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  • Print publication year: 2008
  • Online publication date: June 2012

2 - The German language past and present

Summary

In order to understand more about a language in general, it is helpful to look at its history. There is much more to that language than just the variety that is used today, and understanding historical changes and the links with other languages can inform us about the way that a language works; it allows us to see where the language has come from and the changes it has undergone. We know that all languages change over time, both on an individual level and in relation to other languages, and we can interpret these changes in the light of what was happening in a society during these times.

One of the most exciting things about learning a foreign language is the way in which we might discover similarities between that language and our mother tongue. We can use these links to make sense of words and ideas which we have never come across before. This is because languages do not exist in isolation: take the English word ‘father’, for example. It is easy to see that ‘father’ is somehow related to the German Vater. Even though the two words are spelled and pronounced differently, they are obviously still quite similar. Now consider the Spanish word padre and the French père. Again, there can be no denying that the word for ‘father’ is somehow related in all four languages, but the extent of that relationship differs.