Germanic peoples

From Academic Kids

This article is about modern Germanic peoples. For the history of Germanic peoples before the middle ages, see Germanic tribes.

Germanic peoples are ethnic groups of Germanic origin, the linguistic, cultural, and racial descendants of the old Germanic tribes.

Problems with the concept

Even though this concept is frequently used, it is inherently problematic. The only straightforward criterion is language, as Germanic languages can be rather easily distinguished from other language groups. Ancestry and racial criteria, by contrast, are rather dubious because of the mixing of the ancient Germanic tribes with other people over the course of history, including the countries where Germanic languages are spoken today, as interbreeding with people not of Germanic origin was usually not prohibited and allowed gene flow throughout Europe.

Cultural criteria are equally unclear: For example, the Germanic peoples of central Europe share many cultural similarities with neighbouring Slavic peoples or Latin peoples (depending on geographic proximity) which they do not share with Scandinavians or inhabitants of the British Ilses. The inhabitants of the Alps have many unique cultural traits irrespective of their linguistic adherence.

Some people believe that it is rather aribitrary to group peoples on the basis of the origin of their language with the ancient Germanic tribes (as it is done here), while the last 1500 years of history have influenced their culture to a much larger extent.


The normally used list of present-day Germanic peoples includes:

and their cultural descendants around the world, including large groups in the Americas, Australia, New Zealand, and Afrikaners and Anglo-Saxons of South Africa.

Assimilated Germanics

Not every genetic descendant of the old Germanic tribes considers themselves to be Germanic, for the simple reason that all people around the world tend to identify themselves more by their culture then by the combination of their genes.

From the Migrations Period and forth, Germanic peoples are often referred to as quick to assimilate into foreign cultures. Established examples include the Romanized Norsemen in Normandy, and the societal elite in medieval Russia among whom many were the descendants of Slavified Norsemen (a theory, however, contested by some Slavic scholars in the former Soviet Union, who name it the Normanist theory).

The island of Great Britain is similarly considered an example of assimilation, where Norsemen and other Germanics have assimilated with Celts; but where also a Romanizing influence has been considerable.

Scotland is historically a country of mixed Germanic and Celtic culture; while the Scottish Highlands and Galloway were until recently more Celtic and akin to Celtic Ireland in its culture and Scottish Gaelic language, the Scottish Lowlands share their culture and language closely with its neighbour to the south and other Germanic peoples, speaking the Scots language. The Orkney Islands and Shetland Islands, though a part of Scotland, were historically Scandinavian in culture, though they no longer speak their native language Norn as an influx of Lallans speaking lowland Scots resulted in its displacement.

Ireland is also a country of mixed Germanic and Celtic culture, but for different reasons than Scotland. As with Scotland, Ireland had much Scandinavian settlement, both in Viking and Anglo-Norman colonies. Through centuries of British dominance, many parts of Ireland gradually developed a character that was more British than native Celtic, particularly in Ulster and Leinster.

France saw a great deal of Germanic settlement, and even its namesake the Franks were a Germanic people. And entire regions of France (such as Alsace, Burgundy and Normandy) were settled heavily by Germanic peoples, contributing to their unique regional cultures and dialects. But most of the languages spoken in France today are Romance languages, while the people have a heavy Gallic substratum that predates Latin and GermanicГермански народи cs:Germni de:Germanische Vlker eo:Gxermanoj fr:Peuple germanique he:שבטים_גרמאנים hr:Germani nl:Germanen pl:Germanie pt:Germanos ru:Германцы sv:Germaner


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