Swiss German

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Swiss German

Spoken in

SwitzerlandSwitzerland Switzerland
speaker an estimated 4.9 million speakers

Indo-European language family Germanic languages

West Germanic languages
German language
Upper German language
  • Swiss German
Official status
Official language in SwitzerlandSwitzerland Switzerland ( de facto in verbal official communication)
Language codes
ISO 639 -1


ISO 639 -2


ISO 639-3


The geographic language area of ​​Swiss German

Swiss German (Swiss German Schwizerdütsch , Schwizertütsch , Schwyzerdütsch , Schwyzertü (ü) tsch and similar, French Suisse allemand , Italian Svizzero tedesco , Romansh Tudestg svizzer ) is a collective name for the Alemannic dialects spoken by all social classes in German-speaking Switzerland .

The Swiss variant of Standard German is called Swiss Standard German (in Switzerland: Standard German or written German ) and is not to be equated with Swiss German .

Linguistic specification of the term

From a linguistic point of view, there are no language boundaries between the Alemannic dialects of Swiss German and the other Alemannic ( Alsace , Baden-Württemberg , Bavarian Swabia , Vorarlberg , Liechtenstein , Walser settlements ) or other German dialects ; there is rather a dialect continuum . The pragmatic difference between the German-Alemannic dialects in Switzerland and the other Alemannic dialects is that the Swiss-German dialects are predominantly used in almost all conversational situations, while in the rest of the Alemannic- speaking area the German standard language (or French in Alsace ) is now the local dialects has often replaced it as the primary language .

The German-Alemannic dialect continuum in Switzerland consists of hundreds of German-speaking Swiss dialects. The strong topographical compartmentalization of Switzerland and the relatively low mobility up to the beginning of the 20th century meant that the local dialects sometimes differed greatly from one another, so that even the German-speaking Swiss may have problems communicating with one another. For example, German-speaking Swiss from the “ Unterland ” often struggle  to understand High Alemannic dialects - such as Uri or Valais German . Apart from the different pronunciations in particular are place names or names of plants, tools, agricultural equipment and the like strongly influenced regional.

Structure of the Swiss German dialects

The structure of the Swiss German dialect characteristics is analogous to that of the Alemannic (West Upper German) dialect characteristics.

The traditional distribution area of ​​West Upper German (= Alemannic) dialect features in the 19th and 20th centuries. With the exception of Samnaun  , German-speaking Switzerland played a major role in this.

Lower Alemannic

To dialect group of the Low Alemannic in Switzerland, the dialect of Basel-Stadt, which is part of Basel German . Characteristic of this low-Alemannic is a anlautendes k [ k ] instead of the high-Alemannic ch [⁠ x ⁠] or [⁠ χ ⁠] , for example, child instead Chind . Lower Alemannic (in the true sense of the word) has its focus outside Switzerland, namely in southern Baden and Alsace .

Middle Alemannic

Pure Middle Alemannic ( Lake Constance) dialects are not spoken in German-speaking Switzerland, their focus is north of Lake Constance. The structural analysis of the sound systems shows, however, that the dialects spoken in north-eastern Switzerland and in the Chur Rhine valley belong to a Middle Alemannic-High Alemannic transition zone. In the tradition of Swiss dialectology, however, these are usually counted as High Alemannic.

Highly Alemannic

Most of the High Alemannic dialects are spoken in Switzerland. The dialects of the extreme southwest of Baden-Württemberg and the Alsatian Sundgau also belong to High Alemannic . Whether the dialects of southern Vorarlberg and the Principality of Liechtenstein belong to High Alemannic or Middle Alemannic depends on the respective dialect classification criteria.

Highly Alemannic

The dialects of Valais and the Walser settlements (in Piedmont, Ticino, Graubünden, Liechtenstein and Vorarlberg), the Bernese Oberland and Schwarzenburgerland , the Friborg Senseland and Jaun , southern Central Switzerland (Uri, Unterwalden and mostly Schwyz) and of canton Glarus belong to the maximum Alemannische whose indicator forms such schnyyä, nüü (w) / nyyw, Buu (w) e / büü (w) ä instead hochalemannischem schnäie snowing /, new, boue / build are. The dialects of the Valais and the daughter settlements founded by the Valais (Walser) in northern Italy and in Ticino form a particularly conservative subgroup.

The dialect of the village of Samnaun in the Lower Engadine , Germanized in the 19th century , does not belong to Alemannic, but to Tyrolean , i.e. Bavarian .

Further differences

Some of the Swiss German dialects differ from one another relatively strongly. To put it bluntly, almost every region, sometimes even every municipality, has locally-specific peculiarities in its dialect. Some of the German-speaking Swiss can be assigned quite precisely to one home region based on their dialect alone. Despite the differences, the Swiss are used to the different dialects, also from radio and television, and understand them too.

The dialects are popularly structured according to the respective cantons; a distinction as, among others, Basel German , Bern German , Zurich German , Solothurn Earth Uch , Senslerisch , Uri German , Glarner German , Walser German , Grisons German , Appenzeller German or St. Galler-German . From a dialectological point of view, these characterizations only really apply in individual cases; for example, Bern German, St. Gallen German or Bündnerdeutsch by no means form units, and conversely, the differences between z. B. Northern St. Gallen German, Thurgau German and Schaffhauser German very low. In any case, only in a few cases is there a feature that only occurs in a certain region and would differentiate it from all others.

Dialectologically, a distinction is traditionally made between Eastern Swiss German (closed pronunciation of the primary umlauts: fel [l] e 'fallen' as well as monotonous verb plural: mir / ir / si mached ) and Western Swiss German (so-called neutral [ i.e. slightly open] pronunciation of the primary umlauts : fèlle / fèue 'falls' as well as two- to three-shaped verb plural: mir mache, dir mached, si mache ; except for Basel-Stadt: mir / ir / si mache ) and northern Swiss German (solid hi-diphthongization: Iis 'ice', but snow 'snow') and southern Swiss German (lack of hi-diphthongization: Iis 'ice', schniie 'snow'). In this way, one obtains the superordinate dialect areas of Northwest Swiss German (in addition, typically the stretching of the back tongue vowels in open syllable: saage / sääge 'say'), of Southwest Swiss German (in addition, typically missing apocopes of final vowels: Wääge / Wäga 'Weg' [Pl.] ), the Northeast Swiss German (also typical about the monophthongings: Laatere / Läätere 'Leiter', Bomm 'Baum') and the Southeast Swiss German (also typically about guu 'go'). The Graubünden Walser German , despite its geographical location, does not belong to the south-east, but to the south-west Swiss German , as these dialects go back to the south-west Swiss German Valais German .

All in all, these four large areas are also subdivided in many ways, and conversely, the dialects in the cantons of Aargau, Lucerne, Zurich and in the Chur Rhine Valley, which lie between the aforementioned poles, can only be assigned to a limited extent. For example, B. Zurich German with regard to the intersection of "primary umlaut or verbal unit plural" and "hiatdiphthongation" with Northeast Swiss German, but not with regard to the development of the Middle High German diphthongs and the so-called Germanic ë, which as in the dialects spoken further west as [äi] , [au], [æ] can be realized. Instead of dividing the Mittelland dialects into a western and an eastern group, it is better to provide a western-eastern relay landscape, which - to put it simply - is characterized by a Bernese, Aargau-Lucerne, Zurich and north-eastern Swiss main group. The internal structure of Swiss German becomes clearer if one bundles dialect characteristics. The dialectometry cluster maps make the dialectal spatial formation particularly apparent.

Within the larger dialect dreams, even between the larger dialect dreams, these differences are becoming increasingly blurred due to the growing mobility of the population and the use of the dialect in the media. The dialect created by this growing together of the population is colloquially referred to as the " Bahnhofbuffet Olten dialect", whereby the respective regional anchorage remains audible. The catchment areas of the large agglomerations of Zurich, Basel and Bern show the strongest tendency towards equalization. But rural dialects are also under great pressure from the newly emerging large-scale dialects. Here it is particularly evident that small-scale dialect features (not just words, but also sounds and endings) are being displaced by the large-scale ones.


In the following, various peculiarities of the Swiss-German dialects are mentioned that stand out in comparison with the standard language. Most of these peculiarities do not occur in all Swiss-German dialects, but can also be found in dialects outside Switzerland.


Most Swiss dialects do not have the characteristics of New High German monophthongization and diphthongization . In this respect they are similar to Middle High German .

Preservation of the Middle High German monophthongs

As in Middle High German: Huus [huːz̊] is "house" (mhd. Hûs ), Züüg [t͡syːɡ̊] is "stuff" (mhd. Ziuc, pronounced züük ), wiit [ʋiːt] is "far" (mhd. Wît ) etc. There are exceptions in Graubünden's Schanfigg ( Hous [houz̊] , wejt [ʋeit] ), in Unterwalden ( Huis [huiz̊] , wejt [ʋeit] ) and in the Aosta Valley Issime ( Hous [houz̊] , wejt [ʋeit] ), where the ancient lengths are all diphthongized. Another exception concerns the hiat diphthonging of the long vowels before vowels, which occurs in the Lower and High Alemannic dialects, but not in the Higher Alemannic (examples: Höchstalem . Frii [v̊riː] «free» (mhd. Vrî ) - high / lower Alem . free [v̊rei] ; hochalem . Suu [z̊uː] "Sau" (mhd. ) - high / lower alem . Sou [z̊ou] ; highest valley . nüü [nyː] "new" (mhd. niuwe ) - high / lower alem . nöi [nœi] ). In large parts of Swiss German, the old diphthongs are differentiated aloud from the new. So it is called in Zurich: Bäi (Bai) [b̥æi] with old diphthong, but free (frej) [v̥rei] with secondary diphthong, where it means “leg, free” in the standard language, or tree [b̥æum] with old diphthong , but boue [b̥ouə] with a secondary diphthong for “tree, build”, which is the same in standard language.

Preservation of the Middle High German diphthongs

While the Middle High German opening diphthongs ie, ue, üe correspond to monophthongs in the standard language (compare love, where ie is still preserved in writing, but [ ] is spoken), these diphthongs have been retained in the Swiss German dialects: thus, love becomes [ liəb̥] pronounced. The same applies: A written ue is not pronounced ü, but ú-e [uə] (with an emphasis on the -ú- ), the Swiss "Rudolf" is therefore Ru-edi [ˈruəd̥i] , not Rüdi . Attention: Muus [muːz̥] is «mouse», but mues (or muos ) [muəz̥] is «mus» - for breakfast there is muesli and not muesli ( little mice ) .

Other characteristics of the vowels

  • The long a is very dark in many dialects and tends towards o, with which it can coincide in certain dialects (especially in north-western Switzerland).
  • The standard German short e corresponds in many words to the overopened [æ] written as ä (e.g. äß [æsːə] «essen»). Historically, this is the case when secondary umlaut (e.g. [sægə] «say») or Germanic ë (e.g. [æsːə] «eat») is present, whereas primary umlaut is almost everywhere realized as a closed [e] (e.g. [lekːə] «to lay»). In parts of Eastern Switzerland (Schaffhausen, partly Graubünden, St. Gallen, Thurgau) there is no over-open [æ], and it occurs as in the standard language [ɛ] (eg [ɛsːə] «eat»). Other parts of Eastern Switzerland (such as Toggenburg) have a complete correspondence with the Middle High German three-stage system, in that they use [æ] for the secondary umlaut (e.g. [sægə] «say»), for the Germanic ë [ɛ] (z. B. [ɛsːə] «to eat») and for the primary umlaut [e] (eg [lekːə] «to lay»). Zurich German has another three-level system: Basically, like the western and central Swiss dialects, it has lowered Germanic ë from [ɛ] to [æ], but not before / r /, z. B. asse [æsːə] "eat", but stèèrbe [ʃtɛːrbə] "die", and umlaut from ahd. / A: / is also [ɛː], e.g. B. lèèr [lɛːr] «empty».


  • Many Swiss German dialects have carried out the High German sound shift in full; a Germanic / k / in the initial syllable corresponds to a [x] (as in Chind , chalt ), a / kk / in the initial syllable corresponds to the affricate [ k͡x ] (as in Stock [ ʃtok͡x ], Sack [ z̥ak͡x ]). The affricate [ k͡x ] is also used for a / k / in loan words (as in Caribbean [ k͡xaˈrib̥ik͡x ], art [ k͡xʊnʃt ]). However, these are not features of all Swiss-German dialects, but of the High Alemannic ; they do not apply to Swiss-German dialects that are not Highly Alemannic, but also to Highly Alemannic dialects outside Switzerland.
  • ch is always pronounced velar in the majority of dialects , in some always uvular , even after anterior vowels («important» [ ˈʋɪxtiɡ̊ ]). Palates ch can still be found in Valais and locally.
  • The r is pronounced alveolar in most dialects (tongue tip-R), in Basel German and in parts of eastern Switzerland, however, it is pronounced uvular (uvula-R).
  • / ptk / are not aspirated ; aspirated [ pʰ tʰ ] occur only as a consonant cluster / ph th / (also [ ] except in Chur and Basel); / bdg / are always voiceless. It is not clear what the difference between / ptk / and / bdg / is. Traditionally it is understood as a difference between Fortes and Lenes (hence the spellings [ ptk ] - [ b̥ d̥ ɡ̊ ]). But there is also the opinion that there is a difference in quantity (consistently noted as [pː tː kː] - [ptk]).
  • In many Western Swiss dialects with the Emmental as the center, the consonant l is vocalized at the end of the syllable or in gemination to u (IPA: w); this phenomenon is relatively young and is currently spreading: all> [ˈawːi] , a lot> [ˈv̥ɪw] .

See also: Chuchichäschtli


The stress is more frequent than in Standard German on the first syllable (or even, if you will, on the zeroth - names preceded by "von" like von Arx are stressed on von ). For words from French such as Fondue or Bellevue and also for acronyms such as WC or USA , the stress is on the first syllable, i.e. Fóndü (phonetically: [ ˈv̥õd̥y ]) and Béllvü ([ ˈb̥elʋy ]), Wéé-zee and Ú-äss- aa .


  • Most dialects distinguish between two adjacent syllable vowels: -i and -ə, for example in i (ch) machə (“I do”, indicative ) - i (ch) machi (“I do”, subjunctive ). High Alemannic dialects such as Walliser German sometimes have an even more differentiated adjacent syllable vowelism, in that they also differentiate between -a, -o and -u as well as closed -e: if the singular and plural of "tongue" are identical in most Swiss German dialects tongue, so In some Valais dialects it is called in the nominative singular Zunga (such as old high German zunga ), in the dative singular Zungu (cf. old high German zungûn ) and in the nominative plural tongue (here the closed / e / of unclear origin).
  • A final -n is omitted in most dialects ("n- Apokope "), especially in the ending -en ( chouffe - buy, Haagge - hook), but also after a stressed stem vowel such as in words like Wy  - "Wein" or Maa  - "Man". Instead, a connection -n appears again between the end vowels and the beginning vowels, e.g. B. I have a book "I have a book". This phenomenon has no grammatical meaning, but serves to avoid a hiatus . This not only happens with verbs, but also with other parts of speech . (Ex. I have a book, wo-n är gää het "I have a book that he gave me"). Certain alpine dialects (especially eastern Bernese Oberland, upper Prättigau and Lötschental) did not carry out the n apocopes.
  • With nouns, the final -e is omitted in many cases ( Brügg / Brugg «Brücke», or plural ending Böim «trees»). Conservative alpine dialects, however, do not know these apocopes.
  • The ending -ung is than in most dialects -ig spoken (but not in the Valais, traditional city Bernese and in Schaffhausen Germans and only partially in Senslerdeutschen ). "Crossing" thus corresponds to normal Swiss German Chrüüzig (but sensually Chrüzùng , older city Bern German Chrüzung , Schaffhausen German Chrüüzing ). The types auf -igung (e.g. "crucifixion") are an exception , where for phonetic reasons it remains with "Chrüüzigung". The word “attention” is also a borderline case. In some regions the word is pronounced as eight when it is pronounced in a sentence as virtue / value, but sometimes attention is used! when it comes to the exclamation «Caution!» acts. This is due to the fact that it is a loan word from the standard language that the local wards! repressed.
  • The verb endings -eln and -ern usually correspond to - (e) le and - (e) re ( e.g. zügle, ironing, tafle, ruedere, muure, "moving, ironing, table, rowing, walling").


See Alemannic grammar

Inflection of numerals

In most Swiss German dialect, at least older speakers adjust the numerals to the grammatical gender. It is widely known that two men, two women, two / two / two chind (in central Switzerland two / two men, two / two women, two chind ) and three men, three women, two chind «three men, women, children» .


Word formation

In the following some typical peculiarities of the Swiss-German or Alemannic word formation are listed.

  • The frequently used diminutive forms on -li are known , of which there are often variants with different emotional values, e.g. B. Hündli, Hündeli and Hundeli . Some of these diminutive forms became stand-alone terms, e.g. B. is Müesli ( Cereal not on oatmeal base) reduction of Mues ( Mus ), carrot ( carrot not) as a reduction of Rüebe ( turnip ) or croissants ( Croissant not) as the reduction of peaks (eg. Peak understood).
  • In Swiss German there are also verbs in diminutive that end with -ele . This can express a cute childlike way schlääffele for schlaaffe (sleep), but also a devaluation in schäffele instead manage (work) or a cozy, expansive type of activity as in käfele (coffee drink) or zmörgele (of Zmorge breakfast) .
  • Typical of the Swiss German are perpetrator designations formed from the verb in -i, such as Laferi from lafere (to talk in a long way) or Plagööri from plagiere (to brag).
  • To express a process, the ending -ete is used, e.g. B. Truckete (crowd) from trucke ( jostle ) or Züglete (move) from zügle (move). Some of these terms have become more concrete, e.g. B. Lismete (knitting) from lisme (knitting) or Metzgete (customs of autumn slaughter and the tasting of products) from metzge (slaughter).


Restaurant in Andermatt

A selection of typical words and expressions which can lead to misunderstandings in German speakers who do not understand the Alemannic dialect can be found in the following list. (The Swiss-German word or the Swiss-German expression appears first, sometimes with regional variants.)

  • absurdity - unsuccessful, unsuccessful, failed
  • allwääg, äuä - modal particle «well»; when used as a sentence-like particle, the originally ironic meaning 'hardly' has prevailed.
  • amel, amig (s), ame, aube - "respectively" (from "allweil" and "allweg")
  • Anke (m.) - "Butter"
  • asewääg - «so, this way; just like that », also in the sense of« it's just that bad ... »
  • äxgüsi, éxgüsee - «Sorry!» (from French «excusez»)
  • blöterle - «dawdling, wasting time», but also: you chasch mer blööterle! - like "You can do me!"
  • Böögg - both «Boogie» and «Popanz» (such as the figure on Sechseläuten )
  • briegge, greine, gränne, brüele, hüüle - «cry»
  • brüele, bäägge - «scream, cry loudly»
  • Bünzli - "philistine, philistine, petty bourgeois"
  • Büsi, Büüssi, Busle - "cat"
  • Chaschte, shaft - “closet”, but also “muscular, sporty man / woman”
  • cheere - «turn», «turn», «reverse»
  • Cheib - "guy" (rough or buddy, originally meant "carrion")
  • cheibe - reinforcement similar to «very» («cheibeguet» = very good, «cheibegross» = very large etc.)
  • Chog and choge - means the same as Cheib, Cheibe (originally meant «putrefaction, putrefaction»)
  • Chlapf - «bang, blow», also «slap», «car» or «(alcohol) intoxication»
  • crampfe, chnorze - "work hard" ( Chrampf - "hard work", but also cramp or cramp. Knorze or chnorze originally meant "knead".)
  • fäge in: it fags - "it's fun"
  • Gischpel, Gischpli, Fägnäscht - "restless person" (especially children)
  • Gonfi, Gumfi - «jam, jam»
  • Gröibschi, Gigetschi, Gürbschi, Bitzgi, Bützgi, Bütschgi, Butze - " core housing "
  • grüezi - «(God) greet you», greeting in the eastern half of German-speaking Switzerland
  • grüessech ([ ˈɡ̊ryə̯sːəx ]) - «(God) greet you», greeting formula in Bern and parts of Freiburg , Solothurn , Basel area and Aargau
  • glette - «ironing» (with the iron, actually «smoothing»)
  • Goof (m, n) - "Balg, Bub, Gör" (mostly perceived as a swear word ; in some areas it is also the common name for a child)
  • Grind - "head" (casually)
  • gsii - "been"
  • gumpe - «jump, bounce»
  • Gumsle, Gluggere - contemptuous swear word, is only used in women ( Gluggere actually means a brooding hen)
  • Gutsch - "sip" or a "spilling amount of liquid, for example from a bucket"
  • hoi (next to it also sali, salü, sälü, from French “salut”) - a greeting for people who are on duet
  • Hudigääggeler - «Swiss Folk Music»
  • huere - indicates intensification as an adjective / adverb, depending on the dialect and context, it can be understood as a common slang expression (especially in youth language ) or as a rough curse.
  • whore - "crouch"
  • gheie - «fall, fall; to throw (down)
  • jäsoo - "oh so"
  • Kolleeg - «buddy, friend»
  • run, run - «go»
  • empty - in many dialects both «teach» and «learn»
  • lisme - "knit"
  • loosely - «listen, listen», also «obey» (but: (g) hear - «hear»)
  • luege - "look, peeping" (but: (g) seh - "see")
  • merssi - "thank you" (from French "merci")
  • may - "can", for example in: I like nümme - "I can no longer, I am exhausted" or: "I can no longer [eat]", d. h .: "I am full"; I like to think about me / remember - "I can't remember"
  • neime, nöime - "somewhere" (see the corresponding variants under öpper, öppis )
  • Nidel (m.), Nidle (f.) - "cream"
  • öppe - "about, about"
  • öpper, Näber (t), neimer - "someone"
  • öppis, Näbis, neimis - "something"
  • poschte, in Bern kömerle - "shopping" (for spontaneous purchases one says: chröömle, chröömerle, ganggele )
  • Puff - "disorder" (but also "brothel")
  • rüere - «stir», but also «throw»
  • Sack - "bag", also abbreviated for Hosesack - "trouser pocket"
  • schmöcke - «smell», younger under high German influence also «taste»
  • schnore - «babble, babble»
  • Schnudergoof - «brat, brat, snot spoon», reinforced expression for goof ( Schnuder denotes the nasal secretion)
  • Schoofseckel - something like "asshole, total idiot" (literally: "sheep scrotum")
  • Stäge - "stairs", "stairs"
  • Siech - «type» (coarse, usually in connection with «geile» (to express respect), «stupid» (to express contempt) or «huere» (as a general curse, such as «damned!»)), originally meant "sick person", see infirmity .
  • jump, less beautiful also seckle - «run, run»
  • study - «think, consider» (but also study at a university)
  • Stutz - both "steep place in the area, steeply uphill road" as well as "one-franc piece" (casually, e.g. "Hesch mer en Stutz?" - do you have me a franc / some money?)
  • tööne - «to sound»; töönt guet - "sounds good"
  • Tschuute, schutte - "play football" (from English "to shoot")
  • on the go - "in a hurry"
  • Uufzgi - «homework»
  • Uusgang in: in Uusgang gaa - "going out" (originally in military language)
  • voorig, vöörig, vüürig - «sufficient; left over »( 's hät no voorig, that'sch no voorigplibe; but also« enough »: that's long voorig )
  • pull in: eis ga / go pull - «have a drink»
  • Lunch - "lunch"
  • Breakfast - "Breakfast"
  • Night - "dinner"
  • Znüüni - "Snack, between meal in the morning" (actually mhd. Preposition ze plus substantivated numeral nüün )
  • Zvieri - "Snack, between meal in the afternoon" (actually mhd. Preposition ze plus substantivated numeral four )

Most of the above expressions are not specific to Alemannic in Switzerland, but also in the Alemannic dialects of the southern Black Forest.

Some expressions of the Swiss German vocabulary have found their way into the commonly used standard German, e.g. B. Müesli or Putsch , other than so-called Helvetisms in the regional standard language ( Swiss Standard German ). Swiss words appear to varying degrees among Swiss writers.


All dialects or dialects in the German-speaking area have one thing in common: There is no standardized spelling for them . It is the same with the Swiss-German dialect forms.

In the dialect dictionaries and in the dialect literature two different writing systems can be roughly distinguished: Either a largely phonological letters that are in Eugene Dieths proposal Schwyzertütschi Dialäktschrift is codified, or a more extensive guidance on the standard German spelling in the tradition of the older (primarily Berner) Dialect literature, the rules of which Werner Marti summarized in his proposal by Bärndütschi Schrybwys .

Everyday use, for example in SMS , chat , e-mail or personal letters, is largely unaffected by the spelling of dialect literature. Rather, the prevailing attitude is that you write the dialect "according to your feelings" or "as you say it", an attitude according to which the spelling belongs to the domain of standard German, but not to the dialect.

Basel German occupies a special position , where especially the Schnitzelbänke at the Basel Carnival use a spelling that is strongly based on Rudolf Sutter's Basel German dictionary. It is of the Dieth type, but the sound-letter assignment partly corresponds to sounds that are hardly found in modern Basel German (rounding from / ö / and / ü / to / e / or / i /) .

By and large, all Swiss German spelling is based on the sound-letter assignments of the standard language. There are, however, some differences:

  • k and ck denote the affricates [ k͡x ].
  • gg designates a different sound than g, namely the (unaspirated) Fortis [⁠ k ⁠] .
  • y denotes always closed in native words and names [ i ] or [⁠ i ⁠] . This use goes back to a late medieval ligature from ij .
  • ä is primarily for the over open [⁠ æ ⁠] , in eastern Switzerland for the open [⁠ ɛ ⁠] . In everyday use, it can be found also for the schwa [⁠ ə ⁠] ; a use that is found in dialect dictionaries and in dialect literature only for the Alpine dialects, where it is more appropriate in phonetic terms.
  • ie is reserved for the sound sequence [ɪə] without exception, never for [i:]. Depending on the spelling and / or degree of opening , long i is written ii, y, yy or occasionally ih .

Share of Swiss-German speakers

Language areas of Switzerland - majority ratio according to the FSO survey 2010 (map with a community as of January 1, 2020)
  • German
    (65.6% of the population; 73.3% of the Swiss)
  • French
    (22.8% of the population; 23.4% of the Swiss)
  • Italian
    (8.4% of the population; 6.1% of the Swiss)
  • Romansh in Grisons
    (0.6% of the population; 0.7% of the Swiss)
  • In the 2010 survey by the Federal Statistical Office , the proportion of German-speaking Swiss made up 65.6% of the total population. Of these, 93.3% stated in the 2000 census that they speak dialect in everyday life. In 2014, however, 87% of the German-speaking population still spoke Swiss German on a daily basis.

    As a family language, Swiss German is spoken by 78.9% of the population aged 15 and over in German-speaking Switzerland. The relative proportion of speakers is falling slightly and varies widely. Dialect speakers are found more often in rural areas and people who speak (only) standard language are more common in urban areas. The following table provides an overview of the proportion of Swiss German speakers, based on dialect as a language that is regularly used (everyday language) and family language:

    Proportion of residents aged 15 and over who speak dialect, according to cantons that have German as the official language
    Canton Swiss German in everyday life in% (2014) Swiss German as a family language in% (2018) German as the only official language
    Aargau 91 80 Yes
    Appenzell Innerrhoden 90 91 Yes
    Appenzell Ausserrhoden 90 87 Yes
    Bern 88 (German canton) 79 (whole canton) No
    Basel-Country 89 81 Yes
    Basel city 78 64 Yes
    Freiburg 88 (German canton) 25 (whole canton) No
    Glarus 96 84 Yes
    Grisons 86 (German canton part) 70 (whole canton) No
    Lucerne 89 84 Yes
    Nidwalden 91 86 Yes
    Obwalden 91 88 Yes
    St. Gallen 89 82 Yes
    Schaffhausen 85 79 Yes
    Solothurn 92 83 Yes
    Schwyz 91 82 Yes
    Thurgau 85 81 Yes
    Uri 91 89 Yes
    Valais 93 (German canton part) 23 (whole canton) No
    train 79 73 Yes
    Zurich 83 72 Yes

    The standard language is defined in the constitution as one of the four official national languages, but remains practically a foreign language for the majority of the population (see also diglossia ).

    Monolingual cantons in which Swiss German is spoken by the local population are: St. Gallen , Appenzell Innerrhoden and Appenzell Ausserrhoden , Thurgau , Glarus , Schaffhausen , Zurich , Zug , Schwyz , Lucerne , Uri , Nidwalden and Obwalden , Aargau , Basel-Stadt and Basel-Landschaft as well as Solothurn . Graubünden (in addition to Romansh and Italian ) and Bern (in addition to French ) have a German-speaking majority . Valais and Freiburg have a German-speaking minority alongside a French majority . In the canton of Jura there is a German-speaking municipality, Ederswiler , as well as the Walser settlement Bosco / Gurin in Ticino .

    In the meantime, most of the Romansh are also powerful in Swiss German.

    Historical development of Swiss German

    Until the First World War , the situation of Swiss German was by and large similar to that of the other German dialects: In public life in large cities, it was more and more oppressed by the standard language. After all, a Swiss peculiarity was that the upper classes ( patricians ) and the families of the big bourgeoisie in some cities such as Bern and Basel "preferred" French and also "parled" it in everyday life. Many French loanwords still bear witness to this today. - Due, among other things, to the two world wars and the interwar period, however, Swiss German became decisive for German-Swiss identity and thus a means of distinguishing oneself from Germany. Linguistically, this delimitation is expressed in the fact that the standard language, which is often associated with Germany, is hardly used as a spoken language.

    Since the late 1960s one can observe a veritable wave of dialect in Switzerland. Swiss German penetrates many areas in which written German was previously used exclusively and is highly valued as a sign of Swiss and regional identity. This development was strengthened with broad impact, above all through the increased use of the dialect in the mass media of radio and television. The pioneers here were the private radio stations that established themselves in the 1980s. The dialect wave spilled over from them, so to speak, to the screens and state broadcasters. The longer, the more diverse regional dialects could be heard at the national level. Parallel to this, the great success of musicians singing in dialect should have been very formative. The Bern German songs Mani Matters were very popular, and with u. a. Polo Hofer , Züri West , Patent Ochsner in Berndeutsch and with the trio Eugster , Jimmy Muff , the Schlieremer Chind , Toni Vescoli and the Minstrels in Zürichdeutsch, the dialect wave really got going in the 1980s, also in the rock scene. In the 1990s and until today, this trend continued z. B. with Schtärneföifi , Big Zis , Bligg and Adrian Stern and the use of the dialect in the electronic media and the local pop music spread even further. Through the establishment of new technologies, namely SMS , instant messaging , community networks , internet forums , chat rooms and (private) e-mails , which are actually intended for oral or quasi-oral communication, but which use written language as a means of communication ("written conversations") ), the predominantly spoken Swiss German also advanced into the written expression and thereby strengthened the dialect wave. In the absence of widespread standards, everyone uses their own spelling, and in order to save characters, abbreviations, anglicisms or the otherwise uncommon ß in Switzerland are often found in SMS .

    Due to the development of the audiovisual media and the increased mobility of the population, the dialects, starting from the urban areas, are increasingly interspersed with expressions of standard German written language and also of English. In addition, practically the entire vocabulary of modern life ends up in Swiss German using standardized High German forms. Most of the Anglicisms from the German language also apply to Swiss German, e.g. B. sori (from English “sorry”) instead of Äxgüsi , schoppe (from English “to shop”) or iichauffe (from German “shopping”) instead of Komissioone mache or (by the way, only younger) poscht . The high German influence is by no means limited to the vocabulary, but is also noticeable in the grammar and even in the pronunciation.

    Sociological Aspects

    The social functions of Swiss German are diverse. It can be used both as colloquial language and as technical language . Swiss German is neither a trendy language nor a technical language. It is used equally by all social classes and, unlike dialects in other countries, is not discredited as a language form of a "lower class".

    As everywhere, the varieties of different speaker groups ( secondos , forest workers, etc.) contain additional special abbreviations and expressions.

    Swiss German gives the German-speaking Swiss a strong emotional hold and contributes significantly to a sense of community and home. An example of this is the flowering of dialect music since 1990.

    In the larger cities, especially in Basel, Zurich and Bern, there were pronounced social dialect differences ( sociolects ) until the middle of the 20th century . All classes spoke dialect, but the dialect of the upper class differed significantly from that of the middle class, which in turn was different from both the dialect of the lower class and the dialect of the rural population.

    Swiss Standard German and Swiss German

    Language usage in Switzerland differentiates between dialect and standard language. Only the dialects form a continuum, not the standard language in the transition to the dialects. A linguistic utterance cannot be made in a more or less dialectal or standard language; one speaks either dialect or standard language and switches between the two.

    The dialects are used verbally in Switzerland by all social classes as normal colloquial and lingua franca; So speaking dialect is not socially outlawed. Speaking the dialect is also common in every situation with people of higher social standing and when dealing with authorities.

    Swiss Standard German is mainly used in Switzerland for written expressions and is therefore often referred to as "written German".

    In the last few decades, the use of the dialect at the expense of (Swiss) Standard German has increased (whereby in the following, “Standard German” is always to be understood as the standard German language (sometimes with a clear Swiss accent)):

    • In the oral area, High German should be the official language of school lessons, but teachers at all levels often limit themselves to only teaching the actual subject in High German; Remarks and instructions made in between, such as Stefan, go to so good s Fäischter go zuemache ( "Stefan, be so good and close the window!" ) are made in dialect. Standard German thus becomes the language of distance ("language of the mind"), the dialect the language of closeness ("language of the heart"). Intermediate questions and similar interventions by pupils and students are also increasingly being made in dialect. This state of affairs is also indirectly confirmed by the repeated admonitions of the school authorities to cultivate High German in class.
    • Especially on the private radio and television channels, practically only dialect is spoken. However, since many employees are used to writing down their spoken texts in High German, when reading them, a strongly High German language form often emerges with the phonetic forms of the dialect, but the syntax and vocabulary of High German: I fear that the injured person, the i Chrankehüser ygliferet was sy, no considerable aaschtyge chönnt instead of me, the d Zaal vo de injured, where i hospitals sy ygliferet, no considerablechönnt aaschtyge ( Bern German ). A distinction must be made in the public service media:
      • On the radio (private stations and Swiss radio ) almost only news and political information programs (e.g. Echo der Zeit ) as well as the entire program of the culture channel ( Radio SRF 2 Kultur ) are broadcast in standard German.
      • On private and on Swiss television (SRF), the dialect is common in entertainment shows, in soap operas and series (although high German and high German synchronized series are not synchronized separately in Swiss German), in children's programs, in all programs with a clear reference to Switzerland (folk music, regional news), in analyzing sports broadcasts, in all interviews and discussions with German-speaking Swiss outside the main news.
    • In municipal and cantonal parliaments, it is usually customary to cast votes in dialect. The same applies to verbal communication with authorities and courts.
    • In the Federal Parliament, however, out of consideration for those who speak French, Italian and Graubünden Romansh, (Swiss) High German is spoken.
    • Even when used in writing, standard German is on the decline when it comes to privacy:
      • Emails and SMS especially from the younger generation
      • Language of the chat rooms
      • Personals and newspaper advertisements.
    • In addition, newspapers written in High German (sometimes even in the world newspaper “ NZZ ”) are increasingly using special Swiss German vocabulary in local contexts (for example, Töff for “motorcycle” , Büsi for “cat” , Güsel (Zurich) / Ghüder (Bern) for "Waste" )

    Many German-speaking Swiss therefore lack practice in the oral use of Standard German; The view that this official national language is actually a foreign language is widespread. Since the First World War, High German has been little appreciated and perceived as foreign. On the other hand, Swiss Standard German sounds clumsy and awkward even to many Swiss people. In addition, there are reservations and prejudices against the Germans and Austrians due to historical events and, associated with this, often a negative attitude towards High German. Dialect language is therefore also deliberately used as a demarcation, although it can be understood reasonably well by other German-speaking people outside Switzerland after a period of familiarization with good listening.

    Due to the factors mentioned above, Swiss German is on the advance, but on the other hand it has been going through significant changes for several decades. On the one hand, the massive migration movements within the country have led to a leveling out towards large agglomeration dialects, on the other hand, the consumption of German media has led to the penetration of many High German elements. As a result of these developments, the passive and active language skills of the Swiss are increasingly drifting apart with regard to the standard German language. While the understanding of the language (written and spoken high-level language) is in no way inferior to that of the average German resident in terms of class and education, the ability to express himself and use it is increasingly weaker. At the same time, Swiss German is increasingly being spoken with High German vocabulary and expressions. But English is also used more and more in the everyday language of young people. So you often use z. B. "It's easy to get here!" instead of the usual dä Tescht is simply gsi! ( this test was easy! ).

    Swiss Idioticon and Linguistic Atlas of German-speaking Switzerland

    The Swiss Idioticon is the dictionary of the Swiss German language and records the living and historical Swiss German vocabulary (including the Walser regions of Upper Italy), but not the Bavarian dialect of Samnaun , which is described in the dictionary of Bavarian dialects in Austria . The documented vocabulary covers the period from around 1300 to the present of the respective volume (i.e. late 19th to early 21st century depending on the volume).

    The Linguistic Atlas of German Switzerland (SDS) records and documents the Alemannic dialects of Switzerland including the Walser dialects of Northern Italy using the dialect geographic method. It reflects a language level from around 1950. In 2010, the “Small Language Atlas of German-speaking Switzerland”, a short version of the language atlas for popular science, was published. - Under the direction of Elvira Glaser , the “Syntax Atlas of German Switzerland” (SADS) is currently being drawn up at the University of Zurich, which deals with the dialect syntax , which is largely left out of the SDS .


    In the 1978 resulting movie " The Swissmakers " learning Swiss German is as part of the naturalization process satirizes .
    It can happen that Germans think that the standard German spoken by Swiss with their accent is Swiss German.

    See also


    For more literature, see the articles on the individual dialects and dialect groups.

    Web links

    Wiktionary: Swiss German  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

    Individual evidence

    1. Languages, Religions - Data, Indicators: Languages. (official site) Languages ​​commonly spoken at home. (No longer available online.) Federal Statistical Office, Neuchâtel, Switzerland, 2015, archived from the original on January 14, 2016 ; accessed on January 13, 2016 : "At home or with relatives, 60.1% of the population examined mainly speak Swiss German ..."
    2. Is Swiss German a separate language? by Prof. Elvira Glaser, Zurich Competence Center for Linguistics, University of Zurich
    3. Is Switzerland losing its dialect diversity? An analysis , NZZ, September 21, 2017; "A woman from Zurich and a man from Uri have communication problems, they hardly recognize him as Swiss - and that during a simple, everyday conversation on the train."
    4. a b “two men, two women, two chind” , Small Linguistic Atlas of German-speaking Switzerland, UZH News, 19 November 2010
    5. Peter Wiesinger: The division of the German dialects. In: Werner Besch u. a .: dialectology. A manual on German and general dialectogy. Berlin / New York 1983 (Handbooks for Linguistics and Communication Studies. Volume 1), pp. 807–900, especially 836 as well as maps 47.4 and 47.5.
    6. Chochichästli oracle
    7. Swiss German dialectometry. In: Retrieved April 30, 2013 .
    8. Why Germans fail because of Swiss German: Grüzi probably! in Neue Zürcher Zeitung from June 20, 2010
    9. See on these questions: Urs Willi: The segmental duration as a phonetic parameter of "fortis" and "lenis" in plosives in Zurich German. An acoustic and perceptual examination. Steiner, Stuttgart 1996. ISBN 3-515-06913-5 - and: Astrid Krähenmann: Quantity and prosodic asymmetries in Alemannic. Synchronic and diachronic perspectives. de Gruyter, Berlin 2003. ISBN 3-11-017680-7
    10. ^ Linguistic Atlas of German-speaking Switzerland , Volume III, Maps 236–240.
    11. Christians a. a., Small Linguistic Atlas of German-speaking Switzerland, p. 27 f.
    12. a b Federal Statistical Office: Swiss German and Standard German in Switzerland - Analysis of data from the survey on language, religion and culture 2014 | Publication . In: Federal Statistical Office . ( [accessed on November 18, 2018]).
    13. a b c Federal Statistical Office: Languages ​​spoken at home by language area - 2018 | Table. January 30, 2020, accessed February 7, 2020 .
    14. Federal Statistical Office: Permanent resident population aged 15 and over according to languages ​​spoken at home and canton - 2017 | Table. January 29, 2019, accessed March 15, 2019 .
    15. Federal Statistical Office: Permanent resident population aged 15 and over according to languages ​​spoken at home and canton - 2017 | Table. January 29, 2019, accessed March 15, 2019 .
    16. “Our dialects will not die out” on SRF 1 of April 20, 2015
    17. Conversation on the economy of the dialect in German-speaking Switzerland: “Swiss German is not inferior” in Neue Zürcher Zeitung on July 29, 2014
    18. Schwyzerdütsch from an early age  ( page no longer available , search in web archives ): conversation with foreign correspondent Pascal Lechler in DRadio Wissen in May 2011@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /
    This article was added to the list of excellent articles on February 11, 2005 in this version .