German, official language of Germany and Austria and an official language of Switzerland and Luxembourg, native tongue of more than 100 million people. Modern German is descended from 2 main forms. Low German, spoken mainly in the north, is the ancestor of both Dutch and Flemish. High German, spoken in central and southern Germany is, historically, the classical German. A large part of medieval German literature, such as the 12th and 13th century epics, is in Middle High German. Today the written language is standardized, but there are still great differences between spoken northern and southern German. Modern German is a highly inflected language with 3 genders and 4 cases, and requires agreement in number, gender, and case, as in Latin. Many words are formed by compounding.