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Was the German language influenced by any other languages? How did the German language get to what we hear today? I know that the letters were influenced by Latin, but did the language change or just adopt Latin letters?

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closed as too broad by Lennart Regebro, Pieter Geerkens, choster, Mark C. Wallace, Kobunite Jan 10 '14 at 9:23

There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format. Please add details to narrow the answer set or to isolate an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

The German language is not the same as the Germanic language spoken in Roman times. How much it has changed is hard to say though, as there is no longer texts of roman-age Germanic preserved. For information on the history of German, see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_German This question is too broad to answer here. – Lennart Regebro Jan 9 '14 at 18:19
up vote 7 down vote accepted

Not hardly. All languages drift over time. Even in this modern age of worldwide mass media, this happens.

Linguists figure that West Germanic broke off from the Germanic language root sometime around 1AD. All West Germanic languages (including the ancestors of English, Icelandic, and German) were mutually-intelligible dialects until sometime between the third century and 700AD.

The branch from this root that eventually became modern German was Old High German, which is thought to have become its own language sometime around 500AD. After about 500 further years of slow change it became different enough that we consider it a new language, called Middle High German, and then after 300 more years Early New High German, then after 300 more years New High German (what we know today as "German").

Don't let the namings fool you. Modern German has no more special status as a descendant of West Germanic than any other West Germanic language. In fact, languages tend to change the least in smaller relatively isolated communities, which means you'd expect the closest living language to Roman-era West Germanic to be something like Icelandic, which some in fact claim is the case.

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Exactly! In fact, I believe that everything written in German(ic) before Martin Luther is already extremely hard to read for a current German speakers in the absence of a specific training. And that's less than 600 years ago (during which the invention of the printing press probably decreased the rate of linguistic drift). – Olivier Jan 9 '14 at 20:44
@Olivier That sounds about right. I for the most part can't understand Shakespeare, although some English speakers can. That means he's on the verge of leaving intelligibility, and his stuff is about 400 years old now. – T.E.D. Jan 9 '14 at 21:03
@T.E.D.: You have to think of Shakespeare as being akin to Rap, to be listened to not read; and of course, realize that nunnery is never intended to mean convent. – Pieter Geerkens Jan 10 '14 at 0:45
@PieterGeerkens - For me its even worse attempting to listen to actors speak it. I think they get into a rhythm which probably sounds great, but is completely unlike a natural English speaking rhythm. It's hard enough trying to make sense of a language you barely understand without someone randomly scrambling the punctuation on you. – T.E.D. Jan 10 '14 at 1:40
I must point out, as a native tyke, that Shakespeare does in fact rhyme and make sense if you have a Yorkshire accent. – RedSonja Sep 10 '14 at 12:21

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