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What is the German Language?



Ron Bracewell makes an excellent point: "When Charles V told what languages he used to his horses et al., I wonder in what language he spoke. To him, German may have been duits as it is today in Holland. He may not have distinguished between duits and niederlandisch (nederlansch)." My comment: Right! German was at the time a whole family of dialects, including what was spoken in Ghent, where Charles was born. It was Luther's Bible that slowly unified written German, and an artifcial synthesis, stage language (Bühnensprache) which unified the pronunciation. I cannot understand Dutch or Swiss German, and when I was eating in a Zürich restaurant the waitress said she could not understand me. The cult of dialects in Europe today (cf. Spain) is reversing this historical process and and recreating mutual unintelligibiliy.

Ronald Hilton - 7/1/01


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