German language

German (Deutsch, pronounced [dɔʏtʃ] (listen))[note 4] is a West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family, mainly spoken in 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 a co-official language of Luxembourg and Belgium, as well as a national language in Namibia. 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.

German
Deutsch
Pronunciation[dɔʏtʃ]
RegionGerman-speaking Europe
EthnicityGermans
Native speakers
95 million (2014)[1]
L2 speakers: 80–85 million (2014)[1]
Early forms
Standard forms
Signed German
Official status
Official language in


Recognised minority
language in
Regulated byNo official regulation
(Orthography regulated by the Council for German Orthography)[2]
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 German
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 German etc.)
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 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 High German. 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.


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