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Germanic Languages

The English language is a member of the Germanic family of languages, which is itself a subset of the Indo-European family of languages.

One group of IE speakers developed a variety of the language that eventually diverged far enough from its parent language to be recognizable as a distinct language, referred to variously by present-day scholars as "Primitive Germanic," "Common Germanic," or "Proto-Germanic." This language in turn underwent changes and branched into three identifiable speech communities: North Germanic (witnessed by present-day Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Icelandic, and the language of the Faeroese Islands); West Germanic (present-day High German, Low German, Dutch, Flemish, Frisian, and English); and East Germanic, the records for which establish only one, now-extinct written witness, Gothic.

Germanic poses significant problems for historical linguists trying to place it on the Indo-European family tree. A group of scientists, employing computational cladistics, have recently proposed that Germanic emerged as a discrete linguistic community as part of the Satem branch of the IE tree (the branch including Balto-Slavic and Indo-Iranian), but very early on its speakers borrowed from the vocabulary of Pre-Proto-Celtic and Pre-Proto-Italic, with the result that Germanic exhibited key characteristics associated with the Centum branch of the family.

Figure 2

Germanic languages tree

Note: Languages in italic are extinct.

 

Learn more about Germanic languages, modern and extinct at the Germanic Languages site, http://softrat.home.mindspring.com/germanic.html#topofdoc

Date: 2015-01-29; view: 2230


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