German

Authored by: John A. Hawkins

The World’s Major Languages

Print publication date:  November  2008
Online publication date:  January  2009

Print ISBN: 9780415353397
eBook ISBN: 9780203301524
Adobe ISBN: 9781134261567

10.4324/9780203301524.ch4

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Abstract

German, together with English, Frisian and Dutch (including Afrikaans and Flemish), is a member of the West Germanic group within the Germanic branch of Indo-European. It is currently used by over 90 million speakers in European countries in which it has official national language status (either alone or in conjunction with other languages): the Federal Republic of Germany, united as of 1990 with the former German Democratic Republic (almost 80 million users); Austria (7.5 million); Switzerland (4.2 million); Luxembourg (360,000 users of the Lëtzebuergesch dialect); and Liechtenstein (15,000). Bordering on the official German-language areas there are some sizable Germanspeaking minorities in Western Europe: Alsace (perhaps 1 million users); Lorraine (some 300,000); South Tirol and other parts of Italy (270,000); and Belgium (up to 90,000). In Eastern Europe there were, until recently at least, as many as two million people with German as their mother tongue: in the former Soviet Union (1.2 million); Romania (400,000); Hungary (250,000); the former Czechoslovakia (100,000); Poland (20,000); and the former Yugoslavia (20,000).

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