What is the subject of German linguistics? This seemingly simple question has no obvious answer. In the ZGL’s first issue, the editors required contributions to cover the whole of the German language and to be theoretically sound but application-orientated, whereas the current ZGL-homepage defines the German language of present and history in all its differentiations as its subject matter. Looking through the fifty volumes of ZGL, three relationships can be identified as presumably enlightening the role of language, in particular the German language: language and mind; language and language use; language and culture. Though of a different systematic type, language and data should be added as an increasingly important pairing for conceptualizing language. On this basis, I also discuss the position of linguistic studies of the German language, mirrored in the ZGL-volumes, between social, cultural and natural sciences, as well as the corresponding epistemic approaches – like explaining vs. understanding.