German Dialects 2
with Dialect Map
THE 6 DIALECT FAMILIES > Page 1, 2
In Part One of this feature we discussed German dialects in general. Now we'll take a closer look at the various German dialects.
If you spend any time in almost any part of the German Sprachraum ("language area") you will come into contact with a local dialect or idiom. In some cases, knowing the local form of German can be a matter of survival, while in others it's more a matter of colorful fun. Below we briefly outline the six major German dialect branches-running generally from north to south (see map). All are subdivided into more variations within each branch.
Frisian is spoken in the north of Germany along the North Sea coast. North Frisian is located just south of the border with Denmark. West Frisian extends into modern Holland, while East Frisian is spoken north of Bremen along the coast and, logically enough in the North and East Frisian islands just off the coast.
Niederdeutsch (Low German/Plattdeutsch)
Low German (also called Netherlandic or Plattdeutsch) gets its name from the geographic fact that the land is low (nether, nieder; flat, platt). It extends from the Dutch border eastward to the former German territories of Eastern Pommerania and East Prussia. It is divided into many variations including: Northern Lower Saxon, Westphalian, Eastphalian, Brandenburgian, East Pommeranian, Mecklenburgian, etc. This dialect often more closely resembles English (to which it is related) than standard German.
Mitteldeutsch (Middle German)
The Middle German region stretches across Germany's middle from Luxembourg (where the Letztebuergisch sub-dialect of Mitteldeutsch is spoken) eastward into present-day Poland and the region of Silesia (Schlesien). There are too many sub-dialects to list here, but the main division is between West Middle German and East Middle German.
The East Frankish dialect is spoken along Germany's Main river pretty much in Germany's very center. Forms such as South Frankish and Rhine Frankish extend northwesterly towards the Moselle river.
Spoken in Switzerland north along the Rhine, extending farther north from Basel to Freiburg and almost to the city of Karlsruhe in Germany, this dialect is divided into Alsatian (west along the Rhine in today's France), Swabian, Low and High Alemannic. The Swiss form of Alemannic has become an important standard spoken language in that country, in addition to Hochdeutsch, but it is also divided into two main forms (Bern and Zurich).
Because the Bavarian-Austrian region was more unified politically-for over a thousand years-it is also more linguistically uniform than the German north. There are some subdivisions (South, Middle, and North Bavarian, Tyrolian, Salzburgian), but the differences are not very significant. - See our Austrian Dialect page for examples of Bavarian-Austrian vs standard German.
Note: The word Bairisch refers to the language, while the adjective bayrisch or bayerisch refers to Bayern (Bavaria) the place, as in der Bayerische Wald, the Bavarian Forest.
SOURCE: dtv-Atlas zur deutschen Sprache by Werner König. 1994, Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich.
The following links deal with dialects for the German-language learner.
Translate Austrian German words to or from standard German.
Neue Zürcher Zeitung
Zurich's leading daily newspaper offers a good look at standard Swiss German (e.g., no ß) and sometimes a bit of Swiss dialect as well.
An excellent Swabian-English dictionary by Thomas Kemmer at the University of Stuttgart. Also includes sounds (in various formats).
"Die besten Schwabenseiten." Information and links for the Swabian dialect.
The Xkraut Files
German-American Chris Loewl's tales of his "exile" in Swabia. In German with heavy doses of Swabian. You may need to use Thomas Kemmer's Schwäbisch-Englisches Wörterbuch. Also links to the St. Johann (Germany) Web site.
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