How has the language evolved over time

Sprachwandel: You couldn't have said that earlier

The change in language means that we have more and more opportunities to express things. But which language phenomena are new? What could not have been said earlier?

German is constantly changing. Critics even speak of a "messing up of the German" or of the "collapse of language". English terms and crude grammar are particularly criticized. But which phenomena are actually meant by this? How do we communicate on social media and how do we communicate in everyday conversation?

The "Second Report on the State of the German Language", published by researchers at the German Academy for Language and Poetry in September 2017, provides the answers. In it, the linguists documented changes in the German language from everyday life and in the written language.

Conclusion: The report shows that Germans express themselves in a more complex way today. We picked seven linguistic phenomena from the 330-page report and found out how they came about and why we usually adopt them in everyday life without being asked:

"I like the color of the pants"

The "from-her" -construction was originally intended for pure location determination, as in "I come from the forest". It was not until the 1980s that the meaning that can best be compared with "regarding" expanded. In the oral language, the "her" is sometimes left out: "The taste of the bread is still fresh."

Anyone who is out and about on social media will probably stumble across completely different formulations, such as "Nice day from the sun!" Not only that English and German words are combined here and that upper and lower case letters are beyond the Duden rules - it is above all the little word "vong" that stands for a new language hype. "Vong" is used to deliberately take anti-spelling on the Internet to extremes. You may find it funny or not: You can still find numerous examples on Twitter, Facebook and Co.

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"Vong" is a style of language that has been used since the mid-2010s. With this trend, attempts are being made to spoil the German language in a particularly artful way through incorrect spelling. He makes ironic reference to the poor German language skills of many young people and adults. Well-known examples are the sentence "What is that for 1 life?" and sentences with the "from-her" construction.

"Unfortunately I can't because my daughter is sick"

In this sentence there is a rather recent phenomenon of language change. Ten years ago the appointment was canceled "because my daughter is sick". Today they say "because my daughter is sick". It may sound unusual to many ears, but it happens a lot. Listen carefully.

According to linguist Peter Eisenberg, this phenomenon is by no means a takeover of the English construction ("I can't come, because my daughter is sick") or a consequence of the so-called "migrant German". Designing the subordinate clause like a simple main clause goes back to an old German sentence structure. It is also more economical for the speaker - he has to make less effort.

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"Migrant German" is a collective term used to describe linguistic variants that use mixed forms of German and the mother tongue of migrant groups who have moved there. This can concern grammatical aspects as well as vocabulary. Well-known examples are formulations like "I'm watching TV".

"We don't need to go shopping"

"You don't need to cook" or "I don't need to learn this": What do these sentences have to do with language change? "Need" could not originally be used in such a construction.

"Normal", so-called full verbs, such as painting or singing, always form the infinitive with "zu". Need is originally a main verb - but has become a modal verb. This also includes, for example, the words must, may or want. The "zu" is no longer used in these verbs.

"I caught a cold because of the cold weather"

At the latest after Bastian Sicks bestseller "The dative is his death for the genitive", the genitive shrinkage in German is known to many. "My grandfather's visit was canceled because of the weather" is more likely to be said than: "My grandfather's visit was canceled because of the bad weather."

However, critics often fail to say that the genitive is not the first time in language history to change. In the 19th century people liked to drink a "glass of good wine", today they prefer a "glass of good wine" or "a glass of good wine". The loss of the genitive is therefore nothing new, it just continues to develop.

"Come on, let's take a selfie"

English terms, the Anglicisms, have long been a thorn in the side of language teachers. However, the term is used inflationarily by many - and has meanwhile become too negative. Anglicisms complement or simplify our German terms: An "event" is something different from an "event". Taking "selfies" is easier and faster said than "taking a photo of yourself".

Finally, a phenomenon that appears in writing and is based on a mix-up: the so-called "leading comma". It is falsely set when the way, the place, the time or the reason for an action is specified at the beginning of a sentence. These provisions are confused with a subordinate clause. Such a mistake can In the long run, however, it will lead to the language changing. Who knows - in a hundred years (,) the Duden might even include the leading comma.

The German language is becoming more and more diverse

The researchers at the German Academy for Language and Poetry see the change in language, contrary to the opinion of many critics, as an enrichment for the German language. Your vocabulary has grown by 1.6 million words over the past hundred years. Outdated grammar and language rules are playfully combined with new ones. We have more opportunities than ever to express ourselves. Even if you have to get used to some changes first.