GERMAN 452 A: History of the German Language

Spring 2024
MWF 12:30pm - 1:20pm / SMI 305
Section Type:
Joint Sections:
LING 415 A
Syllabus Description (from Canvas):



German 452/ LING 415                                                                      Prof. Annegret Oehme;

MWF 12:30am-1:20 pm, SMI 305                                        OH:; Denny 330    

TA: Aaron Carpenter


The History of the German Language

In this course, you will better understand the “biography” of the German language in the geographical areas of its origin and abroad. You will develop a familiarity with the linguistic developments of German as well as the history of research on German, questions of translation (including Martin Luther and the Bible), dialects, language islands, and the language changes under the national-socialist dictatorship 1933-1945. You will understand some of the most important developments in the German language and, thus, explanations of linguistic phenomena encountered in their language acquisition, including verb conjugation and umlaut. Through the initial exploration of the historic linguistic developments in the first half of the class, you will gain an understanding of contemporary German as well as the relationship between language and power in the second part. At the end of the quarter, you will be able to understand better how language reflects historical and social changes and what linguistic phenomena have shaped contemporary German. Further, through constant written engagement with complex linguistic texts, you will better your skills in reading academic texts and formulating your thoughts and questions.

Participation and Classroom Environment

The success of this class depends on you sharing your thoughts and questions. Don’t be shy and share your insights with all – this classroom serves as a space to discuss and learn together. To ensure success and provide a safe environment for everybody, all discussions are expected to be conducted in a respectful manner and in a professional behavior. Diverse experiences and perspectives have an important place in our classroom. I intend to present material in a respectful way regarding gender, sexuality, disability, socioeconomic status, age, culture, ethnicity, race, and disability. Let’s create a welcoming and respectful learning environment together. By participating in this class, you commit to establishing this classroom as a safe environment for everybody. No discriminatory behavior will be tolerated. 


  • Ruth Sanders: Biography of a Language (Oxford University Press, 2010), available at the UW bookstore.

Office Hours

Mondays 2-3 pm (in person), Thursdays 3-4 pm (Zoom)





Monday, 03/25




From PIE to German

Wednesday, 03/27


Slides 03/27

Sanders, 1-18


Friday, 03/29

From PIE to Proto-Germanic

slides 03/29

exercise solutions

Sanders, 19-39


Monday, 04/01

The Romans and the Germanic Tribes

slides 04/01

Sanders, 43-51, 58-87

Quiz due: 04/02

Wednesday, 04/03

German gets a name  

Slides 04/03

Sanders, 93; Tacitus (C: collab. reading)


Friday, 04/05

Dead End Gothic

slides 04/05

Orrin Robinson: Gothic (C)


Monday, 04/08

Old High German

slides 04/08

Sanders, 91-101 & 107-110; Otfrid, Preface (C: collab. reading); Young, 67-76 (C)

Quiz due: 04/09

Wednesday, 04/10

Middle High German

slides 04/10

Solutions exercise 

Waterman, 83-101 (C); Young, 101-102 (C)


Friday, 04/12

German as an official Language

Waterman, 110-117 (C)


Monday, 04/15

Luther and the ‘People’s Language’

Sanders, 117-156; Young, 205-217 (C)

Quiz due: 04/16

Researching the History of the German Language

Wednesday, 04/17


Sanders, 166-167; Waterman, 139-145 (C)


Friday, 04/19

The Grimm Brothers

Waterman, 167-168 (C); Young, 263-271(C)


Dialects and Varieties

Monday, 04/22

German in Austria & Switzerland

Amman, 75-88 (C)

Quiz due: 04/25

Wednesday, 04/24

Dialect Project Presentations



Friday, 04/26

Special Case Yiddish

Sanders, 101-104; Yiddish: Name, Date, Family (C)


German in the USA

Monday, 04/29

Muhlenberg & Pennsylvania German

Sanders, 175-176; Waterman 119-120 (C)


Wednesday, 05/01

No in-person class


Quiz due: 05/02

Friday, 05/03

Mark Twain & German

Twain (C)


Language and Power

Monday, 05/06

George Orwell

Orwell, (C)


Wednesday, 05/08

German & National Socialism I 

Young, 298-305 (C)

Quiz due: 05/09

Friday, 05/10

German & National Socialism II 

Klemperer (C)

Prepare only your assigned section

Monday, 05/13

German in GDR & BRD

Young, 309-317 (C); Waterman, 181-3 (C)


Wednesday, 05/15

Gendered Language

Review Twain p.18-19 (C),

German and Gender (C)


Friday, 05/17

Kanak Sprak

Intro (C)


The Presence & Future of German

Monday, 05/20


Young, 325-331(C)

Quiz due: 05/21

Wednesday, 05/22

The Future of German

The Future of German (C)


Friday, 05/24

No class – edu-larp prep


Prepare your character and post your reflection

Monday, 05/27

No class / University Holiday

Wednesday, 05/29

Edu-Larp Project



Friday, 05/31

Edu-Larp Project


Final reflection & statement

due: 06/01



  • Quizzes and Collaborative Readings: to be completed on Canvas
  • Presentation Dialect: short presentations (including handout) in groups of ca. 4-5 students
  • Edu-LARP: preparation of character, participation in discussions, short reflections
  • Participation: active participation in class and online, enabled by active preparation


Grade Breakdown

Quizzes and collaborative readings

30 %


30 %

Dialect Project

25 %

Participation / Class preparation   

15 %


= 100 %

Academic Integrity

In order to foster your own learning and understanding of the material, you have to write your responses independently. Copying or largely paraphrasing another student’s response or other sources for the writing assignments and the final exam will count as cheating and will not be tolerated. In a case of plagiarism or cheating, I will follow UW’s procedures and report the case.

Communication and Office Hours

  • I will communicate with you via email and Canvas. Please set your notifications on your account accordingly to get notified about important messages!
  • I respond to your messages within 24 hours of receipt during the week. If you email me on Friday afternoon, I may only be able to respond on Monday.
  • Sign up for office hours with the reason for your visit here:
  • Please be respectful and professional in your emails.



UW is committed to providing an equal educational opportunity for all students. If you have documented physical, psychological, or learning disability on file with UW, you may be eligible for reasonable academic accommodations to help you succeed in this course. If you have a documented disability that requires accommodation, please notify me within the first two weeks of the semester so that we may make appropriate arrangements early in the semester. (Additionally, if you have not done so, please register with DRS


Religious Accommodation

“Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy ( Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form (”


Catalog Description:
Traces the history of the German language from early Germanic to the present. Offered: jointly with LING 415; W.
GE Requirements Met:
Arts and Humanities (A&H)
Last updated:
April 11, 2024 - 4:08 pm