Andreas Heusler (Old Germanist)

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Autograph by Andreas Heusler (1865–1940)

Andreas Heusler (born August 10, 1865 in Basel , † February 28, 1940 in Basel) was a Swiss Germanic and Scandinavian medievalist .

Life and personality

Andreas Heusler (1865–1940) Old Germanist, Heusler's notation, Heusler's law, holder of a chair created for him at the Univ.  Basel.  Grave in the Hörnli cemetery, Riehen, Basel-Stadt
Grave in the Hörnli cemetery , Riehen, Basel-Stadt

Andreas Heusler was born as the third bearer of his name in a row into an old Basel bourgeois family. He was the son of Andreas Heusler (lawyer, 1834) and grandson of Andreas Heusler (lawyer, 1802) , both of whom had worked as lawyers, legal historians and politicians. In his youth, Heusler stood out for his brilliant school achievements, studied in Basel, Freiburg im Breisgau and Berlin and received his doctorate in Freiburg in 1887 with the dissertation Contribution to the consonantism of the dialect of Baselstadt . According to Eduard His "without too much enthusiasm, greatly distracted by literature and music, he took up the 'learned profession'".

In 1890, at the age of 25, Heusler became a private lecturer in German studies in Berlin. In 1893 he married the Hessian concert singer Auguste Hohenschild, fourteen years his senior . Heusler stayed in Berlin and was an associate professor from 1894 to 1913 with a teaching assignment for Nordic philology. He turned increasingly to the study of Icelandic poetry , especially saga literature , translated numerous works into German and also traveled to Iceland twice . In 1907 he was accepted into the Prussian Academy of Sciences . From 1914 to 1919 Heusler was a full professor for Germanic philology at the University of Berlin . After his return to Switzerland, he lived in Arlesheim near Basel from 1920 and held a professorship created especially for him at the University of Basel until his resignation in 1936 . In 1935 he was elected a foreign member of the Göttingen Academy of Sciences . In 1937 he was awarded the Dietrich Eckart Prize . Heusler's marriage was not a happy one and was divorced in 1922 after living apart from his wife since 1901. Andreas Heusler suffered from a common typing cramp . In 1940 he died after a short illness in a Basel hospital.

His contemporaries regarded Heusler's personality as colorful and "extremely rich" (His). The striking features of his character include his love for music (Heusler played the violin ), the change from ardent Christian to convinced atheist (around 1889) and above all his enthusiasm for the "Germanic" and "Nordic" nature. In 1914 he was a co-signer of the Manifesto of 93 , which defended the German war of aggression against Belgium. In the last years of his life, his attitude towards National Socialist Germany was initially ambiguous. The Historical Lexicon of Switzerland states that Heusler only distanced himself from Hitler around 1938 , while His emphasized that Heusler had retained a “humane, noble worldview” and was deeply distressed by the aberrations of the new German character. His more than 400 letters to Wilhelm Ranisch, written between 1890 and 1940, give a good insight into his personality.


Heusler was one of the dominant figures in German language studies in the first half of the 20th century and shaped theories and concepts that continue to have an impact today. In addition to important sagas , such as the Brennu Njáls saga and the Hænsna-Þóris saga , Andreas Heusler also translated the legal book Grágás from Old Icelandic and thus made an important contribution to the publication of Icelandic literature in German.

Heusler's notation

His German verse history, which appeared in three volumes from 1925 to 1929, was also of importance . Heusler did not divide verses according to verse , but, according to his musical inclination, according to measures , whereby he assigned the individual syllables different lengths with the corresponding note value . Although his approach aroused some criticism among colleagues, the Heusler notation he used to reproduce the rhythms of verse is still used today, especially in the area of Germanic Medieval Studies .

Heusler's law

Heusler 's Law is also named after Heusler , according to which in Alemannic Fortis and Lenis are only pronounced differently if they are surrounded by voiced sounds ("voiceless Lenis and Fortis preserve their opposing nature only in sonorous surroundings"), in Alemannic that is / m /, / n /, / ŋ /, / l /, / r /, / ʋ /, / j / and / w /. For example, in Zurich German / fyr i / (for you) is realized as [fyr i], but / heb̥ i / (hold tight) is pronounced as [hep t i]. The name after Heusler prevailed, although he pointed out that Jost Winteler had already recognized this regularity before him in 1875/76. The real discoverer, however, is the medieval St. Gallen monk and writer Notker III. ; see Notkers initial law .


  • The Alemannic consonantism in the dialect of Baselstadt. Trübner, Strasbourg 1888.
  • Song and epic in Germanic poetry. Ruhfus, Dortmund 1905.
  • Old Icelandic elementary book (= Germanic library. 1: Collection of Germanic elementary and handbooks. Series 1: Grammars. Volume 3). 2nd Edition. Winter, Heidelberg 1913; 7th, unchanged edition. Winter, Heidelberg 1977, ISBN 3-8253-0486-8 .
  • The story of the wise Njal (= Thule. Volume 4, ZDB -ID 516164-2 ). Diederichs, Jena 1914 (translation of the Brennu Njáls saga).
  • The old Germanic poetry. Athenaion, Berlin 1923.
  • German history of verse (= outline of Germanic philology 8). 3 volumes. de Gruyter, Berlin a. a. 1925-1929. 2nd rev. De Gruyter, Berlin 1956:
    • Volume 1 = part 1/2: introductory, basic concepts of verse doctrine, the old Germanic verse.
    • Volume 2 = Part 3: The old German verse.
    • Volume 3 = Part 4/5: The early German verse. The new German verse.
  • Germanism. From the feeling of life and form of the ancient Teutons (= culture and language. Volume 8). Winter, Heidelberg 1934.
  • Ideas and confessions. Printed as handwriting for friends. Self-published, Arlesheim 1935.
  • Writings on Alemannic. Edited by Stefan Sonderegger . de Gruyter, Berlin 1970.



  1. Andreas Heusler III. In: Eduard His: Basel scholars of the 19th century. Schwabe, Basel 1941, p. 399.
  2. ^ Members of the previous academies. Andreas Heusler. Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities , accessed on April 4, 2015 .
  3. Holger Krahnke: The members of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen 1751-2001 (= Treatises of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen, Philological-Historical Class. Volume 3, Vol. 246 = Treatises of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen, Mathematical-Physical Class. Episode 3, vol. 50). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2001, ISBN 3-525-82516-1 , p. 113.
  4. ^ Walter Haas: Heusler, Andreas. In: Historical Lexicon of Switzerland .
  5. Andreas Heusler III. In: Eduard His: Basel scholars of the 19th century. Schwabe, Basel 1941, p. 401.
  7. ^ Andreas Heusler: The Alemannic consonantism in the dialect of Baselstadt. Karl J. Trübner, Strasbourg 1888, p. 24.
  8. Example from: Jürg Fleischer , Stephan Schmid: Zurich German ( Memento from March 3, 2016 in the Internet Archive ). In: Journal of the International Phonetic Association. 36, 2006, pp. 243-253.
  9. The edition designation refers to the Germanische Bibliothek . The first edition is by Bernhard Kahle .
  10. Heusler presented a dedication copy to Adolf Hitler at Christmas 1924 with the inscription "Herr Adolf Hitler von Volkischen Freunde". Philipp Gassert , Daniel S. Mattern: The Hitler library. A bibliography (= Bibliographies and indexes in world history. Vol. 52). Greenwood Press, Westport CT et al. a. 2001, ISBN 0-313-31495-0 .

Web links

Wikisource: Andreas Heusler  - Sources and full texts