What are Germanic languages?

Published on 22/08/2022

Germanic languages are those with origin in the Indo-European language family and are derived from what is known as the Proto-Germanic language. It’s estimated that the first Germanic were spoken in northern Germany and the Scandinavian territory. The first recorded Germanic language was Gothic, which people already used in the 6th century and due to the great migrations it eventually reached the Danube and Rhine areas.

1. Characteristics of the Germanic languages

Germanic languages, have one thing in common: they use the same vocabulary which derived from Proto-Germanic. All these languages are characterised by a loss of distinctive forms in the verb and noun inflection. For example, two of the most important Germanic languages, English and German, have numerous periphrastic and analytic forms in one verb, which contrasts with the older forms of these languages.

2. Morphology

The morphology of Germanic languages is characterised by grammatical gender, grammatical case in the noun and also a verbal inflection. However, in one of its main languages, modern English, there are no gender distinctions beyond those used in the pronominal system. It is the Nordic Germanic variant that has the most extensive Old Germanic inflectional system.

We should also remember that Germanic languages have been simplifying their nominal morphology. This means that the more synthetic forms have given way to more analytical forms.

3. Germanic language groups

Thus, within the Germanic languages we can find different groups. On the one hand, there are the languages of the East Germanic territory. At this point there are several languages that have already become extinct, such as Gothic, Vandal and Burgundian. Since the 18th century, none of the above-mentioned languages have been in use.

On the other hand, there is the Nordic Germanic group. This is a sub-group of languages currently spoken in northern Europe. Nordic Germanic includes languages such as Icelandic, Norwegian, Danish and Swedish, among others.

The last group would be the so-called West Germanic languages. These include Anglo-Saxon, French and German.

4. What are the most widely spoken Germanic languages?

The most widely spoken Germanic languages worldwide are English and German. In fact, English is the third most widely spoken language in the world, just after Chinese and Spanish. Around 300 to 400 million people are native English speakers This is quite a lot and we need to add around 200 million people who speak English as second language.
On the other hand, German is another widespread language, with around 105 million Native speakers and another 80 million people who speak German as second language. We can conclude that Germanic languages are extremely important and it’s essential to know some. Not only does it help with job opportunities, but also facilitates learning new languages.

Other articles you may be interested in:

Virginia Pacheco's picture
Virginia Pacheco

Blog writer and Community Manager interested in multiculturality and linguistic diversity. From her native Venuzuela, she has travelled and lived for many years in France, Germany, Cameroon and Spain, passing on her passion for writing and her intercultural experiences.

Add new comment