German dialects

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The German dialects are the landscape-shaped forms of the German language developed independently from Old and Middle High German or Old and Middle Low German , genetically independent of the written or standard German language . In their entirety, they form part of the continental Germanic or West Germanic dialect continuum .

The German dialects are divided into High German and Low German dialects , i.e. the dialects of the “higher” and “lower” countries. The dialects of the higher lands were affected to a greater or lesser extent by the so-called High German phonetic shift , from which the dialects in the lower lands remained unaffected. The High German dialects, for their part, are divided into Central German and Upper German dialects .

Dialect groups around 1990
Dialect landscape (1910)


The many varieties of the German language, standard German and dialects, cannot be tied to political borders. A variety is either "language" or "dialect" but only in relation to something else; the conceptual status of the names for language varieties can change. One speaks of a Swiss High German or a Bavarian High German as well as non-standard varieties such as Upper Saxon-Meissen or Ripuarian Kölsch .

In the West, the expression Platt (probably a Lower Franconian expression that means "understandable, clear") is widespread for the local dialects, which is not to be confused with the term Low German for Low German. In the 19th century, Jacob Grimm tried to differentiate between dialect (large-scale) and dialect (small-scale), a differentiation that did not take hold.

The names of the dialects have different forms of formation: place or region plus dialect or dialect (“the Viennese dialect”, “the Viennese dialect”), place or region plus Platt (“Aachener Platt”, “Lothringer Platt”), composition with -deutsch , whereby the defining word occurs with or without the derivative syllable -er ("Berndeutsch", "Schaffhauserdeutsch") and nouns in -isch ("Münchnerisch", "Schwäbisch").

Umbrella languages

Within the German dialects, German is the umbrella or standard language. For a few decades, Luxembourgish , which developed in the area of ​​a Central German dialect group, has been on the way to becoming an independent standard language. The Swiss-German dialects, on the other hand, are not established as a uniform language despite their diverse uniform characteristics and a heavy use in writing. The standard German of Austria, Switzerland and Germany are varieties of the standard German language. In the vicinity of the borders between France and Belgium , Belgium and Germany , Luxembourg and all neighboring countries, Germany and France, there are some German dialect areas and a Lower Franconian under the French umbrella language. In northern Italy there are German dialects under the Italian umbrella language.

In the Middle Ages competed in the German dialects on the one hand the Middle Low German and the other is the Middle Dutch . The Lower Rhine area was part of the scope of Dutch. The diocese of Münster was considered bilingual. While the Low German dialects adopted New High German as the only written language from the 16th century , the Lower Rhine remained Dutch until the 19th century . In the 19th century, however, the Prussian government pursued a rigid, active language policy, the aim of which was the complete suppression of Dutch and the establishment of German as the only standard and written language. In 1827 the use of the Dutch language in elementary schools and churches was banned. Nevertheless, Dutch was spoken and taught in the churches in Klevi until the last decades of the 19th century, so that around 1900 there were still 80,361 Dutch-speaking residents in the German Empire. With a ban in the late 1930s, the National Socialists put an official end to Dutch on the Lower Rhine.

Origin of dialects and dialect spaces

Tribal languages ​​and territorial dialects

In the early Middle Ages, various Germanic tribal associations existed in the area of ​​the later German-speaking countries and the Benelux countries. They were the tribes of the Alamanni , Bavarians , Franks , Frisians , Saxons and Thuringians . In the south, in later Italy , settled the tribal association of the Lombards , which at that time also still had a Germanic tribal language. However, some of these associations were themselves conglomerates from different tribes formed in the wake of the Great Migration , such as the Alemanni ("all people"), the Franks ("the free") and the Saxons ("fellow swords"). In the 9th century the tribes were united in the empire of Charlemagne and from the 10th century onwards were organized in the tribal duchies of Baiern , Franconia , Lorraine (divided into Lower and Upper Lorraine since 959) and Swabia, as well as in the Landgraviate of Thuringia . The area of ​​the Frisians was loosely attached to the dominion of Lorraine. In the course of an imperial reform of the 12th century, the tribal duchies were abolished.

How far these tribes had their own languages ​​is largely unknown and has been answered differently in linguistic historiography. In the 8th century - in some cases even before that - closely related Old High German and, on the other hand, closely related, but partly Franconian influenced Old Low German writing languages ​​appeared, which were mainly used for literary purposes. In the Middle High German and Middle Low German times, these writing languages ​​functioned as actual literary and administrative languages. However, they only represented the basics of the language effectively spoken.

Historical dialects

The high and late medieval dialects can only be determined to a very limited extent from the written languages ​​of the time, as these were relatively strongly supra-regional and thus avoided all too local features. However, there is much to suggest that the essential features of today's German dialects were already developed in the High Middle Ages. In the Historical Southwest German Language Atlas , linguistic peculiarities of the land registers of the 13th to 15th centuries are mapped, the area distribution of which often corresponds to that of the 20th century. Conclusions about the spoken language at that time also allow hypercorrections , i.e. incorrect generalizations that indicate the occurrence of a sound that does not match the written language. The spoken language shimmers through, especially in usage texts; thus reflexes of spoken language can already be found in Old High German testimonies.

The exploration of historical dialects from a phonetic point of view is particularly the task of the infralinguistic structural-genetic method and phonogenetics, which make it possible to deduce the historical ones from the phonetic systems of recent dialects. The regional historical vocabulary can, on the one hand, be derived directly from the historical written form and, on the other hand, indirectly from recent area linguistics . For morphological purposes, however, historical texts can only be evaluated with the necessary caution, since here - as with the phonetic system - the written form tends to be supra-regional and conservative.

Further references to the language spoken in the High and Late Middle Ages give exclusive features of certain particularly characteristic settler or linguistic island dialects , such as those of the Moselle-Franconian Transylvanian Saxons or the High Alemannic Walser : linguistic peculiarities that are common to the dialects of both the origin and the settlement area At the same time, distinguishing these from other dialects, point to a period of origin that predates the emigration. Most of the other types of settlers' mouths, however, are compensatory dialects that allow few conclusions to be drawn about earlier conditions.

Dialect spaces

Map based on the clustering of the pronunciation intervals of German dialects.
  • Low German cluster

  • East central German cluster

  • Upper German cluster

  •  Ripuarian cluster

  • Lower Rhine-West Munsterland cluster
  • At the end of the 19th century it was assumed that the German dialect borders were found within the old borders of the Germanic tribes . In the 1870s, the Germanist Georg Wenker sent questionnaires to schools in the Rhine Province , in which the schoolchildren were supposed to translate the questions into the local dialect, later to Northern Germany and Central Germany, then to Swabia , Franconia and Switzerland . By 1939, the entire German-speaking area was gradually recorded and the results plotted on maps. It was found that the German dialects were not based on the historical tribal duchies of the early period, but rather on those of the medieval territories, and that there were broad transition zones between these. As a result, the Moselle Franconian almost coincides with the old political boundaries of the Archdiocese of Trier , and the Central Swabian with those of Old Württemberg.

    The dialect continuum only knows actual language boundaries in exceptional cases. Linguistic research, however, has been working with dialect spaces since the early grammar period, which it defines using isoglosses and isogloss bundles. The Benrath line ( maken / making line), for example, is the dialect divide between Low German and Low Franconian on the one hand and Central German on the other. As a boundary between the center and the German upper Germans will Speyer line ( Appel / apple line) or the Germersheimer line ( P and / pound line) viewed. Until the 1970s, however, it was common to use the Uerdinger line ( ik / ich line) and the Karlsruhe line ( enk / you - and the mähen / mähet line) between Middle German and Upper German as a dialect divide between Low German and Middle German . These isoglosses are now considered to be unsuitable, as they include East Franconian, which is clearly influenced by Upper German, and the neighboring South Rhine Franconian to Central German.

    In recent dialectology, dialect spaces are no longer determined solely on the basis of individual phenomena , but also on the basis of areal typological findings. These are based on the one hand in the structuralist interpretation of the entire vowel system and on the other in dialectometric distance measurements.

    Relationships and demarcations

    The German dialects are closely related to the Dutch, as the state borders were not dialect borders. Variants of Lower Saxon ( Nedersaksisch ) are spoken in the east of the Netherlands. Although these are strongly influenced by Dutch, they are genetically and structurally more closely related to Low German . There is also a comparable relationship between the Low German dialects and German. While the Low German and Dutch dialects in German linguistics were summarized as "Low German" until the end of the 19th century, the affiliation of the Lower Franconian languages ​​to Low German is now disputed, as these are actually transitional dialects from Middle German to Low German, So to the Lower Saxon dialects. But there is Dutch evidence from the 17th century that there the Dutch dialects were still perceived as part of the German language, since it was originally no further from High German than the actual Low German. The Frisian and Low German languages belong to the North Sea Germanic branch of West Germanic after most of the Germanic language groups , whereby Low German separated from it earlier and English and Frisian together formed Anglo-Frisian for a long time. The East Frisian was replaced by Lower Saxon dialects and is almost completely extinct.



    The structure of dialects in a dialect continuum is a scientific-abstract linguistic construct . The individual dialects can also be grouped and classified differently , which is illustrated not least by the transition dialects that exist between all dialect spaces. Nevertheless, the classifications developed in the 19th century (linguistically based on the second sound shift, problematic in terms of naming according to ancient-early medieval cultures (“ tribes ”)) have not yet been replaced.

    The division of the dialects according to the degree of expansion of features of the second sound shift led to the subdivision into Low and High German and the division of High German into Middle and Upper German. An example of the transitions that exist in practice, which are not represented by the theoretical structure, is the dialect known as Berlin , but actually more widespread in Brandenburg , which has Low and Central German language features.

    The assignment of the dialects to Germanic groups of antiquity and the early Middle Ages (especially Franconia , Alemanni , Baiern , Saxony ) is, as we now know, problematic. The dialect geographers of the 19th and early 20th centuries hoped to make a contribution to the reconstruction of earlier settlement areas of Germanic cultures ("German tribes"). However, this is almost predominantly the task of archeology .

    Lower Franconian dialects

    The Lower Franconian dialect continuum extends over the Netherlands, northern Belgium ( Flanders ), a small area in the far north of France ( French Flanders ) and the Lower Rhine and the east of the Bergisches Land in western Germany ( North Rhine-Westphalia ). This means that the Dutch dialects and in the German-speaking area Kleverland and Limburg are Lower Franconian. In South Africa and Namibia, Afrikaans are also included. Almost all Lower Franconian dialects have the Dutch standard language as their umbrella language . In the Lower Franconian areas of Germany, Dutch was not replaced by Standard German until the 19th century .

    Because this dialect group, like the Low German dialects, did not take part in the second sound shift , the Lower Franconian dialects were sometimes assigned to the Low German dialects discussed below in the past.

    Low German dialects

    The Low German dialects (also "Platt" or "Plattdeutsch") are - in analogy to Upper and Central German - often in Lower Saxon (also: "West Low German") and East Low German , more rarely - due to the linguistic structure - in "North" and "Southern Low German" divided.

    Lower Saxon is divided into Westphalian , East Westphalian and North Lower Saxon , which in turn are divided into Unterermundarten in the northeastern areas of the Netherlands and almost in the entire northwest German-speaking area in Westphalia, Lower Saxony, Schleswig-Holstein, Hamburg, Bremen and western Saxony-Anhalt.

    East Low German, in which traces of Slavic dialects as well as other German and Dutch settler dialects can be detected, spread at the time through migration movements via Pomerania and Old Prussia to the Baltic States . It is divided into Brandenburgisch (Märkisch) and Mecklenburgisch-Vorpommersch , historically also East Pomeranian and Lower Prussian dialects belong to it. The Berlinerisch is a Regiolekt with the Südmärkisch as a substrate. Depending on the linguistic perspective, Südmärkisch is assigned partly to (East) Low German and partly to (East) Central German.

    If, on the other hand, Low German is divided into a northern and a southern group, North Low Saxon and Mecklenburg-Western Pomeranian, historically also Upper Pomeranian and Low Prussian, form North Low German. Westphalian, Ostfälisch and Brandenburgisch (Märkisch) form the South Low German. The East Frisian Platt in northwestern Germany, contrary to its name, does not belong to the Frisian but to the Low German dialects. It has displaced what was previously Frisian and adopted its name.

    The Low German dialects were used as the main colloquial language until the middle of the 20th century, especially in rural areas. In the Middle Ages and in the early modern period in northern Germany, not least as a written language, as the language of the office, as the lingua franca of the Hanseatic League as far as the Baltic States. Due to the influence of the Reformation (High German Luther Bible) and immigration, among other things , it was gradually pushed back and has partially disappeared completely, especially in large cities.

    The Low German dialects have little structural similarities with Standard German (High German or written German), which is characterized by the particularly Central German dialects, but they shape the German standard pronunciation in some respects.

    High German dialects

    The second sound shift did not take place in Low German and Dutch. In Central German it took place to a limited extent, in Upper German to a greater extent. This sound shift began in the early Middle Ages (6th century AD) in the south-east of the Germanic (German) language area, spread continuously to the north-west and north and influenced the dialects to varying degrees. The second sound shift includes the changes in several sound features that are involved in the development of “maken” (low German) to “make” (high German) (so-called Benrath line ) and from “ik” (low German) to “I” (high German). ) ( Uerdinger line ), without this being an actual dialect boundary, since the changes in dialect are flowing (continuously) through small changes from place to place.

    Middle German dialects

    Central German is divided into a western and an eastern half. Both areas are topographically connected only by a narrow area between Kassel and Eisenach (this is where Upper and Lower German come closest). The language borders that separate West and East Central German also run in this area between the Werra and Fulda rivers . Sometimes the isogloss is chosen that separates western "pund" from eastern "find" (for standard German "pound").

    The West Central German dialects all belong to the so-called Franconian dialects. They are divided into Rhine-Franconian , Moselle-Franconian and Ripuarian and spoken mainly in Luxembourg (where the regional variant Luxembourgish has been expanded to a written language ) as well as in Saarland and in large parts of Rhineland-Palatinate and Hesse , but also in north-western Baden-Württemberg , in the French and Belgian border areas, in the south-east corner of the Netherlands and, last but not least, in south-west North Rhine-Westphalia .

    The Ostmitteldeutsche is a more uniform field in comparison to the West Central German. Its distribution area is roughly the same as that of the Thuringian-Upper Saxon dialects , which occupy roughly the southern half of the former GDR . Historically, Silesian and High Prussian also belong to it.

    In the Central German dialects, the language features of the second sound shift have not been widely accepted than in Upper German. The isoglosses that separate the older "p" from the newer "pf" are usually used to distinguish it from Upper German - in today's Upper German areas, "p" has been moved to "pf". However, not all p / pf boundaries coincide in one isogloss bundle - the shift depends on the word in which “p” occurs and the position of the “p” in the word (see “pound”, “apple”). Often the apple-apple border is chosen as a characteristic. The characteristics of the second sound shift have spread particularly inconsistently in West Central German (see Rheinischer Fächer ) .

    Upper German dialects

    Upper German is differentiated into West, East and North Upper German. West Upper German is better known as Alemannic or Swabian-Alemannic, and East Upper German is better known as Bavarian . “ North Upper German ”, on the other hand, is a term that is rarely used in dialectology, as it combines two dialect groups with East Franconian and South Franconian , which are structurally very different. The Upper German dialects - and within them the High and High Alemannic as well as the Tyrolean dialects - are characterized by the most extensive distribution of the characteristics of the second sound shift.

    While the South Franconian occupies only a small part of the north-west of Baden-Württemberg , the East Franconian extends over a larger area. It is spoken mainly in the north-west of Bavaria , in southern Thuringia and in the north-east of Baden-Württemberg. The boundaries between Central German on the one hand and Upper German Alemannic and Bavarian on the other hand are mostly fluid; Mention should be made here of mixed areas in East Franconia and Swabia in Baden-Württemberg and in Bavaria around Dinkelsbühl and Hesselberg and a south Franconian and Lower Alemannic mixed area around Rastatt . The Rennsteig represents a hard border in the north, while to the west of it in the Rhön and Werra Valley and to the east in the Vogtland there are again broad transition zones to Central Germany.

    Distribution area of ​​West Upper German in the 19th and 20th centuries

    The distribution area of ​​the Alemannic (West Upper German) dialects includes the German-speaking part of Switzerland , in Austria Vorarlberg and small areas in the far west of Tyrol , in Bavaria mainly the administrative region of Swabia , in Baden-Württemberg the southern two thirds of the country and in France - at least historically - large parts of Alsace . The Alemannische is usually in Schwäbisch , Upper Rhine or low , Lake Constance or medium , high and Highest Alemannic German divided. The designation Lower Alemannic is ambiguous: it can mean Upper Rhine Alemannic or it can be used as a generic term for Upper Rhine and Lake Constance Alemannic. Alemannic is separated from Bavarian by one of the most pronounced bundles of isoglosses (coincidence of several dialect-distinguishing features) in the German-speaking area. However, the Bavarian-Swabian area of ​​the Lechrain forms a transition area .

    The distribution area of ​​the Bavarian (East Upper German) dialects includes Austria with the exception of Vorarlberg, in the German state of Bavaria the administrative districts of Upper Bavaria, Lower Bavaria and Upper Palatinate and in Italy almost all of South Tyrol. The relatively homogeneous Bavarian dialect landscape is subdivided into northern , central and southern Bavarian . The Central Bavarian dialect is Viennese , the city dialect of Vienna . There are not insignificant transitional dialects to East Franconian, among which Nuremberg is particularly well known. To distinguish it from East Franconian, the isogloss is often picked out, which separates Bavarian “enk” from East Franconian “you” (standard German “you”).

    Distribution areas

    German-Dutch language area with the following large dialect groups:
  • Low German
  • Former Low German language area. Practically nonexistent since 1945/50.
  • Middle German
  • Former Central German language area. Practically nonexistent since 1945/50.
  • Upper German
  • Former Upper German language area. Practically nonexistent since 1945/50.
  • Lower Franconian
  • The former German-speaking area in East Central Europe is highlighted.
    Continental West Germanic languages ​​that do not belong to the German-Dutch dialect continuum :
  • Frisian
  • By 1945 at the latest, German dialects were spoken in considerable parts of Central and Eastern Europe. During the Second World War, however, many scattered settlements, for example in the Baltic States, Volhynia, Croatia, Bessarabia and South Tyrol, were dissolved. Those affected by this, around one million speakers, were mainly settled in occupied Poland and especially in the Wartheland . After the Second World War, they were expelled, just like the indigenous German-speaking population of Poland and the German eastern territories. Stalin deported all Volga Germans to Siberia as early as 1941 . After 1945, the fate of the expulsion also affected most of the speakers of German dialects who remained in Eastern Europe. Exceptions were the Romanian Germans and the Hungarian Germans , the majority of whom were not affected by expulsions. Nevertheless, the number of German dialect speakers has so far declined significantly, be it through resettlement (Romania) or through assimilation (Hungary), so that the existence of the German dialects there is threatened. The descendants of the displaced were linguistically absorbed in the new residential areas.

    The autochthonous distribution area of ​​German dialects mainly includes Germany , Austria , Switzerland , Liechtenstein , Luxembourg and neighboring areas in France , Belgium , Italy and Denmark . In Europe there are also language islands in Poland , the Czech Republic , Slovakia , Hungary , Slovenia , Romania and the Ukraine .

    The allochthonous distribution areas outside Europe include:

    National variants of the German language overseas are to be distinguished from the actual dialects. In Namibia, for example, a variant of German is used which is influenced by Afrikaans and English , but cannot be classified as a dialect. See German language in Namibia .

    Dialect current

    The small-scale isolations that promoted local language differences (and thus a basis for basic dialects) have been abolished. Far more than in centuries before, the traditional local ways of speaking and language systems are influenced and leveled out by languages ​​that have a large effect (standard languages, colloquial languages, specialist languages, media languages). Dialects tend to be regional today.

    Dialects and their area of ​​distribution can convey a decisive cultural identity , which is why, according to a study by the Ifo Institute for Economic Research , dialect areas influence the decisions of many people to move.


    In Ostbelgien the dialects are retreating due to the influence of the standard German media. The dialects in the Eupener Land tend to be more under pressure than in the Belgian Eifel , in which the dialects still have a strong position. What is interesting is the position of the dialects in the Low German communities , in which parts of the population do not use standard German but French as the high-level language alongside the German dialect.


    In Luxembourg, the Middle Franconian dialect there has been expanded to become the standard German language, which is still comparatively little written, and was formally upgraded to the national language in 1984.


    In France, German, like all other dialects, is in a passive position compared to standard French and is displaced by it in many areas.


    In Switzerland, the German (especially Alemannic) dialects have gained ground in public compared to Standard German. This process is not only related to the world wars of the 20th century, but has precursors in developments that can be traced back over a long period of time to the late Middle Ages (emphasis on statehood, highly Alemannic dialect continuum). From the second half of the 19th century until the Second World War, the areas of application of Standard German and Swiss German were more clearly defined than they are today. In the second half of the 20th century there was a real “dialect wave” in Switzerland, which called the scope of standard German into question on various occasions. Standard German is only used in certain areas of life, for example in some parliaments, in school lessons, in university lectures, in certain radio and television programs, when making announcements on public transport. Youth culture , dialect rock and local radio played a not insignificant role . Not least due to the omnipresence of Swiss German on television and radio, but of course also due to mobility, pronounced dialect differences are increasingly being dismantled, and the lexical and grammatical distance to the written language is becoming smaller and smaller.


    In Austria, the traditional dialects are still spoken very often, especially in rural areas, although there is a tendency to use less regionally limited compensatory dialects . A sharp decline in dialect can only be recorded in Vienna, where, according to estimates, only ten percent speak the traditional Central Bavarian Viennese. The majority speak either a different dialect or German with a special Viennese accent. In the other Austrian federal states, such declines were only recorded in a weaker form in the provincial capitals or in areas with high levels of immigration.


    In Germany, areas in which the dialects are under greater or lesser pressure for various reasons and are on the decline are in contrast to areas in which the dialects have a comparatively good to strong position. In general, however, due to the influence of High German media and the mobility of numerous people (and thus the mixing of the individual variants), there is a strong retreat of all dialects. For example, 13 regional German languages, including Kölsch and Bavarian , have been reported as threatened with extinction by the World Education Organization.

    The ability to speak dialect depends on your age, region, and size of home town. According to a study published in 2001 for the Institute for Regional Geography , people over 60 can speak dialect more often than under 35, and residents of communities with fewer than 50,000 inhabitants more often than residents of larger cities. There is also a certain south-north divide. In Bavaria, in southern Baden-Wuerttemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland, 60-70% said they could speak a dialect, in northern Baden-Wuerttemberg, Hesse and Schleswig-Holstein 50-60%, in Bremen, in northern Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia and Thuringia 30–40%, in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, in northern Brandenburg, Saxony-Anhalt and Saxony 20–30%, in Hamburg, in southern Lower Saxony, Berlin and southern Brandenburg less than 20%. It should be noted that the information is based on personal statements, but in some areas “dialect” is not understood to mean the dialect in the actual sense, but the regional colloquial language.

    Research and Documentation

    Early science

    Early dictionaries and word lists were the idiotics written from the middle of the 18th century , smaller and larger compilations of the landscape-bound vocabulary that was not known elsewhere. Early grammatical representations were, for example, Franz Joseph Stalder's Die Landessprachen der Schweiz or Swiss dialectology from 1819 and Johann Andreas Schmeller's Bavarian dialects, grammatically represented from 1821.

    Dialect dictionaries

    With Schmeller's Bavarian Dictionary from 1827–1836, the basis of modern dialect lexicography was created. From the later 19th and early 20th centuries, scientifically developed multi-volume dialect dictionaries were tackled for the entire German-speaking area, the "large-scale dictionaries of German dialects". These partly also include the historical vocabulary (consistently in the dictionaries for Switzerland , Austria , Bavaria , Württemberg , Mecklenburg and Hamburg ), but more often focus on the recent vocabulary of the respective region. The majority of these works have been completed, but some are still in progress. Regional and local dialect dictionaries, on the other hand, often come from the pen of amateurs and therefore have a very different quality.

    A compilation of the large-scale dictionaries is provided by the list of important dictionaries # Large-scale and other multi-volume dialect dictionaries from the German-speaking area .

    Dialect grammars

    Jost Winteler's Die Kerenzer Dialect of the Canton of Glarus, presented in its basic features from 1875/76, was fundamental for modern dialectological phonology . Over the next seventy years or so, it was followed by a large number of local grammars , initially based on young grammar , which consistently represent phonology and often also morphology , and only recently also syntax . These works still form an indispensable, if sometimes forgotten, basis for dialectological work. A classic series of such young grammatical-oriented publications are, for example, the articles on Swiss German grammar . The publication of local grammars declined sharply after the Second World War, but has not dried up.

    A compilation (including the mapping of the dialect grammars ) is provided by Peter Wiesinger , Elisabeth Raffin: Bibliography on the grammar of German dialects. Phonology, form, word formation and sentence theory. 1800–1980, Bern, Frankfurt am Main 1982; a supplement from 1987.

    Language atlases

    The first major project for a linguistic atlas was the linguistic atlas of the German Empire , which was worked on from 1876 under the direction of Georg Wenker and which was still solely concerned with the recording of the various phonetic relationships within German. This was supplemented by the German word atlas from 1939 under the direction of Walther Mitzka . At the end of the 19th century, Hermann Fischer published his own language atlas for the Swabian region .

    The first modern linguistic atlas, which in turn was decisive for all that followed, is the linguistic atlas of German-speaking Switzerland, founded in 1935 . In keeping with the newly emerged research direction words and things , which wanted to replace the “atomism” of the young grammarians, a central concern of these younger atlases was the connection between words and the objects and facts they designate.

    While the previous language atlases are primarily devoted to phonology, morphology and lexicons, more recently - inspired by Dutch dialectology - several atlases on dialect syntax have been in progress, already completed or still in planning, for example on German-speaking Switzerland, to Hesse and the Bavarian-Austrian language area.

    In language atlases, one can differentiate between large and small atlases. Many atlas projects are referred to on the website of the German Language Atlas. A current compilation of atlases and overviews are then published by Niebaum / Macha 2006.

    Historical dialectology, dialect geography and area typology

    Based in particular on the extensive data in the language atlases, but often supplemented by our own surveys, the 20th century was the great era of dialect geography . The School of Theodor Frings shaped the historical dialectology in which it came to the development of the dialect regions in Germany; for the German part of Switzerland the work of Ernst Erhard Müller was decisive. Ferdinand Wrede and his school devoted themselves to recent dialect geography, Karl Bohnenberger (a pupil of Hermann Fischer) in Swabia, and Rudolf Hotzenköcherle and his pupils in German-speaking Switzerland .

    Structuralism , which originated in America, found comparatively little echo in German dialect research. Worth mentioning are the contributions by William G. Moulton and Walter Haas , who were able to work out the development of the Swiss-German sound system and the associated formation of dialect spaces by means of diachronic interpretation of synchronous data. Peter Wiesinger , who with his structuralist approach, was able to partially correct and replace the earlier proposals based on completely different criteria, provided the fundamentals for the classification of the German dialects .

    Recently, the University of Marburg has been pursuing various approaches to describe the German dialects in terms of area typology . The prerequisite for this is the fact that on a consistent basis based and German-speaking countries throughout the thousands of places created translations of Wenkersätze thanks to the digital Wenkeratlas (DiWA) a few years ago are accessible along its whole length (almost). Examples of this modernized form of conventional dialect geography are Alfred Lameli 's analyzes of the dialect structures of Germany using quantitative methods and Jürg Fleischer's project “Morphosyntactic Evaluation of Wenker Sentences ”.

    Socio- and pragma-linguistic issues

    After the Second World War, research on dialects in their social and pragmatic context came into focus. Specific topics are, for example, the domain distribution between dialect and standard language in diglossic language situations or the choice of language in bilingual regions.

    Dialect change

    The dialect change that is taking place in the 20th and 21st centuries has not yet been studied very much. Exceptions to this are southwest Germany and the neighboring Alsace, where two larger projects under Peter Auer , at the University of Freiburg im Breisgau and, in the second case, also at the University of Strasbourg, are dedicated to this topic.

    Regional language research

    Dialects are being replaced more and more by regional languages, which is why the latter have now come into the focus of science. A long-term project sponsored by the Mainz Academy, called, is devoted to this topic, among other things. Another research project, namely the atlas on everyday German language, is based at the universities of Salzburg (previously Augsburg) and Liège.

    Perceptual dialectology

    The subject of this branch of dialect research, which has only recently emerged, is the linguistic, geographical, social, cognitive and visualized spatial conceptions of regional varieties of German from the perspective of German-speaking linguistic laypeople.

    See also



    • Ulrich Ammon : What is a German dialect? In Klaus Mattheier (Ed.): Dialektologie des Deutschen. Tübingen 1994, pp. 369-384, ISBN 3-484-31147-9 .
    • Werner Besch (Hrsg.): Dialectology. A manual for German and general dialect research. 2 vol., De Gruyter, Berlin 1982, 1983, ISBN 3-11-005977-0 , 3-11-009571-8.
    • Eckhard Eggers (ed.): Modern dialects - new dialectology. Files of the 1st congress of the International Society for Dialectology of German (IGDD) at the Research Institute for the German Language "Deutscher Sprachatlas" of the Philipps University of Marburg from March 5th to 8th 2003. Steiner, Stuttgart 2005, ISBN 3-515-08762- 1 .
    • Karl-Heinz Göttert : Everything except standard German. A foray through our dialects. Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-550-08877-3 .
    • Rudolf E. Keller : German Dialects. Phonology and Morphology. With selected texts. Manchester University Press, Manchester 1961, reprinted 1979.
    • Werner König : dtv-Atlas German language. Munich 2005, ISBN 3-423-03025-9 .
    • Alfred Lameli: Structures in the Language Area . Analyzes of the area-typological complexity of dialects in Germany. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / Boston 2013 (Linguistics - Impulse & Tendencies. 54), ISBN 978-3-11-033123-3 .
    • Klaus J. Mattheier: Pragmatics and Sociology of Dialects. Quelle & Meyer, Heidelberg 1980, ISBN 3-494-02116-3 .
    • Hermann Niebaum, Jürgen Macha: Introduction to the dialectology of German (=  Germanistic workbooks. Volume 37). Tübingen 2006, ISBN 3-484-26037-8 .
    • Charles VJ Russ (Ed.): The Dialects of Modern German. Routledge, London 1990.
    • Viktor M. Schirmunski : German dialectology. Comparative theory of sounds and forms in German dialects. Translated from Russian by Wolfgang Fleischer. Edited and commented by Larissa Naiditsch, with the assistance of Peter Wiesinger. Lang, Frankfurt am Main a. a. 2010, ISBN 978-3-631-59973-0 .
    • Peter Wiesinger : Phonetic-phonological research on vowel development in German dialects. Volumes 1 and 2. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 1970 (Studia Linguistica Germanica. 2).
    • Peter Wiesinger, Elisabeth Raffin: Bibliography on the grammar of the German dialects (1800 to 1980). Lang, Bern 1982, ISBN 3-261-03200-6 , ISBN 3-261-03201-4 .
    • Peter Wiesinger: Bibliography on the grammar of the German dialects (1981 to 1985 and supplements). Lang, Bern 1987, ISBN 3-261-03738-5 .
    • Peter Wiesinger: Structural historical dialectology of German. Structural history and structural geography studies on the vowel development of German dialects. Edited by Franz Patocka. Olms, Hildesheim / Zurich / New York 2017 (German Linguistics. 234–236), ISBN 978-3-487-15102-1 .

    Language atlases
    Greater atlases:

    • German Language Atlas , 1927–1956, digital version
    • Small German Language Atlas, 1984–1999
    • German word atlas
    • Word atlas of German colloquial languages
    • Atlas on the pronunciation of written German in the Federal Republic of Germany
    • Word atlas of continental Germanic winemaking terminology (WKW)

    Small room atlases:

    • Atlas linguistique et ethnographique de l'Alsace (ALA), 1969/1985
    • Bavarian Language Atlas: Language Atlas of Bavarian Swabia (SBS); Language Atlas of Upper Bavaria (SOB); Language region Munich (SRM); Language Atlas of Lower Bavaria (SNiB); North-East Bavarian Language Atlas (Upper Franconia and Upper Palatinate, SNOB); Language Atlas of Middle Franconia (SMF); Language Atlas of Lower Franconia (SUF)
    • Luxembourg Language Atlas, 1963, digital version
    • Linguistic Atlas of Upper Austria, 1998 ff.
    • Linguistic Atlas of German-speaking Switzerland, 1962–2003
    • Transylvanian-German Language Atlas
    • Southwest German Language Atlas, 1972–2012
    • Thuringian Dialect Atlas, 1961–1965
    • Tyrolean Language Atlas, 1965–1971
    • Vorarlberg Language Atlas, 1964ff.


    • Contributions to German Philology (BDPH). Giessen 1954 f. ISSN  0522-5341
    • German dialectography (up to vol. 100 "Deutsche Dialektgeographie") (DDG). Marburg 1908 f. ISSN  0179-3241
    • Germanic-Romance monthly (GRM). Heidelberg 1909 f. ISSN  0016-8904
    • Teuthonista
    • Journal for Dialectology and Linguistics (ZDL)
    • Journal for German Dialects (ZDM)
    • Journal for German Philology (ZDPH)
    • Journal for the German Language (ZDS)
    • Journal for German Studies and Linguistics (ZGL)
    • Journal for High German Dialects (ZHM)
    • Journal for Dialect Research (ZMF)

    Web links

    Individual evidence

    1. Ulrich Ammon: What is a German dialect? In Klaus Mattheier (Ed.): Dialektologie des Deutschen. Tübingen 1994, p. 370.
    2. Map for the use of dialect, Platt, Mundart
    3. Werner Besch u. a. (Hrsg.): Sprachgeschichte: a manual for the history of the German language, 3rd part volume. De Gruyter, Berlin 2003, p. 2636.
    4. ^ Wilhelm Böttger: Land between Rhine and Maas: the Left Lower Rhine. In: Monographs of German Economic Areas. No. 7, 1958, p. 22.
    5. ^ Georg Cornelissen: The Dutch in the Prussian Gelderland and its replacement by the German. Röhrscheid, Bonn 1986, p. 93.
    6. ^ J. Kempen: Sprachgeschichtliches vom Niederrhein. In: Der Sprachdienst 18, 1974, p. 132.
    7. Foreign-language minorities in the German Empire . Retrieved January 3, 2020.
    8. Wolfgang Kleiber, Konrad Kunze, Heinrich Löffler: Historischer Südwestdeutscher Sprachatlas. Based on land records from the 13th to 15th centuries. Volume I: Text. Introduction, comments and documentation. Volume II: Maps. Introduction, main tone vowelism, secondary tone vowelism, consonantism. Francke, Bern / Munich 1979 (Bibliotheca Germanica 22 A / B).
    9. See, for example, the comments on the articles Fūst (Volume I, Col. 1124) and Sǖfz (g) en (Volume VII, Col. 371) in the Swiss Idiotikon : Spellings such as ‹Funst› for / fuːst / or ‹sünzgen› for / syːftsgən / suggest that at that time, Staub's law was already a reality.
    10. ^ Stefan Sonderegger: Reflexes of Spoken Language in Old High German Literature. In: Early Medieval Studies. Yearbook of the Institute for Early Medieval Research at the University of Münster. Edited by Karl Hauck. Vol. 5. Berlin / New York 1971, pp. 176-192. A concise example (Sonderegger 1971, p. 180) is about Gimer min ros in the so-called "Old High German Talks", a conversation booklet from the 10th century, for which a literary text give me min ros would stand.
    11. See for example Peter Wiesinger: Structural historical dialectology of German. Structural history and structural geography studies on the vowel development of German dialects. Edited by Franz Patocka. Olms, Hildesheim / Zurich / New York 2017 (German Linguistics. 234–236), ISBN 978-3-487-15102-1 , introductory pp. 13–24.
    12. See for example Ernst Erhard Müller: Word history and language contrast in Alemannic. Francke, Bern / Munich 1960 (Bibliotheca Germanica 8).
    13. The change from the unauthenticated plural Wolfe to the umlauted plural Wölfe can with some certainty be dated for the South Alemannic in the decades before and after 1500, cf. Schweizerisches Idiotikon, Volume XV, Column 1560, comment on the article Wolf . Conversely, the regional distribution of the two variants of the past participle of help, namely helped (according to law) and helped (analogous), cannot be reconstructed in South Alemannic from the historical written form , since the federal language uses both variants in free variation; see Christoph Landolt : "Dis gel is ouch the burgers genzlich genzlich." The past participle of series IIIb with ablaut u in Alemannic. In: Journal for German Philology 132 (2013), pp. 401–416.
    14. For the Walser cf. for example Paul Zinsli : Walser folklore in Switzerland, Vorarlberg, Liechtenstein and Piedmont. Heritage, existence, essence. Huber, Frauenfeld / Stuttgart 1968 (and numerous new editions), on the language pp. 137–195.
    15. Hermann Niebaum, Jürgen Mache: Introduction to the Dialectology of German (=  Germanist workbooks. Volume 37). De Gruyter, Berlin / Boston 2011, p. 98.
    16. ^ Theodor Frings: Language. In: Hermann Aubin, Theodor Frings, Josef Müller: Cultural currents and cultural provinces in the Rhineland. History, language, folklore . Bonn 1926, pp. 90-185.
    17. ^ Friedrich Maurer: On the linguistic history of the German southwest. In: Friedrich Maurer (Ed.): Oberrheiner, Schwaben, Südalemannen. Spaces and forces in the historical structure of the German southwest . Strasbourg 1942, pp. 167–336.
    18. See for example Peter Wiesinger: The division of the German dialects and phonological vowel systems of German dialects, in Werner Besch u. a .: dialectology. A handbook on German and general dialect research, Berlin / New York 1983 (handbooks on language and communication science 1.2), pp. 807–900 and 1042–1076 as well as Baldur Panzer, Wolf Thümmel: The classification of the Low German dialects based on structural development of vocalism. Munich 1971 (Linguistic Series 7).
    19. ^ A b Alfred Lameli: Structures in the language area. Analyzes of the area-typological complexity of dialects in Germany. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / Boston 2013 (Linguistics - Impulse & Tendencies. 54), ISBN 978-3-11-033123-3 .
    20. M. Jansen: Atlas van de Nederlandse taal. Editie Vlaanderen. Lannoo Meulenhoff, Tielt 2018, pp. 29–30.
    21. Lower Franconian. In: Helmut Glück (ed.), With the assistance of Friederike Schmöe : Metzler Lexikon Sprache. 3rd, revised edition. Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2005, ISBN 3-476-02056-8 , p. 419.
    22. ^ Low German and Dutch. In: Werner König: dtv-Atlas for the German language. 9th edition. Munich 1992, ISBN 3-423-03025-9 , p. 103.
    23. Georg Cornelissen: The Dutch in the Prussian Gelderland and its replacement by the German, Rohrscheid, 1986, p. 93.
    24. Cf. Baldur Panzer, Wolf Thümmel: The classification of the Low German dialects due to the structural development of vocalism. Munich 1971 (Linguistic Series 7), summarized on p. 165 ff .; Peter Wiesinger: The division of the German dialects. In: Dialectology. A manual for German and general dialect research. Edited by Werner Besch u. a., 2nd volume, Berlin / New York 1983 (HSK 1), especially p. 828 f .; Ingrid Schröder: Low German in the present. Language area - grammar - internal differentiation. In: Low German language and contemporary literature, ed. by Dieter Stellmacher, Hildesheim – Zurich – New York 2004 (GL 175–176), especially pp. 46–75; Alfred Lameli: Structures in the Language Area . Analyzes of the area-typological complexity of dialects in Germany. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / Boston 2013 (Linguistics - Impulse and Tendencies 54), pp. 147–148, 182–198 and esp. 214–225.
    25. The dialect determines our mobility. In: Retrieved on March 30, 2010 (interview with Ifo employee Oliver Falck).
    26. OstbelgienDirekt: Dialect Atlas presented: Does Platt still have a future in Ostbelgien? , accessed April 10, 2014
    27. Spiegel Online: Kölsch and Bairisch threatened with extinction , February 10, 2009 (accessed June 13, 2010)
    28. Karl-Heinz Bausch, in Institute for Regional Geography (ed.): National Atlas Federal Republic of Germany - Education and Culture. Volume 6, Spektrum Akademischer Verlag, Berlin 2002, p. 94.
    29. See the introduction in: Christoph Landolt: Newer developments in the historical dialect lexicography of German (PDF; 264 kB). In: Lexicographica 23 (2007) [= Newer developments in the lexicography of German, ed. by Peter O. Müller], pp. 151–172.
    30. Dialect syntax of Swiss German. University of Zurich, accessed on August 6, 2020 .
    31. ^ Syntax of Hessian dialects SyHD.
    32. ^ Rudolf Hotzenköcherle: On the methodology of the small room atlases (1962), reprinted again in Rudolf Hotzenköcherle: Dialect structures in change. Collected essays on the dialectology of German-speaking Switzerland and the Walser regions of Northern Italy. Edited by Robert Schläpfer and Rudolf Trüb, Aarau a. a. 1986 (RSL 2).
    33. German Language Atlas.
    34. While universities such as Marburg work with these classifications today, the old, inadequate classification criteria persist in many handbooks. Examples are "Lower Alemannic" in the sense of a dialect area extending from Alsace to Vorarlberg (instead of Upper Rhine Lower Alemannic and Middle Alemannic spoken around Lake Constance) or the linguistically questionable division into "East" and "West Central German" (instead of the division North versus South Low German); see. on this, for example, Peter Wiesinger: The division of German dialects and phonological vowel systems of German dialects, in Werner Besch u. a .: dialectology. A handbook on German and general dialect research, Berlin / New York 1983 (handbooks on language and communication science 1.2), pp. 807–900 and 1042–1076 as well as Baldur Panzer, Wolf Thümmel: The classification of the Low German dialects based on structural development of vocalism . Munich 1971 (Linguistic Series 7). These classifications are confirmed by Alfred Lameli's area-typological approach, as described in the following paragraph.
    35. a b " (REDE)."
    36. ^ "Morphosyntactic evaluation of Wenker sentences."
    37. ^ "Phonological change using the example of the Alemannic dialects of southwest Germany in the 20th century" and "Effects of the state border on the language situation in the Upper Rhine region" ( Memento from June 13, 2015 in the Internet Archive ).
    38. "Atlas of everyday German language."
    39. The German-speaking area from the point of view of linguistic laypeople.