Proto-Germanic language

Ancestor of the Germanic languages / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Proto-Germanic (abbreviated PGmc; also called Common Germanic) is the reconstructed proto-language of the Germanic branch of the Indo-European languages.

Quick facts: Proto-Germanic, Reconstruction of, Regio...
PGmc, Common Germanic
Reconstruction ofGermanic languages
RegionNorth-western Europe
Erac.500 BC–200 AD
Lower-order reconstructions
Map of the pre-Roman Iron Age in Northern Europe showing cultures associated with Proto-Germanic, c. 500 BC. The area of the preceding Nordic Bronze Age in Scandinavia is shown in red; magenta areas towards the south represent the Jastorf culture of the North German Plain.

Proto-Germanic eventually developed from pre-Proto-Germanic into three Germanic branches during the fifth century BC to fifth century AD: West Germanic, East Germanic and North Germanic.[1] The latter of these remained in contact with the others over a considerable time, especially with the Ingvaeonic languages (including English), which arose from West Germanic dialects, and had remained in contact with the Norse.[2]

A defining feature of Proto-Germanic is the completion of the process described by Grimm's law, a set of sound changes that occurred between its status as a dialect of Proto-Indo-European and its gradual divergence into a separate language. The end of the Common Germanic period is reached with the beginning of the Migration Period in the fourth century AD.

The alternative term "Germanic parent language" may be used to include a larger scope of linguistic developments, spanning the Nordic Bronze Age and Pre-Roman Iron Age in Northern Europe (second to first millennia BC) to include "Pre-Germanic" (PreGmc), "Early Proto Germanic" (EPGmc) and "Late Proto-Germanic" (LPGmc).[3] While Proto-Germanic refers only to the reconstruction of the most recent common ancestor of Germanic languages, the Germanic parent language refers to the entire journey that the dialect of Proto-Indo-European that would become Proto-Germanic underwent through the millennia.

The Proto-Germanic language is not directly attested by any coherent surviving texts; it has been reconstructed using the comparative method. However, there is fragmentary direct attestation of (late) Proto-Germanic in early runic inscriptions (specifically the c.1st/2nd-century CE Svingerud Runestone and Vimose inscriptions, and the 2nd-century BCE Negau helmet inscription. Another inscription of interest is the Meldorf fibula, dated to c.50 CE),[4] and in Roman Empire-era transcriptions of individual words (notably in Tacitus' Germania, c. AD 90[note 1]).

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