Alternative name(s): Plattdeutsch, Deutsch (de), alemán (es), allemand (fr), Duits (nl), tyska (sv)
Language family: Indo-European
Language Group: Germanic
Geographical use: Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium (Ostkantons), Poland, Hungary, Italy (in the province Bolzano), Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Namibia, Romania, Paraguay, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, United States and the ex-USSR
Information: German can be divided into two groups: High German and Low German. The old High German was a collection of dialects that were spoken till around 1100. Around that time a standard language arose. The most southern frontier of High German is the line Aachen-Kassel-Maagdenburg-Berlin-Frankfurt. High German can be divided in its turn into two categories: Upper German (which consists of Allemanic, Bayerisch, Franconian and Longobardic) and Middle German (that consists of Rhine Franconian, Mosel Franconian, Ripuaric, Thuric, Upper Saxon and Silesian).
Low German or Plattdeutsch consists of Low Franconian (Dutch-German frontier) and Low Saxon (from the northern lowlands up to the river Elbe). Low German spread up to Prussia and lend a lot of words to the Scandinavian languages. It disappeared with the fall of the Hanseatic League.
Until the middle of the 14th century Latin was the official language in what are now the German speaking areas in Europe. During the rule of king Louis IV German was accepted as official language. A standard written form of German only came around in the first part of the 16th century. As a base for the standard language High German was chosen, especially under influence of Luther's Bible translation. Until the 20th century a lot of different spellings existed. In 1901 north and south Germany, Austria and Switzerland took part in a conference where a common spelling was established. The spelling system was written down by German philologist Konrad Duden in Rechtschreibung der Deutschen Sprache.
As far as pronunciation is concerned, there is no agreed standard. Several German speaking population groups can be recognised by their pronunciation, e.g. Austrians, Swiss. Even the German of highly skilled Germans is influenced by local dialect. For specific purposes, e.g. theatre, there are rules for pronunciation.