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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53
votes
5answers
10k 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 ...
45
votes
10answers
9k 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 ...
34
votes
6answers
16k views

Which letters does the German alphabet consist of?

I mean the “official” or “traditional” alphabet, such as the one taught in schools to children. Is the ordering the same as English? Does it include C, which I notice never seems to show up in native-...
34
votes
1answer
672 views

Ursprung des Punktes bei Ordinalzahlen

Als ich diese Frage gelesen habe, wurde mir klar, dass ich keine Ahnung habe, warum wir im Deutschen Ordinalzahlen mit Punkten schreiben. In anderen Sprachen wird das ja anders gehandhabt, wobei man ...
31
votes
4answers
26k 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 ...
29
votes
6answers
40k 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'...
28
votes
5answers
3k 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 ...
28
votes
6answers
24k 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. ...
26
votes
2answers
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 ...
25
votes
7answers
2k 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.
25
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1answer
1k views

Does Swabian have English influences?

Many variations of the swabian dialect contain words and pronunciations that to me always subtly sounded like influenced by modern english. One of the more prominent examples is the pronunciation of &...
24
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4answers
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 ...
24
votes
1answer
745 views

Wann und warum ging das Beugen von Namen verloren?

Beim Lesen von Literatur zu Goethe und Schiller fiel mir auf, dass deren Namen in manchen Texten mitgebeugt wurden, so wie wir das heute noch mit den Objekten machen. Der Lautwandlungsprozess zum ...
23
votes
1answer
2k 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 ...
22
votes
3answers
4k 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 ...
22
votes
2answers
974 views

Why does German have so many modal particles in comparison to other languages?

Fluent spoken German is often interspersed with lots of modal particles (e.g. "eben", "halt", "wohl") while other languages seem to lack these particles entirely, thus confusing learners and ...
21
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3answers
3k views

New German irregular verbs. Are there any?

New verbs in English are invariably regular. Sneak, an old verb in English dating from the 16th century, is one of the very few that have, at least in some parts of the world, become irregular (with ...
21
votes
4answers
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 ...
19
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2answers
697 views

Is/Was there a Basic German?

There is a whole Wikipedia written in Basic English. This leads to the question if something similar exists for German. Maybe a type of controlled language for teaching aboriginals a simplified German ...
16
votes
2answers
6k views

Is the second verse of the German national anthem offensive? Why is it not used?

My understanding is that today's national anthem, "Einigkeit, und Recht, und Freiheit..." was the third verse of the original and that we're not supposed to sing the original first verse, "Deutschland,...
16
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6answers
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 (...
16
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2answers
2k 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!
16
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4answers
55k views

Welche Bedeutung hat “Borussia” im Namen von Sportvereinen?

Eine ganze Reihe von deutschen Sportvereinen trägt die Bezeichnung "Borussia" (lateinisch für Preussen) in ihrem Vereinsnamen. Für Borussia Dortmund lese ich bei Wikipedia zur Namensgebung: Einer ...
15
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8answers
3k 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 ...
15
votes
1answer
299 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 ...
14
votes
6answers
3k 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 ...
14
votes
4answers
596 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 ...
14
votes
2answers
553 views

“Befreyung”: Was there an ey→ei spelling reform?

I recently saw a monument with the following text: AUCH SIE STARBEN FÜR DES VATERLANDES BEFREYUNG The spelling of "Befreiung" piqued my interest. Has there been a spelling reform changing more the ...
14
votes
1answer
751 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 ...
14
votes
1answer
1k 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 ...
14
votes
2answers
2k views

Meaning of Mann as a tribe rather than a male individual

Everybody understands the substantive Mann as designating a male human individual. Some people might also be aware of the kinship between Mann and the verb to command, which crops up for instance in ...
13
votes
3answers
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 ...
13
votes
1answer
1k 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....
13
votes
1answer
276 views

What greetings were common before “grüß Gott” became universal?

Today, the overwhelming majority of German speakers in Southern Germany and Austria greet each other using grüß Gott. The English Wikipedia article on grüß Gott claims, without a supporting reference,...
13
votes
1answer
362 views

Warum wurden “sch” und “ch” nicht diakritikalisiert?

Wir sehen für ä, ü und ö eine Entwicklung zu einem diakritischen Zeichen: ue => uͤ => ü Ähnliches gibt es auch in anderen Sprachen: fenestra => fenêtre Im Deutschunterricht wurde uns das so ...
12
votes
3answers
845 views

“helfen jmdm.” vs. “helfen zu jmdm.”

I thought that helfen required Dative without any preposition, but in one of my favorite songs by J.S.Bach, the lyrics go like this: Wir eilen mit schwachen, doch emsigen Schritten, O Jesu, o Meister,...
12
votes
2answers
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 ...
12
votes
2answers
3k views

Woher stammt der „Weihnachtsmann“?

Pünktlich zum Fest kommen meine Kinder aus der Schule und berichten, man habe ihnen im Religionsunterricht beigebracht, dass es den Weihnachtsmann gar nicht gäbe, sondern dass dieser von Coca Cola ...
12
votes
1answer
424 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 ...
12
votes
1answer
375 views

Why is indirect speech marked by modus instead of tempus in German?

If marked, most (according to Wikipedia) european languages use tempus instead of modus for indirect speech. Actually i think this is more intuitive too, as something was said by another person. Also, ...
11
votes
1answer
2k views

Need help to read Fraktur from a 18th century book

I am reading Euler's German translation of his work on differential calculus entitled Vollständige Anleitung zur Differentialrechnung (Complete instruction on Differential Calculus). I am struggling ...
11
votes
2answers
1k views

Did “zwo” exist before invention of radio?

Was "zwo" often or ever used before radio, or was it developed as a result of radio? Or has it just always been used around crowds and loud noises? And have other numbers ever had similar ...
11
votes
2answers
251 views

When did “eitel” switch from “vergänglich” (fading) to “eingebildet” (smug)?

In the poem by Andreas Gryphius: Alles ist eitel written in the 16th century the adjective eitel stands for fading or fleeting. However, today Duden online says: selbstgefällig (smug), kokett (...
11
votes
2answers
710 views

Which colour is “rosinfarben”?

I participated recently in a choir where we worked on Crato Bütner’s motet Wir dancken dir, Herr Jesu Christ. This work is not performed frequently and, apparently, the few copies of the score that ...
11
votes
2answers
683 views

Seit wann sagt man „Popo“?

Grimm schreibt: BOBO, m. podex, mit dem ton auf der letzten silbe, ein in der sprache der ammen, mädchen, mütter allgemein übliches wort, traulicher als der hintere oder steisz, feiner als arsch, ...
10
votes
1answer
1k views

Origin of the word “Abenteuer”?

The other night for one reason or another, I started thinking about the word "Abenteuer", (eng: adventure). I saw how close "Abenteuer" is to the words "Abend" (evening) and "teuer" (expensive). ...
10
votes
1answer
313 views

Schrieb man früher “Beet” statt “Bett”?

Im folgenden interessanten Text von Heine (vielleicht weniger bekannt als Die Lorelei) schreibt er: Ich habe die friedlichste Gesinnung. Meine Wünsche sind: eine bescheidene Hütte, ein Strohdach,...
10
votes
1answer
840 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 ...
9
votes
2answers
715 views

Who still uses Fraktur?

I am a speaker of German as well as a math student and enthusiast. As one might expect, scripts and notation are very important in math, and much of the notation developed in the German-speaking world....
9
votes
2answers
863 views

Etymology of “Mohn”

I am very curious about the etymology of the German and Yiddish word "Mohn", meaning "poppy", and, at least in Yiddish, "poppy-seed." Wiktionary suggests a long, meandering, and ill-defined history, ...