South Germanic

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South Germanic is a term used for a number of proposed groupings of the Germanic tribes or dialects. However, it is not widely used and has no agreed definition. The following uses are found:

  • As a straightforward synonym for West Germanic with the exception of its exclusion of those of the British Isles. This usage is particularly found in the study of Germanic mythology and culture, where it covers continental German sources in contrast to those from Scandinavia, which are termed North Germanic. (The East Germanic are generally ignored because there are no pre-Christian texts.) But it is also found in the work of linguists (for example, Stefan Sonderegger).
  • As a term in Ernst Schwarz's theory of the Germanic dialects. He divides Germanic into a North Germanic and a South Germanic (or Continental Germanic) group, with the Scandinavian languages and Gothic in the former. A feature of his grouping is the intermediate position of two other groups, Elbe Germanic and North Sea Germanic (Anglo-Frisian and Old Saxon), with the latter viewed "floating" being initially part of North Germanic (in the 2nd Century BC), but moving closer to the more southerly dialects in the subsequent five centuries. This view has received some support, although a number of those who share Schwarz's view, such as Lehmann, use instead the terms Northeast Germanic and Southwest Germanic. Nowadays the five linguistic groups of his definition are mostly considered separate and can be recognized in the division North Germanic, North Sea Germanic, Rhine-Weser Germanic, Elbe Germanic and East Germanic, all mutually linked into sets of two to four groups that share linguistic innovations, thus achieving to replace the late 19th century North-West-East model that tended to overemphasize "splits" and to obscure gradual transitions and cross relations.[1]
  • As a synonym for High German. This usage seems to be exclusive to Claus Jürgen Hutterer, who groups North Sea Germanic separately from the Weser-Rhine Germanic and Elbe Germanic groups which give rise to (among others) the High German varieties. Although it can be seen as a development of Schwarz's theory, it implies that Northsea Germanic and South Germanic did not form any sort of larger West Germanic grouping. The German term Binnengermanisch (Inland Germanic) is also used in a similar sense to contrast the coastal West Germanic dialects with the rest, though it does not imply that they are not all part of West Germanic.


  1. ^ The New Encyclopædia Britannica, 15th edition, 22:641-642


  • Claus Jürgen Hutterer, Die Germanischen Sprachen, (Wiesbaden, 1999)
  • H.L. Kufner, "The grouping and separation of the Germanic languages" in F. van Coetsem & H.L. Kufner (eds.), Toward a Grammar of Proto Germanic (Niemeyer, 1972)
  • H. Kuhn, "Zur Giedering der germanischen Sprachen", in Zeitschrift für deutsches Altertum 86 (1955), 1-47.
  • Winfred P. Lehmann, "The Grouping of the Germanic Languages", in Henrik Birnbaum & Jaan Puhvel (eds), Ancient Indo-European Dialects (University of California Press, 1966)
  • H.F. Nielsen, The Germanic Languages. Origins and Early Dialectal Interrelations (University of Alabama Press, 1989)
  • Ernst Schwarz, Goten, Nordgermanen, Alemannen 1951
  • Ernst Schwarz, Germanische Stammeskunde 1956
  • Stefan Sonderegger, Grundzüge deutscher Sprachgeschichte Vol. 1 (de Gruyter 1979)

See also[edit]