German is a member of the Germanic group of the Indo-European language family, the national language of Germany and Austria, and an official language of Switzerland. There are many spoken varieties of German, including High German (Hochdeutsch) and Low German (Plattdeutsch).
‘High’ and ‘Low’ refer to dialects spoken in the highlands or the lowlands rather than to social status. Hochdeutsch originated in the central and southern highlands of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland; Plattdeutsch from the lowlands of northern Germany.
Standard and literary German is based on High German, in particular on the Middle German dialect used by Martin Luther for his translation of the Bible in the 16th century. Low German is closer to English in its sound system, the verb ‘to make’ being machen in High German but maken in Low German. Such English words as angst, blitz, frankfurter, hamburger, poltergeist, and sauerkraut are borrowings from High German.
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