chapter  3
From Germanic to German
Pages 8

At some time during the disintegration of the Indo-European community a group of tribes made their way to north-west Europe, the area round the western end of the Baltic comprising South Sweden, Denmark, and Schleswig-Holstein. Here they developed a Bronze Age culture. This migration was probably nearing completion by c. 2000 B.C. In course of time the Indo-European dialect of the settlers underwent a number of far-reaching changes which made of it a new language, known as Germanic1 or Primitive Germanic. We have no detailed evidence for the early movements of the Germanic tribes nor for the development of their language. A few Germanic words are indeed preserved in Latin writers such as Julius Caesar and Tacitus and in a few borrowings in Finnish and elsewhere. Otherwise Primitive Germanic, like Indo-European, is undocumented. Nevertheless with the help of archaeology and by comparing the oldest extant documents in Germanic languages we can reconstruct at least some features of this prehistoric period.