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One might compare the case of the Poles and Czechs of the present day.During the 6th century, however, a phonological process set in, which ultimately resulted in the separation of Germany into two great linguistic divisions, south and north, or, as the languages are called, High and Low German.It may be assumed that the languages of the different West Germanic tribes enumerated above were, before the appearance of the tribes in history, distinguished by many dialectic variations; this was certainly the case immediately after the Migrations, when the various races began to settle down.But these differences, consisting presumably in matters of phonology and vocabulary, were nowhere so pronounced as to exclude a mutual understanding of individuals belonging to different tribes.The chief of these tribes are: the Saxons, the Franks (but with the restriction noted above), the Chatti (Hessians), Thuringians, Alemannians and Bavarians.This definition naturally includes the languages spoken in the Low Countries, Flemish and Dutch, which are offsprings of the Low Franconian dialect, mixed with Frisian and Saxon elements; but, as the literary development of these languages has been in its later stages entirely independent of that of the German language, they are excluded from the present survey.The principal characteristic of the change from Old High German to Middle High German is the weakening of the unaccented vowels in final syllables (cf. Middle High German schreib, schriben, and Modern High German schrieb, schrieben, &c.).
As applied to the language, deutsch first appears in the Latin form theotiscus, lingua theotisca, teutisca, in certain Latin writings of the 8th and 9th centuries, whereas the original Old High German word thiudisc, tiutisc (from thiot, diot, “people,” and the suffix -isc;) signified only “appertaining to the people,” “in the manner of the people.” Cf. It is usual to divide the history of the German language from this earliest period, when it appears only in the form of proper names and isolated words as glosses to a Latin text, down to the present day, into three great sections: (1) Old High German (Althochdeutsch) and Old Low German (Old Saxon; Altniederdeutsch, Altsächsisch); (2) Middle High German (Mittelhochdeutsch) and Middle Low German (Mittelniederdeutsch); and (3) Modern High German and Modern Low German (Neuhochdeutsch and Neuniederdeutsch). But it must be noted that certain characteristics attributed to the Modern German vowel system, such as lengthening of Middle High German short vowels, the change from Middle High German ī, ū, iu to Modern High German ei, au, eu (öu), of Middle High German ie, uo, üe to Modern High German ī, ū, ǖ, made their appearance long before 1500.To this group belongs also Langobardian, a dialect which died out in the 9th or 10th century, while Burgundian, traces of which are not met with later than the 5th century, is usually classed with the East Germanic group.Both these tongues were at an early stage crushed out by Romance dialects, a fate which also overtook the idiom of the Western Franks, who, in the so-called Strassburg Oaths Sprache the language of those West Germanic tribes, who, at their earliest appearance in history, spoke a Germanic tongue, and still speak it at the present day.Here, too, there are numerous “islands” on Hungarian and Slavonic territory.Danes and Frisians join hands with the Germans in the north.