The Germanic languages are one of the major branches of the Indo-European languages. Originally these languages were - like Proto-Indo-European itself - highly inflected languages, but with the exception of German these languages have undergone substantial simplification in their systems of inflection. Grimm’s law and Verner’s law exist to describe the systematic sound changes that took place between Proto-Indo-European and Proto-Germanic (the common ancestor of all Germanic languages). The family can be subdivided into three groups, two of which are still extant:
- West Germanic: English, German, Dutch
- North Germanic: Swedish, Norwegian, Danish
- East Germanic (extinct): Gothic
There was a time when the Germanic languages were more widely distributed across Europe than they are now; the Franks, who gave their name to France, were a Germanic tribe, as were the Normans. Goths had spread out to such far away locations as Iberia and Crimea. As a result, many European languages from other families have quite a number of Germanic loanwords, even though the Germanic languages themselves are now restricted to northwestern Europe (as well as many former British colonies around the world, of course).