Old High German covers the period from the beginning of a written tradition (inscriptions since the 6th / 7th centuries, manuscripts since the second half of the 8th century) to the middle of the 11th century. It can be subdivided into Early High German (up to 800), Middle Old High German (9th century) and Late Old High German (10th and 11th centuries). This includes an interruption in German-language literature production lasting around 100 years, the so-called »Ottonian Gap« on 10/11. Century. The linguistic reality of Old High German consisted of a large number of old tribal languages (including Franconian, Alemannic, Bavarian); there was hardly any awareness of linguistic commonality, and there was no uniform language covering the various dialects. Charlemagne’s outgoing cultural renewal of the empire. It revived the knowledge of classical antiquity (Carolingian Renaissance), promoted the spread of Christianity, which had already begun in the Merovingian period, and brought about the development of a western culture by amalgamating Germanic heritage, ancient tradition and Christian ideas. Ancient and Christian ideas were used in monasteries and monastery schools as educational centers (e.g. Fulda with Hrabanus Maurus, Sankt Gallen with Ekkehart I and Ekkehart IV, Weißenburg in Alsace with Otfrid von Weissenburg, Reichenau and Wessobrunn) and at the bishop’s residences (e.g. Mainz, Regensburg, Freising, Salzburg). By preaching in the vernacular should also lay people – the educational reform of Charlemagne accordingly – the new, Christian teaching is made accessible. The effort to acquire Latin texts (mostly theological content) resulted in a rich glossing activity. Originally only intended as a translation aid, glosses developed into an important aid in the emerging vernacular prose, as they promoted the ability to express the language and sharpened the translator’s sense of language. In addition, a rich spiritual translation literature (e.g. translations of the Bible and the Lord’s Prayer, interlinear version of the Benedictine Rule) was created in the monasteries. In addition, a spiritually inspired poetry was created (e.g. legend poem, the end-rhyming biblical poem Otfrid von Weissenburg). The German language experienced an enrichment in the course of the Old High German period, which enabled it to become the bearer of this cultural renewal. This initially meant that linguistic forms of expression had to be created for the new content that were not yet available to the individual tribal dialects, v. a. in the area of (religious) vocabulary; The loanwords, v. a. from Latin-Romance: B. Old High German mūnih (“monk”) borrowed from the Latin monachus, Old High German abbat (“abbot”) to Latin abbas, Old High German klostar (“monastery”) to vulgar Latin clostrum, Old High German prestar (“priest”) to common Roman prestr (e), the quick-speak form to Latin presbyter formed. Certain terms can also be assigned to individual waves of proselytizing, e.g. B. basic terms of Christianity already the missionary activity of the Goths (e.g. Old High German Krist), further terms of the Irish Scottish and Anglo-Saxon mission (e.g. Old High German glocka [“bell”] to Celtic cloc, Old High German Heilant [“Heiland”) ] to Anglo-Saxon hēliand). In the course of the Gothic-Arian missionary work, an Upper German language emerged, followed by the Irish-Scottish and Anglo-Saxon missions, a Franconian-Rhenish church language. In this linguistic-historical epoch there are numerous fiefdoms: a word is modeled after the pattern of the Latin church language with the means of expression in one’s own language, e.g. B. Old High German giwizzani after Latin conscientia. Hereditary words get new ones, Contents conveyed by the mission: Old High German truhtin (“follower” in the feudal system) is now related to Christ, ghost (“ghost, monster”) also takes on the meaning of the Latin spirit and can be used in expressions like ther heilago ghost (“the holy spirit «) Can be used in theological contexts. In addition to the religious sphere, the legal system and the liberal arts (Artes liberales) also developed their own forms of expression. The influence of the Latin educational language is also evident in the word formation (e.g. in the reproduction of Latin-Romance loan suffixes, as in Old High German sūtāri, after the Latin ending -arius). In the syntax, especially in the translation texts, the reproduction of Latin can also be seen, for example in the imitation of participle constructions;
Since Old High German was not yet a standardized language, its written rendition was also not uniform, neither in the rendition of vowel lengths and abbreviations, nor in the names of the various umlaut vowels, nor in the presentation of the new consonants and affricates created by the second (High German) sound shift (for example, the affricata pf could also be written as ph, pph or ppf). There was also no uniform sound system for the entire Old High German language area; rather, this is differentiated by dialect. However, it differs from Common Germanic and Old Low German through certain features in vowelism and consonantism and can therefore also be excluded as a separate period of language development. The main features of vocalism are as follows: Due to the old high German monophthonging, before Germanic r, h and w ai becomes ē (closed, long e) and before Germanic h and all dentals au becomes ō (7th / 8th century); through the Old High German diphthongization, Germanic ē becomes ea, ia (Late Old High German ie) and Germanic ō becomes oa, ua, uo (8th / 9th century; the latter has been all Old High German since 900); with the i-umlaut before i, ī, j of the following syllable (with certain exceptions) a becomes e (since the second half of the 8th century); through contact assimilation the old diphthongs are changed (if they were not monophthongized): ai to ei, au to ou, eu to eo, io or iu (8th / 9th centuries). The full-tone secondary syllables that are still characteristic of early high German and normal old high German have been used since the 9th / 10th. Century weakened to -e. ], [ð], [ ɣ ]) merged into voiced plosives. However, the spread of this sound shift is still very different within the High German area (German dialects). A large number of inflected forms is typical of the morphological system of Old High German, but these have been increasingly simplified (a morphological equivalent to the simplification of the phonetic system by weakening the original full-tone adjacent syllable vowels, e.g. Gothic habaidēdum compared to Old High German habētum).