Swiss standard German

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Swiss Standard German as the standard variety
No parking sign on the banks of the Rhine in Basel in standard Swiss German. Federal German: The parking ban applies to the entire square. Offenders are liable for the costs of the effort. The terms fallible, inconvenience and afflicted helvetisms .

The Swiss Standard German or Swiss Standard German is in Switzerland and Liechtenstein used standard German . It is a variety of the pluricentric German language , which differs from varieties outside of Switzerland and Liechtenstein due to numerous peculiarities in vocabulary , word formation , morphology , syntax , orthography and pronunciation . These peculiarities are called helvetisms .

Swiss Standard German is called written German , written language or simply Standard German in Switzerland . It must not be confused with Swiss German ; This term summarizes the Alemannic dialects used as colloquial language in German-speaking Switzerland .

The Swiss Association for the German Language is committed to maintaining Swiss Standard German . Its Swiss Duden Committee is the point of contact for the Duden editorial team for everything to do with Swiss German.

Written use

For the "Oetlingerstrasse" named in Basel after the place Ötlingen (Baden-Württemberg) the usual spelling in Switzerland is used ( Oe for Ö for street, place and station names, summary, ss for ß ).

The German written in Switzerland differs from the written language in the rest of German-speaking countries. Most of the differences concern vocabulary and word formation; much less independence is shown in the spelling and grammar (see helvetisms ).

It is striking that in Switzerland the Eszett ( ß ) gradually out of use has fallen during the 20th century (especially between the 40s and 70s); a double s is always written in its place. The use of the ß is not taught in Swiss schools and it does not appear on the Swiss keyboard .

Swiss community, place and station names are often written initially with Ae, Oe, Ue (for example Aetzikofen , Oerlikon or Uebeschi ). Street names are also basically handled according to this federal recommendation. However, field names are usually written with umlaut (for example Äbenegg, Ötikon (near Stäfa) or Übererthal ). These recommendations have generally been in effect since 1948, but were "to be found before the introduction of the typewriter around 1880", but are defined in detail by cantonal and communal instructions. In Switzerland, these spellings are also often used for other words ( oil instead of oil ), which is now considered incorrect.

Swiss Standard German is used in Switzerland for all German texts, for example in the Swiss media (all daily newspapers and magazines), in official texts , in corporate and private correspondence or in publications by Swiss companies. In contrast, a reader in Switzerland encounters a different Standard German as soon as the text or its authors come from other German-speaking areas.

Oral use

Swiss High German is mostly spoken formally in relation to the public, in school lessons, at events with “non-Swiss Germans”, at universities in courses, in news broadcasts on public broadcasters, in the parliaments of some German-speaking cantons and - unless another national language is used takes place - during debates in the federal parliament . Loudspeaker announcements at train stations, for example, are also in High German. It is common to use Swiss Standard German for written texts: a lawyer will usually write and read his lecture at court in Swiss Standard German or Swiss Standard German, but otherwise continue his speeches, such as judges, prosecutors and other parties involved, in Swiss dialect German.

In everyday situations, Swiss Standard German is mostly only spoken with people who do not understand the dialect. The various dialects are largely mutually understandable , so that Swiss standard German does not have to be used for communication. In Switzerland, dialects are usually more respected than in the rest of the German-speaking area. The oral colloquial language between the German-speaking Swiss is almost without exception the local dialect, the local dialect, regardless of education and social status. The dialect today has no connotations of the uneducated, rural or rural, as was mostly the case in the rest of German-speaking countries, at least earlier ( sociolect ). University professors also use their respective German-Swiss dialect outside of lectures - both for communication with students and for academic exchange.

Dialect and Standard German have a diglossia relationship to one another, as both language forms have clearly separated functions and areas of application. There are no gradual gradations or transitions between dialect and standard German.

When dealing with deaf children in German-speaking Switzerland in the family environment and at deaf schools, standard Swiss German is used; H. Helvetisms are used (e.g. pavement ), but dialect terms are avoided (e.g. cat instead of Büsi ). As a result, Standard German - in addition to Swiss German sign language - is the mother tongue of deaf people. Deaf people therefore have a poor or no command of Swiss German unless Swiss German is taught on a private level, contrary to the recommendations of experts. This fact makes communication with hearing people more difficult, as the latter often only passively speak High German. Depending on the social environment, the mother tongue of hearing Swiss Codas (children of deaf parents) is, in addition to the sign language, also Swiss High German; Swiss German is learned in the school environment at the latest.

Explanatory approaches

German-speaking Swiss generally speak a noticeably different standard German than speakers from other German-speaking regions. The following factors play a role:


The pronunciation of standard German of almost all German-speaking Swiss differs from the standard wording, as the native dialect forms are spoken far more than in the rest of the German-speaking area and are therefore mixed up with the pronunciation ("you can hear the actual dialect speaker when pronouncing standard German"). This phenomenon is called interference .

Example: The I-sound , i.e. the palatal fricative as in "I", does not exist in the Swiss dialects, here without exception all ch-sounds are spoken as uvular fricatives , i.e. as an a -sound , whereby the Swiss ch is mostly still clear more «scratches». Therefore, many German-speaking Swiss speakers also use the ach sound in Standard German without exception . It is noteworthy that even within Switzerland, standard German is pronounced differently depending on the dialect region; Bernese speak a differently colored High German than St. Gallen because a Bernese dialect causes different interferences than a St. Gallen dialect. It is often possible to infer the origin of the speaker based on the pronunciation of standard German. However, this applies in the entire German-speaking area, as far as dialects are still spoken.

Other interferences are - depending on the dialect - the closed and darkly pronounced long a, which tends towards o, a very openly pronounced ä, sometimes different word stresses or a stronger variation of the pitch. In general, the missing click then applies ; so be about good evening or not freeze as good | Evening and ver-iron, but how good-nabend and ve-travel pronounced rather than re-member is e-rinnern said.

Language convention

A study of the speaking behavior of first and second graders at primary schools in German-speaking Switzerland shows that first graders speak a standard German that is closer to Federal German High German (short: Federal German) than the German of second and third graders. They learned it outside of school. Television plays an important role in this. For example, first graders pronounce the “Ich” and “Ach” sounds more similar to German than second graders. In the first years of school, schoolchildren learn how standard Swiss German should sound, adapt their articulation and thereby move away from federal German. The fact that the German-speaking Swiss speak a recognizable Swiss form of the standard language is therefore to be seen as the result of a learning process and adaptation to a language convention . The driving force behind this adaptation is the pursuit of conformity and the desire to be recognized as a member by the language community .

This approach understands Swiss Standard German as a variety for which an independent language convention exists; In the community of speakers there is a "very extensive agreement about which variants are appropriate for the standard Swiss language [= Swiss Standard German] and which are not".

Written form

Because the standard language is hardly spoken outside of school, the school has a very large influence on the quality of the standard language. The language - also oral - is very much geared towards the principles of writing in lessons : a typically written principle, for example, is the requirement to form whole sentences. Syntactic characteristics of written language are longer sentences with more complex constructions, greater word variance (word variety) and more adjectives. In school lessons, spoken language is often only used superficially for communication and is largely judged on whether it is used correctly. Anything that can be written is considered correct. Examination of oral narratives by schoolchildren shows that the level of orality in spoken language decreases the higher the level of education. The story of a sixth grader shows, in comparison to the story of a first grader, a more “elaborate” sentence structure, but is at the same time “paper” and “stiff” - but can be written down. The sixth grader did not improve his ability to express himself in language lessons, but learned how to retell picture stories. A comparative study of primary school students from southern Germany and north-western Switzerland shows that the standard languages ​​of the two groups differ greatly: German children, for example, show a clear tendency towards total assimilation ( ham for haben ) and reduced nasal forms such as the shortening of the indefinite article ( 'n House  - a house, a flower  - a flower). Reduced nasal forms are practically non-existent among Swiss speakers, the final syllables- is often fully realized ( we go instead of we go ). The Swiss speakers dispense with the looping described and thus adhere to the - correct - standard full forms much more frequently than the students from southern Germany, although these loopings facilitate articulation and simplify the flow of language.

According to this approach, school lessons in German-speaking Switzerland mean that the Swiss strive for a possible excessively correct spoken Standard German; in doing so, they orientate themselves on one side of the quality criteria that apply to the written language. The linguistic spontaneity and eloquence of oral Standard German suffer from this. On the other hand, it makes Swiss Standard German easier to understand, especially for people who are learning German as a foreign or second language and for whom slang conversations are an obstacle, especially if they learn the language primarily in writing.

Attitude to Swiss Standard German

Although standard German is not one of the four official national languages but rather high German , the latter is often not perceived as the language of Switzerland, but as a "foreign language", the language of Germany. In a survey by the German Department of the University of Zurich , 80% of 150 respondents were of the opinion that Standard German is a foreign language for the German-speaking Swiss. However, only 30% were of the opinion that it was a foreign language for them.

Latest developments

The unwillingness of many German-speaking Swiss to use the standard language verbally sometimes leads to conflicts with Swiss people from other language regions: Since they only learn Standard German at school, they have difficulty understanding the dialect. This leads to difficulties in understanding across language barriers. For this reason, English has recently been used more and more at the business level . French-speaking countries often also learn Swiss German.

The mediocre results of German-speaking Swiss students in the linguistic area of ​​the PISA study meant that the promotion of the standard language was increasingly demanded again (as of 2003). In order to remedy the inadequate active command of the standard language and to create a more positive relationship with this "foreign language", efforts were made in some cantons to use Standard German as the language of instruction as early as kindergarten, although this was highly controversial and led to counter-movements.

In 2018, 84% of those in employment in German-speaking Switzerland said they spoke dialect at work; 43% (multiple answers possible) also mentioned Standard German.


Helvetism: park

It should be noted that these Helvetisms are not dialectal expressions that would be regarded as stylistic errors in the standard language, but that they are correct standard language expressions.

Swiss standard German Federal German Standard German
Nuisance Neighboring residents
Screed Attic
Underlay Screed
Driver's license (official name) Driving license (
colloquial name)
Driving license (car, moped)
Hot peppers Paprika vegetables)
Peperoncini Hot peppers
Tram (the) Tram (the), tram (the)
Reversal associated property around a building
Trainer instructor
decision decision
Description description
renovation renovation
Interruption Interruption
"Switzerland recognizes Kosovo." "Switzerland recognizes Kosovo."
"Parliament is advocating a proposal." "Parliament decides to consider a proposal."
The accumulation (accumulation) of an asset or credit balance. The topping up (increasing) of an asset portfolio or credit
sweep turn, turn around
march out demarcate, determine through discussion
wipe sweep, sweep
Pick up damp, sweep wipe
redeem a car register a car
park park
grill grilling
possibly possibly
until then until now
the reverse of the hand on the other hand
in reverse in no time at all
the email the e-mail
the Are, the hectares (Ez.), the Aren, the hectares (Mz.) das (der) ar, hectare (Ez. and Mz.)
the asparagus (Ez.), the asparagus (Mz.) the asparagus (Ez.), the asparagus (Mz.)
the parks the parks
fed (especially figuratively) fed
woven (also in the real sense) woven

Many French words and expressions have also flowed into Swiss Standard German, as was the case for centuries and especially in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries for the entire German language because France was the cultural center of the « World »or Europe meant, so that French was also popular among scholars, the nobility and the educated bourgeoisie. The French spelling was largely retained. On the other hand, the words are often given a Swiss-German pronunciation, such as the emphasis on the syllables (fondue: emphasis on the first syllable; ticket: "t" is also spoken).

Swiss standard German Federal German Standard German
Ticket (French: billet - public transport, events) Ticket, entrance ticket
Fireplace open fireplace
Hairdresser Hairdresser / hairdresser
Gilet vest
Ice cream or ice cream Ice cream
Conductor, ticket agent conductor
Panaché or Panache Radler (mixed drink made from beer and lemonade )
platform platform
Tire Car, motorcycle or bicycle tires
Chicken roasted broiler chicken or chicken
Clay tuna
pavement pavement
Bike bicycle

See also


Dictionaries and lexicographics

  • Ulrich Ammon , Hans Bickel , Alexandra N. Lenz (Hrsg.): German dictionary of variants . The standard language in Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, East Belgium and South Tyrol as well as Romania, Namibia and Mennonite settlements. 2nd, completely revised and expanded edition. De Gruyter, Berlin 2016, ISBN 978-3-11-024543-1 .
  • Hans Bickel, Christoph Landolt : Swiss High German. Dictionary of the standard language in German-speaking Switzerland. 2nd, completely revised and expanded edition, published by the Swiss Association for the German Language. Dudenverlag, Berlin 2018, ISBN 978-3-411-70418-7 .
  • Hannelore Fenske: Swiss and Austrian features in German dictionaries (= Institute for the German language. Research reports. Volume 10). Mannheim 1973, ISBN 3-87808-610-5 .
  • Stephan Kaiser: The special features of the written German language in Switzerland. Vol. 1: Words and word usage. Vol. 2: Word formation and sentence formation. Dudenverlag, Mannheim / Vienna / Zurich 1969. 1970 (Duden articles. Special series: The particularities of the written German language abroad 30a. 30b).
  • Kurt Meyer : Swiss Dictionary. That's what we say in Switzerland. With a contribution by Hans Bickel. Huber, Frauenfeld 2006, ISBN 978-3-7193-1382-1 (complete revision of: Duden How do you say in Switzerland? Dictionary of Swiss peculiarities. Dudenverlag, Mannheim / Vienna / Zurich 1989 [Duden-Taschenbücher 22]).
  • Rudolf Schilling: Romance elements in Swiss High German (= Duden contributions. Issue 38). Dudenverlag / Bibliographical Institute, Mannheim / Vienna / Zurich 1970.

Other representations

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d Hans Bickel, Christoph Landolt: Swiss High German. Dictionary of the standard language in German-speaking Switzerland. 2nd, completely revised and expanded edition. Edited by the Swiss Association for the German Language. Dudenverlag, Berlin 2018, ISBN 978-3-411-70418-7 , p. 7
  2. ↑ Basic skills for the school language. (PDF) the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Directors of Education (EDK), June 16, 2011, p. 13 , accessed on October 27, 2013 : "The pupils speak Standard German, although not fluently in all situations."
  3. Guide to German spelling. (PDF) Swiss Federal Chancellery, 2017, pp. 11, 23 f. , accessed January 27, 2019 .
  4. ^ Duden, German orthography, 21st edition. Rule § 25 E₂ ISBN 3-411-04011-4
  5. a b Recommendations on the spelling of community and place names, guidelines on the spelling of station names. (PDF) (No longer available online.) Federal Office of Topography, Federal Office of Transport, Federal Office of Statistics, January 20, 2010, p. 20 , archived from the original on January 4, 2016 ; Retrieved on May 16, 2014 (Version 1.0): “In Switzerland, large umlauts with Ae, Oe and Ue can be found on historical maps even before the typewriter was introduced around 1880. The fact that later on there were no Ä, Ö, Ü on the Swiss typewriter keyboard may have promoted this writing tradition. Today, when the spelling Ä, Ö and Ü would be easily possible, the large umlauts of community, place and station names were consistently written as Ae, Oe and Ue due to the uniform spelling in directories. […] Umlauts from A, O, U at the beginning of field names are usually written as Ä, Ö, Ü. If corresponding names exist as community or town or if it is a matter of public buildings, the umlauts are often written as Ae, Oe, Ue “ Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  6. Recommendation: Addressing buildings and spelling of street names for German-speaking Switzerland, May 2005. (MS Word) (No longer available online.) Eidgenössische Vermessungsdirektion, Federal Office of Topography, May 3, 2005, p. 20 , archived from the original on January 9 2016 ; accessed on May 16, 2014 (version 1.6): “The spelling Ae, Oe, Ue at the beginning of street names is widespread, as is the case with place and station names. The instruction on the collection and spelling of local names provides for Ä, Ö, Ü for local names .
    Opinions on which spelling should be chosen for street names vary. The Federal Register of Buildings and Dwellings makes no suggestions for a possible conversion, but recommends deciding on one or the other variant within a municipality. If existing names are spelled with Ae, Oe, Ue, we advise against using Ä, Ö and Ü for new street names. ”
    Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  7. Peer Teuwsen: "I was disappointed with direct democracy". The learning researcher Felix Winter is returning to Germany after nine years in Zurich. A conversation about experiences in Switzerland and how to deal with strangers there. In: The time . May 2, 2013, accessed October 27, 2013 .
  8. SGB-FSS: Factsheet deafness (FAQ, point 2)
  9. ^ Beat Siebenhaar : Regional variants of Swiss High German. In: Journal of Dialectology and Linguistics. 61, 1994, p. 55.
  10. ^ Ingrid Hove: The pronunciation of the standard language in Switzerland. Niemeyer, Tübingen 2002 (Phonai series: Texts and Investigations on Spoken German, Vol. 47).
  11. Quote from: Ingrid Hove: The pronunciation of the standard language in Switzerland. P. 6.
  12. Peter Sieber, Horst Sitta: Dialect and standard language as a problem in school. Sauerländer, Aarau 1986.
  13. Guido Ostermai: Language variations in the border area: an investigation into the standard language of Northwestern Switzerland and South Baden primary school students. Sauerländer, Aarau 2000 (Sprachlandschaften series; Vol. 24).
  14. Survey by Prof. Joachim Scharloth, quoted from Martin Heule: Is the dialect to blame for everything? (MP3; 14.2 MB) In: Context. Schweizer Radio DRS , September 19, 2006, accessed on December 15, 2009 .
  15. Walter Bernet: Basically dialect in kindergarten. In: Neue Zürcher Zeitung from May 15, 2011; Canton Aargau prohibits standard German in kindergarten. In: Tages-Anzeiger from May 18, 2014; Andrea Söldi: “Tuesday” instead of “Ziischtig” in the kindergarten class. In: Zürcher Unterländer of March 29, 2017.
  16. Federal Statistical Office: Languages ​​spoken at work by language area - 2018 | Table. January 30, 2020, accessed February 7, 2020 .
  17. See Hans Bickel, Christoph Landolt: Schweizerhochdeutsch. Dictionary of the standard language in German-speaking Switzerland. 2nd, completely revised and expanded edition. Edited by the Swiss Association for the German Language. Dudenverlag, Berlin 2018, ISBN 978-3-411-70418-7 .
  18. Example DRS: Switzerland-Recognizes Kosovo
  19. Duden - The great dictionary of the German language. The comprehensive documentation of the contemporary German language. (CD-ROM) Duden, accessed on October 27, 2013 (4th edition).
  20. ↑ In legal terms, to accumulate means to "increase capital". In non- legal parlance, however , äufnen is mostly used in the sense of “ setting up a fund and providing start-up capital”.
  21. ^ The foreign word - something worth reading and interesting. (PDF) Nine articles on the history, function and use of the foreign word from the book Duden - The Foreign Dictionary. In: Duden - The foreign dictionary. Duden, accessed on August 6, 2014 (see above all the chapter Foreign words as a mirror of cultural history on pages 32–33, 10th edition, ISBN 978-3-411-04060-5 ).


  1. In Duden Swiss Standard German 3000 helvetisms are listed. For comparison: Duden Volume 1 (The German Spelling) contains around 140,000 keywords in its 26th edition (2013).
  2. The spelling does not differ fundamentally from the general set of rules, which however explicitly lists Swiss exceptions.
  3. The clear differences compared to the German keyboard, for example, have another reason, namely the interpretation for writing in all national languages of Switzerland, with French having the main influence.
  4. This statement does not make a statement as to which of the respective pronunciations should be regarded as “more correct” or whether the respective speakers are willing or able to use another pronunciation.