German language

German
Native toGermany, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Belgium and Liechtenstein
RegionGerman-speaking Europe
EthnicityGermans (Austrians, Swiss, Luxembourgers)
Native speakers
95 million (2014)[1]
L2 speakers: 80–85 million (2014)[1]
Standard forms
Signed German
Official status
Official language in


Recognised minority
language in
Language codes
ISO 639-1de
ISO 639-2ger (B)
deu (T)
ISO 639-3Variously:
deu – German
gmh – Middle High German
goh – Old High German
gct – Colonia Tovar German
bar – Bavarian
cim – Cimbrian
geh – Hutterite German
ksh – Kölsch
nds – Low German[note 1]
sli – Lower Silesian
ltz – Luxembourgish[note 2]
vmf – Mainfränkisch
mhn – Mòcheno
pfl – Palatinate German
pdc – Pennsylvania Dutch
pdt – Plautdietsch[note 3]
swg – Swabian German
gsw – Swiss German
uln – Unserdeutsch
sxu – Upper Saxon
wae – Walser German
wep – Westphalian
hrx – Riograndenser Hunsrückisch
yec – Yenish
Glottologhigh1289  High German
fran1268  Middle German
high1286  Upper German
Linguasphere52-ACB–dl (Standard German)
52-AC (Continental West Germanic)
52-ACB (Deutsch & Dutch)
52-ACB-d (Central German)
52-ACB-e & -f (Upper and Swiss German)
52-ACB-h (émigré German varieties, including 52-ACB-hc (Hutterite German) & 52-ACB-he (Pennsylvania Dutch)
52-ACB-i (Yenish)
Totalling 285 varieties: 52-ACB-daa to 52-ACB-i
  (Co)official majority language
  Co-official minority language
  Statutory minority/cultural language
  Non-statutory minority language
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German (Standard High German: Deutsch, pronounced [dɔʏtʃ] ) is a West Germanic language mainly spoken in Western Europe and Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and the Italian province of South Tyrol. It is also an official language of Luxembourg and Belgium, as well as a recognized national language in Namibia. Outside Germany, it is also spoken by German communities in France (Alsace), Czech Republic (North Bohemia), Poland (Upper Silesia), Slovakia (Košice Region, Spiš, and Hauerland), and Hungary (Sopron).

German is most similar to other languages within the West Germanic language branch, including Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German, Luxembourgish, Scots, and Yiddish. It also contains close similarities in vocabulary to some languages in the North Germanic group, such as Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish. German is the second-most widely spoken Germanic language after English, which is also a West Germanic language.

German is one of the major languages of the world. It is the most spoken native language within the European Union. German is also widely taught as a foreign language, especially in continental Europe, where it is the third most taught foreign language (after English and French), and the United States. The language has been influential in the fields of philosophy, theology, science, and technology. It is the second-most commonly used scientific language and among the most widely used languages on websites. The German-speaking countries are ranked fifth in terms of annual publication of new books, with one-tenth of all books (including e-books) in the world being published in German.

German is an inflected language, with four cases for nouns, pronouns, and adjectives (nominative, accusative, genitive, dative); three genders (masculine, feminine, neuter); and two numbers (singular, plural). It has strong and weak verbs. The majority of its vocabulary derives from the ancient Germanic branch of the Indo-European language family, while a smaller share is partly derived from Latin and Greek, along with fewer words borrowed from French and Modern English.

German is a pluricentric language; the three standardized variants are German, Austrian, and Swiss Standard German. Standard German is sometimes referred as High German while referring to its regional origin of the High German languages. It is also notable for its broad spectrum of dialects, with many varieties existing in Europe and other parts of the world. Some of these non-standard varieties have become recognized and protected by regional or national governments.

Since 2004, heads of state of the German-speaking countries have met every year[8] and the Council for German Orthography has been the main international body regulating German orthography.


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