For questions on the history of grammar, orthography, pronunciation and similar – with the main exception of word and phrase meanings, for which the etymology tag should be used.

learn more… | top users | synonyms

39
votes
4answers
1k views

What is the origin of the rules about the capitalization of the first letter of each noun?

To my knowledge, German is the only language which capitalize the first letter of each of its nouns. Why is there such a rule? Meines Wissens ist Deutsch die einzige Sprache, in der der erste ...
15
votes
3answers
1k views

Neuter gender for nouns referring to children

In German we say der Mann/die Frau, but then we say das Kind/das Mädchen, so I got two questions: Are there particular historic and/or etymological reasons for this? "Das Mädchen" refers to a ...
17
votes
4answers
890 views

“Der Dativ ist dem Genitiv sein Tod”: is German really losing Genitiv? (evolutionary viewpoint)

"Der Dativ ist dem Genitiv sein Tod" is an interesting German phrase which originates this question. I'm interested in knowing how true is it/will it be. Has German always had four cases? Or were ...
7
votes
1answer
146 views

Evolution of the digraph “ae” in the German language during the centuries

I am German, but I thought I would ask this question in English so that everyone possessing knowledge about this specific subject could join in independently from the language it was asked in. In ...
16
votes
3answers
2k views

“Muss” vs. “muß” and “dass” vs. “daß” frequency changes in the XIX Century and in 1945. What do these curves mean?

This question arose just out of curiosity on how the Reform der deutschen Rechtschreibung von 1996 looks like in Ngrams. If one compares dass vs. daß, as expected, at 1996 the plots from Ngram ...
10
votes
2answers
344 views

Warum erhalten Zahlwörter manchmal das Suffix “-e”?

Es gibt seltene Varianten, in denen Zahlwörter ein Suffix "-e" erhalten: Sie streckten alle viere von sich. Beim Kegeln fielen alle neune. "Ach, du grüne Neune!" "Wir treffen uns um Zwölfe." ...
10
votes
3answers
366 views

What caused “ss” to gain popularity over “ß” in the 19th century?

From Google Books' Ngram Viewer: Notice that the "hasst" form gained popularity towards the end of the 19th century, only to drop again in favor of "haßt" later on. I noticed the same pattern on ...
8
votes
3answers
505 views

Do the noun 'Reich' and the adjective 'reich' have a common origin?

The adjective rich in present-day English used to be spelled rice in Old English and its meaning was then actually broader than it is today. For instance the adjective rice could mean "wealthy" as it ...
5
votes
1answer
215 views

Präteritum of “sein” in Southern dialects

As in Southern dialects the Präteritum or Mitvergangenheit is often dropped in favor of the perfect tense, I was wondering about some things regarding the "i wår" (apparently the Präteritum of "sein") ...
-5
votes
3answers
183 views

Does capitalization work differently in German than it does in English? [closed]

While trying to translate the German text in the following image, I was struck by the fact that some words are capitalized which wouldn't be capitalized in English. The words in question are: ...
20
votes
2answers
692 views

Why are the German guillemets inverted?

I've been wondering for some time, Why do Germans use inverted guillemets (»…«) in contrast with the original French use (« … »)? When did such usage begin? (They are originally French, right? ...
19
votes
6answers
960 views

Wird Deutsch auch außerhalb von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz gesprochen?

Wird Deutsch auch außerhalb von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz gesprochen? Wobei ich natürlich nicht zwei Deutsche im Urlaub meine, sondern eine deutliche Verbreitung.
21
votes
4answers
1k views

Are German words starting with the letter 'p' really of foreign origin?

In a book I’m reading these days, the author mentions the various names of the plough in a few Indo-European languages. When he comes to cite the German one (Pflug) he casually adds the far-reaching ...
14
votes
1answer
975 views

Origin of Separable Verbs

In what moment in the development of the German language were separable verbs introduced? Also, is there a linguistic reason behind their introduction? Thanks!
11
votes
1answer
216 views

Wann ging der häufige Gebrauch des »th« verloren?

In alten deutschen Texten liest man häufig Wörter mit th geschrieben, die heutzutage ohne ein Solches geschrieben werden. Beispiele sind Theil, Thor. Wann wurden diese Schreibungen abgeschafft? Nach ...
6
votes
2answers
140 views

War die deutsche Bühnenaussprache jemals gesetzlich vorgeschrieben?

In einer früheren Version dieser Antwort zu einer nur wenig verwandten Frage meinte Takkat: Diese, damals teilweise gesetzlich verordnete Bühnensprache wurde aber in weiten Teilen Deutschlands ...
6
votes
1answer
175 views

Can anyone explain this strange feature in the ratio in usage gern and gerne in late 1940s?

I was looking at some google N-grams and noticed that the ratio between usage for gern and gerne has a strange bump in the late 1940s. In particular, gerne gained in usage but then returned to the ...
11
votes
1answer
481 views

Warum “wurde” und nicht “ward”?

Heutzutage ist der Präteritumstamm von werden wurde. Früher war es ward. Mir scheint, dass ward die eigentlich regelmäßge Ablautfolge ist (vgl. helfen, werfen). Und doch ward es nicht mehr gesehen. ...
11
votes
6answers
1k views

Did German borrow any words from Old Prussian?

Considering the huge influence Prussia had for a time over Germany, did many words from the Old Prussian language get borrowed into German? (Sorry I didn't originally include the word "Old" as I ...
6
votes
3answers
351 views

Warum Perfekt anstelle von Präteritum und seit wann?

Seit welcher Zeit und warum wird im ge­spro­chenen Deutsch lieber Per­fekt anstatt Präteritum benutzt, z.B. lieber Ich habe gesehen als Ich sah? Warum hat sich die kompliziertere Form eingebürgert?
5
votes
2answers
851 views

Why doesn't German have a present continuous tense?

German language doesn't have a present continuous/progressive tense like English, Dutch or Spanish. German has no present progressive tense ("am going"/"are buying"). The German Präsens "ich ...
3
votes
2answers
124 views

Wo sind die Eistüten hin?

Kaufe ich ein Berlin ein Eis, werde ich gefragt, ob ich es „im Becher oder in der Waffel“ möchte. Ich bin mir recht sicher, dass ich vor 30 Jahren nur gefragt wurde, ob ich einen „Becher oder eine ...
3
votes
1answer
338 views

How can I find out what is written on an image of the Spiezer chronicle?

The following is a drawing of the Spiezer chronicle from the 15th Century showing John Hoss being burnt alive, I want to include it in my research about Protestantism. While preparing a ...