This chapter explains the organization of the book and defines the object of study. Different pathways are recommended depending on readers’ prior knowledge of Middle High German and their linguistic, literary, or historical interests. The Introduction makes a distinction between Middle High German writings in general and Classical Middle High German, i.e. the normalized language in which many great works of the period are edited (reflecting nineteenth-century practices) and read today. Middle High German is situated within the Germanic language family and contrasted with Middle Low German, and its main dialect areas are described. The Introduction explains why the period 1050–1350, which is traditionally used to define Middle High German, has been adopted in this volume, and gives an account of the chronological subdivisions of the period. The methodological approach of the remaining chapters of the book is set out and recommendations are made for further reading.
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