1902 Encyclopedia > Germany > Germany - Languages

(Part 15)



The German-speaking nations in their various branches and dialects are found to extend in a compact mass along the shores of the Baltic and of the North Sea, from Memel in the east to a point between Gravelines and Calais near the Straits of Dover. On this northern line the Germans come in contact with the Danes who inhabit the northern parts of Schleswig within the limits of the German empire. A line from opposite Sonderburg in the isle of Alsen to Tondern in the west will nearly form the boundary between the two idioms. The German-French frontier traverses Belgium from west to east, touching the towns of St Omer, Courtrai, and Maastricht. Near Eupen, south of Aix-la-Chapelle, it turns southward, and near Arlon south-east as far as the crest of the Vosges mountains, which it follows up to Belfort, traversing there the watershed of the Rhine and the Doubs. In the Swiss territory the line of demarcation passes through Biel, Freiburg, Saanen, Leuk, and Monte Rosa. In the south the Germans come into contact with Rhaeto-Romans and Italians, the former inhabiting the valley of the Vorder-Rhein and the Engadine, while the latter have settled on the southern slopes of the Alps, and are continually advancing up the valley of the Adige. Carinthia and Styria are inhabited by German people, except the valley of the Drave towards Klagenfurt. Their eastern neighbours there are first the Magyars, then the northern Slavs and the Poles. The whole eastern frontier is very much broken, and cannot be described in a few words. Besides detached German colonies in Hungary, the western parts of that country are held by Germans. The river March is the frontier north of the Danube from Preburg as far as Brünn, to the north of which the German regions begin near Olmütz,—the interior of Bohemia and Moravia being occupied by Czechs and Moravians. In the Prussian provinces of Silesia and Posen the eastern parts are mixed territories, the German language progressing slowly among the Poles. In Bromberg and Thorn, in the valley of the Vistula, German is prevalent. In West Prussia some parts of the interior, and in East Prussia a small region along the Russia frontier, are occupied by Poles (Kassubians in West Prussia, Masurians in East Prussia). The German tongue is also fast invading the Lithuanina territory, and in a short time no people speaking that idiom will be found to the left of the river Memel. The total number of German-speaking people, within the boundaries wherein they constitute the compact mass of the population, may be estimated, if the Dutch and the Flemings be included, at 56 millions.

The geographical limits of the German language thus do not quite coincide with the German frontiers. The empire contains about 3 1/3 millions of persons who do not make use of German in everyday life, not counting the 290,000 resident foreigners. The non-German languages have their representatives only in Prussia, Saxony, and Alsace-Lorraine. No census since 1861 has given the statistics of the different languages spoken in the first-mentioned country; and, in regard to Alsace-Lorraine also, the figures are based upon estimates only. The following table gives the results of semi-official estimates for 1875:—


From this it will be observed that the Poles form a considerable part of the population,—about 60·1 per cent. in the district of Oppeln, 59·3 in Posen, 49·6 in Bromberg, 37·8 in Marienwerder, 27·3 in Dantzic, 21·9 in Gumbinnen, 17·1 in Königsberg, and 4·3 in Breslau. The Wends, who inhabit Lusatia, are decreasing in number,—in the Saxon district there were 52,097 in 1871, and in 1875 only 50,737. The Lithuanians are likewise diminishing on the eastern border of East Prussia. Czechs are found only in Silesia on the confines of Bohemia. The French are represented in Lorraine and Upper Alsace, and on the Belgian frontier.

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