Colloquial language

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The colloquial language , even everyday language is - in contrast to the standard high-level language , and also to technical language - the language that is used in daily life, but no specific sociolect equivalent. A dialect can be seen as a colloquial language, or it occupies an intermediate position between dialect and standard language. The term may only focus on the concepts of common language and use language defined. In relation to certain situations, lingua franca is the colloquial language.

The term colloquial language also has the meaning "careless, casual to rough expression". A distinction is made primarily according to the style of language and the colloquial language is set in contrast to a cultivated expression. However, it does not take into account whether the language corresponds to a specific sociolect or not. Colloquialisms are characteristic of colloquial language in this sense .

Colloquial language in the first sense is shaped by regional and social conditions such as the level of education and the social milieu of the speaker or the situation. Sometimes colloquial forms of expression are synonymous with “ vernacular ” (meaning “ vernacular ”).

In the German context, colloquial language is sometimes viewed as a “buffer zone” between Standard German ( Standard German) and non- standard German. Ulrich Ammon states that the term can be understood colloquially in two ways: as an expression for the linguistic units of the colloquial language norm (ie a certain stylistic layer of the standard language ) or as a term for substandard forms. Peter Trudgill believes that standard language practice can include both formal and slang elements, and that informal means do not necessarily indicate nonstandard use.


The term “colloquial language” was introduced into German philology at the beginning of the 19th century by Joachim Heinrich Campe .

In the German- speaking area there is no standardized high-level language that serves as a colloquial language. The long-lasting historical diversity of regional power relations has left its mark on a highly heterogeneous (non-standardized) colloquial speech behavior.

The standard language is not binding, nor are colloquial deviations from it bindingly delimited. There are no state institutions in the German-speaking countries that could be responsible for this. Various dictionaries are used as an orientation for the standard High German language ( standard German ) - e.g. B. on grammar , pronunciation and style - but these are voluntary decisions, so we cannot speak of a binding norm in high-level language versus a lack of norm in colloquial language.

Only the area of spelling is an exception, because binding regulations have existed at least for school and official use since the late 19th century, and since the Orthographic Conference of 1901 even largely uniform in the German-speaking area. Outside of schools and authorities, many also adhere to these regulations, e.g. B. News agencies and media companies like publishers , but these are again voluntary decisions.

Even the non-standardized colloquial language is subject to a certain uniformity, which arises from the fact that its speakers orientate themselves to other speakers and adapt. In contrast to the standard high German language, in which the written orientation is mostly based on dictionaries, the unifying orientation of the written colloquial language is diffuse, changeable and often cannot be clearly determined. This fuzziness is at the same time the source of their lively verbosity, which is particularly important for the further development of the standard language.

In the public perception, a language form that is considered charismatic for language development is more often used as the starting material for the later so-called standard and colloquial languages. In Germany, this is the Bible translation of Martin Luther rumored in Britain the English royalty, in France the vernacular of the region of Paris, in Russia the work of the national poet Alexander Pushkin .

In philosophy, according to Karl-Otto Apel, colloquial language is the “last metalanguage ” and as such is necessary for meta-communication because it is assumed to be the smallest distance to individual consciousness (in the sense of a lingua mentis ).


The vernacular is different from the elevated language of public speaking, drama , poetry , but also the lexicon articles as well as the intermediate layer of popular upscale vernacular ( essay , newspaper articles, educational language radio or television language and "TV German"). The primacy of the spoken language applies here , i. In other words, new formations and ascertaining the correctness are initially accepted in concrete speaking situations; the writing generally takes place at a certain distance.


Discrepancies between colloquial and technical language are not uniform. Rather, they are dependent on the situation and context . There are unambiguous, clearly defined differences due to different values between certain professional group members and laypeople: The gaping disparagingly also means déformation professionnelle (for example: " technical idiocy "). For example, a medical finding is "negative" for the specialist if it excludes a certain diagnosis , but the layman hears the slang meaning of "negative" (= bad, undesirable) and assumes that a disease has been diagnosed.

High-level language

The process of education, further development and maintenance of a high-level language is based in many countries today on constant observation of the lively colloquial language by cultural institutions. They have dedicated themselves to the task, e.g. B. Dudenverlag , or are commissioned by the state, z. B. cultural institutes such as the Académie française or the Accademia della Crusca . There is no comparable institution for English, apart from a certain authority over the expressions of the British royal family or graduates of well-known universities.

Depending on national history, written and high-level languages ​​developed very differently in modern states. Accordingly, the assessment of the importance of colloquial language and the influence of the institutions responsible for the design of the standard language also differ.

Regional languages, dialects and vernaculars

Increased mobility and the mass media are continuously reducing the number of speakers of dialects and dialects. At the same time, the regional character of colloquial elements is decreasing, i. That is, the colloquial language is standardized.

Colloquial language and constant language change

Increased mobility, tourism , mass media , EDP , light music and other things are accelerating everyday language development today . On the other hand, the normative effects of television and the loosened dialect boundaries also “slow down” the change somewhat.

In any case, the formal description of a language is based on the colloquial language. The high-level language takes on elements from colloquial language and, if necessary, changes its use of language with it, usually with a certain delay and only to a small extent. On the basis of the lexical differences between the two forms of language, the rules of the origin of words can often be observed, for example when the German word “Lokomotive” has gradually become the “Lok” in the written language. At the same time, this is an example that this type of language change can make the language less systematic, because the spelling “Lock” would be more obvious in accordance with pronunciation.

Always particularly characterize youth language and different scene languages, the vernacular of the next generation - much more than on specific groups limited as soldiers language , grypsera , students language , Bergmann language , hunter language , technical language , etc. The vernacular so renews itself again and again u. a. from the sociolects and reflects the cultural significance that the speaking community as a whole ascribes to the respective groups.

See also


  • Karl-Heinz Best : On the development of the vocabulary of everyday German. In: Glottometrics 20, 2010, pp. 34–37 (PDF full text ) (mathematical modeling of the vocabulary growth of the German colloquial language from the 10th / 11th centuries; the data are based on the first two volumes of Küpper, a dictionary of German colloquial language, evaluated by Helmut Meier : Deutsche Sprachstatistik . 2nd ed., Olms, Hildesheim 1967, 1978, ISBN 3-487-00735-5 (1st ed. 1964)).
  • Heinz Küpper : Illustrated lexicon of German colloquial language. Klett, Stuttgart 1982, ISBN 3-12-570010-8 (8 volumes).
  • Heinz Küpper: Dictionary of German colloquial language. Klett, Stuttgart 1987, ISBN 3-12-570600-9 .
  • Alfred Lameli: Standard and Substandard. Regionalisms in a diachronic longitudinal section. Steiner, Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 3-515-08558-0 .
  • Alexandra N. Lenz: Structure and dynamics of the substandard. A study on West Central German (Wittlich, Eifel). Steiner, Stuttgart 2003, ISBN 3-515-08349-9 .
  • Alexandra N. Lenz: Emergence of Varieties through Restructuring and Reevaluation. In: Peter Auer / Jürgen Erich Schmidt (eds.): Language and Space. An International Handbook of Linguistic Variation. Volume 1: Theories and Methods. De Gruyter Mouton, Berlin / New York 2010, 295-315.

Web links

Wiktionary: Colloquial language  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: everyday language  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: coll.  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


  1. a b Danko Šipka: Exclusion labels in Slavic Monolingual Dictionaries: lexicographic Construal of Non-Standard Ness . In: Colloquium: New Philologies . 1 (1), December 2016, ISSN  2520-3355 , p. 4. doi : 10.23963 / cnp.2016.1.1 .
  2. Peter Trudgill: Sociolinguistics: An Introduction to Language and Society ( en ). Penguin UK, 2000, ISBN 9780141926308 , p. 17.
  3. Heinz Küpper : Dictionary of German colloquial language. 2nd edition, Claassen Verlag, Hamburg 1956, p. 9.
  4. Dieter Nerius (Ed.): German Orthography . 4th edition. Georg Olms Verlag , Hildesheim 2007, ISBN 978-3-487-13184-9 , 7.3.3. Implementation of the standard orthography.
  5. Helmut Glück (Ed.): Metzler Lexikon Sprach. 4th edition. Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2010: Metacommunication.