Old English and Its Closest Relatives: A Survey of the Earliest Germanic Languages

By Orrin W. Robinson | Go to book overview

9


OLD HIGH GERMAN

The Tribal Foundations of Old High German

With the discussion of the Saxons in Chapter 5 and the Franks in Chapter 8, we have touched on two of the early tribal groupings important in the formation of German dialects. Thus the Saxons are associated with Old Saxon and the later Low German dialects of northern Germany, and the Franks with Old Low Franconian and the later dialects of Dutch, as well as a number of High German dialects of central Germany, both in Old High German times and later. Most of the High German-speaking area, though, is associated with three further Germanic groups, the Alamanni, the Bavarians, and the Thuringians.

All three of these groups belong to that subdivision of the West Germanic tribes known variously as Elbe Germans, Irminones, and the like (see Map 1, Chapter 1). In the last few centuries B.C., they were grouped around the lower and middle Elbe, with East Germanic tribes to their east and Weser-Rhine tribes, ancestors of the later Franks, to their west. The natural field of expansion for the Elbe Germans was to the south, and specifically those areas that now constitute southern Germany.

The earliest such expansion of which we are aware through historical sources occurred in the first century B.C., when a group known as Suebi, and associated groups including the Marcomanni and Quadi, moved southwest. (The term “Suebi” is frequently used as a superordinate term for all these subgroups, and, as its later reflection in the name of the Swabian subgroup of the Alamanni shows, it could be applied to most of the Elbe Germans.) It was these people who, under the famous leader Ariovistus, challenged the Romans for Gaul in the momentous battle waged in Alsace in 58 B.C. Led by Caesar, the Romans won, thus

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Old English and Its Closest Relatives: A Survey of the Earliest Germanic Languages
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • Abbreviations xi
  • The Germanic Language Family 1
  • Germanic: A Grammatical Sketch 24
  • Gothic 43
  • Old Norse 69
  • Old Saxon 100
  • Old English 136
  • Old Frisian 176
  • Old Low Franconian 199
  • Old High German 222
  • The Grouping of the Germanic Languages 247
  • Appendix 265
  • Appendix: 267
  • Reference Matter 277
  • Bibliography 279
  • Index 285
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