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Germanic language

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Germanic is one of the branches of the Indo-European (IE) language family, spoken by the Germanic peoples who were settled north and east along the borders of the Roman Empire. It is characterised by a number of unique linguistic features, most famously the consonant change known as Grimm's law.

Some Germanic languages developed runic alphabets of their own.

Some unique features of Germanic are:

  1. The levelling of the IE tense system into past and present (or common)
  2. The use of a dental suffix (/d/) instead of vowel alternation to indicate past tense. This probably originated as a form of "did". That is, for example, *"I help did." became "I helped.", replacing the earlier "I holp." (which survives in some dialects).
  3. The presence of two general conjugations of verbs: weak (regular) and strong (irregular). English has 161 strong verbs; all are of native English origin. So long as the English consonants don't change, additional strong verbs cannot seep into the language.
  4. The use of strong and weak adjectives. Modern English adjectives don't change except for comparative and superlative; this was not the case with Old English, where adjectives were inflected differently depending on whether they were preceeded by an article or demonstrative, or not.
  5. The consonant shift known as Grimm's Law.
  6. The abundance of non-IE roots[?]. It's been suggested that up to 80% of Germanic roots are of non-IE origin, including universal actions such as "bite" and "chew" and all sea terms except "boat". These roots may have been borrowed from the so-called Battle-axe people.
  7. The shifting of stress onto the root of the stem. Though English has an irregular stress, native words always have a fixed stress regardless of what's added to them. This is arguably the most important change.

Family tree

All Germanic languages are thought to be descended from a hypothetical Proto-Germanic. Note that divisions between subfamilies of Germanic are rarely precisely defined; most form continuous clines[?], with adjacent dialects being mutually intelligible and more separated ones not.

We mention here only the principal or unusual dialects when a more precise article contains a larger tree; for example, many Low Saxon dialects are discussed on Low Saxon besides just Standard Low Saxon and Plautdietsch.

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