German was the language of commerce and government in the Habsburg Empire, which encompassed a large area of Central and Eastern Europe. Until the mid-nineteenth century, it was essentially the language of townspeople throughout most of the Empire. Its use indicated that the speaker was a merchant or someone from an urban area, regardless of nationality.
Approximate distribution of native German speakers (assuming a rounded total of 95 million) worldwide.
In most regions, the speakers use a continuum from more dialectal varieties to more standard varieties depending on the circumstances.
The variation among the German dialects is considerable, with often only neighbouring dialects being mutually intelligible. Some dialects are not intelligible to people who know only Standard German. However, all German dialects belong to the dialect continuum of High German and Low Saxon.
Sometimes, Low Saxon and Low Franconian varieties are grouped together because both are unaffected by the High German consonant shift.
Indeed, several parenthetical clauses may occur between the prefix of a finite verb and its complement (ankommen = to arrive, er kam an = he arrived, er ist angekommen = he has arrived):
A selectively literal translation of this example to illustrate the point might look like this:
The position of a noun in a German sentence has no bearing on its being a subject, an object or another argument. In a declarative sentence in English, if the subject does not occur before the predicate, the sentence could well be misunderstood.
However, German's flexible word order allows one to emphasise specific words:Der Direktor betrat gestern um 10 Uhr mit einem Schirm in der Hand sein Büro.
The main verb may appear in first position to put stress on the action itself. The auxiliary verb is still in second position.Er wusste nicht, dass der Agent einen Nachschlüssel hatte machen lassenEr wusste nicht, dass der Agent einen Nachschlüssel machen lassen hatte
The order at the end of such strings is subject to variation, but the second one in the last example is unusual.
The Fraktur script however remains present in everyday life in pub signs, beer brands and other forms of advertisement, where it is used to convey a certain rusticality and antiquity.