Alemannic GermanAlemannic German
Alemannisch Pronunciation: [alɛˈman(ː)ɪʃ] Spoken in: Switzerland: entire German-speaking part.
Germany: most of Baden-Württembergand Bavarian Swabia.
Liechtenstein: entire country.
Italy: some parts of Aosta Valleyand northern Piedmont
Venezuela: Colonia TovarTotal speakers: about 10 million Language family: Indo-European
Alemannic German Writing system: Latin alphabetLanguage codes ISO 639-1: - ISO 639-2: gsw ISO 639-3: variously:
gct – Alemán Coloniero
gsw – Swiss German
swg – Swabian German
wae – Walser German Alemannic-speaking regions (situation around 1950)
Alemannic German (Alemannisch) is a group of dialects of the Upper German branch of the Germanic language family. It is spoken by approximately ten million people in six different countries including southern Germany, Switzerland, France, Austria, Liechtenstein, and Italy. The name derives from the ancient Germanic alliance of tribes known as the Alamanni (from which also comes the French "Allemagne" and Spanish "Alemania" names for Germany).
Alemannic itself comprises a dialect continuum, from the Highest Alemannic spoken in the mountainous south to Swabian in the relatively flat north, with more of the characteristics of Standard German the further north you go.
Some linguists and organisations that differentiate between languages and dialects primarily on the grounds of mutual intelligibility, such as SIL International and UNESCO, describe Alemannic German as one or several independent languages. ISO/DIS 639-3 distinguishes four languages: gsw "Alemannisch", swg "Swabian", wae "Walser" and gct "Alemán Coloniero" (spoken from 1843 in Venezuela).
At this level, the distinction between a language and a dialect is frequently considered a cultural and political question, in part because linguists have failed to agree on a clear standard. Standard German is used in writing, and orally in formal contexts, throughout the Alemannic-speaking regions (with the exception of Alsace), and Alemannic varieties are generally considered German dialects (more precisely, a dialect group within Upper German) rather than separate languages.
Alemannic comprises the following variants:
- Swabian (mostly in Swabia, in Germany). Unlike most other Alemannic dialects, it does not retain the Middle High German monophthongs û, î but shifts them to [ou], [ei] (as opposed to Standard German [aʊ], [aɪ]). For this reason, "Swabian" is sometimes used in opposition to "Alemannic".
- Low Alemannic dialects. Retain German initial /k/ as [kʰ] (or [kx]) rather than fricativising to [x] as in High Alemannic. Subvariants:
- High Alemannic (mostly in Switzerland, parts of Vorarlberg, and in the southern parts of the Black Forest in Germany). Complete the High German consonant shift by fricativising initial /k/ to [x]. Subvariants:
- Highest Alemannic (in the Canton of Wallis, in the Walser settlements, in the Bernese Oberland and in the German-speaking part of Fribourg). Do not have the hiatus diphthongisation of other dialects of German with [ʃniːə(n)], [buːə(n)] and not [ʃneijə bouwə]. Subvariants:
Note that the Alemannic dialects of Switzerland are often called Swiss German or Schwyzerdütsch.
The oldest known texts in Alemannic are brief Elder Futhark inscriptions dating to the 6th century (Bülach fibula, Pforzen buckle, Nordendorf fibula). In the Old High German period, the first coherent texts are recorded in the St. Gall Abbey, among them the 8th century Paternoster,
- Fater unser, thu bist in himile
- uuihi namu dinan
- qhueme rihhi diin
- uuerde uuillo diin,
- so in himile, sosa in erdu
- prooth unseer emezzihic kip uns hiutu
- oblaz uns sculdi unsero
- so uuir oblazem uns skuldikem
- enti ni unsih firleit in khorunka
- uzzer losi unsih fona ubile
Due to the importance of the Carolingian abbeys of St. Gall and Reichenau Island, a considerable part of the Old High German corpus has Alemannic traits. Alemannic Middle High German is less prominent, in spite of the Codex Manesse compiled by Johannes Hadlaub of Zürich. The rise of the Old Swiss Confederacy from the 14th century leads to the creation of Alemannic Swiss chronicles. Huldrych Zwingli's bible translation of the 1520s (the 1531 Froschauer Bible) was in an Alemannic variant of Early Modern High German. From the 17th century, written Alemannic was displaced by Standard German, which emerged from 16th century Early Modern High German, in particular in the wake of Martin Luther's bible translation of the 1520s. The 1665 revision of the Froschauer Bible removed the Alemannic elements, approaching the language used by Luther. For this reason, no binding orthographical standard for writing modern Alemannic emerged, and orthographies in use usually compromise between a precise phonological notation, and proximity to the familiar Standard German orthography (in particular for loanwords).
Johann Peter Hebel published his Alemannische Gedichte in 1803. Swiss authors often consciously employ Helvetisms within Standard German, notably Jeremias Gotthelf in his novels set in the Emmental, and more recently Tim Krohn in his Quatemberkinder.
- The diminutive is used frequently in all Alemannic dialects. Northern and eastern dialects use the suffix -le; southern dialects use the suffix -li (Standard German suffix -lein or -chen). Depending on dialect, thus, 'little house' could be Häusle, Hüüsle, Hüüsli or Hiisli (Standard German Häuslein or Häuschen).
- A significant difference between the high and low variants is the pronunciation of ch after the front vowels (i, e, ä, ö and ü) and consonants. In Standard German and the lower variants, this is a palatal [ç] (the Ich-Laut), whereas in the higher variants, a velar or uvular [χ] or [x] (the ach-Laut) is used.
- The verb to be is conjugated differently in the various dialects:
(The common gs*-forms do historically derive from words akin to ge-sein, not found in modern standard German.)
(standard German) Low Swabian Alsatian Allgäuerisch Lower
Markgräflerland Voralpenland Eastern Swiss German Western Swiss German Sensler I am
(ich bin) I ben I bìn I bin Ich bi I bee I bi I(g) bi I bü/bi You are
(du bist) du bisch dü bìsch du bisch du bisch dou bisch du bisch du bisch du büsch/bisch He is
(er ist) er isch är ìsch är isch är isch är isch är isch är isch är isch We are
(wir sind) mir send mir sìnn mir send/sönd mir sin mr send m(i)r send/sön/sinn mir sy mier sy You are
(ihr seid) ihr send ihr sìnn ihr send ihr sin ihr send i(i)r sönd/sind dihr syt dier syt They are
(sie sind) se send sie sìnn dui send si sin dia send di sönd si sy si sy I have been
(ich bin ... gewesen) i ben gwä i bìn gsìnn i bi gsi ich bi gsi i bee gsei i bi gsi i(g) bi gsi/gsy i bü/bi gsy