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The Dialektologie is a branch of linguistics that deals with the study of dialects busy. Modern dialectology is sometimes included in sociolinguistics .


Dialect research in the German-speaking area began in the 18th century. This early preoccupation with the dialects mainly resulted in a variety of idiotics . Johann Andreas Schmeller is considered the first dialectologist in the modern sense . The Brothers Grimm , prominent German linguists, also value the German dialects highly and, in the German dictionary, also went into dialect words and dialect variants of words. The Swiss counterpart to the German dictionary, the Swiss Idioticon , developed under Albert Bachmann into the most comprehensive dictionary in a German-speaking region. The dialect dictionaries and the local grammars, which list the dialectal vocabulary or the dialectal grammar (mostly phonology and form theory) of the respective field of study, also make a central contribution to dialectology .

From 1875 Georg Wenker was the first to systematically record all dialects within the German-speaking area with the help of questionnaires. From 1926 to 1956 the German Language Atlas (DSA) was created on the basis of over 52,000 questionnaires; the German Word Atlas (DWA) is the result of research by the scientist Walther Mitzka . Leading the way for all modern language atlases was especially by Rudolf Hotzenköcherle and Heinrich Baumgartner initiated and Rudolf turbidity completed Linguistic Atlas of German Switzerland .

The dialects on the one hand retain older forms of language to a greater extent than the standard language, which is subject to stronger supra-regional standardization, but on the other hand also show innovations to which the written language closes for the same reason of normativity. Therefore, the older dialectology and the associated analysis of the dialects aimed at the reconstruction of earlier language forms and was also the subject of folk studies .

Since the mid-20th century, after the war, dialectology - under the influence of the American and English orientation of the discipline - increasingly used modern linguistic methods to study dialects in their social and pragmatic context and to describe linguistically complex ones Conditions in urban centers and agglomerations.


The basis of every dialectological activity is the collection of material and its publication in dictionaries, grammars and monographs of regions and places as well as sound carriers. The linguistic geography connects as a branch of dialectology the linguistics with the geography and examines the geographic distribution of linguistic forms. Their findings are mainly presented and illustrated in language atlases. There are essentially two methods of data collection: on the one hand, via interviews, e.g. B. after Jules Gilliéron in the Atlas linguistique de la France or after Labov's sociolinguistic interview by William Labov and on the other hand through pre-written questions, e.g. B. Georg Wenker in the German Language Atlas .


Dialectology enjoys a status as a popular science, especially in those regions where dialects and dialects are relatively highly regarded in society. In German-speaking Switzerland in particular , dialectology makes a considerable contribution to language policy and to the intranational dialogue with other language groups. In these areas, the interest in and contribution to this scientific discipline, which is made by lay people, is correspondingly high. In contrast, the role of dialectology in areas where dialects have died out or are of low social standing is limited to documentation and description.

The dialectology can also have a language-preserving or even normative function, as in the case of the investigation of the Graubünden Romance idioms , from which the standard language Rumantsch Grischun arose , or the Norwegian dialects , on which the Nynorsk variant of Norwegian is based.


Dialectology arose exactly at the time when a uniform New High German written language was beginning to establish itself, but by no means as an opposition to it. This period at the beginning of the 19th century was shaped by a romantic national thinking, triggered by the ideas of the French Revolution, which aimed at a state unification of the German-speaking area or a unification of the many German states into one German nation state. This should also be supported linguistically through philological research. The aim of the German scholars and linguists of this time, like the Brothers Grimm , was to research the historical origin of the German language and thus its ancestors in order to give it greater transnational legitimacy. The dialects were seen as historical blooms, which one wanted to collect at least for the archive before their presumed imminent extinction.

In the 20th century, many prominent dialectologists got caught up in the ideological waters of Hitler's National Socialism and practiced dialectology mainly as a folk research in order to emphasize irredentist demands. In this sense, the dialects of ethnic Germans were examined above all, i.e. those German population groups that lived outside the state borders of the German Empire, here especially the dialects in Silesia, the Sudetenland, Alsace, Transylvania or the southern Bavarian language islands in northern Italy and the present-day Slovenia, but also the dialects of descendants of German emigrant groups, such as the Amish in the USA. The dialects within the German Reich and Austria, on the other hand, were neglected, if not even negated.

After the Second World War, the German dialect landscape also changed due to the displacement of people. Dialectology tried to break away from its ideological clutches in the new democracy, but it was not until the second half of the 20th century that dialectology was revitalized by younger generations of linguists, while many of the older dialectologists were in their chairs and in the the respective institutes were more cautious. Most of the publications on the subject of dialects in the German-speaking area were produced by interested laypeople rather than by academic linguists; the German-speaking Swiss were the exception here.

See also



  • Jan Goossens: Dialectology. 1977.
  • Werner Besch et al. (Hrsg.): Dialektologie. A manual for German and general dialect research. 2 half volumes. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1982–1983 (HSK 1).
  • Heiner Löffler: Dialectology. An introduction. Narr, Tübingen 2003.

Germanic language area

  • Csaba Földes: The German language and its architecture. Aspects of diversity, variability and regionality. Variational considerations. In: Studia Linguistica XXIV (= Acta Universitatis Wratislaviensis. 2743). Wrocław 2005, pp. 37-59 ( foeldes.eu PDF).
  • Ferdinand Mentz: Bibliography of German dialect research for the period from the beginning of the 18th century to the end of 1889 . Breitkopf & Härtel, Leipzig 1892 ( books.google.de can only be viewed in full with a US proxy).
  • Swiss Idioticon . Dictionary of the Swiss German language. Huber, Frauenfeld 1881 ff. And Schwabe, Basel 2015 ff. (16 volumes so far, 17th appears continuously).
  • Linguistic Atlas of German-speaking Switzerland . Lim. by Heinrich Baumgartner and Rudolf Hotzenköcherle. Edited in collaboration with Konrad Lobeck and with assistance from Paul Zinsli. by Rudolf Hotzenköcherle. Continued and completed by Robert Schläpfer and Rudolf Trüb. Francke, Tübingen and Basel 1962–1997. 8 volumes.
  • Viktor Maksimovič Žirmunskij: German dialectology. Comparative theory of sounds and forms in German dialects. Akademie-Verlag, Berlin 1962.

Romance language area


Web links

Wiktionary: Dialectology  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. On dialectology ( Memento of December 14, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  2. Jules Gilleron, Edmond Edmont: Atlas linguistique de la France 1902-1910. 9 volumes. Champion, supplément Paris 1920.
  3. ^ Dollinger 2015
  4. ^ Stefan Dollinger: The Written Questionnaire in Social Dialectology: History, Theory, Practice . 1st edition. IMPACT, No. 40 . John Benjamin Publ., Amsterdam / Philadelphia 2015, ISBN 978-90-272-6777-1 , Chapters 1–6.