I hope this isn't too redundant of a question...

I was hoping somebody could briefly summarize what general features languages descended from proto-Germanic tend to have? I understand all the relevant terms, but I cannot work my way through grammar breakdowns because I have unmedicated ADHD, so it all blends together :(

I'm really stuck and I would REALLY appreciate if some kind person could lay out some key features of either Germanic languages in general or protogermanic specifically.. like a brief bullet point list?

1 Answer 1


A long time ago, I was involved in a project named Folkspraak to create a Germanic conlang. It was entertaining, but it did not went very far at that attempt.

Some grammatical hallmarks of Germanic languages are:

  • A very simple tense system, present and past only, all other tenses are periphrastic and later acquisitions
  • A past participle as third principal part of the verb
  • Weak verbs ("regular" verbs) and strong verbs (looking irregular, but in fact they are regular, too, falling into several classes of strong verbs)
  • Related pairs of strong and weak verbs like fall/fell where the weak verb is a causative of the strong one one (to make fall). More examples for this relation from German trinken (strong verb, "to drink")/tränken (weak verb, "to water (animals)"); springen (strong verb, "to jump, to leap")/sprengen (weak verb, "to explode; to water (lawn); to gallop"). A notorious one is erschrecken (strong verb; "to get frightened, to startle)/erschrecken (weak verb; "to startle so., to frighten")—notorious because the infinitive and some other form coincide and there is some confusion and a tendency to use sich erschrecken (weak verb) instead of the original strong verb in Modern colloquial German.
  • Modal verbs that are special (preterite-present)

For nouns there is less common ground for the Germanic languages, while German retained four cases and three genders for nouns, those features are partially or completely lost in some other Germanic languages. You can do whatever you want (strive for simplicity or keep a more complicated system at your wish). Same for adjectives.

  • 3
    I’d include V2 word order as another distinctive Germanic feature. However I’d dispute a ‘very simple tense system’ as one: even disregarding the fact that tense is difficult to separate from aspect and mood in most IE languages, a three-tense system of inflectional past and present with periphrastic future is still fairly common crosslinguistically.
    – bradrn
    Dec 17, 2020 at 10:01
  • could you elaborate on the strong/weak pairs, if that's not a problem? i thought i understood until the fall/fell example, which kind of confused me.
    – helsy
    Dec 17, 2020 at 14:43
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    I mean fell as in to fell a tree. The example is not really good, because fell ist also the past tense of to fall, I will add some examples from German to my answer.
    – Sir Cornflakes
    Dec 17, 2020 at 14:51

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