German language

Introduction

German language, member of the West Germanic group of the Germanic subfamily of the Indo-European family of languages (see Germanic languages). It is the official language of Germany and Austria and is one of the official languages of Switzerland. Altogether nearly 100 million people speak German as their first language, among them about 77 million in Germany; 8 million in Austria; 4.5 million in Switzerland; 2 million in the United States and Canada; about 2 million in Latin America; and several additional millions throughout Europe, including the Baltic republics, Belarus, the Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Romania, Ukraine, and the Balkan states. German is important as a cultural and commercial second language for millions of people in Central, Northern, and Eastern Europe and in North and South America.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Language and Linguistics