The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Germanic Races and Languages

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GERMANIC RACES AND LANGUAGES. Before the political history of Germany began, or a distinct German nation appeared, Germanic races moulded the political organizations of the north and west of Europe, and Germanic languages either superseded or modified the speech of the previous inhabitants. Ethnologists sometimes classify the Germanic races under the generic name of Teutons, as a main division of the Slavo-Germanic branch of the Aryan or Indo-European family of nations. The term Teutonic, in this wider sense, is chiefly used by English writers, as the equivalent of the German Germanisch (Fr. germanique), in contradistinction to Deutsch (Fr. allemand), in the narrower sense, and is thus often used in this work. Three groups are distinguished: Scandinavians, Goths, and Germans. The Scandinavians occupy Norway and Sweden (excepting the territory of the Lapps), the Danish isles, and the peninsula of Jutland. The Goths, now extinct, were subdivided into Ostrogoths and Visigoths, or Eastern and Western Goths. The Germans are subdivided into two groups, the northern and southern, or Low and High Germans, and are found principally in Germany, the Netherlands, England, the United States, and the British colonies. There are many hypotheses in regard to the meaning of the word German. Some authorities derive it from the old High German ger, spear or javelin, and consider the Germani of the ancients as the equivalent of Germannen or men armed with such weapons. Others derive it from the Celtic gairm or garm, noise, and understand it to refer to the ancient German practice of shouting in battle. The modern German word Deutsch is held by some to be a modification of the name Teut, Tuisco, or Tuisto, a mythical ancestor of the Germans; others trace it to diet, old High German diot, pertaining to the people, or national; and others again to the verb diutan, to explain. The cradle of the Indo-Europeans is generally placed in Asia, whence the Germans have been supposed to have entered Europe across the Ural and Caucasus. Some recent authorities, however, remove the primitive habitat of the Aryans from the sources of the Oxus and Jaxartes to the Russo-Lithuanian plateaus, contiguous to the first historical habitat of the Germans, north of central Europe, and within the boundaries of the Rhine, the Danube, and the Vistula. There are no positive data about the Germanic races prior to the 2d century B. C. No mention is made of them when the Hellenes came in contact with the Scythians, and the Gauls carried terror to Rome and Delphi. Pytheas of Massalia met with Goths and Teutons on the Baltic, and it is probable that the Goths inhabited Scandinavia before the 4th century. Arrian says that Alexander the Great had dealings with peoples living on the lower Ister (Danube), whom he calls Celts; but he mentions the Germanic Quadi and Marcomanni as tribes of them. It is evident that the Greek writers often speak of Germans as Celts or Galatians. Strabo designates the Germans as Celto-Scythians, meaning a people neither Celtic nor Scythic. The uncertainty of the Greek and early Roman writers concerning them renders it presumable that the Germans lived before the time of the Cimbric migrations isolated from their neighbors to the south and west, while the correlation of the two linguistic groups seems to indicate that they lived in constant intercourse with the Slavs. In the 2d century B. C. the Germanic races became the dominant element in western and central Europe. The first historical migration started from the Cimbric peninsula, whence the tribes composing it were indiscriminately called Cimbri. Other migrations of the same period took their rise in the region of the Baltic, and the name of Teutons was given to the tribes figuring in these. The Celts previously moved to the west and south, but many of them had retraced their steps, and migrated with Germanic races from west to east. This mixed people appeared under Cambaules and Cerethrius in Thrace, and after the dissolution of the Macedonian empire under Brennus in Macedonia and Greece, and under Leonnarius in Asia Minor. The torrent of Cimbri and Teutons which rushed over the Alps at the close of the 2d century B. C. failed to weaken the Romans in the mountainous districts of northern Italy and Illyria. Germanic tribes were for centuries put to their utmost to prevent the further advance to the north of their southern enemies. Cæsar and Tacitus are the most valuable authorities upon the condition of the western districts of Germany in their time. Cæsar states that the Rhine was the eastern boundary of Gaul, and affirms that in Switzerland, southern Alsace, near the upper Moselle, and on the shores of the strait of Dover, there were only four Celtic tribes, the Helvetii, Sequani, Mediomatrici, and Morini. He called the country of the Maas, north of Sedan, Germania Inferior, and the left bank of the Rhine, between Breisach and Linz (near Coblentz), Germania Superior. Tacitus divides the Germans into three classes, which he says were the descendants of the three sons of Mannus, the son of Tuisto, a god whom all Germans adored. He names Ingævones as living close to the sea; Hermiones inhabiting the centre ; and all others were Istævones. He mentions also as original divisions, according to some, the Marsi, Gambrivii, Suevi, and Vandals. Pliny the Elder knew five principal divisions of Germans: Vindili, Ingævones, Istævones, Hermiones, and Peucini. The Germanic races formed confederations at a very early period. The most ancient known were the confederation of Suevi, described by Cæsar; another of Cherusci, founded by Arminius; and a third of Marcomanni, with Marboduus as chief. The Batavi settled on the banks of the Rhine, around the lowest portion of its course, the Ubii near Cologne, the Treviri near Treves, the Nervii in Hainaut, the Vangiones near Worms, the Nemetes near Spire, and the Tribocci in Alsace. Between the Rhine and the Elbe lived the Catti (Hessians), with the Usipii N. of the Lippe, the Sigambri and Tencteri between the Ruhr and Sieg, the Cherusci around the Hartz, the Bructeri in Westphalia, and further north the Chamavi and Angrivarii. Between the Weser and the Ems lived probably the Dulgibini and Chasuari mentioned by Tacitus. On the shores of the North sea were the Frisii and Chauci, and on those of the Baltic the Heruli and Rugii. On the lower Elbe lived the Saxons, with the Angles S. E. of them; higher up on the west bank of the river, the Longobards. On the Danube, and subsequently in Bohemia, were the Marcomanni, and E. of them the Quadi. In Silesia dwelt the Semnones, Lygii, and Burgundians, and between the Vistula and the Pregel, the Goths. The name of Suevi was given to a confederation of tribes scattered over the territory between the Elbe, the Vistula, and the Baltic. This confederation reached subsequently to the southern portions of Germany, where its name Swabians (Schwaben) is still current. It is impossible to state the precise limits of the different tribes. There was a constant shifting of settlements, and the subsequent migrations have rendered the boundaries of Tacitus totally undistinguishable. The southward pressure of the Germans, Slavs, Finns, Huns, and Avars commenced in the 3d century A.D. The result was the withdrawal of the Romans from the southern portion of Germany, and the loss of the eastern portion to Slavic and Finnic tribes. The Longobards settled for a while in the north of Hungary, the Gepidæ in the east of it, the Goths in Mœsia and Illyria, the Marcomanni in Vindelicia and Noricum, the Alemanni and Burgundians in Helvetia. The whole original territory from the mouth of the Danube to the delta of the Rhine was thus occupied again by Germanic races. But the pressure of the eastern races continued, and impelled by it about one half of the German warriors attacked the Roman empire, and divided southern Europe among them. The whole Gothic family of Vandals, Heruli, Rugii, Gepidæ, Alani, Suevi, Longobards, Burgundians, and Franks left Germany almost entirely, and the Slavs and Finnic races took possession of the thinly populated districts, and extirpated in several places the German inhabitants. The Gothic empire on the Danube, founded there after the exodus of the Goths from the Baltic territory, was conquered by the Huns. After Attila's death the Goths separated again into the old divisions of Eastern and Western Goths. The Visigoths were led by Alaric to Italy (about 400), and by his successor Ataulf to Spain, and became Romanized. Theodoric led the Ostrogoths to Italy (489), where he founded a mighty empire, which after his death was absorbed by the Byzantines. The people disappeared in the small remnants that survived the disasters of the long war. The Burgundians moved to the Rhine and Neckar, and subsequently into Roman Gaul, where they settled between the Aar and the Rhône, and founded an empire, which was conquered and absorbed by the Franks about 534. They too became Romanized. The Vandals moved from the Oder and Vistula to Dacia. Early in the 5th century they conquered Spain, and Genseric took them to Africa, where they founded an empire, which was conquered by Belisarius in 534, when the Vandals disappeared. The Scandinavians remained in comparative isolation. The Goths inhabited only a small portion of the Scandinavian peninsula, going no further north than the lakes Wener, Wetter, and Hielmar. From the population south of Jutland went forth the stock of the English-speaking race. During the 5th and 6th centuries three Germanic tribes, the Jutes, Angles, and Saxons, crossed the North sea, settled in the British islands, and subjugated the former population. The country of the Rhine and the Weser then became the main abiding place of pure Germanic elements. The principal races in the old homestead were now the Saxons, Thuringians, Franks, and Bavarians, and they were in danger of being overrun by the Slavs. Charlemagne succeeded in driving the Wends back to the Vistula, the Sorbs to the Oder, the Czechs to the lower Carpathians, and the Croats as far as Spalato in Dalmatia, and also in destroying the Avar power in Pannonia. The Moors had destroyed the empire of the Visigoths, and the Frankish empire absorbed the other Romano-Germanic states, with the exception of small fractions in Italy. This empire comprised the whole of Gaul and Germany as far as the Oder, and after its division it was found necessary to frame treaties in both the Romance and the German language. The portion which Louis the German received at the division of the East Frankish empire in 870 embraced all the pure Germanic races, excepting those on the Maas and the Scheldt. The earliest record of the existence of German as a national language dates from A.D. 813 (lingua Theutisca, Theotisca, Theudisca, Theodisca), and the development of the German nation as a blending of several races into one belongs to the same century. Conrad I. and Henry I. subdued the dukes of the Swabians, eastern Franks or Franconians, and Bavarians, and under Otho I. a German empire appeared. During this period the Scandinavians peopled the Faroe and Shetland islands, the Orkneys and Hebrides, Iceland, and Greenland, and visited the north coast of the American continent. They established themselves also in the British isles and France (Normandy). These dispersions produced however no lasting effect, except in Iceland and the Faroe islands. The Northmen of Normandy became Gallicized, went to Italy, founded there the empire of the Two Sicilies, and conquered England in 1066. The Danes moved south on the peninsula of Jutland as far as the Schlei, but their invasions of England, prior to the Norman conquest, proved fruitless in the end. The Swedes were similarly unsuccessful in Esthonia and Livonia, but their conquest of Finland led to a lasting establishment of their nationality on the European mainland, which the Russian occupancy of the country since the beginning of the 19th century has not been able to efface. The history of the German empire after Otho I. is a series of contests between the emperors and the dukes of the principal races composing it. The Saxons, the Franconians, and the Swabians were in turn at the head of the empire in the persons of their own leaders. The political significance of special races ceased in the 13th century, but in language and manners there are still five which may be clearly distinguished. The Saxon race is dominant in the northwestern lowlands of Germany, especially in the northern districts of the Elbe, across the Hartz to Cassel, and across the Weser to the mouth of the Rhine. The Frankish race extends from the Fichtelgebirge to Treves, and from Hesse to the Rauhe Alp. The Thuringians inhabit the section between the Thuringian forest and the Hartz, and from the Werra far into Brandenburg. The Swabians live between the central Neckar and the Alps, and from the upper Rhine to Augsburg. The Bavarians reach from Augsburg to Vienna, and from the Fichtelgebirge to the Tyrol.—The boundaries of the modern German language are not coincident with the limits of the present German empire. In the northwest, German is spoken in some portions of the French department of Le Nord, the south and east of Belgium, and the eastern portion of the Netherlands. In the southwest, German is heard as far as the Doubs, the eastern Jura, the lake of Neufchâtel, and Monte Rosa in Italy. In the south, the language reaches from Monte Rosa to Mount St. Gothard, and thence almost directly east as far as the Mur in Styria. In the east, the line may be drawn from Radkersburg on the Mur, through Presburg in Hungary, to Pöhrlitz on the Iglau in Moravia, thence to Krümmau on the Moldau in Bohemia, and thence again to Taus. Further N. E. the territory of the German language reaches to Leitmeritz on the Elbe, and to the sources of the Oder in Austrian Silesia, whence the boundary runs directly N. to Krotoschin in Posen, and thence indefinitely to Interburg in East Prussia and N. W. to the Kurische Haff. The N. boundary follows the Baltic from Polangen to Flensburg in Schleswig, and the North sea from Tondern to Gravelines. It is possible to distinguish about 20 different dialects within this territory. They may be divided into Low German and High German dialects, of which the latter may be subdivided into South German and Middle German. Since the time of Luther these historical peculiarities of speech have however in a great measure disappeared, and are heard only among the lower classes.—Languages. Of all the numerous Teutonic tongues of ancient times, only five languages, German, Dutch, English, Danish, and Swedish, are now in a flourishing condition. Linguists consider the Scandinavian, Gothic, and German forms of speech as descended, in common with the modern idioms of India, Persian, Greek, Latin, Celtic, Slavic, and Lithuanian, from a single parent tongue, Sanskrit. It was, however, deemed necessary to go further, and to derive the whole group of Indo-European tongues from a primitive language, which was also the mother of Sanskrit. This language, of which no monuments exist, has been constructed by the science of comparative grammar, not as the primitive tongue from which all forms of speech are derived, but as one of many primitive languages, and as the parent of Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, Gothic, &c., as Latin is the mother of French, Italian, and Spanish. The following table exhibits the probable course of development of the Teutonic tongues:

W. Scandinavian, Old Norse Icelandic.
Scandinavian Swedish.
E. Scandinavian
Low German Old Frisian Frisian.
Anglo-Saxon English.
Saxon Middle Dutch Dutch.
Old Saxon Platt-Deutsch.
High German Old High German Middle High German German.

Among the Indo-European languages, Gothic diverges widely from the primitive tongue, and must be considered as a younger sister of Sanskrit. Gothic was not the oldest of the Germanic tongues, though its literary documents date back further than any other. Old High German, old Norse, Anglo-Saxon, and Gothic were probably sister dialects; at least no one of them appears to be derived from any of the others. Old High German comprises a number of dialects which were spoken chiefly in South Germany, as the Thuringian, Frankish, Swabian, Alsatian, Swiss, and Bavarian. They are found in literary records dating from the 8th to the middle of the 11th century. A gradual change took place subsequently in the language, and it became the mother of a new dialect, which is called the middle High German, and which survived it in the same districts of upper Germany. The literature of middle High German reaches from the 12th to the end of the 15th century, and it is so clear, grand, refined, and melodious, that it has been called the first classical period of German literature. A new modification of the old High German, and a daughter of the middle High German, made its appearance for the first time in a literary production of note in Luther's translation of the Bible, and in its rapid development seems to have reached its culminating point in the literature of the present century. Under the term Low German are comprised all the dialects spoken in the lowlands of Germany. The old Saxon, which belongs to this group, was spoken between the Rhine and the Elbe, in the districts which lie at the foot of the central plateau of Germany. Its literary documents date from between the 9th and 11th centuries, and had their origin in the districts of Münster, Essen, and Cleves. The old Saxon is the mother of the middle Low German, which is to be distinguished from the middle German and middle Netherlandish or middle Dutch, and also from the modern derivative of it called modern Low German, or Platt-Deutsch. While old Saxon most closely approaches old High German, the dialect spoken in the districts of Thuringia and the region between upper and lower Germany formed a kind of transition between High and Low German. On the N. coast of Germany, between the Rhine and the Elbe, and beyond the latter river as far as Jutland, extended the old Frisian dialect. Its literary records are of comparatively late date, but it displays a very antique cast, resembling most closely the old High German. The Dutch language has no literature earlier than the 16th century, but it is still a literary and national language; while Flemish, which was also used during this period in the courts of Flanders and Brabant, had to give way to the official languages of Holland and Belgium, and its use is almost completely confined to the Flemish peasantry. Anglo-Saxon is also a Low German dialect. The four Germanic tribes that invaded Britain have left no record in the dialects peculiar to each, and there are no facts from which to determine the precise nature of their speech. The Jutes who settled in Kent, Hampshire, and the Isle of Wight probably did not speak an old Norse dialect, as no traces of it are found in those districts. The Angles, coming from a settlement adjacent to the Saxons, may also have spoken a Saxon dialect. The Saxons of England called themselves simply Saxons, in distinction from the old Saxons, or those who had remained on the continent; but it is still doubtful whether they belonged exactly to one and the same tribe. The term Anglo-Saxon is however applied to all Germanic dialects spoken in England after the 5th century. The language of the period extending to the end of the 10th century is distinguished as old Anglo-Saxon, with two principal dialects, the Saxon and Anglian, or southern and northern, of which the Anglian or northern was the most affected by Norse influences. The language of the subsequent period was a strange mixture of Anglo-Saxon with the Norse of the Danes and Norwegians, and the Norse-French of the Norman conquerors; and the literary documents are characterized by a considerable loss of the inflectional forms. Modern Anglo-Saxon or English is divided into three periods: old English, middle English, and modern English. Old English continued to disregard the old inflectional forms, especially in the declension of substantives. Middle English is characterized by an almost total absence of declensions of nouns and adjectives, and a great diminution of strong verbs. Modern English continued the same decline, and has now been stripped of all inflectional forms with the exception of the s and st of the present and the ed and en of the preterite of verbs, the ing of the present participle, the s of the genitive and plural, the degrees of comparison of adjectives and adverbs, and a few pronominal cases. Old Norse is the dialect which from an unknown period to the 11th century was spoken in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and the adjacent islands. It is believed that it was split at a very early date into two sister dialects, one the mother of old Norse or Icelandic, the other the parent of Swedish and Danish. The first germs of Swedish and Danish are considered to have existed long before the 11th century in the dialects of the Scandinavian tribes. Swedish scholars distinguish between the East and West Scandinavian, which division they consider as having taken place before the Northmen settled in Norway and Sweden. The stationary existence of the Norse language in Icelandic, in which it has been preserved almost intact to the present day, is explained by the secluded position of the island, and the zeal with which the old songs and sagas, as collected and fixed in the two Eddas, have been cultivated by the inhabitants.

Engl.  one  two  three   four  five  six  seven   eight  nine  ten
Old English.   an, on  twey, tuo   þre  four  five  sixe  scuen  eigte, aught   nyne, nye   ten
Ang. Sax.  ân  twegen  þri  feóver  fíf  six  seofen  ahta  nigon  tin
Dutch.  één  twee  drie  vier  vijf  zes  zeven  acht  negen  tien
Old Sax.  ên  tuêna  thria  fiwar  fif  sehs  siðun  ahtô  nigun  tehan
Old Fris.  ên  twêne  thrê  fiwer  fif  sex  sigun  achta  nigun  tian
Danish.  een (eet)   to  tre  fire  fêm  sex  syv  aatto  ni  ti
Swedish.  en (ett)  två  tre  fyra  fem  sex  sju  åtta  niô  tiô
Old Norse.  ein  tveir  þrîr  fiowr  fimm  sex  siau  âtta  nîu  tîu
Gothic.  ain(s)  tvai  þreis  fidvor  fimf  saíhs  siun  ahtáu  niun  taíhun
German.  ein(s)  zwei  drei  vier  fünf  sechs  sieben  acht  neun  zehn
M. H. Ger.  ein  zwêne  drî  vier  vunf  sehs  siben  aht  niun  zëhen
O. H. G.  ein  zwêne  drî  vior  fimf  sëhs  sibun  ahtô  niun  zëhan
Latin.  unus  duo  tres  quatuor  quinque  sex  septem   octo  novem  decem
Greek.  εἷς, ἕν-  δύο  τρεῖς, τρι   τέτταρες   πέντε  ἕξ  ἑπτά  ὀκτώ  ἐννέα  δέκα
Sanskrit.  êka  dva  tri-  chatúr  pánchan   shash  sáptan  ashtau  návan  dáśan
Primitive.  aina-  dua, dva  tri  katvar  kankan  ksvaks   saptan  aktu  navan  dakan
No.  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10

—In regard to the degree of relationship in which these languages stand to each other, and in which they stand collectively to cognate languages, the six old Teutonic tongues may be classified in three groups: 1, the Low German, with the Gothic and its nearest relatives Anglo-Saxon, old Saxon, and old Frisian; 2, the old High German; 3, the old Norse. The affinities between these languages and the modern tongues derived from them are illustrated in the foregoing table. The first ten cardinal numbers have been chosen for this purpose, as numerals are preferable for comparative purposes to any other class of words on account of the invariableness of their meaning. The Latin, Greek, and Sanskrit forms have been added to show the degree of relationship of the Germanic to the cognate groups of the Aryan or Indo-European family of languages. The primitive tongue is understood to be the mother of all, and gives the forms from which linguistic scholars derive those of the most ancient as well as of the modern Aryan dialects. The changes which the words have undergone in these languages have been discovered to appear in each according to fixed principles, which in linguistic science are known as Grimm's law.


  I. II. III.

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.

I. Sanskrit
II. Gothic
 III. O. H. German 
gh (h)  dh (h)   bh (h)   g   d  b k t p
χ θ φ γ δ β κ τ π
 h, f (g, v)   f (d, b)  f (b) g d b c, qu t p
g d b k t (p)  h, g (f)   th, d   f, b 
k t p  ch  z  ph (f)  h, g, k d f, v

The law is stated by Max Müller as follows: “If the same roots or the same words exist in Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, Celtic, Slavonic, Lithuanian, Gothic, and High German, then wherever the Hindoos and the Greeks pronounce an aspirate, the Goths and the Low Germans generally, the Saxons, Anglo-Saxons, Frisians, &c., pronounce the corresponding hard check. . . . Secondly, if in Greek, Latin, Sanskrit, Lithuanian, Slavonic, and Celtic we find a soft check, then we find a corresponding hard check in Gothic, a corresponding breath in old High German. . . . Thirdly, when the six first named languages show a hard consonant, then Gothic shows the corresponding breath, old High German the corresponding soft check.” In illustration of the different formulas we add examples for each class and division. 1. Sansk. hansa, Gr. χήν, Lat. anser (=hänser), Goth. gans, O. H. Ger. kans, Ger. Gans, Eng. goose; Sansk. hyas, Gr. χθές, Lat. heri, Goth. gistra, O. H. Ger. këstar, Ger. gestern, Eng. yesterday. 2. Sansk. dhrish, Gr. θαρσεῖν, Goth. ga-daursan, O. H. Ger. tarran, Eng. to dare. 3. Sansk. bhri, Gr. φέρω, Lat. fero, Goth. baira, O. H. Ger. piru, Eng. to bear. 4. Sansk. jnâ, Gr. γνῶμι, Lat. gnosco, Goth, kan, O. H. Ger. chan, Ger. kennen, Eng. to know. 5. Sansk. pâd-as, Gr. ποδ-ός, Lat. ped-is (pes), Goth. fôt-us, O. H. Ger. vuoz, Ger. Fuss, Eng. foot. 6. Goth. hilpa, O. H. Ger. hilfu, Ger. helfen, Eng. help. 7. Sansk. kapâla, Gr. κεφαλή, Lat. caput, Goth. haubith, O. H. Ger. houpit, Ger. Haupt, Eng. head. 8. Sansk. trayas (nom. pl.), Gr. τρεῖς, Lat. tres, Goth. threis, O. H. Ger. drî, Ger. drei, Eng. three. 9. Sansk. panchan, Gr. πέντε, Goth. fimf, Eng. five. Sansk. upari, Gr. ὑπέρ, Lat. super, Goth. ufar, O. H. Ger. ubar, Ger. über, Eng. over.—For further information see the articles on the principal languages and dialects. On the races, see Zeuss, Die Deutschen und die Nachbarstämme (Munich, 1837); H. Müller, Die Marken des Vaterlandes (Bonn, 1837); F. H. Müller, Die deutschen Stämme und ihre Fürsten (5 vols., Berlin, 1840); Watterich, Der deutsche Name Germanen (Paderborn, 1870); Baumann, Geschichte des deutschen Volkes in seiner Entwickelung zum National-Staat (Leipsic, 1871 et seq.). On the group of languages, see Grimm, Geschichte der deutschen Sprache (Leipsic, 1848), and Deutsche Grammatik (4 vols., Göttingen, 1819-'37); Bopp, Vergleichende Grammatik des Sanskrit, Zend, Griechischen, Lateinischen, Litauischen, Altslawischen, Gothischen und Deutschen (6 vols., Berlin, 1833-'52; translated by Eastwick, London, 1862); Schleicher, Compendium der vergleichenden Grammatik der Indogermanischen Sprachen (Weimar, 1862); Heyne, Grammatik der Altgermanischen Spachstämme (Paderborn, 1862); Marsh, “The Origin and History of the English Language” (New York, 1862); March, “Comparative Grammar of the Anglo-Saxon Language” (New York, 1870); and Helfenstein, “A Comparative Grammar of the Teutonic Languages” (London, 1870).