Nearly six thousand years ago, seafront clans in Denmark likely began speaking the earliest form of Germanic language-the first of six "signal events" that Ruth Sanders highlights in this marvelous tour of the German language. Blending linguistic, anthropological, and historical research, Sanders presents a brilliant biography of the language as it evolved across the millennia. She sheds light on the influence of such events as the Battle of Kalkriese, which permanently halted the incursion of both the Romans and the Latin language into northern Europe, and the publication of Martin Luther's German Bible translation, which in effect forged from many regional dialects a single German language. The narrative ranges through the turbulent Middle Ages, the spread of the printing press, the formation of the nineteenth-century German Empire, and Germany's twentieth-century military and cultural horrors. The book includes fascinating sidebars on topics such as the Gothic language (now extinct), the branching off of Yiddish, and the revolution of 1848.
The first book on this topic for general readers, this engaging volume will appeal to everyone interested in German language, culture, or history.