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Thousands of years ago, seafront clans in Denmark began speaking the earliest form of Germanic language--the first of six "signal events" that Ruth Sanders highlights in this marvelous history of the German language. Blending linguistic, anthropological, and historical research, Sanders presents a brilliant biography of the language as it evolved across the millennia. She s Thousands of years ago, seafront clans in Denmark began speaking the earliest form of Germanic language--the first of six "signal events" that Ruth Sanders highlights in this marvelous history of the German language. Blending linguistic, anthropological, and historical research, Sanders presents a brilliant biography of the language as it evolved across the millennia. She sheds light on the influence of such events as the bloody three-day Battle of Kalkriese, which permanently halted the incursion of both the Romans and the Latin language into northern Europe, and the publication of Martin Luther's German Bible translation, a "People's" Bible which in effect forged from a dozen spoken dialects a single German language. The narrative ranges through the turbulent Middle Ages, the spread of the printing press, the formation of the nineteenth-century German Empire which united the German-speaking territories north of the Alps, and Germany's twentieth-century military and cultural horrors. The book also covers topics such as the Gothic language (now extinct), the vast expansion of Germanic tribes during the Roman era, the role of the Vikings in spreading the Norse language, the branching off of Yiddish, the lasting impact of the Thirty Years War on the German psyche, the revolution of 1848, and much more. Ranging from prehistoric times to modern, post-war Germany, this engaging volume offers a fascinating account of the evolution of a major European language as well as a unique look at the history of the German people. It will appeal to everyone interested in German language, culture, or history.


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Thousands of years ago, seafront clans in Denmark began speaking the earliest form of Germanic language--the first of six "signal events" that Ruth Sanders highlights in this marvelous history of the German language. Blending linguistic, anthropological, and historical research, Sanders presents a brilliant biography of the language as it evolved across the millennia. She s Thousands of years ago, seafront clans in Denmark began speaking the earliest form of Germanic language--the first of six "signal events" that Ruth Sanders highlights in this marvelous history of the German language. Blending linguistic, anthropological, and historical research, Sanders presents a brilliant biography of the language as it evolved across the millennia. She sheds light on the influence of such events as the bloody three-day Battle of Kalkriese, which permanently halted the incursion of both the Romans and the Latin language into northern Europe, and the publication of Martin Luther's German Bible translation, a "People's" Bible which in effect forged from a dozen spoken dialects a single German language. The narrative ranges through the turbulent Middle Ages, the spread of the printing press, the formation of the nineteenth-century German Empire which united the German-speaking territories north of the Alps, and Germany's twentieth-century military and cultural horrors. The book also covers topics such as the Gothic language (now extinct), the vast expansion of Germanic tribes during the Roman era, the role of the Vikings in spreading the Norse language, the branching off of Yiddish, the lasting impact of the Thirty Years War on the German psyche, the revolution of 1848, and much more. Ranging from prehistoric times to modern, post-war Germany, this engaging volume offers a fascinating account of the evolution of a major European language as well as a unique look at the history of the German people. It will appeal to everyone interested in German language, culture, or history.

30 review for German: Biography of a Language

  1. 5 out of 5

    Manybooks

    For a general and approachable, readable introduction to the long and involved history of the German language, Ruth H. Sanders' German: Biography of a Language is both informative and enlightening, and does indeed hold true to its title and what is promises, presenting the evolution of German as a language (and to an extent, the Germanic languages as a whole, as an entity) like a kind of life story, through a series of essential, and interconnected important linguistic and historical turning poi For a general and approachable, readable introduction to the long and involved history of the German language, Ruth H. Sanders' German: Biography of a Language is both informative and enlightening, and does indeed hold true to its title and what is promises, presenting the evolution of German as a language (and to an extent, the Germanic languages as a whole, as an entity) like a kind of life story, through a series of essential, and interconnected important linguistic and historical turning points. And for the first presented and analysed turning point, Professor Sanders has naturally (and understandably) chosen the third millennium B.C., which is at present considered the approximate time frame for when speakers of PIE (of Proto-Indo-European) reached what is considered Europe (actually, almost one eighth of German: Biography of a Language has passed before we as readers even encounter the first reputed and conjectured speakers of Proto-Germanic, on the coast of what is now Denmark). Now I personally do find it majorly refreshing that the rather obvious fact that we still do not even remotely know with any certainty what exactly caused the Germanic languages to branch off from its sister languages, from the main family tree of Indo-European, that this is readily accepted and clearly delineated by the author (that we do not really know what specific linguistic our historical phenomena for example caused the so-called first or Germanic sound shift, what caused the Germanic verb endings for the regular or "weak" past verb tenses, and from which language or languages the almost one third non Indo-European but pan Germanic vocabulary dealing with such themes as the ocean and seafaring came or perhaps more accurately, were borrowed, loaned and gleaned). And Professor Sanders does point out some of the very many theories that have arisen since the 18th century to try to explain the above, to specifically consider the differences between the Germanic languages and its Indo-European sister languages, but Sanders always and fortunately specifies that these are all (and even the most recent attempts at that) mere conjectures and that no proverbial smoking gun with regard to how the Germanic languages became what they are, and specifically, how the differences between them and say Greek, Latin, Sanskrit, Celtic and the like came to materialise, has as yet been found, although she does demonstrate that for the most part, languages do not tend to spread because newcomers, invaders, settlers simply replace indigenous populations, but rather and more likely that the latter end up adopting the newcomers' tongues and dialects, often though adding their own languages' influence, in particular with regard to pronunciation, as well as with vocabulary choices (especially with regard to objects, with phenomena that are new for the settlers and for which their own language thus would likely not have the required descriptive and prescriptive words). To continue, I have to admit that on an entirely personal level, I have found the second of Ruth Sanders' described turning points a bit problematic from a cultural and political standpoint. I do admit that the defeat of the Roman legions at the Battle of Teutoburg Forest in 9 A.D. (by Arminius aka Hermann) did prevent, did in fact stop Roman expansion eastwards and northwards across the Rhine. And it is indeed both the truth and interesting to realise that in the romanised areas of Central and Southern Germany, while the population readily seems to have adopted and even embraced Roman cultural, political practices and lifestyles, Latin as a language did not simply replace the extant Germanic dialects (unlike in what is now Spain and France, where aside from some place and river names, Celtic was basically across most of the conquered areas replaced with and by Latin, in the long run giving birth to the Romance languages, to Spanish, French etc.). However, even if Arminius and the Battle of Teutoburg Forest was as such likely an important linguistic and historical turning point (event), considering the rather overt and hero-worshipping Arminius and Germania cults that became so prevalent in the Third Reich, I have found this particular section of Germany: Biography of a Language while interesting, also more than a bit uncomfortable. While of course, the split of the Western Germanic languages, the Western Germanic dialects into high (alpine, southern) and low (northern, coastal) varieties is another important and of much linguistic interest turning point (especially with regard to the second or old high German sound shift, which is the main point of separation between high and low German, including for that matter Anglo Saxon), for the German language as a whole, for today's standard German, the most celebrated and yes the most essential (and as such also covered the most extensively and intensively in German: Biography of a Language) is without a doubt the literary work and influence of Martin Luther and his Bible translations (from Latin into German vernacular). Luther's linguistic importance and influence has of course almost since the beginning of historical linguistics been both noticed and readily accepted, but Ruth Sanders makes an important point stating that Luther did not simply translate the Bible into some randomly chosen German dialect (East Middle German), but that he specifically combined "Kanzleideutsch" (chancellery German) with East Middle German, a dialect that in many ways truly straddles the middle and thus contains aspects of both high and low German dialect peculiarities (so as to produce, so as to provide to the potential readers of his translated Bible a German vernacular that could be learned, that could be understood by most or rather by the most individuals, their different and varying dialects notwithstanding). And since many Germans especially from the 15th to the late 19th century often actually learned to both read and write from Martin Luther's Bible translations, his combination of chancellery German and East Middle German thus also and relatively quickly became the basis for what we now label as modern standard written German (and in ALL areas of Germany, not just in those areas traditionally deemed Protestant). Furthermore, Luther's written German has also lastingly affected the spoken tongue, the pronunciation of German, and so much so that in many ways, Germany's dialects are today not nearly as robust, not nearly as vibrant as erstwhile, simply because with much of the population learning how to read and write from Luther's Bible, the spoken word, the pronunciation of German has also become more and more standardised, even within the dialects themselves (and although it is true that recently, there has been a concerted effort to protect and revitalise Germany's many dialects, some of the "damage" has likely been permanent, with Luther's standard becoming both the written and the oral comme il fact). I have to say that the final two sections of German: Biography of a Language (basically the post Martin Luther chapters) do feel rather rushed and are in my humble opinion not covered nearly as extensively and as intensively as the history (or should I say the biography) of the German language up to and including Martin Luther. While I supposed there is enough basic information presented, when one then considers how meticulously and specifically detailed Professor Sanders' presentation of Martin Luther's influence on the development of a standard written German has been, it is more than a bit disappointing that for example the role of German as a language weapon during the Nazi era is described in something like two odd pages (I do know and yes, even realise that how the Nazis approached the German language, how they abused and manipulated it is a potentially explosive and in all ways majorly uncomfortable topic, but it is nevertheless a linguistic occurrence, a historical situation that did happen and as such remains a scenario that has also influenced the development and yes the international reputation of modern, of contemporary German and Ruth Sanders should really have devoted more than simply two pages to this). Another personal and minor disappointment with German: Biography of a Language is that alongside the author's tendency to repetition, to at times presenting already covered information in a new habit, in a new costume, the accompanying timelines and tables most definitely contain far too many errors and typos and could really have befitted from some editing. However and all that being said, I do and very much so still consider German History of a Language a both enjoyable and academic (but thankfully never too textually, philosophically dense) read, and as such worthy of a high three star rating (and while knowledge German and especially German grammar rules etc. are perhaps an asset, one can still enjoy and learn much from Ruth Sanders' narrative, her text, even if one is unilingually English speaking/reading). Recommended to and for those readers interested in historical linguistics and the history of German and the Germans (with the caveat NOT to consider the Kindle edition of German: Biography of a Language, as the transfer from paper book to e-book format has been less than stellar, with especially many of the timelines and tables rendered almost unreadable and useless).

  2. 4 out of 5

    Gina

    I give this book 5 stars for succeeding in what it sets out to do: Give a readable, basic overview of the development of German and Germanic languages including the political, social, and cultural factors that affected it. English speakers have much to learn here, too, since ours is a sister language, and American history has been profoundly shaped by Germans. The book is general, but I learned new things even though German language and literature is my field. There are a few points where a non-l I give this book 5 stars for succeeding in what it sets out to do: Give a readable, basic overview of the development of German and Germanic languages including the political, social, and cultural factors that affected it. English speakers have much to learn here, too, since ours is a sister language, and American history has been profoundly shaped by Germans. The book is general, but I learned new things even though German language and literature is my field. There are a few points where a non-linguist may get glazed eyes, such as the description of the sound shifts, however Sanders also does a good job of explaining why languages change- something I could not say for more technical books I've read on the subject. What I found particularly interesting were the tables that put Germanic history points in perspective to events happening elsewhere in the world. Sanders touches briefly also on Swiss, Austrian, Icelandic, Finnish, Yiddish, and English, as well as discussing Latin and French in the context of how these affected European languages as a whole. As a textbook, this would at best be an introduction, but as a story- the story of German- it's an excellent read. Read on the Nook. Nook version is mostly clean, though the tables are hard to read, something that is sadly often the case.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne

    As a language buff, I loved this book. It takes you back to 6000 years BC and the clans and tribes whose early languages would ultimately become modern German. It answers many questions, such as how could languages as different as French and German have developed from the same source language? (The conquering Romans had better luck in Gaul than in Germania, so French has more Latinate influence.) Why is Finnish so different from Germanic Scandinavian languages? (It comes from a different source As a language buff, I loved this book. It takes you back to 6000 years BC and the clans and tribes whose early languages would ultimately become modern German. It answers many questions, such as how could languages as different as French and German have developed from the same source language? (The conquering Romans had better luck in Gaul than in Germania, so French has more Latinate influence.) Why is Finnish so different from Germanic Scandinavian languages? (It comes from a different source language.) What traces of Germanic origins are found in Spanish? (One is the ending -ez on Spanish names, which means 'son of.') Why is the French word for German 'alleman?' (It comes from an ancient Germanic tribe, the Alamanni, which means 'all men'--close even to the modern German.) The book traces the development of German over the centuries and explains how languages such as English branched off, and how Luther's Bible pulled together speakers of numerous German dialects and dramatically established a commonly understood German standard. Linguistic elements are interwoven with stories of the people who spoke the language and how their migrations and settlements influenced language development over time. Fascinating. "Couldn't put it down." Really!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Maria

    Aus archäologischer Sicht sind die ersten Kapitel (bis zu Rom und den Germanen) wirklich spannend und eine Ergänzung zum archäologischen Wissen. Da ich keine Linguistin bin, kann ich die Wahrheit der Aussagen der Autorin nicht prüfen, fand aber das Gesamtpaket interessant und bereichernd und insgesamt einen guten Denkanstoß. Danach könnte das Buch dann aber auch aufhören, denn ab der Lutherbibel und den folgenden Kapiteln schleicht sich immer mehr das Gefühl ein, dass der Verlag die Autorin gezwu Aus archäologischer Sicht sind die ersten Kapitel (bis zu Rom und den Germanen) wirklich spannend und eine Ergänzung zum archäologischen Wissen. Da ich keine Linguistin bin, kann ich die Wahrheit der Aussagen der Autorin nicht prüfen, fand aber das Gesamtpaket interessant und bereichernd und insgesamt einen guten Denkanstoß. Danach könnte das Buch dann aber auch aufhören, denn ab der Lutherbibel und den folgenden Kapiteln schleicht sich immer mehr das Gefühl ein, dass der Verlag die Autorin gezwungen hat noch schnell etwas mehr "dranzuklatschen" um ein größeres Buch draus zu machen. Die Schnelligkeit und Oberflächlichkeit mit der diese Kapitel abgearbeitet werden spricht für sich - ganz schlimm wirds zum Ende hin, beim Kapitel 3. Reich und DDR. Zum Glück hatte ich das Buch günstig erworben. Der Vollpreis wäre echt zuviel....

  5. 5 out of 5

    Elentarri

    Interesting and informative, but too repetitive.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Frank Stein

    Despite its confusion as to intent and organization, this book offers a wonderful and consistently surprising look at the development of the German language over 3000 years. Of course in telling the history of the language much of the regular political and social history of the Germans has to be told, and Sanders spends almost as much time detailing the peregrinations of the Alemmani tribes and the progress of the Reformation as the shift in consonant sounds, but even the oft-told tales take on a Despite its confusion as to intent and organization, this book offers a wonderful and consistently surprising look at the development of the German language over 3000 years. Of course in telling the history of the language much of the regular political and social history of the Germans has to be told, and Sanders spends almost as much time detailing the peregrinations of the Alemmani tribes and the progress of the Reformation as the shift in consonant sounds, but even the oft-told tales take on a new twist in her book. For instance, I knew Luther's German bible of 1534 was an important event in both the Reformation and the creation of German nationalism, but I didn't know how hard Luther worked to make his language fit a still inchoate country. He consciously combined the Kanzleideutsch ("chancery German") with its more vernacular cousins to create a new earthy amalgam. His home district, Meissen-Upper Saxony, was right in the middle of the "Benrath Line," which divided Low and High German, so he was perfectly placed to combine these two once distinct dialects, and he consulted friends on each side to ask if individual words had migrated to different areas (in far reaches of the North and the South the Bible was often combined with a glossary to help dialectal speakers). Luther importantly celebrated the natural language of the people he was trying to reach, stating "Don't ask the letters of the Latin language how to speak German...rather ask the mother at home, the children in the street, the common man at the market." His rigorous attention to language worked. Within a few decades almost 1 in 5 German households had his bible, and a new national identity was born. Later, the celebration of a peculiar German Kulturnation (Nation of Culture) or Land das Dichter und Denker (Land of the Thinkers and Writers), along with an oddly compatible belief in the primeval rootedness of German people, helped unify the disparate principalities of the country. German thinkers from Kant to Fichte to the Grimm brothers thought that there was everywhere a mystical union between a people and its language, but that German was the most perfect example of this union. Fichte even claimed that the Romance languages were mere decadent offshoots of a dead tongue, and that German represented the thought of a more vital "Urvolk," or primitive people. It alone was "a language shaped to express the truth." Defenders of German genius worked to expel once common foreign words like "nation" with more Germanic works like "Volk." The connections between this national Romanticism and later Nazism are too obvious to need elaborating. The horrors of the two World Wars turned German, which was once so popular that the Reverend Theodore Parker in America cited a "German Epidemic" among the learned classes, into a lingua non grata. Sanders of course takes much time dealing with simple grammatical and phonetic changes, like the First and Second Sounds Shifts (ending in c. 300 BC and 700 AD respectively) and the changing nature of voiced consonants, but even these have fascinating histories. The First Sound Shift was originally identified by Jacob Grimm, and "Grimm's Law" still explains why certain Latin sounds are almost always changed to particular German sounds in similar root words. Of course this was part of his quest for a new nationalism in the wake of German's defeat in the Napoleonic wars, but it was also the first coherent explanation of language change in linguistic history. So German, which gave us offshoots as varied as English and Yiddish, provides a perfect case study for the evolution of a language. Its tortured history, and the often just as tortured study of that history, demonstrate the importance of words in human events like no other language, for good or ill.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ushan

    Germanic languages are a branch of the Indo-European family with a simplified morphology, peculiar sound shifts (the Latin pater is cognate to the English father, the Latin canis to the English hound, the Latin tertius to the English third) and a large number of words with unknown etymology, especially pertaining to seafaring (sea, ship, sail, keel) and weaponry (sword, shield, helmet). Nobody really knows, why this is the case; there are place names in Aquitaine with Basque-like etymology, whic Germanic languages are a branch of the Indo-European family with a simplified morphology, peculiar sound shifts (the Latin pater is cognate to the English father, the Latin canis to the English hound, the Latin tertius to the English third) and a large number of words with unknown etymology, especially pertaining to seafaring (sea, ship, sail, keel) and weaponry (sword, shield, helmet). Nobody really knows, why this is the case; there are place names in Aquitaine with Basque-like etymology, which suggests that a language related to Basque was once spoken there, but there are no place names with non-Indo-European etymology in the homeland of the Germanic tribes. The branch is divided into North Germanic or Scandinavian, East Germanic, which has no living representatives, and West Germanic, which includes German, Dutch, Yiddish and English. East Germanic is significant because it includes the Gothic language, a 4th century translation of the Bible into which is the earliest known large text in a Germanic language; a variety of Gothic was spoken in Crimea until the 16th century. The Roman loss of the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in 9 CE stopped the Roman expansion into Germany and spared the German language the fate of Gaulish. As the Western Roman Empire collapsed, many Germanic tribes migrated to its provinces; outside of Britain, they soon lost their language but made in impact on the local Vulgar Latin; the first component of the Spanish name Rodrigo is the same as that of Hrothgar. Another sound shift affected only the southern part of West Germanic in mid-first millennium CE; it accounts for the differences in such English-German cognates as eat-essen, apple-Apfel, ship-Schiff; the dialects where the shift took place are known as High German, the dialects where it didn't are known as Low German, and the dialects where it partly did are known as Middle German. The standardizer of the German language was Martin Luther, who published a Bible translation in 1534; it was in a variety of High German, but he tried to make it comprehensible to all speakers of German, and not tie it to a particular dialect. The translation proved enormously popular, thanks to the printing press, and was read by millions in his time and continuously ever since. The 1618-1648 Thirty Years' War and the concurrent plague killed 20% to 45% of the population of Germany; in contrast, in the first of the 20th century's world wars 4% of the German population died, and in the second, 10%; a picaresque novel set in the war is still read. Germany had no political unity until the 1870s, but it had a common standard language, even though for most of the population it was a second language. Since then, German-speaking peoples has been either unified, or divided into a few large states (Austria, East Germany, West Germany); the written language of them all has been standard German, which is slowly becoming the only German language; as of 1987, only a third of the population of West Germany spoke a nonstandard Germanic dialect. Spoken German is slowly simplifying its morphology and becoming more isolating, though it still has a long way to go before it becomes like English.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Amelia

    I was a bit disappointed with this book, which is billed as a "marvelous history of the German language." It seems to read more as a history of the Germanic peoples and much less as a history of the German language. While much of it is interesting, anyone who has previously read about the history of the Germanic tribes will find most of it incredibly familiar. Furthermore, the organization of the book is not exactly chronological, which feels somewhat disjointed in reading. The subsections of th I was a bit disappointed with this book, which is billed as a "marvelous history of the German language." It seems to read more as a history of the Germanic peoples and much less as a history of the German language. While much of it is interesting, anyone who has previously read about the history of the Germanic tribes will find most of it incredibly familiar. Furthermore, the organization of the book is not exactly chronological, which feels somewhat disjointed in reading. The subsections of the book directly dealing with language development are too short and disparate. I expected a stronger focus on the language and linguistic development. Anyone reading on a traditional Kindle will probably notice two important limitations. First, the tables are too small to read (not a problem using the iPad Kindle app). Second, the conversion of the book to electronic format has introduced numerous errors in the German language examples, most notably the letter b frequently appearing were the letter h belongs. Given this is a book purporting to be about the German language, a higher level of proofreading is desirable. This book is worth reading; it is generally well-written and interesting, but it does not meet the expectations its description suggests and lacks the polish needed to provide robust examples of the language being described. I presume this latter problem is a product of the electronic version, and not the traditional print version, but I do not know that for sure.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    This book, while interesting, is trying to do too much. The author attempts to tell the history of German speaking peoples, the history of Germanic languages (which includes English, Dutch, the Scandinavian languages, and some others, alive or dead ), and discuss the varieties of the German language. Oh yeah, and explain that not all German culture is anti-Semitic. This is too much for one book. I was looking for a history of the German language, which I knew would be complex with its many varie This book, while interesting, is trying to do too much. The author attempts to tell the history of German speaking peoples, the history of Germanic languages (which includes English, Dutch, the Scandinavian languages, and some others, alive or dead ), and discuss the varieties of the German language. Oh yeah, and explain that not all German culture is anti-Semitic. This is too much for one book. I was looking for a history of the German language, which I knew would be complex with its many varieties and dialects. I felt like I did not learn enough of that and instead learned a little bit about a lot of languages and histories I could find elsewhere.

  10. 5 out of 5

    F

    I was disappointed by this book. I am very interested in the topic, and enjoyed finding out more, but I found that the book seemed to need editing. It was repetitious. At times, the author moved from one topic to another in a very jerky manner - as if she had a list of topics and just worked through them in the order in which she had written them down. The first chapter was the most interesting, and she seemed to lose material as she went, so that by the end of the book the content seemed very t I was disappointed by this book. I am very interested in the topic, and enjoyed finding out more, but I found that the book seemed to need editing. It was repetitious. At times, the author moved from one topic to another in a very jerky manner - as if she had a list of topics and just worked through them in the order in which she had written them down. The first chapter was the most interesting, and she seemed to lose material as she went, so that by the end of the book the content seemed very thin indeed.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kartik Tripathi

    I expected something like Jean-Benoît Nadeau's brilliant histories of the two major Romance languages, but felt let down in many ways. Sanders jumped from one topic to another in a haphazard way, and at times supplied too much detail on history that wasn't directly relevant to the development of the Germanic languages. Regardless, this was a brilliantly researched book and possibly the best of its size on the topic, and therefore the four stars; even if it wasn't exactly a pleasure to read.

  12. 4 out of 5

    George Marshall

    A fun read. Earlier portions of the book have some editorial mistakes that bordered between troubling and laughable. As an instance, the Greek New Testament, the Septuagint, was apparently written sometime between 299 and 200 BC (groan). Took me a while to figure out exactly what mistake was being made... The book is very readable. While being about language it is not academic. Readers will find no IPA here. Phonetic changes are descriptive in very basic terms. As history it was quite interesting A fun read. Earlier portions of the book have some editorial mistakes that bordered between troubling and laughable. As an instance, the Greek New Testament, the Septuagint, was apparently written sometime between 299 and 200 BC (groan). Took me a while to figure out exactly what mistake was being made... The book is very readable. While being about language it is not academic. Readers will find no IPA here. Phonetic changes are descriptive in very basic terms. As history it was quite interesting, though. It really amounts to language as culture, rather than just a mechanism for transmitting thought. It clearly lays out a history for German that is multi-faceted, affecting and being affected by the course of European history as long as there has been a Europe for history to be about (and just a bit before that!)

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    This book suffers from a fatal flaw.. Not Enough MAAAPPPSSSS!! All these stories wound around the Rhine and Elbe, the North Sea and the Frisian, and not one map to guide me! Waaaahhh.... I want to grab the author and say ok, Dr. Ruth: you have tables galore, timelines and tribe lists aplenty, citations bomb-ass enough to warm the cockles of any nerd's heart; but you couldn't get the publisher to grudge you one measly map!? That's a fail even more epic than Varus's at the Battle of Kalkriese!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Annie Zaenen

    History of this and that Rather sloppy compilation that roams widely over topics more or less related to the German language. If you want to read a book that tells you about Luther’s wife and Ibn Faldun, Icelandic linguistic directives and, yes, also about the history of the German language, this is it.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sylvain Munger

    Since I'm very interested in history and language I found this book quite interesting. Obviously at just 220 pages and encompassing over 5000 years of history it only scratches the surface but the author doesn't pretend to do otherwise. It doesn't stand alone as an history book but the links made between the history of the Germanic peoples and the evolution of the German language is quite interesting and will probably wet your appetite for more. The writing is quite simple an unpretentious which Since I'm very interested in history and language I found this book quite interesting. Obviously at just 220 pages and encompassing over 5000 years of history it only scratches the surface but the author doesn't pretend to do otherwise. It doesn't stand alone as an history book but the links made between the history of the Germanic peoples and the evolution of the German language is quite interesting and will probably wet your appetite for more. The writing is quite simple an unpretentious which is for me a good thing since this book is clearly for the layman and quite easy to follow. One problem I had with this book is it seems the editing might have been a little better since at a couple of places she introduces a subject as if it were new which has been covered before in the book, strange.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Vivian

    Excellent layman's history of the German language, possibly not detailed enough for my personal taste, but considering I do not speak any German at all (although after studying Dutch and Old English, can sometimes guess some words correctly), probably about as detailed as I would understand. I particularly enjoyed the side notes discussing other languages descended from the Pre-German language, including Icelandic, and the Scandinavian languages, and how English broke off from the German branch Excellent layman's history of the German language, possibly not detailed enough for my personal taste, but considering I do not speak any German at all (although after studying Dutch and Old English, can sometimes guess some words correctly), probably about as detailed as I would understand. I particularly enjoyed the side notes discussing other languages descended from the Pre-German language, including Icelandic, and the Scandinavian languages, and how English broke off from the German branch of language centuries ago. Highly recommended for foreign language lovers, no German required.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Rich Anderson

    I'll admit that this book was a pretty nerdy choice. However, it offered an interesting account of how wars, migrations, technological advancements, etc. influence the development of a language and, conversely, how developments in the German language contributed to the development of a unified Germany.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    This book is written by an academic and the first half of the book is an excellent exposition of the linguistic development of the Germanic languages. But just before the Middle Ages the book comes apart from a linguistic perspective and some of the academic research also is lacking a bit.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Tomlikeslife

    A good read if you are living in Germany and want to learn more about the language. It also gives you a short history lesson. I did think she got a little sloppy and the end and her conclusion wasn't the greatest.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Riet

    Een zeer matig boek. Bij vlagen interessant, maar je leert er eigenlijk niets nieuws uit. De schrijfster behandelt te veel onderwerpen in een - dun - boek en behandelt dus niets grondig. Het is meer een geschiedenis boek, dan een geschiedenis van de taal.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Henry

    Thanks for erasing my review...?

  22. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    Fascinating and very readable.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Emily

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

  25. 5 out of 5

    Martha

  26. 5 out of 5

    Charles Wells

  27. 4 out of 5

    Robert Pearson

  28. 4 out of 5

    Gary Robinson

  29. 5 out of 5

    ericka

  30. 5 out of 5

    Blair N

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