What makes Hochdeutsch high?

How geography gave standard German its name

The term Hochdeutsch or High German refers to the standard form of the German language used in official documents, media, and taught in schools throughout Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

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Despite the existence of a standard language, there is no one “correct” way to speak German. Dialects are an important part of regional culture and identity, and are still widely spoken and celebrated today. They continue to play an important role in everyday communication and cultural expression. In fact, many German speakers are proud of their regional dialect and view it as an integral part of their cultural heritage.

The origins of High German

The origins of High German can be traced back to the Middle Ages, when the German language was divided into several dialects, each with its own unique grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation. These dialects were spoken throughout the German-speaking regions of Europe, including modern-day Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and parts of Belgium and the Netherlands.

During the High Middle Ages (11th-14th centuries), a literary language called Middle High German emerged. It was based on the dialects spoken in the southern and central regions of Germany and was used for poetry, literature, and religious texts.

The German language underwent a significant transformation in the 16th century due to the influence of the printing press, which allowed for the mass production of books and other printed materials. This led to the standardisation of spelling, grammar, and vocabulary, and the emergence of a unified written language.

The Luther Bible, published in 1534 by the German reformer Martin Luther, played a significant role in the development of High German. Luther’s translation of the Bible was based on the Early New High German dialect spoken in Saxony, and became the standard German translation of the Bible for centuries. Luther’s use of this dialect helped to establish it as the basis for modern High German.

What makes it high?

What makes Hochdeutsch “high” is its origin in the southern and central regions of Germany at a higher elevation. The term “high” does not refer to any inherent superiority or prestige of the language. In contrast, Low German or Plattdeutsch refers to the varieties of the German language spoken in parts of northern Germany and the Netherlands, specifically in areas characterized by flat or low-lying terrain.

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Hi, I am , a software engineer living and working in Berlin, Germany. I started learning German in 2018 and have been writing about it since 2021. Follow me on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn