Questions tagged [history]

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.

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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 ...
Alenanno's user avatar
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27 votes
1 answer
3k views

Wann hat man aufgehört, im Perfekt Hilfsverben wegzulassen?

In der früheren Literatur war es üblich, das Hilfsverb im Perfekt oder Plusquamperfekt wegzulassen. Hier ist ein Beispiel (aus Reichtum, einer Kurzgeschichte von Arthur Schnitzler) in dem das letzte ...
Georges Elencwajg's user avatar
54 votes
5 answers
11k 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 ...
Eldros's user avatar
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28 votes
5 answers
4k 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 some ...
c.p.'s user avatar
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33 votes
4 answers
34k 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 kaufe can ...
ermanen's user avatar
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6 votes
1 answer
1k 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") ...
Matthaeus's user avatar
  • 372
11 votes
1 answer
1k 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 ...
eslukas's user avatar
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30 votes
6 answers
26k views

Why is »ß« substituted with »ss« rather than »sz«?

The letter ß is called Eszett, literally meaning s z. However, when the letter is not available (or when a word is in all caps), ß is almost always substituted by the digraph ss rather than sz (e.g. ...
user5431's user avatar
  • 309
6 votes
5 answers
642 views

Explain the motivation for grammatical gender for speakers of languages without them

I am trying to learn German and I learned about grammatical gender. It is interesting but quite confusing to me. What is the purpose if it doesn’t denote sex? Why not use one word in place of many? I ...
Twizle's user avatar
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29 votes
6 answers
46k views

Does German language have "possessive apostrophe"?

Does (did) German have something like what they call possessive apostrophe in English? If not, what does the role of it in German language? For example: This is my father's hat. My best friend'...
user avatar
28 votes
2 answers
2k 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? Since ...
Dejan Govc's user avatar
21 votes
4 answers
5k 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 show ...
c.p.'s user avatar
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16 votes
6 answers
2k views

Why is "das Weib" grammatically neuter?

The word das Weib, meaning woman, is grammatically neuter. While the gender of nouns is generally unpredictable from their meaning, it is unusual that a word with such an explicitly feminine meaning (...
Neugierig's user avatar
  • 201
14 votes
4 answers
652 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 ...
Orion's user avatar
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14 votes
3 answers
1k 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 ...
Alain Pannetier's user avatar
14 votes
1 answer
857 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. Mein ...
Takkat's user avatar
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13 votes
1 answer
2k views

Warum "wurde" und nicht "ward"?

Heutzutage ist der Präteritumstamm von werden wurde. Früher war es ward. Mir scheint, dass ward die eigentlich regelmäßige Ablautfolge ist (vgl. helfen, werfen). Und doch ward es nicht mehr gesehen....
Emanuel's user avatar
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12 votes
2 answers
2k views

Warum die Buchstabenkombinationen „sch“ und „ch“

Woher kommen die Buchstabenkombinationen sch und ch? Die Herkunft der Buchstabenkombination ch für den stimmlosen velaren Frikativ oder den stimmlosen palatalen Frikativ ist noch vergleichsweise ...
shuhalo's user avatar
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7 votes
2 answers
339 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 ...
Jan's user avatar
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7 votes
3 answers
2k 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?
äüö's user avatar
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7 votes
2 answers
238 views

Apostrophe in “Ruh’” from Goethes “Wandrers Nachtlied II”

I’ve been looking at early (e.g. 1827) published editions of Goethes Wandrers Nachtlied II (also known as Ein Gleiches), and I don’t understand the significance of the apostrophe after Ruh in line 2: ...
LiberalArtist's user avatar
7 votes
2 answers
330 views

Warum kriegt z.B. "Student" die Endung "-en" in dem casus obliquus?

der Student, des Studenten Woher kommt die Endung -en bei Wörtern für Personssubstantive lateinischen und griechischen Ursprungs (oder ist das nicht die Regel)? Es geht mir also nicht um die Endung -...
Cerberus's user avatar
  • 411
7 votes
3 answers
263 views

Podcasts about the German language

I'm searching for podcasts that are about the German language, discussing etymology, language history and the like. Preferably in German but other languages are also of interest. I've tried ...
Spade's user avatar
  • 561
5 votes
3 answers
742 views

German in Bach's Cantatas

My German is very rudimentary (A1) and I have no regular exposure to the language except what I get listening to Bach. Recently, I have been very interested in Bach's cantatas. It uses text from the ...
romanbird's user avatar
  • 161
3 votes
1 answer
462 views

Dativ der Fragepronomina wer und was - wem und … *wam*?

Eine kaiserliche Randnotiz zu einem Telegramm des Reichskanzlers lautet wie folgt: Woher ist das zu entnehmen? Aus dem mir vorgelegten Material nicht. Dies versteht man natürlich problemlos, aber ...
Lumi's user avatar
  • 801
-1 votes
3 answers
1k 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: ...
Wad Cheber's user avatar
-1 votes
1 answer
151 views

2nd phrase. Help me please to read old german writings?

The writings are pretty old: 1912, 1913 and earlier I guess... That are the writing on the back cover of an old clock. So probably the writings might be about the works being done on it and who did ...
user40056's user avatar
44 votes
10 answers
10k views

Does the German language have a Shakespeare?

Most English speakers cannot read for very long before stumbling onto the words of Shakespeare, one of the language's greatest playwrights, who left an indelible mark on it. A great many of his ...
Uticensis's user avatar
  • 972
25 votes
7 answers
3k 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.
swegi's user avatar
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23 votes
4 answers
3k 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 ...
Alain Pannetier's user avatar
17 votes
3 answers
3k 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!
Jose L. Lykón's user avatar
16 votes
6 answers
4k views

What is the origin of the two past tenses in German?

In my German class, we learned that there are two past tenses, which we referred to as the "narrative" and "conversational," the former only being used for writing, and the other used exclusively for ...
fpf3's user avatar
  • 262
15 votes
1 answer
325 views

Usage of 'éine' instead of 'eine'

I'm reading "Der logische Aufbau der Welt" by Rudolf Carnap, which is quite an interesting book. But I found something I do not understand. Everytime he writes the numeral "eine" or "ein" etc. he ...
TheReader's user avatar
  • 546
15 votes
7 answers
4k 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 ...
hippietrail's user avatar
  • 1,484
14 votes
1 answer
3k 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 ...
FUZxxl's user avatar
  • 2,736
14 votes
2 answers
2k views

Unknown word "Beuelch" on title page of 16th century German hymnal

The Christmas hymn "Es ist ein Ros entsprungen", which is of unknown origin, first appeared in print in a hymnal for the diocese of Speyer that was printed in Cologne in 1599, the so called ...
njuffa's user avatar
  • 243
12 votes
2 answers
932 views

Kennzeichnung aspirierter Plosive (z.b. TH in Theater, Thron usw.)

Als Plosive bezeichnet man jene Konsonanten, bei denen der Laut dadurch gebildet wird, dass der Luftstrom für einen kurzen Moment unterbrochen wird. Das anschließende geräuschvolle Entweichen der ...
Hubert Schölnast's user avatar
9 votes
1 answer
1k views

Wann und unter welchen Umständen wurden lateinische Wörter im Deutschen nach Fall dekliniert?

In älteren Texten (zumindest in wissenschaftlichen) kam es vor, dass lateinische Wörter in deutschen Texten lateinisch dekliniert wurden, und zwar nicht nur gemäß Numerus (z. B. Indizes als Plural von ...
sgf's user avatar
  • 2,341
7 votes
1 answer
554 views

Das deutsche Verwandte zum englischen »queen« und zum schwedischen »kvinna«

In einer laienlinguistischen Unterhaltung ist gestern plötzlich die Frage aufgetaucht, was denn Frau auf Schwedisch heiße; die Antwort war kvinna. Sofort ist mir aufgefallen, dass das kognat – ...
Jan's user avatar
  • 38.6k
7 votes
1 answer
390 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 ...
philshem's user avatar
  • 551
5 votes
1 answer
298 views

Casus in »Er satzte sich bei die Knechte.«

Ich habe schon wieder eine Frage zu dem knapp 300 Jahre alten Text der Matthäuspassion von J.S.Bach: In der Nr. 31 dieses Musikstücks singt der Evangelist diesen Text: Die aber Jesum gegriffen ...
Hubert Schölnast's user avatar
5 votes
1 answer
977 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 ...
Lynob's user avatar
  • 183
4 votes
1 answer
377 views

"ich bin deine, du bist meine"

I have been listening to Bach’s secular cantata BWV 213 (“Hercules at the crossroad”) to a text by Picander.. Towards the end there is a duet between Hercules (scored for a boy alto) and the ...
fdb's user avatar
  • 3,338
4 votes
4 answers
1k views

So what's a "Realencyclopädie"?

Given the importance of Pauly's work (Wikipedia, Wikisource), I assume it wasn't written in gibberish by a madman. That said, what secondary or tertiary sense does the German real or Real have that ...
lly's user avatar
  • 208
4 votes
1 answer
247 views

Das Genus der Nomina auf -sal

Ich habe auf dem iPad (Duden Wissensnetz) nachgeschlagen und bemerke: Wirrsal, Labsal und Saumsal: das oder die Mühsal und Trübsal: die Irrsal und Schicksal: das Es bleibt noch zu prüfen, ob andere ...
Ludi's user avatar
  • 6,782
4 votes
3 answers
1k views

Does "paar" still mean "two items"? Words that have lost their original meaning

–Ich hätte gerne ein Paar Brötchen –Wie viele? That was (modulo trivialities) a conversation that surprised me. Of course –assuming the grammatical correctness of the sentences–, the baker doesn't ...
c.p.'s user avatar
  • 30.8k
4 votes
2 answers
286 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 ...
Carsten S's user avatar
  • 20.9k
4 votes
2 answers
289 views

Welche Schriftsteller oder Dichter waren für die Entwicklung der deutschen Sprache ausschlaggebend?

In jeder Sprache gab es Schriftsteller und Dichter, die für zeitgenössische Sprache stehen und einen erheblichen Einfluss in der Entwicklung der Sprache haben. So war es Chaucer für die englische und ...
cwallenpoole's user avatar
3 votes
2 answers
352 views

How did the German case system end up as it is?

How did the irregular German case system develop, specifically that the same article such as "der" occurs in different places in terms of gender and case, and there is no strict overarching ...
Julius Hamilton's user avatar
2 votes
2 answers
194 views

What version of the protestant Bible was familiar in Germany around 1880? [closed]

Records in the niedersächsisches Landesarchiv show the mathematician Richard Dedekind was specific about how he wanted a certain aphorism of his reported. He had given it in 1878 and he wanted it ...
Colin McLarty's user avatar