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You are right. German has a tendency not only to long words, but also to long interlaced sentences. Mark Twain wrote a satirical essay about the German language from a native English point of view (full text). A quote from this essay for an interlaced sentence example: "The trunks being now ready, he DE- after kissing his mother and sisters, and once ...
Bach used a German spoken at his time (1685-1750) which is considered as Neuhochdeutsch but it is not spoken any more today. Nevertheless it is still understood. In addition to this a lot of changes to grammar and spelling were done for rhyming so that stanzas fit to the melody. Example: O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden, voll Schmerz und voller Hohn, ...
In an etymological context the abbreviations you found mean: altn. altnordisch altn. altniederländisch nnl. neuniederländisch schw. Dafür gibt es unterschiedliche Verwendungen: Im nordischen Kontext "schwedisch", evtl. auch "schweizerisch" oder "schwäbisch". Note: the abbreviation schw. also means schwach [gebeugt] in dictionaries.
It wasn't always like this. English sentences in formal writing used to be rather long as well. Consider the first sentence from Washington's Farewell Address 1796: The period for a new election of a citizen to administer the executive government of the United States being not far distant, and the time actually arrived when your thoughts must be ...
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