructs the com- 
mon people in the truths of Christianity nor edifies them." 
On Iy. G. territory the spread of Leather's language was 
more rapid than farther south. But here too we find oft- 
repeated efforts to raise the local speech to the dignity of 
a literary language ; and these have not yet entirely ceased. 
A number of periodicals and almanacs are still printed in 
L. G. Besides the designed opposition there was that also 
which was unintentional. There are still extant letters 
written in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that 
exhibit a strange mixture of book-German and folk-speech. 
Specimens of this may be seen in the correspondence of 
the duchess Elizabeth of Saxony with her brother the 
landgrave Philip of Hesse. They show that the spirit was 
willing but the flesh weak. 

Those who are interested in a fuller discussion of this subject will 
find it somewhat briefly but lucidly treated by Professor Kluge, in 
his Von Luther bis Lessing and more fully in an unfinished work by 
Professor Rueckert, Geschichte der neuhochdeutschen /Sch?^ifts^)rache. 

It is evident from what has been said, and much more 
might be said, that despite the zealous efforts of gram- 
marians and the appearance of prominent writers in the 
sixteenth century there hardly existed a conscious unity 
in the German language. In the next century such a goal 
was clearly before the mind of scholars, but the deviations 
from a direct course toward it were still sufficiently evi- 
dent. It was not until the latter half of the eighteenth 
century that unification was really an accomplished fact. 

84 A History of the German Language 

Upon the border between the old and the new era the most 
prominent figure is Haller. In the two first editions of 
his poems there are marked traces of the Alemanian dialect 
for as he himself says, " I am a Swiss. The German lan- 
guage is a foreign one to me and I have little practice in 
the selection of words," where he evidently means that he 
has been in the habit of using the words that he had 
learned in childhood. But in the third edition the traces 
of his maternal dialect have almost disappeared. Eleven 
editions of his poems were issued during his life, or be- 
tween the years 1732-77, though nearly all were written 
before 1735. His long residence in Germany dating from 
1736 had doubtless much to do with this change in his 

Complete uniformity does not even yet prevail and will 
probably never be attained. Provincial variations in lan- 
guage still occur, especially in the borderlands, as would 
be expected. In most cases when a writer is an Austrian 
or a Swiss one can discover his nationality in his writings. 
It is, for example, a characteristic of the latter to use the 
word rufen in the sense of hervorrufen, verlangen, as der 
Antrag rief einer t anger en Discussion, for der Antrag 
rief eine Idngere Discussion hervor. Here both 
the verb and its object are not in accord with good Ger- 
man usage. Or, man hatte schon lange einer Verbesserung 
dieser Strasze gerufen, for man hatte schon lange eine V. 
deiser Strasze verlangt. This phraseology is found even 
in Godfrey Keller one of the leading poets of the present 
century. Another Swiss peculiarity is the word jeweilen 
for bisweilen ; bemithend in the sense of peinlich, an einer 
Sac he bettragen for zu einer Sac he bettragen. 

The Shibboleth of the Austrian is the construction ver- 
ges sen auf etwas for etwas vergessen, as "auf die Er- 
weiterung des Wahlrechts hatte er verges sen" for die 
Erweiterung des W.; and further, iiber instead of auf, ge- 
m'dsz, as, iiber Beschlusz, iiber Auftrag ; likewise the word 

A History of the German Language 85 

Gepflogenheit (Sitte, Gewohnheit) which has, however, 
come to be something more than an Austrian peculiarity. 
Ueberall is not un frequently found in North German 
writers in the sense o>t uberhaupt, as, "es ware die Pflicht 
des Herausgebers gewesen, wenn er den Aufsatz iiberall ac- 
ceptierte" (Rundschau VII. ,317). The use of ennnernfot 
sich ennnern is likewise characteristic of North Germany, 
as. "von der Melodie er inner e ich nur einen Theil instead 
of er inner e ich mich, etc. It is not improbable, now that 
the political metropolis of Germany is on L,. G. territory 
and is likewise gaining more and more prominence in art 
and literature, that we shall find an increasing number of 
L. G. provincialisms finding their way into books and 
periodicals. The number of variations from a uniform 
standard becomes much larger when we take into account 
those that are not local in character but the result of indi- 
vidual initiative. And while it is conceivable, though not 
probable, that local peculiarities might in time disappear, 
those that have a personal stamp will from their very na- 
ture never cease to find utterance, owing to causes that lie 
in the nature of language. 

There is not a moment, as we shall see farther on, when 
the development of a language is at a standstill. By vir- 
tue of a law of inherent necessity new word-forms, new 
combinations of old words, and even wholly new words 
are called into existence without cessation. And so there 
goes on an endless struggle between the old and the new ; 
there is a prevailing uncertainty, a vascillation in the use 
of language that can never be removed from a living 
tongue. We may call the product excrescences and cor- 
ruptions, blossoms of style or weeds of style, neologisms 
or barbarisms, or what not, but we know that the thing 
exists and will continue to spring into existence. It was 
the observation of these phenomena that led the poet 
Horace to write, "It is a license that has been granted and 
ever will be, to put forth a new word stamped with the 

86 A History of the German Language 

current die. At each year's fall the forests change their 
leaves, those green in spring then drop to earth ; even so 
the old race of words passes away, while new-born words, 
like youths, flourish in vigorous lite." 

These observations are true not only of German and 
Latin, but of every language, so long as it is in constant use. 
The same forces are everywhere at work and the products 
similar. It is plainly evident in our day that the birth of 
new words, like the birth of human beings, largely 
exceeds in number the death of old ones, as may be seen 
from a comparison of a recently compiled dictionary with 
one of older date. In fact there seems to be a concerted 
effort on the part of lexicographers to secure from entire 
oblivion any word that has ever found its way into print. 

In what may be designated as morphology, the German 
exhibits a comparatively small number of variations. It 
is equally correct to say der Friede and der Frieden, des 
Baiters and des Bauern, die Lumpe and die Lumpen; and 
so of other doublets. Er kommt and er kommt are both 
permissible though the former is doubtless to be preferred ; 
er schwor and er schwiir, er fragte and er frug are all in 
use though perhaps in all cases the weight of authority is 
in favor of one or the other of the two forms. In the follow- 
ing examples the second is preferable to the first, die Brote- 
die Brote^ die Spornen-dieSporen, hand gehabt-gehandhabt. 
Variations in the usage and mistakes in the collocations 
of words are of frequent occurrence. Persons who have 
not sufficient education to write grammatically have nev- 
ertheless something to say in which the public is often 
interested, or which the writers believe will be of interest 
to others besides themselves. We accordingly find such 
errors as, trotz des Reg ens for trots dem Re gen; wahrend 
des Tages and wahrend dem Tage; der Gehalt and das 
Gehalt; ich habe gestanden and ich bin gestanden. But 
trots as a preposition properly takes the genitive case like 
wahrend, Gehalt is of the masculine gender, and stchen is 

A History of the German Language 87 

conjugated with sein. Not unfrequently ich anerkenne is 
used for ich erkenne an ; der mich betroffene UnfalL instead 
of der Unfall, der mich betroffen. We read of einer 
reitenden Artillerie-Kaserne or of einer Idndlichen Arbei- 
terfrage, though the barracks are not mounted nor is the 
question agrarian. A large number of erroneous col- 
locations of words arise from the circumstance that during 
the act of writing or speaking two equally authorized ex- 
pressions occur to the mind at the same time and a part 
only of each is used. This will explain such phrases as 
sich befindlich, which is evidently a mixture of sich befin- 
dend and befindlich. Renter often uses the formula, wat 
gelt mi dat an, plainly a combination of a part of was gilt 
mir das? and of was geht mich das an? In Emilia Galotti, 
when Claudia tells how furious Emilia's father had been 
on learning that the prince had lately seen her "nichtohne 
Miszf alien" (not without displeasure), she really meant 
nicht ohne Wohlgefallen, the exact opposite of what her 
words taken literally, signify. 

Mistakes in the use of words are usually of two 
kinds. On the one hand, old words are used with new 
meanings which do not properly belong to them ; as for 
example when verdanken is employed in the sense of Dank 
sagen while it can properly be used only in the sense of the 
French 'devoir.' It is correct to say ich verdanke ihm 
dieses (I am indebted to him for this, je lui dois ceci ), but 
ich sage ihm Dank fur dieses ( I thank him for this}) has a 
somewhat different meaning. Again, beilaufig ( incident- 
ally) is used as if it were ungefdhr instead oinebenbei 
bemerkt; or bereits in the sense of beinahe (almost) instead 
of schon (already). On the other hand and the number 
of errors of this sort is legion new words are formed, gen- 
erally new derivatives or new compounds. As the Ger- 
man lends itself so readily to combinations of this kind 
there is a great temptation for those who have occasion to 
use a new word to coin one to suit their real or imagined 

88 A History of the German Language 

purpose. But it requires an adequate knowledge of the 
language to coin new words in conformity to its principles. 
Some of the most offensive of these neologisms are dies- 
bezilglich, Lebendgeburten, Nebensatzlichkeiten (Nebensatze), 
daherig, demnachstig, mittlerweilig , verbescheiden, and so 
on. A mere glance at the mode of composition employed 
in these words will enable the reader to see its illegitimacy. 
The largest contingent of neologisms is furnished by the 
newspaper press. Newspaper German and bad German 
are pretty nearly synonymous terms, a statement that is 
true of other modern languages also. And the complaints 
are growing in frequency over the degeneracy of this cur- 
rent ephemeral literature. Almost all who write are so 
eager to come before the public that it does not seem to 
make much difference to them in what garb. The ille- 
gitimate offspring of the faculty of speech to which atten- 
tion has been briefly called above, together with other 
divergences from the normal type are chiefly those of con- 
struction and word-formation. They are not as noticeable 
to foreigners or to persons of limited culture as the varia- 
tions in pronunciation to which attention has already been 
called. The same vowels and diphthongs as well as the 
same consonants and combination of consonants are 
very differently pronounced in different parts of Ger- 
many. This is mystifying not only to the foreigner 
who has learned his German chiefly from books, but 
a stumbling-block to the Germans themselves who are 
often at a loss to understand the language of a district 
lying at some distance from their own. In view of the 
facts in the case, it is a question how the efforts toward the 
unification of the N. H. G. can be most judiciously direct- 
ed toward the accomplishment of the desired end. If, as 
I hope to show later, all these divergences and errors have 
a psychological justification ; if all progress in language 
is closely related to them, are we not in duty bound to let 
them have free course? Shall not we make a practical 

A History of the German Language 89 

application of the words of Goethe, " What we understand 
we can not find fault with"? It is doubtful whether such 
a conclusion naturally follows. In morals, in social life, 
many things are done to which we can not justly take ex- 
ception, but which may nevertheless be prohibited by ethi- 
cal or statute laws because they are incompatible with the 
objects for which society exists. The unconditioned liberty 
of one person interferes with that of others. He 
is a rare man who can do as he pleases without 
coming in conflict with his fellow men. The ends 
at which society aims in the use of language may 
also require an interference against a license that 
is proper enough in itself. The mere fact of the ex- 
istence of a written language is in contravention of the 
hereditary rights of dialects. Errors of speech and disre- 
gard of the laws of language are contrary to the ends for 
which languages exist, and to a greater or less extent de- 
feat those ends. These are the accurate communication 
of thoughts and feelings to others. In order that com- 
munication may be adequate and exact, language must 
possess two characteristics : perfect comprehensibility and 
perfect beauty of form. Offenses against beauty of form 
are harmful in two ways. The attention of the reader or 
listener is withdrawn from the contents of a communica- 
tion to mere externals and therefore to non-essentials. 
Generally when our aesthetic sense is offended by an inar- 
tistic form in language we unconsciously get an aversion 
to the content. An educated person is rarely impressed 
by the words of a speaker who uses bad grammar, as he 
would be if he spoke correctly. Most errors of speech are 
not only a bar to perfect intelligibility but are also sins 
against the canons of style. An unusual expression or a 
word to which we are unaccustomed does not call up in 
the mind with the same rapidity the designed representa- 
tion that an old and familiar one does. A keen sense of 
beauty and propriety is painfully wounded when words 


90 A History of the German Language 

having an entirely modern stamp are used side by side 
with obsolete ones. There is no doubt then, it would 
seem, that we are perfectly right when we demand of each 
individual that for the benefit of all he shall refrain from 
the employment of all incorrect forms of speech. And 
though the variations in German may have a certain justi- 
fication for their existence, we do right in demanding the 
avoidance of everything that may lead to uncertainty, and 
in setting up a norm of correct speech. The simplest 
style, a mode of expression that is easily understood by 
the most unlettered rustic may nevertheless be just as 
correct in grammar and as careful in the choice of words 
as the most ornate. There can be no possible advantage 
in fostering dialectic diversity and there is considerable 
disadvantage, while the tendency of advancing civilization 
is clearly toward uniformity. Almost everything that can 
be said in favor of diversity is that it is easier for every- 
body to express himself in his native dialect than to ac- 
custom himself to a style with which he is more or less 
unfamiliar. But if we attach any weight to such a laissez- 
faire doctrine we may as well go further and object to learn- 
ing everything that is difficult. 

But the serious question is this : How shall we decide 
in each particular instance whether a word or a mode of 
speech is to be regarded as correct, or at least admissible, 
or incorrect. At the first blush we should be inclined to 
demand that language shall conform to the laws of logic. 
For there is no doubt that the logical contradictions and 
vague expressions that we meet with in language obstruct 
a clear comprehension of the meaning and disagreeably 
affect the artistic sense. On this ground then much that 
is spoken and written must at once be discarded as illogical. 
But our faith in the competency of the rules of logic to 
decide questions in language is rudely shaken when we 
discover that in many cases language and logic are not on 
friendly terms with each other, and that the concepts fre- 

A History of the German Language 91 

quently combined in words do not comport with the rules 
of logic. The term J/fl^/zewr/ 1 which in old English was 
'mold-warp' because the animal so named casts up the 
mold ought to mean a throw that is made with the mouth 
or snout, but not a little creature that casts up the earth 
with its feet. In this case the English designation is more 
nearly correct than the German. We hear of a Vaterbrust, 
of a Gansebrust as designating the breast of a father or 
of a goose, and a bodice is called a Schnilrbrust because it 
is used to lace the breast. In all these compounds there 
is not much deviation from the meaning of the simple 
words that enter into them. But who by taking these as 
a guide could divine the signification of Armbrust (cross- 
bow) ? The Germans say eine Ansicht teilen just as we 
say in English ' to share an opinion ' or ' a view,' in spite 
of the fact that when an opinion is shared with one or 
more persons it does not for that reason become the less, 
as if it were a material substance. It is sometimes said 
of a person that his coat or his home or his native land got 
too small for him ; and yet it was the man alone who 
changed. Logically then we could only say that he be- 
came too large for his coat after the manner of the homely 
proverb " he got too big for his boots." It is illogical and 
objectionable to speak of one who has drunk as einen ge- 
trunkenen\ nevertheless ein Trunkener is exactly equiva- 
lent in meaning to ein Getrunkener. Similarly we say in 
English, the man was drunk, when in fact it was an intox- 
icating liquid that was drunk. It would be logical to say, 
the man has drunk, but not that he was drunk. The 
word Bedienter (literally, one who is served) does not des- 
ignate the recipient of a service at the hands of another, 
but one whose business it is to render service to another. 
A biting dog is a dog that bites just as a kicking mule is 
one that kicks, but a riding-saddle or a riding-horse is a 
saddle or a horse to be rode on, while a drinking-cup or a 
drinking-fountain are neither to be drunk nor things that 

92 A History of the German Language 

drink, but they are objects to be used for drinking pur- 
poses. We thus find that the English participle in -ing is 
used in two exactly opposite senses, and its particular 
meaning in any given instance must always be determined 
by the context. The same is true of other languages. 
The German entbloden is formed just like entkleiden and 
entfarben, and might rationally be supposed to signify, to 
lay off one's modesty, shamefacedness, or in other words 
to be equivalent to sick nicht scheuen. In fact, however 
" er entblodete sich nicht" is used like " er scheute sich 
nicht" where the negative in the first sentence is plainly 
illogical. The terms Fastnacht, Weihnacht refer not only 
to the hours of the night, but much more to those of the 
day. The English fortnight is similarly used. It would 
be an unendurable contradiction to speak of a piece of 
wooden iron or of a quadrangular circle ; yet Wachsstreich- 
holzchen is in common use as well as viereckige Fenster- 
scheibe, notwithstanding the fact that Scheibe means disk. 
It will thus be seen that there are illogical forms of expres- 
sion that are linguistically incorrect and others that are 
universally regarded as correct. In some cases we notice 
the logical inconsistency, in others we do not. The rules 
of logic will not therefore enable us to decide whether a 
given word or phrase is grammatically correct or incor- 
rect. Questions of this sort must be brought before an- 
other tribunal for decision. This will be further evident 
from some additional considerations. Of a given number 
of words formed exactly alike, some will stand the test of 
logic and some will not. The German vocabulary con- 
tains the word Mannes alter ; logically then it ought also 
to contain the word Frauenalter, or at least such a com- 
pound would be in accordance with the principles of word- 
composition. Yet it does not occur. Conversely we find 
Frauenzimmer but not Manneszimmer. From Tag are 
formed tagen and Tagung to designate the meeting of a 
congress, diet, etc., by day. It would be logical then to 

A History of the German Language 93 

speak of the same occurence if it took place at night as 
nachten and Nachlung. But these words are not a part of 
the German vocabulary, and if one were to coin them they 
would be scarcely intelligible in spite of their familiar 
analogues. It is correct to say ganz ^{,nd gar nicht and 
even gar nicht, but the people of Basel are clearly in the 
wrong when they say, as they often do, ganz nicht. From 
the few examples above given, which might be increased 
almost indefinitely, it is easy to see that grammatical anal- 
ogy affords little or no aid in determining what is correct 
in language and what is not. 

But perhaps the aesthetic feelings will furnish us with a 
more trustworthy guide than anything else ; for it is uni- 
versally admitted that in order to fulfill the objects for 
which speech exists, beauty of form is of paramount im- 
portance. We might make a test by allowing the intelli- 
gent public to decide between two forms of expression, in 
order to ascertain which is the more nearly perfect. Here 
too, as is usually the case where the beauty of an object is 
the matter under consideration, the question to be deter- 
mined is how far the passage under consideration com- 
bines harmony of form and content. But since, in lan- 
guage as we find it to-day, with only the rarest exceptions, 
no relation exists between the form of a word and its 
meaning the whole discussion falls to the ground at once. 
If we were to assume that the beauty of a word or of a 
collocation of words consisted solely in their power to fur- 
nish gratification to the sense of hearing we should find 
ourselves in the domain of music and of pure subjectivity, 
when, in effect, we are doing what we can to curb the ten- 
dency to resort to individual judgment. And as there are 
all degrees of capacity among men to appreciate the 
beauty of musical sounds, the same is true when applied 
to language. Here then as in music there are a number 
of generally recognized and well established laws that can 
be broken with impunity only by the privileged few. Men 

5>4 A History of the German Language 

equally competent judges and equally masters of a lan- 
guage may differ as to which of two words or two expres- 
sions is the more harmonious. It is well to remember too 
that what is familiar is generally more or less agreeable. 
We listen with pleasure to the language or the melodies 
to which we have been long accustomed though to others 
they may sound harsh and inharmonious. In like man- 
ner long usage may blind us to blemishes of style and 
bad grammar, a fact of which daily observation furnishes 
us with numerous examples. The question is easier 
answered if we put it thus : which of two words harmo- 
nizes better with its environment in a given sentence? 
The chief beauty of discourse consists in unity of style. 
No attempt should be made to place antique ornamenta- 
tion on modern furniture, nor should venturesome innova- 
tions be mingled with well established art-forms of the 
past. In this respect, then, the competence of the aesthetic 
judgment is beyond dispute. Unfortunately the aesthetic 
sense of the Germans is not at all sensitive. We have 
sufficient evidence of this in the obvious tendency to use 
foreign words. Many persons who attach great impor- 
tance to style and to being " in the style," in many things 
and who would regard it as little short of sacrilege to put 
modern furniture in an old German chamber do not hesi- 
tate to employ a motley intermixture of German, Latin 
and French words in discourse without the faintest con- 
ception of the sins against style they are committing. 
How much more difficult then will it be for this feebly de- 
veloped feeling for style to discriminate justly among pure 
German words ? The only remedy lies in the cultivation 
and development of a higher sense of propriety in matters 
of literary form before it can be relied on for guidance. 
It is however always easy to determine by direct percep- 
tion whether a word or an expression is perfectly clear 
without calling in the adventitious aid of logic and aes- 
thetics. Words, whether simple or compound, and sen- 

A History of the German Language 95 

tences are intelligible in proportion to our familiarity with 
their use either by ourselves or by others. Usage alone 
decides what is correct and what incorrect. That which 
is in common use is linguistically right and what is un- 
usual is wrong. Careful observation of usage alone will 
cultivate the sense of harmony in speech whether written 
or spoken, and it is only by this means that absolute per- 
fection can be more and more nearly reached. The sense 
of style is nothing more than knowledge that has become 
unconscious, a reminiscence of the collocation of words 
often observed before, and a recognition of others that 
have an unfamiliar look. This is the rule of Horace, or 
rather a statement of facts observed by him, nearly two 
thousand years ago, when he says that new words come 
into existence and others die 

si volet usus, quern penes arbitriumst et jus et 

norma loquendi : 

Every Grammar and every Rhetoric that has ever been 
written, beginning with Aristotle, is nothing more than 
an attempt to formulate into rules the usage followed by 
the best writers. Language precedes grammar, and not 
grammar, language. But how shall we proceed to ascer- 
tain the laws of linguistic usage ? The German as well as 
the Englishman is not so fortunately situated in this re- 
gard as the members of several other nations. For him 
there is no legislative body, no Academy like the French, 
always prepared to render a decision upon doubtful points. 
Many have regretted this; in spite of the fact that it is 
doubtful whether such a corporation has much influence in 
directing the development of language. The comprehen- 
sive mind of Leibniz concerned itself more than two hun- 
dred years ago with the formation of a German Academy, 
and in quite recent times the demand for such an institu- 
tion has again found expression in public prints and 
elsewhere. It is very doubtful, however, whether the re- 
sults likely to be attained are worth the effort. In the 

96 A History of the German Language 

first place, where could a dozen, or even half a dozen 
German scholars be found who would be able to come to 
an agreement as to what is the usage of their language, 
and competent to lay down a set of rules in the matter ? 
When the question of regulating German orthography 
was discussed at a conference recently called to meet in 
Berlin for that purpose, it was found that even upon such 
a subordinate and apparently unimportant matter no 
agreement could be reached. The English advocates of a 
spelling reform are likewise meeting with but little en- 
couragement. But aside from such practical difficulties it 
lies in the nature of the case that a set of printed rules 
can not keep pace with the growth of a living language. 
The writing public pays little attention to such rules. If 
a new word aptly designates a new thing it will be gener- 
ally adopted, no matter how illogically it may be con- 
structed. In like manner, a happily turned phrase rapidly 
gains currency no matter how repugnant it may be to a 
cultivated taste, provided it be expressive. The experi- 
ence of the French shows very plainly the difficulties that 
such a code has to encounter. The more persistently the 
Dictionnaire de I ^Academie adhered to its elegant classi- 
cism the stronger grew the sentiment against it, and the 
more rampant did unbridled license in language become 
as the Romantic school began to grow in popular favor. 
As a result the French are to-day not much better off in 
this respect than the Germans ; their periodicals are about 
as mucK as the German the arena on which carelessness 
in the use of words and expressions have full play, and 
where neologisms abound. 

Fewer drawbacks, doubtless, attach to the labors and 
suggestions of private individuals than to dicta of official 
bodies. Rules are not so likely to become obsolete, for the 
reason that with a constant effiux of fresh writings the 
new takes its place alongside of the old. Books of rules 
no doubt have their uses, but it is neither convenient nor 

A History of the German Language 97 

profitable to turn to their pages when writing or speaking 
in order to ascertain how that which we have to say may 
be most fitly expressed. Such a proceeding would be 
very much as if one were in a company and the question 
happening to turn upon some difficult point of etiquette 
we should have recourse to Knigge's Umgang mit Men- 
schen, or to some similar manual that we might happen to 
have with us. Usage in language must not be a mere ex- 
ternal matter ; it needs to be a part of one's self. This it 
can never become if we do not drink for ourselves from 
the same fountains from which the compilers of lexicons 
and dictionaries have drawn. How to express our thoughts 
intelligibly and intelligently as well as with grace, is a 
power that can only be acquired through a familiarity 
with the way others have habitually given utterance to 
their thoughts. We must make our own the highly de- 
veloped sense of form in language acquired by others. 
Generally speaking, the more one reads the more acute 
will his sense of the beauty of diction become. But it 
should be carefully noted that it is not the quantity of the 
matter read that makes the well-read man. The votes 
must not be merely counted ; they must also be weighed. 
We can not learn what constitutes good breeding from 
those who are indifferent to good breeding. The litera- 
ture of the passing day most of which is entitled to be 
called literature solely because it is expressed in the letters 
of the alphabet that is produced so hurriedly as to ex- 
clude every consideration of style, can not exercise a 
formative influence on the mode of expression of those 
who read it. Its tendency is deformative, rather. This 
is true not only of the average newspaper, but of the writ- 
ings of many authors who are the favorites of the multi- 
tude, and who consider themselves under obligations to 
bless the world every year with a fresh novel. Yet it is 
true, on the other hand, that one of the most prolific liv- 
ing authors, Paul Heyse, is likewise an incomparable mas- 

98 A History of the German Language 

ter of German style. But there is one other practice be- 
sides the reading of newspapers and other periodicals 
that blunts the keen sense of style : this is translating 
from foreign languages. Translators rarely succeed in 
eliminating all the peculiarities of the foreign tongue. 
Latinisms and Gallicisms have almost become an integral 
part of German, or are in a fair way to become so. But 
the German itself may be the means of defiling its own 
purity. How this is liable to happen can be seen in the 
writings of Jacob Grimm. It is with genuine enjoyment 
that the appreciative reader observes his wonderful mas- 
tery over his native German. With what warmth and en- 
thusiasm does he enter into its life and spirit ! How 
thoroughly he has at command all the resources of the 
language! But his familiarity with its earlier stages 
seems not unfrequently to have blunted a comprehension 
of the legitimate claims of current speech ; old German 
words and combinations of words are not uncommon in 
his works. There are doubtless intentional deviations 
from modern usage for the purpose of expressing 
thoughts and things belonging to the past. A like prone- 
ness to resort to the use of archaisms is often noticeable 
in the writings of clergymen and others who are habitual 
readers of the English Bible. 

Language, as has been said above, is in perpetual growth 
and movement. As new words come into vogue with new 
things, old ones pass into oblivion with the disuse of the 
objects to which thev are affixed. There will thus often 
occur cases where the exigency of the occasion compels a 
writer, when dealing with the past, to sacrifice either the 
accuracy of his designation of an object or the justness of 
the conception he wishes to express, or to introduce anti- 
quated words and formulas. It may be assumed to be al- 
together impossible to write in a strictly modern style upon 
subjects that pertain chiefly or wholly to the past. There 
is a class of writers who of set purpose deviate from the 

A History of the German Language 99 

current fashion of language. They are the humorists. 
Errors readily noticed often serve to heighten the comic 
effects they wish to produce, and the design of portraying 
the petty concerns of life frequently leads to the use of 
new and unheard of compounds. Richter has incidentally 
touched upon the value to him, of any newly coined word 
that he can press into his service for the portrayal of half 
and quarter tints. To the same class belongs also the 
large guild of popular writers whose aim is either to de 
scribe the life of the people or to exercise some influence 
upon them for a purpose. In order to make themselves 
easily understood they designedly ignore the laws of cul- 
tivated or even of correct speech. It would be wholly out 
of place to cite as models of good German such authors as 
Hebel, Gotthelf or Rosegger. The first of these, a writer 
of remarkable merit, employed almost exclusively as the 
vehicle of expression, the Alemanian dialect ; the 
second made use of several Austrian dialects, while the 
third, whose real name was Bitzins wrote for the most part 
in the German of the Bernese Swiss. In the writings of 
scholars we often find an intentional neglect of style. 
There was a time when it was regarded as somewhat of a 
reproach among the learned to write well. He who at- 
tached much importance to elegance of diction was liable 
to the charge of superficiality, though it needs to be said 
that: this state of affairs prevailed hardly anywhere except 
in Germany. Fortunately, this opinion is losing ground 
more and more, so that the modern historians are scarcely 
less careful of their manner of writing than of the* matter 
they use. It has come to be regarded as an essential quali- 
fication of the historian that he shall combine artistic skill 
in the use of language with thoroughness of research. 
Accordingly the prose of writers like Ranke, Gregorovius, 
Hausrath and Treitschke is almost a model of excellence. 
It may surprise the reader that the works of the classical 
German writers Lessing, Schiller and Goethe are not 

100 A History of the German Language 

placed in the front rank in point of style. The reason is 
plain : it is inadmissible to set up as models for contem- 
poraries, the works of writers who belonged to a past age. 
A careful examination will make it clear that the process 
of development in language has carried us a considerable 
distance beyond the literary form they employed for the 
expression of their thoughts. This is more particularly 
true of Lessing, but it must also be said of Schiller and 
Goethe that we can hardly open a page of their writings 
without finding words and phrases that have a somewhat 
foreign look. It may seem a little discouraging to find 
that the clearness after which we are told to strive in 
writing will soon count for little or nothing. Nevertheless 
this changing fashion in language will no more justify. us 
in neglecting the proprieties of form than the mutability 
of social observances excuses us from paying any attention 
to them. There is however a large element of perma- 
nence in literary work that fulfills the highest require- 
ments of literary art. It is not probable that the time will 
ever come when any nation will permit its masterpieces to 
sink into neglect. On the contrary, it is the excellence of 
its style that keeps alive many a work of which the con- 
tents have ceased to be of general interest. Not unfre- 
quently it is possible for us to anticipate the course of de- 
velopment that a language will take. The most careful 
observer even when possessed of the keenest sense of the 
beauties of style will not always be able to determine in- 
fallibly which of two or more verbal forms or phrases is 
entitled to the preference. In the struggle between the 
old and the new there must always be times when two 
forces are in equilibrium ; when for two different modes 
of expression, two equally weighty authorities may be 
cited. Under such circumstances, what is one to do? 
Regard for clearness will not solve the difficulty, and so 
we must project the present into the future. In this case 
as in many others, the historian of the past may become 

A History of the German Language 101 

the prophet of the future. One who has carefully studied 
the development of a language in the past is often able to 
predict which of two forms equally correct at the present 
time will ultimately displace the other. If the question 
were asked, for instance, whether one ought to say des 
Bauers or des Bauern, the thorough student of German 
might with confidence predict that the former will in the 
not distant future be regarded as the only correct termina- 
tion. Half a century and more ago a number of English 
words were accented on the penult or antepenult ; but the 
tendency of the accent is regressive so that it now rests 
one or even two syllables nearer the beginning of the 
word. It is therefore safe to assume that others will fol- 
low the same law. Of course, these are criteria that not 
many persons are able to use and there are comparatively 
few instances in which a safe prediction is possible. It 
only remains then for us to recognize with philosophical 
resignation the uncertainty of the situation. It is folly to 
make demands upon language to which in the nature of 
things it can not respond ; we must allow to it the free- 
dom of development which we grant to every living or- 
ganism and deny to no other product of the human soul. 


It has been shown that there are a number of points 
upon which the N. H. G. has not yet reached the stage of 
complete uniformity and regularity. It is now proposed 
to call attention to some additional facts that point in the 
same direction. The uniformity thus far spoken of, exists 
in reality only on paper and has to do only with reading 
matter. The advance that has been made toward securing 
unity in the spoken language is still in its inception. But 
the movement in this direction, though only fairly begun, 
is destined to continue with accelerating speed and the 
dialects are doomed to extinction. Whether this is to be 
looked upon with regret or with satisfaction is not a mat- 

102 A History of the German Language 

ter to be here considered ; the result is inevitable and to 
contend against it, useless. The objects for which language 
exists imperatively demand the removal of this obstacle 
to facility of communication. Under existing conditions 
the peasants of Westphalia and the herdsmen of Switzer- 
land, when each uses his vernacular, comprehend each 
other as little as the French understand the Chinese, 
though both the former speak the same language. 

The most potent agency in this mission of civilization 
is the school. Here the attention of both eye and ear is 
persistently directed to the language as it is written and 
printed. The living word as it is heard in the pulpit like- 
wise exercises an influence, though not a powerful one, be- 
cause its chief object is comprehensibility, and it accord- 
ingly conforms to local conditions. There are, however, 
localities where the sway of dialect is still comparatively 
unbroken. In the Canton of Bern a few years ago, 
ministers still preached in the local vernacular. Still 
weaker is the influence of the stage, because only a 
small part of the population comes within its sphere. Of 
great importance is the habit of reading which is simply 
an intensifying and continuing of the work begun in the 
school, a habit that is greatly encouraged by the issue of 
numerous periodicals. The facilities for easy intercourse 
between different parts of the country do a good deal toward 
obliterating dialectic differences. In the not distant past, 
persons could easily be found who had never passed a day 
beyond the sound of their local vernacular. At the present 
time it would be hard to find a school-boy whose travels 
have not extended farther. The same causes likewise 
make a change of residence comparatively easy. Re- 
movals from one place to another are, accordingly, more 
frequent than formerly and are often to a greater distance. 
The slight divergences between the language spoken in 
the different parts of the United States are largely due to 
the easy means of intercommunication. Here too, one 

A History of the German Language 103 

may see to what extent the least visited sections have the 
most marked peculiarities of speech and to what extent 
they are persistent. 

The relation existing between written and spoken lan- 
guage may be of various kinds. The majority of persons 
employ their native folk-speech in conversation. Many 
who are able to understand the language of books are un- 
able to use it. There is, besides, a tolerably large contin- 
gent that can understand only their local vernacular. 
Those persons are rare who use only the written language ; 
and they are for the most part such as have acquired the 
German later in life. Among native Germans this can 
only be the case where there is below them no numerous 
and comparatively uneducated populace. This is the sit- 
uation of the Germans in the Baltic provinces of Russia. 
Among persons who use both the spoken and the written 
language, there are many gradations. Comparatively few 
speak in pure dialect, and the number of those who are 
wholly free from any trace of dialect is equally small. 
Usually there is a mixture of both, with the preponder- 
ance in favor of the one or the other. The unconscious 
oscillation between one and the other frequently produces 
a comic effect and has even been represented in literature. 
Fritz Renter is perhaps the best known writer who has 
made use of it. The mixture is often different in the 
same individual ; or it may vary in the same class of per- 
sons, or in the different provinces of the German empire. 
In conversation with a stranger, a German is likely to dis- 
card local peculiarities as much as possible ; in familiar in- 
tercourse with an acquaintance he will probably use the 
vernacular most freely. The more serious the subject of 
discussion the nearer is he likely to approach the language 
of books. On the platform, in public lectures, in the pro- 
fessor's chair the hearers do not readily tolerate the use of 
dialect. In addressing a superior, the language of books 
is more likely to be employed than to an inferior. The 

104 A History of the German Language 

language of deliberation will usually be more correct than 
that of passion or exhaustion. The educated man is less 
apt to use a dialect than the illiterate ; the man who has 
traveled extensively, than he who has spent most of 
his life at home ; the dweller in the city, than the in- 
habitant of a rural district ; the courtier, than the plain 

Within the territory of the, L,. G. pure H. G. is much 
more frequently heard than in other portions of the Em- 
pire. Dialectic peculiarities are most common and most 
noticeable in the higher classes of Swabia, Bavaria, Aus- 
tria and Switzerland. In fact, it is rare to find a person 
whose language is not more or less tainted. In some 
parts of Switzerland even the proceedings of the courts 
are conducted in the local speech of the district. The 
spirit of republican independence makes the people of 
this country loth to conform, even in language, to the rules 
prescribed by those who live under a monarchial govern- 
ment. The feeling of local importance that one may find 
in all parts of Germany, but more especially in the south, 
is here intensified by the difference in the form of govern- 
ment. While the speech of wider areas has certain gen- 
eral characteristics in common, there are other character- 
istics that pertain to narrower circles within these. In 
Basel and Bern, to speak now only of Switzerland, the 
use of local dialects is more common than in other parts. 
This is doubtless owing to certain native peculiarities of 
the inhabitants. It may be that in one locality more im- 
portance is attached to external form than in another ; in 
another, the people may incline to local isolation ; while in 
still another, the language may be tenaciously adhered to 
because it is an inheritance that has descended to them 
from their ancestors and which they feel ought to be 
transmitted to posterity as little impaired as possible. 
The fact that the people of North Germany generally 
speak the language with greater purity than those of the 

A History of the German Language 105 

South is to be attributed in part to the greater conservatism 
of the latter and in part to the wider gap that exists be- 
tween the northern vernacular and the N. H. G. 

Wherever the written German is understood the High 
or South German dialects are, in a measure at least, in- 
telligible ; this can not be said of the Low German dia- 
lects. There is, accordingly, a stronger motive for the na- 
tive of North Germany to learn the literary language, 
than there is for the native of other parts. He must con- 
form as far as possible to the language of books in order 
to be understood even by his own countrymen who have 
not learned his particular dialect. Again, it is easier to 
learn an entirely new language and to use it in its purity, 
if it is sharply distiffct from that to which we have been 
accustomed, than it is to learn one that deviates but 
slightly. This statement is subject to some exceptions, 
but is true in the main. 

The relative ease with which we pass from the use of 
one language to another will receive some additional 
elucidation if we look somewhat more closely at the way 
in which the literary German and folk-speech are inter- 
mingled. Single H. G. words find earliest and readiest 
entrance into the dialects, because in such cases the differ- 
ence between meum and tnum is clearly marked. Much 
later and rarer is the introduction of H. G. phrases and 
expressions. There exists, however, another considera- 
tion. H. G. words even in dialectic guise are more easily 
understood than phrases or sentences when used in the 
place of dialect-words. But not all H. G. word-forms find 
equally ready admission into folk-speech ; the more fre- 
quently a dialect word is used the greater the difficulty of 
displacing it. It happens quite frequently that persons 
who attach much importance to purity of speech inad- 
vertently let slip the dialectic forms of ist and nicht. 
These words being among the most frequently used in all 
languages, their pronunciation acquired in childhood be- 

106 A History of the German Language 

comes so confirmed by habit that it is almost the last to be 
exchanged for another. 

But most difficult of all is to observe carefully the rules 
for the pronunciation of particular sounds. This is so be- 
cause, in the first place, that utterance which has been ac- 
quired in connection with the printed page is not clearly 
indicated by the characters to which it is attached. 
Whether st is to be pronounced as it is written, or as scht; 
whether ch is to be sounded as in Bach or as in Bache, can 
not be learned by the eye alone. A second obstacle is 
often interposed by the dialect when it makes no differ- 
ence in pronunciation where one exists in the literary lan- 
guage : the latter has two distinct sounds where the 
former has but one. Persons who are in the habit of 
using a dialect observe that those who speak the H. G. 
employ two different sounds, of which one accords with 
their vernacular while the other does not. But the mem- 
ory often fails to keep them distinct and an uncertainty 
arises as to when the one is to be used and when the other. 
The result is that the dialect sound is frequently carried 
into the H. G., where it does not belong. Few things are 
more difficult to acquire and to remember accurately for 
any considerable length of time than a sound or a tone. 
This failure of memory often produces curious linguistic 
effects. The Alemannian, for instance, knows that he 
should sometimes use an ei in the H. G. where his ver- 
nacular has z', as VPeile for Wil, or schleiche for schliche. 
But by following the analogy of the case too far he is apt 
to say veil when he should say viel, or ich verseichere sie 
when he means ich ver sicker e sie ; and so on. The 
Swabian pronounces the H. G. sind, Wind as if printed 
send and Wend; and misled like his Alemannian brother 
by a false analogy he utters Mensch as if it were written 
Minsch. Or, again, because the H. G. gehabt, geholt are 
pronounced in his native dialect like ghabt and kabt, or 
gholt and kolt ; he in like manner introduces an e after the 

A History of the German Language 107 

initial g, thus making Gehockeler out of Gockler (cock). 
The Austrian utters final -er almost as if written -#, say- 
ing, for example, Winda, when he means Winter. In like 
manner then he is apt to say in Sommer when he means 
in Summa. In the dialect of Leipzig and vicinity au is 
pronounced like o, so that laufen^ for example, becomes 
lofen. Accordingly when the natives want to say Ofen 
they are apt. to call it Aujen, and because Knopfloch ( but- 
ton-hole ) and Knoblauch ( garlic ) are pronounced sub- 
stantially alike in their vernacular, they confound the 
sounds where the result is ridiculous: instead of say- 
ing Knopflochseide they may say, when trying to speak 
H. G., Knoblauchseide. The same uncertainty and con- 
fusion appears when a native Low German tries to use the 
H. G. mir and mich, dir and dick ; for in a large portion of 
L. G. territory the dative and accusative of these two 
words is simply mi and di. It is only those that have 
been well educated who are in all cases able to decide 
quickly which of the two terminations is to be employed. 
Mistakes of this kind are likely to occur whenever and 
wherever there is considerable difference between the 
speech of the educated and the uneducated ; that is, where 
a language of books exists along with one that is only 
spoken. We find persons who having learned that it is 
incorrect to say " talking" " planting " and the like will 
carry the analogy too far and say "chicking'' or "plant- 
ing" when they mean chicken and plantain. Sometimes 
these incorrect forms finally make their way into the lit- 
erary language, as, for example, chickens, which is a double 
plural. The singular is chick, and the plural should end 
in -en like that of ox. Compare also the plurals housen, 
children, brethren and even u sistern." There is hardly 
any doubt that a similar mental process has unconsciously 
been an important factor in giving forms to many German 
words that it would be difficult to account for in any other 
way. We have here simply a process that is of frequent 

108 A History of the German Language 

occurrence in all languages, because the human mind acts 
in much the same way. It is certain that a number of 
pure H. G. words are the result of earlier false analogies. 
Loffel, ergotzen, loschen were in the M. H. G. lejfel, ergetzen 
and leschen; but because in many dialects the H. G. e and 
o stood for the same sound they became confounded in the 
course of time, and usage finally settled upon the wrong 
one. Since the mistake has become known efforts are 
being made to correct the error and restore the correct or- 
thography. The proverb sein Schdfchen ins Trockene 
bnngen has arisen from the L. G. sein Schepken, etc. In 
this dialect Schepken corresponds to the H. G. Schdfchen 
and Schiffchen; but the wrong word was transferred be- 
cause the proverb has reference to putting the ship not the 
sheep into a dry place. In those parts of Germany where 
little is known of ships and much of sheep, the mistake 
was almost certain to be made. 

In many instances when wrong forms, judged by the 
H. G. standard, are used they are not the result of an at- 
tempt to reproduce the correct one, because the speaker is 
incapable of recognizing the difference between the two ; 
or if he recognizes the difference when made by the vocal 
organs of another he makes none when he attempts to pro- 
nounce the words himself. The Saxons and Swabians are 
to a considerable extent afflicted with a sort of deafness 
which prevents them from distinguishing between p and b 
or t and d. It may thus occur that ein typischer character 
becomes ein diebischer character. A lexicon of the Swabian 
has nb words beginning with t and p, their places being 
occupied by d and b. So far as the p as related to t is 
concerned the Gothic prototype is preserved, as there are 
few, if any pure Gothic words beginning with this letter. 
In the case of the initial t as related to d the latter in most 
cases preserves the Gothic sound ; which is also retained 
in English. The Gothic dauhtar, dags, daigs are the 
English 'daughter,' 'day' and 'dough,' and the Swabian 

A History of the German Language 109 

Dochter, Dag and Deig or even Doag are represented in 
theN. H. G. by Tochter, Tag and Teig. How tenaciously 
the dialects resist the displacement of some sounds is evi- 
dent from the fact that for several letters and combinations 
of letters there is no recognized pronunciation to this day. 
It is perhaps admissible to say that the L. G. pronuncia- 
tion of sp and st, which is in accord with the English, is 
incorrect, and that these letters should be sounded as if 
written schp and scht. On the other hand the pronuncia- 
tion of g varies considerably. Sometimes it is sounded 
like j (Eng. y), sometimes like ch, sometimes like the 
English letter of the same name before a, o and u. 
None is universally recognized as correct. A similar state 
of affairs exists in regard to final ng. In some localities it 
is sounded as if written nk, so that Gang t Sang become 
Gank, Sank; in others, it has the same sound when final 
that it has elsewhere in a word. The sound represented 
by the letter r is produced in some districts with the tip 
of the tongue ; in others, with the palate. Sometimes it 
is made to resemble closely the sound of eh, or even a. 
Professor Vischer recently published a humorous article 
in " Gegenwart " under the caption " Sufferings of the 
wretched letter r during its travels through Ger- 
many." In South Germany s is pronounced sharp like 
the English initial s ; but in North Germany like s 
in * houses.' Some of the differences that prevail in 
the pronunciation of the vowels and diphthongs have 
already been pointed out. The divergence in the 
pronunciation of s is perhaps of little importance 
and is doubtless not generally observed. The others 
are of greater consequence and are liable to lead to 
a misconception of the meaning of the speaker. They 
ought therefore as far as possible to be removed. So far 
as the r is concerned there are physical obstacles in the 
way ; but none in the case of g. It is well therefore to 
follow the example of the German stage which is almost 

110 A History of the German Language 

a unit in pronouncing it, at least initial and medial, like 
the English g in such words as game, go and gun. 


Uniformity in spoken and written German, so far as it 
exists at present is the result of a conscious effort and the 
outgrowth of internal necessity. It has nevertheless 
brought with it some disadvantages. So long as a dialect 
was the mode of speech employed by everybody, each 
writer was at liberty to use that particular name to desig- 
nate an object or an idea which it had in the vernacular. 
All newly coined words could forthwith be transferred to 
paper or book. As soon however as a literary language 
came into existence this could no longer be done because 
such a language sought general currency wherever German 
was used. The needs of a larger constituency had thence- 
forth to be kept in view ; and only such words and forms 
of expression were likely to be understood as had already 
come into use in one way and another. The vocabulary 
of a speaker or writer is confined within somewhat circum- 
scribed limits. The more abstract and colorless the sig- 
nification of a word the larger is the number of dialects 
in which it occurs ; the more sensuous and concrete its 
meaning the wider the divergences in the various dialects. 
It is for concepts of this class that it is very difficult to 
find designations that will obtain universal acceptance 
wherever the language is spoken. But there is another 
obstacle in the way. The nature of the subjects discussed 
in print necessarily limits, to some extent, the vocabulary 
that can be used, and the entire body of words is drawn 
upon somewhat unevenly. The portion, therefore, that 
most fully represents local diversity is the least used in 
literature. Given a language in common use among the 
educated only, and it follows as a matter of course that ob- 
jects have a less general interest for this class if they sup- 
ply purely physical needs or if they are closely identified 

A History of the German Language 111 

with the trivial concerns of the every day life of those liv- 
ing at the other end of the social scale. This statement 
applies with particular force to the German literature of 
the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In fact, the lit- 
erature of Germany can hardly be called German litera- 
ture. As has already been pointed out scholars wrote 
chiefly in Latin, and later in French ; and when they con- 
descended to use their vernacular they expressed them- 
selves very clumsily. Where a uniform language is em- 
ployed over a wide extent of territory there are many 
words that can not be used because they have only a local 
existence and many things that can not be spoken of be- 
cause they have no name that is universally understood. 
This is true of a number of plants and animals ; of articles 
of food ; of utensils for domestic use and in agriculture ; 
as well as of many acts that are essential to the prepara- 
tion and use of these objects. It needs but the cursory 
examination of a dictionary intended for general use to 
convince one that it lacks a considerable number of words 
in actual or daily use among the people whose language 
it aims to embody. Much of what is known in English 
as slangy but for which the German language has no exact 
equivalent, is excluded. One may be familiar with the 
language used at times by almost all Germans and yet find 
in every section of their country many new words that he 
will be unable to comprehend or old ones used in a sense 
unfamiliar to him. 

It may be stated here because it affords a familiar example of a 
similar fact that nearly all our so-called Americanisms are not words 
newly coined here, but English words used in a different sense from 
that which they have in the mother-country. 

It is also to be noted that the literary language has, 
strictly speaking, no sympathy with, and therefore no 
designations for, the small and trivial mental processes 
that belong to the daily experiences of the average man, 
for the words that express anger and vexation, for curses 

112 A History of the German Language 

and terms of reproach, for exclamations of joy and pain, 
or for the thousand utterances of flattery or kindly ap- 

While it is still true that there are classes of concepts 
that are not without general interest yet the stock of words 
is nevertheless inadequate for their accurate designation. 
This state of things is however passing away gradually. 
The great interest manifested in our day for the scientific 
investigation of the most trivial phenomena of nature, 
and I use the word trivial in a relative sense is not with- 
out its influence upon the study of the speech of the 
most ignorant and uncultivated. This interest not only 
has a tendency to elevate those who stand at the bottom 
of the social scale ; but since there will always remain 
those who can not be raised, it descends of set purpose to 
their level in order to study social life in its lowest forms. 
The great increase in the size of our modern dictionaries 
is the outgrowth of a desire to embody in them every vis- 
ible sign that has ever been used to give utterance to a 
thought or an impression, no matter when or by whom. 
It is in this way that the vocabulary of each is made the 
common property of all, at least to examine and study, if 
not to use. There is a realm in which the living folk- 
speech gives evidence of a creative power: it is in the in- 
vention of onomatopoetic words intended to designate in- 
significant actions and sounds. These however find their 
way into literature but slowly, or not at all, for the reason 
that there is an absence of sympathy between those who 
use the language of books and those who do not. The 
progress of intelligence as manifested in the creation and 
development of a uniform literary language has however 
done a good deal to curtail the linguistic material at its 
disposal by removing its modes of expression from the 
hearts and sympathies of the common people. Nor has a 
reaction been wanting. This protest against a language 
having general currency has found expression in the ere- 

A History of the German Language 113 

ation of a dialect literature. This is not a mere play and 
pastime, the amusement of such vacant hours as a writer 
can not otherwise fill up. It has a deeper significance. 
And for the reason that it fills a want felt by the human 
heart it will probably never cease to exist. When literary 
form is given to discourse in dialect there is not seldom 
exhibited the phenomenon which has been characterized 
above as hyper-High German. Just as the user of a dia- 
lect often expresses himself incorrectly when he attempts 
the H. G., so he may also wrongly transfer his H. G. into 
his dialect. A very common L. G. error of this kind is 
affixing the ending -et to neuter adjectives en grotet Hus, 
en level Kind for ein groszes Haus, em liebes Kind. The 
pure dialect has no adjectives terminating in -et. 


Having now concluded our observations upon the ten- 
dencies toward uniformity in the German, and their re- 
sults, it is proper, finally, to glance at the constitu- 
ent elements of the unified language and at those special 
characteristics that mark the N. H. G. as temporally and 
topographically distinct from other speech-unities. The 
reader should, however, keep constantly in mind that what 
is habitually designated as N. H. G. is not a homogeneous 
whole. Not only do the different periods of the N. H. G. 
show different stages in the process of unification, but the 
language apart from these gradations, has, during the en- 
tire N. H. G. period advanced step by step. The language 
of Luther was no longer that of the German classics ; that 
of the classic writers is not the German of to-day. But 
the character of the tongue as a whole has remained substan- 
tially the same : it is a mixture of various dialects of which 
the chief ingredients are those of Middle Germany. Its 
vowel system is mainly that of the middle region, but its 
consonants are for the most part Bavaro- Austrian. Neither 
in the forms of the individual words nor in their combina- 

114 A History of the German Language 

tions is there much difference among the dialects repre- 
sented in the N. H. G. : the gender of the nouns is M. G., 
not Upper G. In the dialects belonging to the latter 
region we find der Backen, der Butter, der Trauben ; but 
in M. G. and also in the N. H. G. these words appear as 
die Backe, die Butter, die Traube. A number of other 
words do not have the same gender in Switzerland and 
South Germany that they have farther north. The dif- 
ferent dialects have contributed very unequally to the vo- 
cabulary of the N. H. G., though here again Central Ger- 
many predominates. The purely U. G. contingent is very 
small. Almost the only words from this region that have 
become an integral part of the written tongue are the 
names of objects that are found here exclusively, and per- 
tain to mountainous districts. Among these are Alp, 
Fluh, Gletscher (from the French glacier), Lawine (from 
late Latin labina and related to labi), Matte and Senn. 
Most of these words can not be translated into Eng- 
lish. The verbs lugen (perhaps related to Bng. look) 
and staunen are of Swiss origin though in common use in 
South Germany. The contribution of North Germany to 
the written language is quite large. There is a long list 
of words relating to navigation, to life along and on the 
ocean. Among these are Brise, Bucht, Dune, Hafen, lick- 
ten (lift, make light the anchor), Steven, Tau, Wrack, etc. 
The connection of some of these words with their English 
equivalents is evident at a glance. But there are other 
terms that come from the same quarter, such as echt from 
an older ehafl, that which pertains to e (Ehe), that is, law, 
right. The change from// to cht is a characteristic of the 
Iv. G. as may be seen in Schluft for Schlucht, sanft for 
Sachl, etc. Further Fracht, Harke, Kneipen, Kmcken, and 
many more. In some cases both the H. G. and L,. G. words 
have gained currency, as Brunnen and Born, feist and fett, 
sanft and sachte, siihnen and (uer) sbhnen, Waffen and Wap- 
pen. The points of difference between the pronunciation 

A History of the German Language 115 

of the N. H. G. and the M. G. will be discussed further on. 
It may be stated here, however, that it relates chiefly to 
the long vowels. In place of the older zit, wit, hus, mus, 
hiute, hute the modern German has Zeit, weit, Haus, 
Maus, heute, Leute. The differences between the etymol- 
ogy and syntax of the two periods are less regular and 
consistent. Some examples will be given later in the 

It has already been remarked that the material which 
constitutes what we call language is a traditional inheri- 
tance received by each generation which it in turn transmits 
to posterity with very slight changes. We learn our vernac- 
ular from hearing it spoken and not from the printed 
character. When speaking of language it is important to 
keep in mind its two-fold nature : as a series of vocal ut- 
terances that impress themselves on the mind through the 
sense of hearing, or as a number of characters that reach 
it through the sense of sight. It is the gradual changes 
through which the words that constitute a spoken lan- 
guage passes that it is proposed to consider here. The 
first part of this book has shown that a great many differ- 
ences exist within what is called the German language. 
It changes with times and places, but differs also accord- 
ing to the social position of those who use it. We have 
now to examine somewhat more closely into the nature 
and character of these variations. The attempt has been 
made to represent graphically these varieties by compar- 
ing words to stones which a brook or a river carries along 
with it and which thus gradually become more and more 
abraded and less and like their original form. In this 
metaphor the flowing stream is intended to represent cur- 
rent usage; but the comparison is radically erroneous. A 
word is not a thing which after it is once coined continues 
to exist forever afterward. It is an activity, an event. 
And this event consists in the simultaneous occurrence of 
a movement of the soul and a sound produced by a move- 

116 A History of the German Language 

ment of the organs of speech, so that, briefly expressed, a 
mental concept and a vocal sound are combined. This 
combination is not under all circumstances of the same 
kind. The number of intuitions inhering in the con- 
sciousness is dependent upon the number of impressions 
made upon the mind of the speaker and upon those with 
whom he comes into conversation. The narrower the 
social circle to which a person belongs, the lower his grade 
of culture, the more circumscribed will be the range of his 
intuitions. The factory hand and the peasant need a com- 
paratively small number of words to satisfy their linguistic 
wants, while on the other hand the scholar and the poet 
find several thousand barely sufficient. The more unusual 
a man's occupation, the farther he is removed from the 
ordinary affairs of the mass of mankind the more singular 
is his vocabulary. The German language contains a long 
list of art-terms that constitutes a kind of separate speech 
for the use of artists and other persons interested in art. 
The merchant, the fisherman, the beekeeper, the 'miner, 
the sailor and the hunter, have each a vocabulary peculiar 
to their craft. The novice who is in process of initiation 
into the mysteries of these occupations is compelled to 
acquire a new language to correspond to the new concepts 
called into existence in his mind. The great body of con- 
cepts embodied in a language is different at different 
times. When chivalry and the feudal system began to 
decay ; when old systems of jurisprudence fell into dis- 
use ; when the study of astrology was abandoned, many 
words were irrevocably doomed to oblivion. 

But the mere existence of objects in the external world 
is not the only factor in the formation of concepts and 
their corresponding words ; the depth and therefore the 
permanence of the impression made by such objects is also 
of great importance. The character of this impression is 
in turn dependent upon the relation of the external object 
to man whether detrimental or beneficial. Huge ani- 

A History of the German Language 117 

mals and large trees, those animals and plants that are 
serviceable to man for food and clothing, or that threaten 
his life by their voracity or by their poisonous qualities 
received names long before the tiny bug that burrows in 
the earth and the little flower that blooms in the depths 
of the forest. And so It comes that the names of the 
larger animals, the great trees of the forest, and the most 
important cereals are common to all the members of the 
Germanic family. Some of these, such as wolf, cow, ox, 
birch, beech, alder, barley and the like have radically the 
same designations in other branches of the Indo European 
family of languages. On the other hand the names of 
flowers and insects are often different in the different dia- 
lects of the same tongue, so that at the present day the 
zoologist and botanist are still obliged to use Latin tech- 
nical terms in order not to be misunderstood. We may 
cite as instances the primula elatior (oxlip primrose) for 
which the German has about sixty names and the colchium 
autumnale (meadow saffron) some fifty. These statements, 
though made with primary reference to the proto-historic 
period of the languages here under consideration are 
amply confirmed by the familiar facts of daily experience. 
Everybody knows the names of the larger trees, the com- 
mon grasses and the useful animals, but hardly one person 
in ten thousand recognizes or takes any interest in the un- 
important forms of animal arid vegetable life that are 
about us wherever we may be. 

The stock of representative images varies therefore ac- 
cording to different individuals and groups of individuals. 
The possible number is still further increased when there 
is a choice among several concepts : the same person may 
give vocal utterance to one percept in one way and to an- 
other in another; or he may express the same concept in 
different ways at different times. It may be that in one 
case the language with which he is familiar already con- 
tains in its vocabulary the word by means of which he 

118 A History of the German Language 

may express his percept and this word or term may come 
into the consciousness of the speaker and suffice for his 
momentary needs. He then voices his percept in exactly 
the same way, that is, with precisely the same term as 
others before him ; or he at least essays so to do. For the 
minute reproduction of a word that has become a part of 
the body of speech is rendered difficult by various circum- 
stances, and is dependent upon divers conditions. The 
most important preliminary condition is that the word 
shall have been heard and perceived in all its minutiae ; 
it must have been perceived by the hearer exactly as it 
was uttered by the speaker. The accurate perception of 
a foreign or new word is rendered most easy when all its 
separate parts are pronounced slowly and distinctly. It is 
by such a method that the child will most readily and ac- 
curately learn to speak and to read. When some particu- 
lar sound or combination of sounds uttered by the speaker 
finds a lodgment in the consciousness of the hearer and is 
accurately grasped by the intellect one would suppose that 
when the latter attempted to reproduce it by imitation the 
reproduction would correspond precisely to the original. 
It is perfectly natural for one man to believe that he can 
imitate any sound made by another when both use the 
same vocal organs. This however by no means follows as 
a matter of course ; in fact experience proves the converse to 
be generally true, for just as all imitation is imperfect so 
is imitation in language. The child in order to reproduce 
by imitation the words uttered in its hearing, proceeds to 
put its vocal organs into action, with but a faint compre- 
hension of the methods by which its object is to be at- 
tained. Its first efforts produce very imperfect results, 
but it constantly compares its linguistic achievements with 
the vocal images, so to speak, inhering in its consciousness 
and is in this way constantly reminded of its shortcomings. 
It then brings into action other portions of its vocal or- 
gans, and finally by oft-repeated effort it succeeds in mak- 

A History of the German Language 119 

ing its own words approximate very closely to those it 
hears spoken by others. Only persons with an abnormally 
acute sense of hearing are able to reproduce accurately 
any word they hear. But the human ear is a very untrust- 
worthy instrument. Two sounds may seem to be exactly 
identical and yet be considerably different in the mode of 
their production. Then again different causes may pro- 
duce similar effects ; in order to produce the same acoustic 
effects the learner's organs of speech aie likely to make 
movements and to get into positions that do not accord 
with those of the teacher. And this substitution of vocal 
effects produced in one way for those produced in another 
which produces the same sum of results is likely to be 
often necessary because the organs of speech of different 
persons are differently constructed and when two products, 
of which the one factor is unlike, are to have equal value, 
the remaining factors must also be dissimilar. To illus- 
trate this proposition by a mathematical formula : if we 
multiply 5 by 9 the product is 45, but if we substitute 
some other digit for the 9 we must change the 5 also if we 
want to still get 45 as our product. By a somewhat simi- 
lar process it happens that words when transmitted from 
father to son, from generation to generation, undergo a 
variation or a series of variations in pronunciation. It is 
a well established fact that languages undergo change in 
the course of time when there is no appreciable external 
influence affecting them. This gradual change is usually 
spoken of as decay, though there is no good reason for so 
designating a process, of development that is perfectly 
normal and that in no way impairs the efficiency of a lan- 
guage as a medium of communication. 

The deviation from any particular type is at first almost 
infinitesimally small, but the slight difference that in 
course of time comes to exist between the pronunciation 
of the son and the grandson continues to grow greater 
through several generations and in" a century or two be- 

120 A History of the German Language 

comes quite marked. These differences are usually of two 
kinds : they are either qualitative or quantitative. In the 
first case other parts of the organs of speech are brought 
into action and other muscles used than before. An ex- 
ample is furnished by the transformation of the labial m 
into the dental n as when Inbisz becomes Imbiss. In the 
second case the same muscles are employed with greater 
or less vigor or force. For example, less muscular exer- 
tion in the organs of speech is required to pronounce Ferd 
and Fund, as the Westphalian does when speaking H. G. 
than the correct forms Pferd and Pfund. Those cases 
where greater muscular exertion is made in trying to imi- 
tate a particular sound are comparatively rare compared 
with those in which the result is sought to be effected with 
less. Laziness, as it is sometimes called ; a disposition to 
ease of utterance, plays an important role in the develop- 
ment of language, less important however as a cause of 
variation than in giving a particular character to changes 
that are already in progress. 

It is customary to designate the mutations in language 
we have described above as phonetic laws, or to speak of 
these as due to phonetic laws. The obstacles that hinder 
the accurate reproduction of a sound always appear when- 
ever an attempt is made to utter it, no matter in what 
word or how often it may recur. In other words, a sound 
produced by the organs of speech always follows the same 
line of variation from any given type. By noting the cir- 
cumstances under which the variations occur we are able 
to formulate the phonetic law of the case, law being here 
simply an order of sequence. It is a phonetic law, or to 
express the same fact in other words, it is in accordance 
with a phonetic law, that the long i of the M. H. G., 
which is still preserved in some modern dialects, becomes 
the diphthong ei in the N. H. G. : gige appears as Geige, 
hirat Heir at, miden meiden, nit Neid, sit Zeit, and so on. 
This statement is true not only of the German language 

A History of the German Language 121 

within itself, that is of one dialect as related to another or 
of one period of the language as compared with another, 
but likewise of every other language. It is by the study 
of phonetic laws that the relationship of the most distant 
members of the same family of languages is determined. 
To these laws there are no exceptions, the apparent excep- 
tions being due to the action of yet undiscovered laws. 

This uniformity of development, however, holds good 
in the first instance of the individual only. In the case 
of a larger number of persons the circumstances that in- 
fluence the development of a language may, and often do, 
vary greatly. The sense of hearing is not equally acute 
in all ; or the organs of speech may not be formed pre- 
cisely alike. From the nature of the conditions, then, it 
must follow that in course of time as many languages will 
be formed or developed as there are separate individuals. 
And it can not be denied that even within the narrowest 
circles slight differences of pronunciation may be recog- 
nized among those composing it. But it is true, further- 
more, that the learner is not wholly or even chiefly under 
the influence of a single speaker, but under several ; so 
that the speech of each person is in a certain sense an epi- 
tome or average of the speech used by the social circle to 
which he belongs. This is always true of every member 
of the rising generation. Where this is part of a circum- 
scribed circle the language that serves as a model is rela- 
tively homogeneous, and the various averages represented 
by each individual differ but slightly from each other and 
from the more primitive type. It follows naturally that 
when two persons or two groups of persons cease to be in 
close relation and frequent intercourse, or when their in- 
tercourse ceases altogether the development of their lan- 
guage must bifurcate; one sound will gradually change 
in one direction ; another will slowly vary in a different 
direction until in course of time dialects come to be form- 
ed that vary considerably from each other. The farther 

122 A History of the German Language 

two contemporary social spheres lie apart, the less the in- 
tercourse between them, the greater will become the dif- 
ferences of speech peculiar to each, just as similarly dif- 
ferences increase with the lapse of time. It will thus be 
seen that there is no radical difference between the causes 
that produce variations in language whether we consider 
them in regard to place or in regard to time. 


(See also farther on the chapter entitled What is Analogy in Language?) 

If a language underwent no changes except those that 
were due to phonetic laws its history would be very simple 
and transparent. It would be an easy matter to formulate 
these laws ; and by a knowledge of them one could, by a 
simple mechanical process, turn verses from Goethe into 
the language of the Nibelungen Lay, or the poetry of Ot- 
fried into the language of Ulfilas. But the real state of 
the case is altogether different. A common form of varia- 
tion from the normal type is due to abbreviation or abridg- 
ment. This may take place in the case of a single word, 
as when we say, a glass of soda, for a glass of soda-water ; 
or a kilo for a kilogramme. This is particularly frequent 
in proper names that are shortened into pet-names or nick- 
names. Instances are so common that none need be given 
here, especially as this subject is taken up again in the 
last chapter. A different class of abbreviations are those 
in which only part of a familiar phrase or sentence is ex- 
pressed, the hearer being left to infer the rest. We say, 
" Good morning,'' instead of, " I wish you a good morning," 
or " Wait a little," for " Wait a little time ; " and so on ad 
infinitum. Here we have what grammarians usually call 
ellipsis. The possibility of understanding such an incom- 
plete series of sounds is easily understood when we take 
into careful consideration the psychic processes that under- 
lie and control our comprehension of a spoken word or sen- 

A History of the German Language 123 

tence. The case will be made plainer by a simple illustra- 
tion from the material world. If two stringed instruments 
are in the same room and a string of one is set in vibration, 
the strings of the other instrument that have the same pitch 
or that stand in certain harmonic relations to it will vibrate 
of their own accord. A somewhat similar phenomenon 
takes place in speech. When a word or sentence is utter- 
ed in our hearing, it does not merely produce a mechan- 
ical effect upon the mind, but awakens like or similar con- 
cepts that exist in its mysterious depths. Latent images 
are brought under consciousness thro' the medium of the 
ear. This echo, as we may call it, is returned in the exact 
form of the original word or phrase, provided it is one that 
has been heard before. This is an important element in 
the comprehension of another's language. It would be a 
gross error to suppose that in ordinary conversation we stop 
to consider each individual word in a sentence as it enters 
our ears. Unless a word is very short, we rarely hear it 
entire. We take note only of the important parts of a 
word or sentence, and when we hear these the complete 
concept lying dormant in consciousness is awakened. We 
generally fail to observe how fragmentary is that which we 
can properly be said to hear. This will also explain why 
it is that we understand spoken words less readily than 
written words, especially when they belong to a language 
with which we are not very familiar. More or less time 
is often necessary until a word that we hear or see touches 
a responsive chord in our consciousness until we under- 
stand it. Sometimes it may happen that we are obliged 
to carry a word in the memory for days until we can recall 
its meaning, that is, until we find the corresponding word 
and its definition that had been previously learned. But 
words may awaken concepts that are not identical though 
containing similar radical elements. Let us take, for ex- 
ample, the word * stone ' and suppose that a child after 
hearing it repeatedly has fixed it firmly in memory. If 

124 A History of the German Language 

now it hears the word ' stony ' without any clue to its sig- 
nification, this word will be unconsciously associated 
with the former, though the child may not recognize 
clearly the relation existing between them. Or we may 
take the word * horse ' and we shall find the same mental 
process in regard to ' horses ' together with such com- 
pounds as ' horse-whip,' * horse-thief,' ' horse-play,' * un- 
horse,' 'horse-back,' 'horse-radish,' 'horse-shoe,' 'horse- 
fly,' and many others. To express the same fact some- 
what differently : words having the same vocal elements 
are unconsciously associated together. The feeling arises 
in the mind that in order to express any particular repre- 
sentation or concept a certain sum of vocal sounds must 
enter into it. Nor is a perfect coincidence necessary be- 
tween the newly awakened concept and that already in 
the mind ; a certain degree of resemblance is all that the 
mind requires in order to associate together words that are 
etymologically related. Not only is the resemblance be- 
tween nehmen, genehm, and Vernehmung easily seen but 
nimmt, nahmen, and genommen are readily associated with 

Evidently then, such word-groups, by the principle of 
mental association, afford important aid to the memory in 
retaining the individual members of the group, and they 
play an important part in transmitting an inherited lan- 
guage to posterity. On the other hand, words may be as- 
sociated into groups though they have a merely external 
resemblance, while in signification they have no connec- 
tion at all with each other. It is often the case that this 
mistaken grouping together of unrelated words has the ef- 
fect of neutralizing phonetic laws. The law of associa, 
tion is more powerful than the tendency to ease of utter- 
ance and counteracts it. Take the series nehm-, nimm-, 
nahm-, nomm-, and how shall we know which of these 
forms is the bearer of the signification? When Luther 
says, ich kreuche, er krencht^ wir kriechen, sie kriechen, is 

A History of the German Language 125 

kreuch- or kriech- the true representation, either vocal or 
ideographic, of the concept * creep' ? The illiterate user 
of the words has no means of determining this question. 
He only remembers that the present tense employs nehm- 
or nimm-, and the perfect genommen; that formerly the 
singular number was kreuch and the plural kriech-. If his 
concepts become confused owing to a momentary failure 
of memory he is just as likely to say ich krieche, wir kreuchen, 
as to use the correct forms. Viewed externally we may say 
that krieche has changed its form after the pattern or the 
analogy of kriechen, From many similar examples we take 
the following : in some of the German dialects we find 
fahrt, schlagt, tragt used for the correct forms fahrt, schlagt, 
tragt. In this case the original a has been modified after 
the analogy of ich fahre, schlage, fahren, schlagen, etc. In 
such instances it is often rather difficult to determine how 
the influence of analogy operated. We can only see that 
a given expression which we may represent by x has taken 
on so close a resemblance to another which we may repre- 
sent by y that it must always remain doubtful which was 
the original and which the copy. Of this character are the 
expressions given on p. 106 ff., where we have the mixture of 
two locutions. The number of words and phrases that have 
undergone changes under the influence of analogy is very 
large probably as large as those that have been regularly 
developed according to phonetic laws. To treat the sub- 
ject fully would require a volume. Its importance is, 
however, such that it seems advisable to pursue it some- 
what further. 

The first results of the creation of new forms through 
the influence of analogy are doublets. Thus krieche, 
spoken of above, existed for a time alongside of kreuche, 
just as we have gelehrt and gelahrt, gesendet and gesandt, 
gewendet and gewandt, or ' proven ' and * proved,' ' digged ' 
and ' dug,' * lighted ' and ' lit.' Doublets or double forms 
of the same word are found in all civilized languages. 

126 A History of the German Language 

The two words do not however generally long exist side by 
side with equal rank. The genius of language is opposed to 
the maintenance of two words or two expressions that 
mean precisely the same thing ; in the course of time one 
of the two forms becomes obsolete. If both are preserved 
they become synonyms. Both the English and the Ger- 
man languages contain a number of words, the one of 
Germanic, the other of Latin or Greek ancestry that are 
substantially or exactly equivalent. To this class belong 
Telephon and Fernsprecher, Lichtbild and Photographic ; but 
the tendency of all languages is to seek to accomplish its 
ends with the least expenditure of effort. It is not im- 
probable, therefore, that one of these will erelong cease 
to be in current use, and it will likely be the borrowed 
word. The struggle for existence between ich krieche and 
ich kreuche has been decided in favor of the former, while of 
the couples above cited, one word in each case may be re- 
garded as obsolescent in the N. H. G. Usually that one 
of two forms survives which is the most firmly fixed in the 
memory ; in other words that which is the most frequently 
used and therefore has the most support by analogy. 
Kreuch occurs only in the three persons of the present in- 
dicative, and in the singular number of the imperative, 
while kriech was regularly used in the plural of the present 
indicative, in the entire subjunctive, in the infinitive, in 
the present participle, and in the plural number of the 
imperative. If the forces contending for the mastery are 
about equally matched chance decides the victory in favor 
of one or the other party and when we speak of chance, 
in this connection we mean no more than some hitherto 
undiscovered law. The users of a language that belong 
to the same class or circle naturally tend to uniformity of 
speech. Thus it happens that groups of persons who are 
separated and have no intercourse with each other do not 
retain the same verbal forms, but what persists in one 
group dies out in another. It is in this way that the force 

A History of the German Language 127 

of analogy contributes to the formation of dialects. As an 
example of this we may cite the fact that in the M. H. G. 
period the first person plural corresponding to ich fand^zs 
wir funden. In the N. H. G. the vowel of the root is the 
same in both cases, the u of the plural having been 
changed by analogy into #, so that we now have ich fand, 
wir fanden. The L. G. has taken the opposite course so 
that Fritz Renter has heifunn, wi funnen. 

Again, uniformity may be attained in one district and 
not in another. The variation between a and a as shown 
in ichfahre, er fdhrt or ich trage, er trdgt of the M. H. G. 
as compared with the N. H. G. is not found in the Middle- 
Netherlandic, nor in many of the contemporary dialects 
that still have er fahrt, er tragt. Why uniformity is at- 
tained in one case and not in another is a question not 
easily answered. This much may, however, be asserted. 
Where original differences of sound are associated with 
differences of function the tendency toward uniformity is 
feeble and the opposite tendency strong. If we compare, 
for example, the forms, ich nehme } wir nehmen, on the one 
hand, with the widely different ich nahm, wir nahmen, on 
the other, we observe that diversity in form is associated 
with differences of function, the one form expressing 
present, the other past, time. These two forms have ac- 
cordingly remained distinct in all German dialects. But 
in the M. H. G. the preterite of ich hoere was ich horte\ in 
which case the distinction between the oe and the 6 was 
needless, the / being sufficient to indicate the difference in 
time between the present and the past. The N. H. G. is 
accordingly ich horte. This is in conformity with a trend 
everywhere manifest in language, to achieve the largest 
results with the smallest expenditure of means the law 
of least effort. The difference of function between two 
cognate words may, in the course of time, become so great 
that they are no longer felt to be related. Schon and fast 
were originally the adverbial forms of schon and fest^ and 

128 A History of the German Language 

similar differences in pronunciation between adjective and 
noun are by no means uncommon in the M. H. G. They 
have, however, only been kept separate in cases where, 
owing to the meaning, an isolation of the forms of the 
words had taken place : in almost all other instances the 
influence of analogy has made the adjective and the ad- 
verb alike. In the M. H. G. the word rauh was inflected, 
Nom. ruch- Gen. ruhes. It is related to Eng. 'rough,' and 
in M. G. occurs only in the compounds Rauch-werk^ Rauch- 
handel, etc., where, however, the primitive adjectival sig- 
nificance is no longer remembered. Innumerable exam- 
ples of such isolated forms may be traced, and some addi- 
tional ones will be given further on. 

If the results of the influence of analogy are compared 
with those changes that took place according to well es- 
tablished phonetic laws, it becomes evident that the two 
processes stand in a certain contrast to each other. Pho- 
netic changes, in the course of time made identical types 
unlike : the hoere, horte, before given, were at an earlier 
stage horiu, horte ; the horiu was gradually transformed into 
koere through the influence of the *'. In othei words, z in 
any syllable of a word that had become familiar to the 
users, being slightly anticipated in pronunciation, in the 
course of time modified the vowel in the preceding syl- 
lable. But the tendency of analogy is to bring together 
again words that had been differentiated under the in- 
fluence of phonetic laws acting in a contrary direction. In 
obedience to the laws of association the effect of a sound 
embodied in words extends beyond the limits hitherto 
considered and suggests others that have no related sig- 
nificance or etymology, when the mere external form is 
sufficiently similar to recall a former word and by form 
we mean the word as pronounced, not as written. Or, to 
put the matter somewhat differently, a word which the 
speaker is in the habit of using exists in his mind as a 
latent concept. When now he hears another with which 

A History of the German Language 129 

he is unfamiliar, but which bears some resemblance to the 
former, a connection is at once suggested. As spoken 
words are but sound, this process bears a good deal of re- 
semblance to the harmonic overtones that are produced 
when certain fundamental notes are put in vibration. 
Usually the speaker is scarcely conscious of a possible re- 
lation when none really exists, or only becomes so when 
really related concepts do not appear. Often none exist, 
as is usually the case with foreign words ; and sometimes 
the existence of an etymological relation has been forgot- 
ten. For example, wahnwitzig (wahnsinnig) is formed of 
an adjective wan (empty), which was lost at a very early 
period of the O. G. ; and another adjective related to our 
word ' wit.' After it had dropped out of use as a separate 
word, another closely resembling it though unrelated, the 
substantive Wahn, took its place in popular belief. The 
same results may follow when etymologically related words 
exist, but in such a corrupted form that the relation is no 
longer perceived. Sometimes the formal resemblance be- 
tween unrelated words is greater than between such as are 
really cognate. The word Eiland is a simplified form of 
Einland: after the loss of the n it looked more like a com- 
pound of Ei with land than of Ein, and was often so re- 
garded. I may repeat here what I have before said that 
mere external similarity between words is hardly any more 
a sign of relationship than is resemblance in form or face, 
between persons. There is no visible connection between 
the cognate words echt and Ehe (see p. 114) though one 
might be suspected between the former and achten. It 
sometimes happens that the phonetic resemblance of a 
word to another that is unrelated is less close than to a 
related word, and yet the former will be taken as its con- 
gener. This happens when the proper word has become 
obsolete and the wrong one is in current use. An instance 
occurs in the word Gallusthor, a designation of one of the 
gates of the city of Frankfort, which was formerly das 

130 A History of the German Language 

Galgenthor. After the gallows, which gave the name, had 
been removed and forgotten, the inappropriateness of the 
older designation became evident to even those who did 
not know what the new compound meant. Its unpleasant 
associations may likewise have contributed to the disuse 
of the correct designation. 

This process of mental suggestion and association which 
leads to the grouping of unrelated words as if they were 
cognate solely on the ground of external similarity is usu- 
ally designated as popular etymology or folk-etymology. 
Word-groups brought together in this way are of great 
importance for the comprehension and memorizing of new 
words perhaps hardly less so than those which are formed 
on true philological principles. In such cases words in- 
distinctly heard are associated with those of which a part 
has been retained in the memory and called into con- 
sciousness by the principle of association. If then the 
words imperfectly grasped correspond at least partly with 
such as are already familiar to the hearer he generally 
completes them correctly and they are reproduced un- 
changed except in obedience to the proper phonetic laws 
applicable to the case. Wahnwitz and Eiland, given above, 
are examples of this process. But if no corresponding 
word exists in the mind of the hearer, he completes the 
new word as best he may with others that deviate more or 
less widely from the original. In popular speech, for ex- 
ample, unguentum Neapolitanum becomes umgewendter Napo- 
leon and Mautturm is transformed into Mduseturm. 

Cases where foreign or obsolete words are perverted into 
native ones are as common in English as in German, and a 
few examples may be cited to show how frequently this 
mental process finds expression in sound. Ibrahim Pacha 
was known by the unlettered in England as "Abraham Par- 
ker," the name of the ship Hirondelle was called " Iron 
Devil " by the English sailors ; and " chateauvert " has be- 
come "Shotover." The Indian name Swatara, which occurs 

A History of the German Language 131 

in Pennsylvania's frequently pronounced "Sweet-arrow,'' 
and libel is often taken to be a compound of the two 
words lie-bill. 

The tenacity with which the elementary parts of word- 
groups formed by the influence of folk-etymology cohere 
is not equally great in all cases. Words may be thrown 
together because of a mere external similarity of sound 
without any reference to the sense. Some of the illustra- 
tions above given exhibit this. In the last century Aben- 
teuer was written Abendtheuer ; but it is doubtful whether 
any one who used it thought of it as designating an event 
that took place in the evening (Abend). If it occurs to 
the speaker that no relationship exists between words 
more or less alike he sometimes seeks to find a reason for 
the form before him. The designation Sauerland, origi- 
nally Suderland, i. e., Sitderland applied to the southern 
portion of Saxony, was justified in popular belief by the 
anecdote which represented Karl the Great as having ex- 
claimed after its conquest " das war mir ein sauer land," 
sauer being still used as an epithet of that which costs 
great labor. Similarly Achalm, the name of an old castle 
in Wurtemberg, is said to have come from the interrupted 
exclamation, " Ach Allmachtiger," of a dying knight ; and 
the story goes that the Wartburg in Saxony is so called 
because its builder cried out on looking from the eminence 
on which it stands, u Wart nur Berg, du so list mir eine Burg 
werden" Shotover Hill in Oxfordshire is popularly be- 
lieved to get its name from the circumstance that an archer 
shot an arrow over it, and Quebec is often explained as be- 
ing a contraction of " quel bee!" (what a peninsula!) the 
exclamation used by a delighted Frenchman upon a first 
view of the site of the town, It must be remembered, 
however, that in almost every case of this kind 
the occurrence was subsequently invented to ex- 
plain the name, and that its real origin must be 
looked for elsewhere. This process takes place in 

132 A History of the German Language 

what is sometimes designated as the myth-making stage 
of popular etymology. 

In some cases the phonetic similarity between two or 
more words suggests to the hearer a relationship of signifi- 
cation. This may be favored by attending circumstances. 
The statement holds good, for instance, in Sundflut, trans- 
formed from the original sin-fluot, which means, the great 
flood, and not, as popularity imagined, a flood sent upon 
the earth on account of men's sins. Here the old mean- 
ing of sin has been displaced by a modern word having a 
somewhat similar form, but an entirely different meaning. 
There is reason to believe that the term "Mysteries" 
(Mysterien) as applied to the well known mediaeval relig- 
ious dramas was generally associated in the popular mind 
with the mystery of divine service (Ci Luke VIII. , 10. 
" Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the king- 
dom of God.'' u Vobis datum est nosse mysterium regni 
Dei "), when in reality it is derived from the Latin ' min- 
isterium ' and has no connection with mystery. Examples 
of this kind are however comparatively rare. 

The assumed relationship between a new word and a 
familiar one is generally based on slight grounds, some- 
times on facts that are incompatible with each other. The 
word Armbrust, from the Latin arcubalista, easily suggests 
arm and Brust, but the connection between these parts of 
the human body and the weapon remains obscure. Few 
people would think that an Eiland ought, properly speak- 
ing, to designate a portion of land having the shape of an 
egg. To most persons doubtless the word Maulwurf sug- 
gests the thought that the animal was so named because 
it casts up the earth with its mouth ; when in fact it does 
this with its hind feet. The word was originally Moltwerf, 
which is the nearer the Eng. ( mold-warp,' an animal that 
casts up the mold. The current term mole, which appears 
also in mole-hill, is a part of the original, somewhat modi- 
fied. Nevertheless, however great the transformation a 

A History of the German Language 133 

word has undergone owing to a popular misconception of 
its etymological relationship, its meaning generally under- 
goes no change. But there are exceptions. Sometimes 
resemblance of sound suggests a wrong meaning which 
may in the course of time entirely displace the correct 
one. Das gelobte Land meant originally ' the promised 
land,' the adjective coming from geloben; but it is now 
generally supposed to belong to loben, which is however a 
different word. Sucht can hardly be used in any other 
sense than to designate a blameworthy striving. This 
grows out of the fact that it has long been mentally asso- 
ciated with the verb suchen, when in reality it originally 
designated a disease and is etyrnologically related to siech. 
There is still a third kind of phonetic suggestion. This 
takes place when words as wholes are so unlike that a con- 
fusion of meaning is impossible, while yet there seems to 
be a certain remote connection between them. Hence it 
results that two words are brought into mental juxtaposi- 
tion the significations of which in part overlap. There is 
a manifest tendency in the Germanic languages to place 
such words together and the effect has been to enrich 
them with a number of formulas containing two or more 
members that are associated because of the similarity 
of certain sounds which they embody. The initial 
syllables or letters may be the same and produce allitera- 
tion. The systematic employment of such initial sounds 
is a recognized principle in old Germanic metrical compo- 
sition. The number of alliterative formulas in German is 
very large and they belong under several different heads. 
They may combine synonyms as los und ledig, Lust und 
Liebe, Schimpf und Schande ; or antonyms, as Lust und Leid, 
samt und senders. Wo hi und Wehe ; or parts of a whole as 
Haus und Hof, Kiiche und Keller, Mann und Maus. Phrases 
of this kind are not uncommon in English, as " neither 
praise nor pudding," " weal or woe," " chick and child," 
" watch and ward," " hale and hearty," " glory and 

134 A History of the German Language 

gloom." They may be made up of words placed in a syn- 
tactical relation to each other, as bitterbose, der wilde Wald 
(cf. the wild- wood), seine sieben Sac/ten, wenn die Maus satt 
ist, ist das MeJd bitter; or the initial sounds may be differ- 
ent, but the principal words rime together, as Lug und 
Trug, Saus und Brans, toll und voll, Dach und Fach, Freud 
oder Leid, Handel und Wandel, Sang und Klang, Wahl 
macht Qual, heute rot, morgen tot. 

When there is no word in the mind of the hearer to be 
recalled by a new one that is brought to his attention and 
by which it may be remembered, considerable mental ef- 
fort is required to retain it even when clearly apprehended. 
When then this is not the case fancy has free play and 
there is no check to the mutilations it may produce. For 
this reason proper names usually fare the worst because 
they are of comparatively infrequent recurrence and do 
not afford much opportunity for revision and correction. 

There is another principle of association leading to the 
formation of word-groups that is different from any so far 
considered. Owing to the habit of bringing together 
words that have the same or similar sounds, a certain one 
comes to be regarded as the bearer of the signification, as 
stein in steinigen, versteinern, etc., and this is the only im- 
portant part of the words. It is this notion that often 
leads to the formation of popular etymologies. 

But there is another mental process that goes hand in 
hand with the observation of the points of agreement be- 
tween words, and that is the observation of their differ- 
ences. Many words have what are apt to be regarded as 
superfluous syllables syllables that seem to have little or 
nothing to do in determining the meaning, and which in 
fact have nothing to do with the radical signification. 
How wide-spread this notion may become is forcibly illus- 
trated in the case of the French, which consists almost 
entirely of Latin words, less that part that follows the ac- 
cented syllable. Many Anglo-Saxon words suffered a sim- 

A History of the German Language 135 

ilar apocopation during their transition in the English. 
One German word may end in -e, another in -igen, and still 
another in -ern, as Steine, steinigen, steinern, and these end- 
ings add nothing to the root that is peculiar to it. Some- 
times the radical meaning is embodied in one form ; some- 
times in another; sometimes it is contained in a single 
syllable ; sometimes in two or even more syllables. In 
other cases it represents an action ; in still others it mere- 
ly designates the accompaniment of a different concept. 
When now a word differs in meaning from another having 
the same stern, the notion may easily arise that the differ- 
ence is owing solely to the termination. On comparing 
Stein, Steine, steinigen, steinern, it is natural to suppose that 
the plural is represented by the final -e, the casting of 
stones by -igen, and something made of stones by -ern. 
But it should be carefully noted that we are concerned 
here with a definite, simple, concept only ; it by no means 
follows necessarily that the -e is used to designate quan- 
tity. When now a person, who has come to the conclusion 
above noted as to the use of the -e, hears such a word as 
Kreuze, it will not only suggest Kreuz, or some similar 
word, but also the termination -e found in Steine and per- 
haps the word itself. The same may happen in the case 
of Fische, Tage, Tische, etc. Not only is the etymologically 
related word suggested, but two others that are unrelated, 
merely because of a certain similarity of sound. The sug- 
gestion is usually weak so long as there is nothing in com- 
mon between two words except a similarity of sound. For 
example, laste and Last, fange and Fang, resemble Steine 
and Stein only in the added or. subtracted -e. The case is 
different when the similarity includes intellectual elements 
also. If we compare Kreuz with Kreuze, or Stein with 
Steine it seems evident that the final ~e serves the purpose 
of indicating the plural number. Groups of words are 
thus formed bearing all manner of relations to some radi- 
cal or elementary signification. From steinern, Stein or 

136 A History of the German Language 

holzern, Holz, the natural inference is that the ending -ern 
is used to designate material, while from hore, tiorte or 
sage, sagte it seems plain that the / indicates past time. 
It is evident that such word-groups are further important 
for the transmission of language from generation to gen- 
eration, as they are of the greatest importance for every 
single act of speaking. It is neither necessary nor possi- 
ble to remember whether in the case of each separate 
word, one has ever noticed how its plural is formed ; it 
suffices to recall a few that can be taken as models. So 
long as the speaker follows correct models the new forms 
will be correct, but without a thorough knowledge of the 
materials he is using he will now and then be led uncon- 
sciously astray. If the preterit tense of klagen is klagte 
and of sagen is sagte, that of schlagen would naturally be 
supposed to be schlagte, though it is not. In like manner 
if Apfel and Acker make their plurals with Aepfel and 
Aecker respectively, the inference is natural though incor- 
rect that the plural of Adler will be Aedler. And blunders 
of this sort are constantly made by learners of a language, 
whether children who are acquiring their vernacular or 
adults, a foreign language. A somewhat careful examina- 
tion of the whole question will convince any one that all 
languages exhibit this tendency toward greater uniformity 
a tendency that is however less marked in those that 
have acquired a more fixed character through the art of 
printing than in others. The inclination to form words 
into groups is directly opposed to the operation of phonetic 
laws properly so called. Like as Stein and Kreuz become 
plural by affixing an -*?, so do Blatt, Haus and Lamm by 
the addition of -er and infixing an e; or Graf, Bar and 
Herr by adding -en. In sagen and klagen, t is employed as 
a sign of the preterit, while in graben, tragen, schlagen the 
same result is effected by a modification of the radical 
vowel. It will thus be seen that German like most other 
languages has more than one way of indicating phonetic- 

A History of the German Language 137 

ally grammatical and logical relations. Whan now the 
speaker remembers that one method is employed in one 
case and a different one in another it is a matter of some 
chance which of the two he will employ in a third. It is 
probable that the new form will be shaped according to 
the model with which he is most familiar that is the one 
which has been most firmly fixed in his memory. Under 
such circumstances it may happen that a word of frequent 
occurrence will have an equally strong influence with sev- 
eral others of a uniform type, but which are less common. 
It will be seen from this brief statement of some of the most im- 
portant principles of the life and growth of language that phonetic 
laws can be as little controlled by man as the laws of the physical 
universe. While each separate individual may modify his own 
speech and regulate it according to his own pleasure, his influence 
under the most favorable condition does not extend far. If he would 
speak and write for the purpose of being understood he must use 
words that can be easily understood. A language goes its own way 
and not much can be done toward intelligently directing its course. 
In the words of the poet Uhland 

Indes Gelehrte walten, bestimmen und gestalten 

der Sprache Form und Zier, 

So schaffest du inwendig, thatkraf tig und lebendig 
gesamtes Volk an ihr. 


Supposing a language to possess the proper terms for the 
accurate embodyment in speech of certain concepts, it 
may happen nevertheless that the right word or words do 
not report themselves to the consciousness of the speaker 
when they are wanted ; or he may know them and be un- 
willing to make use of them. In order to express himself 
at all he will be obliged to have recourse to words not pre- 
viously employed in the sense he attaches to them. He 
may use old words with a new meaning, or he may create 
new words. The result in the former case is, in a certain 
sense, the impoverishment of language ; in the other its 

vocabulary is enlarged. The causes that lead to the use 

138 A History of the German Language 

of new verbal designation, are many and various. Of 
course the memory can not recall that which was never 
entrusted to its keeping. Adults are frequently unable to 
give expression to thoughts and feelings new to them. On 
the other hand children often coin new words that the 
adult easily dispenses with. But the power to recall that 
which was once in the mind likewise differs with different 
persons. Words rarely used are more likely to be for- 
gotten than those of common occurrence. The same is 
true of those that have but few cognates as compared with 
those having many. For this reason it is found to be a 
great help in the acquisition of a language to associate 
each new word with one in some way related to it with 
which the beginner is already familiar. Besides, persons 
of equal intelligence and culture do not recall words with 
the same facility. Much depends on the degree of atten- 
tion and on time in recalling previous concepts. The 
ability to hold the attention steadily to what is before the 
mind is least in persons of meager education, and defective 
intellectual training. It is a matter of common observa- 
tion that persons of this class are fond of using familiar 
formulas, and leaving the hearer or reader to infer the 
particular shade of meaning they are intended to convey- 
Widely diverse significations are attached to the same 
word or phrase. The word " make " like the German 
machen is used in many senses differing widely from the 
original. We hear, the train made (ran) forty miles an 
hour; he made (earned) a great deal of money; he made 
(gained) many friends; they made (elected) him president ; 
to make the beds ; to make love ; to make one out a fool ; 
and so on, almost ad infinitum. It is further to be ob- 
served that a certain mental inertia, oftener called lazi- 
ness, is characteristic of certain classes of society, and ex- 
hibits itself in speech. There is in current use a large list 
of students' words and phrases, a sort of college slang, in 
which there is evident the desire to make the same word- 

A History of the German Language 139 

forms do duty on a hundred different occasions and to 
express the most diverse ideas. The same tendency is 
observable in every occupation in which any considerable 
number of persons are engaged. It is not necessary to be 
very explicit to those who habitually share our thoughts 
and feelings: they will understand what we mean upon 
the merest hint. Such consciously or unconsciously formed 
guilds have generally certain characteristics of speech in 
common that constitute a kind of badge of membership in 
the same craft. Besides, it is not natural for human be- 
ings to exert themselves either mentally or physically be- 
yond what is necessary ; and where the interest is mainly 
turned in certain directions other interests are neglected. 
Different mental states in the same person also exert 
an influence on the facility with which words are recalled, 
and on the vocabulary. Generally speaking, a much 
smaller number of new word-forms is likely to be coined 
in speaking than in writing, because the tone of voice which 
accompanies our utterances makes our words more readily 
intelligible and makes it less important that we confine 
ourselves to a well established vocabulary. In serious 
discourse we are apt to use a smaller number of words 
than in the familiar language of every-day life. When en- 
gaged in the calm interchange of thought with another we 
usually hold ourselves closer to the traditional forms of 
speech than when under excitement or in passionate argu- 
ment. The degree of our attention is also influenced by 
the importance we attach to the thoughts we have to com- 
municate. This factor has had no inconsiderable effect 
upon the language of law and diplomacy. Here the 
slightest inaccuracy of expression or statement may give 
rise to complications and disputes. Accordingly well 
established words and formulas are sought with pains- 
taking accuracy, either by an effort of memory or by re- 
course to written or printed documents: and when these 
recur they are not avoided by the substitution of syno- 

140 A History of the German Language 

nyms a practice that is well nigh universal in discourse 
where artistic effect is aimed at. 

But even when the speaker is in position to employ 
other than stereotyped modes of speech to express his 
thoughts he may have reasons for not doing so. Generally 
his main object is to be understood and his hearers may be 
less cultured than he ; or he may be able to express what 
he has to say in several different ways, but his hearers to 
comprehend but one. In the M. H. G. there are three 
different words having the form wern. One of these is 
equivalent to dauern, which has Eng. cognates in ' dure,' 
' endure,' and is the modern wdhren. Another of its 
meanings is * hinder,' ' keep off.' The simple form is no 
longer common and occurs only as an archaism. The usual 
forms are abwehren and verwehren. Still another of its 
meanings was zahlen, geben (pay, give) and is etymolog- 
ically related to the Bng. ' warrant ;' it is preserved in 
gewdhren. The identity in form of these three words grad- 
ually led to the disuse of two, in common speech, and the 
same fate has overtaken other words. 

The danger of ambiguity is, however, generally less 
than might be supposed at first blush, because the context 
usually shows in what sense the speaker wishes his words 
to be understood ; though in written or printed documents 
misapprehension is more likely to occur than in living 
speech. But the ends for which language exists are not 
subserved if it be understood after mature reflection. 
Frequently the object of the speaker is attained only in 
case his words are easily understood and as rapidly as 
they are uttered ; often, too, a thing or a thought is of no 
interest to us in its relation to other things and thoughts ; 
we are concerned about a single phase or quality of it 
only. We accordingly want it to be designated by such a 
term as will cause its concept to stand out prominently 
among its surroundings and secure for it a ready compre- 

A History of the German Language 141 

Ease of comprehension may be further facilitated by the 
addition of modifying elements to existing formulas of 
speech, and these elements may be either additions to in. 
dividual words or to the phrase. At present prepositions 
are often used with cases where formerly the case was of 
itself sufficiently . definite. If one compares a page of 
Anglo-Saxon, or Greek, or I/atin with one of English or 
French it becomes evident almost at a glance that parti- 
cles are of much more frequent occurrence in the modern 
than in the older languages. In the N. H. G. the number 
of connecting words is larger than in the M. H. G. ; and 
we can trace step by step the substitution of compound 
for simple words. A few examples have already been 
given. Similarly bediirfen, begehren, bewegen, erbarmen, 
erbleichen, erhttzen, gedeihen, gehoren, genieszen, are now 
used in precisely the same sense which these words for- 
merly had without the inseparable prefix. Einladen has 
usurped the functions of an earlier laden; abgesandter that 
of gesandter ; loslosen that of losen; mindern was grad- 
ually displaced by vermindern, and this, in turn, is being 
supplanted by herabmindern; Sometimes words of like 
or closely related meanings are combined and the com- 
pound used in the sense of one or the other, when the fact 
of composition had been forgotten. Formerly Maul, 
Saum and Elen meant precisely what Maultier, Saumtier 
and Elentier mean now. The first part of the compound 
Windhund, Eng. ' greyhound,' has no more connection 
with ' wind ' in the sense of air in motion than 4 grey ' in 
the above word has with ' gray ' a color. Both com- 
pounds are in one respect curiously alike. In the M. H. 
G. wint was a sufficient designation of the animal, and 
some word now represented by 'grey' seems to have 
meant 'dog' in an early period of the Germanic lan- 
guages. In the compound Lindwurm (dragon) the first 
syllable in the form lint was originally equivalent to 
Wurm, Schlange. 

142 A History of the German Language 

Of two expressions that one is always the clearest and 
most easily understood which is etymologically the most 
transparent, in other words, that has one or more cog- 
nates in form and signification. The M. H. G. mac has 
been displaced by the modern Verwandter which means 
the same thing ; an older maere, by berilhmt, and mage- 
zoge by Erzieher. Minne and mtnnen, so frequent in medi- 
aeval German, have been supplanted by Liebe and lieben, 
doubtless because these words have a strong support in 
the adjective h'eb. In some instances it is not easy to un- 
derstand why one word has gradually fallen into disuse 
and another meaning the same thing taken its place, when 
the object which it designates has remained unchanged. 
There is an evident disposition in common speech to 
avoid the solitary adverb sehr and to supply its place with 
such intensives as /tire hter tick, eklig, haarig, hollisch, mbr- 
derlich, ochsig, and the like, a tendency that is also quite 
marked in Kng. where we frequently hear such substitutes 
as * awful,' " mighty,' 'devilish,' etc. Instead of the Ger- 
man Maul one frequently hears Fresse, Gefrasz ; and the 
still coarser terms Schnabel, Ritssel are not uncommon 
among the lower classes for Mund; Riecher (smeller) is 
used for Nase ; verrecken, properly said of the lower ani- 
mals only, for slerben; Deckel (lid, cover) for Hut, etc. 

An indirect or tropical manner of speech is more 
graphic and therefore more easily comprehended than a 
direct. By means of a trope the attention is drawn to that 
characteristic of a whole complex mental image in which 
lies the point of comparison of its two members. Figur- 
ative expressions are more frequent in poetry than in 
prose. That of the orient is usually filled with strongly 
metaphorical turns. Many examples may be found in the 
Book of Psalms, as witness numbers XXIII. , XCL, CXIV. 

The language of what would generally be regarded as a 
widely different sphere, that of common life, is interspers- 
ed with metaphors. Instead of the direct sich tauschen 

A JERstory of the German Language 143 

(to be mistaken), one hears sich schneiden (to cut one's 
self), sich stoszen (to hit against, accidentally), sich ver- 
hauen (to hew over the line) ; in place of vergessen^ ver- 
schwitzen (to spoil with sweat) ; instead of studieren, ochsen 
or bitffeln. A rude fellow is designated as klobig, klotzig 
or knotig (cloddish, or gnarly cf. the Kng. block-head, 
one whose head is like a block of wood) ; a bed (Belt) is 
called Korb, Klappe, Nest; for Bauch, Ranzen (paunch) or 
Schwartenmagen is used while the head (Kopf) is spoken 
of as Kiibel (bucket), Aepfel or Simri. It will be seen that 
in cultivated languages there is a sort of double current of 
development, one of the direct mode of expression, the 
other of the indirect or figurative. In the last analysis all 
words used to describe mental acts and states are borrowed 
from such as once designated operations performed by the 
body : in some cases the same word still has both func- 

It yet remains to consider another factor that contributes 
to the perspicuity of language. The facility with which 
an expression is comprehended and therefore its force, de- 
pends in some measure upon the number of parts that en- 
ter into it: the fewer these are the stronger it is. A single 
word is more graphic than a combination of two or three 
or more. German poetry is full of compounds, made for 
the occasion, that would hardly be used in prose ; and the 
same is true, though to a less extent, of English poetry. 
Translators from German or Greek into English are con- 
stantly tempted to transfer compounds, which the genius 
of the" latter tongue, owing to French influence, scarcely 
admits. One of the chief elements of strength in the Ger- 
man is the facility with which compounds of almost any 
length can be formed. When carried to excess, as the 
Germans themselves not unfrequently do, it leads to 
heaviness ot style, though it can not be said to produce 

In direct contrast to what has been said regarding 

144 AlMistofy of the German Language 

the preference of words on account of clearness and the 
rejection of such as would lead to obscurity, circumstances 
sometimes arise where an expressson is preferred for the 
sole reason that it is not likely to be understood. Talley- 
rand was right, in part, when he said language was given 
to man to enable him to conceal his thoughts. One per- 
son may have occasion to address another in the presence 
of a third person whom he does not wish to understand 
what he is communicating. When both have command 
of but a single language it must be so transformed as to 
make it unintelligible to those from whom it is deemed 
advisable to conceal its content. Children sometimes in- 
vent a kind of esoteric speech by prefixing a syllable to 
every word they use, while on the other hand older per- 
sons resort to similar jugglery to tell what they do not 
wish children to understand. 

No class employs a mode of speech so widely dif- 
ferent from that in ordinary use as do those who are 
associated together for the purpose of preying upon so- 
ciety. Such a class exists in every large city and it is 
greatly to their interest to be able so to express themselves 
as not to be understood by law-abiding people. 

German rogue's slang is largely made up of corrupt He- 
brew intermingled with words from the gypsy tongue, to- 
gether with such terms as are not to be understood in their 
common acceptation. A goose may be called a flat footer ; 
the cheeks, gills ; the hands, either fore-feet or paws. 
Sometimes this style of speech is highly figurative, as 
when a cunning fellow is called a fox, or when one who is 
hung is said to dance in the air ; or when one who offers 
his opinion unasked is spoken of as putting in his oar. 
It is probable that such a mysterious language is in use in 
every large city, composed in the main on the same prin- 
ciples, though differing somewhat in its constituent ele- 
ments. A kind of aristocratic desire to be different from 
ordinary mortals gives the language of sportsmen a some- 

A History of the German Language 145 

what unique cast. In effect, sport is in most European 
countries the almost exclusive privilege of the rich, or at 
least of those who have money to spend freely, and is 
rarely indulged in by those who labor with their hands. 
Many of the terms here used are a part of the language of 
technology and have a peculiar and special signification. 
There is further exhibited in language a propensity under 
certain circumstances to the use of words which, though 
intelligible, are vague in signification. This remark is 
applicable to most euphemisms. Sometimes single words 
are substituted for others, as unbekleidet (unclad, nude) 
for nakt* or limbs for legs ; a stupid person may be called 
innocent or unsophisticated; or a bore, quiet, uncommu- 
nicative, and the like. Sometimes circumlocutions are 
used : death is very often designated in this manner in all 
languages. This style of expression is the exact opposite 
of plainness and directness of speech. Many persons who 
would shudder to use oaths, nevertheless make use of 
words that are substantially the same thing, though in a 
form recognizable only to those who are familiar with their 
history. Darn, dickens, de'il, deuce, are examples of this 
sort. If we trace the history of certain words in all civil- 
ized languages we shall find that they exhibit a downward 
progress in the moral scale. This may be readily seen by 
an examination of such English terms as wretch, skeptic, 
miscreant, wench, and villain. The German Dime was 
originally equivalent to maiden, and might with entire 
propriety be applied even to the Virgin Mary ; now it 
means u harlot." Freeh at one time meant spirited ; now 
it signifies " froward " or " impertinent." Geil was equal 
to frohlich (joyous); its present sense is u lascivious." 
Wicht was beforetime the designation of " thing " in gen- 
eral, and is still used in a slightly different sense in the 
Eng. u wight;" now its usual sense is " rogue." In all 
these instances a possible quality of the object gradually 
usurped the entire meaning of the word. An opposite 

146 A History of the German Language 

propensity is exhibited in the names originally given in 
derision to sects and political parties. 

There is in the nature of language and the objects for 
which it exists no justification for the adumbration of the 
meaning of words and phrases just discussed. It is in 
part, at least, explicable by the development of the ethical 
consciousness. Men have gradually become averse to 
taking in vain and to using on every occasion the name of 
that which is sacred, and seek to avoid, in refined society, 
the mention of what is disagreeable. The heroes of 
Homer do not hesitate to exhibit on every occasion their 
most intense feelings ; the modern hero strives to conceal 
them. There is also a sort of superstitious fear in the 
minds of many persons lest to name the Bvil One may 
cause him to appear. The supposed power of the words 
used in incantations is well known. There is, moreover, 
a disposition on the part of cultivated persons to avoid the 
manners and customs of the uncultured, which extends 
even to language. Not only the life and thought of the two 
.classes are different, but also their modes of expression. 
Again, language that is adequate for the ordinary occa- 
sions is often too tame and commonplace under unusual 
circumstances in solemn moments, in the sanctuary, 
under strong emotion. Hence has arisen the language of 
politeness, the phraseology of law and diplomacy, and the 
diction of poetry. 

The same concept may thus find utterance in one of two 
or more possible words or phrases that differ widely in 
their social value. Compare, for example, Schmtits with 
Dreck; Mund with Maul and Gosche ; fioss with Pferd 
and Gaul; Haupt with Jfopfand Schddel; abscheiden with 
sterben, hingehen, krepieren, verrecken; and many more. 

The language of jurisprudence and diplomacy is char- 
acterized by a certain rigidity and formalism, for reasons 
already set forth. Besides, as dignity is naturally asso- 
ciated in the minds of men with age, the solemnity and 

A History of the German Language 147 

importance of an occasion is enhanced when the speakers 
employ a mode of speech that has the sanction of imme- 
morial usage. A familiar illustration of this may be seen 
in the prayers in a language with which those using them 
are totally unacquainted. Age is supposed to give them 
an efficiency which would be wanting if they were trans- 
lated into the language of every-day life. But compre- 
hension is often rendered difficult when the language of 
former times is employed in .speaking of the present; and 
the difficulty may inhere in the individual words, or in the 
structure of the sentences. 

The valedictory address to the imperial diet of 1518 be- 
gins as follows : u We, by the grace of God, Roman em- 
peror elect, at all times augmenter of his realm, etc., pro- 
claim by this letter and make known to each and every 
one, after we as elect Roman emperor, governor and pro- 
tector of Christendom, with solicitude have noted and 
taken to heart the tumults and disorders, which do more 
and more, as time advances, manifest themselves in all 
parts of the empire, and the weighty and obligatory af- 
fairs of all Christendom, of our holy faith and the German 
nation, with what annoyance the enemy of Christ our 
L,ord and Savior, the Turk, strives daily to oppress and 
destroy our faith and the universal Christian church and 
for this reason has caused our legates and those of all 
Christian kings and potentates to come to his Holiness the 
Pope, to take counsel together and to determine how re- 
sistance may be successfully made to such nefarious 
schemes and projects and, further, from the same and other 
determining motives have decided upon an imperial diet in 
our city and that of the Holy Empire, Augsburg, purpos- 
ing, together with the estates of the Holy Empire, in the 
same empire, to take counsel and adjudicate upon the se- 
ditions of our estates and of the German nation, the wants 
and disorders, unity and peace, in virtue of the written 
authority of our estates authorized at the last imperial diet 

148 A History of the German Language 

held in Mainz and what further may be necessary in order 
that such sedition, wants and disorders may be put an end 
to; and that affairs may be placed in a permanent and 
commendable state, to the end that there may result effi- 
cient aid against the Turk, for the rescue of our Holy 

The object of the above translation has been to exhibit the lumber- 
ing style of the German just previous to the reforms instituted by 
Luther, rather than to put the extract into good English. For 
the benefit of those who are interested in the original it is also 
given : 

"Wir Maximilian von Gottes Gnaden, erwahlter Romischer Kayser, zu 
alien Zeiten Mehrer desz Reichs, etc., Bekennen offentlich mit diesem 
Brief, und thun kund allermanniglich, nachdem Wir, als erwahlter 
Romischer Kayser, Vogt und Schirm-Herr der Christenheit, ausz Christ- 
lichem Gemiith betracht, und zu Herzen gefaszt, die Emporungen und Ge- 
brechen, so sich allenthalben im Reich je langer je mehr erzeigen, auch die 
schwere und obliegende Sachen gemeiner Christenheit, unsers Heiligen 
Glaubens und Teutschen Nation, mit was Anfechtung der Feind Christi, 
unsers Herrn und Seligmachers, der Turk, unsern Glauben und gemeine 
Christliche Kirch zu benothigen und unter zu driicken, sich taglich iibet, 
und deszhalben hievor verfugt das Unser und aller christlichen konige 
und Potentaten Bottschaften, zu Pabstlicher Heiligkeit kommen sind, 
zu rathschlagen und zu beschlieszen, wie solchen erschrecklichen Obliegen 
und Filrnehmen, Rath und Widerstand beschehen mag, und ferner 
ausz denselben und anderer beweglichen Ursachen einen Reichstag 
in Unser und desz heiligen Reichs Stadt Augspurg fiirgenommen, 
der Meynung mit desz Heil. Reichs Standen, in desselben Reichs, seiner 
Stand und Teutschen Nation Emporung, auch Mangel und Gebrechen 
Rechtens, Einigkeit und Friedens, laut der Stand Schrifft, auf nechst- 
gehaltenen Reichs-Tag zu Mayntz ausgangen, und was ferner die 
Nothdurfft erfordert, zu rathschlagen und zu handeln, damit solche 
Emporung, Mangel und Gebrechen abgestellt, und in gut loblich bestandig 
Wesen gebracht warden, und daraus eine ausztraglich Hiilff wider den 
Tiirken, zu Rettung unsers Heil. Glaubens, folgen mag." 

The language of 'politeness like the arts of civility has 
for its object to promote the social intercourse between 
man and his fellow-man, and to make it as attractive and 
agreeable as possible. It originates in the desire to say 
what is pleasing, but has nevertheless a clearly marked 
sphere, and therefore a sort of technical character. It 

A History of the German Language 149 

proceeds mainly upon the assumption that one person 
should always show to another the evidence of his esteem, 
either by enhancing the importance of him who is spoken 
to, or humbling one's self. This may be done either by 
expressions of good-will in general, or by demonstrations 
of joy at seeing another, or by expressing the hope 
of soon meeting him again. Society has, however, not 
left it to each individual to decide with what degree of 
esteem he shall regard his fellow-man. It has established 
a particular style of address for particular persons and for 
special circumstances. The language of politeness must, 
therefore, of necessity have a kind of fixed and formal 
character. It is a matter of little moment to the historian 
of language, nor has it any relevancy to the question of 
morals, whether the sentiments felt correspond with the 
words employed, or indeed whether the language used 
expresses any thought at all. The words employed in the 
language of courtesy may, of course, give utterance to the 
same concepts to which they give expression when the 
speaker uses them with perfect freedom ; but it is often 
the case that these appear too commonplace on occasions 
when it is considered good form to employ them, and this 
statement is true not merely of the vocabulary but even 
of the syntax of common speech. Not only should the 
general mode of address be different, but one should 
speak in a different way of himself. The most character- 
istic divergence from the language of every day life is the 
tendency to make the difference in rank between the 
speaker and person addressed as great as possible, to the 
advantage of the latter. This may be done by the use of 
the plural number instead of the singular. The speaker 
minifies his own importance by using 'we' instead of * I,' 
thus merging himself in the great mass of mankind ; or 
magnifies that of the person addressed by using 'you' 
instead of ' thou,' as if he were in the presence of more 
than a single individual, or the speaker may omit all ref- 

150 A History of the German Language 

erence to himself by the omission of the personal pro- 
noun altogether. This form of address is used in the 
familiar phrases, "thanks," "pray," "beg pardon '' (danke, 
bitle], for, I thank you, accept my thanks, I beg your 
pardon. Generally, however, this style of speech is used 
because of its brevity and because the words not expressed 
are easily understood. Again, the person addressed may 
be spoken to, as one not present, that' is, in the third per- 
son. It is customary to say Euer Gnaden, Euer Hoheit 
(your Grace, your Highness), when the meaning is 'thy 
Grace,' and petitions are usually presented, not in the 
name of the petitioner personally, but " your humble sub- 
scriber makes bold to pray," etc. The use of er, sie, was 
originally intended to mark politely the difference in 
social station which the speaker felt in the presence of the 
person spoken to ; but now, conversely, these pronouns are 
used to make the latter realize this difference. The. use 
of the third person in direct address is later than that of 
the plural, and belongs to the N. H. G. period ; but ir (ye) 
instead of du (thou) is a trait of the mediaeval period. 

With these facts the reader may compare the frequent 
use of "thy servant,' 1 meaning I in the Bible, and the 
closing formulas still employed in epistolary correspond- 
ence and elsewhere, such as "your most obedient servant/' 
and so on. 

The latest, and in some respects the most curious, stage 
of development is one that has been reached by the Ger- 
man language alone in the assignment of equivalent 
values to the plural number and the third person Sie 
haben for du hast of the ordinary style of address. Wie 
befehlen der Herr Oberst? means Oberst, ivas befiehlst 
duf This Sie haben is often mistakenly employed for er 
hat, sie hat in speaking of one who is present and who 
would be directly addressed with Sie haben. 

In the category of professional etiquette belong also the 
epithets "honorable," "his honor," "reverend," etc. All 

A History of the German Language 151 

these are to be regarded as titles accompanying the office, 
but having no necessary relation to the office-holder ; 
though it is natural to expect that a man who has been 
honored by election or appointment to an honorable office 
shall himself be honorable. This is by no means always 
the case, as abundant experience proves. The editorial 
"we '' gives a fictitious importance to the person using it, 
as if the writer spoke for a number of persons besides him- 
self. It has been frequently remarked that this " we " 
carries with it in the eyes of many, much more weight than 
the simple " I,'' though both usually mean exactly the 
same thing. The English " thou " is now rarely used ex- 
cept in addressing the Deity ; and by an apparently strange 
anomaly the German du is used in the same way, but 
likewise in conversation with familiar friends. 

The English is perhaps the most democratic of modern languages 
just as the English-speaking people have everywhere made the near- 
est approach to a pure democracy in government, and there are but 
few occasions where the use of ' you ' is inadmissible. The ancients 
were, at least in point of language more modest than the modern. 
Two well-known instances are furnished by the personal narratives 
of Xenophon and Csesar ; both of whom uniformly speak of them- 
selves in the third person. 

Some interesting facts in the history and use of pronouns may be 
found in Schele De Vere's Studies in English under the appropriate 

But it is in poetic composition that aesthetic considera- 
tions produce the most conspicuous peculiarities of speech : 
it is here that the far-fetched, the affected and unusual in 
expression are most frequently to be met with. Not only 
is the vocabulary often uncommon, but the composition 
and the order of words differ from ordinary prose. It is 
true that no hard and fast line separates prose from poetry, 
but a certain class of objects is most frequently represent- 
ed in one than in the other. So in prose we find du lebst, 
er lebt; in poetry the writer is allowed to choose between 
these forms and du lebest, er lebet (thou livest, he liveth). 
Prose prefers hob, geracht, schwor, webte, ivurde ; poetry, 

152 A History of the German Language 

hub, gerochen, sch^uur, wob and ward. Such plurals as 
Bander, Denkmdler, Lander belong to the former ; Bande, 
Denkmale, Lande, to the latter. Abbreviations like 
m'dcht ''ge, weri>ge, Ren? , klagf are admissible only in 
poetry. To it alone belong such forms as Herze, Genosz, 
zuriicke, mein, dein, for meiner, deiner, desz and wesz in- 
stead of dessen, wessen; likewise inniglich, wonnighch for 
the shorter prose forms inmg, wonnig. The poets give us 
welch Getiimmel, ein glilcklich Land, Roslein rot, gebraucht 
der Zeit, tont die Glocke Grabgesang, and they generally 
avoid the insertion of clauses between the article and the 
noun. The vocabulary of poetry contains comparatively 
few loan-words, and to it alone belong such words as 
frevel for frevelhaft, frommen, gulden, Hain, Hindin, 
Mdhr, Odem, lind, schwank, siech, zag, while such as 
Erlebnisz, Gesichtskreis, deswegen, derjenige, Seelenruhe 
pertain exclusively to the province of prose. Gemeine is 
more poetic than Gemeinde, Fitttch than Flugel, Ross than 
Pferd, nahen than sich nahern, mehren, zeugen, zwingen 
than vermehren, erzeugen, bezwingen. 

Generally speaking, poetry represents the conservative 
elements of language ; prose its progressive and growing 
force. English poets like their German brethren are fond 
of employing archaic words in preference to those in every 
day use ; pure Teutonic in preference to engrafted words. 
Tennyson exhibits a marked predilection for the older words 
and word-forms. William Barnes, the Dorsetshire poet 
advocates the restoration of the homely Saxon compounds 
in many cases where they have been displaced by borrow- 
ed equivalents. He proposes " fore-elders " for ancestors; 
" forewit " for prudence ; " inwit " for conscience ; " wort- 
lore " for botany ; and many more. In some cases it is 
difficult to give a reason for assigning a word to the vocab- 
ulary of poetry rather than prose, or vice versa ; yet few 
persons will deny that such a distinction exists in all lan- 
guages. But it is well to remember that much the largest 

A History of the German Language 153 

portion of verse-composition can not with any propriety be 
ranked as poetry. The gap between the language of prose 
and that of poetry is not equally wide at all periods in the 
history of any literature. There are times in the annals 
of every nation when it places little value on works of the 
imagination. Then, too, there are intrinsic differences in 
national tastes. The Romans produced hardly any genu- 
ine national poetry at any time ; the Greeks comparatively 
little of genuine merit after the loss of their independence. 
During the greater part of the seventeenth century poetry 
of a high order was held in comparatively little esteem in 
Kngland, and during this period German poetry had sunk 
almost to the level of prose. For about two centuries be- 
ginning with the middle of the sixteenth, Germany pro- 
duced hardly any literature worthy of the name. Brokes 
{born 1680) uses such expressions as " das Gehor bezau- 
bernden Gesang, von solchem nach der Kunst gekrduselten 

Contemporary poets often differ widely as regards the 
interval which separates their writings from prose. The 
court-romances of the M. H. G. period are much more 
nearly related to the spoken language of their time than 
the popular epics of the same era. The same statement 
may be made of Otfried's Harmony of the Gospel when 
compared with the old Saxon Heliand, which was prob- 
ably composed but little earlier. An important factor is 
likewise the social condition of the poet. If he belongs 
to the class of bards or professional minstrels, or is in 
familiar intercourse with it, the influence of tradition will 
be much more marked in his compositions than when this 
is not the case. This fact will account for the divergence 
in style between the authors of the Heliand, the Nibelun- 
gen Lay and Gudrun, on the one hand, and Godfrey of 
Strasburg on the other. 

Purely external considerations often have great weight 
in determining the language of poetic composition. What 

154 A History of the German Language 

is not designed to be read either publicly or in private, 
but to be recited, generally contains a large number of 
stereotyped formulas to which the rhapsodist may have 
recourse when his memory is at fault, or when there is 
need of a pause as a sort of preparation for what is to fol- 
low. The poetry of the old German gleemen is full of 
such standing epithets. The epitheton ornans is a promi- 
nent characteristic of the Homeric poems. The ships are 
designated as "hollow," the storm as u sweeping," and the 
sea as l< barren " or " dark blue " or " swarming." We 
have "light-haired" Menelaos, the "discreet" Tele- 
machos, and the "white-armed" Nausikaa; Mykenae is 
the " golden," Pylos the " sandy " and Thebes the " seven- 
gated." Voss a contemporary of Goethe mechanically 
imitates Homeric usage in this respect in Louise, although 
his poem was composed for a wholly different purpose; 
and while his skill as a translator, especially of Homer, has 
never been surpassed, he failed to achieve permanent fame 
as an original poet. Goethe with true poetic instinct does 
not employ standing epithets to describe the characters of 
his Hermann and Dorothea, but judiciously varies them 
to suit the different situations. 

As the old Germanic poetry was alliterative the need of 
words having the same initial sound no doubt contributed 
much to the development of frequently occurring epithets. 
The number of words of this class required was much 
larger than is necessary to satisfy the demands of modern 
rime. This becomes easily evident upon a glance at the 
specimen already given. On the other hand the construc- 
tion of modern German poetry is rendered much more 
difficult by reason of the large number of words having 
more than two syllables, but of which two successive syl- 
lables are equally accented. For example, Leuchtwiirm- 
chen, Matkafer, Mondscheibe, and many others, can 
rarely, if at all, be employed in poetic diction, and when 
needed their place must be supplied by substitutes. Such 

A History of the German Language 155 

Bnglish compounds as death-dealing, way-faring, blood- 
thirsty offer a similar difficulty. Sometimes dignity and 
congruence ; or in other words aesthetic appositeness is 
intentionally eschewed by writers and speakers. A coarse 
and vulgar expression may now and then be used for its 
own sake. This trait is characteristic of students' slang 
of which we have already spoken. With a designed dis- 
regard of the rules and traditions of language we find here 
Maul used for Mund, fressen and saufen instead of essen 
and trinken. Euphemisms are rare. When vulgar or 
trivial words are used in close connection with those that 
express emotions of sublimity; or when words that are 
almost void of meaning are placed alongside of such as 
are weighty and significant a comic effect is produced. 
Moritz Busch, a popular contemporary writer, is in the 
habit of employing such combinations to excite the risi- 
bilities of his readers. Sustained efforts of this sort give 
rise to what is usually called the mock-heroic, examples of 
which are the Battle of the Frogs and Mice by Pigres, in 
Greek ; the Hudibras of Butler ; the Rape of the Lock by 
Pope, and the Jobsiade of Kortum. An intentional devia- 
tion from linguistic tradition, or, in other words, a viola- 
tion of grammatical rules, sometimes produces a comic : 
effect. Such expressions as " bif of ditterance," "we- 
thunk," " many a smile he smole and many a wink he 
wunk,'' etc., will illustrate this usage from the English 
standpoint. Irony, or the employment of words in a sense 
nearly or quite the contrary of their usual meaning, also 
deserves to be mentioned as one of the forms of language. 
It has been shown in a former section that the laws of 
logic have but little influence on the formation and devel- 
opment of language, and that the chief object sought to. 
be attained are beauty of diction and ease of comprehen- 
sion. Still, it can not be denied that a species of applied: 
logic, what may be called the theory of grammar, has had; 
some effect on the N. H. G. as well as upon all cultivated, 

156 A History of the German Language 

languages. So far as the German is concerned the labors 
of Gottsched and Adelung, the former of whom belonged 
to the earlier part of the eighteenth century, the latter to 
its later years, have not been altogether fruitless. 


What has been said thus far has had special reference to 
the causes that were mainly instrumental in producing 
changes in language and have been an answer to the ques- 
tion why the new is unceasingly displacing the old. It 
has become evident from the study of particular examples 
that for various reasons the same word can not be per- 
petually employed in one and the same sense. It behooves 
us then to examine the relation existing between vocables 
used with a certain signification now with that which they 
liad in the earlier periods of the language, and how it is 
possible by means of the same word to awaken one con- 
cept at one time and a different one at another time, or, to 
express the thought otherwise, how can a word undergo a 
change of meaning during the period of its existence as 
an integral part of spoken language? And again, how 
shall we find words to express a concept of which we are 
conscious for the first time ? The answer is to be found 
in the study of any cultivated language ; for it will show 
that old words have undergone a gradual transformation 
of meaning, and that new ones have been coined to desig- 
nate new objects. 


When an existing word is employed in a new significa- 
tion it is generally the case that no formal connection ex- 
ists between the old and the new word. The speaker then 
employs one with which the hearer is already familiar, but 
in a different sense. If however he expects to be under- 
stood some relation must exist between the thought to be 
.communicated and the word to be used. This relation be- 

A History of the German Language 157 

tween the two words may be their greater or less simil- 
arity to each other. We have no difficulty in recognizing 
a person whose portrait we have seen. The delineation 
may be rude, a mere outline sketch ; yet the imagination 
easily supplies the missing traits. In like manner any 
concept may be awakened in the .rnind by another concept 
that bears a general resemblance to it. This concept may 
indicate no more than the general type of a class or of in- 
dividuals, provided it be used in such a wav that the miss- 
ing parts may be readily called to mind. For example, 
Luther says, " das Wort sie sollen lassen stan" in speaking 
of the Word of the Holy Scriptures. This " Word " is em- 
ployed in precisely the same way in English. In like 
manner Schrift or " Scriptures '' is used for the contents 
of the Bible though it simply means writings. In such 
expressions as " er gehort der Gesellschaft an" " er ist von 
Familie" the mind readily supplies the adjective gut, as 
the speaker intended it should. Sitzen, brummen, spinnen 
are frequently used in the sense of gefangen sein; machen 
as we have seen may be applied to a great number of acts. 
If there no longer exists alongside of this unliteral and in- 
direct meaning one that is literal and direct, in other 
words, if a term has become obsolete in one or more senses 
we say that its signification has been narrowed or particu- 
larized. It may be said of civilized languages as a whole 
that they exhibit a tendency toward greater definiteness 
in the meaning of their words. If we compare Latin, for 
example, with English or German, it is often impossible 
to find a modern equivalent for the ancient term. Even 
in the same language the difficulty is often insurmount- 
able. Ecke was formerly applied to anything sharp or 
pointed, and might be applied to the edge of a sword; 
now it means " corner." Gerben (tan) meant simply be- 
retten and had no reference to any particular object. The 
Greek <rwro&s originally meant an arrangement of any 
sort, a body of troops, or of laws, a constitution, and it was 

158 A History of the German Language 

not till later that it was applied to the arrangement of the 
words in a sentence, as its derivative is still used in both 
German and English. We say of a child that it knows its 
letters, and of an adult that he is a man of letters ; yet 
nobody is at a loss for a moment as to the meaning in each 

If we wish to call up in the mind of a child the concept 
of a dog or a horse we can do so by showing him the pic- 
ture of either of these animals. The apprehension of 
their essential traits is not rendered defective by the sight 
of some that are unessential ; nor is the mental picture of 
the animal made less vivid by the rudeness of the picture 
before the eye. So in language, the naming of a particu- 
lar characteristic may call to mind the concept of an entire 
class or species. The German word holzen (handle wood) 
is used of any kind of a fight even when no weapons of 
wood are used, just as becJiern (use cups, or goblets) is 
said of a drinking bout from mugs as well. We frequently 
say of a man that he drinks too much, or that he likes 
drink, or that he is too fond of his cups, when we have in 
mind only drink that intoxicates. 

We are sometimes reminded of one person by the sight 
of another ; but there must be some point of resemblance, 
however slight, between the two, though they may be un- 
like in every other particular. What is true of objects 
presented to the eye is equally true of sounds that enter 
the ear. A single individual may awaken the reminis- 
cence of an entire class. But in such cases the word 
class must be understood in its most comprehensive 
sense, for, strictly speaking, a class or genus is created 
whenever we discover any similarity between two wholly 
different things. A white horse, a snow-drop, Parian 
marble, linen, snow, a taper, and other white objects form 
a class or genus, of which the common characteristic is 
the color, just as much as do horse, ox, and hare in the 
genus mammalia, or snow-drop, lily and rose, under the 

A History of the German Language 159 

general class phenogams. The same object may generally 
be ranged under several categories at the same time. But 
we may likewise be aware that divergences exist between 
different classes or genera. The more conspicuous the 
qualities are upon which the similarity of two concepts 
rests the more readily they are observed and the more 
easily the subordinate elements are ranged under those 
that are of a more general character. In this way the 
mind forms categories of objects that are evident to all 
and become a matter of continuous tradition. When the 
connection between two objects is close and their relation 
intimate one may be easily and unconsciously exchanged 
for the other, as when the idea of time is common to 
both. In some of the current German dialects the word 
Mittag is also used in the sense of Nachmittag ; in others 
Abend is employed, where still others regard Nachmittag 
as the proper term. In the South German dialects the 
perfect tense has entirely displaced the older imperfect, 
er ist gegangen, er tst gekommen mean er ging, er kam. 
In French there is an evident tendency in the same direc- 
tion. The Latin perfect of historic times is both a per- 
fect and an aorist, the result of a failure to distinguish 
between two different forms of the earlier language. 

Again, in contemplating an action we may fail to notice 
whether it originated at a certain point or took place 
there ; for this reason the notions of active and passive are 
sometimes confounded or interchanged. Thus, heiszen 
was originally equivalent to einen Namen geben, later, to 
einen Namen besitzen, haben. Hence, we must translate 
Ich heisze Peter, my name is, or I am called, Peter. 
Kehren, treiben, wenden in the older language meant no 
more than to put an object in motion ; now they are used 
in a number of different senses. It is correct to say einen 
fahren, but formerly the verb could take no object and 
was used like the English ' fare ' which is virtually the 
same word. The participial adjectives in ein besonnener, 

160 A History of the German Language 

ein ilberlegter Mensch are both passive in form, but active 
in signification. Ein Bedienter, literally, one served, is one 
who serves, a servant, ein Studierter is one who has studied, 
though in strict grammar it should mean one who has 
been studied. Similarly, we say in English the lesson is 
learned and the man is learned, where the word " learned n 
has two widely different meanings. If we wish to render 
these two phrases in German we shall have to translate 
the first learned by gelernt and the second by gelehrt. 
Attention has already been called to the fact that the 
German as well as the English dialects make no distinc- 
tion between lehren (teach) and lernen (learn). 

It seems to be natural to recognize a close affinity be- 
tween impressions produced on the sensorium through its 
different organs. Sensations received through the eye are 
transferred to those perceived by the ear. We speak of a 
round tone or the dull sound, of the tones of color as loud 
or soft. Grell and hell, now referred to the organ of sight 
or hearing, related originally to the ear alone, Grille 
(cricket) and Hall (clang, resonance) being connected with 
these words. Siisz, at first used of the taste, is now used 
of the taste or smell or sound. Its derivative Geschmack 
like our " taste " is even used of perceptions by the 
aesthetic sense. Impressions received through the sense 
of touch are sometimes applied to those coming originally 
through that of hearing, seeing or smelling : bitter means 
that which bites, stinken at first meant that which pricks 
or stings, while both the German and the Englishman 
speak of tones or words as warm, sharp, pointed, cutting, 
soft, harsh, rough, and so on. 

Another kind of interchange between different categories 
of concepts takes place when objects primarily designed 
for one use are spoken of as if intended for another. The 
original purpose embodied in the radical form of the word 
is lost sight of, in the transferred meaning. For instance 
the name Streichholzchen is still applied to matches made, 

A History of the German Language 161 

not of wood, but of wax, just as Fensterschetbe is used of 
panes of glass that are not round but of some other shape. 
So in English we speak of an ovation or of an inaugura- 
tion to designate ceremonies that have nothing to do with 
either sheep or augurs. A vivid impression and a painful 
one are nearly related. Accordingly many intensive adverbs 
are derived from words that in their earlier history desig- 
nated feelings of pain. " Es ist grausam kalt" " es ist 
schrecklich heisz^ are the counterpart of the English " it 
is outrageously cold,'' "it is fearfully hot;" es dauert 
furchtbar iang is our " it lasts dreadfully long." We even 
hear of a thing being "awfully pretty,'' "awfully good" 
or " awfully nice." The word sehr, Eng. sore, originally 
meant painful. The Scotch " sair " still preserves in sound 
its connection with the German while such expressions as 
"sore need," "sorely in need'' show clearly the original 
signification. In many of the Middle German dialects 
oder is used in the sense of aber, the notion of contrast or 
opposition in both leading to their interchange. 

In cases where the close connection between two or 
more concepts is not made evident by striking points of 
similarity alongside of which minor divergences are lost 
sight of, in other words where resemblances are chiefly 
external, they give rise to what are called metaphors, or 
metaphoric language. The result is the same where class 
distinctions are merely casual or superficial marks, but 
where nevertheless the relations between objects and their 
mental concepts are not entirely hidden. It is not possi- 
ble, however, to draw a fine line of demarcation between 
the examples given above and those here had in view, as 
the mental processes are closely akin. Examples are end- 
less. The same designations are applied to lifeless and 
living objects. The human form suggests many compar- 
isons with inanimate things. We speak of the head of a 
valley, of a stream, of a nail (Nagelkopf) ; of a neck or of 
a tongue of land (Landzunge) ; of an arm of the sea 

162 A History of the German Language 

(Meeresarni) ; of the leg of a chair (Stuhlbeiri}\ and so on. 
The process is reversed when the head is called a pump- 
kin, a gourd, a calabash and other names taken from in- 
animate objects. The German word Kopf (head) is ety- 
mologically related to Eng. ' cup ' and had originally very 
nearly its meaning. The Latin word ( testa,' a vessel of 
burned or baked clay, has in part furnished the Romance 
languages with their word for * head,' ( caput,' the proper 
word having been supplanted by it. Other familiar Ger- 
man words of this class are Brustkorb, Herzkammer, 
Kniescheibe, Becken, etc. 

Designations of time are generally named from concepts 
of spate. Corresponding to the English ' point of time,' 
* portion of time,' * piece of a day,' the German uses 
Zeitpnnkt, Zeitraiim, eine Spanne Zeit, Zeitabschnitt ; um, 
nach and vor originally had reference only to space. 
The notion of space or of time is plainly seen in expres- 
sions embodying the relation of cause and effect, " to do a 
thing out of hatred or envy," " to die from fright," " to 
fall from grace " are examples under this head. Wegen 
is an old dative plural of the substantive Weg, whence the 
older phrase von wegen ; des Geldes wegen accordingly 
means, auf den Wegen des Geldes. The English l way ' 
has a great variety of similar uses in both the singular and 
plural number, as " by way of making amends," " this is 
nothing out of the way," " in a business way," " always," 
and so on. Weil originally had a temporal signification, 
but is now chiefly causal, as may be seen in the Eng. 
" while ;" and is a sort of adverbial case of Weile. The 
Eng. word is still used as a noun and a verb in addition 
to its function as an adverbial conjunction, as may be seen 
in ( a long while,' * to while away the time.' 

The largest number of metaphorical expressions belong 

to the class in which mental phenomena are described in 

terms that were originally used to designate purely sensu- 

t ous acts or experiences. Such words are einsehen (see into), 

A History of the German Language 163 

erfassen (grasp), begreifen (comprehend), vernehmen, 
Fassung, Zustand, Verhalten, and many others of this 
character. In English the etymology is not always so 
transparent because Latin derivatives have taken the 
place of many Germanic words ; but these when carefullv 
examined show precisely t^e same origin. Returning 
again to the German, erinnern means bring into ; lehren 
is to bring into or upon the way ; goth. ' laisjan,' related to 
Geletse ; lernen, to be brought into the way, and the prim- 
itive signification of befehlen was to give over. Vernunft is 
almost equivalent to Vernehmen and is from the same root, 
compare with it the Bng. under-stand-ing. AngstVfet the 
Eng. ' anxious,' ' anxiety,' and Bangigkeit are based on the 
idea of pressing or bending. List (artifice), which in the M. 
H. G., still had the general sense of * insight,' is connected 
with lehren, lernen, Geleise. The Germans say of insane per- 
sons that they are Verriickt, that is moved out of their proper 
or natural state. Our word ' insane ' means simply * un- 
sound,' and might logically be applied to those who are 
sick in body as well as to those who are sick in mind, if 
usage had so determined. Persons are said to be beside 
themselves when they do not clearly apprehend what they 
are doing. " There is a screw loose '' is a thought as com- 
mon among the Germans as among the English. * Whim ' 
is probably a veiled expression for a buzzing or stirring in 
the head, and we say even more undisguisedly " he has a 
bee in his bonnet," to designate about the same cerebral 
condition. Comparatively few proverbial expressions can 
be literally translated from one language into another, but 
the similarity of concepts underlying them is remarkable. 
It is a well established fact in the life and growth of all 
languages that mental processes are without exception 
designated from acts of the physical body or from occur- 
rences in the material universe. In the case of many 
metaphorical expressions transmitted to us from former 
times it is not always easy to recognize their origin. 

164 A History of the German Language 

Words undergo changes in form, as we have seen, irr 
obedience to phonetic laws ; but a word or an expression 
may remain unchanged and the custom out of which it 
grew pass away. The Germans still say Wir haben einen 
Span wider jemand, because in olden times a chip or flat 
piece of wood was used to dite persons before a judicial 
tribunal. In German as in English we may speak of 
throwing down or taking up the gauntlet, when we wish 
to challenge an opponent or take up a challenge from him. 
In order to understand the etymological meaning of Ange- 
binde, something bound on or to, we need to remember 
that it was once customary to bind a birth-day present to 
the arm or around the neck of a child. At present it may 
be used of any gift. The Germans say einen Korb geben 
(give a basket) just as we say to " give the mitten," be- 
cause formerly the maiden let fall the basket in which an 
unacceptable lover wished to be drawn up to her window,, 
or prepared it so that the bottom broke out. Si'mden- 
register is explained by the mediaeval belief that the devil 
kept a record of the sins of each person, which was to be 
presented for adjudication after death. In the metaphor- 
ical expressions above cited the quality in which the cor- 
respondence rests is not always the most salient, but is at 
least one that is not irrelevant. But there is another 
group of concepts in which certain characteristics appear- 
ing only occasionally form the basis of the metaphor. It 
is thus that Mutter chen, mem Sohn, metn Kind are used as 
expressions of endearment, very much like the Eng. 
" mammy," " sonny," " sissy," etc. In some dialects a 
garrulous woman is called a Schwatzfrabase and basen, to 
act the aunt, cousin, means simply to gossip. In Basel,, 
Tochter is used as the exact equivalent of girl, notwith- 
standing the fact that there are many aunts who know 
when to hold their tongues and that there are many 
daughters who are no longer maidens. Sometimes proper 
names are pressed into service to designate certain quali- 

A History of the German Language 165 

lies: Hans, Grete, Peter, Stoffel and Tojfel, both abbre- 
viations of Christophel, are terms for expressing stupidity^ 
just as we call an Irishman "Pat,'' a servant girl "Bridget," 
a Scotchman "Sandy" or a sailor "Jack." "Simple 
Simon," "Smart Aleck," "country Jake," " Jack-of-all- 
trades," are familiar phrases among us. A Prahlhans or a 
Schmalhans is a boaster, though there are many persons 
who boast, bearing other names than Jack or John. In 
Berlin persons .who are better known on account of their 
many words than their profound thoughts are called 
Quaselfrttze, Quaselliese, Quaselpeter ; in each of these ap- 
pellations there is a proper name. There too, a dealer in 
cigars is called Cigar renfritze. In Basel a good-natured, 
stupid fellow is known as Baschi (Sebastian); Johann is 
the common designation of man-servant, while in Paris a 
certain class of women and girls is called grisettes, 
though they often wear garments of other colors than gray. 
In Lower Austria Leahnl means about the same that Kerl 
does in other parts of Germany, it is an abbreviation of 
Leonhardt. Similarly, we speak of a Bohemian, a Philis- 
tine, an outlandish fellow, or an outlandish act. In docu- 
ments of the fifteenth century occurs the term Lazarus- 
mensch to designate a leper. In the seventeenth century 
" to dissect " was called in Leipzig rolfingen, because a 
well known professor, Rolfing, practiced this art in that 
city. Artificially cut and trimmed gardens were said to 
be lenotrized from the name of the French architect 
Lenotre. A mischievious trick is still called eine Eulen- 
spiegelei, from the name of a noted practical joker who is 
reputed to have lived in the thirteenth century and an in- 
credible story is often designated as a Munchausen tale. 

In order to call up in the mind the complete image or 
representation of an object is not necessary that it should 
be designated in its entirety. Any small portion, any ob- 
ject that bears the least relation to it, may by the prin- 
ciple of association, awaken a long train of concepts. A 

166 . A History of the German Language 

myrtle flower may call up in the mind of the aged woman 
her bridal wreath in which it was entwined ; the marriage 
festivities ; the table-talk that occurred ; and the parting 
words of her parents, all of which may come vividly be- 
fore her mind's eye. Words and phrases may be inter- 
changed when the substituted concepts bear any relation 
to the original either by proximity in space or time, or 
cause and effect. Here, too, as in the permutation of sim- 
ilar images the closeness of the connection is not always 
the same. Owing to the presence of one concept the 
recollection of another may in all cases and almost of 
necessity be present also ; or the association may be occa- 
sional and accidental. When we hear or read Schiller's 
<c er zdhlt die Hdupter seiner Lieb en " we know that he means 
not only the heads of his dear ones, but the beloved 
persons ; the hospitable roof, the hospitable threshold, 
are often used for the entire hospitable dwelling. 
Dickkopf (thick-head), Gelbschnabel (yellow-beak), Lang- 
finger, designate beings possessing these attributes. 
Kutte (cowl) and Schurze (apron) are sometimes used as 
synonymous with monk and housewife. Bench and bar 
often mean judges and lawyers. In the peculiar language 
of German students Hausbesen or Zimmerbesen designates 
the maid who takes care of their rooms. We often use 
the name of a place when we are thinking of the persons 
who assemble there, as the House (of Representatives), 
the Senate chamber, the church, the court. The curious 
word Frauenzimmer originally meant just what the sepa- 
rate parts of the compound would make it to mean, a 
chamber for women ; and even in the last century it was 
used to designate a number of persons of the female sex.. 
Bursche the popular appellation of a university-student 
comes from the Latin ' bursa,' the place where the students 
dwelt together. Concepts of things and persons and acts 
and circumstances reciprocally condition each other. 
Sometimes an object suggests a quality, then in time 

A History of the German language 167 

comes to be. substituted for it. " Heart" is thus used to 
signify u courage," and " to take heart " means " to take 
courage." The keen eye and the strong hand of a man 
are sometimes extolled to express in another way the 
thought that he can see far and hit hard. A reenforce- 
ment means not merely the act of reenforcing, but a body 
of men sent to reenforce others. The government, as 
often used, is synonymous with those who govern. Ge- 
fdngnisE in the older German is the same as Gefangenschaft^ 
i. e. prison, is the same as imprisonment. Juvenile frivol- 
ity and youthful recklessness are but other terms for friv- 
olous or reckless youths. Says Hebel, u schon manchet 
Rausch ist seitdem auf den Bergen gewachsen" but he is 
thinking of the grapes from which the wine was made 
that produced the intoxication. Helen (fetch) designated 
in the earlier time an act which frequently preceded the 
bringing of an object, the act of calling, and is etymolog- 
ically the same word as the Greek KaAetV ; lauschen in its 
primitive sense means verborgen sein ; and verwegen (rash) 
is related to wdgen, this epithet being applicable to a per- 
son who has mistakenly weighed his powers and as a re- 
sult exhibits over-confidence in himself. Erschrecken rad- 
ically signifies to ' start up,' as may be seen in Heuschrecke 
(grasshopper, hayhopper). The cause is named from the 
effect, like the Homeric <o/2os, the flight produced by 
fear. The phrase in Harnisch geraten (get into, put on 
one's armor) was in former times the frequent result of 
getting angry ; it is still used in the latter sense, though 
the use of armor has been totally discarded. The Ameri- 
canism " to put on the war paint " is simply a metaphor- 
ical expression for preparing to attack an opponent, and 
has its origin in the custom of the Indians when making 
ready to attack an enemy. Uprightness, honesty, sim- 
plicity as opposed to duplicity, may sometimes be the re- 
sult of dullness : hence a stupid person may be called a 
simpleton. Occasionally the lack of moral qualities is 

168 A History of the German Language 

designated by a term that indicates mental weakness; 
thus schlecht primarily means schlicht (plain, straight- 
forward), as may be seen in schlechthin, schlechtweg, schlecht 
und recht. 

In examining the development of words and the meta- 
morphoses which their meanings have undergone we are 
confronted with a variegated and sometimes a confused 
picture. The science of language must confine itself 
wholly to what is past, and can not, like some of the 
physical sciences, predict what will happen in the future. 
If we know what a certain word signified five hundred or 
a thousand years ago, it will give us no more than a clue 
to its present signification. The various possible mean- 
ings not only run parallel to each other, but continually 
cross each other. The same word may be used in a num- 
ber of different senses at the same time, or in different 
periods of its history. Every language has a tolerably 
long list of words which when used alone, that is, with no 
context, are likely to call into existence a number of dif- 
ferent concepts. 4 Head ' is a word of this class. We have 
already spoken of Kopf and its primitive meaning. Its 
modern signification as the equivalent of Haupt is the re- 
sult of a two-fold transfer. At first the skull, because of 
its resemblance to a cup, was called Kopf; next this part 
of the head came to be used for the whole. The meta- 
phors originating in the word Kopf as the equivalent of 
Haupt are very numerous, such as Kehlkopf, Krautkopf, 
Balkenkopf, Bergkopf, Saulenkopf, and so on, almost ad 
infinitum. Further, the head alone is often mentioned 
when the entire body is meant, a herd of cattle is said to 
consist of so many head ; a tax is generally so much per 
head, and the proverb " so viel Kopfe, so viel Sinne" is 
familiar to all, though not all stop to consider that there 
is needed a good deal more than heads, if there are to be 
minds or opinions. Kopf, like head, is often used to des- 
ignate certain mental qualities, just as the heart is the 

A History of the German Language 169 

synonym for others. We say of a man that he has a good 
head, or a poor head ; that he is hard-headed or head-strong, 
or that he has a head of his own. Parallel to these phrases 
are the German, er hat einen eignen, einen guten, einen 
harten Kopf^ and akin to them are such compounds as 
Hohlkopf, Querkopf, Schwachkopf (numskull, blockhead). 
The Germans even go so far as to say er hat Kopf, or er ist 
ein guter Kopf when they are speaking of a person of tal- 
ents. In the last instance we have a triple transfer of 
meanings, first, from a cup to the human skull, then 
from the skull to the whole head, then from the head to 
the entire person. When we compare the changes in 
meaning with the mutations in the form and pronuncia- 
tions of words that take place under the influence of anal- 
ogy we find that in both cases the relation between form 
and content has shifted, and from the same cause. When 
any external impression upon our senses makes itself felt 
in consciousness, it awakens earlier impressions, already 
therein, provided some kind of relation exists between 
them. Changes in pronunciation are the effect of the remi- 
niscence of former impressions or word-symbols ; while 
changes in meaning result from a sort of confusion between 
concepts reciprocally awakened. It has been remarked in 
a former paragraph that in the transformation of words 
resulting from analogy, its influence does not extend to all 
the senses in which a word may be used. We may here 
call attention to a closely allied phenomenon, that the 
meaning of a word does not always change in toto, but only 
in certain cases ; in others not. In some cases the form 
of a word may remain virtually the same through a long 
period of years, while its meaning undergoes more or less 
important modifications ; in others, the meaning may re- 
main unchanged, in spite of a change of form. In the 
former of the two processes of development above referred 
to, the original, or at least earlier, pronunciation of a word 
is preserved in isolated examples, and in the latter, a kind 

170 A History of the German Language 

of isolation of meaning takes place in which certain words 
preserve a more primitive signification than pertains to 
them in their general sense. It is usually in compounds, 
rhyming couplets, proverbial expressions, and the like that 
the old meanings survive. In Feuersbrunsi (conflagration) 
the purely sensuous signification of Brunst is preserved, 
while Brunst alone is now used in a much more restricted 
sense. Ding originally meant a judicial procedure. The 
Norwegian supreme legislative body is still called stor- 
thing, "the great court." From its earlier meaning it is easy 
to see how bedingen came to mean " make terms or condi- 
tions," notwithstanding the fact that the German Ding 
and the Eng. ' thing,' now have a widely different sense. 
Fahren could formerly be used of a going on foot : this 
signification is still preserved in Wallfahrt. The older 
meaning of klein (fine, elegant) is retained in Kleinod, to 
which that of ' costly ' was afterward added. The termi- 
nation -od is also found in different forms in Eiriode, Ar- 
mut, Monat, Heimat, and corresponds to the Latin -atus 
found in such words as * magistratus,' ' senatus.' Leib for- 
merly was the equivalent of the modern Leben, so that 
Leibrente means a life-rent, and Leibzucht a livelihood. 
Leiche at one time meant the same as Korper, whence 
Leichdorn (corn). The Eng. ' sweetmeats' has preserved 
the earlier meaning of meat as the equivalent of food. 
The " meat offering " of the ancient Hebrews contained 
no flesh. 

This word Korper readily suggests the Latin corpus, 
corporis, from which it is derived and of which it still con- 
serves the meaning. Its history in English exhibits to 
some extent the process above illustrated by means of sev- 
eral examples. There are a number of technical phrases 
in which the original signification is retained, such as 
"habeas corpus," "corpus juris," etc. But the deriva- 
tive corps and corpse show both a metamorphosis of form 
and a restriction of meaning as compared with the Latin 

A History of the German Language 171 

original. In Spenser's time * corpse ' meant a living body ; 
consequently it underwent a change of meaning almost 
exactly similar to that of Leiche touched upon above. 

We have already seen that sometimes the same verbal 
or vocal concept may have several meanings, or indeed a 
large number, while it is equally true that the same thing 
may be said, the same concept expressed, in two or more 
ways. In one case several radii proceed from the same 
point, in the others they converge at the same point. As 
there often exist alongside of the metaphorical or figura^ 
tive designation of concepts, one or more literal designa* 
tions ; or there may be several metaphorical designations 
for the same thing, it follows that, by a transfer of mean" 
ings, several words may develop alongside of each other, 
or rather parallel to each other in sense, that however 
differ more widely from one another than the double forms 
resulting from analogy. In other words, the so-called 
synonyms arise. The number of synonyms in existence 
for the various concepts that may be called into existence 
varies greatly. The simpler any phenomenon, the smaller 
the number of variations under which it appears, the less 
the interest it has for mankind, the fewer the synonyms by 
which it may be designated. Luft and Wasser as names 
of elements have, strictly speaking, no synonyms. But 
phenomena that appear in a great variety of forms ; objects 
that excite humor or provoke mirth present an almost end- 
less variety of points of view from which they may be re- 
garded, and therefore furnish a fertile field for the growth 
of synonymous expressions. Words and phrases to desig- 
nate beating or fighting, being in love, and cheating are 
particularly numerous. But perhaps the longest list of all 
would be the various ways to designate drinking and 
being drunk ; it is probable that some hundreds could be 
collected from the different German dialects. 

But even synonyms that designate virtually the same 
concept may vary in what may be called the degree of 

172 A History of the German Language 

their application: that is, the occasion, the mood of the 
speaker, his culture and education determine to some ex- 
tent the exact meaning he attaches to words and phrases. 
One person may, when employing such a word as cheat 
or deceive, wish to convey the additional idea of moral 
condemnation ; another may use it with approval because 
it indicates to him the subsidiary notion of shrewdness. 
The same word may be used under precisely similar cir- 
cumstances with a slight difference of meaning, or two 
words may be used in exactly the same sense, merely for 
the sake of euphony. Generally, however, this state of a 
language does not continue long, and of two words so re- 
lated to each other one soon becomes obsolete. 

The English language, owing to the double origin of its vocabulary, 
is somewhat different from other cultivated tongues. During the 
period of its formation it seems to have been necessary to use " yokes 
of words," one Saxon, the other Norman-French in order that the 
one might make the other intelligible. Chaucer's poems are full of 
such pairs; and even in Hooker we find " cecity and blindness," 
" nocive and hurtful," " sense and meaning," etc. But in such cases 
as may be readily seen, one of the two words has become obsolete, or 
nearly so, and is only found in writers like Carlyle, who purposely 
effect a style having an archaic flavor. 

Whenever new material is added to the existing verbal 
stock of a language, as is constantly the case, by a trans- 
fer of the signification of existing words, an earlier concept 
or group of concepts, is employed in a slightly different 
sense, and the desired representation is called up in the 
mind of the reader or hearer through the relation existing 
between the sensuous concept and that in which the new 
word stands to it. But the converse of this may also take 
place : it may happen that the connection between the two 
meanings is not at once evident but may create an idea of 
a different sort. This mode of calling up representations 
is frequently employed in jests, the point of which de- 
pends on the double sense (double entendre) in which the 
word or phrase may be understood. When the German 
says, " Er hat mehr Gliick als Ferdinand" Per in the 

A History of the German Language 173 

proper name serves to call up in the mind of the hearer, 
the reminiscence of the word Ver stand, and the expression 
is a little milder than if the words were used which the 
speaker really has in mind. Similar to this is the Eng- 
lish, " You tell a li-kely story.'' It is sometimes said of an 
avaricious person, " Er ist von Habsburg" where the point 
of the remark lies in the similarity between the first syl- 
lable of Habsburg, and the verb haben. It is by a similar 
mental process that Swift connects Jupiter and Jew Peter, 
Andromache with Andrew Mackey, and Peloponnesus 
with Pail-up-and-ease-us. German jest books contain 
many names of places etymologically connected with the 
qualities from which their inhabitants are supposed to be 
chiefly known. On the whole, however, this mode of sub- 
stituting one word for another is comparatively rare in 
comparison with that growing out of a real change of 
meaning. We shall see further on how words often come 
to be substituted for others on account of resemblance or 
similarity of sound, and thus lead to the coinage of en- 
tirely new ones. 

A Glossary of Old English Bible Words, by Eastwood and 
Wright, is a volume of several hundred pages, devoted to a dis- 
cussion of words that have gone entirely out of current use, or are 
now employed in a sense different from that of three or four centu- 
ries ago. As most English-speaking people are accustomed to the 
phraseology of the Bible from childhood, the changes are less notice- 
able here than elsewhere. A modern history, for instance, written 
in the language of the sixteenth century, would strike any one as a 
singular piece of composition. It should be remembered, too, that 
in both English and German we often do not have the continuous 
history of a word, and are not, therefore, in position to follow the 
gradual transformation of meaning it underwent. The careful ob- 
server of the speech of old people, especially of native Englishmen, 
or of those who are comparatively uneducated, may often notice words 
and forms of expression that are no longer used in the written lan- 
guage. Nearly all these, however, still flourish in the dialects of the 
different districts of England. The same statement is true of all the 
countries of Europe, whose language has had a continuous literary 
culture for several centuries. 

174 A History of the German Language 


Daily experience and frequent observation teach us that 
new words may be formed by the combination of existing 
ones. Two words are united to form a third in which the 
separate percepts or concepts are each embodied in the 
new compound. This method of compounding words 
may be of two kinds. By the one, both concepts are rec- 
ognized as co-ordinate, and when placed alongside of each 
other hold about the same relation to one another that 
they would have if united by means of a conjunction. 
We have here accordingly a case of simple addition. 
This earliest and simplest method of forming compounds 
has in historical times become rare in the German lan- 
guage. In the oldest Teutonic one could say sunvader, 
meaning " son and father." At present such combina- 
tions exist only in the numerals from dreizehn to neunzehn 
and such adjectives as bitter siisz, blaugriin, helldunkel, 
etc. By the other, the two ideas are marked as unequal 
in rank, one being regarded as essential, the other as un- 
essential or qualificative ; the essential word designates 
the class or genus to which the whole belongs, the quali- 
fying word the sub-class. The proper order is to place the 
less important term first, and the more important last. 
Gartenbaum means a tree that grows in a garden. So 
steamboat is a boat propelled by steam. In such cases 
the task of the hearer is not as simple as in the former 
sort of compounds where the mode of composition of two 
equally plain representations easily furnished the key to 
the intended unity. It is necessary to consider to what 
extent the areas, so to speak, indicated by the two sepa- 
rate words overlap each other, or what the relation existing 
between them. There is a wide difference between 
Gartenbaum and Baumgarten; that is, between a tree 
growing in a garden, and a garden full of trees, an orchard. 
The relation between the two parts of Goldmensch and 
Goldgrdber is not the same ; neither is it in Konigstiger 

A History of the German Language 175 

as compared with Komgssohn and Konigsmorder; between 
Feuerwasser, on the one hand, and Feuertaufe or Feuer- 
schein on the other ; nor between Hollenstrafe and Hollen- 
Idrm. Still we may say that there is addition even in 
such examples. Butterbrod is made of bread and butter ; 
an Altmeister is not only old but he is also a master ; and 
a Mannweib unites the qualities of a man and a woman 
we might even say she was man and woman in one and 
the same individual. But the addition is of a different 
sort and leads to a real unity, a perfect fusion. Werwolf 
means a wolf that could assume a human form, or a man 
that had been temporarily transformed into a wolf, Wer 
being the Latin ' vir,' but such a being would be quite 
different from a wolf and a man. In the course of time 
the sense of unity produced by a word often grows 
stronger. So long as the two parts of a word can also be 
used separately, a compound into which they enter will 
produce the impression that the amalgamation is not en- 
tirely complete. Examples, however, occur where two 
words have so completely coalesced that their separate 
existence has ceased. When the first part of a compound 
has reached such a state it is generally called a prefix, as 
un-, be-, ent-, ge-, ver-, etc. Though these prefixes no 
longer exist by themselves they can be employed in the 
formation of new compounds, or at least, of new combi- 
nations, for it is not strictly correct to speak of composi- 
tion in such cases. The German does not add together 
un- and or thogr aphis ch to form unorthographisch, or er- 
and kapern to make erkapern, but because such words as 
unschon and unhold exist alongside of schon and hold, or 
because the language already contains erjagen and 
erstreben as well as streben and jagen y analogy sanctions un- 
orthooraphisch no less than orthographiscli, or erkapern as a 
sort of derivative of kapern. It can be readily seen that 
the English furnishes a large number of parallel exam- 

176 A History of the German Language 

When the second part of a compound word ceases to 
exist as a separate entity it is usually called a suffix. The 
syllable -heit, Eng. -hood, and -head was originally an in- 
dependent word meaning form, figure, condition, so that 
Schonheit was the equivalent of schone Gestalt (beautiful 
form). The adjectives ending in -hch were probably sub- 
stantives in prehistoric times since this suffix is the old 
substantive -hch (body) and is still extant in Leiche and 
Leichnam. The original meaning of feindlich, freundlich 
was accordingly Feindesleib, Freundesleib . This suffix, 
which is common to all the Teutonic tongues, appears in 
Bug. as -like and -ly, either being sometimes admissible 
as courtlike or courtly, saintlike or saintly, Godlike or 
godly, though the shorter form seems to be gradually dis- 
placing the longer. * Like ' is substantially the A.-S. lie, 
dative or instrumental, lice, so that saintly means etymo- 
logically, with or in the form or body of a saint. ' Like ' 
has a separate existence in Eng. ; not so the Ger. -lich, 
which in its modern form is gleich. We know further that 
-haft, -schaft and -turn were likewise independent words at 
an early stage of the language, and there is little doubt 
that the same is true of all words used in the formation of 
derivatives. This -schaft is A.-S. scipe, and -turn is the 
Eng. -dom found in such words as * friendship ' and ' Christ- 
endom.' If, then, syllables like the foregoing, that no 
longer exist independently continue to be used in the for- 
mation of new words, these can hardly in strict justice be 
called mere derivative appendages, but the words into 
which they enter are in a certain sense compounds formed 
according to existing models. There is then, in reality, 
no radical difference between composites with prefixes and 
such derivatives as have just been considered : in both 
cases a self-existent word, at least in external appearance, 
is combined with part or parts of another. But it is not 
necessary to the formation of new words that they be com- 
posed of such as already exist, although there is no doubt 

A History of the German Language 177 

that the coinage of entirely new vocables destined to gen- 
eral recognition is comparatively rare. Children not un- 
frequently invent names for objects with which they come 
in contact. Besides the words thus purposely coined 
there are others produced almost unwittingly in the ef- 
fort to imitate the speech of older persons, and these 
often continue to be used by them after they have learned 
to use their mother-tongue with a considerable degree of 
correctness. If a group of children were isolated for sev- 
eral years there is no doubt that they would invent a lan- 
guage of their own. But words, in order to make them 
worthy of permanent preservation, must supply a felt 
want, in which case they will secure a more or less gen- 
eral recognition. Many a word coined in the spirit of in- 
novation on the spur of the moment to suit the occasion 
is soon forgotten even by its author, because he hears no 
one else repeat it. There is an exceedingly slight de- 
mand for new words, simply because the stock on hand is 
amply sufficient for almost every actual and imaginary 
use. We have apparently in the English word " dude," 
that has gained remarkable currency within th'e last half 
dozen years, an example of spontaneous coinage, as it has 
no discoverable origin or traceable ancestry. " High- 
falutin '' is a somewhat similar instance, though here the 
model was probably at least in part the compound * high- 
flying,' to which it is allied in signification. " Boom J> 
came into prominence several years ago, and seems to 
have gained a permanent place in the English vocabulary. 
The history of these words is similar to that of many in 
the German and in all other civilized languages. 

It is probable that within the historic period of the 
German new words have been coined in imitation of 
existing ones and endowed with related significations. 
Such a vocable as trippeln probably gets its initial sound 
from traben, trappen, treten, with which it is also connected 
in meaning. The termination was most likely patterned 

178 A History of the German Language 

after such a word as zippeln. Znpfen suggests both ziehen 
and rupfen, and is related in meaning to both ; schwirren 
and klirren seem to have been influenced by girren, and 
knarren by schnarren. Randal is modeled after Skandal. It 
is not necessary that we be able to account for each sep- 
arate sound and syllable in a new word that may occur, or 
that it has been previously -used in a word having a like 
meaning. A large number of words are still formed, as 
they have been continuously throughout the past, in the 
same manner and in obedience to the same impulse that 
called words into existence thousands of years ago ; it is 
the voluntary imitation of sounds occurring in nature, the 
so-called onomatopoiesis. For example, bammeln, bimmeln, 
patschen, plumpsen, klatschen and many more, are quite 
recent creations. Often, however, it is difficult to deter- 
mine in any given case whether a word is an intentional 
specimen of fresh coinage or merely the modification of 
existing materials. Eng. ' clap,' ' clash ;' French * cla- 
quer, claque,' the Teutonic root of which is also repre- 
sented in klatschen above, are doubtless entirely onomato- 
poetic, plus the various terminations, while such a word as 
" highfalutin '' is only in part original. In the case of new 
words that have no relation of form to others in use the hearer 
has generally no difficulty in divining their meaning, for 
the reason that they are a sort of word-painting. But if 
new material is added or used that has no evident connec- 
tion with or relation to that already in existence and there 
is no similarity of sound to suggest the meaning to the 
speaker or hearer it is not easy to discover it ; the new 
word must be learned as a child learns a language from 
the beginning. The German, like the English, has re- 
ceived a very large increment of this sort in the shape of 
borrowed and adopted words from other languages. But 
new life and vigor have been imparted to the classic lan- 
guage from pure German sources. This has been brought 
about in part by the introduction of words from the dia- 

A History of the German Language 179 

lects : Haller, Lessing and Goethe, of set purpose, trans- 
ferred many vocables from this source into their writings. 
In some cases, too, these and other writers reintroduced 
into the language words that had become obsolete. 
Romanticism the recurrence to the study of mediaeval 
times and the historical study of German have also had 
considerable influence. The stories of knight-errantry 
written toward the close of the last century and the his- 
torical novels of our day, particularly those of Scheffel 
and Freytag, have contributed their part. Sir Walter 
Scott's writings likewise exercised an important though 
indirect influence toward the same end. In this way such 
antiquated terms as Fehde (feud), Gau (district), Ger (jave- 
lin), Haiti (copse), Halle, Hort (hoard), Kampe (champion), 
and Minne, came into use again as a part of current 
speech. The boldest innovator was Richard Wagner 
(died in '83), whose style is otherwise often difficult on 
account of the extent of his vocabulary, and is made still 
more obscure by the introduction of such words as frets- 
lick (schrecklicK), Friedel (husband, lover), glau (bright, 
stirring, joyous), neidlich (neidiscJi), Nicker ("Old Nick") 
and more of the same sort. 

This genesis and decay of words ; the gradual changes 
in their signification and the various modes of word-for- 
mation by composition, together with the transformation 
in sound and appearance that words undergo in the course 
of their history exhibit to us the different aspects which 
the German language presented in the different periods of 
its existence. But the transitions from phase to phase are 
very gradual, so that it can never be said, one period ends 
here and another era begins with this date. Every abso- 
lutely new word is from the nature of the case, an instan- 
taneous creation. There are a number of words and 
phrases to the genesis of which a tolerably definite date 
can be assigned. Yet this only means that certain ex- 
pressions are used for the first time in the writings of a 

180 A History of the German Language 

given author ; but these may have been in oral use long 
before it occurred to any one to write them down. The 
number of periodicals and the multifarious interests and 
tastes represented by them is so great in our day that al- 
most all words and expressions orally used soon find their 
way into print. Strictly speaking, a definite birth-year 
can be assigned to a word only when it is given to a new 
discovery or invention by the discoverer or inventor, and 
such words are generally adaptations from some other 
language, as telephone, phonograph, cablegram, etc. The 
modern word ' gas,' is a good example of new coinage in 
the true sense. Its discoverer, Van Helmont, says he will 
call the newly discovered compound ' gas,' though he has 
furnished no clue to the name. It is probable, however, 
that he had in mind some form of the word Geist, ghost, 
or geest. With the introduction of the thing into the dif- 
ferent countries of the civilized world the name also made 
its way. L,uther designates beherzigen, ersprieszlich and 
tugendreich as new words in his day. Gehen wir, nelimen 
ivtrin the sense of wir wollen gehen, wir wollen nehmen came 
into use in the last century. Lessing seems to have first 
employed empfindsam and weinerlich; Jahn, turnen, volkstum 
and volkstumlich ; abriisten is of still more recent origin. 
Durchbliihen was coined by Uhland. But the decay and 
ultimate extinction of words is a gradual process, just as 
new words gain currency step by step. In some cases not 
all the parts of a compound word pass out of use at the 
same time. The English auxiliaries are now more or less 
defective, yet it is almost certain that at an early period of 
the language they were as complete as any other verb. 
Most of the missing parts can still be supplied from the 
A.-S. In German the participles of a number of verbs 
still exist as adjectives, though the verbs themselves have 
become obsolete : among these are aufgedunsen, abgefeimt 
and entruckt. Sometimes substantives live on in certain 
combinations with prepositions, as in die Irre, in der Irre 

A History of the German Language 181 

gehen, zu Ruste gehen. In the second part of Brautigam, the 
Eng. ( bridegroom ' where the r is sporadic, we have the 
Gothic * guma,' later * gomo,' Latin ' homo ;' in Karjreitag, 
there is preserved an old ' kara,' complaint, pain ; and 
durchblauen (drub) has no connection with blau, but has as 
its verbal part an obsolete bleucn (beat). 

But again, there is no uniformity in the manner and 
rapidity with which the changes in the different depart- 
ments of a language take place. Words and mean- 
ings that in one locality or in one class of society have 
long fallen into desuetude continue in current use in 
others. Sailors, for example, still use the term Wanten to 
designate knit gloves, an old German word preserved in 
* gant,' ' guanto,' the modern French and Italian designa- 
tion for gloves. Many archaic words are also found in the 
language of the chase ; as, for instance, abprossen, means 
to bite off buds. Here we have a reminiscence of the M. 
H. G., broz (bud). Rahmen means iiberholen, and is from 
the M. H. G. ramen (strive after), while wolf en is the same 
as gebaten and is related to M. H. G., ivelf, Eng. * whelp.' 


The language of a people mirrors not only its intellect- 
ual and spiritual development, but also, in a large measure, 
its civilization and political history. By using language 
as a guiding thread we may find what intercourse a nation 
has had with other nations ; what influence it has exerted 
on them, and to what influences it has in turn been sub- 
ject; for there is probably no language in existence that 
has not taken up and assimilated foreign elements to a 
greater or less extent. It was not the privilege of the 
German people to work out their own destiny free from 
foreign interference, and their language bears abundant 
traces along the course of its entire history of the influence 
exerted upon it by the various nations with whom they 
came in contact. Notwithstanding this fact there is 

182 A History of the 'German Language 

reason to believe that no language of Western Europe 
contains so large a proportion of words of native stock as 
the German. Still the question is one to which it is at 
present impossible to give a definite answer. Two lan- 
guages may come into contact with each other in one or 
more different ways. There may be a direct intercourse 
between two nations speaking different languages but liv- 
ing in territorial contiguity ; or one nation may conquer 
the lands of another and settle upon them, or a country 
may be invaded by a foreign army but which comes with 
no intention of remaining permanently. Instances of the 
first are common ; the conquest of Gaul by the Romans 
and of England by the Normans are familiar instances of 
the second, while the various military expeditions of the 
French into Germany and Italy furnish examples of the 
third case. Under such circumstances the number of 
foreign words introduced will be few and generally of a 
kind that designate thoughts and things with which the 
borrowers were hitherto unacquainted. They belong for 
the most part to the class of substantives ; borrowed verbs 
and adjectives are comparatively rare. It lies in the nature 
of the case that almost every portion of the earth possesses 
objects not found elsewhere and that the name of these 
objects will spread hence to the surrounding nations. But 
new qualities and new modes of action will rarely be met 

The contact of one language with another is not 
necessarily the result of intercourse between individuals 
and through the medium of the ear ; it may be purely in- 
tellectual resulting from the perusal of the printed page. 
When contact takes place in the way first indicated only a 
few persons are generally participants and the number of 
languages is necessarily limited to two or at most to three. 
But their reciprocal influence will be much greater than in 
the second case. Here the appropriation of foreign words 
is conscious and intentional, usually the result of a fair 

A History of the German Language 183 

knowledge of the language from which the appropriation 
is made. It may therefore happen that persons will intro- 
duce into their native speech along with some foreign 
words that are a real gain others that are entirely superflu- 
ous. As a foreign language is always of later acquisition 
than the mother tongue and is, moreover, the result of an 
effort of will, some of its words and phrases enter so readily 
into one's consciousness as to take the place of native 
words that are adequate and equally expressive. Then 
too, a pride of knowledge often leads to the use of foreign 
words. Not only are occasional substantives introduced 
but even verbs and adjectives. Now and then the mode 
of inflection shows traces of a foreign model ; the interior 
life of the language has been affected. This is more likely 
to be the case when words of native stock have for some 
time been exposed to the corrupting influence of a foreign 
tongue and retain in their form the traces of that influence. 
In both English and German there are a number of pure 
Teutonic words that have been reintroduced from the 
French but which still bear the marks of their sojourn 
among foreigners. A word may be coined in a more or 
less close imitation of a foreign word to express a concept 
for which no native word exists, or at least is known ; or 
a native word may undergo a gradual change of meaning 
under foreign influences ; or compounds may be con- 
structed according to foreign models of sentence-composi- 
tion. The various ways here spoken of, in which the 
language of a people has been instrumental in modifying 
that of another are for the most part impersonal and con- 
fined to the higher classes. Words acquired from for- 
eigners through direct personal intercourse are not usually 
the result of conscious effort or intelligent adaptation. In 
this case the influence of the individual counts for less 
than in the former. In the one case foreign words are in- 
troduced by the educated and in the other, appropriated 
by the illiterate in the spirit of imitation. The earliest 

184 A History of the German Language 

borrowings are those that result from the contiguity of 
settlements of two nations speaking different languages 
and the later acquisitions that is, those that grow out of 
the systematic study of a foreign tongue, are made after a 
higher degree of civilization and a more advanced stage 
of culture has been attained. 

The German language has taken up foreign elements 
from the earliest period of its existence or at least from 
the earliest period accessible to historical research. But, 
of course, the nearer we approach its origin, the less the 
confidence with which we can assert the extraneous origin 
of words that have an un-German appearance ; and the 
difficulty is the greater because in many cases it is impos- 
sible to discover, in regard to certain words, who were the 
borrowers and who the lenders ; or to express the fact 
otherwise, when the essential parts of a word are common 
to two languages, it is often difficult to decide which is the 
older when we have no other means of determining the 
relative age of the languages. 

The oldest words adopted by the German are names of 
metals and cultivated plants. We are in position to assert 
with reasonable confidence that silver and hemp do not 
bear native German designations, but from what people 
they were borrowed it is as yet impossible to say. We 
can form only more or less plausible conjectures. Their 
adoption must have taken place long before the division 
of the primative German into the later Germanic dialects. 
Somewhat subsequently, but nevertheless still in the pre- 
historic period, the Germans came in contact with Finns 
and Kelts. That there must have been considerable 
intercourse between Finns and Germans is evident from 
the unmistakable traces of their language in that of the 
former. Some of these adopted words have undergone 
such modifications that their original form can be inferred 
only from the application of the phonetic laws of the 
Teutonic. The influence of the Finnish upon the German 

A History of the German Language 185 

has left but faint traces ; from which we may safely 
assume that their civilization during the period of contact 
was of a lower type. The relations between the Kelts and 
Germans were more intimate and of longer continuance ; 
in fact, it was Keltish territory upon which the Southern 
and Western Germanic tribes planted their settlements. 
The Keltic background is plainly seen in proper names. 
Rhine, Main, Danube, Melibocus, Vosges, Mainz, Worms, 
of which the Latin forms are Rhenus, Maenus, Dan- 
ubius, Maguntia, Vogesus, Borbetomagus, are names 
that have a clearly discernable Keltic ancestry. Keltic 
names are likewise of frequent occurrence in England, 
almost every river bearing an appellative that still retains 
traces of the nomenclators in spite of subsequent Roman 
and Teutonic invaders. Isaac Taylor, in his " Words and 
Places," says: "Over the greater part of Europe in 
Germany, France, Italy, Spain we find villages which 
bear Teutonic or Romance names, standing on the banks 
of streams which still retain their ancient Celtic appella- 
tions. Throughout the whole of England there is hardly 
a single river-name which is not Celtic." 

One of the most remarkable items of evidence testifying 
to Keltic influence is the German word retch. Its present 
meaning is 'rich,' but it originally meant 'mighty' or 
powerful; a trace of this signification is still present in 
the noun Reich, meaning ' realm ' or * empire.' The word 
is related to the Latin rex, reg-num, but phonetic laws 
prove that it can have come only from the Keltic into the 
German. Its root is found in such proper names as 
Dumnorix, Vercingetorix, from which it would appear 
that even in political matters the ancient Germans were 
not entirely outside the pale of Keltic influence. The 
words Dune, Falke, Habicht and Pferch are likewise sup- 
posed to be of Keltic ancestry, and have their living 
English representatives in 'down' (a plateau), 'falcon,' 
' hawk ' and ' park.' The influence of the Latin upon the 

186 A History of the German Language 

German may likewise be traced to prehistoric times. It 
can be noticed as early as the beginning of the Christian 
era and continues still. But it differed greatly at different 
times, and it is not always possible to determine whether 
a given word was transferred into the German directly 
from the Latin, or indirectly, by way of a Romance 
language. The earliest loan-words aie popular in form, 
and have come in partly through the early intercourse 
between Germany and Italy, and partly by way of the 
Roman settlements in the Southern and Western por- 
tions of Germany. It was through the Romans that the 
Germans first made the acquaintance of a number of 
animals and plants. Among these were the elephant, the 
pea-cock (Pfau), the fabulous dragon (Drachen), the 
pear (Birne), the fig (Feige), the cherry (Ktrsche), the 
cole or caul (Kohl\ the gourd (Kutbis), the lily (Lilie), 
the almond (Mandel), the mulberry (Maulbeere), pep- 
per (Pfefer), the radish (Rettich), the rose (Rose), etc. 
Pflanze, Frucht and Marmor are also from the Latin. 

NOTE. It may be well to remind the reader that in placing to- 
gether several words because they are related it is not intended to in- 
dicate anything as to the nearness of their relationship. For example, 
dragon and Drachen mean the same thing and were originally the 
same word, though the former is only indirectly derived from the 
latter through the medium of the French. A direct descendant of 
Drachen is found in the obsolete drake-fly. In like manner Latin 
calx, Ger. kalk and Eng. ' chalk ' are the same word, but chalk and 
calx do not mean the same thing. The resemblance of chalk to 
lime evidently led to the confusion of terms. The study of etymol- 
ogy reveals many similar mistakes. Nothing can be affirmed with 
certainty about the etymology of a word until it has been carefully 
studied by the light of established phonetic laws. Mere external 
resemblances are entirely misleading. Of the above words it may 
be well to trace briefly a few through some of the changes through 
which they have passed. The original of Kurbis is cucurbita, the 
French forms of it being coourde, gohourde and others with initial c 
and g. In the early English it is likewise spelled several different 
ways but they all have the initial g showing that in the dialect which 
was its prototype this letter prevailed. Whether the Germans them- 
selves shortened the Latin form or received it after it had already 

A History of the German Language 187 

been so changed is not yet established. Kurbis and ' gourd ' are not, 
however, exactly equivalent in meaning. The Latin marmor, which 
is also the German form though the gender is different, appears in 
the Romance languages as marme, marmo, marmore, marmel, 
marbre, etc., and in English as 'marbre,' 'marbel,' marble,' usage 
finally settling upon the last as the normal form. Mandel and al- 
mond were originally the same word. Its earliest Latin prototype is 
amendela. In the Romance tongues it appears as almendela, ale- 
mandle and alemandre. The O. H. G. form is mandala, correspond- 
ing to the Italian mandala, but other languages, among them the 
English, have retained the initial syllable. The interchangeable 1 
and r in the final syllable is the same phenomenon that we see in the 
final syllable of marble. 

The higher civilization of the Romans made its impress 
upon the German language in three different directions : 
in architecture, in viticulture and horticulture, and in the 
culinary art. Under the first head belong such words as 
Kalk, Pflaster (Lat. plastrum, Eng. plaster, later, a paved 
way), Strasze (Lat. strata, Eng. street), Plats (platea), 
Mauer (murus), Pfosten (postern), Pforte (porta), Kerker 
(career, retained in the Eng. incarcerate), Keller (cel- 
larium), Turm (turrem), Pfalz (palatium), tunchen (related 
to tunica) Ziegel (tigillum), Schindel (scandula and scin- 
dula). Under the second head we have to place Wein 
(vinum), Most (mustum), Winzer (vinitorem), keltern (cal- 
z\\xd,t], prop fen (propago), imp fen and pelzen. To cookery 
and the art of preparing food in general belong Kochen 
(coquere), Speise (spesa and expensa), Butter (butyrum), 
the pure German name of which is Schmer or Anke, Essig 
(acetum), Kdse (caseus), Oel (oleum), P/effer (piperem), 
Semmel (semola) and Senf (sinapem). Weiher comes from 
the Latin vivarium, a fish-pond. The names of many 
utensils are likewise derived from the Latin, among which 
are Anker (ancoria) and Kette (catena), Kopf (cuppa). (See 
ante p.). Schussel (scutula), Kiste (cista) and Sack (saccus), 
Tisc/i (table) the English 'dish' is etymologically related to 
the Latin discus ; the pure German word which designates 
this article of furniture being biut. The borrowed names 

188 A History of the German Language 

for objects of personal adornment are noticeably few ; 
among them are Purpur, Krone (corona) and Spiegel (spec- 
ulum). The word Kaiser (Caesar) is the only word belong- 
ing to the sphere of political life. As would be inferred, 
the number of loan-words relating to fighting is small, the 
Germans being in early times much given to war. Almost 
the only ones are Kampf (campum, the place of muster or 
combat) and Pfeil (pilum). On the other hand the words 
relating to peaceful occupations borrowed by the Germans 
from the Romans are tolerably numerous ; among them 
are Markt (mercatus), Miinze (moneta), Pfund (pondo), 
Zins (census) and Zoll (telonium). Some of these words 
the Romans in their turn had borrowed from the Greeks. 

Writing, as a practical art, came to the Germans through 
the Romans, and the chief word (schreiben] is a modified 
form of the Latin scribere. The pure German word writan 
is preserved in the English ' write. ' Brief ( an epistle ) 
is from brevis libellus^ 'a little book,' and is preserved in 
our law-term 'brief.' Siegel, a seal, is from the Latin 
sigillum. It may be inferred from the nature of the case 
that the arts and sciences of the Romans would not, during 
the earlier period of their contact with the Germans, 
make much impression on them. They were regarded as 
encouraging effeminacy. A few terms relating to the 
healing art are borrowed, such as Arzt (archiator), Biichse 
(pyxem) and Pflaster (plastrum). The meaning of the 
last named word as here given is the earliest, while that 
above noted is a subsequent development ; their relation 
to each other is, however, plainly evident. 

A mightier power than that wielded by the Roman 
empire was necessary to make a permanent impression on 
the intellectual and spiritual life of the Germans. This 
was found in Christianity. The new faith came to them 
from three different directions : on their east it was 
preached by the Greeks; Irish and Roman apostles 
brought the Gospel to the western and interior tribes. 

A History of the German Language 189 

But Irish Christianity seems to have made no impression 
upon the German language, owing, perhaps, to the fact 
that the Latin had so thoroughly permeated this form of 
it as to leave but faint traces of the native language upon 
it when it was brought by Irish missionaries into Germany. 
Of the German tribes, the Goths were the only ones who 
had much intercourse with the Greek empire, or more 
definitely, with its capital, Constantinople, and they dis- 
appear early from history, having been in part extermin- 
ated, and in part merged with other tribes. Nevertheless, 
it was through them that one of the most important 
ecclesiastical terms was introduced into the German, and 
indeed into all the languages belonging to the Germanic 
stock; this is the word Kirche, the Scotch 'kirk,' Ice- 
landic kirkja, English ( church.' Pfaffe (7?$), Pfingsten 
(ir.vr.KO(jrrj) , and Teufel (&a/3oAo?) also came in by way 
of the Gothic, but it is probable that Papst, ( Pope, Latin 
papa) was not introduced till a later period. In fact, 
with the exception of these and possibly a few other words, 
all the ecclesiastical terms in the German come from the 
Latin directly, though the originals are generally Greek. 
In the nature of the case, the influence of the Roman 
heirarchy was powerful, a condition of things that be- 
comes more plainly evident as we come into the historical 
period of the German language or, more accurately, to 
the O. H. G. Most of the names used to designate 
buildings and utensils for religious worship are directly 
from the Latfn. To this class of words belong Klause 
(clausa, Eng. close, an enclosed space), Kloster (cloister), 
Miinster (minster, west-minster), related to the Latin 
4 monasterium ' and the English ' monastery,' Schule 
(schola), Altar, Kanzel (chancel), Kreuze (cruc-em), Oblate 
(oblata) and Orgel; likewise the names of ecclesiastical 
officers and offices, such as Abt (abbot), Kuster (custor, 
custorius), Messner (mansionarius), Monch (monachus), 
Nonne, Pries ter (presbyter, prester), Probst ( Praepositus ) 

190 A History of the German Language 

and Siegrist (sacristanus). The same may be said of 
ecclesiastical ceremonies and customs, among which are 
Ferien (feriae), Mette (matutina), Vesper, Messe ( missa), 
Segen (signum), almosen (Greek eXe^/xoo-w^), and Spende 
(from Latin spendere, expendere). Of like origin are 
opfern and predigen ( Latin ofFere and praedicare), Engel, 
Marter, Pein (poena), Plage and verdammen. Many of 
these words do not occur in classical Latin, and have the 
exact signification in German that they have in the Latin 
of the same period. Many of them, too, are popular in 
origin and meaning and came into the German with the 
introduction of Christianity ; but besides these a large 
number were brought in through literary channels and are 
found only in translations from the Latin. 

In the M. H. G. period we are face to face with entirely 
new linguistic materials. The crusades drew the Germans 
out of their isolation into the current of European life. 
Most important of all, these expeditions brought them into 
communication with their Western neighbors, whose 
higher civilization, the result of a longer and more direct 
subjection to the power of the Roman empire, made a deep 
and lasting impression on them. The French language 
and French literature became the chief intellectual food of 
the higher classes. M. H. G. lyric poetry received a new 
and strong impulse from the French and was for a long 
time patterned after French models. Nearly all the epic 
court-poetry of this period consists of more or less free 
translations from the works of French authors. Godfrey 
of Strasburg and others of his kind go so far in the spirit 
of imitation as to insert entire verses from French origi- 
nals into their poems. Toward the latter part of the 
twelfth century a broad stream of French words begins to 
flow in upon the German language. The technical terms 
relating to the tournament and the chase, to play and 
dance, to music and poetry are borrowed from the West. 
A large number of articles of luxury was introduced from 

A History of the German Language 191 

the same country into Germany and with them their desig- 
nations. The same is true of words relating to the cere- 
monial of court-life and to courtly manners. Many of 
these were but short-lived and disappeared with the death 
of chivalry. A like fate befell those that passed into the 
English and other European languages. Some however 
have continued to the present day and are become an in- 
tegral part of many European tongues. Among these are 
Abenteuer (adventure), Banner, blond, fehlen (Fr. faillir ; 
Eng. fail). Fei,fein, Komtur, Palast, Plan, Preis, turnieren. 
That French influence penetrated to the very blood and 
life of the German is evident from the fact that not a few 
words of pure stock were modified after the manner of 
French derivatives. Words like vilanie, par tie were taken 
as a pattern for M. H. G. jegene, rouberie, vischerie, of 
which the N. H. G. equivalents are Jdgerei, Rauberei &&& 
Fischerei. The ending -leren in words like halbieren, 
marschieren, stolzieren is derived from the French infini- 
tives in -ter, which in the M. H. G. was pronounced with 
the accent on the i ; and finally -lei'm mancherlei, vielerlei, 
einerlei and their like is the French word lot which in this 
earlier time was pronounced lei, and signified also mode 
or manner. The influence of the Latin continues along- 
side the French throughout the M. H. G. period, without 
however equalling in force that of the French. The 
nearer we approach the Renaissance and the age of 
Humanism the more does the Latin come into prominence 
again. Beginning with the second half of the fifteenth 
century a great deal of attention is given to translating 
from the Latin, and to some extent from other languages. 
In the sixteenth century scholars speak the language of 
ancient Rome in preference to their own, a statement that 
is true not only of the Germans, but to a greater or less 
extent of all Europe. The mother-tongue has become an 
object of contempt to such an extent that the head of the 
Holy Roman Empire was willing to speak German to his 

192 A History of the German Language 

horse only. The force of Humanism is not yet wholly 
spent and scholars, especially philologists, are continually 
introducing into their native language words taken from 
the Latin. The Greek has likewise been brought into 
pretty intimate relation with the German. 

In the seventeenth and in the eighteenth century the 
Latin gradually loses its prestige as the language of cul- 
tivated society Professor Thomasius began to deliver lec- 
tures in German at Leipzig in 1688 which were the first 
in this language given at a German university and its 
place is in a measure taken by the French. This was in 
part owing to the spirit of Humanism the prevalence of 
which had accustomed the Germans to look upon their 
own language with contempt. To French influence upon 
the German now beginning to revive that of the Italian is 
also joined ; it furnishing a number of terms relating to 
music and commerce. The words coming from this source 
are however comparatively few and the influence of the 
Italian is much less potent than that of the French. 
Finally, there has been in progress during the present 
century a considerable influx of words from the English, 
chiefly such as relate to politics, to social life generally, 
and especially to field-sports. The Germans have also 
borrowed a small number of words from their eastern 
neighbors, the Slavs, among which are Dolch (dagger), 
Droschke (cab), Hallunke (scoundrel), Knute (knout), 
Kutsche (coach, a word that probably has a singular his- 
tory), Peitsche (whip), etc. There are likewise a few 
words in the Middle and Low German dialects that are 
traceable to the same source. Besides these, there are 
still a few others borrowed from the Dutch, Danish and 
Swedish. The Thirty Years War brought many Swedish 
soldiers and camp-followers into Germany of whom a con- 
siderable number did not return at its close, but settled in 
different parts of the country. Most of the Swedish words 
were probably introduced in this way and at this time. 

A History of the German Language 193 

All the influences exerted upon the language of the 
German nation as above described were external; in 
marked contrast thereto has been that of a single people 
dwelling in their midst, the Jews. The Romance nations, 
the English, the Greeks, the Slavs have always been and 
still are foreigners, from the standpoint of the German ; 
their influence was extraneous and readily discernible. 
The case is different with the people who dwell in all 
parts of the land and who can not properly be called 
foreigners. Not many are the words which the Jews have 
unintentionally added to the German vocabulary, but a 
few of them have become an integral part of it. To this 
source we may trace Gauner (a cheat, trickster), Kiimmel- 
bldttchen (three-card monte), Schacher, schachten, and 
others. But in the dialects the Jewish contingent is much 
larger. We find acheln for essen; beduch for niederge- 
drilckt; ganfen for stehlen ; kapores for capiit ; koscher for 
recht; Makkes for Schldge ; Moos for Geld; and many more. 

The above enumeration embraces all the nations who 
have directly contributed to increase the German vocabu- 
lary from their own ; but the number of languages repre- 
sented in the German is much greater, because many have 
not only given their own linguistic material, but also a 
portion of that which they themselves had borrowed from 
foreign sources. A considerable list of Arabic words came 
into the German through the medium of the Romance 
languages, as for example Alchymie, Almanack, Algebra, 
Alcohol, Admiral, Diwan, all of which belong likewise to 
the English language and have in it substantially the same 
form they have in German. 

To this list is also to be added the names of new plants 
and new fabrics brought into Germany from all parts of 
the earth, chiefly through the medium of commerce. Be- 
side those contributions made directly by foreign lan- 
guages, others were made indirectly, that is, through inter- 
mediary languages, as when Greek words which had first 

194 A History of the German Language 

been naturalized in the Latin were thence transferred into 
the German, or Romance words introduced by way of the 

An examination of the history of quite a number of 
German words reveals the curious fact that they were at 
one period borrowed from the Germans by the Romance 
nations and subsequently reclaimed and reintroduced into 
the language to which they had originally belonged. 

It thus happens that the German now has in a few 
words two different forms, one the original word, the other 
as it appears after undergoing the phonetic changes inci- 
dent to its pilgrimage in foreign lands. As might be ex- 
pected these last are greatly changed by their sojourn 
abroad, invariably as to form and in some cases in both 
form and meaning. For example, Balkon (balcony), and 
Balken were originally the same word; so were Fauteuil 
and Feldstuhl) formed through a popular misconception of 
derivation from Faltstuhl. Gage and Welte, Garde and 
Warte, Liste and Leiste, Rang and Ring are the same 
words. Biwak (bivouac) is derived from the old German 
biwaht (by- watch); equipieren is related to schiff, this verb 
like the English * equip ' meaning originally c to provide a 
ship with necessary articles.' Garniren is connected with 
warnen of which the primitive meaning is to ' prepare ' or 
' equip,' and Loge (lodge) with Laiibe. Foreign influence 
is much more subtile and difficult to discover in cases 
where the genius of a foreign language has made its im- 
press on words that have remained purely German in 
form. At different periods in the history of the High 
German, words were formed, partly with the object of at- 
taining greater definiteness of meaning, and partly, in re- 
cent times at least, with the conscious purpose of opposing 
foreign influence and of supplying the place of foreign 
with native German words meaning etymologically the 
same thing. In some instances the new word is an accu- 
rate translation of the foreign word it is intended to sup- 

A History of the German Language 195 

plant ; in others it is designed to give only the spirit of 
the foreign word. In the O. H. G. period a compound 
gomaheit was coined after the pattern of the Latin human- 
itas (see Brdutigam ante); similarly miser icors was ren- 
dered by armherzi, a term that is connected with barm- 
herzig although the b is not yet fully accounted for. 
Missa (mass) that which is sent, was translated santa, and 
propheta,forasago; apostolus called into existence zwelf- 
bota, one of the twelve messengers, while bibliotheca be- 
came buohfasz, &&& jungiro is probably a free rendering 
of disctpulus. The O. H. G. translators used wahrlich and 
gewisz for the Latin particles autem, ergo, igttur, it ague, 
profecto and vero, a use of these words which, however, 
did not become popular. Again, the Latin worcls eman- 
atio, objectum, sub jec turn and their like were rendered uz- 
fluz,gegenwurf<x wider -wur / "and tinder stoz. More recent- 
ly alumnus became Pfleghng ; Volkherrschaft and Frei- 
staat are pure German for Demokratie and Republik. 
Telegram becomes Drahtbericht, reconnaissant, erkennt'ich, 
Karrikatzir, Zerrbild, and incident, Zwischenfall. On the 
other hand many German words, while not newly coined, 
have assumed new meanings under foreign influence, or 
even lost their original signification entirely. It is prob- 
able that Heide, derived from Heide, a heath, used to 
designate a person who lives in the country, gets its pre- 
sent meaning under the influence of the Latin paganus ; 
in like manner taufen may have meant untertauchen, and 
Jiinger, a younger person, then a disciple, a follower. In 
the sixteenth century the word burgerlich\&$ the meaning 
of hoflich, anstandig, and there is little doubt that this 
meaning had originally some relation to ( civiliter ' or ' civ- 
ilement.' Zerstreut got its present signification (distracted) 
in the time of Lessing, without doubt as an equivalent of 
distrait; einem den Hof machen is a literal translation of 
faire la cour ; antworten sometimes used by scholars in the 
sense of entsprechen, shows the influence of the Latin 

196 A History of the German Language 

respondere. The English word ( answer ' is often similarly 
used. In cases where a foreign language becomes the 
model for the structure of the German sentence it is gen- 
erally the L,atin, but sometimes the French. The Accus- 
ative with the Infinitive is a construction that is often im- 
itated, occurring to some extent in the O. H. G. transla- 
tions, rarely in the M. H. G. period, but very frequently 
both in original writings and translations, since the second 
half of the fifteenth century. For example in Theuer- 
dank a historical allegory in verse written during the 
fore-part of the sixteenth century we find, u nym ZM dir 
den Gesellen dein, den du weist verschwiegen 211 sein" and 
"der Held antwortt, ich red on spot, mich gewesen sein in 
grosser Not" This form of expression is found far along 
in the eighteenth century. It is met with occasionally 
even in Lessing, as when he says, "die Theater stilcke, die 
er so vollkommen nach dem Gcschmacke seines Parterres zu 
sein urteilte" literally, ' the dramas which he so thoroughly 
believed to be ' etc. In the German of to-day this con- 
struction has entirely disappeared. Ich sehe ihn kommen, 
was originally perfectly correct. But there is faintly visi- 
ble the desire to represent literally a foreign construction 
in such expressions as, " dein Bruder, von dem ich urteile, 
dasz er sehr reich ?y/." A very convenient construction is 
the so-called Ablative Absolute. The German originally 
had something similar but lost it early, and for this reason 
we find throughout the entire H. G. period an effort to re- 
store it. The O. H. G. translators often make use of it. In 
the N. H. G. period the L,atin prototype is reinforced by the 
example of the French. The language shows an evident 
effort in two directions to attain this exotic form of expres- 
sion. One is to employ a sort of Accusative Absolute, as 
when Schiller says, "dieses Geschdft berichtigt, eilen alle 
Stadthalter nach ihren Provinzen" and Dahlmann, "das 
geschehen, hdnge die Entscheidung von dem Konige ab" 
The other is the use of the preposition nach, which how- 

A History of the German Language 197 

ever generally produces a very disagreeable stylistic ef- 
fect, as when Goethe says, "nach aufgehobenem Kloster," 
and Schiller, "nach genommenem Abschiede von seinem 
Freunde" or Grimm, "nach dem abgeschiittelten Joch der 
Romer." All these constructions ought to be avoided. 
Two other vicious collocations of words found in modern 
German are to be traced to the Latin use of the relative 
pronoun : the first is the use of a relative clause introduced 
by welcher followed by a substantive, as "auf die bayrischen 
Lande richtete er sein Hauptaugenmerk, welche Lande bisher 
vom Konige nicht gelitten hatten" ("Brant omnino itinera 
duo, quibus itineribus domo exire possent." Csesar). 
The second is the joining of a relative to a principal clause 
when the former does not limit or explain the latter, but 
adds a new thought, as, "der Redner schloss mit einem Hoch 
auf seine Majestat, welchem der Gesang der Nationalhymne 
folgte, woraiif dann eine grosze Anzahl patriotische Toaste sick 

It is safe to say that the influence of the Latin has 
been in general detrimental to the grammar of the Ger- 
man. The strong tendency of the N. H. G. toward the 
use of subordinate clauses and toward involved construc- 
tions is attributable to the influence of the Latin. The 
German of diplomacy and the German of scholars, both a 
highly artificial mode of speech the language of persons 
who understood Latin better than their mother tongue 
were the channels through which the various un-German 
and semi-German constructions found their way into the 
language of the people. Many peculiarities of the Latin 
have at different times been imitated by German writers 
which did not however take deep root. So late as the be- 
ginning of the present century a professor, in the preface 
to a book which he had written in his vernacular, felt 
called .upon to apologize to his readers for employing a 
language that was less familiar to him than Latin. It is 
evident that under a system of education that aimed 

198 A History of the German Language 

mainly at securing proficiency in a foreign language, a 
correct and elegant use of the native tongue was almost 
impossible even for those who made this an object. There 
are a goodly number of minor peculiarities of the Latin 
which were at different times imitated by German writers 
without, however, taking deep and permanent root. This 
statement is probably more applicable to the last century 
when German began to be the language of science, than 
to any other period. It is not difficult to understand why 
the influence of the French was less marked than that of 
the Latin ; its genius is much more nearly akin to Ger- 
man than either is to the older language. The French 
does not contain much that the German could appropriate 
and be manifestly the gainer. It is to the influence of 
this language, however, that it owes a mode of expression 
with sein, as, ' ' von hicr aus ist es dasz man den weitestcn Blick 
iiber Paris hat. " It is uncertain whether in imitation of 
the Latin or the French there arose the mode of express- 
ing quality with sein von, as, ^Friedrich V. war von einem 
freien ^^nd aufgewecktem Geiste, vieler Herzensgiite, einer ko- 
niglichen Freigebigkeit" Similarly we say in English, he 
was a man of, etc. French prototypes may often be rec- 
ognized in the German of newspapers, but not much of 
this has become a recognized portion of the language, as 
Gefahr laufen (courir risque], von langer Hand (de longue 
main). In southwestern Germany one frequently hears es 
macht schon Wetter (il fait beau temps). A number of isolat- 
ed French words are also used with slight modifications, 
such as Budel (bouteille), Kurasche (courage), Schossee 
(chaussee), blessiren (blesser). In Austria one not infre- 
quently notices forms of speech that betray the proximity 
of the Slavic languages. 

We may once more, in passing, call attention to the 
fact that the old language now and then exercises a dis- 
turbing influence on that of to-day, tho' this phenome- 
non is found chiefly in the writings of leading German- 

A History of the German Language 199 

ists among whom Jacob Grimm easily holds the first 

These various points of contact with foreign languages 
enumerated above have been instrumental in drawing 
upon the German a veritable flood of foreign elements. 
The number of exotic words in it has been estimated by 
some at seventy thousand and by others much higher, or 
about one-eighth of the entire vocabulary. 

This is the statement of Professor Behaghel. It does not seem to 
be in accord with what has been previously said regarding the com- 
parative purity of the language. The question is one upon which it 
is not easy to obtain accurate data. According to the estimate here 
given the number of words in the German would considerably exceed 
half a million. To extend the list to such an enormous length it 
would be necessary to include many words that have little claim to 
be regarded as properly a part of the German vocabulary. No Eng- 
lish dictionary, so far as I am aware, professes to embrace so many 
as one-third this number of words, yet the English language is nearly 
or quite as copious as the German. A large number of words used 
by German writers are known to be foreign and are not entitled to a 
place in a German dictionary. Their place is in an encyclopedia or 
polyglot lexicon. 

There is no sphere of life that has kept itself free from 
them, though perhaps the higher culinary art, medicine 
and military affairs have fared the worst. All social classes 
and conditions have done their part in bringing about this 
speech-mixture, though the share of each is not equal. A 
slight difference is noticeable between the language used 
by men and that used by women, provided, of course, that 
their education is virtually on the same level. The em- 
ployment of Greek and Latin words is confined chiefly to 
the male sex ; while women have greater facility in the 
use of English and French words and phrases. The dif- 
ferent classes of society regard the French with diverse 
sentiments. The aristocracy and the court-circles inter- 
mingle their German with a variety of French words 
which an educated person readily recognizes : such as an- 
tichambre, menagieren, soignieren. On the other hand there 

200 A History of the German Language 

lives in the speech of the uneducated and partly educated 
a large number of foreign words that are obnoxious or un- 
known to the cultivated classes, they are such as Budel 
and Budel, Gilet, caressieren, Plaisir, caput, Kamin. The 
first of these, from bouteille, illustrates a mode or rather 
a defect of pronunciation peculiar to South Germany, 
the failure to distinguish between the surd mutes p 
and t on the one hand and the sonant b and d on the 
other. So just as ' bouteille ' becomes Btidel, Pudelis like- 
wise pronounced Biidel. On the whole the educated mid- 
dle classes speak a German that is least intermixed with 
foreign elements. 

This remarkable condition of affairs is not hard to un- 
derstand when we take into account the causes that lead 
to the frequent employment of foreign words. They are 
in part the same that have been laid before the reader in 
a former chapter as leading to the coinage of new words. 
It is well known that language is constantly calling into 
existence new vocables, so to speak, because those in use 
do not, for various reasons, supply all the needs of men. 
It is a familiar fact that the new objects, new discoveries 
and inventions, the new concepts that are introduced 
from foreign lands bring with them new names. Even in 
cases where objects and ideas are our own creations we 
are fond of using foreign designations because it is more 
easy and convenient to adopt words already in existence 
than to coin new ones. Occasionally we employ alongside 
of each other a native and a foreign word, as a convenient 
variation of style. Sometimes foreign words are called 
into requisition because they afford an easy means of con- 
cealing a poverty of ideas and obscurity of thought. Per- 
haps the hearer is good-natured enough to believe that it 
is his own ignorance which makes the words of the 
speaker enigmatic and unintelligible in their foreign garb. 
Formally at least foreign words admit of a greater variety 
in their use than native. How few people are disagreeably 

A History of the German Language 201 

affected on hearing hybrid compounds of Greek and Latin, 
or the senseless mutilation of terms belonging to a lan- 
guage which they do not thoroughly comprehend. 

Vanity is often associated with mental indolence. Half 
educated persons like to get credit for more knowledge 
than they possess, and one way of gaining this credit is by 
the use of such foreign words as they may have at com- 
mand. Often this number is so limited and their use so 
injudicious as to miss entirely its object and only to 
awaken the feeling of the ludicrous in the mind of the 
hearer. The aristocrat is fond of showing his superiority 
to the common herd by the use of words that are not a 
part of every-day speech. It is evident then that the 
strong inclination to employ uncommon vocables is to be 
found in an unfortunate but very general and wholly in- 
eradicable trait of human nature. Nevertheless, we are in 
duty bound, for reasons elsewhere given, not to yield with- 
out a struggle to this prevalent tendency. The frequent 
use of foreign words interferes seriously with the object 
for which speech exists, namely, the communication of 
thought. It is a hindrance to the easy intercourse be- 
tween the different classes of society and leads to misun- 
derstandings that are often ludicrous enough. Educated 
persons and scholars are sometimes at a loss, when brought 
face to face with an exotic word and are compelled to re- 
sort to the dictionary in the hope that it may not, as fre- 
quently happens, leave them no wiser than they were be- 
fore. But even after foreign words have become fully 
naturalized among the educated they will not, in the main, 
be so thoroughly comprehended and be used with the same 
definiteness as those of pure native stock in fact they can 
hardly attain the same definiteness of signification. They 
lack the firm hold upon the language that grows out of 
their etymological connection with other and well known 
words of whose meaning there can not easily be a doubt. 
This absence of supports for the memory is the more dis- 

202 A History of the German Language 

tinctly felt for the reason that in the living vernacular, 
words of foreign origin are more liable to mutilation than 
native ones, quite apart from the unavoidable uncertainty 
of their orthography. The educated man must always be 
more or less in doubt about the pronunciation of foreign 
words. Shall the German accent the penult or the ante- 
penult in Barometer, and shall he give the second ^in Aristo- 
kratie its German or French sound ? The laws of French 
accent on the one hand and of English and German on 
the other tend in opposite directions ; and until a word 
transplanted from one language into the other has secured 
full naturalization its accentuation is uncertain. Is Cadi- 
bat masculine or neuter? Is the plural of T/iema, Themas, 
Themen, Themata, or Thematen? Exactly the same thing 
is true of the English, and it can not be said that one is 
sure what is the plural of * index,' or ' memorandum,' or 
4 cherub,' or * bandit.' Our best lexicographers disagree 
about the plurals and the pronunciation of a long list of 
words ; and they are probably all such as are not yet fully 
naturalized. In many cases, the coiners of new words, 
generally compounds, out of materials taken from foreign 
languages, do not themselves venture to indicate their 
pronunciation. It sometimes happens that words incor- 
porated from one language into another receive a modifi- 
cation of meaning that makes them unintelligible to the 
people from whom they were originally taken. This may 
lead to vexatious misunderstandings. The German term 
Eisenbahncoupe' is equivalent to the French compartimcnt. 
Coupe 1 in this sense is thus bad German and worse French. 
Gourmet and Gourmand are often confounded by both Eng- 
lish and Germans. The former means, a man of keen pal- 
ate ; the latter, a great eater. It will be readily understood 
that the difficulty of getting at the meaning of words is 
not equally great in every instance. Many loan-words 
have become so completely an integral part of the Ger- 
man that the casual observer does not distinguish them 

A History of the German Language 203 

from home-grown product. With most words this is, 
however, not the case : they contain sounds that it is diffi- 
cult or impossible for German vocal organs to produce, or 
their accent is not in harmony with that obtaining in the 
native tongue. The French, for example, uniformly place 
the accent on the final syllable, except in the case of the 
mute e ; the Germans, on the radical part of the word, 
which is usually the first or second syllable from the be- 
ginning. These conflicting tendencies are constantly 
cropping out in the use of French words by English-speak- 
ing people. It may be observed in such familiar words as 
debut, depot, ennui, etc. Even when the accent is rightly 
placed it is not the French accent. The difficulties in the 
way of acquiring the correct pronunciation of foreign 
words are so great as to be well nigh insurmountable. 
There is evidently, then, a sort of stylistic antagonism be- 
tween the purely native and the loan-words that enter 
into a sentence. On aesthetic grounds such a mixture is 
highly objectionable. There is perhaps no modern lan- 
guage that is so little in need of aid from external sources 
as the German. The readiness with which it forms com- 
pounds makes it an easy matter to express in this lan- 
guage nearly or quite every possible concept of the human 
mind. There is at present a marked tendency among the 
Germans to substitute words of native origin for those of 
foreign parentage that have acquired domicil among them. 
There is no excuse but the gratification of vanity for call- 
ing in foreign aid to assist in doing that which can in most 
cases be done just as well out of native resources. Where a 
language is largely composite, like the English, the case is 
somewhat different. Writers of equal ability differ consider- 
ably in the relative proportion of pure Saxon words and 
loan-words, chiefly L,atin, that enter into their working vo- 
cabulary. A good rule to follow is never to use a word of 
foreign origin, if one of native ancestry equally appropri- 
ate and expressive exists. On the other hand, it is well to 

204 A Itistory of the German Language 

avoid carrying purism in language to a pedantic and ridic- 
ulous excess. The difficulty of keeping the German free 
from alien elements is not so great as it may seem at first 
sight. In a countless number of instances it possesses 
good native words alongside of those of foreign origin be- 
tween which the speaker or writer has the privilege of 
choosing. When there is no existing word to express a 
new concept it is easy to coin one. Generally speaking 
the Germans have taken rather kindly to the formation of 
new words. Often the mere translation of words is not 
sufficient to make their meaning clear. This fact is illus- 
trated in the cases where the same words have been in- 
troduced into the language at different periods, and which 
now have divergent meanings. Theismus literally trans- 
lated would be rendered by the same word as Deismus, yet 
they do not mean the same thing any more than do the 
English 'theism' and 'deism.' Spital and Hdtel are both 
from .the Latin * hospitale,' yet they differ widely in signi- 
fication. The former means * hospital ' and the significa- 
tions of the latter are not very different in French, 
German and English. Many similar cases might be 

In other ways also purism may fail of its object and be- 
come ridiculous. It would be unwise, to say nothing of 
its utter impracticability, to attempt to banish from any 
language all those words that careful investigation has 
shown to be of alien origin, as, for instance those that 
came into the German from the Latin, during the earliest 
contact of these languages with each other. Not a few 
words of recent importation have become indispensably 
German and may therefore be justly regarded as fully nat- 
uralized. On the other hand, dogmatic assertion as to the 
permanence of words is equally unwise, for some fortunate 
stroke of genius or the happy inspiration of a moment may 
call into being a new term that will fitly take the place of 
an old one. In the year 1815 a newspaper declared that 

A History of the German Language 205 

no word could ever take the place of Madame and Demoi- 
selle, and every suggestion looking to such a consumma- 
tion would be dealing with the impossible. What a deter- 
mined purpose may yet accomplish is best judged by what 
has already been done. The strife that has been carried 
on since the beginning of the N. H. G. period, by patriotic 
Germans, against the mania for foreign words has not 
been in vain. The greatest zeal and activity in this 
respect was shown by J. H. Campe. He was the subject 
of frequent attacks and not a little ridicule, and in truth 
was not free from fanaticism ; yet on the whole his influ- 
ence was salutary. Campe was a clergyman, an educator 
in the true sense of the term, a lexicographer and a volu- 
minous writer of books chiefly for youth some of which 
are still in demand. He died in 1818 at the age of seventy- 
two. It can be shown that he exerted more or less influ- 
ence on Goethe, Richter, Schiller and others, while a num- 
ber of the best German words in use to-day were coined 
by him to take the place of loan-words. Among these are 
sick eignen for qualificieren, Kerbtier for Insekt, Gefallsucht 
for Koketterie, Fallbeil for Guillotine, Zetrbildfor Karrikatur. 
Subsequently Robert Schumann showed the Germans 
that the musical art has no need of Italian words, and that 
German terms may fitly take the place of the current alle- 
gro, grasioso, moderate, poco piil mosso, vivace, etc. In our 
day the establishment of the new German empire, the ex- 
traordinary growth of national feeling among the Germans, 
has given an increased impetus to the movement against 
the introduction and use of foreign words. The German 
penal code, the postal department, the official report of 
the war of 1870-71 by the department of military affairs, 
and certain influential newspapers, notably in South Ger- 
many the Landeszeitung of Baden, have inspired the na- 
tion with a commendable zeal for purity of speech, and 
have coined apt, pure German words for foreign ones in, 
current use. 

206 A History of the German Language 

The terminology of medicine has perhaps been least 
influenced in this respect. There is some excuse for this. 
Not unfrequently the physician finds it advisable to dis- 
cuss with a brother physician the condition of the patient 
in his presence in a language that he does not understand. 
Systematic botany and zoology can not easily dispense 
with a terminology that is largely of foreign origin, not 
because appropriate German terms do not exist but for 
the opposite reason: .the same object is designated by a 
number of different names, each peculiar to a particular 
district, but not understood elsewhere. Some examples 
have been previously given. Many of the so-called scien- 
tific terms are the common property^of science. They are 
in large part formed of material existing in the ancient 
Greek and Latin, and can not be said to belong properly 
to any one modern tongue rather than to any other. 

It remains for us to consider the fate of loan-words as 
individuals both directly after they have been introduced 
and when they have become in a measure a part of the 
German vocabulary. They have, in the course of time, 
fallen into two general classes. Into one may be put all 
those that have assumed a German garb and may there- 
fore be said to have become fully Germanized ; in the 
other belong all those that have retained very nearly their 
original form. In effect, however, no fixed line can be 
drawn between the two classes for the same word has in 
some instances undergone both kinds of treatment. The 
former proceeding is more common in the earlier history 
of the language, and the latter, in its subsequent develop- 
ment. The words that were naturalized in the O. H. G. 
period were so manipulated as to present in every respect 
the appearance of native words. It is now difficult to 
recognize these as exotics, and it would be neither possi- 
ble nor advisable to extradite or outlaw them. The accre- 
tions that took place during the M. H. G. period are rarely 
much changed in form or appearance and still bear evident 

A History of the German Language 207 

traces of their foreign origin. The explanation of this 
phenomenon is not to be found in the fact that the assimil- 
ating power of the German had become weaker, but rather 
in the circumstance that the borrowing in one case was 
done by scholars and in the other by the people. In the 
latter we have an example of the popular treatment of 
foreign words, while the former exhibits the method of 
the literary class. 

When the literary class acquire the knowledge of a for- 
eign word they learn it by sight rather than by hearing. 
Met with again and again as a part of the sentence its 
original form is frequently reimpressed upon the mind of 
the reader. On the other hand when an exotic becomes a 
part of the living and spoken language of a people they 
intuitively shape it into conformity with the phonetic laws 
of their own tongue. This modification takes place just 
as readily now as at any period in the past. These state- 
ments are not only true of the relation of German to for- 
eign words, but the facts are in conformity with a univer- 
sal law of speech. The Latin furnished a large number of 
words to the Romance languages that appear as doublets : 
one form representing the original word as modified by 
the natural action of the vocal organs of the unlettered 
populace ; the other, the form given to it by the literary 

The most striking contrast between pure German words 
and a large number of loan-words from the Greek, Latin 
and French, lies in the accent. The German generally 
places the chief stress on the first syllable of a word, while 
the Greek and Latin have no such rule of accentuation. 
In French the accent is on the ultima owing to the 
fact that when Latin words became fully Gallicised they 
lost all that part which followed the accented syllable. 

In the O. H. G. age the native accent was transferred to 
the foreign loan-words, and the result was that such words 
as * monasterium,' * moneta ' and * palatium ' became in 

208 A History of the German Language 

German Miinster, Mnnse and Pfalz. The English accent 
corresponds in the main with the German ; where such is 
not the case it is usually owing to the disturbing influence 
of the French, from which however the language is grad- 
ually emancipating itself. Thus, from the French monas- 
tere, monndie and paldce, we get * monastery,' ' money ' 
and ' palace,' all accented on the first syllable. In the M. 
H. G. period we find both the German and French accent 
on the same syllable. The French la baniere appears both 
as bdnier and banier; whence we get the N. H. G. doublets 
Banner and Panzer. At the present day the foreign accent 
is generally retained on loan-words which results in pro- 
ducing a shifting accent, as, Professor and Professor en, 
A'tlas and Atldnten. It needs to be remarked, however, 
that many words did not come into the German directly 
from the language of which they originally formed a part, 
but through the medium of another in which their accent 
had undergone some modification. The names Menelaus. 
Themistokles and Oedipus are accented according to the 
Latin and not the Greek or we should have Meridians, 
Themistokles and Oedipus. In such terms as Katholik, 
Musik, Protestant the accent remained where it is in the 
French. In some cases a word may be accented either 
according to the analogy of the French or the German 
and we may pronounce Phaenomen or Phaenomen, Arith- 
metik or Arithmetik, Metaphy'stk or Metaphysik, a fact to 
which, as far as it bears upon English pronunciation, we 
have already called attention. The Germans say Anti- 
pathie, Politik, Mathemathik, but in the derivative adjec- 
tives the accent falls on the penult making antipdthisch, 
politisch, mathemdthisch. In cases of double accent such as 
we find on Statue and Statiie, Physik and Phy'sik, it is 
doubtful whether the accent on the first follows the anal- 
ogy of the Latin or the German as they here coincide. 
Other similar examples are Kdrneval, Lieutenant, O'cean, 
Schdrlatan. In such words as Adjectiv, Infinitiv, Kaval- 

A History of the German Language 209 

lerie the accent is sometimes heard on the first and some- 
times on the last syllable. The same can be said of the 
dissyllables Bureau, Diner, Souper, the tendency in North 
Germany being to accent the final and in South Germany 
the radical syllable. In Switzerland one may even hear 
Cousine, Hotel, Parterre. It may be stated as a general 
truth that more attention is paid in the North to correct 
pronunciation than in the South. For this reason, the 
foreign, which is the correct, pronunciation of these and 
like words, is retained as nearly as possible. The actual 
result however comes far short of what is aimed at, for the 
heavy stress placed on the final syllable of French words, 
by the North Germans, is as far from the intonation of the 
native French as the misplaced accent of the South Ger- 
mans. When one learns a foreign language from the 
printed page, that is by sight rather than by ear, he is 
likely to pronounce a letter or combination of letters as 
they are pronounced in his own language. Hence the 
Germans frequently pronounce Toast as a dissyllable, be- 
cause oa does not occur as a digraph in their language, 
though it is common in English. Most languages have 
sounds peculiar to themselves which can only be learned 
by long practice begun when the vocal organs are still in 
a plastic condition. It is a rare thing for an adult to learn 
correctly the pronunciation of any other tongue besides 
his vernacular, but the ability to hear and reproduce for- 
eign sounds accurately differs considerably in different in- 
dividuals, and is not wholly a matter of education and 

NOTE. One of the most careful observers in this field lays down 
the following propositions : 

1. u Whenever a foreign language is perfectly acquired, there are 
peculiar family conditions. The person has either married a per- 
son of the other nation or is of mixed blood. 

2. When a foreign language has been acquired (there are instances 
of this) in quite absolute perfection, there is almost always some loss 

210 .1 History of the German Language 

in the native tongue. Either the native tongue is not spoken cor- 
rectly or it is not spoken with perfect ease. 

3. A man sometimes speaks two languages correctly his father's 
and his mother's, or his own and his wife's but never three. 

4. Children can speak several languages exactly like natives, but 
in succession, never simultaneously. They forget the first in acquir- 
ing the second, and so on. 

5. A language can not be learned by an adult without five years' 
residence in the country where it is spoken, and without habits of 
close observation a residence of twenty years is insufficient." P. G. 

The effort to produce the sounds of a foreign language 
generally results in giving the native sound that ap- 
proaches most closely to it in the uneducated this is al- 
ways the case. For example the Latin ( feria ' becomes 
vira in the earlier German, in the later Feier; * creta ' be- 
came crida then Kreide. The same procedure may still 
be observed. The mute e of the French is generally rep- 
resented by the German e, in spite of the fact that the 
sounds of the two letters differ considerably. The French 
nasal sound is often represented by a simple n or m, or by 
ng, as in Mansarde, Rang, Tambur. This is true both of 
German and English. Both nations have great difficulty 
in producing graphically as well as phonetically the 
French liquid sounds. In German we generally find gn 
represented by nj and so pronounced. The German 1 
often stands as the representative of the French liquid 1, 
so that in South Germany bouteille is pronounced Budfcl or 
Biidel and fauteuil Fotohl. Sometimes Ich performs the 
same office in North Germany and we get Budelch and 
Fotolch. The final -il in detail, email is pronounced in 
South Germany so as to rhyme with Heil and Teil. 

Notwithstanding these variations, it is possible in most 
instances to discover what particular sound of the foreign 
tongue is represented in a loan-word, and therefore, to de- 
termine at what stage of development, speaking broadly, 
the foreign word was taken into the German. By a com- 
parison of sounds it is usually not difficult to decide at 

A History of the German Language 211 

about what time the borrowing must have been done. 
The Latin c, for example, before e and i was pronounced 
like k until about the seventh century of our era; subse- 
quently it gradually took the sound of z (ts). Hence we 
know that the German words Keller (cellarium), Ketbel 
(cserefolium), Kirsche (cerasus), Kiste (cista) are loan-words 
of earlier date than Kreuz (crucem) and Zins (census). 
Such words as Pamer and Rappier must have come into 
the German at a time anterior to Bariere and Lisiere be- 
cause the French pronunciation -tire was preceded by -iere, 
i. e., the accent shifted one syllable nearer to the end of 
the word. Sometimes we may draw conclusions as to the 
mode of inflection in a foreign language from the form 
loan-words have taken in German. These words shaped 
themselves according to the analogy of the native words 
which they most nearly resembled and with especial ref- 
erence to the current inflectional endings. When substan- 
tives, they generally took the gender of the class that oc- 
casioned their change of form. In this way the Latin 
words ending in -arium were classed with the German 
words ending in -ari and incorrectly became masculines. 
Kellari (O. H. G. chellari) is the oldest known form of 
Keller and wiari (vivarium) of weiher, and correspond in 
form and gender with such words as lerari (Lehrer), scri- 
bari (Schreiber), etc. The French words le groupe, le role, 
and all substantives in -age, however, became feminine in 
German after the analogy of Bitte, Gabe and theii con- 
geners. It is therefore ridiculous pedantry to insist on 
der Rhone, as some teachers do, simply because the Latin 
RJwdanus is masculine. But not merely the formal anal- 
ogy between loan words and native words has had an im- 
portant influence upon the former : the relation between 
the concepts has likewise been a determining factor. 
Kadaver, though neuter in Latin is masculine in German 
because Leichnam is of this gender. Mauer and Nummer 
are feminine while the Latin murus and numerus are mas- 

212 A History of the German Language 

culine because Wand&n& Zahlaxz masculine. Libell takes 
the gender of Bitch, Pferd (late Latin paraveredus) that of 
Ross. In Vienna Tramway is feminine for the reason that 
Pferdebahn is. In a number of cases, however, there were 
no words in the German that corresponded exactly to 
the loan-word. This led to an uncertainty in the gender 
and it is not easy to discover any definite rule of procedure. 
In fact there is a rather long list of words that have dif- 
ferent genders in the different Germanic dialects. The 
French noun, in spite of the fact that it is generally at- 
tended by the article, has not always decided the gender 
of nouns lent to its eastern neighbors. During the M. H. 
G. period the masculine is represented more frequently 
than in later times. Compare, for example, Harnisch 
(harnais), Palast (palace), Preis (prix), etc., with the mod- 
ern Bankett, Bataillon, Banquett, Dejeuner, Filet and many 
others, all of which are masculine in French and neuter in 
German. Some difficulty was probably experienced by 
the Germans, who were accustomed to a language with 
three genders, in grasping the genius of a language which 
like the French has but two. This difficulty would be the 
greater when both languages were written but little and 
their contact chiefly oral. In later times, especially among 
the lettered class, the reason may be assumed to have 
played a part denied to it in the earlier periods when the 
growth of languages is chiefly instinctive. Though the 
originals of Bankeft, Bataillon, Journal and Palais are mas- 
culine, they designate neuter objects and would naturally 
be assigned to that gender if the judgment had any part 
in the decision, which unfortunately it has not in the Ger- 
man nor in some other languages. 

A number of words are of two genders. Chor is both mas- 
culine and neuter, as are likewise Konsulat and Patriarchal, 
though in the latter cases it is the result of scholastic ped- 
antry. The German language in its instinctive stage made 
all words ending in -at neuter, according to the analogy of 

A History of the German Language 213 

the Latin words the stems of which ended with the same 
letters. As soon as loan-words became thoroughly nat- 
uralized in the German they were subjected to the same 
phonetic laws as native words. They underwent the 
same phonetic variations, and by a careful study of this 
fact we obtain some chronological aid in determining the 
date of incorporation. The Latin l parochus,' * planta,' 
' porta ' appear in German as Pfarrer, Pflanse and 
Pforte. These words have, therefore, undergone the 
second stage of consonantal shifting and must have 
been borrowed before it took place. On the other hand 
Pech (picem), Pein (poena), Pilgrim (peregrinus), came 
into German subsequent to this change. It is evident 
from many German words that those who used them fre_ 
quently modified their form in order to bring them into 
closer harmony with the genius of the language ; that is, 
they exhibit the effects of an evident effort so to change 
their structure as to draw them into etymological relation 
to other and more familiar words, for the purpose of mak- 
ing them more easily intelligible. This is the case in Bi- 
belbuch, Dammhirsch, Grenzmark, Maulesel and their like, 
where the two parts of the compound mean substantially 
the same thing. In other cases, what may be called a folk- 
etymology has brought about the entire transformation of 
a word, so that Arcubalista became Armbrust, Agrimonia 
Odermennig, and cold cream, Gold creme. 

This tendency of the human mind has brought about a transfor- 
mation of a large number of place-names and given rise to many 
local legends. Familiar instances are the change from Pileatus to 
Pilatus, the latter name then becoming the nucleus about which 
grew the legend of the sojourn and death of the well known Roman 
governor upon this mountain ; the metamorphosis of the name 
Mautturm into Mausturm and the story of bishop Hatto who was 
devoured by swarms of rats and mice ; and the change of the name 
of Martyrerkapelle near Bonn into Mordkapelle. 

It will be readily understood that the meanings no less than the 
forms of words undergo a change, a statement that is equally true of 

1*14 A History of the German Language 

native and loan-words. ' Dictare ' and Dichten are related to each 
other as ancestor and descendant, but they are far from signifying 
the same thing. The same may be said of ' poena ' and Pern, * puteus > 
and P/ntze, etc. 

The best English work known to me on popular etymol- 
ogies is, Folk-Etymology, by Rev. A. S. Palmer, London, 
1SS2. Taylor's Words and Places contains some interesting 
matter of the same subject. 



IN ORDER to represent adequately, by means of graphic 
signs, all the sounds of a language there would be 
necessary as many characters as there are sounds. Bach 
sign would need to stand for one and the same sound, at 
all times and for no other. The German language is a 
considerable distance from such an ideal, though it ap- 
proaches more nearly thereto than the English does. Dif- 
ferent letters and diphthongs are used to designate the 
same sound : for example, (Sie) waren is pronounced ex- 
actly like (die) Wahren and (die) Waaren, or Waren. Voll 
has the same initial sound with its primitive filllen, and 
so has vor with the related/^>. On the other hand, the 
same graphic sign or signs represent different sounds. 
For example, ch in Bach, Loch, erlaucht, must not be 
sounded as in Bdche, Locher, erleuchtet, Milch, mancher; 
after a, o and M it is formed further back in the throat than 
after e, i, <?, u and consonants. In words like Wachs, Dachs, 
seeks, the ch is pronounced like k. The combination ch is 
also evidence of the fact that in some cases two letters are 
employed to designate a single sound. The same is true 
in those instances where ie is used to represent the simple 
long i, while ng in lang, Gang, and sch, are always used 
as simple sounds. The converse is likewise found. The 
single letters z and x each represents the double sounds 
t+s and k+s. It will be evident from what has just been 
said that it is important to distinguish between the letters 
of a language and the sounds for which they stand. 

The lack of congruity between the letters and sounds 
of the German language arises from the manner in which 


216 A History of the German Language 

the latter came to be graphically represented. Every 
person learns to write from another who in turn has learnt 
the art from a third ; and so on. In this way the orthog- 
raphy of a language gains a considerable degree of fixed- 
ness while the spoken language undergoes changes. A 
person may therefore write as his father or his grandfather 
wrote, but he will talk like his contemporaries. In a cen- 
tury the changes are generally few and unimportant, and 
usually affect but a small number of words ; but in the 
course of several hundred years the divergence is some- 
times quite marked. The invention of printing was an 
important event not only in so far as it affected German 
orthography but that of all modern languages. By means 
of the printing press it was in the main fixed, as it now 
stands, three or four centuries ago notwithstanding the 
fact that during this period many phonetic changes have 
crept into the language. The Germans write ei and pro- 
nounce ai or rather ae. In such words as lieb, Dieb, the e 
was originally pronounced though it is now silent except 
in some dialects. Such words as steif and spitz are no 
longer pronounced as written, but schteif and schpitz. 
The graphic change did not keep pace with the change in 
pronunciation. In the words Ratte, Vetter, Himmel, Don- 
ner, and their kind, a double consonant is written and a 
single one pronounced. This is easily verified by an ex- 
periment that any one can make. Because double letters 
are hardly ever necessary the advocates of spelling reform 
discard them in most cases. The reason of the doubling 
is as follows : in the M. H. G. there were real double con- 
sonants, or rather, consonants pronounced long, as is still 
the case in modern Italian. During the transition from 
the M. H. G. to the N. H. G. nearly all short sounds were 
lengthened where they stood before single consonants, but 
the vowels before double consonants remained short. In 
the spoken language the double consonants were in many 
cases dropped, but retained in writing, and the impression 

A History of the German Language 217 

gradually prevailed that a short vowel was necessarily as- 
sociated with a double consonant. The result was that 
consonants were frequently duplicated in writing where 
they had never been so pronounced, if a short vowel hap- 
pened to be conserved before a single consonant. Thus 
the M. H. G. kimel and doner came to be written Himmel 
and Donner, because the older stimme and sonne are now 
pronounced Stime and Sbne. 

These defects of the N. H. G. orthography are not with- 
out significance for the language. Written speech reacts, 
among the educated, upon the spoken language and mod- 
ifies it. Many persons see a radical difference between 
the words slets, bestatigen, leer, schwer, erklaren, gefdhr- 
lich and their like, when, in truth, the diphthong <z is 
common to them all. The Bsthonian Germans pronounce 
Haide, Kaiser, Maid, as diphthongs of which the first part 
is an a, but Heide, Kemer, Meineid, with a distinct e in the 
same place. In the M. H. G. all these words had ei as the 
radical vowels, but in contemporary German dialects no 
distinction is made between them. 


The syllables that constitute a word or a sentence may 
be distinguished from one another in one. of two ways : a 
difference may be made in the pitch of the tones, or in the 
force with which they are uttered. As regards the former, 
the variation in a single word is but slight, and therefore 
unimportant ; but the case is different when we take into 
account an entire sentence. There is a wide difference in 
the manner in which affirmative, interrogative and horta- 
tory sentences are uttered. In a simple, affirmative sen- 
tence the inflection is, in general, the falling. If we 
were to set Er geht fort to the notes of the musical scale 
we should place the last word on about the fifth below the 

218 A History of the German Language 

key-note. In interrogative and hortatory sentences the 
melody naturally rises, in the former usually to the ex- 
tent of an octave. In the sentence Er geht fort? the last 
word would thus be placed on the eighth note above the 
other two, while in Er geht fort! (go away, betake your- 
self off!) it would be placed in the fourth above. When a 
sentence is incomplete in form or sense by reason of some- 
thing yet to follow that is not expressed it ends with the 
rising inflection. The first part of a compound or com- 
plex sentence usually closes with the rising inflection. It 
can hardly be said that the cause of these various inflec- 
tions is as yet well understood, but it probably lies in the 
general character of the tones themselves. However, as 
this is not a question that concerns the German alone, but 
is treated in every Manual of Elocution it need not detain 
us further here. 

In the second place, the tones that enter into a sentence 
are distinguished from each other dynamically ; and it is 
to this distinction that we have reference when we speak 
of accent. It is well to remember, too, that accent in a 
word and emphasis in a sentence are not two radically 
distinct things. The Germans speak of Hochton (high 
tone) and designate syllables as hochbetont as if accent was 
concerned only with the pitch or elevation of sounds and 
not with their force. The reason of this is that the force 
or stress with which a tone is uttered generally has some 
connection with its pitch, not only in German but in most 
other languages. The different words of a sentence are 
usually uttered with a stress proportioned to their impor- 
tance in it, viewed from the standpoint of logic. It is also 
true to a considerable extent that the most important syl- 
lable of a word is pronounced with the greatest stress. In 
accordance with this principle, almost any syllable of a 
word may receive the accent under particular circum- 
stances. We might say of a person, er ist bekleidet, nicht 
bemdlt; or, er ist bekleidet, nicht entkleidet ; bekleidet, nicht 

A History of the German Language 219 

bekleidend. Except in cases of marked antithesis the 
German, like the English, in distinction from the Latin 
and especially the Greek, has the accent on the same syl- 
lable of a word under all circumstances, a fact that has al- 
ready been briefly adverted to. For example, ein, einig, 
Einigkeit, Einigkeitsbestrebungen all have the accent on the 
first syllable, though the words differ greatly in length. 
The syllable that regularly takes the accent is in all sim- 
ple words the radical or first syllable. The apparent ex- 
ceptions offered by such words as Jagerei, Buberei, han- 
tieren, stoteieren have been caused by French influence. 
These and other similar words are not pure German. 
See also page 191. 

But, as we have seen, there is a tendency to change the 
accent of foreign words to the first syllable during the 
process of naturalization in German. The English lan- 
guage, too, furnishes many examples of this gradual re- 
cession of the accent. In compound words the rule for 
the accent is not so simple. Of great importance in such 
cases is the logical relation which the first part of the com- 
pound bears to the second. 

In the majority of examples the first member of the 
compound defines or limits the second. When in such 
cases the first member is a noun, adjective, or verb, that 
is, a word that expresses a complete concept, the accent falls 
upon it, as Mondschein, Gri'mspecht, Tretrad (tread-wheel). 
This rule also holds good for those cases where adjectives, 
prepositions, or particles are used to form compounds 
with nouns or adjectives, as Wiedertaufer, Anlwort, Ueber- 
ftusz, Vorlaut, Missetat (misdeed). 

When compounds are constituted of a particle and a 
verb they may be combined in one of two ways: if the 
prefix is inseparable the radical portion of the verb takes 
the accent, but if it is separable the accent falls upon the 
prefix. It is thus that we get belehren (instruct), entnehmen 
(take from), erfdhren, mis) 'Allen (displease), verrAthen (be- 

220 A History of the German Language 

tray), zerreiszen (tear in pieces) ; but beistehen (assist), fort- 
fallen, iveggehen. A considerable number of particles 
may be either separable or inseparable parts of a com- 
pound : the two words though spelled alike do not have 
the same meaning and are pronounced differently, as 
ctiirchbrechen (intrans.) and durchbrechen (trans.), hinter- 
treiben (drive behind) and hintertreiben (thwart), iibersetzen 
(cross) and ubersetzen (translate), itmgehen (deal with) and 
umgehen (avoid). 

The laws governing the accentuation of words that are 
compounded with particles as prefixes, as above enun- 
ciated, seem in a number of cases to conflict with each 

Such words as Bescheid (advice), Eroberung (conquest), 
Verikger (publisher), seem at first sight to have a prepo- 
sitional prefix; which according to the rule above laid 
down would require the accent. In fact, however, there 
are no such words as Scheid, Oberung, and Leger; their 
apparent compounds are not formed of prefix and substan- 
tive but are derivatives of bescheiden, erobern, and verlegen. 
They, therefore, rightly receive the accent of verbal com- 
posites. On the other hand words like dntworteit, firkun- 
den and w'theilen are not at variance with the rule for the 
reason that they are derived from Antwort, Urkunde and 
Urtheil (judgment). 

But it sometimes occurs that the second member of a 
compound is not materially, or not at all, changed in 
meaning by its prepositional or adverbial prefix. In such 
cases the second member receives the accent, or the accent 
oscillates between the first and second member of the com- 
posite. Such is the case with the prefix ge- in leiten and 
geleiten, streng and gestreng, Wasser and Gewasser, be- 
tween which couplets there is but a slight shade of differ- 
ence. The same is true as to the prefix voll- in vollenden, 
vollfuhren ; as to all- in allgiitig, allmachtig, and others. 
Sometimes the prefix in composites merely intensifies the 

A History of the German Language 221 

radical meaning of the word as in groszmachtig, klein- 
winzig, mittendrinn, &c. 

The German also possesses a number of words which 
when occupying the place of prefix, may either cause a 
change of meaning or be merely intensive : compare 
steinreich (stony) with steinreich (" mighty " rich) blutdrm 
(very poor) with bhttarm (exanguious), bombenfest and bom- 
'benfest. It is to be noted, however, that both compounds 
are sometimes accented alike, in which case the sense 
must determine which of the two is meant. 

Of still less importance is the first member of a com- 
pound when the speaker is not conscious of the relation 
existing between its two parts. This is usually the case 
when the second member no longer has a separate exist- 
ence. Notwendig is sometimes pronounced with the chief 
stress on the first syllable and sometimes on the second, 
because there is no such word as wend'g. The same re- 
mark applies to leibhaftig, and leibhdftig, willkommen 
and willkommen, wahrschemlich and wahrsch&intich, with 
a number of others. This fact will also explain the 
pronunciation of Forelle (trout) and lebendig (living). In 
the M. H. G. these words were accented on the first 
syllable and were simply derivatives. But as there are in 
the N. H. G. no analogous words with the termination 
-endig and -elle, these vocables came to be regarded as 
compounds and to be accented according to the rule ap- 
plicable in such cases. In adjective compounds that have 
the prefix un- the accent rests on this when the second 
part also exists as an independent word ; when not, then 
the accent is upon the second part of the word. We say 
schon and iinschon, freundlich and unfreundhch, frtichtbar 
and imfruchtbar, but unbeschreiblich, unermeszlich, unsdg- 
lich, unzahlich, because there are no such words as be- 
schreiblich,ermeszlich, etc. In the examination of compound 
words it is likewise of importance to note the syllable that 
has the so-called secondary accent. It is true, in general, 

222 A History of the German Language 

that this accent would falls upon that syllable of the simple 
word that enters into the compound if it stands independ- 
ently. We say Sommerarbeit, hinterllstig, Unelnigkeit, 
placing the secondary stress on -ar-, -list-, and -em-, be- 
cause the words Arbeit, listig and Einigkeit, when standing 
alone, have the accent on these syllables. This rule, 
while true in general, is however subject to two excep- 
tions : if the first member of the compound is a monosyl- 
lable with a strong secondary accent, and if the second 
member, a syllable with a strong secondary stress, follows 
directly upon that having the primary accent, there is an 
evident tendency to conform to a general law of the N. H. 
G., namely, to pronounce successive syllables with an al- 
ternating strong and weak accent. By pronouncing the 
words that constitute a sentence in this way, the sentence 
itself moves forward with a sort of rhythmic or wave-like 
motion that gives pleasure to the ear. For this reason we 
say imabsichtlich, tinvorsichtig, in spite of the fact that 
absichtlich and vorsichtig&tz correct. In the same category 
fall such words as Amtsmisbrauch, Vomnseige, Vorurtheil, 
unfruchtbar, etc. 


A knowledge of the laws of accent is not only important 
in itself, but also for the additional reason that the relation 
of accented to unaccented syllables in a word has much in- 
fluence upon its form. The clianges which in process of time 
take place in strongly accented syllables are usually of a 
quite different kind from those occurring in syllables that are 
habitually uttered with but a slight stress. When, therefore, 
it is proposed to consider the morphology of the German 
vowels it is important to distinguish carefully between those 
that are accented and those that are unaccented. It is in the 
former, as has been before indicated, that the most impor- 
tant changes have taken place, and here lies the chief dif- 
ference between the Old and the New German, First and 

A History of the German Language 223 

foremost, attention needs to be called to the long M. H. G. 
vowels i, u and ii (written iu) which appear in the N. H. G. 
as ei, au and eu, that is, as diphthongs. This transforma- 
tion began in the Bavaro-Austrian dialect and appears as 
early as the twelfth century. In its progress it gradually 
embraced the dialects of Central Germany, South and 
East Franconia and Swabia ; but the Alemanian and Low 
German remained unaffected. We find, therefore, that the 
N. H. G. mem, dein and sein are represented by the Ale- 
manian, Low German and M. H. G. mm, din and sin. The 
M. H. G. hus, mils, hiule correspond to the N. H. G. Haus<> 
Maus, heute. In unaccented syllables the original simple 
vowel has in some cases remained, probably for the reason 
that it had been shortened before diphthongs began to ap- 
pear in the language. Consequently we have reich along- 
side of Heinrich, Friedrich, Ganserich together with Leiche, 
Leichnam and their derivatives in -lick. See p. 176. 
The N. H. G., however, contains a tolerably long list of 
words with a single vowel in the place of a former diph- 
thong. These are, for the most part, loan-words from the 
Old German, the Low German and the Alemanian. For 
this reason we have both Schweiz and Schwyz, Neid and 
Niihart, Auerochs and Ur, taunen and Runen, Gertrud and 
traut, Bruno and braun, Hune and Heune. 

The three phonetic tendencies above pointed out are all 
due to the same law, they indicate the influence of the 
vowel sound represented by the letter a : in fact Germans 
even to-day pronounce mein and heute as if written main 
and haute. The same tendency began to manifest itself 
in the three diphthongs that existed in the Old German ; 
the M. H. G. ei also passed into at, so that keiser^ for ex- 
ample, became Kaiser in Modern German ; the M. H. G. 
ou passed into au, so that for bourn we now have Baum ; 
and the M. H. G. ou likewise was changed into du (-aii), 
that is, bourne into N. H. G. Bdume. It will be seen that 
the N. H. G. ei pronounced, and occasionally written, at, 

24 A History of the German Language 

represents an older I and <?/, that is, the N. H. G. aii in 
sound, but written eu and au, and au have each absorbed 
two sounds of the M. H. G. The process may be repre- 
sented thus : 

N. H. G. ei= M. H. G. I and , 
N. H. G. eu = M. H. G. t'u and ou, 
N. H. G. au = M. H. G. u and ou. 

The pronunciation is, however, not quite uniform 
throughout Germany. The Middle and Low Germans, 
when speaking the N. H. G., no longer make a distinction, 
but the South Germans make a slight difference either in 
the character or in the length of the tones. The M. H. G. 
wide (willow) becomes Weide and wise (manner), Weise; 
as the M. H. G. weide and weise became Waidea.\a& Waise 
(a-fi), and the M. H. G. tube is pronounced Taube, but 
taub (deaf) represents the M. H. G. toube* In like manner 
reuen (pronounced raiien) represents an older nuwen and 
streuen (pronounced straiten) an earlier strouwen. To re- 
peat in other words what has been said above : in South 
Germany the diphthong ei has two slightly different 
sounds ; and the statement is true of au and eu, while in 
Middle and North Germany, the two couplets of sounds 
are alike. This is to be explained by the fact that the people 
of the former section maintain in pronunciation though not 
in print a distinction that formerly existed throughout Ger- 
many, while those of the latter have lost it. But there is like- 
wise a tendency in the German to separate the old single 
vowels into diphthongs. The M. H. G. sounds represented 
by ie, uo, and He appear in Modern German as /, #, and //, that 
is, /^/becomes lief, guot becomes ^w/ and grilezen becomes 
griiszen. This process of simplification begins to show 
itself at the close of the M. H. G. period and seems to have 
started in Central Germany. The Bavarian and the Ale- 
manian, however, retain the old diphthongs to the present 
day, with here and there a slight change in the second 
yowel, though the variation is not quite the same in the 

A History of the German Language 225 

two dialects. In the Alemanian the words Bube, Blut, 
Gut, Hut, of the N. H. G. are Bueb, Bluet^ Guet, and Huet, 
but in the Bavarian, usually, Buab, Bluat^ etc. In view 
of the fact that the long i-sound of the Modern German 
generally originated from ie, it is easy to understand how 
this diphthong comes to be written for every long i, in- 
cluding even those cases where it has a different origin. 
Such instances are numerous. It is easy to observe that 
in the same word the radical vowel sound is sometimes 
pronounced long and sometimes short, either because cer- 
tain words exhibit a long, others a short vowel ; or because 
the same vowel is at one time pronounced short and at 
another, long. We have, for example, wir nehmen, ihr 
nehmt, but er nimmt, du nimmst, nimm, where the double 
consonant is the sign of a short vowel; geben, wir geben, 
but du gibst, er gibt, gib or giebst, giebt, gieb. The pronun- 
ciation of des Glases, des Tages, des Weges is universal ; but 
the South Germans say Glas, Tag, Weg, while in North 
Germany one often hears Gifts, Tag and Weg. In like 
manner we get Herzog and Herzog,jenseits and jensetts. 
How are these variations to be explained? The reply is 
that where the same word exists in two forms that have 
but a single signification it is probable that one represents 
the regular process of phonetic development, but that the 
other is due to the force of analogy, a process that has 
been briefly explained on p. 122. Applying these principles 
to the cases just cited we find that the North German pro- 
nunciation exhibits the original, that is, das Gifts, des 
Glases. Going back to the M. H. G. we find gifts, glases, 
in conformity with a law according to which a short vowel 
in the M. H. G. always appears long in the N. H. G. when 
it stands before a single consonant followed by another 
vowel. In closed syllables the radical vowel remains short 
except that the presence of an r makes an exception to 
this rule. This lengthening process first appears in Mid- 
dle Germany and in the M. H. G. period. In the case of 

226 A History of the German Language 

closed syllables that contain a long vowel contrary to the 
law here laid down, the phenomenon is to be attributed to 
the influence of those forms which contained an open rad- 
ical syllable : that is, the reflex influence of Glases pro- 
duced Glas and of wir gaben modified er gap into er gab. 
In the same manner the primitive weg became Weg 
through influence of Weges ; the adverbial weg (away) is 
simply the accusative of this noun which has maintained 
its original short vowel because its connection with the 
substantive ceased to be felt. It is true there are excep- 
tions to the law that the vowel of an open syllable is al- 
ways long. If the simple consonant following the radical 
vowel is in turn followed by e\l, e+n or e+r the radical 
vowel may be either long or short. We accordingly find 
both Mdkel and Makel, gesotten, M. H. G. gesoten, but ge- 
bolen though the M. H. G. is geboten, under, the M. H. G. 
form also, and wieder, besides Vater, with the dialect form 
Vatter and its derivative Vetter. These apparent irregu- 
larities have not yet been satisfactorily explained. 

The same vowel sounds that have in some cases re- 
mained short have in others become short though orig- 
inally long. We find nie alongside of mmmer, the old 
form being niemer, that is, me mer. That Putter and 
Mutter were once Futer and Muter is shown by the 
Alemanian and Bavarian forms Fueter and Mueter. That 
the ancestors of Blatter and Jammer are blater andjdmer 
is proven by the wide spread dialectic forms Bloter and 
Jomer ; for in many dialects still current the vowel 6 rep- 
resents not only the 6 of older words, but is not unfre- 
quently a development of an original a. The literary 
High German contains a number of words taken from dif- 
ferent dialects that exhibit this change from long a to long 
o. Thus, we find existing alongside of each other Atem 
and Odem, Wahn and Argwohn, Magsamen and Mohn^ etc. 
Mond is mane in M. H. G. and the ancestor of Wage is 
wac. Further back in the history of the German Ian- 

A History of the German Language 227 

guage than all these variations we find the process taking 
place which the Germans call Umlaut. This is a modifi- 
cation of the radical or root vowel. It is thus that Krafte 
is formed from kraft, mochte from mochte, Hauser from 
haw, trdumt from Iraum, fuhre from fuhr. In all cases 
the unmodified vowel is the original. It will thus be seen 
that the same root, though not the same form of it, con- 
tains both the shorter and less open vowels a, o and u, as 
well as their variants a, o and u. Now it can be shown 
by the history of the German as well as by that of other 
languages that a is more primitive than a, o, than o, etc. 
The N. H. G. furnishes some hints on the origin of the 
unmodified vowels : we have, for example, Kraft and 
krdftig, Rom and romisch, Thor and thoricht, Ru/im and 
ruhmlich, kosten and kostlich, Graf and grafin, with a host 
of others. It will be seen that in all these instances the 
modified vowel is followed by an i in the next syllable ; 
and the fact is that as long ago as the O. H. G. period it 
was this i that brought about the change in the preceding 
vowel : for even those words from which it has now dis- 
appeared once had it. In the O. H. G. period krafti cor- 
responded to the modern Krdfte, mochti to mochte, husir to 
Hauser, troumit to traumt, fuori to fit/ire. We may, there- 
fore, define Umlaut as the modification of a vowel by the 
influence of a subsequent i. 

There are some words in German which seem to have a 
modified vowel in the root form and a primitive vowel in 
some of the derivative forms. This is sometimes called 
Ruckumlant on the supposition that the second change is 
simply a return to the original form. Examples are bren- 
nen, preterite brannte; rennen, preterite rannte; senden, 
preterite sandte; schon and schon,fast and fest. In fact, 
however, appearances are here deceptive. It is the cus- 
tom of grammarians to designate certain words or sylla- 
bles as radical, or primitive, and others as derivative. 
The base of the verb is usually found in the present tense, 

228 A History of the German Language 

that of the noun in the singular number, and that of the 
adverb in the adjective. But the theory does not always 
correspond with the facts, and does not in tha above ex- 
amples, since brannte, schon and fast exhibit the primi- 
tive, unmodified vowel, while brennen is derived from 
brannian,fest from fasti, and schon from scorn. 

The sound represented by e in the N. H. G., of which 
the ancestor is a, is written in two ways, either as a or e; 
in like manner the Umlaut of au, as du or eu. The modi- 
fied a (a) is employed when there is a real or fancied con- 
nection between it and the original or radical a, as Band 
and Bander, Wahl and wahlen, Haus and Hduser, Traum 
trdumen; on the other hand, e is used where the connec- 
tion has been forgotten, as streng, O. H. G. strangi; leugnen, 
M. H. G. lougnen, O. H. G. louginon. These are cases in 
which the same radical vowel exist in a number of deriva- 
tives, in some of which it is felt and in others not. For 
example, fahre is the ancestor not only of Fdhrte and 
Fdhrmann, but also of Ferge ( ferry-man ) and fertig; to 
Schlacht belong not only Schldchter, but also Geschlecht, 
which originally meant the same with Schlag, as may be 
seen in Menschenschlag (race, type of men). 

In the study of these and similar phenomena the reader 
needs to keep constantly in mind that the spoken lan- 
guage preceded the written by a long interval, and that 
even after writing had come into vogue to some extent 
there were thousands who used their native speech orally 
only. When words began to be put on parchment and 
paper their pronunciation had been in the main fixed, and 
could rarely be modified. Besides, most languages are 
written a long time before the etymological relations of 
words are understood, and the efforts of scholars, where 
they have tried to represent these relations, have for the 
most part remained without permanent results. 

Different from,^and yet closely related to the umlaut, is 
the breaking or splitting of a vowel. In many cases the 

A History of the German Language 229 

same radical vowel contains both e (a) and *', as in gebdren 
and gebiert, Erde and irden, Herde and Hirte. These 
changes have likewise been wrought by the influence of 
the final vowel. In the O. H. G. the words above given 
were phonetically represented by gaberan gabirit, erda irdin, 
herta hirti. In all cases the radical vowel of the stem is *, 
as may be seen in the corresponding Latin and Greek 
words fero and ^e/ow; the e remained when followed by a y 
but was changed to i when succeded by the same letter. 
This law has been deduced by the examination of so large 
a number of words that it is safe to assume when, for in- 
stance, we find Gebirge existing alongside of Berg, and 
Gefilde alongside of Feld, that we have in Feld and Berg 
the influence of an a. This modification of e before i into 
the latter took place in prehistoric times. Until recently 
philologists were generally of the opinion that the origi- 
nal vowel was z, and that this letter had passed ( or broken ) 
into e. This e corresponds to the primitive Indo-European 
*, and should be carefully distinguished from the same 
letter when it is the representative of a modified a. Sev- 
eral German dialects have preserved, in their pronuncia- 
tion, the distinction between the two sounds. Here, as in 
many other cases, the Alemanian and Swabian have ad- 
hered most tenaciously to the archaic forms, the broken e 
being pronounced somewhat like #, and the modified e with 
a nearer approach to i. 

The views regarding the influence of the a-sound upon 
e and i which have proved to be erroneous, are correct with 
reference to u and <?, or rather it and 0, since the old u was 
modified in the O. H. G. period by a subsequent i. The 
forms wir wurden and geworden, ich wiirfe and geworfen^ 
fur and vor take us back to the O. H. G. wurdun-gawor- 
dan, wurfi-gaworfan, fun-fora. Here the original u per- 
sisted before i and u in the final syllable; in other words 
when it occurred before i it afterward changed into u ; but 
it was later broken to o by the influence of a subsequent 

230 A History of the German Language 

a, a phenomenon which likewise took place in the Gen- 
eral Germanic stage of the language. This breaking did 
not take place when u was followed by a nasal consonant; 
so that we have gefimden, gesungen, in spite of the fact 
that the O. H. G. forms were gafundan, gasungan. It will 
be readily seen that if the law had been universal in its 
application we should have gefonden and gesongen, just as 
we have geworfen and geworden. This u has not only 
undergone the breaking process when it stood alone but 
also when it formed a diphthong with z, that is iu. In the 
older N. H. G. we find the inflections du fleugst, er fleugt, 
thr flieget, to which correspond the M. H. G. in older forms 
du fliugest, er fliugel, ihr flieget, and the O. H. G. or still 
older du fliugist, er fliugit, ihr fliogat. We see, therefore, 
that iu stands in the same relation to io that u does to o, 
It will thus be evident that we have here in the change 
from u to o and from iu to io (ie) the data for determining 
with almost absolute certainty what the final syllable must 
have been originally. Fitlle alongside of voll points to an 
older fulli, and voll must have lost a final a; similarly siech 
and Seuche are evidence of an older siuhhi, the intermediary 
M. H. G. being siuche (sick). The M. G. dialects exhibit 
some apparent examples of breaking which are, however, 
not genuine, u being sometimes modified to <?, and // to 0, 
which is not due to the influence of a succeeding a. For 
example, the N. H. G. Sommer and Sohn are in the M. H. 
G. sumer and sun. Other examples are Sonne and sunne y 
Konig and kimic, Monch and munch. 

To the phenomena of umlaut and breaking are largely 
due the variety exhibited by German phonology. Aside 
from these two factors all the variations are referable to 
ablaut (or vowel gradation). This influence may be noticed 
in Grab, Grube (M. H. G. gruobe), griibeln (O. H. G. gru- 
bilon)\ Binde, Band, Bund; Sits, Sat sung ; Brccher, Brack- 
land, Bruch; Schneide, Schnitt; flies zen, Flosz, Flusz. This 
variation of the radical vowel is wholly independent of the 

A History of the German Language 231 

subsequent vowel and was fully developed in the far dis- 
tant prehistoric period of the Indo-European language. 
To the English reader his own language will readily sug- 
gest many examples ; and they are equally numerous in 
Latin and Greek. Cf. pello, pulsus ; tollo, tuli ; semen, 

SatUS \ ayco, rjyov, rpeTTO), T^OOTTOS; AeiTro), eAiTrov, AOITTOS; <euy(o, ff>vyr). 

At the basis of these changes lie the general principles 
of vocalization common to the entire stock of Indo- 
European languages: the accented syllables have for the 
most part stronger vowels and the unaccented weaker 
and thinner vowels. The underlying causes we do not 
understand, and they will doubtless remain forever impen- 
etrable. All we can say is that human thought and feel- 
ing are wont to manifest themselves through speech in 
this way. There is in man an inherent dislike of monot- 
ony, and variety is produced by running up and down, or 
by touching now this and now that note of the vowel 
scale. In order to avoid repetition the general subject of 
vowel gradation will be more fully discussed in the chap- 
ter which treats of the inflection of the verb. 

When we compare German substantives and adjectives 
with their cognates in Latin we at once notice the ab- 
sence of endings in the former compared with the latter. 
We have Halm but calamus, Wind but ventus, Fisch but 
piscis, Haul (M. H. G. hiti) but cutis, Joch (Gothic juk) but 
jugum, Hals but collum, collus and colsum, Horn but cornu. 
This difference did not exist in the remotest times ; but 
after the general Germanic tongue had broken up into its 
various branches, we find, even earlier than the existence 
of any literary monuments, a tendency to neglect, in pro- 
nunciation, the final syllables. First final s and m began 
to be dropped ; and later the vowels shared the same fate. 

We have already mentioned that the weakening of the 
ultimate syllables characterizes the transition from the 
O. H. G. to the M. H. G. Similar phenomena are again 
observable in the development of the N. H. G. from the 

232 A I&story of the German Language 

M. H. G. We have des Tages or des Tags, dent Tage or 
Tag, Werkes or Werks, Werke or Werk; but usually des 
Landtags, dem Landtag, Handwerks and Handwerk, but not 
Landtages or Handwetke. Des Konigs, dem Konig are used 
in preference to des Koniges, dem Konige. Alongside of 
Friede we have its derivative friedlich ; alongside of Heide, 
nieder and Himmel, the relative words heidnisch, niedrig and 
himmlisch. In nearly all cases we observe apocope of final 
e in unaccented syllables. In those words where this let- 
ter has been suppressed in the middle of a word it was 
likewise unaccented. The German present participles are 
almost always traceable to fuller forms, as, for example, 
lebend to lebende. Wirtinn represents the M. H. G. wir- 
tinne, Weisung M. H. G. wisunge, Hetzog herzoge, Hduslin 
hiuselin. In N. H. G. dissyllables an unaccented e is 
sometimes retained, and sometimes suppressed or apoco- 
pated, a fact that may be explained by the place of this 
letter in connected discourse. As a further illustration of 
the tendency to abbreviate, it may be stated that in the 
German dialects which have not attained the dignity of 
literary rank many words are still more abbreviated than 
in the written speech. Nearly all those words which have 
come from the A.-S. into English have been shortened 
unless they were monosyllables, where abbreviation was 
impossible. In like manner the French, which is hardly 
more than corrupt Latin, is almost entirely made up of 
words that have lost one or more syllables in their passage 
from the ancient to the modern language. 

In some cases syllables that were originally but feebly 
accented suffered mutilation even when their vowel was 
full-toned. Jungfer and Junker are referable to older 
fimgfrau and Jungherr ; Nachbar (neighbor) may be traced 
to the M. H. G. ndchbiire, one who abides near, the modern 
German words Bauer and bauen having developed a some- 
what different signification. The doubles Schultze and 
Schultheisz take us back to the M. H. G. schultheize. Zwei- 

A History of the German Language 233 

te/ y Drittel contain the word Teil in the final syllable, while 
Urteil and Vorteil are also found as Urthel and Vorthel. 
These last double forms resulted either from their receiv- 
ing a heavier or lighter accent, as the case might be, in 
connected discourse ; or they for a time followed the gen- 
eral law above enunciated until with the spread of intelli- 
gence it began to be perceived that -thel is really a sepa- 
rate word, when it was restored to its original form. The 
latter is the most probable explanation, as illiterate per- 
sons still use the lighter syllable. In general the dialects, 
especially those of South Germany, carry the process of 
abbreviation and lightening farther than the literary lan- 
guage. Hebel, a native of Basel, who wrote largely in the 
Alemanian uses Arfel, Hampfel, Mumpfel, for Armvoll, 
Handvoll and Mundvoll, Wingert signifies Weingarten> 
while Rechnig and Zitig mean Rechnung and Zeitung. The 
most important phenomenon noticeable among the conso- 
nants is due to what is known as the law of the rotation 
of mutes. We have been constrained to examine this part 
of our subject earlier because the division of the German 
language into its various dialects is chiefly dependent 
thereon. Apart from this single fact the changes which 
the consonants have undergone are far less important and 
far reaching than those through which the vowels have 
passed. The influence of this law may be traced back to 
that early stage of the language when it had not yet 
broken up into its various dialects. Here, for instance, 
we find that t can stand only after a spirant. In this way 
we can explain the relation of mogen to Macht, of pflegen to 
PJUcht) of tragen to Tracht, of geben to Gift (originally the 
same as Gabe, as may be seen in Mitgift. Cf. for a similar 
development of meaning our word dose, from 800-1?) and 
of treibe to Trift. It is true we have klagte, sagte, liebte and 
lobte, but this is owing to the fact that in former times 
there was a vowel between the g and the /, which was 
dropped long after the law had ceased to be operative. In 

234 A History of the German Language 

the earliest Germanic period, when the language was still 
in a stage of which no records have come down to us, 
there was in force a law which did not permit the use of a 
iv at the end of a word. Where this letter happened to be 
final it was changed into o, rarely u. The nominative 
milo (Bng. meal) makes its genitive melwes. The final 
vowel was first weakened to e and this was in some cases 
dropped, but medial w was changed to b after / and r. In 
this way we get Mehl alongside of Milbe (older form milwe, 
the insect that makes meal) and Melberei, the Bavarian 
designation of a flour-store ; likewise gat with gerben which 
originally meant ( to make ready.' Sometimes medial / 
was transferred to the end of a word, in which cases we 
have usually doublets, as fahl 2cs\&falb, or gelb alongside 
of the dialectic gehl. The O. H. G. forms were falo, Gen. 
falwes, gelo Gen. gelwes, the Bng. equivalents being ' fal- 
low ' and * yellow.' In the M. H. G.'we meet with many 
cases where the consonant is different according as it 
stands in the middle or at the end of a word. In the N. 
H. G. the influence of analogy has generally obliterated 
these differences, but some isolated instances remain which 
show the effects of the law. In the first place, every me- 
dial sonant in M. H. G. is changed into a final surd : tac 
has for its genitive tages, sane sanges, het liedes, lop lobes. 
In the N. H. G. the medial consonant is transferred to the 
end, that is, we have, by the force of analogy Tag, Lied, 
Lob, because the genitives have the form above given. 
When we examine the endings -ng and -nk we find that in 
Northern Germany the old forms have to some extent per- 
sisted, which gives such pronunciations as Gesank, though 
written Gesang, Gesanges, id i gink, wir gingen. In isolated 
cases the final letter or letters of a word have taken the 
place of the medial. We have, for instance, the N. H. G. 
Mark Markes while the M. H. G. is marc marges, and in 
ausmergeln the original g is retained. Der Wert, des Wertes 
belongs to the same category with wurde and was wert 

A History of the German Language, 235 

werdes in the M. H. G. In like manner Welt Welten points 
to M. H. Q.wentwerlde. In those cases where in the Low 
German initial g was pronounced as a spirant it was 
changed into final ch, and it is by this law that we can ex- 
plain such forms as Menge alongside of manch mancher for 
the older manecJi maneger, M. H. G. manec maneger . 

In the second place, medial h of M. H. G. corresponds 
to ch final, as sehen, ich sack, schuoch schuoches. But in the 
N. H. G. this h has taken the place of ch so that we find 
not only sehen, but also ich sah and der Schuh. The older 
relation remains only in hoch hoher am hbcksten, and partly 
in nah with the superlative ndchst and in the adverb nach. 
Alongside of schmahen we have Schmach; the M. H. G. 
form of rauh was ruch which persists in the modern Ranch- 
werk, a collection of furs. The old nominative is main- 
tained in the proper name Schuchardt, which in M. H. G. 
was schuoch worhte, that is, c shoe-worker.' There is evident 
in the M. H. G. as in the N. H. G. a tendency to pro- 
nounce contiguous consonants with the same vocal organs, 
"or rather, with the vocal organs in the same position, in 
order to greater ease of utterance. In this way the two 
consonants are brought as near together as possible. In 
ordinary conversation we do not say anbeiszen meinbrechen. 
but ambeiszen and eimbrechen; but in deliberate discourse 
generally, and almost always in spelling, this phonetic 
tendency is neutralized by the influence of analogy in 
words whose prefixes are maintained in their integrity, as, 
for instance, anhalten, anlaufen, anstoszen, einatmen, einlegen, 
eintrdnken, etc. Assimilation, however, takes place in 
some cases where the etymological relation of the prefix 
has been forgotten. For this reason cmpfangen and emp- 
findcn used for entfangen and entfinden ; empfehlen for entfehlen, 
Imbisz for Inbisz, Himbeere for Hindbeere (berries which 
the hind likes), Hamburg for Hohenburg, Schaumberg for 
Schauenberg, Wimper for Windbraue (the brow that moves), 
cf. the Eng. wend, move, turn about. Complete assimilation 

236 A History of the German Language 

has taken place in Eilant for Einland (the land that is alone) ; 
in Grummet for Griinmahd (grass that is mowed while 
green, aftermath); in Hoffahrt for HochfaJirt, and in some 
other instances. The law of assimilation as we see it ex- 
emplified in German is of wide-spread application. In 
L,atin and Greek a number of prepositional prefixes are 
accommodated to the initial sound of the word with which 
they are joined, among them the same prefix ( in ' or ev we 
have been considering above. There are two other phon- 
etic peculiarities of the German that are to be noted. 
First, final r was dropped before a consonant and presisted 
before a vowel. We have thus da but darin and darum; 
wo, but worm and warum (dialectic woruni}, and alongside 
of ehe and hie we find eher and hier. This final r is retained 
in the English cognates there, where and ere, the A.-S. 
equivalents being aer, hwaer and thaer respectively. Sec- 
ond, the combination ag and eg are sometimes changed to 
ei. In the M. H. G. occur both Magd and Maid, Vo%t and 
Voit, Hag and Hain. Getreide is related to tragen and sig- 
nifies that which is carried, clothing, baggage, etc. (M. H/ 
G. getregede). Verteidigen is derived from the M. H. G. 
tagedinc (Gerichtstag], its older form being vertagedingen, to 
bring before a court of justice or arbitration. Reinhard 
and Reinecke have no connection with the adjective rein, 
but the first syllable is a shortened form of regin, an 
old Germanic word which was nearly equivalent to Rat. 
Partly in the M. H. G. and partly in the N. H. G. we find 
a tendency in n and s, when at the end of a syllable, to 
generate a succeeding d which under some circumstances 
is changed into t. Though we have gelegen and offen we say 
gelegentlich and offentlich ; entzwei and entlang are traceable 
to enzwei and enlang, which are simply in zwei and in lang, 
or ' in two ' or * along.' Jemand and Niemand are in full 
je(ein)Mann, and nie(ein) Mann; zusammt is equal to zusa- 
ment which in turn is zusamen; einst, mittelst and 
selbsl represent an older eines, mittels and selbes, and 

A History of the German Language 237 

are adverbial genitives of ein t Mittel and selb. Papst 
is in M. H. G. babes from the Greek Trc^-as, while 
the dialectic jez(ie ze) corresponds to the H. G. jetzt. 
Another phonetic change that began in the M. H. G. stage 
of the language in Middle and Lower (or Northern) Ger- 
many and afterward spread over Upper Germany is the 
disappearance of an k between two vowels which then 
coalesced. It is owing to this phenomenon that k came to 
be used to lengthen the preceding vowel. The Germans 
write Stahl^ zehen, Buhl, because M. H. G. exhibits stake I, 
zehen and buhel. The change of an older rs into rsch is 
confined to the H. G. The Low German Bars is repre- 
sented by the South or H. G. Barsch, Bng. barse or bass. 
The Lombard word verza, a kind of cabbage, reappears in 
the modern German Wirsching. A peculiarity of the L. G. 
is the assimilation of h before s, so that Ochsen becomes 
Ossen, while Fucks and wachsen are pronounced Vosz and 
wassen. The M. H. G. tw was sometimes doubled. In 
South Germany it appears as zw and in Middle Germany 
as kw or qu. Quer reappears in Zwerchfell and in uber- 
zwerch, M. H. G. twerch; qudngeln is related to zwingen^H. 
H. G. twingen. 



The N. H. G. noun exhibits great variety in its inflec- 
tions. This is particularly noticeable in the cases of the 
singular and in the relation that exists between the singu- 
lar and the plural. The latter is, on the other hand, sub- 
ject to but little variation : either its cases are all alike, or 
the nominative corresponds to the genitive and accusa- 
tive and the o dative takes an additional -n. In the first 
category belong "those words that form the nominative 

238 A History of the German Language 

plural in -n or -en, such as Drachen, Ochsen, Bauern, Wur 
zeln, etc.; in the second such words as Nom. Plur. die Tage, 
Dat. den Tagen;die Wortcr, Dat. den Wortern. Taking the 
genitive singular and the plural as bases we have, in mod- 
ern German, the following types: 

1. The genitive singular ends in -es or -j, the plural 
ending in -e: 

(a). Der Tag, die Tage, 
(b). Der Cast, die Gdste, 
(c). Das Ding, die Dinge ; 

or in -er, 
(d.) Das Huhn, die HitJmer ; 

or in -n, 
(e.) Das Ende, die Enden; 

or is without a characteristic ending, 
(f ). Der Eber, die Eber ; der Wagen, die Wdgen, 
(g). Der Kdse, die Kdse, 
(h). Das Gebirge, die Gebirge. 

2. The genitive has no inflection, as in all feminines, 
the plural ending in -e: 

(a). Die Kraft, die Kr'dfte ; die Kuh, die Kithe ; 

or in -n or -en, 

(b). Die Klage, die Klagen; die Raize, die Katzen, 
(c). Die Saat, die Saaten; die Insel, die Inseln; 

or is without a characteristic ending, 
(d). -Die Mutter, die Mutter, die Tochter, die Tochter, 

3. All other cases of the singular and plural have an 
additional -n as compared with the nominative sin- 
gular : 

(a). Der Bote, die Boten; der Knabe, die Knaben, 

(b). Der Graf, die Graf en; der Mcnsch, die Mcnschen. 

These paradigms differ from those of the M. H. G. in 

two respects : first, the N. H. G. exhibits a greater variety 

of forms ; and, second, diverse forms have coalesced into 

one. The types marked above 1. (a), (b), (d), (g), (h) ; 

2. (a), and 3. (a), are the only ones represented in the 

A History of the German Language 239 

older language. It will be seen that the modern forms 
are twice as numerous as the more ancient. 

The types represented by Tag and Gast date from the 
M. H. G. stage, and we have before stated the reason why 
words of one syllable and words of more than one are dif- 
ferently inflected. But when we go back to the O. H. G. 
stage we find a divergence in the plurals. The words tac 
or tag (day) and gast (guest) are thus declined in the 
plural : Nom. tag a, gestt, 

Gen. tago, gestio, 
Dat. tagum, gestim, 
Ace. taga, gesti. 

Here the forms of the second word show the reason of 
the umlaut in the plural of Gast. In a still older stage of 
the language, one of which no monuments have come 
down to us, but about which many conclusions may be 
drawn by inference, there was also a difference in the end- 
ings of the singular. Der Tag, den Tag were once tagos 
and tagom; der Gast, den Gast were gastts and gasttm, 
where we have terminations corresponding to the L,atin 
' lupus ' and * lupum,' ' turris ' and ' turrim.' It may be 
well to call attention to the fact that in the above examples 
only -s and -m can properly be regarded as case-endings. 
What remains after the removal of these is the stem (or 
root), and since one of them ends in -o and the other in -i 
they belong to the class of vowel stems. They may be 
still further differentiated by being classed as o-stems and 
i-stems. It is also to be observed that the Latin * lupus ' 
was ' lupos ' in an earlier stage of the language, just as the 
German tagum was tagom and taga was tagons. Moreover, 
the final o of the German stems was pronounced with a 
close approximation to a ; indeed, it may have passed en- 
tirely into the sound of this letter before it dropped off. 

Now, since the two types had become alike in the M. 
H. G. stage, except the stem vowel of the plural, it is easy 
to see that the paradigms would sometimes be confused. 

240 A History of the German Language 

It has happened that the M. H. G. umlaut was dropped in 
the N. H. G., as where lehse and liihse have become 
Lachse and Luchse. A great majority of the o-stems 
have followed the same course with the word Gast G'dste. 
Hof Hofe was in M. H. G. hof hove, and in O. H. G. hof 
hova; the old form without umlaut is latent in the names 
of places like Adelshofen and Konigshofen, which are in 
fact datives plural. The same is true of the names end- 
ing in -kon y occurring so frequently in the the vicinity of 
Lake Zurich, such as Pfdffikon, Sissikon, Zetzikon, where 
the final syllable is a contraction of -ichofen. Doublets 
like Schachte and Schachte, Drucke and Abdriicke and Ein- 
driicke, are due to the permanence of an older form and 
the creation of a corresponding modernized new one. In 
some instances the dialects exhibit forms with umlaut 
where the literary language has retained the vowel with- 
out change, as, for instance, the Alemanian Arm for 
Arme, and Franconian Dag for Tage. The type der Eber 
die Eber is in a sense a transformation of the type repre- 
sented by Tag Tage. The older forms of the latter word 
tac tages, Plur. tage^ represents the M. H. G. declension of 
eber ebercs, Plur. dieebere; himel, himeies, Plur. die himele; 
wag en wagenes, Plur. die wagene. But since in these 
words the final was preceded by an unaccented syllable, 
its vowel was suppressed in the N. H. G. in accordance 
with a phonetic law explained on p. 232, and the older 
forms were shortened into Eber Ebers, Plur. die Eber. 
Since, now, the nominative and accusative plural had be- 
come identical with the same cases in the singular it was 
natural to make a distinction in some way. This was 
done by introducing the umlaut which was a character- 
istic of the i-stems. Compare Hafen Hafen, Hammer 
Hammer, Nagel Nagel, Ofen Ofen, Vater Vater, Vogel 
Vdgelwit'h the older havene, nagele, etc. In this category 
we have likewise both old and new forms still existing 
alongside of each other, but only among words terminat- 

A History of the German Language 241 

ing in -en, as die Bogen and die Bo gen, die Laden and die 
Laden, die Wagen and die W'dgen. In the older language 
the type represented by the neuter das Ding die Dinge 
was closely related to the masculine o-stems represented 
by der Tag die Tage. The only points of divergence 
were in the nominative and accusative plural where one 
had die tage and the other diu dine in other words, the 
neuter lacked final e. A tendency to bring these two 
types into harmony begins to manifest itself in the M. H. 
G. stage, and by the time the language has reached the 
N. H. G. period but very few words remained unaffected : 
such are Lot, Mass, Pfund, Stuck, and others used in con- 
nection with numbers. This usage became a type to 
which both masculines and feminines in the course of 
time conformed. Accordingly we not only say zwanzig 
Pfund, zwanzig Stuck, but also zwanzig Fiisz, zwanztg 
Zoll, zwanzig Ohm (Eng. aam, awm) or Saum and Last. 
As we have shown above, some neuters form their plurals 
in -er : the M. H. G. of huon is huener. In the older lan- 
guage this type embraced a smaller number of examples 
than now come under it. Many of its modern representa- 
tives belonged to other categories in the O. H. G., or at 
least had the alternate ending without -er; for example, 
Hatcpt had the M. H. G. plural diu houbet only, but the 
modern form is Haupter. The older form survives in 
proper names, such as Berghaupten and Roshaupten, both 
datives plural. The same statement applies to Feld, Plur. 
die Felder, but in the M. H. G. diu velt is represented by 
such modern names as Degerfelden and Rheinfelden. Die 
Hauser corresponds to M. H G. diu hiuser and diu hus. 
It is represented in names of places like Rhemhausen, 
Schaffhausen, Sangershausen, etc. An occasional word 
has retained a double plural to the present day, but in 
every case it is evident that the ending -er is regarded as 
preferable ; the other is either archaic or belongs to the 
elevated style. Compare, e. g. Bande and Bander, Dinge 

-4-2 A ///'xtonj of the German Language 

and Dinger, Lande and Lander, Worte and Worter. A 
few masculines have taken the termination -er in the 
plural of the N. H. G. Examples are der Geist die 
Geister, der Leib die Leiber, der Wald die Walder, of 
which we have the archaic form in Unterwalden, i. e., 
'unter den Waldern.' Some additional plurals similar in 
form are found in several dialects. The primitive Ger- 
manic neuter in the singular was represented by thing om 
or wordom, which latter corresponds to Latin 'verbum,' 
older 'verbom' for verbhom. In this case the true termi- 
nation is -m, and as it is preceded by -o- these words must 
be classed among the o-stems. Just as the Latin exhibits 
words of which * odium * and c exordium ' are a type, so there 
are in German words in which the final o of the stem was 
preceded by an i. This type is represented above by das 
Gebirge die Gebirge, which has remained unchanged from 
the M. H. G. stage, the O. H. G. being das gabirgi dm 
gabirgi, and before the loss of the final letter gabirgioin- 
gabirgio. It is thus, evidently, an io-stem. In the N. H. 
G. but few nouns belong to this class, and all are com- 
posites with the prefix ge-, such as Gefilde, Gebilde, Gcfiige, 
Gewolbe. As they are all to a greater or less extent col- 
lective nouns, it was of small importance to distinguish 
the singular from the plural. The two words, Gelage, 
older form gelac, and Gestade, older form gestat, have been 
drawn into this class by the force of analogy, in spite of 
the fact that they belong to the a-stems. The absence of 
the umlaut is sufficient evidence that there was never an i 
in the final syllable. 

A large number of words belonging to this class have 
been confounded with that represented by Ding since the 
two paradigms correspond externally except in the nomi- 
native and accusative singular. In the older N. H. G. a 
considerable number of the original forms in -e are retain- 
ed and are still occasionally used. We find both Gliick 
and Glilcke, Gemiite and Gemiit, Kreuze and Kreiiz, Stilcke 

A History of the German Language 243 

and Stuck. The plural of Gemut follows the type represent- 
ed by Hithner and is Gemiiter; the dialectic plural Stiicker 
is common. The latter plural is not used in the familiar 
phrase "em Stiicker seeks" in the sense of "etwa seeks"- 
but is a mutilated contraction of "ein Stiick oder seeks" 
In the earlier stages of the language there were a few mas- 
culine stems ending in -io, but of these only a single one 
still exists in the modern German, viz., der Kdse die Kdse 
(A.-S. cese, Bng. cheese). It is, however, not originally a 
Germanic word, but is a modification of the Latin ( caseus.' 
All the rest have taken their places under other types. A 
different kind of stems from those hitherto considered is 
represented by type 3. (a) der Bote die Boten, above. The 
M. H. G. inflection corresponds exactly with the N. H. G- 
which is Sing. Plur. The O. H. G. was Sing. Plur. 
Nom. Bote Bo ten bofo bo tun 

Gen. Boten Boten botin botono 

Dat. Boten Boten botin botun 

Ace. Boten Boten bo tun botun. 

But before the force of the phonetic law had wrought 
comparative uniformity in the final syllables the paradigm 
was probably as follows : 

Sing. Nom. bo to, Gen. botonis, Dat. botoni; Plur. Nom. 
botones, Ace. botonas; which corresponds pretty closely to 
the inflection of homo, hominis, homini, etc., in Latin. If 
we remove the terminations -is, -i, etc., there remains a 
series of stems ending in the consonant -n, which gives a 
paradigm closely akin to our number 3, above. These 
n-stems are often spoken of by grammarians as representing 
the weak declension as distinguished from those ending 
with a vowel which is called strong. In the N. H. G. the 
type represented by Bote split into two general classes/the 
final e of the nominative falling off in some cases. This 
took place in accordance with a phonetic law already set 
forth, after an unaccented syllable, in such M. H. G. words 
as schultheisze. stemmetze, truksaeze which became in N. 

244 A History of the German Language 

H. G. Schultheisz, Steinmetz, Truchsesz. Words employed 
as titles of honor were often used before the proper name 
of persons bearing them and, therefore, but slightly ac- 
cented. Thus it came about that final e was generally 
dropped even when it came after an accented syllable- 
Fiirst, Graf, Herr were in M. H. G. fiirste, grave, herre; 
whence arose our 'type 3. (b). The number of nouns be- 
longing to this class is considerably smaller than in the 
older language. The type represented by Graf formerly 
corresponded with those represented by Tag and Gast; 
which resulted in confounding the two and the vowel 
stems taking the place of the consonant stems in the para- 
digms. In some cases double forms are equally correct, 
and we may say des Baiters or des Bauern, Plur. die Bauern; 
des Nachbars or des Nachbarn, Plur. die Nachbarn. We 
find des Marzes, dem Marz, alongside of the archaic des 
Mtirzen, im Marzen, the latter form also appearing in such 
compounds as M'drzenbier, Marzenschnee, Marzenstaub. 
Some words have, however, passed completely from one 
class to the other, as der Herzog des Herzogs, Plur. die 
Herzoge; der Mond des Mondes, Plur. die Monde; der 
Schwan des Schwans, Plur. die Schwane. The old geni- 
tives corresponding to the nominatives herzoge, mane and 
swane may be still seen in the compounds Herzogenbuch- 
see, Herzogenstand, Mondenschein, Schwanenhals. To the 
type represented by Wagen that represented by Boten cor- 
responds in all its parts except the nominative and geni- 
tive singular. Compare 

Nom. Gen. Dat. Ace. 
Sing. Wagen Wagens Wagen Wagen Plur. Wagen 

with Sing. Bote Boten Boten Boten Plur. Boten. 

This general similarity led to a confusion of the two 
types and they were made alike in all the cases, the nomi- 
native in ~e receiving an additional -n, and the genitive in 
-en an additional -s. Consequently, many words that 
originally belonged to class 3. (a) (Bote) passed into the 

A History of the German Language 245 

class represented by Wagen. Der Balken, der Bogen, der 
Braten, der Brunnen, der Daumen, der Garten, were in M. 
H. G. balke des balken^ boge des bogen, brate, brunne, dume 
(thumb), garte. In many compounds the old forms have, 
however, been conserved : Wildbret (M. H. G. wildbrai) is 
simply Wildbraten; the South German Winger t (M. H. G. 
wingarte) means Weingarten, and in Schonbrunn (a royal 
villa near Vienna) we have an older form of Brunnen. 
Three modern doublets Franken Frank, Lumpen Lump, 
Tropfen Tropfe are peculiar for the reason that they have 
arisen from the M. H. G. forms franke, lumpe and tropfe. 
The three former have the characteristic in common that 
they designate things while the latter are applied to living 
beings. We have thus three words signifying respectively 
a coin (franc), a rag, and a drop having the same origin 
with words signifying a Frank, a good-for-nothing fellow, 
and a poor devil (as in armer Tropf}. The peculiar fact 
here noted is of pretty wide application. In all cases where 
the modern nominative ends with -en it relates to things, 
while, on the other hand, almost all words where this case 
without -n persists they designate persons or animals 
without reason such as Affe, Ahne, Bate, Buhle, Burge, 
Jude, Ftnk or Finke, Falke, Hase, etc. A probable expla- 
nation of this fact is that one class has been used as a sub- 
ject-nominative much oftener than the other; and the 
more frequently a word is used the more it is exposed to 
mutilation through the influence of analogy. As a com- 
pensation for the losses which type 3, has sustained in 
favor of type 1. (f ), it has also received various increments. 
Many words represented by the types Tag and Gast have, 
besides their original plurals in -e, another plural like the 
type represented by Graf Grafen. To this class belong 
die Maste die Mas ten, die Sinne die Sinnen, die Stiefel die 
Stiefeln, and alongside of Manner, which forms its plural 
like das Wort die Worte, we find die Mannen. Der Hirte 
belonged originally to the type represented by Kdse its 

246 A History of the German Language 

form was hirti. Many words in -o, or -io have transiently 
belonged to type 3, and subsequently passed into the type 
represented by Eber or Wagen. Der Riicken is in M. H. 
G. der riicke des ruckes, which is the type represented by 
Kiise ; the next step was der Rilcke des Rile ken, then the 
present form. The original is preserved in Hundsrilck (a 
plateau in western Germany) and also in hinterr ticks, 
zurilck, archaic zuritcke. In like manner Nutzen comes 
from the M. H. G. der mitz des nutzes, the old inflection 
being preserved in Rigennutz^ sich ZM Nutze mac hen, z^i 
Ntitz und Frommen (for use and advantage). The conso- 
nant stems were not originally confined to masculine 
nouns but were spread over the neuter and feminine n- 
stems as well. To the first belonged, in the M. H. G., 
das herze, das ore, das ouge, the last of which was declined, 
in the four cases of the singular, das ouge, des ougen, dem 
ougen, das ouge, Nom. Plur. diu ougen, Dat. den ougen. 
This paradigm corresponded in part with that of Gebirge 
and ran thus, e. g. with such words as Ende, Erbe or 
Hemde : daz ende, des endes, dem ende, daz ende, Plur. diu 
ende, Dat den enden. The result was that a number of in- 
flections grew up like the modern das Auge des Auges, 
Plur. die Augen;das Ende, des Endes, Plur. Dat. den Enden. 
Her z has retained the old dative form, but makes its geni- 
tive like Wagen. 

We come next to the consideration of the feminine con- 
sonant stems. The word die Zunge ( tongue ) was declined 
in M. H. G. with final -en in all cases except the nomina- 
tive singular, but in O. H. G. it ran as follows: 

Nom. Gen. Dat. Ace. 
Sing, zunga zungun zungun zungun 
Plur. zungun zungono zungon zungun 

But even here the real case-endings have nearly all 
dropped off and ~un represents the stem-ending. Along- 
side of this there was another feminine, as follows : 

A History of the German Language 247 

Nom. Gen. Dat. Ace. 

Sing, klaga klagd klagu klaga 

Plur. klaga klagono klagd n (m) klaga 

Here, as may be easily seen, we are dealing with a vowel 
stem, and it will be noticed that it corresponded to the 
Latin mensa and the Greek x<V*- I n trle M. H. G. these 
two paradigms corresponded in several points, as may be 
readily seen on placing them side by side : 

Nom. Gen. Dat. Ace. 
Sing, zunge zungen zungen zungen 
Sing, klage klage klage klage 
Plur. zungen zungen zungen zungen 
Plur. klage klagen klagen klage; whence re- 
sulted the modern declension of Klage Klagen. That the 
forms of Klage have persisted in the singular but not 
those of Zunge is easily understood when we notice that 
they exhibited a difference between the genitive and da- 
tive and the corresponding forms of the plural. On the 
other hand, the forms of klage in the singular were 
yielded in favor of zungen because klage was the form of 
the nominative and accusative in the singular. Remnants 
of the consonant declension of the feminine are still fre- 
quently met with, as "unser lieben Frauen," "Festge- 
mauert in der Erden" ( Schiller's Song of the Bell), Er- 
denleben, Erdensohn, Gassenbube, Harfenton, Hollenthal, 
Miihlenbach, Sonnenlicht. In view of the fact that two 
older types have united in the one represented by Klage 
it has become very copious. But it has been still further en- 
larged from various other sources. One has been those words 
whose nominative likewise ended in e. This type is rep- 
resented in our list by Gebirge. Old forms were daz griitze, 
das wette, das nppe. We may still hear the phrase, "das 
alte Ripp" (the old rip), to designate a contentious wo- 
man. Another has been the masculine stems in n belong- 
ing to the type Bote ; the M. H. G. was der grille, der 

248 A History of the German Language 

imbe (die Imme), der slange, etc. In many words the 
South German spoken language still retains the mascu- 
line gender where the literary language together with the 
Central and North German dialects have yielded to the 
force of analogy and changed to the feminine. Hence 
have arisen the doublets in gender der Backen and die 
Backe, der Schneck and die Schnecke, der Trauben and die 
Traube, and der Zacken and die Zacke, der Butter and die 
Butter, der Schurz and die Schurze, together with many 
others. Even in the literary language we find der 
Schnupfen alongside of die (Stern} schnuppe, the latter a 
survival from the Low German : it being assumed that the 
stars snuff themselves. But further, the masculine 
vowel-stems also end in e ; die Tage is exactly parallel 
with die Klage. Such plurals were accordingly treated 
like the singular of the feminine and a new plural in -n 
created : to take the place of the M. H. G. der slaf we 
now find die Schldfe, the old form being not yet wholly 
obsolete. Die Socke was in M. H. G. der sac, in South 
Germany, der Socken; die Tiicke is the M. H. G. der tuc, 
and the South Germans still say, "einem einen Tuck anthun" 
"sich einen Tuck thun" (to injure another or one's self ). 
Die Woge is the M. H. G. der wac. In addition to those 
words that have been transferred from one gender and 
from one declension to another because of their similarity 
in the nominative singular, there are others where a trans- 
fer was brought about by the likeness of the plurals, die 
Wagen, e. g., corresponding exactly to die Klagen. The 
modern die Wa.ffe (weapon) was in the M. H. G. daz wdfen; 
"em gute Wehr und Waff en" occurs in Luther's famous 
hymn, and das Wappen (coat-of-arms) is a survival of the 
Low German. 

It yet remains to consider the types 2. (a) and (c), Kraft 
Krdfte and Saat Saaten. The former only is primitive and 
its modern inflection is found in the M. H. G. The plural 
in the O. H. G. is declined thus : krefti, kreftio, kreftin, 

A History of the German Language 249 

krefti. In the M. H. G. there are alternate forms of the 
genitive and dative singular, viz., der kraft and der krefte, 
but only one nominative, kraft. In the O. H. G. krefti is 
the sole form. How, then, are we to explain the M. H. G.? 
The Germanic originally possessed not only consonant 
stems ending in n, but also in other letters. Among the 
most common of these was the word Nacht. In the O. H. 
G. it inflected as follows : Sing, naht, naht, naht, naht, all 
the cases being alike ; Plur. naht, nahto, nahtun, naht, 
where only the genitive and dative vary from the singular 
form. Compare with this the four cases of the Latin nox, 
noct-is, noct-i, noct-em. Dm naht, Gen. der naht came to 
be taken as patterns for the genitive and dative of diu 
kraft, der kraft in the singular ; and, conversely, a plural, 
die N'dchte, came into use after the model of die krefte. 
Eventually der kraft was employed to the exclusion of der 
krefte, doubtless because the latter was exactly like the 
plural and could not easily be distinguished from it when 
unaccompanied by the article ; but even with the article 
this was not possible in the genitive of both numbers. 
Remnants of the e-forms are seen in Brautigam for Brau- 
tegam (bride-g(r)oom, man of the bride), M. H. G. der 
bnute ; in Burgemeister the archaic form of Biir germeis- 
ter, and in Magdesprung. Behende is the modern form of 
M. H. G. bt hende, at hand, although Hand did not origi- 
nally belong to the i-stems, as may be seen in the datives 
plural without the umlaut, zu Handen, von Handen gehen, 
abhanden kommen, vorhanden (vor den Handen), but was 
an u-stem. That Nacht was not originally an i-stem may 
be seen in the current Weihnachten, zu den wthen nahten 
(in the holy nights). The type Kraft exhibits points of 
contact with that of Klage. In the case of some words 
belonging to the latter, final e had dropped off. For ex- 
ample, Frau Frauen corresponded in the singular with 
words like Kraft, and plurals were formed in -en, as 
Bur gen M. H. G. die bilrge, Fahrten M. H. G. die verte, 

250 A History of the German Language 

Thaten M. H. G. die taete. But plurals in -en might 
arise from two forms of the singular, one with e and the 
other without e. In consequence of this, the type Kraft, 
Burg was sometimes confounded with that of Klage. 
E. g., the modern Bliite was bluot in the M. H. G., and 
Ezche, Leiche, Stute were respectively eich, lick, stuot. 

The type 2. (d) is solitary, for to it belong only the 
two words above given. These were originally consonant 
stems and had the same endings as Bote ; that is, they 
were without umlaut. By a false analogy they were 
classed with words like Acker Aecker, Bruder Brtider, etc. 


Pronouns differ from nouns not only in their endings 
but also in several other respects. In the primitive Indo- 
European language there were three numbers, the singu- 
lar, the dual, and the plural. The ancient Greek affords 
the most familiar instance of the frequent use of the dual 
number. In the general Germanic the dual forms of the 
nouns early became extinct ; but they were preserved in 
the pronouns after this had split up into several dialects. 
( We two ' is wit, ( ye two ' git, in the Old-Saxon poem 
called the Heliand (composed probably in the ninth cen- 
tury). The corresponding words in the O. H. G. were 
probably wiz, iz. In the Old-Saxon, ( to us two' is unk 
and * to you two,' ink, the Dat. and Ace. being alike. The 
dual of the second person plural is still in use in the 
modern Bavarian and has even displaced the regular 
plural, es or os taking the place of ihr and enk that of 
euch. The German pronoun like the English, the Greek 
and the Latin, forms the singular and the plural in great 
measure from different stems. Compare meiner, mir (my, 
me) with wir, unser (we, our), and deiner, dir (thy, thee) 
with ir (ihr), euer (you, your). But the language in the 
course of its development tended more and more to 
obliterate these distinctions. We accordingly find in 

A History of the German Language 251 

widely divergent dialects mir and mer alongside of wir, 
as likewise dir and der alongside of ihr. Here again we 
see the influence of analogy : the initial sounds vtmeiner, 
mir, mich and diener, dir, dich were transferred to the 
plural number. In some cases the final syllables are made 
alike. Meiner, deiner are formed, at least in part, after 
the pattern of unser, euer, the older words being mein, dein. 
These, though archaic, are by no means obsolete. After 
mein and dein had assumed the additional syllable, sein 
followed suit and became seiner. The German pronoun 
exhibits the somewhat remarkable phenomenon of having 
in part obliterated the distinction between the dative and 
the accusative. In English, on the other hand, the dative 
has displaced the accusative entirely. As long ago as its 
earliest stages the Low German had but a single form each 
for the dative and accusative plural of the two persons : 
uns representing both nobis and nos, while iu is either 
vobis or vos. The dative singular is mi and thi, corre- 
sponding to the current mir and dir, where the final r is a 
development of s which dropped off in Low German; 
this branch of the Teutonic being in nearly all cases 
nearer the English than the German proper. The accu- 
sative was probably mik and thik. This distinction was 
obliterated very early : in some dialects of the L. G. mi 
and thi, in others mik and thik are employed for both cases, 
these following the analogy of the plural and becoming- 
alike. Owing to the habit of neglecting to make a dis- 
tinction between the two cases it is easy to understand 
why the native Low German constantly fails to distinguish 
between mir and mich, dir and dich when he uses a H. G. 
dialect. The influence of analogy extended yet farther. 
After it had become a matter of usage to make no distinc- 
tion between the first and second person, it was natural ta 
follow the same course with the third, and accordingly we 
find the dative ihm, em used for the accusative ihn. While 
in the M. H. G. we still have the dative and accusative 

252 A History of the German Language 

uns, but dative iu, accusative iuch, we find that in the 
N. H. G. the accusative euch has completely displaced the 
dative. Owing to this coalescence of the two cases the 
illiterate frequently make a curious blunder in the lan- 
guage of civility : as Sie has no existence in any dialect 
they are unable to distinguish between the dative and the 
accusative of the third person. We, accordingly, hear 
such expressions as, " ich habe Ihnen (Sie) ja gar nicht 
erkanntj* and u Se (Ihnen) kann dat goa (gar) nicht f eh- 
len" But even the modern sich was originally an accu- 
sative like mich and dich, the older language using in its 
stead the regular personal pronoun. Luther says, "wiser 
keiner lebt ihm selber , unser keiner stirbt ihm selber" where 
in modern German we should use sich selber or sich selbst 
for ihm selber. It may be remarked that in general the 
distinction between the reflexive and the non-reflexive 
pronoun is not carefully observed. The Germans say 
gedenke sem y geniesze sein, where the older language pos- 
sessed a genitive es for the nominatives er and es (M. H. 
G. ez). Traces of this fact are still found in certain 
stereotyped formulas like " ich bin es salt, ich bin es zu- 
frieden" for, as is well known, the verb sein can not take 
an accusative after it. 

It remains yet to consider a few peculiar isolated forms 
of the pronoun. Alongside of ihr the N. H. G. exhibits 
the archaic ihro^ which corresponds exactly with the O. 
H. G. iro. It is used almost exclusively in addressing 
royal personages and other members of the nobility. 
That the modern German has two words where the older 
language had but one is doubtless due to the difference in 
accentuation in the latter : iro naturally becomes ir and 
iro remained unchanged. The same remark holds good 
as to the relation of dero to der. As to the pronouns er, 
der and wer, we generally find two forms in current usage, 
dessen and des, deren and der, denen and den. The shorter 
forms are the only ones existing in the M. H. G. as may 

A History of the German Language 253 

be seen in deshalb, deswegen, " Wes Brod ich ess, des Lied 
ich sing." The possessive pronoun ihr was originally a 
variant of the personal pronoun the genitive singular of 
the feminine, or the genitive plural of all genders. It ac- 
cordingly forms a doublet with the later ihrer and corre- 
sponds to the French d'elle, d'eux, d'elles (of her, of 
them). The younger forms probably developed under 
the influence of the dissyllabic pronouns like dieser,jener, 
and similar adjectives may have aided their growth. 


When we come to consider the adjectives we find that 
some are inflected and some entirely without endings. 
Of the latter such as gut, ode, and their like, correspond 
exactly to the nominatives and accusatives of nouns hav- 
ing vowel stems : compare Tag, Kase, etc. In both cases 
the primitive ending dropped off, the German lang having 
once been precisely equivalent to the Latin ( longus.' The 
inflected adjectives have, in their turn, a two-fold set of 
endings one used with the definite article, the other 
without. The former, der gute, des guten, dem gnten, den 
guten, show consonant stems. The masculine, in this 
case, is exactly like the substantive declension represented 
by the type Bote, Boten, above. In the feminine and 
neuter of the adjective the O. G. types of the consonant 
declension are preserved, which have been lost in the M 
H. G. substantive. The modern die gute, der guten, are 
exactly like M. H. G. die zunge, der zungen ; and das gute, 
des guten, like M. H. G. das ouge, des ougen. Thus far 
there is, accordingly, no radical difference between the ad- 
jective and the substantive. This likewise represents the 
primitive relation of these two parts of speech to each 
other in the original Indo-European, as may be seen by 
an examination of the L/atin and Greek. But the Ger- 
man adds inflectional terminations when the adjective is 
not preceded by a word that clearly marks the case, as 


A History of the German Language 

guter Wein, gutes Weines^ gutem Weine, guten Wein, etc.; 
but der gute Wein, des guten Weines, dem guten Weine, 
den guten Wein. 

The former mode of inflection grew out of the tendency 
to make it conform to that of pronouns of the third per- 
son singular. Compare, e. g., the O. H. G. paradigms of 
the two classes of words : 

Sing, der 
Plur. die 

Sing, diu 
Plur. dio(a) 

Sing, daz 
Plur. diu 

Sing, guoter 
Plur. guote 

Sing, guotiu 

Plur. guolo 

Sing, guotaz 

Plur. guotiu 


Gen. Dat. 

des demu 

dero dem 


dera deru 

dero dem 


des demu 




die (diu} 

die (did] 
die (did) 


guotes guotemu guotan(eri) 

guotero guotem guote 






guotes guotemu guotaz 
guotero guotem guotiu 

There are but few points of divergence except the 
weakening of all unaccented vowels to e, and the changes 
which the pronoun has undergone since the O. H. G. 
period have been steadily followed by similar changes in 
the adjective. The nominative of the Fern. Sing, diu 
guotin^ which would regularly have become den guten in 

A History of the German Language 255 

accordance with German phonetic laws, has been displaced 
by the Ace. die gute ; and in like manner the Plur. of the 
neuter diu guotiu has been superseded by the correspond- 
ing form of the Mas. and Fern, die gute. 

Jacob Grimm (born 1785), who published the first 
scientific grammar of the Germanic languages, designated 
the pronominal declension of the adjective as " strong ;" 
the other, as also that of the substantive, he called 
u weak." His reasons were purely fanciful, but the terms 
have been retained by all subsequent grammarians on ac- 
count of their brevity and convenience. 


In German, as in English, verbs are usually divided into 
two classes distinguished from each other by their mode 
of forming the preterit (or imperfect) tense. The one class 
makes the preterit by means of final -te, the other by a 
change in the vowel or vowels of the radical syllable, in 
other words by means of vowel-gradation. For example, 
ich lehre, ich lehrte, corresponding in the main to the Eng- 
lish ' I learn,' 'I learned,' may be compared with ich gebe, 
ich gab and ' I give,' ( I gave.' The first class which requires 
external aid in order to express the past has been called 
" weak," by J. Grimm and the latter, which requires no 
such aid, he called ''strong." It will be readily seen that 
the weak verbs correspond to the regular verbs of the or- 
dinary English grammar, and the strong verbs to the irreg- 
ular. English grammars are however coming more and 
more to adopt the German terminology. A suffix is also a 
characteristic of the past participle ; in the weak verbs -/ 
or -/, in the strong -en. Here again the English furnishes 
parallel forms in * learned ' and ' given.' The weak verbs 
in German as in English comprise much the largest class 
and their mode of inflection is the simpler of the two. The 
radical vowel of the present tense undergoes no change 
in any part of the verb, the apparent exception in frage 

256 A History of the German Language 

fr'dgstfragt, alongside sifragefragstfragt being due to 
the influence of the strong verb, and both frug and fragte 
are correct preterits. There is a slight difference in the 
preterits of the weak verbs, some having final -ete and 
others -te only for example lehrte, hebte, fragte, but bil- 
dete, fi'irchtete. In general -ete is attached to all stems that 
end in a /-sound. The M. H. G. likewise exhibits both 
forms, but the longer would in obedience to a phonetic 
law previously explained, be shortened to -te by the sup- 
pression of the unaccented medial e. In the case of words 
like bild-te, filrch-te, that is, where the final sound of the 
stem is substantially identical with the initial sound of the 
suffix, it would be difficult to pronounce both without the 
intervention of another vowel. But the parallel forms, -te 
and -ete, of the M. H. G. have a different origin. In place 
of the monotonous uniformity exhibited by the weak verbs 
a greater variety prevailed. The O. H. G. possessed three 
classes of weak verbs, distinguished from each other by 
the final -6, or -e, or -i, of the stem. To illustrate by ex- 
amples, there were salbon which has become salben, fragen 
which is now fragen, and legian or lerian that are still in 
use as legen and lehren. Similarly we have in Latin 
' amare,' tacere ' and ' andire.' The preterits of salbon and 
fragen were salbota and frag eta, which in the M. H. G. 
became salbete &&&fragete. A distinction must be made 
in the case of the i-stems between those in which this 
stem was short and in which it was long. In the case of 
the former the stem-ending in the preterit remains ; the 
O. H. G. legita became legete in the M. H. G. In case of 
the long stems, the i of the preterit was suppressed in 
obedience to a phonetic law that need not be considered 
here, while in the present tense it remained somewhat 
longer: lerian, lerta became M. H. G. lerte. In conse- 
quence of this difference between the i-stems with long 
syllables, a difference also arose between the present and 
the preterit tenses, which does not occur in the other 

A History of the German Language 257 

groups of verbs. If the stems of verbs contained an a or 
an o or an u, these vowels would necessarily take the um- 
laut in course of time in the present tense where an i fol- 
lowed in the next syllable ; but in the preterit they would 
remain unchanged. For example, brannian, branta be- 
comes brennen, branta and later brante. Besides this verb 
the German contains kannte, nannte, rannte, sandte and 
wandte, that appear to have been modified by umlaut, but 
which were in fact not so modified, as has been pointed 
out on a preceding page. In like manner we have gebrannt, 
gekannt, etc., because substantially the same phonetic 
changes took place in the preterit participle which the 
preterit of the verb proper underwent. In the M. H. G. 
what the German grammarians call Riickumlaut a sort 
of reversed umlaut affected a much larger number of 
words than it does at present. Compare decken dacte, 
smecken smacte, beswaeren beswarte, loesen loste, hoeren horte 
with the modern preterits deckte, schmeckte, loste, horte, etc. 
In these and a number of other examples the radical 
vowel of the preterit has been modified so as to conform 
to that of the present, and only a few participial adjectives 
remain as evidence of the former state of affairs : for ex- 
ample, die gedackten Pfetfen der Or gel simply means die 
gedeckten, etc ; getrost is an old participle of trosten; wohl- 
bestallt recalls bestelle, bestalte, bestalt. In the last series 
we have an example of a new verb formed under the in- 
fluence of the participle, viz., bes fallen. Similarly erboesen 
erboste erbost has led to the formation of a new verb sick 
erbosen (grow angry). A like relation exists between lehren 
and gelahrt, and durchlaucht, erlaucht and durchleuchten, 
erleuchten. The singular feature of this change of the 
principal vowel lies in the fact that the participle, though 
derived from the verb, afterward brought about a modifi- 
cation of the latter ; or to use a slightly mixed metaphor, 
but which answers the purpose very well here, the ances- 
tral type was conformed to that of the descendant. 

258 A History of the German Language 

We find in the strong verbs a greater variety of vowel 
changes than in the weak ; here we see exhibited the ef- 
fects of the three phonetic influences before designated as 
Umlaut, Brechung (breaking) and Ablaut (vowel-grada- 
tion). In the weak verbs the stem of the present tense al- 
ways ended with the same vowel and it could not therefore 
effect any change in the radical vowel. But in the strong 
verbs different vowels immediately followed the final con- 
sonant of the radical syllable, and it was these that char- 
acterized the various subclasses. For example, the indic- 
ative present of tragen in the most ancient O. H. G. was 
thus inflected: Sing. 1. tragu, 2. tragis, 3. tragit, Plur. 1. 
ttagameS) 2. traget, 3. tragant. In the natural course of de- 
velopment of the language the a of the second and third 
person singular would receive the umlaut, thus becoming 
a. This is the present state of all similar verbs excepting 
du haust, erhaut and du kommst, er kommt, though even here 
we find the variants du kommst, er kommt. A considerable 
number of the dialects have however dropped the umlaut 
under the influence of the verbs that never had it, as trage 
tragsch, tragt; laufe, laufsch, lauft, etc. 

The diversity of endings which produced umlaut is 
likewise the cause of breaking in so far as it applies to 
the verb. We find a uniform interchange between the 
vowels e and i ; the latter occuring in those verbs that are 
capable of taking the umlaut, the former in those which 
are not. Accordingly, we have wir geben, ihr gebt, sie 
geben ; e also occurs regurlarly in the subjunctive, the 
infinitive and the present participle. But the second and 
third persons of the singular are giebst, gtebt, (or gibst and 
gibi) and the imperative is gieb. In the first person sin- 
gular where the H. G. has ich gebe, the South German 
dialects exhibit ich gib, ich Us (lese), ich nimm (nehme), 
and so on. This represents the status of both the O. G. 
H. and M. H. G. i. e. gibu, Hsu, nimu. These forms, 
however, point to the earlier existence of gebu, nemu, lesu; 

A History of the German Language 259 

but the first person was changed to conform to the second 
and third. In the N. H. G. the original status has 
unconsciously been restored : under the influence of the 
first person Plur. geben, the M. H. G. ich gibe has become 
ich gebe, and similarly giebst, giebt was made to conform 
to the type trage, trdgst, trdgt. But here again the South 
and Middle German dialects have gone still farther, so 
that we find du gebsch, er gebt; du nemsch, er nemmt. The 
interchange between e and i does not occur in verbs whose 
stem ends in a double nasal or in a nasal in combination 
with a mute. In such cases e had been changed to i in 
prehistoric times even when an a followed. We have, 
accordingly, ich beginne, wir beginnen ; ich finde, wir finden. 
Exactly parallel with this interchange between e and i is 
that between iu and ie in the M. H. G., or iu and io of the 
O. H. G. which has already been pointed out. The M. 
H. G. has ich fliuge, du fliugest, er fliuget, but wir fliegen, ir 
flieget, sie fliegent. The German of Luther's Bible con- 
serves many remnants of unbroken verbal forms, such as 
fleucht, kreucht, leugt, zeucht; but in the current literary 
language the unbroken forms have carried the day every- 
where, so that we have ich fliege like wir fliegen. The 
archaic forms are still occasionally used in poetry. The 
perfect tense of the strong verbs was originally formed in 
two ways. The first was by means of a reduplicating 
syllable prefixed to the stem : in other words a syllable 
was formed by means of the initial consonant or conso- 
nants together with the vowel e, and placed before the 
word as a prefix. In the second, vowel-gradation was 
employed. Reduplication is a familiar phenomenon in 
Greek and L,atin, as may be seen in such examples as 
Tpc<f><o, rirpo^ta ; pello, pepuli. The examples, however, in 
which these two processes are plainly evident in the Ger- 
manic languages are very few. Even in the Gothic traces of 
reduplication are rare and in the majority of cases vowel- 
gradation has been obscured or wholly obliterated by the 

260 A History of the German Language 

influence of phonetic laws. We find in letan (let) lelot, 
both reduplication and vowel-gradation, but haldan, hehald; 
haitan, hehait; hlanpan, hehlaup. In consequence of con- 
traction and other transformations these perfects were so 
changed that they uniformly exhibit the diphthong ie in 
the M. H. G. and i (or ie) in the N. H. G. no matter what 
the vowel of the present tense may have been. The pre- 
terit participle, which in the strong verb is generally 
subject to vowel-gradation, has the same vowel as the 
present in most of these reduplicated verbs. Compare, 
e. g., the Latin pello pulsus, vello vulsus, sero satus. 
The following types of N. H. G. verbs belong to this class : 

(1) halten hielt gehalten and fallen fiel gef alien ^ 

(2) blasen blies geblasen, 

(3) rufen rief gerufen, 

(4) heiszen hiesz geheiszen^ 

(5) laufen lief gelaufen and hauen hieb gehauen. 

Very few Germanic verbs show reduplication proper 
even in the oldest forms accessible to modern research ; 
but, perhaps, owing to this fact vowel-gradation has been 
the more fully developed, and is, therefore, the more 
clearly marked. Many verbs exhibit not merely two tones 
or letters of the vowel scale, but even three, though the 
latter are greatly in the minority. Or, to illustrate the 
statement by modern examples, we have about four times 
as often the gradation bleiben blieb gebleiben as singen sang 
gesungen. In the latter case we always find in the O. G 
a different vowel in the preterit singular from that in the 
plural of the same tense. This variation is not accidental, 
and not every vowel can be substituted for any other. 
An a, e. g., may not occur in the same stem with certain 
others, et.foi instance. Those vowels that regularly suc- 
ceed each other in the same stem constitute what is known 
as a gradation series (Ablatitsrethe). This series is in the 
M. H. G. as follows: 

A History of the German Language 261 

Class I., containing a in the present tense, 

Pres. Pret. Sing. Pret. Plur. Pret. Part. 

trage truoc truogen getragen 

Class II., containing e or i in the present tense, sub- 
class (a), 

Pres. Pret. Sing. Pret. Plur. Pret. Part. 

ich binde bant bunden gebunden 

wir binden 

ich wirfe warf ivurfen geworfen 

wir werfen 

On. the change from e to i, or from u to o, see page 230. 
This class no longer exists in its purity in the N. H. G., 
the variation between the different forms of the preterit 
having been suppressed. In a majority of cases the sin- 
gular has gained the mastery : compare fand fanden, 
gelang gelangen, half halfen, sprang sprangen, but which 
were in M. H. G. fant funden, half hulfen, etc. Alongside 
of sangen an older form has been preserved in the familiar 
proverb, Wie die Alien sungen, 

So zwitschern die Jungen, 

through the influence of the rime demanded by Jungen. 
In other cases the vowel of the plural remains, though 
not in its M. H. G. form as u, but in its M. G. transforma- 
tion as o. See ante p. 230. Examples are ich glomm wit 
glommen, schwoll schwollen, schmolz schmolzen, which were 
M. H. G. glam glummen, swal swullen, smalz smulzen. In a 
single case only does the modern German exhibit a and u 
in parallel forms, ich ward and ich wurde wir wurden, M. H. 
G. wart wurden. The reason of this exception is not clear. 
Class II., sub-class (b), in which the stem-vowel is fol- 
lowed either by a liquid or a nasal or the combination of a 
stopped consonant with a liquid, 

ich nime nam namen genomen 

wir nemen 

ich spriche sprach sprachen gesprochen 

wir sprechen 

262 A History of the German Language 

To this type a few verbs of the older language conform 
whose stem contains no liquid, as fichte gefochten following 
flihte geflohten, stechen gestochen following brechen gebrochen 
and sprechen gesprochen. In the N. H. G. the diversity 
which formerly existed between the singular and the 
plural has been eliminated, so that the older ich sprach, 
wir sprechen has become ich sprach, wir sprachen. In a con- 
siderable number of verbs even the difference between the 
preterit tense and the preterit participle has disappeared, 
as may be seen in 

ich schere schor schoren geschoren 

M. H. G. ich schire schar scharen geschoren 

ich pflege pflg pflogen g^pflogen 

M. H. G. ichpflige pfldc pflagen gepflogen 

In the N. H. G. schworen has conformed to the type 
scheren and heben to that of pflegen. Both verbs originally 
belonged to the type tragen. 

ich swere swuor geswaren 

ich hebe huop gehaben 

The anomalous present tense is due to the fact that their 
historical antecedents were swariu and habiu ; there was, 
therefore, an external correspondence to the present tense 
of the i-class. See ante p. 256. We still have in the ad- 
jective erhaben an old participle of the erheben, which 
was subsequently displaced by the analogical form 

Class II., sub-class (c) in which e (i) is followed by a sin- 
gle consonant which is neither a liquid nor a nasal, pro- 
vided no combination of such a consonant with others 

Pres. Pret. Sing. Pret. Plur. Pret. Part. 
ich gibe gap gaben gegeben 

wir geben 

The M. H. G. gap gaben has become gab gaben, but the 
L,. G. has in many cases conserved the original quantity. 
The verbs bewegen and weben now follow the type of 

A History of the German Language 263 

pflegen, heben though originally they were inflected like 

ich bezvige bewac bewdgen bewegen 
ich wibe wap wdben geweben. 

Class III., containing long i in the present tense. 
Pres. Pret. Sing. Pret. Plur. Pret. Part. 

ich schribe schreip schriben geschriben 

The diphthong in the preterit singular of the N. H. G. 
has been dropped entirely and its place taken by the vowel 
of the preterit plural and the past participle. To this class 
belong also the modern verb scheiden which was originally 
inflected like the reduplicating verbs, M. H. G. scheide, 
schiet, ge scheiden. The adjective be scheiden is a remnant of 
the older inflection, it being a participle of bescheiden. 

Class IV., interchanging iu with ie in the present tense. 
Pres. Pret. Sing. Pret. Plur. Pret. Part. 

ich fliuge flouc flugen geflogen 

wir fliegen 

The N. H. G. development of this series corresponds 
throughout with the preceding except that as in Class II. 
(a), the u of the preterit plural does not prevail but appears 
as o. To this class belongs also saufen soff, saugen sog, 
of which the present tense was different from that otfliuge 
in the earliest period of the language, though the other 
forms were similar. Closely connected with the variations 
produced by means of vowel-gradation, a number of verbs 
exhibit a change of consonants due ultimately to a differ- 
ence in accent. It has been previously shown, when 
speaking of Verner's Law, that the accent determines 
whether an Indo-European tenuis shall be represented in 
the Germanic by a spirant or a medial mute, whether h 
or g, e. g., should take the place of primitive k, and th or 
d that of t. Thus the root * duk ' (L,at. due) would give in 
the O. H. G. the verb ziohan (Bng. tug and tow), in the 
M. H. G. ziehen and ich ziuhe, wir zugen, gezogen, N. H. G. 
ziehen, zog, gezogen. Similarly snide, sniten, gesniten gives 

264 A History of the German Language 

schneiden, schnitt, geschmtten. This shift has also been 
preserved in the N. H. G. leiden and sieden, where we find 
leiden, Ittt, gelitten and sieden, sott, gesotten, respectively. 
In the M. H. G. we likewise find slahe, sluogen, geslagen; 
but the N. H. G. has assimilated this verb to the type rep- 
resented by tragen and formed a new present, schlagen, ich 
schlage. The M. H. G. has also ich gedlhe (gedeike), wir 
gedigen, gedigen; but the N. H. G. adjective gediegen is the 
only part of the verb that has been able to resist the level- 
ing process, and we have now only ich gedeihe. In some 
of the dialects g has occasionally displaced h and we find 
ziege instead of zieJien. 

Parallel with the substitution h:g and d:t is that of s:r. 
This is shown in the N. H. G. erkiese, erkor, erkoren, and 
war,waren,geivesen. We find it too in the M. H. G./rt'use, 
wirfruren, gefroren, and verliuse, wir verluren^ verloren. With 
these examples we may compare the Eng. ( lose ' and * for- 
lorn.' A few other German words still retain the original s. 
The tendency of s to become r is seen in other Indo-Euro- 
pean languages. In Eng. we have * I was ' but ' we were ; ' 
throughout this verb the interchange of s and r is traceable 
to the Anglo-Saxon period. Similarly in Latin we have 
es, est, esses, esset, but eras, erat, eris, erit. The weak 
verbs, likewise, show some instances of interchange be- 
tween consonants; which have, however, no connection 
with those just set forth. We find, e. g., bringen, brachte 
and denken, dachte in accordance with a phonetic law pre- 
viously set forth : viz, that in German only a spirant can 
stand before /. The n occurring before the spirant h was 
dropped. The M. H. G. exhibits the forms mich diinket, 
mich duhte (methinks, methought). Here too there has 
been assimilation or leveling. In the first place the um- 
laut of the present was carried over to the preterit which 
became dduchte. Subsequently a new preterit dunkte was 
created for the present diinken, and for the preterit dduchte 
a new present dducht and even dauchtet. The O. H. G. 

A History of the German Language 265 

predecessor of diinken is dunchan and that of denken is 
denchan, the two words being represented in A.-S. by 
4 thencan ' and ' thincan ' respectively. Both have become 
blended in the modern English * to think,' a process that had 
already begun in the A.-S. period. A reminiscence of the 
original difference is preserved in the archaic ' methinks,' 
but * seem ' has almost entirely usurped its functions. 

In German, as in English, a number of verbs have both 
the strong and the weak inflection. For example, ich 
salze, ich salzte has for its participle gesalzen (not gesalzt). 
This mixture does not exist in the earliest stage of the 
verbs, and may have been brought about by one of several 
causes. Some strong verbs may have followed the anal- 
ogy of weak verbs in the imperfect or the participle, or 
both. In the M. H. G. we find ich salze, tch sie I z, gesalzen, 
and instead of the modern ich spalte, ich spaltete, gespaltet 
or gespalten only ich spalte, ich spielt, gespalten. Fallen and 
schaben shared a similar fate, as evidences of which the ad- 
jectives gefalten and abgeschaben remain. The influence 
of the strong system of inflection upon the weak is much 
more extensive than vice versa, and many verbs originally 
weak have become strong. Thus fragte is older than 
frug, which has doubtless been influenced by the type 
tragen trug, schlagen schlug. Ich steckte is more primitive 
than ich stack, which now conforms to the type erschrecken 
erschrack. The same is true of dmgen gedingt as related 
to dang gedungen, which has yielded to the influence of 
smgen sang or springen sprang. The dialects exhibit 
many more examples of transition from weak to the strong 
conjugation. A number of older verbs had both strong 
and weak inflections, and two or more of these being 
often nearly alike in the present, came in the course of time 
to be confounded. It occurred quite frequently that a 
strong verb with intransitive and a weak verb with transi- 
tive signification were developed from the same stem. 
The M. H. G. contained two verbs, leschen or erleschen 


266 A History of the German Language 

(to cease to burn) and loschen (to extinguish). Of the 
former the imperfect was erlasch, of the latter erlaschte. 
But the N. H. G. has made of the one erlische eriosch er- 
loschen, . and of the other erloschen erloschte erloscht. 
Similar doubles are erschrecken erschrack erschrocken ( be 
frightened) and erschrecken erschreckte erschreckt (fright- 
en ) and schwellen schwoll geschwollen and schwellen 
schwellte geschwellt. The plural number of the present 
tense of both verbs, as also the subjunctive together with 
the infinitive present, have always the vowel e in the M. 
H. G., with this difference, however, that this e in the 
strong verbs, which sometimes appears as i, was a broken 
vowel, while in the weak it was modified {umgelautet}, 
and, therefore, differently pronounced. The older N. H. 
G. possessed two imperfects, lud and ladete, that are often 
taken to be interchangeable. In this case two verbs have 
been confounded which were originally identical neither 
in form or meaning. In the O. H. G. hladan hluod 
gehladan meant * load,' and ladon ladota giladot * invite.' 
A singular mixture of strong and weak inflections is ex- 
hibited by the auxiliaries ich musz, ich kann, ich darf, ich 
mag, ich sol/, ich weisz, though they do not all, strictly 
speaking, perform the same office in German as in En- 
glish. It is noticeable, in the first place, that they lack 
the endings in the first and third person of the singular of 
the present tense which all the other verbs have. This 
occurs elsewhere only in the preterit of the strong verbs ; 
and this fact furnishes us the key to the solution of the 
enigma : these six verbs now used as presents were origi- 
nally preterits and are accordingly called preterit-presents. 
The loss from disuse of the present tense of verbs and the 
substitution of the perfect with a present signification is 
met with in both Greek and Latin and in other languages. 
E. g. coepi ( I begin ), novi ( I know), odi and oVSa are verbs 
of this type. The German weisz corresponds exactly to 
the Greek. Weisz at first, doubtless, meant * I have seen/ 

A History of the German Language 267 

and is probably referable to a present ich wize of type III. 
ante. It is the only remnant of the old preterits of this 
ablaut-series since meit, treip, schreib, etc., have been dis- 
placed by analogous forms, viz., mied, trieb, schrieb. Ich 
musz, M. H. G. muoz, belongs to the type tragen. We are 
probably correct in assuming the former existence of pres- 
ents kinnan, derfan, megan, skelan, to which the modern 
ich kann, darf, mag, soil (O. H. G. skal, A.-S. sceal, Eng. 
shall) are preterits according to our types II. (b) and (c). 
When the original signification as a past tense had been 
forgotten, from whatever cause, and these forms had come 
to be used for present time a new series of imperfects was 
formed after the pattern of the weak verbs. 

The L. G. gahn and stahn are explained by the long a, 
as also the South German goh and stoh. The preterit of 
gehen is formed as if from a present gangen (cf. fangen, 
fieng), which in fact once existed and is conserved in some 
of the dialects, not only of Germany but also of England 
and Scotland. The mediaeval preterit of stn was stuont, 
which is likewise referable to a still current dialectic 
standen. It followed the type trage, truoc. Ich stund, wir 
stunden is occasionally used, but is archaic. It was first 
inflected after the type bant bunden and became ich stand 
wir stunden; when, subsequently, the plural of this series 
was modified to conform to the singular in the preterit ich 
stand, wir stunden followed suit and became ich stand wir 
standen. On L. G. territory the influence of analogy pro- 
duced a different phonetic change : stan stunt became the 
pattern after which the imperfects gung and fung were 
formed to gan andfangen. The case of thun, that is some- 
what different. The O. H. G. preterit of tuon was teta. 
Here te is a reduplication of to, both the preterit and the 
present stem having probably once been identical. The 
difference, doubtless, grew out of the fact that in the pret- 
erit the stem was unaccented and its vowel accordingly 
weakened. The O. H. G. teta appears in M. H. G. as tete, 

268 A History of the German Language 

which is virtually the that, met with in popular songs and 
in the poems of Uhland, a Swabian. The plural of teta 
is tafun, a verb- form hard to explain, which became N. H. 
G. thaten. The singular number that is a new creation 
after the model of the plural. The German verb sein, like 
the verb 'to be,' is made up of three different roots or steins. 
The first had an initial b which is represented by the Latin 
f in * fui,' ( fore,' ' futurum esse,' that is ich bin du bist, 
which is also found in the Eng. ' be ' ' been ' * being.' The 
second is ' es ' and occurs in Lat. * est ' * eram ' for ' esam,' 
i. e., er ist (he is, etc.). An abbreviated form of this same 
root occurs in the subjunctive er sei, the indicative sind, 
and in the Lat. 'sunt' 'sim.' The third is 'wes,' Eng. 'was,' 
' were,' which has no corresponding form in Latin. Here 
belongs the M. H. G. preterit ich was, wir war en, the in- 
finitive Wesen now used only as a substantive, and the old 
participle found in abwesend, anwesend, etc. 

It yet remains to consider one point in the structure of 
the preterit participle. We find both gezeugt and beseugt, 
er ist alt geworden, but er ist geschlagen worden, how shall 
we explain this prefix ge-f The participle had originally 
no prefix, as may be seen in the Gothic binda (I bind) 
bundans (gebunden). But the older Germanic possessed a 
large number of verbs in pairs formed from the same 
stem, one of which had the prefix ge, while the other was 
without it. To this class belong bieten and gebieten, 
brauchen and gebrauchen, leiten and geleiten. The differ- 
ence in meaning was hardly more than one of degree, the 
prefix serving merely to intensify or to designate the com- 
pletion of the action. From the nature of the case the 
composite form would be frequently used as a preterite 
participle, and the syllable ge- came in the course of time 
to be regarded as the essential characteristic of this part 
of the verb. A long list of verbs, however, remained free 
from this prefix owing to the fact that they were already 
provided with an inseparable prefix. The German is nat- 

A History of the German Language 269 

urally averse to the use of a second prefix before a word 
that is already provided with one, and we could hardly 
expect to find gebeleben alongside of beleben, geverstehen 
and verstehen, or gezefreiszen and zerreiszen. Plainly, 
then, there would be no such participles as gebelebt or ge- 
verstanden. But few uncompounded verbs form their par- 
ticiple without ge- except worden, which has already been 
mentioned. Among these we find rechtschaffen as well as 
geschaffen, trunken as well as getrunken, and also lassen 
alongside of gelassen. In these instances the old partici- 
ple, owing to the absence of the prefix ge-, is commonly 
regarded as an infinitive. In the folk-speech of some 
parts of South Germany the omission of ge- is still 


Owing to the fact that the law of analogy plays a very 
important part in the morphology of all the languages of 
the Indo-European stock it may be well to consider this 
part of our subject a little more fully. It is a well known 
fact that all these languages exhibit the fullest and most 
varied vowel system in the oldest specimens that have 
been preserved. Ante-classical Latin had a number of 
diphthongs that were subsequently fused into single 
vowels, and this process went still farther in its deriva- 
tives the Romance languages. Modern Greek gives the 
same sound to a number of vowels and diphthongs that 
were differently pronounced in the ancient Greek, 77, t< v, 
, 01, and vi all being sounded like the long e ( or i as in 
machine) in English. The Gothic of which we possess 
long specimens by several centuries older than any other 
Germanic dialect has a much more fully developed vowel 
system than the later German. In short there is a univer- 
sal tendency toward simplification, both in vowels and 

270 A History of the German Language 

consonants. A sound that was frequently used began to 
modify others until- in the course of time several sounds 
were blended into one and the same sound, or a certain 
form of the noun or verb was taken as a general type and 
all similar words used in the same sense conformed to this 
type. In Latin, for example, the nominative plural of 
words ended in -ae, or -i, or -es, or -us. But in the French 
nearly all plurals end in -s or an s-sound. A large num- 
ber of words from the first, second, and fourth declension 
of the Latin passed into the French, yet their plurals 
nearly all end like the plurals of the third. It is evident 
that the plurals of this declension became the type of all 
plurals in French and words that originally formed their 
plurals differently were made by analogy to conform to it. 
The A.-S. had also a number of different endings for the 
Nom. Plur. and the Gen. Sing. The former with few ex- 
ceptions have become -s or -es and the latter 's which is 
our modern English possessive case. In other words, the 
prevalent type in the course of time became almost uni- 
versal. The Italian for various causes was less simplified 
than the French, yet even here some of the Latin plurals 
were given up and the ending -e became the general type 
for feminine plurals and -i for the masculine. The influ- 
ence of analogy may be daily observed in the speech of 
children and uneducated persons. At a certain stage in 
its mental development the child will form the incorrect 
preterit " I thinked '' and the like, because many preterits 
are formed in this way and it is misled by analogy. The 
incorrect " brung '' is formed after the analogy of ' sing,' 
' sung.' For the same reason we hear persons say 
" sheeps," "memorandums," u cherubims," because they 
have not observed that these and many similar words have 
a peculiar plural and they are misled by the general law 
of English plurals. It will be readily seen from these few 
examples that at a period when languages have not yet 
acquired a degree of stableness by being embodied in a 

A History of the German Language 271 

written literature such changes might in a comparatively 
short period of time effect a complete revolution in this 
phonetic system. 


The syntax of a language, except so far as it relates to 
the order of words and the arrangement of sentences or 
parts of sentences, is, in the last analysis, nothing more 
nor less than a department of the general subject of the 
meaning of verbal signs, or sematology. What case is to 
be used with a preposition depends upon the significance 
of the case. Whether I am to use ( in ' with the accusa- 
tive in Latin or German, with the dative in German or 
the ablative in Latin must be determined by the meaning 
I intend to convey to the hearer or reader. Whether the 
indicative or the subjunctive mood is to be used in a sub- 
ordinate sentence depends upon the difference in meaning 
between these two forms of the verb. That the Germans 
say eine fromme Frau and not erne frommer Fran is solely 
due to the fact that they have from time immemorial been 
accustomed to associate the notion of masculinity with the 
nominative frommer. The signification of the different 
forms of the same word varies according to its endings ; 
it would not therefore be much amiss to designate that 
part of grammar which is usually called syntax, the doc- 
trine of the meaning of the flectional syllables. In this 
book we have thus far discussed hardly any changes in the 
meaning of words, except those that have taken place in 
the radical syllables. But even here we are, at least in part, 
within ihe domain of syntax so far as it concerns those 
variations in the signification of words, which take them 
out of the class to which they naturally belong in a gram- 
matical system. When an adjective is used as a noun, as 
when, for example, the word Fiirst, which is simply the 
superlative of vor (Eng. fore) and literally means the first 

272 A History of the German Language 

or foremost, is used to designate a prince, the procedure 
is exactly parallel to the use of Korn (corn) to designate a 
particular cereal. We do not generally think of a noble- 
man as a noble man, nor of a gentleman as a gentle man, 
any more than the uneducated German sees any necessary 
connection between ein Edelmann and ein edler Mann, yet 
we have here the assumption, by a particular class, as a 
sort of mental escutcheon, of an attribute that is equally 
applicable to some men in all classes. The indefinite man 
is no more nor less than a faded and generalized Mann, 
just as the French ( on ' is a remnant of the Latin l homo :' 
both are used in the same sense. Here we have a process 
analogous to that through which schetnen passed ; for 
while it is cognate with * shine ' and meant originally to 
emit rays of light it is now frequently used in the sense 
of ' seem.' 


All the primitive words in a language are divisible into 
four classes and four only : nouns and adjectives, numer- 
als, verbs, and pronouns. Our present knowledge does 
not justify a further reduction, though it is maintained by 
some writers on language that all parts of speech were 
originally derived from two the verb and the pronoun. 
Nouns, or substantives, and adjectives form but one class ; 
for at first every noun designated but a single quality of 
an object. New nouns are still frequently formed from 
adjectives. The converse process, that is, the formation of 
adjectives from substantives, is of much rarer occurrence. 
The substantival origin is plainly recognizable in the few 
examples found in the N. H. G feind, noth, schade, 
schuld from the fact that they can not be used attribu- 
tively and do not admit of comparison. There seems to 
have been no transition from the verbal class into any of 

A History of the German Language 273 

the other three classes, nor vice versa. It is probable, 
however, that a few pronouns are derived from other parts 
of speech ; man has already been cited ; jemand and 
niemand are compounds of the adverbs je and nie with the 
same word. Jeglicher is a combination of je and the ad- 
jective gleich. In the earlier N. H. G. the adverb so is 
often used as a relative pronoun. Not all pronouns proper 
are equally primitive : welcher, wer, and was have an in- 
definite as well as an interrogative meaning, and are equiv- 
alent to elwelcher, etwas. Both the Greek T and the 
Latin * quis,' as well as the English ' who ' can be used in 
either sense. There are reasons for believing that these 
words acquired an interrogative signification sometime 
after they had been otherwise used. If we address a per- 
son with du suchst elwas (lit. thou seekest something), we 
plainly indicate to him that we should like to be informed 
as to the object of his search ; and we use an interrogative 
sentence. Neither are relative pronouns traceable to the 
roots of languages. In the ordinary speech of every-day 
life comparatively few subordinate sentences are used ; the 
information to be communicated is conveyed to the hearer 
in a succession of independent, co-ordinate sentences. 
This is a characteristic of speech in its most primitive 
stage, and it is safe to assume that all words now used to 
connect sentences were originally employed for a different 
purpose. The relative pronoun der, die, das, was at first 
purely demonstrative. Such a sentence as u es ivar der, 
der gepredigt hat" was in O. H. G. iz was, der bredigota, 
and in a still earlier stage of the language it must have 
been es war der er hat gepredigt. In that stage of the 
language when the pronoun was not regarded as a neces- 
sary accompanist of the verb we would have had, das war 
der hat gebredigt, iz was der bredigota, for the pro- 
noun must have been placed originally at the end of the 
first and not at the beginning of the second sentence. 
Subsequently, when it had become necessary to express 

-74 A History of the German Language 

the subject of the verb, it looked as if der belonged to the 
following verb. A sentence like das tst der Mensch, der 
mich geschlagen hat, must at one stage of the language 
have been used in the form, das ist der Mensch, der hat 
mich geschlagen. In Eng. this would be equivalent to * this 
is the person, this one has beaten me.' Here, it is plain, the 
relative pronoun belonged in the first instance to the sen- 
tence in which we now find it, and we have accordingly to 
assume two points of origin for the relative der. In a some- 
what different way the relative pronouns wer, was and 
welcher have been developed from the interrogative pro- 
nouns during the N. H. G. period. 

The adverbs are, in so far as they can be traced to their 
source, for the most part fossilized or stereotyped case- 
forms, and in many instances they have conserved such 
significations as no longer attach to these cases in the 
nouns and pronouns as at present employed. There is a 
concealed genitive of way and manner in einst ; in the M. 
H. G. it is etnes, the regular genitive of ein. Plugs 
( quick ) is properly fliiges, im Fluge ; mittelst takes the 
place of mittels, and is, therefore, the genitive of Mtttel. 
The form of the dative plural is latent in allenthalben i. e. 
allenhalben, the substantive portion of this compound be- 
ing the O. H. G. halba, die Seite (side), and occurs in the 
Eng. be-half. IVeiland is traceable to the older form 
wilen, the Dat. Plur. of wile ( time), and is the same word 
as the Eng.. while (a little while, between whiles), of 
which the older authors have the dative whilom, whilome, 
with the exact meaning of wetland. We have in * whilst ' 
the excrescent / found in mittelst, allen-t-halben, etc. Je 
and me are concealed accusatives, the O. H. G. forms be- 
ing io and nio from ni-io, of which 10 ( older eo ) corre- 
sponds to a Gothic aiw, the Ace. Sing, of aiws (time, 
Eng. aye). Compare the Gr. <Wi/ and Lat. aevum. The 
German nicht, O. H. G. nwwiht, is compounded of nio and 
the accusative (or nominative) wiht (Eng. wight). A 

A History of the German Language 275 

trace of the substantival character of mht is preserved in 
the phrase, hier ist seines Bleibens mcht,\n which Bleibens 
is an old partitive genitive. The history of * naught' has 
several points in common with that of nicht ; its older 
form is ' nawiht,' i. e., no whit, no thing. It is still 
further contracted in * not/ the o of which has led to the 
spelling ' nought.' 

Closely connected with the adverbs are the prepositions ; 
and it is probably true that u all prepositions were origi- 
nally adverbs." The German, like the English, has a 
long list of words that belong to both of these parts of 
speech : for example, dicrch, hindurch, durchgegangen ; 
um, darum, iimgef alien; wider, dawider, widerreden, etc. 
If we trace backward the course of development of these 
words we find that the adverbial signification is always 
the most primitive. In the earliest periods of the Indo- 
European languages there was no need of prepositions : 
the case-endings were in themselves sufficient to indicate 
the different relations in which words were used. A 
transition stage between adverb and preposition is pre- 
served is such expressions as den Tag ilber, die Nacht 
durch. The current forms of many prepositions still bear 
evident traces of their origin in other forms of speech. 
The preposition zu was in the ninth century used exclu- 
sively as an adverb. Kraft, laut, wegen and others have 
developed their adverbial uses since the M. H. G. period, 
the starting point being such datives as tn Kraft, nach 
Laut, von Wegen, the last being the dative plural of der 
Weg. On the other hand, many prepositions have, in 
combination with certain case-forms, aided to form ad- 
verbs. Entlang, entzweivizm originally in lang, in zwei; 
neben is in eben; iiberall is equivalent to iiber Alles, and 
sintemal takes us back to sint dem mal, i. e., sett dem Mai, 
seit der Zeit. 

The introduction of the class of words now known as 
conjunctions was likewise a gradual process ; in the earli- 

276 A History of the German Language 

est stage of the language no need of them was felt. Even 
at the present day the illiterate have comparatively little 
use for this part of speech. The same may be said of 
poetry and of language intended to produce lively emo- 
tion, which is by a sort of atavism a partial recurrence to 
the primitive type of speech. The modern German Sie 
stand und weinte could be expressed in O. H. G. stuont, 
weinota. Caesar's famous u veni, vidi, vici " is a good ex- 
ample of the effect produced by a series of sentences 
uttered in rapid succession without connecting words. 

Those conjunctions that stand at the head of subordi- 
nate sentences have been developed from pronouns or ad- 
verbs. Their office is either to introduce the sentence 
which is to follow or refer back to a preceding sentence. 
Many conjunctions perform both of these functions. So is 
a word of this class. When we say, "So ist die Sac he vor 
sich gegangen " we may intend to speak of an occurrence 
yet to be related or of one that has already been told. 
The pronouns der, dieser and jener have, likewise, this 
character. Their original use was to designate objects to 
which attention could be called by a gesture ; now they 
are often employed to refer mentally either to what pre- 
cedes or to what follows. Some particles point both for- 
wards and backwards at the same time ; for example, 
those that imply concession or contradiction or limitation. 
All these are words that in the first place conveyed the 
idea of acquiescence or solemn assurance, such as gewisz, 
allerdings,ja, wohl, freilich,ja freihch and zwar, M. H. G. 
2e ware, i. e., in Wahrheit. Entweder and weder refer 
only to what follows : the former is developed from em 
weder, ' one of two.' If we say, "er wollte entweder siegen 
oder sterben" we imply a choice between victory or death. 
Weder is referable to ne-weder: " weder heisz noch kalt" 
originally signified * neither of the two, hot or cold.' The 
third personal pronoun, er, sie, es, refers exclusively to 
what has gone before; in German its office is always 

A History of the German Language 277 

conjunctive except when it takes the place and performs 
the functions of the first and second personal pronoun. 
Aber and sondern also point in the same direction. The 
former originally meant nochmals. It often occurs when 
one person repeats the act of another or when he speaks 
after another has spoken, that he is moved by the spirit 
of opposition. This idea is prominent in a number of 
words and phrases ; entgegnen (go against or toward) is 
equivalent to anlworten ; Wortwechsel (exchange of words) 
is simply Zank. Similarly, we sometimes hear the re- 
mark in English, u I do not wish to have any words with 
you," meaning, " I do not wish to quarrel with you," while 
altercate and altercation differ little etymologically from 
alternate and alternation. Sondern is plainly related to 
besonders and signifies ausgenommen, which is precisely 
' excepted,' i. e., except. It is probable that these words 
did not originally indicate opposition or contradiction in 
its full sense, but rather a denial of the general validity of 
a judgment, while admitting its applicability to certain 
cases : nur das ist richtig (only this is correct) and das aber 
ist richtig (but this is correct) mean about the same thing. 
It is, accordingly, from words of this class that the great 
majority of subordinate conjunctions has been gradually 
evolved. If we trace dasz to its origin we shall find that 
it primarily belongs, not to the subordinate sentence which 
it introduces but to the principal sentence to which it is 
attached. Ich weisz dasz er lebt really means Ich weisz 
dasz: er lebt. Putting this into English, ' I know that he 
lives' is equivalent to ' I know that : he lives ;' so the fact 
above given is equally true of both languages. The con- 
junction ehe was originally used as a reflexive adverb in 
subordinate clauses, at least when it follows a negative 
clause. Ich kehre mcht heim ehe ich ihnfinde points to an 
earlier stage of the language when this expression meant, 
ich kehre mcht heim: ehe (vorher] finde ich ihn (lit. I return 
not : ere I shall find him). The situation is somewhat difler- 

278 A History of the German Language 

ent in the case of an affirmative sentence. In the older lan- 
guage it was followed by a subordinate clause having its 
verb in the subjunctive. Christ's address to Peter is du 
lougenst mln, e danne der han kraeje (du verleugnest mich, 
ehe dann, etc.). Subordinating one sentence to the other 
we should probably have dzi verleugnest mich vorher, dann 
wird (or dann mag) der Hahn krdhen. We have already 
called attention to the fact that it is reasonable to assume 
a twofold origin for the relative pronoun der. The trans- 
formation of independent sentences into subordinate ones 
will be more readily understood if we bear in mind that 
the order of words now characteristic of the latter was, at 
one time, also admissible in the former. The develop- 
ment of certain conjunctions can not be comprehended if 
we start from sentences consisting of two members ; they 
must have required three or more. "Da Herodes sah, dasz 
er betrogen war, ward er zornig," (Matt, ii., 16) would 
have been stated co-ordinately, da sah Herodes, dasz er 
betrogen war; er ward zornig, in which case da at the 
beginning pointed to what had just previously been re- 
lated. The causal nun may be similarly explained. Nun 
dem so ist, so wollen wir, must have originally been nun ist 
dem so, so wollen wir ; in which case nun must have been 
preceded by another sentence. A similar origin must be 
assigned to sett, indem, nachdem, the last two having been 
evolved so recently as the N. H. G. period. 

There is, nevertheless, a class of conjunctions now used 
to introduce subordinate sentences that were never used 
with such as were co-ordinate. In fact they can hardly be 
called conjunctions at all and perform the office of connec- 
tives owing to the somewhat fortuitous circumstance that 
they were used to introduce sentences that were afterward 
relegated to a subordinate relation. Here belong pri- 
marily the pronouns employed to introduce subordinate 
clauses. Er fragt was vorgeht has grown out of er fragt: 
was geht vor. The conjunction ob (Eng. ef, if) was em- 

A History of the German Language 279 

ployed in the older German, not only to introduce an in- 
terrogative clause, but also in the sense of wenn. Both 
meanings have been developed from the same primary 
concept : ob was, probably, in the first place an adverb 
with the sense of vielleicht, etwa. Wenn du Gott bist, so 
sage es uns ( M. H. G. obe du got bist) is substantially 
equivalent to vielleicht bist du Gott ; so sage es uns, which 
in turn does not differ much from, sage uns, ob du Gott bist 
( tell us if thou art God ). On the other hand ob in the 
compounds obgleich, obschon, obivohl do not refer directly to 
the meaning of the adverb, but their concessive significa- 
tion has been gradually evolved out of the conditional. A 
similar course of development can be traced in auch wenn, 
wenn auch, wenn gleich and wenn schon. The conjunction 
geschwezge dasz is unique. Geschweige is, in the first in- 
stance, an entire sentence represented by the first person 
singular of the obsolete verb geschweigen and ich schweige 
davon, dasz, etc. (lit. I am silent thereof that). In like 
manner we hear the colloquial " let alone '' used, as, " I 
am not able to keep myself, let alone pay my debts." 

The latest of all the parts of speech to develop its cur- 
rent use was the article. During the Indo-Eur. period it 
had no existence ; nor is it found in the Latin, or the 
older Greek, or the Anglo-Saxon. The Gothic has a defi- 
nite but no indefinite article, or rather, the demonstrative 
pronoun is often used as a definite article ; and we see 
here as in the Greek the intimate relation between the 
two classes of words. The O. H. G. uses the indefinite ar- 
ticle, but it does not occur earlier. Det Mann was at first 
equivalent to jener Mann ( iste homo ) who was either 
spoken of before or who is soon to be mentioned. Grad- 
ually it came to be used to designate some object well 
known to the hearer or reader. The indefinite article is 
no more and no less than the numeral em and does not 
differ much from it in usage. There is one sense, how- 
ever, in which the article came, in the course of time, to 

280 A History of the German Language 

be employed which it did not have originally, and that is 
as a disjunction, if it be admissible to coin a word upon 
the model of conjunction and meaning its opposite. It 
often indicates that the object to which it relates has no 
connection with what has just preceded. 

Grammarians usually place the interjection last on the 
list of the parts of speech. They are, in fact, not so much 
single words as entire sentences. An! means 'you hurt 
me' and ah! is equivalent to ' how fine that is.' Interjec- 
tions are, accordingly, to be regarded as on a par with cer- 
tain important words which are often taken out of a sen- 
tence to represent the whole sentence. This is done 
when the remainder may easily be supplied. Endlich, 
still, trann (M. H. G. triuwen, in treuen, in Wahrheif) , ja and 
nein are of this kind. Ja (Eng. yea) probably meant at 
first nothing more than das (ist so), just like the Provencal 
oc, an abbreviation of the Latin hoc, which is used in the 
same way. Nein is equal to ni ein (not one), a compound 
the first part of which is widely represented in the Indo- 
Kur. languages with substantially the same meaning it 
has in German. 


The Indo-European language had the four cases which 
at present belong to the German, but in addition to these 
a vocative and ablative, still existing in the Latin, a loca- 
tive and an instrumental. The two last disappeared dur- 
ing the primitive Teutonic stage and the remaining cases 
assumed their functions. The instrumental, though not 
found in the Gothic, has left some traces in the singular 
number of the West Germanic dialects. When this case 
also disappeared the remainder had to bear an additional 
burden. Of these, however, none were put on the accus- 
ative ; the genitive may have received a small portion of 
the ablative ; but the dative became a sort of huge reser- 
voir in which a great variety of meanings collected. An 

A History of the German Language 281 

original dative exists In " einem etwas geben" it has taken 
the place of an earlier ablative after the prepositions aus 
and von ; that of the locative in connection with auf and 
bei, and that of the instrumental, which was originally 
used with mit. But while the functions of some of the 
cases were enlarged in one direction they were curtailed in 
another. The greatest vicissitudes befell the dative and 
accusative. By means of the dative it was possible dur- 
ing the Indo-European stage to express various local rela- 
tions without other auxiliary words. But as the several 
relations indicated by the cases became more numerous, 
and therefore more liable to confusion, it was found nec- 
essary to employ local adverbs in connection with them in 
order to mark their significance more sharply ; and these 
adverbs in the course of time became prepositions. In 
the oldest accessible records of the German language this 
process was nearly completed, the instrumental being 
virtually the only case that could be used- without the aid 
of a preposition. We find, for example, in the Heliand 
(see p. 250) the phrases frostu bifangen (with frost encircled), 
and thurstu endi hungru bithwungen (with thirst and hunger 
overcome). The accusative occasionally serves a similar 
purpose. We find so late as the M. H. G. er fuor wald 
unde berc (fared through forest and mountain). So far as 
we are able to follow the phenomenon in existing records, 
it is chiefly the genitive that has suffered curtailment of 
its functions. The genitive of way and manner fell into 
desuetude and left only a few traces in certain adverbial 
phrases that have already been spoken of. While in 
Luther's time it was still correct to say " gebet dem Kaiser 
was des Kaiser 1 s ist, und Gott was Gottes ist " (Matt, xxii., 21), 
we should now have to render the same passage with was 
dem Kaiser, was Gott zukommt, gehort; but the older phras- 
eology is preserved in such expressions as 4< sind Sie des 
Teufels?" Another remnant of an earlier stage of the lan- 
guage is conserved in "sick Rats erholen" and in poetry 

282 A History of the German Language 

this construction is still now and then found, as, ' l cs schcnkte 
der Bohme des perlenden Weins," where the genitive is used 
partitively. We recognize an archaic coloring in the use 
of the genitive after ermangeln (lack), erwdhnen (mention), 
genieszen (partake of, enjoy), instead of the accusative. In 
current usage the German says ein Glass Wasser, ein Stuck 
Brod (or Brot\ but the M. H. G., almost like the Bug of 
to-day, has ein glas wassers, ein stuck brotes (a piece of bread, 
though we cannot say a piece bread's). The older Eng. is 
like the N. H. G. and we find in Chaucer, " Gif us a 
busshel whet, or malt, or reye." In both these cases the 
syntactic transition may be traced to a well marked cause, 
as has already, in part, been explained. The modern pro- 
noun es was once ez. Its genitive was es, so that ich bin cs 
Salt, es mude (tired of it) corresponded exactly to the cur- 
rent Bug. usage. In like manner etwas gutes, nichts gutes^ 
represent a genitive construction, the M. H. G. being 
etewaz g.iotes, niht schoenes, the nominative being guotez and 
schoenez. Toward the close of this period the two sounds 
s and z coalesced in pronunciation. The genitive and ac- 
cusative cases looked and sounded alike, besides being 
identical with the nominative which led to their ultimately 
being regarded as one. There were other circumstances 
under which the genitive could not be distinguished in 
form from the nominative and accusative. It thus came 
about that such formulas as es genieszen, where the verb 
seemed to require an accusative after it, were taken as 
models for das Gliick genieszen, while etwas Brod, ein Stuck 
Brod followed etwas gutes. 

The genitive has almost disappeared from the modern 
German dialects. The most important remnant is pre- 
served in the apparent plurals occurring in such expres- 
sions as Pfarrers or 's Pfarrers, Mutters or 's Mutters, 
meaning the family of the pastor, the miller or Miiller. 
In Bng. we likewise use proper names in the possessive 
case, the word * house ' or ' residence ' being understood. 

A History of the German Language 283 

Here belong also the apparent adjectives in such phrases 
as Easier Leckcrli, Miinchner Kindl, Wiener Wiirste. These 
are old personal genitives plural, and the above named 
objects are in reality die Leckerli (dainties) der Easier, das 
Kindl der Miinchener, die Wiirste der Wiener. 

These combinations take us back to a time when it was 
admissible to place a word in the genitive case without 
the article before the substantive which it limited. The 
place of this Gen. has in most cases been taken by the 
Dat. with the preposition von. This circumlocution, ex- 
examples of which occur as early as the O. H. G., proba- 
bly has its origin in the partitive genitive. Er izzet des 
brotes and er izzet von dem brote differ but slightly, if at all. 
After usage had come to regard the expressions as equiva- 
lent the latter not only gradually displaced the former, but 
the ablative mode came into vogue even where no action 
was implied, as in the examples cited at the beginning of 
this paragraph. The general tendency of all languages 
toward the analytic construction may also have had its in- 
fluence. The genitive was further displaced by a kind of 
possessive dative like meinem Vater sein Haus, which 
hardly differs from the English, " B. D. his book." This 
is a genuine old dative, and it was originally placed close 
to the verb, not the noun. Instead of "meines Vaters Haus 
hat er gekauft" it is proper to say u meinem Vater hat er sein 
Haus abgekauft" or with a change in the order of words, 
" er hat meinem Vater sein Haus abgekauft^ in which case 
the dative stands in close relation to the following sub- 
stantive, because the collocation " meines Vaters Haus " is 
in the mind of the speaker before he begins the sentence. 
After the same model, then, such expressions as " er hat 
meinem Vater sein Haus gekauft^ were formed, where the 
dative has no longer any relation to the verb. 

Within the territory of the L. G. dialects there is evi- 
dent a slight tendency to displace the dative and put in 
its place the accusative with an. This is common in the 

284 A History of the German Language 

Dutch, and regular in the Romance languages, where the 
case-endings of the noun have all been lost and their 
place taken by a modification of the Latin ' ad.' 

If we regard the endings of the noun with reference 
to their case meanings there is no difference between the 
substantive and the adjective. In the latter, however, not 
only do the different endings correspond to the different 
cases, but they also indicate certain special shades of dif- 
ference in signification which are foreign to the noun. 
The terminations of the adjective are divided into two 
classes which, like those of the noun, are designated as 
strong and weak respectively: besides which they are also 
used without inflection. The weak endings have a defi- 
nite signification in other words they assign the quality 
or property which they imply, to a definite object ; they 
are accordingly preceded by the definite article or some 
related pronoun. The strong endings, on the other hand, 
designate qualities appertaining to an object which is not 
definitely limited, and they are, therefore, used with the 
indefinite article or some similar word. Outer Wein (good 
wine), means wine possessing a certain quality, but leaves 
it unlimited in every other way. "Du hast den guten Wein 
bisher behalten" makes the quality or property of the wine 
prominent in contrast with other wine then and there 
present. The uninflected form is neuter and can be used 
in either sense. At present it is only used as a predicate. 
But this has not always been the case, and there was a 
stage of the German language when the uninflected ad- 
jective might be employed attributively : it could be placed 
after the noun as is still done in archaisms like Roslein 
rot, or between the article and the substantive, as ein guot 
kind, ein wilt swln. This fact will explain why the Ger- 
man language contains so many composites of which the 
first member is an adjective, such as Gelbschnabel, Griin- 
specht, Rimdkopf, etc. Conversely, the strong form of de- 
clension was also used in the predicate during the O. H. 

A History of the German Language 285 

G. period, as das glas ist vollez, (das Glas ist voll), and as an 
attributive when it followed the noun : ein Glas voll Was- 
ser might be put ein glas voiles wazzers in the M. H. G. 
This condition of things seems to explain the singular M. 
H. G. phrase, eine schiissel voller kirschen, and the like. 
Here voller is the original nominative of the masculine sin- 
gular, so that it would have been quite correct to say ein 
tisch voller kirschen (plenus cerisiaram). When this postpo- 
sition was no longer admissible, the idea began to prevail 
that such words as voller m combinations of this kind were 
genitives and they are accordingly at present used after 
substantives of all genders, and in both the singular and 
the plural. The same fate befell the old nomitives halber 
and selber, both of which are now employed adverbially in 
nearly all cases. 


When we come to a study of the forms of the verb we 
find the most important to be those which designate the 
time and mode of action or being. We discover here the 
same phenomena to which we called attention in the dis- 
cussion of the noun : expansion and contraction of mean- 
ing go hand in hand in the two parts of speech. The 
Indo-European tongue had not less than four or five differ- 
ent tense-forms, present, future (or imperfect), aorist, and 
perfect. The German, however, has and always had but 
two tenses to represent the variety exhibited in the parent 
speech, the present and the preterit. In its earliest stage 
the present united the significations of the present and 
the future ; though it could not, as is now the case, be 
employed in historical narration. As early as the O. H. 
G. period the need began to be felt of some method by 
which the future could be more distinctly marked. The 
verb sollen in connection with the infinitive was accord- 
ingly employed for this purpose : ich seal lesen being equiv- 
alent to ich werde lesen. This mode of indicating futurity 

286 A History of the German Language 

is still used in the English which has retained it from 
Anglo-Saxon times where tc sceal lesen is the exact formal 
equivalent of 'I shall read.' An event that was about to 
happen was designated by a mode of speech that indicated 
its desirability ; as a rule the cause was put for the antici- 
pated effect. At the close of the M. H. G. period there 
came into use another circumlocution that, to some extent, 
embodies the element of futurity, that is, werden was used 
in connection with the participle. It was just as proper to 
say er wirt sehende as er wirtalt. Hence arose the modern 
mode of speech. But it did not grow out of abscission of 
the participial ending, for other conditions had led to the 
belief that the participial and the infinitive could properly 
be employed, one for the other. There is hardly a dis- 
tinguishable difference between er gat suochende or er kumt 
bitende and er gat suochen or er kumt biten (he goes, comes 
to seek, in order to seek, for the purpose of seeking). 
When the present tense, after passing through this course 
of development, had come to be somewhat familiarly em- 
ployed to designate futurity, it was easy to extend its newly 
gained elasticity still further and use it in reference to past 
events. We, accordingly, find it in the service of histor- 
ical narration from the fifth century onward, when the 
writer's object is to bring an occurrence before the mind 
of the hearer with the greatest possible vividness. And 
it may be remarked that the German shares this use of 
the present in common with most other cultivated lan- 
guages. The preterit, which in respect of form, corre- 
sponded to the Indo-European perfect, represented in the 
earliest stage the imperfect, the aorist and the perfect of 
the Indo-European. But ever since the earliest period it 
began to lose the signification which it had originally, and 
combinations of sein and haben with the preterit participle 
are used to designate the present perfect, i. e., the comple- 
tion of an action. The circumlocution with sein is entirely 
clear : ich bin gekommen (I am come) is equivalent to ich 

A History of the German Language 287 

bin em gekommener (I am one who has come). That with 
haben^ as we find it to-day, is not in all cases equally prim- 
itive. At first haben could only be used with verbs that 
might be put in the passive voice. Er hat ihn gefunden 
meant er hat ihn, besitzt ihn als ein gefundener (he has him, 
possesses him as one who has been found) the reason of 
the possession being generally an antecedent act of finding. 
It thus came about that er hat gefunden might be regarded 
as substantially equivalent to erf and and upon this model 
might be framed er hat geschlafen like erschlief. Modern 
German dialects have still further limited the use of the 
preterit : in all those belonging to South Germany it is 
found only in the subjunctive mood. In the indicative 
the compound forms with sein and haben are exclusively em- 
ployed. Accordingly, the illiterate do not say ich ging\>\& 
ich bin gegangen, nor ich asz but ich habe gegessen. The be- 
ginning of this usage is about coeval with that of the his- 
torical present and must be assigned to the second half of 
the fifteenth century. So far as the use of the different 
tense-forms is concerned it makes no difference whether 
the verb is in the principal or the subordinate clause. But 
the case is different when we come to consider the moods 
of the verbs as they are at present employed. It will be 
remembered that the subordination of one sentence to 
another is, in a sense, a modern innovation and that in 
the primitive state of language co-ordination alone pre- 
vailed. It would accordingly be supposed that the signifi- 
cation of a mood would be the same in either the princi- 
pal or the subordinate clause. The facts are, however, 
against this theory. In the first place, certain usages that 
prevailed in independent sentences have passed out of 
currency in dependent sentences ; and in the second, we 
find that now, as always, a certain mood may be used in a 
dependent sentence where it was never employed in inde- 
pendent sentences. It is probably owing to the force of 

288 A History of the German Language 

analogy that the subjunctive was sometimes used as a sign 
of formal dependence in cases where the intent of the 
sentence intrinsically required the indicative. Strictly 
speaking, the German language has but two moods, the 
indicative and the subjunctive ; for the imperative ought 
properly to be classed with interjections while the infini- 
tive and the participle are nouns. (See, for a full treatment 
of -this part of Grammar, Jolly, Gesch. des Infinitivs). 
The subjunctive corresponds formally to the Greek opta- 
tive : er grade is grabai in Gothic, and ypd<j>oL in Greek ; but 
it embraces in its application both the Greek subjunctive 
and optative. As, however, the Indo-European optative 
had two different significations, one of wishing and one of 
supposition or expectation, the German subjunctive may 
properly be said to have three. The optative of wishing, 
however, corresponds very nearly to the hortative subjunc- 
tive and may be regarded as one with it, more especially 
as in German a well defined line of separation between 
the two can not be drawn. Over against this we may 
place as distinctly marked the optative* of supposition. 
The hortatory subjunctive and the subjunctive of wishing 
may stand either in dependent or independent sentences : 
er gehe (let him go), gebe Gott (God grant), kdme er dock (O 
that he would come). Its most frequent use is with verbs 
of wishing and commanding, ich befehle, dasz er gehe. Its 
use in such cases was originally imperative without excep- 
tion. Now, however, the indicative is frequently used, 
especially in the present tense, ich wunsche, dasz er geht; 
ich wiinschte, dasz er ginge. We see here the influence of 
analogy as exhibited in such constructions as ich hbre, sehe, 
weisz, dasz er kommt. We have shown how combinations 
like ich wiinsche, dasz er gehe, where one sentence is sub- 
ordinated to the other, have been developed from two sen- 
tences that were originally co-ordinate : i. e., from ich 
wilnsche das er gehe (I wish that what? he would go). 
Again, those forms of construction that are without the 

A History of the German Language 289 

conjunction may be traced to the subjunctive of wishing 
or exhortation. Kdme er, er ware willkommen points to an 
earlier combination, kdme er (dock) : er ware willkommen 
(would he but come, he would be welcome). We have 
also seen that conditional sentences are nearly related to 
concessive as, set dem auch so, ich bleibe dabei, an expression 
that might be divided into, sei dem auch so, ich bleibe dabei 
(even if that be so, I stick to my statement). A remark- 
able fact is thrust under our notice in the study of these 
examples, viz., the slight difference existing between the 
meaning of the subjunctive present and the subjunctive 
past. One would naturally expect to find, in the first case, 
some distinct reference to the present, and in the second, 
to the past. But it seems probable that neither in the 
Indo-European, nor in the Germanic was such a distinc- 
tion of time made, between the present subjunctive (or 
optative) and the perfect. The presumptive signification 
of the potential optative is clearly seen in hypothetical 
sentences. Here we find regularly the subjunctive preterit 
with distinct reference to present time, not only in the 
principal, but also in the subordinate sentence, as, ich 
konnte es thun; ich weisz, dasz er es thun konnte. Curiously 
enough we find the hypothetical subjunctive also used oc- 
casionally in sentences that contain no element of the con- 
ditional. For example, the German will say, upon arriv- 
ing at a certain place, "da war en wir" In such cases the 
underlying thought seems to be, "da sind wir ; es ware 
schon, wenn wtr schon wetter waren;" nevertheless it must 
be confessed that this explanation is not entirely satisfac- 
tory. The sentence in its entirety being in the mind of 
the speaker or writer before he begins to express it, the 
conditional part presses forward, as we may say, for utter- 
ance, thus making its impress on the strictly affirmative 
portion. We may notice a similar phenomenon in such 
English expressions as " I don't think he will do it ; He 
is not expected to live," where the thought plainly is, I 
think he will not do it ; He is expected not to live. 

290 A History of the German Language 

The potential subjunctive in the present tense is now 
employed only in conditional expressions in dependent 
affirmative and interrogative sentences. Er glaubt dasz es 
heisz set; er fragt ob es heisz sei may be traced to, er glaubt, 
es sei wohl heisz ; er fragt ist es vielleicht heisz ? In the old- 
est German er sei might be used in independent sentences 
with the meaning, er ist wohl (he probably is). We, how- 
ever, find the subjunctive of the present tense used indis- 
criminately with that of the preterit without difference of 
meaning. In the High German, the subjunctive of the 
present is on the whole to be preferred : though that of 
the pieterit is always to be preferred where the present 
subjunctive is not plainly to be distinguished from the in- 
dicative, as is the case in all the forms of the plural. We 
accordingly find er sagt or sagte, sie hdtten das Fieber, but 
er habe das Fieber, more rarely er hdtte das Fteber. This 
variation is not found in the dialects, the Low and 
Middle German, as well as the Franconian and the 
Austrian using the preterit subjunctive ; the Alemanian 
and the Bavarian, the present. Both the variations in 
High German and the more consistent usage of the dia- 
lects are to be traced to an older invariable rule, the so- 
called CONSECUTIO TEMPORUM which we still find in the 
Latin : when the principal sentence is in the present tense 
the subordinate sentence should be in the same tense, 
but if the principal sentence is in the preterit the 
subordinate sentence should be in the same er waenet, 
ez si, but, er wdnte, ez waere (putat sit, putavit esset). In 
order to fully comprehend this rule one should keep in 
mind the origin of independent sentences in general. 
What is called ORATIO OBLIQUA has no existence in popu- 
lar speech. The unlettered rustic relates an occurrence 
reported to him by another as if it were matter of his own 
observation. And this is true not only of the German but 
probably of all languages. When Paris is represented in 
the Iliad as declaring his willingness to restore all the 

A History of the German Language 291 

treasures which he carried away from Argos, the message 
which announces this to the Achaeans reads : " Priam 
directs me to announce to you the decision of Paris ; he 
will restore everything that he has brought with him from 
Argos.'' If we take a sentence like the following: er 
bringt Botschaft, der Kaiser sei tot, in M. H. G. it would 
read, er bringet maere, daz der keiser tot s~i. Translated 
into more primitive German we should have, er bringt 
Botschaft; der Kaiser ist tot, putting the whole into past 
time, er brahte maere, er waere tot (er brachte Botschaft; 
der Kaiser war tot). When, then, the content of the 
message was expressed in suppositional form, the poten- 
tial optative took the place of the indicative present, which 
as we have seen might be used in independent sentences. 
After the pattern er brtnget maere, er si tot, the subjunc- 
tive would naturally, in the course of time, assume the 
notion of past time and er brahte maere, er was tot would 
become er brahte maere, er waere tot. Such being evi- 
dently the origin of dependent sentences we are also fur- 
nished with an explanation of the somewhat peculiar 
shifting of the person as exhibited in the pronouns of 
these sentences. Take, e. g., the statement er wuszte, ich 
bin krank, which becomes er wuszte, er waere krank and 
this in turn may be traced to er wuszte es, er war krank. 
This fact may even be stated, er war krank; er wuszte es. 
The old German rule for the sequence of tenses was in 
vogue until the fifteenth century. The irregularity in its 
use was caused by the historical present which came into 
currency about the same time. Viewed externally, the 
present must needs be here employed, but intrinsically the 
preterit alone was correct. Though originating with the 
historical present this variation in usage gradually passed 
over to the ordinary present and from this again to the 
historical preterit. 

292 A History of the German Language 


From the stand-point of pure theory the subject of 
proper names has no claim to a separate chapter in the 
history of a language. Every proper noun was once a 
common substantive or adjective, and subject to the same 
laws of formation and change with these. Underlying 
the roots to which every word in the Indo-Kuropean lan- 
guage can be traced are general concepts of which they 
are the visible expression. By combination and by 
means of various relational suffixes these roots have 
undergone a continual limitation of meaning, and this 
process is still in operation. While the number of gen- 
eral ideas which the human mind is capable of conceiving 
has increased little, if it all, since the earliest period of 
language the number of words is increasing rapidly. It 
is evident, therefore, each new word has a more limited 
and therefore a more definite meaning than any that 
existed before. It is estimated by competent authorities 
that the half a million names found on the map of Ger- 
many have been formed from about 500 roots by combina- 
tions in various ways. The common noun in its transition 
to a proper noun simply undergoes a restrictive process 
like that explained on p. 156. But in the practical appli- 
cation of these principles there are, however, certain 
peculiarities that are more or less inherent in the nature 
of proper names and which entitle them to be considered 
as a special part of our subject. 


The modern custom of giving each person at least two 
names, o-r rather of assigning to him a name in addition to 
that which he gets by inheritance, is relatively recent. 
The ancient Germans, as a rule, had but a single name ; 
and this was somewhat peculiarly constituted in that it 
was always a compound of two parts. This custom pre- 

A History of the German Language 293 

vailed among the ancient Greeks and may be safely as- 
sumed to have originated during the Indo-European 
period. Those qualities that were considered desirable in 
a man or that graced a woman were given to the child 
shortly after birth as a sort of amulet which it was to 
wear through after life. Thus Albert or Albrecht, in its 
O. H. G. form Adalbrecht, is, he who is conspicuous for 
nobility ; Gerbert, designates one who is brilliant with the 
spear ; Eckehart, him who is hard with the edge of the 
sword, ecke meaning edge or sword. Friedrich means one 
who is powerful in peace or in making peace ; Gottschalk, 
God's knight or servant, and Notburga is the citadel, the 
protection in time of need. We have here an expression 
of the aspiration of parents and friends similar to that re- 
corded in the earlier Old Testament names ; as when, for 
instance, Jacob changed the name of his latest born, 
called by his dying mother Ben-oni (son of my sorrow), to 
Benjamin (son of my right hand). The names of Abram, 
Sarai and Jacob are also exchanged for or transformed into 
such as were of better omen. For we find the belief 
widely prevalent in ancient times that the name borne by 
an individual had more or less influence upon his subse- 
quent destiny, a belief that the Romans embodied the 
alliterative phrase "bonum nomen, bonum omen." 

A certain class of persons profess to experience great 
delight in discovering the vigor and poetic ring concealed 
in many of the old German names. Yet it is doubtful 
whether the Germans themselves were in any consider- 
able number of instances conscious of the poetry in their 
names in fact it is well nigh certain that such could not 
have been the case. Generally the words that became 
component parts of names had already gone out of use in 
current speech and could therefore have no significance 
for the nomenclator. What was the meaning of the first 
part of Ingeborg or of Ingraban was as much of a mys- 
tery to the Germans of historic times as it to us ; nor did 

i2'.U A History of the German Language 

they know that the part of such names as Anselm, Ansgar, 
Oswald concealed the word "god." They were in precisely 
the same relation that most persons of the present day are 
to such names as Isra-el, Samu-el, Dani-el, Hanni-bal, in 
which the name of the deity is never suspected. On the 
whole it must be said, however, that the ancient Germans 
were concerned to apply their names with some reference 
to their sense. 

The mode of procedure was probably similar to that 
recorded as employed % by the ancient Hebrews, where 
such proper names as Eve (Chavah), Seth, Moses, and 
many others, are said to have been given with direct refer- 
ence to the ordinary significance of these words in the 
vocabulary of the language. In German names, however, 
which, unlike the Hebrew, are always compounds, we find 
one part generally significant ; and the obscure portion is 
much oftener in the first part of the composite than in 
the second. The second part of a compound is always the 
chief bearer of its meaning. It may happen that both 
the component parts entering into a proper name are 
words still current in the living language and yet their 
signification be obscured by assimilation, vowel weaken- 
ing, or some other change to which the simple words 
have not been subject. A transformation of this kind 
may be seen in the O. H. G. names whose first syllable is 
Liut- or Leo-, as Liutpold {Leopold} and Liuthold (Leut- 
hold), in which it would not be readily noticed that they 
are compounded of two words, meaning respectively 
volkskuhn and volksw attend. Such combinations as these 
may properly be compared with Greek names, of which 
the first element is Derno-, as Demosthenes, Democritus, 
and others. It may happen, also, that even when the two 
parts of a compound are etymologically plain, their fusion 
will make no sense so far as we can discover. To this 
list belong, e. g., Wolfram, O. H. G. Wolfraban, the 
meaning of which would be Wolf-raven, and Hildegunde, 

A History of the German Language 295 

of which the first part signifies Kampf (combat), and the 
second, the same thing. It is a difficult matter to dis- 
cover any sense in such words. Here again we find 
parallel instances in Greek in such names as Lykourgos 
and Lykornedes. Rutland, that is, Roland, is equivalent 
to Ruhmesland and Kunigund signifies Geschlectskampf ; 
and while the compounds do not exactly make nonsense, 
it is hard to see what applicability they could have to a 
person. The only plausible explanation rests in the fact 
already referred to, that the simple elements were no 
longer clearly understood before they were made parts of 
the compound. In this way no doubt the notion began 
to be gradually developed that it was of little importance 
for a name to be entirely significant, and that it was suffi- 
cient when a new-formed name contained at least one 
traditional term. But there was one thing more. No 
doubt the custom existed in many places of giving the 
child a name that represented in its component elements 
both that of the father and the mother. It might happen 
in this way, that the daughter of a certain Hildebrand, 
* sword of battle or combat,' and of a woman whose name 
was Gundrun or Gudrun, * sorceress of combat,' would be 
named Hildegund. Readers of Aristophanes will readily 
recall the scene from the clouds which may be appropri- 
ately cited here, in which the mother insisted on calling 
her first-born son Chanthippos or Charipposor Kallipides, 
while the father as stoutly held out for Pheidonides, until 
the controversy is ended by adopting a name made up of 
a portion of two, viz., Pheidippides. It is also evident 
from an examination of the recorded names that a certain 
degree of. phonetic congruity was sought after in the 
formation of compounds, and when this was attained the 
necessary conditions of composition were supposed to be 
fulfilled. In a mediaeval story a certain Engeltrut is said 
to have preferred a suitor whose name was Engelhard to 
one called Dietrich, for the reason that the name Engel- 

L'iHi A History of the German Language 

hard and Engeltrut harmonized better than Engeltrut 
and Dietrich. 

The great majority of old German names were incon- 
venient for daily use on account of their length. They 
accordingly experienced the same fate which befell nearly 
all words containing a considerable number of syllables. 
In such names as Charlotte, Elise and Johannes or Niko- 
laus, which in familiar usage have become Lotte, Lise, 
Hans and Klaus, we see only those portions retained that 
are made prominent by the accent. These abbreviated 
forms which we may call pet-names or nick-names, orig- 
inated in one of two ways : sometimes one of the com- 
ponent parts, usually the second, was dropped entirely, 
the remnant then ending either with the vowel -o or -i. 
In this way Ingraban became Ingo, Kuonrat Kuno, and 
Volcwart Folko. When the first member of the name was 
a derivative noun the nick-name likewise lost the suffix. 
It is thus that Ebarhard becomes Ebaro, Ebo ; Irminrich 
appears as Irmino, Irmo ; while Raginbald is abbreviated 
to Ragano, Rago. The termination -i is still very common 
where the Alemanian dialect is spoken, Conrad (or Kon- 
rad), the Greek pao-^ovAos, appearing as Kuoni, Rudolf 
(hruotwolf, Ruhmwolf) as Ruodi, both these names, together 
with others of similar structure occurring in Schiller's 
well known drama, Wilhelm Tell ; and Walther ( Waltend- 
Heer] as Wdlti. It is not safe, however, to assert with 
entire confidence that the last name represents Walther, 
for the evident reason that the same nick-name may be an 
abbreviation of one of two or three different names. 
Gero, e. g., is a shortened form of either Gerbert (speer- 
glanzend), or Gerhard (speer-gewaltig), or Gernot (speer- 
not), or Gewvig (speerkampf), or Gerwin (speer-freund) ; 
but it is not always possible to discover which. The ori- 
gin of nick-names formed by the second process is less 
ambiguous. Here the second part of the compound is 
represented in the abbreviation. It is thus that Sigbald 

A History of the German Language 297 

and Sigbert become Sibo (from a longer form Sigbo) N. 
H. G. Seib ; Sig fried appears as Sigfo, then Siffo, and 
Sigimar or Sigimund is shortened to Simo. Into all these 
compounds ' victory ' enters as the principal element. On 
the basis of these abbreviations all sorts of derivatives are 
formed, most of them probably having a diminutive sig- 
nification. Those having the suffix -in and -ilo are dis- 
tributed all over Germany ; those ending in -iko and -izo 
or -20 are confined chiefly to Lower and Upper German 
territory respectively. Double derivatives in -ilin, -liko, 
-ikin, -zilo, -ziko, and -zilin, also occur. The word diot 
meaning 'people,' 'populace,' appears in many compounds 
of which the most common modern representatives are 
Diedel, Tilly, Tiedge, Tieck, Deecke, Dietze, Dietz, and 
others. It will readily occur to the reader that many 
abbreviated forms of proper names are still in daily use, 
such as Fritz for Friedrich, Heintz for Heinrich, Kuntz for 
Konrad, Utz for Ulrich, and many others. 

The names we have thus far considered are easily trace- 
able to a purely German source ; but with the introduc- 
tion of Christianity came a flood of names of diverse ori- 
gin. The appellations of the saints who appear in the 
calendar and it needs to be remembered that every week 
day of the year was sacred to one or another of them 
undergo abbreviation like all others. Sometimes they 
appear as diminutives, sometimes as nick-names. It thus 
happens that a single name becomes the ancestor of a 
numerous progeny, as, e. g., Johannes, some of the descend- 
ants of which are Johann, John, Jan, Hannes, Hans and 
Hansel; while Jacob (Latin Jacobus) is represented by 
Jack, Jdggi, Jock, Jockel, Kob, Kobel and Kobi* The two 
names Johann Jacob which are often borne by the same 
person, especially in S. Germany, are abbreviated in 
Basel to Beppi. 

The custom of having but one name prevailed in Ger- 
many until the Mediaeval period. The modern practice 

298 A Histoi*y of the German Language 

of giving two or more names is closely connected with the 
rise of cities, the growth of civil liberty, with the exten- 
sion of trade and travel and the frequency of contracts 
between buyer and seller. Double names appear first in 
the cities, whence they spread into the surrounding coun- 
try, first of all in the cities along the Rhine and in South 
Germany. For it will be remembered that the cities of 
Germany owe their existence primarily to Roman in- 
fluence, the Germans themselves being naturally adverse 
to living in close proximity. Accordingly where this 
influence was but little felt the cities are of much later 
growth. Within the first named territory we meet with 
double names as early as the twelfth century, while in 
Middle and North Germany they do not begin to occur 
till the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. In many 
localities the serfs seem to have been content with a 
single name until the sixteenth century. The Frisians, 
who dwell in the northern Provinces of Holland, and the 
Jews, were constrained by legal enactments so lately as 
during the present and the last century, to conform fully 
to modern usage in the matter of proper names. It is 
owing to this fact that nearly all the Jews in the United 
States, who are for the most part immigrants from Ger- 
many, have German and not Jewish names. When the 
custom of double names came into vogue the tradi- 
tional German and foreign appellations were adopted as 
baptismal names. What we now call family names are of 
multifarious origin, and stand in some degree in contrast 
to the other, earlier names. Those are for the most part 
of native creation and given to the child by its relatives ; 
these are in the main the creation of strangers. Within 
the family circle there is even now little need of any other 
than the baptismal name. The salient characteristic of fam- 
ily names is the fact that they are inherited from generation 
to generation. It is probable, however, that in former 
times this inheritance did not follow so much as a matter 

A History of the German Language 299 

of course as is the custom in our day. Indeed, it is no 
uncommon thing for people to change their family names. 
This is of especially frequent occurrence among the 
Germans who settle in the United States. Sometimes 
the original name is translated, sometimes it is changed 
outright by authority of the law-making power to one 
more agreeable to the possessor, but more frequently it is 
transformed into one more easily pronounced by those ac- 
customed only to the use of the English language. 

Among the causes which contributed to make names 
hereditary, that of location was perhaps the most potent. 
In the Black Forest, for example, the possessor of an 
estate is sometimes known by the name it bears rather 
than his own. It may thus happen that two successive 
occupants are called by the same name, when in fact they 
are different. Proper names derived from locality are 
formed in two ways : either a preposition is prefixed to 
the designation of the place, or the termination -er is 
added. By the first method we get such names as Amthor 
(an dem Thor), Aus^ m Worth ( Wert signifying island, 
peninsula, any low land ), Thorbeke (equivalent to am Back], 
Ambach, Ueberweg, von der Tann, etc. By the second, such 
names as the following are formed: Steinberger, Bar en- 
thaler, Sulzbacher, etc. To this class belongs the long 
list of names ending in -backer, -hauser, -hauser, -hofer, 
-roder, -renter, and many others. These terminations are 
all significant in various ways, -roder, -retter or -renter sig- 
nifying the dweller at a place where a clearing has been 
made, and -hofer, one who occupies an estate. Some- 
times the designation of the locality is simply applied to 
the dweller in or on it, without prefix or suffix, whence 
come such names as Steinthal, Berg, Stein, Bach, etc. 
These have their exact equivalents in our English Hills, 
Vales, Brooks, Stones and many others of similar origin. 

If we look at proper names with reference to their 
source we shall see that there may be as many different 

300 A History of the German Language 

classes as there are designations of localities. One of 
these is easily misapprehended. It has always been the 
custom in Germany to mark inns and drug-stores with 
some sign or device by which each may be known from 
every other. During the Middle Ages this custom pre- 
vailed even more widely, and included dwelling-houses, as 
is still the rule to some extent in Switzerland. These 
legends were plants or animals, or some similar object. 
The inventor of printing bore the name Gensfleisch from 
the device on the house in which he lived or was born. A 
person having the name Drach (Eng. Drake. See p. ), 
or Ochs would not be so called because such a designation 
was suitable to his mental characteristics, but because his 
house bore the legend of a dragon or an ox, or because he 
was born in one so marked for it must be remembered 
that in the cities the dwellings were generally large enough 
to contain several or more families, and built close to- 
gether for purposes of defense. Another motive for trans- 
mitting a name from father to son and grandson arose 
from the fact that social position and occupation were like- 
wise a heritage from generation to generation. To this 
category belong the names of most frequent occurrence. 
Such as Meyer (Latin major-domo), Miiller, Schmidt, 
Schneider. We find the same fact in regard to the English 
names, the most common of which are Smith, Carpenter, 
Taylor, Miller and the like. Many names still survive 
that once designated the users of trades now no longer in 
existence, such as Bogner (Bowman), Falkner (Falconer), 
Plattner (a maker of laminse for coats of mail,) and Pfeil- 
sticker (one who made shafts for arrows). 

But, it may be asked, how came a family to have such a 
name as Bischoff (Bishop), or Herzog (Duke), or Prince 
and Pope? To this query we may reply that these names 
are in part due to the devices before spoken of, and in part 
to mediaeval dramatic performances and miracle-plays, the 
chief performers in which would often continue to be 

A History of the German Language 301 

known during the remainder of their lives by the charac- 
ters they represented. In other cases these epithets were 
doubtless applied to persons for purely fanciful reasons, 
and we find the name Rex in use among the early Romans. 
See also Horace, Sat. I. 7. 

Viewed in the light of modern usage the son would reg- 
ularly inherit the name of his father to which his own 
would be added. But in earlier times the new-born male 
child received the name of the grandfather much more 
frequently than that of the father, a custom that likewise 
prevailed in ancient Greece. In this way accordingly 
many of our modern baptismal names became family 
names. Sometimes the name of the father was given to 
the son, -plus a suffix showing such relationship: a scion 
of Matthias would be Matthtsson, contracted from Mat- 
thiassohn; of Hans or Jans, Hansen or Jans -en. Or the 
name of the son might be put in the genitive case Ebers 
would thus plainly be the son of one Eber, and Wilken the 
son of Wtlko, O. H. G. Wilhko, a nick-name for Wilhelm. 
A similar procedure is exhibited by the large class of 
English names ending in -s, such as Williams, Edwards, 
Matthews, and the like. A large number of family names 
are, as before indicated, simply baptismal names become 
hereditary. It is thus that we get such combinations as 
Robert Franz, Friedrich Frtednch and Hermann Paul. 
Quite a long list of patronymics is formed by means of 
the suffix -ing or -ung. Karol-ing-er, the Karolings, are 
the descendants of Karl, and Wals-ung-er are the family 
of W'dlse. At present, however, it is difficult to determine 
how far this mode of forming derivatives was in vogue 
when names so constructed first came into use. For ex- 
ample, we can not tell whether a person bearing the name 
Hartung or Henning was the son of a father called Harto 
or Henno; or whether the parent, who may have been sat- 
isfied with a single name, already had the name Harttmg 
or Henning. Occasionally we meet with an instance in 

302 A History of the German Language 

which the son's name comes from the mother, which may 
have happened in the case of widows. We find the family 
name Htlgard which doubtless has such an origin, and 
Lieske was probably the son of a certain Elisabet. 

In regard to many names it is clear that inheritance 
would follow as a matter of course. This statement will 
apply to bodily characteristics which are often transmitted 
and which probably account for such names as Kraushaar 
(curly-hair), Krumbein (Cruickshank), Lang, Kurtz, Weisz 
and Rot(H). Generally, however, it is more probable that 
the rule fixed in other cases gave the final decision here 
too. It may be said in general that the principle followed 
in the giving of names was the same that determined the 
designation of other objects, and nearly all the different 
kinds of metaphors underlie them, often much disguised, 
that we find concealed or open, in other words. It needs 
to be kept in mind that in nearly all cases names are not 
given by those who bear them, but by others, and it was 
important that such an appellation should be chosen as 
would point out or fitly characterize the person to whom 
it was applied. Only in those instances where a person 
was in position to name himself would this principle be 
left out of sight, and he would select such a name as 
pleased his fancy. Such cases are most frequently met 
with among the Jews, when they were compelled by law 
to assume a second name. This is the probable source 
of such names as Blumenthal, Rosenthal, Bernstein, Ru- 
binstein, Goldmark, Saphir, etc. Not a few of the older 
names are an uncomplimentary or even vulgar epithet, but 
having once been affixed to an individual he could not get 
rid of it, if he wished. Gradually it came to be regarded 
as a matter of course. The origin of it was forgotten and 
the appellation acquiesced in without further resistance. 
It is evident from what has been said that the number of 
possible roots from which proper names could be formed 
is very large and very multifarious. But there are some 

A History of the German Language 303 

collateral elements that contribute to increase the variety 
still more. One of these is dialectic variation in the words 
themselves, several words meaning precisely the same 
thing, but differing in form. We have a familiar in- 
stance of this in the common English names Fox and 
Tod(d), one being of southern, the other of northern 
nativity. The man who exercised the potter's craft might 
be called either Hafner or Potter or Topfer, according to 
the part of Germany in which he lived ; while the cooper 
might be named Binder, or Bottcher, or Biittner, or Passer, 
or Kiifer or Scheffler. Another is the peculiar relation in 
which proper names stand to the rest of the sentence in 
which they occur. We have already called attention to 
the fact that the hearer does not take cognizance of every 
sound or even of every word in a spoken sentence. It 
only concerns him to note so many words or such portions 
of longer words as will suggest to his mind what the 
speaker intends to convey. The attentive mind involun- 
tarily supplies and supplements what the hearing ear has 
failed to catch. Now, proper names have no such mental 
support ; they can not be used as integral parts of a 
sentence, nor have they any etymological relation to ad- 
jacent words, so that the hearer is unable to infer their 
probable form from the way in which they are used. As 
it is almost impossible to correctly apprehend a name by 
the aid of mental suggestion there is a wide field open for 
the play of fancy ; the result is likely to be etymological 
vagaries of all sorts. Every one knows how difficult it is 
to understand a name correctly unless it be some word 
with which we have become familiar in other relations. 
While therefore we might make no mistake with such 
simple names as Hill or Berg, Stone or Stein, the chances 
are at least ten to one that we would not be equally fortu- 
tunate with Taliafero, or Mainwaring, or Bodenstedt, or 
Willamowitz. We accordingly find here the converse to 
be true of what has been mentioned before, that names 

304 A History of the German Language 

are more conservative in their development and less sub. 
ject to change than the other words of a language. It is 
true we say Bruno, Otto and Hugo, though all other German 
final 0's have been changed to e; but these names have 
been artificially fixed or stereotyped with the aid of Latin 
documents. In popular speech they have long since been 
transformed into Braun(e], Hauck and Ott(e). An inten- 
tional metamorphosis of names is exhibited in the transla- 
tion of those that were originally pure German into Latin 
or Greek, or by the affixing of termination that would make 
them declinable. 

NOTE. An investigation into the history of a family named 
Rahmsauer that emigrated from Germany into North Carolina some 
two hundred and fifty years ago revealed the fact that in about two 
centuries the name was found in the following forms : Ramsauer, 
Ramsaur, Ramsour, Ramseur, Ramser, Ramsir, Sirram, Ram, Sheep, 
Lamb. The United States offers a fertile field for the study of the 
transformation and translation of family names. The French names 
Du Bois, Boisvert, Boncoeur, De 1'hotel, Pibaudiere, Lemieux have 
become Wood, Greenwood, Bunker, Doolittle. Peabody and Betters, 
respectively. Loewenstein appears as Livingston, Loeb and Loew have 
been transformed into Lyon, Koch into Cook, and so on. One in- 
stance is recorded in which a German bearing the name of Feuerstein, 
who settled in turn in the French and American quarters of New 
Orleans, found himself called Pierre-de-feu, then Pierre, then Stone, 
then Flint, and finally died as Peter Gun. I have found an instance 
in which the modern name Rollfuss had undergone the following 
evolutionary process. Its original form was Rudolf, which had been 
abbreviated into Rolf. This, in turn, had been Latinized into Rolfus, 
then Germanized into its present form. Some years ago a German 
whose family name was Pflaumbaum applied to the legislature of his 
country for authority to change his name to Blei. He claimed that 
this was the original name of his family, but that it had been trans- 
lated into the Latin equivalent Plumbum. In the course of time his 
Low German neighbors came to look upon this as the native word 
Plumbom, and the next stage in the process was very naturally its 
transformation into the High German Pftaumbaum, which means 
the same thing, viz., plum-tree. 

A good many names, have, like this one, a meaning in 
themselves, but their applicability to persons can not be 
discovered, at least in a majority of cases. Of this class 

A History of the German Language 305 

are the following, all of which are of actual occurrence : 
Jerusalem, Ccesar, Breyvogel, Siisskind, Kussmaul^ Hopfen- 
sack, Teufel, Hellwald, Vie/toff, Dickhaut, Rubsamen, trans- 
lated or transformed into Turnipseed or Ripsome, Butter- 
sack, Rothauge, Kalbfell and Kalbfuss. It is by this method 
that Schwarzerd becomes Melanchthon, or Hdmmerlein is 
transformed into Malleolus, while Kurtz and Heinrichs ap- 
pear respectively as Curtius and Henrici. By a similar pro- 
cess Schneider became Sartor 2^^. Schmidt, Faber ; Fischer and 
Goldschmidt were turned into Piscator and Aurifaber re- 
spectively ; Baumann was translated Agricola and Grossman, 
Megander. Weber appears as Textor, the maiden name 
of Goethe's mother; Reuchlin as Capnio ; and Krachen- 
berger as Gracchus Pierius. It will be evident from what 
has thus far been said that names the most diverse in form 
frequently sprang from the same root. And it is further 
probable that in some cases several different roots have 
produced identical names. Instances are quite numerous 
where a name seems to be, and probably is, formed from 
some familiar current adjective or noun, when if the real 
facts were known it is a descendant of some old nickname 
or pet-name. The familiar Rot(K) may have started from 
the color of the hair; but it may also be a survival of 
Rodo or Hrodo, a nickname of Hrodbert and Hrodgei, hrod, 
meaning 'fame.' fiaerand Wolf may be Jewish names of re- 
cent date, or they may be a reminiscence of the old German 
Berwald and Berwin or Wolfgang, Wolfger, and Wolf hard. 
There is small probability that such names as Dank, Eisen, 
and Wald are recent ; it is, however, quite likely that they 
take us back to O. H. G. Danko, I so and Waldo, abbrevia- 
tions of Dankwart, Isenhard and Walther. Plainly, then, 
the interpretation of family names is uncertain and the 
ground on which the investigator stands, insecure. When 
we have no means of knowing the history of a family and 
have no guide but the name in its modern form, it is gen- 
erally impossible to reach any even measurably safe con- 

306 A History of the German Language 

elusion as to its origin. To enable one to do this written 
records are indispensable. 


When we come to the investigation of the names of 
places we encounter difficulties not met with in the study 
of the names of persons. In many cases these are to be 
traced to a time when Kelts inhabited Germany, and our 
knowledge of the ancient language of this people is still 
very incomplete and fragmentary. Nor is it probable that 
it can ever be much increased. For this reason a large 
measure of uncertainty is likely always to attach to those 
etymologies that are presumably or possibly Keltic. The 
Keltic is frequent in the names of plains and running 
waters, less frequent in those of towns, mountains and 
rivers. In those countries which lie west and southwest 
of Germany, Keltic names are very numerous, and it is 
here first of all the rivers that have preserved these mem- 
orials of the earliest inhabitants. It is claimed by some 
writers that almost every river-name in England is of 
Keltic origin. Unquestionably Keltic are Rhine, Danube, 
Main, Isar, and the names of many smaller rivers. The 
root from which Rhein (Rhine) is derived is related to peo> 
and is also found in Rhone, Reuss, Remach, Rhadanau^ Re- 
gen, etc. We may also regard as Keltic Breisach (Brisi- 
acum), Mains (Moguntiacum), Solothurn (Solodurum) and 
Worms (Borbetomagus). On the other hand the investi- 
gation of place-names has an advantage that is lacking 
when we are dealing with the names of persons. The lat- 
ter, like those compounds which we find among the old 
Germans, are for the most part given to children shortly 
after birth, and could not therefore be founded on actual, 
but only on hoped-for qualities. Even when proper names 
were founded on actual characteristics we are rarely in po- 
sition to know whether they really represented the pecu- 

A History of the German Language 307 

liarities of the persons who bore them. On the other 
hand, in the case of place-names we generally have the 
objects themselves before our eyes and can judge what pe- 
culiar features gave rise to their designation. These des- 
ignations may characterize the position of the place as 
Hochhausen, Hochheim, or Berghausen, Bergheim, or 
Thalhatisen, Thalheim, or Werthetm (see Wert, ante), 
Neckarhausen and Rheinheim. Or they may indicate the 
natural surroundings of the place, as Aschbach, a place 
where ash trees grow ; Btrkenau, a place abounding in 
birches ; Buchenbach, Has(e}lau, Iben(Eiben}bach, Seligen- 
stadt or Salweide (O. H. G. salacha, willow), Auerbach, 
Habsburg {Habichtsburg), Spessart or Spechtswald, Ziegen- 
hain, etc. Or they may designate the uses to which a 
place has been put. Many local names arose from mills 
such as Miihlbach, Molenbeck, Miihlhausen and Miihlheim; 
or from an older appellation of a mill, as Kernbach, Kehr en- 
bach, Kirnbach, the O. H. G. qmrn meaning mill. The 
large number of names ending in -rent and -rode (Eng. 
root) indicate that the place occupied by them had been 
cleared of forest. In many instances the ancient name is 
hardly recognizable in its modern form, Delmold e. g. be- 
ing originally Tkietmella, a word that is made up of thwt, 
people, and mahal, harangue, or place of harangue. These 
three categories of names those having reference to the 
configuration of the land, to the physical features of the 
region, or to the use that was made of the locality are 
about equally old : while the names themselves may have 
been formed and applied at different times the principle 
underlying the nomenclature is in all cases of equal an- 
tiquity. Much more recent are those names which desig- 
nate the owners or inhabitants of a place ; and their rise 
shows us how the bond between the owner and the soil 
upon which he dwelt becomes closer and closer. Here 
again we encounter the Old German names en masse, but 
in somewhat different combinations. Bamberg or Baben- 

308 A History of the German Language 

berg, the hill of a certain Babo, is an abbreviation of one 
of the common names beginning with badu and signifying 
battle ; in Diedenhofen we have another form of the O. H. 
G. diot, spoken of above and found also in Detmold; Hers- 
feld is the property of one Hariulf or Heerwolf, Ruders- 
heim, of a Rudolf ; while Witgenstein designates the stone 
of Wittko, or perhaps Wttikind. The owner is sometimes 
represented by his official title only, as in Bischofsheim, 
Herzogenhorn, Kaisersworth or Komgstein. Sometimes 
the name is not a reminiscence of a single possesser or in- 
habitant but of several, it may be of a whole clan as Sach- 
senhausen and Groszsachsen. Not unfrequently a real or 
mythical progenitor is commemorated in a name. This 
is generally the case in those words ending in -ingen and 
-ungen. Finally some occupation or trade may give rise 
to a name, which is found chiefly in street designa- 
tions. When we come to examine the names on the 
map of England we are struck with their similarity to 
those found in Germany, not only in general, but in par- 
ticular. While it is true that Keltic influence has been 
less obliterated, the Teutonic stratum is very plainly 
marked. The second part of many compounds appearing 
in Germany as -heim, that is, home, dwelling-place, be- 
comes -ham in England, while -throp or -thorpe, which is 
almost identical in meaning, is the German -dorf. Again, 
the suffix -ing, dative plural -ingen, so common in south- 
western Germany in such names as Reutlingen y Esshngen, 
Tuebingen, appears in England in almost the same form, 
sometimes alone and sometimes in combination with -ham, 
as Basing, Hastings, Billingham, Issington. Town and 
-ton, meaning an enclosed place, corresponds to the Ger- 
man Zaun, which is occasionally found as a place name ; 
its occurrence is rare, however, compared with its English 
equivalent. In other parts of Europe occupied at various 
times by Teutonic tribes but more particularly in France 
both -ing and -ton are of frequent occurrence on the map, 

A History of the German Language 309 

under various disguises. The latter may, however, some- 
times represent the Keltic * dun,' a hill-fortress from which 
it is not always possible to distinguish it with certainty. 
The German Burg, used both as a separate word and as 
part of a place-name, e. g. Hamburg, Magdeburg is the 
A.-S. burc(g), a fortified place. Its modern English rep- 
resentative is '-burg,' '-bury,' '-borough,' etc., and is one 
of the parts entering most frequently into the names of 
towns. When we undertake to find the historical person- 
age from whom the patronymics in -ing or -ung take their 
rise our search usually ends in disappointment. Our ex- 
perience is similar to that of the historian of Rome 
who should undertake to trace the Julian, the Hor- 
atian, or some other noble family to a real ancestor. It is 
plain enough that Reutlingen or Esslingen is intended to 
designate the place where the Reutlings or the Esslings 
were settled : these names mean * at the Reutlings 'or * at 
the Esshngs] but it is only in exceptional cases that we 
are in position to learn anything at all approaching to 
definiteness about these particular clans. Even in those 
instances like that of. the Karolings and Merowings where 
a clan rises to distinction their origin remains obscure. It 
is true in general that all names of places ostensibly 
derived from persons generally lack a historical back- 
ground. But even in the case of those names that were 
originally given with reference to some peculiarity of the 
place named we are often at a loss to discover their ap- 
propriateness ; the general physical features of the locality 
may have undergone a change. A place near a swamp 
might properly be designated by some compound term 
ending in -bruch, -moos or -ried; but after the swamp had 
been drained and the land laid dry the appellation would 
be unsuitable. Examples are on record of places bearing 
names derived from the presence of the beech or the oak, 
but which are now covered with conifers ; evidently here 
the former were displaced by the latter. Now and then 

310 A History of the German Language 

the name itself may give expression to the contradic- 
tion and such designations as Btrkenacker y Birkenfeld or 
Etchendcker and Eschfeld, though clearly inappropriate, at 
least show what kind of forest trees must at one time have 
covered the ground. 

Many names have originated at points to which they 
are no longer applicable. A name at first given with 
special reference to some particular locality may, in course 
of time, have been extended to neighboring places, whence 
have most likely arisen the countless designations of vil- 
lages compounded with -au, -bach, -feld, and -wald. The 
deportation might even extend to a considerable distance 
where new settlers wished to retain the familiar and be- 
loved name of the place whence they emigrated. Frank- 
fort- on- the- Oder has a very slender connection with the 
Prankish tribe. This mode of transfer is exhibited on a 
large scale in the names found on the map of the New 
World almost from the North Pole to Cape Horn. 

Names are often given to places just as they are to per- 
sons, without regard to fitness or to the relation that ought 
to exist between the sign and the thing signified. A mere 
whim or fancy roaming free now and then lights upon an 
abstract term and applies it to a place ; occasionally the 
first impulse is given by the motto or the superscription of 
a single house. There is a long list of names ending in 
-lust and -ruhe, and such names as Aergerniss, Eintracht, 
Gelegenheit, Miszgunst and Unverzug are not altogether un- 

A large majority of German place-names are compounds, 
like the names of persons. But besides this class, single 
words are not rare and among them are some of the old- 
est names of places. In many cases, however, we are 
liable to be deceived by appearances as in nicknames of 
persons : we seem to have before us a single word, when 
in fact it represents a compound : just as the son of one 
Dietrich is frequently spoken of as Dietrichs, so his land or 

A History of the German Language 311 

his residence may also be called Dietrichs, the second part 
of the compound being omitted because easily supplied. 
Another kind of ellipsis occurs. It is natural to regard 
the designation of a place as a word in the nominative 
case ; in fact, however, this is rarely so. Where we can 
discover the original form of the word, it generally repre- 
sents the answer to the question where ? and is in the dative 
case, usually after the preposition zu. A few isolated exam- 
ples of this procedure remain in such names as Andermatt, 
i. e., an der Matt; Zermatt, i. e., zu der Matt, and in proper 
names as already cited The Dat. Plur. is evident in such 
endings as -felden, -hausen, hofen, ingen -Ion O H. G. 
lohun, Dat. Plur. of loh, a copse or grove, -stetten, -walden, 
though without the preposition. The same case is seen 
in the names of countries, such as Bayern, Franken, Hessen, 
Sachsen and Schwaben, which are simply the plurals of 
tribal names ; the full formula was ze den Baiern, ze den 
Franken, etc. Occasionally the second member of the 
compound is now a nominative, while the first member is 
still the dative of an adjective, as Breitenfeld, Hohentwiel, 
Hamburg for Hohenburg, Stolzenfels, Wittenberg, that is, 
Weiszenberg, the L. G. for weisz being witt, Bug. ( white.' 
It stands to reason that the names of places like the names 
of persons are subject to the same phonetic laws as the 
remaining words of the language.. Particularly frequent 
are the weakening and abbreviation of full compounds and 
the assimilation of consonants two kinds of phenomena 
for which the conditions are much more rarely supplied 
by the ordinary material of language. In addition to 
these changes it often occurs that in ordinary compounds 
those regularly developed are in turn displaced by the in- 
fluence of indepedent words. For example, an old Ruitis- 
rode or Ruotboldisrode has become the modern Ruperath; 
Markberteshusun is now Merkshausen; and Alahmuntinga 
has been abbreviated to Allmendingen. In cases where the 
first part of the compound now ends in -ers we have before 

312 A History of the German Language 

us the alternative of two different compounds of names of 
persons: Herbersdorf is the older Hcribrehtesdorf ; Elfers- 
hausen points to a former Adalf rides kusum ; Liggersdorf is 
an abbreviation of Luitcardisdorf ; Ollersbach is really 
Adalgerisbach ; Volkersdorf may be traced to Folchardesdorf , 
Einersheim was formerly Einheresheim; Drommersheim is a 
shortened form of Truhtmaresheim ; Ballersheim is the same 
as Baldrodesheim, Oggersheim the same as Agridesheim; and 
Frankershausen was originally Frankwardeshusum. The 
ending -sen of a large number of place-names is generally 
a weakened form of -husen, i. e., hausen, but it may also be 
a remnant of the termination -es-heim. The names ending 
in -ikon, spoken of before, represent an older -ic-hofen, which 
in turn is a contraction of -inc-ho/en. The first member of 
the compound contains a patronymic in -ing. 

Many places are known by two names, an older and a 
younger, one of which is the official designation, the other 
that in popular use. The former is generally that handed, 
down in legal documents from remote times ; but occa- 
sionally it is a mere translation of a popular name and has 
never had any actual existence. Dialectic differences are 
much more conspicuous in the names of persons than in 
those of places, for the reason that the latter were created 
on the spot and to suit the local conditions where they are 
used, while persons frequently migrate a long distance 
from home. Characteristic of the Alemanian territory, are 
the forms in steten, -wetland weiler; the ending -wang may be 
either Alemanian or Bavarian. The river Lech separates 
the Alemanian termination -ingen from the Bavarian -ing. 
Names in -lar belong to Middle and North Germany, those 
in -scheid are Middle Franconian, while -ungen is generally 
Hessian or Thuringian. Low German territory has al- 
most a monopoly of names ending in -brink, -biittel, -fleth, 
-hude, -koog and -kuhl. 

A careful study of geographical names, based on accu- 
rate statistics and made with special reference to the 

A History of the German Language 313 

methods according to which they are compounded, would 
throw much light on the connection between the different 
Germanic clans. A beginning has been made in this 
direction by Dr. Isaac Taylor in his " Words and Places,'* 
which has yielded interesting and in some cases surpris- 
ing results. It can readily be seen how the study of place- 
names may be made subservient to that of history, as in- 
deed language itself is often a valuable auxiliary to the 
historian. These are, however, questions that lie outside 
of the sphere of the present work. 


I GIVE below four specimens of Dialect German for the 
purpose of exhibiting some of the most important 
variations from the literary language. The original of the 
four is by Klaus Groth, and is in the dialect of a district 
in Holstein. Dr. Groth has long been the foremost cham- 
pion of the claims of the Low German to culture as a lit- 
erary language. The humor of the poetry is well-nigh 
inimitable, as is often the case with similar productions ; 
but this delicate flavor is nearly all lost by translation. 
To be appreciated, it must be understood in the original. 
Nor can the pronunciation be represented with any near 
approach to accuracy. Still, the reader may form some 
idea of the spoken tongue from what is here given. These 
specimens will do something toward showing how inade- 
quate the conception most persons have of what is meant 
by the " German language." Not only do most foreigners 
have erroneous views on this subject, but the great mass 
of the German people themselves have little idea of the 
astonishing variety their vernacular presents. 

What is, perhaps, the most interesting dialect to Ameri- 
can readers, the Pennsylvania German, is not represented 
here, for the reason that it has received a thoroughly 
scientific treatment at the hands of Dr. Learned, of the 
Johns Hopkins University. Specimens are, therefore, 
easily obtainable. 


[In a dialect of West Holstein.] 

Liitt Matten, de Has', De mak sik en Spasz, 
He weer bi't Studeern, Dat Danzen to lehrn, 
Un danz ganz alleen Op de achtersten Been. 

A History of the German Language 315 

Keem Reinke, de Vosz, Un dach: Das en Kost! 
Un saggt: " Liittje Matten, So flink oppe Padden? 
Un danzst hier alleen Oppe achtersten Been?" 

" Kumm, lat uns tosam. Ik kann as de Dam! 
De Krei de spelt Fitel, Denn geit dat canditel, 
Denn geit dat mal schon Op de achtersten Been! " 

Liit Matten gev Pot: De Vosz beet em dot, 

Un sett sik in Schatten, Verspeis, de liitt Matten; 

De Krei de kreeg een Vun de achtersten Been. 


[ In the dialect of Nuremberg.] 

An artlier Hos Macht Mandla in'n Gros;} 

Will e~* biszla schtudeiren, D's Tanzn probeiren, 

Un tanzt ganz ella~ Af 'n hinterstn Ba~. 

Kummt pfiffi' der Fuchs, 'r glotzt woi e Luchs 

Und sagt: " Du bist g'schwind Af 'n Banen, loibs Kind! 

Wos tanzst ganz ella~ Af dein hinterst'n Ba~?" 

" Kumm, tanz m'r ze zweit! Ich mach dei~ Dam g'scheid; 
Doi Kraua tout geing'ng, Doi Fidl brav schtreich'ng; 
Su tanzst ganz ella~ Af dei hinterstn Ba~." 

Mn Hos'n g'fallt der Raut, D'r Fuchs beiszt 'n taud, 
Tout wer will's 'n wiern? 's Hesla verziern; 
Doi Kraua kroigt's a' Su e~ hinteres Ba~. 


[ In the dialect of Zurich, Alemanian.J 

's gumpet en Has Uf em griienige Gras, 

'r ischt am Schtudire, Wott 'sch Tanze probire 

Un hiippft ganz elei~ Uf 'm hindere Bei". 

De Fuchs kchunnd dezue Un lad em kei" Rue, 

Seid: ' Tusigschons Hasli, Wie schpringscht uf em Grasli! 

Un tanzischt elei" Uf em hindere Bei~." 

" Kchum, gib mer di~ Hand, Mer tanzid mitenand. 
I mache dir 'sch Meidli, D' Kchra giget is weidli, 
Mer tanzid Drei elei" Uf em hindere Bei~." 

Er schtreckt em sis Kchapli, De Has gid em 's Tapli, 
Hed's Tanze vergasse, De Fuchs hed en g'frasse, 
Und Kchra die fligt hei Mit erne hindere Bei". 

*The tilde" represents a nasal sound. 

316 A History of the German Language 


[ In the dialect of Coburg.] 

'es Klasla, der Hos, Macht sich lust'g im Gros, 
'r schtudirt derbei garn, Mocht's Tanz'n gelarn, 
Und tanzt ganz ella Auf sei'n hinterst'n Ba. 

Kiimmts Fuchsia abei Un denkt: Du bist mei! 
Segt: "Klasla, Herrje! Wie kannsta gegeh! 
Und danzst doch alia Auf dein hinterst'n Ba?" 

"Kumm, ge har zu mir! Ich danz scho mit dir; 
Di Kraa geigt auf, No gehts erst hellauf 
Des sollst' emol sa Auf dein hinterst'n Ba." 

D's Klasla schlegt ei: Mei Fuchs packt'n fei, 
Tregt 'n hinter e Heck Un leszt sich wohl schmeck; 
Die Kraa kriegt a So e hinteres Ba.