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Encyclopedia of Language & Linguistics (Second Edition)

2006, Pages 53-55

Germanic Languages

Author links open overlay panelM.Durrell []Get rights and content

The Germanic language family is a branch of Indo-European first attested in northwest Europe, although members of the group, especially English, are now distributed throughout the world. The group has three major subdivisions: North (the Scandinavian languages), West (in northwest Europe), and East (now extinct). The Germanic languages are set off from other Indo-European languages by the First Sound Shift (Grimm's Law) and, in general, a much reduced inventory of grammatical categories, especially in the verb. This has been further reduced in the historical languages, which are characterized by a drift from synthetic to analytic structures, most evident in English and Afrikaans.

ablaut first sound shift fuþark gender Grimm's Law Indo-European Jacob Grimm modal auxiliary verbs Proto-Germanic runes second sound shift strong verb Tacitus verb-second constraint

Martin Durrell is presently the Henry Simon Professor of German, University of Manchester. He was awarded his diploma in general linguistics by the University of Manchester in 1965, and he studied at the Deutscher Sprachatlas at the University of Marburg, Germany, from 1965 to 1967, graduating with a D.Phil. in 1970. He has taught at the University of Manchester since 1967. He has authored a number of books and articles on German grammar and German sociolinguistics, including Hammer's German grammar and usage (Arnold, 2002). He has served as honorary treasurer of the Philological Society since 1995; has been a member of the International Academic Council of the Institut für Deutsche Sprache, Mannheim, since 1998; and was elected as a member of the committee (Ausschuss) of the Internationaler Verein für Germanische Sprach- und Literaturwissenschaft (IVG) in 1995, becoming vice-president in 2004. He was presented with the Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany 2002.

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