Valais German

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Valais German

Spoken in

Switzerland , Austria , Italy , Liechtenstein ( Triesenberg )
Official status
Official language in -
Language codes
ISO 639 -1


ISO 639 -2

gsw (Swiss German)

ISO 639-3


Walliserdeutsch (own name Wallissertitsch ) are the dialects of the German-speaking Swiss in the canton of Valais . They belong to the highest Alemannic dialect group and are spoken by around 80,000 people in Upper Valais.

The Walser dialects ( Walser German ) spoken in some mountain villages in Piedmont , the Aosta Valley and in Ticino are structurally largely identical . There are already major differences between the dialects of the Walser towns in Graubünden , Liechtenstein and Vorarlberg , but these too still share numerous similarities with the dialect of the Valais “original home”.

The language border to the French-speaking Lower Valais runs north of the Rottens along the Raspille stream between the bilingual Sierre and Salgesch and south of the Rottens in the Pfynwald region .

Valais German is only partially understandable for speakers of the standard German language , and even many speakers of High Alemannic dialects have problems understanding. The reasons for this are primarily the strong conservatism and even more the specific innovations in Valais German. The language area is very isolated due to the Romansh-Germanic language border in the west and the Bernese and Valais Alps that border the Valais in the north, east and south . It is the only German dialect besides Cimbrian - and even more so than this - that has largely preserved the declension and conjugation diversity of Old High German , and the genitive is still alive in conservative speakers. Likewise, in Valais German there was no weakening of the adjacent syllables to Schwa , which became effective around the year 1000 in most of the German-speaking area. For the special development of the Valais Germans played in addition to the geographical isolation and a strong altfrankoprovenzalische substrate - or Adstrat effectively an important role.


The Valais dialects have a strong regional structure. In earlier times almost every village had its own dialect, so that the origin of a person could be recognized. However, because of the greater mixing, such differences are now disappearing. But even today it can often be said from which valley the person in question comes.

Differences between western and eastern Valais German

The Valais dialect, like the Bernese Oberland dialect to the north , is divided into two main idioms, group west and group east . The east group includes the eastern part of the Upper Valais as far as Gamsen near Brig and the west group the Visp valleys and the part from Visp westwards to Siders / Sierre. It goes back to the after-effects of the old Franconian provencal substrate.

This dialectological dichotomy is difficult to show well using the adjective :

  • West group in Upper Valais: Schweer (closed [eː]), East group: schwäär (overopened [æː]).
  • Bernese Saanenland and Sense district in Freiburg: Schweer / Schwier, Haslital, Brienz , Emmental City of Bern to Bernese Seeland: schwäär

Examples of these west-east differences are:

Western Upper Valais Eastern Upper Valais Standard German
heavy black heavy
Chees Chääs cheese
Scheeri Schääri scissors
Üüstag Langsi (ahd. Lengizi, nhd. Lenz ) spring
iisch insch (Goms) us
liwwu umbrellas take a rest
wier gee wiär gää we go
you you

Valais German and Walser German

From a purely linguistic point of view, there are no clear differences between the dialects in the German-speaking Valais and in the settlements of the Walsers , who emigrated from the Valais in the 13th and 14th centuries and established settlements in numerous places in the Alpine region . The differences are based more on non-linguistic criteria, namely that the canton of Valais forms a political unit, while the Walser settlements have little contact with one another.

The dialects of the Walser settlements can also be assigned to the same groups East and West into which the dialects of the German-speaking Wallis are divided, so that, for example, a dialect from a Walser settlement from the group East can have more in common with a German -Valais dialect from the same group than with a Walser settlement -Dialect from the group West . It should be noted that the Valais dialects of the western group correspond to the Walser dialects in north- east Grisons (Klosters, Davos, etc.), while the Valais dialects of the east group correspond to the Walser dialects in south- west Grisons (Safiental, Rheinwald, etc.). The Walser dialects in Liechtenstein and Vorarlberg join the Bündner Nordostgruppe (i.e. the dialects of West German Schwallis). The Walser dialects in Italy and Ticino, on the other hand, have a parallel relationship to the Valais; The dialects south and east of Monte Rosa correspond to the western dialects and the dialects in Pomatt and Gurin correspond to the eastern Valais dialects.

There are differences between the Wal (Li) ser German dialects depending on which language contacts have been effective in certain regions. In isolated regions, more original language forms have survived better than in areas open to traffic. However, this does not allow a distinction between the dialects of the German Valais and the Walser settlements, because both are spoken in both more isolated and more traffic-free regions. Some typical examples of isolated settlements can be found among the Walser villages on the southern side of the Alps in Italian and Franco-Provencal-speaking surroundings, where the linguistic isolation is added to the traffic-related isolation (the dialects of the so-called South Walser or Ennetbirgischen Walser). However, there are also valley and localities in Graubünden and Valais that have been quite isolated for centuries, for example the Lötschental , although since the second half of the 20th century the traffic connections have improved a lot and the linguistic conditions have changed as a result.


Declension of nouns

Valais German is one of the few dialects in which a case system from earlier language levels has largely been preserved. The genitive still functional in some local dialects, which died out in most German dialects or only appears in traces, and the extensive parallelism of many forms with Old High German should not hide the fact that even with conservative dialects such as Valais German profound changes have taken place over the course of history . The following data, which exemplarily present the inflection of a strong masculine, a weak feminine and a strong neuter, come from Elisa Wipf: The dialect of Visperterminen in Valais. Huber, Frauenfeld 1910 (BSG II), p. 119 ff. And can still be accessed today from more conservative speakers:

singular male Female neutrally Plural male Female neutrally
Nominative dr day di Zunga ds Jaar Nominative di Taga di tongue d Jaar
Genitive ds daytime dr Zungu (n) ds Jaarsch Genitive dr Tago dr zungo dr Jaaro
dative dumb day dr Zungu (n) dum Jaar dative dun tagu (n) dun Zungu (n) you Jaaru (n)
accusative dun, dr day di Zungu (n), Zunga ds Jaar accusative di Taga di tongue d Jaar

The second case comes in phrases like two Jaaro 'two years', to all Siitun dr Chilchu 'on all sides of the church' or in sentences like as steit an ds Attusch Willu 'it depends on the father' and I ha ro / ru drii 'I have three of them' to use. The ending -o of the genitive plural, which is given above for Visperterminen, is -u in other dialects and is therefore identical to that of the dative plural.

In modern Valais German, the use of the genitive is dwindling, and the particular forms of the dative are replaced by those of the nominative / accusative.

Declination of adjectives

In Visperterminen the adjective is inflected as follows (also after Elisa Wipf: The dialect of Visperterminen in Wallis. Huber, Frauenfeld 1910, p. 134 f.):

Basic form: young 'young'

Strong flexion:

singular male Female neutrally Plural male Female neutrally
Nominative Boy jungi guys Nominative jungi jungi jungi
Genitive guys younger guys Genitive younger younger younger
dative jungum younger jungum dative Boy Boy Boy
accusative boy, jungu (n) jungi guys accusative jungi jungi jungi

Weak flexion:

singular male Female neutrally Plural male Female neutrally
Nominative jungo junga junga Nominative jungu (n) jungu (n) jungu (n)
Genitive jungu (n) jungu (n) jungu (n) Genitive jungo jungo jungo
dative jungu (n) jungu (n) jungu (n) dative jungu (n) jungu (n) jungu (n)
accusative jungu (n), jungo junga junga accusative jungu (n) jungu (n) jungu (n)

The distribution of strong and weak inflection is more or less the same as in standard language. So it is said, for example, strongly inflected van allum Äärischt 'in full seriousness', miin big sledge ' my big sledge ', iischi groossi Techter ' our older (big) daughter ', to Chleine, to Aalti, as boys ' a little one, an old one 'a cub'. Weakly inflected it means dum groossu Büob 'the big boy', with schiim wiissu Müülle 'with his white mule', anam aaltu Maa 'an old man', dr Lamo, di Groossa, ds Meera 'the limping one (lame), die Big, the bigger (several) '.

The main difference to the standard language is that the adjective is strongly inflected in the predicative position (i.e. not in front of the noun), as in many other High Alemannic dialects and in accordance with the Romance languages . In the standard language and most of the German dialects, however, the unflected basic form is used in this case. In Visperterminen it says dr Maa isch aalte 'the man is old' (literally: "old"), d Fröi isch aalti 'the woman is old' (literally: "old"), the child isch young 'the child is young '(literally: «young»).

Conversely, the unflected basic form can (but does not have to) take the place of the strong inflection, first in the nominative and accusative after the definite article, for example dr grie Maano '' the green moon '= new moon', ie , fresh Niidla 'the fresh cream' , the aarm Volchji 'the poor people'; second, after the demonstrative pronoun , for example dische chlei Büob 'this little boy', dischi chrank Fröi 'this sick woman'; and thirdly after possessive pronouns, for example iischi grooss Techter 'our big daughter'.

conjugation of verbs


As in the other variants of Swiss German, there are only two tenses in Valais German , namely the present and the perfect . In order to express future events, an adverbial definition is required, as is possible in German.

An example: "I'm going to travel to France for two weeks tomorrow." / "I'm going to France for two weeks tomorrow ." The same sentence can only be in Valaisian German: Ich gaa mooru fer two Wuche uf Frankriich.

In today's linguistic usage and especially among young people, a German-based form of the future has developed that does not exist in Valais German. Therefore it can happen that you hear the above sentence like this: I wiirdu mooru fer two Wuche uf Frankriich gaa.

The perfect is formed from an auxiliary verb in the present tense and the perfect participle of the main verb . As in German, “sein” and “haben” ( sii and ) appear as auxiliary verbs . The perfect is used to express any kind of the past, since neither a past tense still a pluperfect exist - from the dialect of the remote Dörfleins Saley except that to know full Präteritalparadigmen to their demise around 2000 around.

The passive voice is not formed with the auxiliary verb “werden”, as in German, but with “ommen ” (cho, chu) as in Italian . In addition, the variant with “are” (wäärdu) is used.

Here is another example: "Is this work still being done today?" Does Valaisan actually mean Chunt di Aarbeit nu hitu gmachti? One can, however, also encounter the sentence like this: Is the work done now?

It is noticeable that the participle is declined in the first example sentence, but not in the second. Participles are usually matched to the subject in gender and number . In the “more German” variant, that would sound a little strange, so you intuitively omit to adapt the participle. Furthermore, it can also happen that the participle in the first example sentence is (incorrectly) not adjusted.

Verb classes

While in the written language a division into verb classes due to coincident endings only makes sense in historical-linguistic studies and is also only recognizable to a reduced extent in the other Swiss German dialects, in Valais German one can recognize clearly different weak verb classes in addition to the strong verb class. Although the classes were mixed with one another over the course of time, they represent a relatively straightforward continuation of the Old High German relationships. The following data is based on Elisa Wipf: The dialect of Visperterminen in the Valais. Frauenfeld 1910, p. 145 ff.

infinitive 3. Present singular past participle infinitive 3. Present singular past participle
strong conjugation singu 'sing' sings gsungu see. Old High German singan singit gisungan
1. weak conjugation set to 'set' puts set see. Old High German put set gisetzit
2. weak conjugation zaalu 'pay' zaalot gizaalot see. Old High German zalōn zalot gizalōt
3. weak conjugation save 'save' saves gsparet see. Old High German save up saves gisparēt

In other Valais and South Walser dialects, the differentiation is even more clearly preserved than in the Visperterminen dialect shown above. According to the Linguistic Atlas of German Switzerland Volume III Map 1 (the examples are adapted to those from Wipf) , the Lötschental dialect knows three and not "just" two different infinitives in the area of ​​weak verbs such as Old High German:

Lötschentaleric infinitive Old high German infinitive
strong conjugation sing singan
1. weak conjugation set put
2. weak conjugation zaalu zalōn
3. weak conjugation save save up

In Middle High German, outside of the Valais and South Walser dialect areas, these different endings were reduced to two, namely -t and -et . This status has been preserved very well, especially in eastern Swiss German, cf. For example Zurich German he sets, hät gsetzt in the succession of Old High German setzit, gisetzit opposite he fischet, hät gfischet and he loset, hat gloset in the succession of Old High German fiskōt, gifiskōt or losēt, gilosēt . In Standard German, on the other hand, there has been a redistribution of the endings -t and -et according to phonological criteria ( -et after Dental and certain consonant clusters, otherwise -t ), so that the old and Middle High German relationships no longer continue there.

Verb be

Below is the conjugation of the verb "sii" (to be):

infinite verb forms
Infinitive: sii
Present participle: -
Past participle: gsi
Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st person I am wier sii 1st person I'm bi gsi wier sii gsi
2nd person dubious here you are 2nd person dü bisch gsi here are gsi
3rd person aaesic schii are 3rd person ääs isch gsi schii are gsi

Regular conjugation

The following table shows the regular conjugation using the verb «lüegu» (to look).

infinite verb forms
Infinitive: lüegu
Present participle: (lüegund)
Past participle: hails
Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st person I lie and wier lüeg e 1st person I am lying we are hot
2nd person you lüeg sch ier lüeg et 2nd person you are lucky it’s good
3rd person ääs lüeg t schii lüeg unt 3rd person ääs het good luck schii hent happy

It is also noticeable here that the Valais German features of Old High German are better preserved than many other dialects or the high language, e.g. B. the ending -u of the first person singular (cf. ahd. Nimu “I take”) and the ending -nt of the third person plural (cf. ahd. Nëmant “they take”), which is also preserved in Cimbrian . (In New High German the only reminder of this is the form si nd of the verb "sein".)


  • dr Güegu a ner Welbi mottut schi "the beetle on the ceiling is moving"
  • än Tschiffreta Pägglete di Tschugglete ambri treelu " Let a hat (basket carried on the back) roll (full) of wood shavings down the mountain"
  • The basic numerals up to ten are as follows: eis, zwëi, drii, four, füüf, sägsch, sibu, eight, niin, tenacious.

Text example

Valais German

“On the moor, nuch im Maannischiin (wen nuch dr Maann schiint), geid dr Puir an ds Maad (San meejn). Zi Säggschän (Um säggschi) wakes up r schini Froiw us hertm Schlaaf. Schi schtreeld schich, tretschud ds Haar und geid imbriin inn fiischtrn (fiischtrri) Chäldr gan Aichn, Chees und Härdepfl (r) reichn. Dernaa reisudsch (grächudsch) ds fräschtuck (formerly: ds Niächtrru). Schi trüchnd milk coffee and ässnd Aichnbrood dr zuä (Brood and Aichn drzuä). De faad d strict work vam Heiwun (d strictly hot work) aan. Mu muäs zeerscht d Madä zettn, speetr zämmrächu (n), illeggn and in dr Schiir mumm bid dr Gablun zrzettn. Widr Aabnd is called dr Maan ä Riggchorb (as Rrääf, ä Rriggablun) and Aggslun and Seid imbruif uf d Alpu (n). There’s not even Seng Uistag. D Murmdä pfiiffund, d Alpuroosn bliäjnd schoon, abr äs hed nuch Loiwischnee inn Gräbmi (inn Gräbun, older: inn Chrachun) (literally translated: abr äs liggnd nuch Rräschtä va Lloiwinun in Gräbun); wan as hed in the Wintr vil and of gschniid and giguxud. Da obmäna eat fast (hipsch)! Dr Puir is abr miädä choon and puts the protective cover on the preschool (ufn Baich) for z liiwän and as Pfüffätlin z rreikn. "

  • In the dialect from Ernen in Upper Valais:

“In the morning when the Maanet is shining, the Püür uf d Matta fer ga z määje. The hey is now ripfs. Äm säggschi wakes up är schiini Fröw, wa nu teif gschlaafe het. Skiing your hair, doing a Tschugge and giving your finschter Chäuwer embri. Schii geit da ga Äiche, chääs and Häärpfel rich and grächet de iner chuchi ds breakfast. Schii driichent Miuchkaffe and eats brown bread. Dernaa faad d schwäär hot work a. Zeerscht mües me ga d Made woorbe, dernaa ga zämmerächer and de ds Heiw in d Schiir sluggish and there against zette. Gäge Abed takes the Püür d Tschiffera uf de Rigg and geit uf d Aupa embrüf. Up there is no longer. The murmur whistled, the auperoose remained schoo, but ine grave liggent only roared, especially lioness; But in winter there is a lot to do and a lot to do. It's nice now up here. But the Püür isn’t. But there is no protection from the Bäichji fer z kirme and it is Piiffetji z röüke. "

Translation into written German

In the morning, when the moon is still shining, the farmer goes to the meadow to mow. The hay is ripe. At six o'clock he wakes his wife from deep sleep. She combs her hair, braids her hair and goes into the dark basement. She fetches butter, cheese and potatoes and then cooks breakfast in the kitchen. They drink milk coffee and eat bread and butter with it. Then the heavy wage work begins. First you have to spread the mowing, later the hay is raked and collected and then spread again on the haystack with a fork.

Towards evening the man takes the back basket over his armpit and goes up to the Alpe (Maiensäss). It's still spring. The marmots whistle, the alpine roses are already in bloom, but there are still remnants of snow from the avalanches in the trenches; in winter it snowed and storms a lot (blizzards). It's nice up here now. But the farmer has grown tired and sits down on the little bench for a while to rest and smoke a pipe.


  • embrüff and embrii: up and down
  • emüächa and emab: up and down
  • obschig and nidschig: up and down
  • ämi (cha) and ämüs (a): in and out
  • Boozu: spirit, frequent figure in Valais sagas
  • Botsch, Botschji, Büäb: Young boy, lad
  • Butti: (female) breast , plural: buttini
  • Buttitschifra / -u: brassiere
  • es älfs Euwi: A brown ewe (cf. German Aue, English ewe "mother sheep")
  • Frigor: refrigerator (from the French frigo )
  • Front day: Thursday
  • Geifetsch: Morning fog
  • Gindschet / Ginschet: door handle
  • Grüsch: hot water bottle
  • Guttra: bottle (cf. Latin gutti »jug«, gutta »drop«, guttula »droplet«, guttur »throat«)
  • (g) hirme and liwwu: rest, rest
  • Hopschil or Hopschul: frog
  • Lattüechji / Häärleischji: sand lizard
  • laffu: drink
  • Maanet: month / moon
  • Meije: flowers
  • Pfiffoltra / Pfiffoltru: butterfly (from Old High German fifaltra )
  • Ponte: cones
  • Port (a): door (from French porte or Franco-Provençal porta )
  • Pusset: stroller (from the French poussette )
  • Schriibi: pen
  • en protection: a while
  • Schwinggi / Gaschi: Pig
  • sienta: Sometimes
  • summi: some / some
  • triibu: throw
  • Triibul / Triibil: grapes
  • Tschifra / Tschifru: a hat that is carried on the back
  • Tschugge: Rock
  • Practice day: spring
  • Zudella / Gschirr: Bucket
  • Bish-mus ?: Composition from "Is it you him?" (in the sense of «Can you do the job?»),

basically possible with all forms / tenses of the verb "sein": ich bi-mus, dü bisch-mus, är isch-är-mus, wier si-mus, sid-er-mus, sind-sch-mus

  • Giz-där-schi ?: Composition from "Are you there?" (in the sense of «Is it comfortable / do you feel good?»)

As in other languages, there are also false friends in Valais German when translating into German. For example:

  • Tricker: Remote control (and not pushers, even if the Valais German name is of course derived from how it is used)

See also

  • Walser
  • as: Südwalserdeutsch - Article about the Eennetbirgische Walserdeutsch in Italy and in Ticino, with further links to the individual South Walser local vernaculars.



  • Association for Walserism (ed.): The Walser. A workbook for schools. 3. Edition. We Walser, Brig 1998.
  • Paul Zinsli : Walser folklore in Switzerland, Vorarlberg, Liechtenstein and Piedmont. Heritage, existence, essence. Huber, Frauenfeld 1968; 7th, supplemented edition: Bündner Monatsblatt, Chur 2002, ISBN 3-905342-05-7 .


  • Alois Grichting: Wallissertitschi Weerter. 4th edition. Rotten, Visp 2009, ISBN 3-907816-74-9 .
  • Georg Julen: Dictionary of the Zermatt dialect. 2nd Edition. Hotälli, Zermatt [1989] (1st edition 1985).
  • Volmar Schmid: Small Valais German Dictionary. Building. Wir Walser, Brig 2003, ISBN 3-906476-02-2 .
  • Fides Zimmermann-Heinzmann: The Visperterminen dialect as it was spoken by the older generation in 2000. Edited by P. E. Heinzmann. 2 booklets. Visperterminen o. J. ( online ).

Grammars and Studies

  • Karl Bohnenberger : The dialect of the German Valais in the home valley and in the suburbs. Huber, Frauenfeld 1913 (contributions to Swiss German grammar 6).
  • Erich Jordan: Locals tell about Simpeln and Zwischenbergen from folklore and tradition. Selbstverlag, Visp 1985, with a grammatical section pp. 142–156.
  • Walter Henzen : To weaken the night vowels in High Alemannic. In: Teuthonista 5 (1929) 105-156.
  • Walter Henzen: The genitive in today's Wallis. In: Contributions to the history of the German language and literature 56 (1931) 91–138.
  • Walter Henzen: Continuation of the old weak conjugation classes in the Lötschental. In: Contributions to the history of the German language and literature 64 (1940) 271–308.
  • Rudolf Hotzenköcherle : Valais German. In: Rudolf Hotzenköcherle: The language landscapes of German-speaking Switzerland. Edited by Niklaus Bigler and Robert Schläpfer with the assistance of Rolf Börlin. Aarau / Frankfurt a. M./Salzburg 1984 (Sprachlandschaft 1 series), pp. 157–192.
  • William G. Moulton : Swiss German Dialect and Romance Patois. Yale University Dissertation, Baltimore 1941 (Supplement to Language Vol. 17, No. 4, October – December 1941).
  • Elisa Wipf: The Visperterminen dialect in Valais. Huber, Frauenfeld 1910 (contributions to Swiss German grammar 2).

Web links



Speech samples

Individual evidence

  1. See William G. Moulton : Swiss German Dialect and Romance Patois. Yale University Dissertation, Baltimore 1941 (Supplement to Language Vol. 17, No. 4, October – December 1941).
  2. See Erich Jordan: Locals tell from folklore and tradition of Simpeln and Zwischenbergen. Visp 1985, pp. 146-148; Fides Zimmermann-Heinzmann: The Visperterminen dialect as it was spoken by the older generation in 2000. Ed. And ed. by P. E. Heinzmann. 2 booklets. [Visperterminen, 2000?].
  3. Wipf, p. 130 f. leads Zunga (Tsuna) and explains this by taking over the form of the nominative. According to the Sprachatlas der deutschen Schweiz (SDS), Volume III 189, Column 5, the accusative singular of the weak feminine ends in Visperterminen (as elsewhere in Valais or as in Alagna), on [ʊ]; further material on this in the unprinted spontaneous material of the SDS (available in digitized form via
  4. For example in Simplon and Zwischenbergen, see Erich Jordan: Locals tell from folklore and tradition of Simpeln and Zwischenbergen. Visp 1985, p. 146 f.
  5. Erich Jordan: Locals tell from folklore and tradition of Simpeln and Zwischenbergen. Visp 1985, p. 148.
  6. Very similar also currently in Simplon and Zwischenbergen, see Erich Jordan: Locals tell from folklore and tradition of Simpeln and Zwischenbergen. Visp 1985, p. 148 f.
  7. On the complex relationships in Old High German see Jürg Fleischer : The predicative adjective and participle in Old High German and Old Low German. In: Sprachwissenschaft 32 (2007), pp. 279–348; on the origin in Höchst Alemannic (German heritage or Romance interference?) the same: on the origin of the inflected predicative adjective in Höchst Alemannic. In: Zeitschrift für Dialektologie und Linguistik 74 (2007), pp. 196–240.
  8. See also Erich Jordan: Locals tell from folklore and tradition of Simpeln and Zwischenbergen. Visp 1985, pp. 153-156.
  9. Marcus Seeberger, 1921; Kippel / Brig; on-line