Indo-European Germanic West Germanic High German German
Number of Speakers
90-100 million (Standard German)
Left-to-Right Latin Alphabet with additional characters (ä, ö, ü, ß)
Where it is Spoken
Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein As a minority/regional language: South Tyrol (Italy), Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Namibia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Krahule/Blaufuß (Slovakia), Pomerode and other municipalities (Brazil), Vatican City (Swiss Guard)
Germany, Austria, Switzerland (co-official), Liechtenstein As a minority/regional language: South Tyrol (Italy), Luxembourg, Belgium, Silesia (Poland), Krahule/Blaufuß (Slovakia), Pomerode (Brazil), Namibia (1984–90; now National Language)
German (Deutsch) is a Germanic language spoken in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein, as well as some areas of the surrounding countries.
German uses a standard modern Latin script for its alphabet. In addition to the 26 standard modern Latin characters, German has some additional characters: the umlauts and the eszet. Both of these evolved from old ligatures.
The umlauts are ä, ö and ü and evolved from the practice of scribes writing a little e above a, o and u to signify a different pronunciation. When no umlaut characters are available (for example when using a font which does not include the characters), ae, oe and ue are substituted; simply using a o or u is incorrect.
The eszet (ß) or "scharfes S" evolved from the combination of ſ - the sharp (or long) s - and either a normal s or a z, giving ſs/ſz. The eszet has no upper case form; when an upper-case form is required a double-s (SS) is used in its stead. The eszet is also not used at all in either Switzerland or Liechtenstein, where double-s is always used.