the Germanic languages

November 23rd, 2011

When you study languages you really do begin to see them far more in terms of language families. I really enjoyed Alexander Arguelles's five part series about the Germanic language family. Below I have made a simplified version of the chart he presents, focusing on the major modern languages and their roots.


These languages are also known as the Teutonic languages, as is the case in Frederick Bodmer's excellent book on the history of languages, "The Loom of Language".

The earliest language that we have any substantial written texts from is Gothic, from around the 4th century. Everything before that is an extrapolation based on the comparative study of later languages (leading up to the hypothetical Indo-European language that is supposed to be the common ancestor of Gothic, Latin, Greek, Sanskrit and so forth).

The symbolic end point of the chart is around the 18th century, where the languages are similar enough to their current form to be called the modern version of the language. So you can read books dating back to that period with relative ease.

As far as studying them, my starting point was Norwegian and English, and later I added Dutch, so it made sense that I would try all of them out sooner or later (it's hard to find books in Afrikaans but I did find one). The only one I haven't touched is German, but who knows if the mood might strike me one day.

If you're wondering how you might jump across from one of these languages to another, check out my Norwegian-to-Dutch reference card.

:: random entries in this category ::

1 Responses to "the Germanic languages"

  1. Boyo says:

    When you know Dutch, Afrikaans isn't too hard. It sounds and is written like the Dutch that commoners, such as those who settled in the South African colonies, spoke two centuries ago (i.e. grammatically incorrect). From a linguistic point of view it's quite interesting to see how the Dutch of that day has developed into Afrikaans.