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|Native to||Austria, Italy|
|8.5 million (date missing)|
Official language in
Italy (South Tyrol)
Austrian German (German: Österreichisches Deutsch), or Austrian Standard German (Österreichisches Standard-Deutsch), is the standard variety of the German language written and spoken in Austria. In Austria it has the highest sociolinguistic prestige, as it is the variation used in the media and for other formal situations. When a lower grade of formality has to be expressed, Austrians tend to use variations, which are closer to or identical with the Bavarian and Alemannic dialects traditionally spoken but rarely written in Austria.
Austrian German has its beginning in the mid-18th century, when empress Maria Theresa and her son Joseph II introduced compulsory schooling (in 1774) and several reforms of administration in their multilingual Empire. At the time the written standard was Oberdeutsche Schreibsprache, which was highly influenced by the Bavarian and Alemannic dialects of Austria. Another option was to create a new standard based on the Southern German dialects, as proposed by the linguist Janez Žiga Popovič (=Johann Siegmund Popowitsch). Instead they decided for pragmatic reasons to adopt the already standardized Chancellery language of Saxony (Sächsische Kanzleisprache or Meißner Kanzleideutsch), which was based on the standard language used for administrative purposes in the area of the cities of Meißen and Dresden, which were not part of the Austrian lands. Thus Austrian German is based on the same historical standard as the Federal German High German (Bundesdeutsches Hochdeutsch or nowadays also called Deutschländisches Deutsch, the Standard German of Germany) and Swiss High German (Schweizer Hochdeutsch, not to be confused with Swiss German, a group of Alemannic dialects spoken in Switzerland). The process of introducing the new written Standard was led by Joseph von Sonnenfels.
Since 1951 the standardized form of Austrian German for official texts and schools is defined by the Austrian Dictionary (German: Österreichisches Wörterbuch), published under the authority of the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture.
- 1 General situation of German language
- 2 Standard German in Austria
- 3 Dialects
- 4 See also
- 5 Sources
- 6 References and further reading
General situation of German language
As German is a pluricentric language, Austrian German is merely one among several varieties of Standard German. Much like the relationship between British English and American English, the German varieties differ in minor respects (e.g., spelling, word usage and grammar) but are recognizably equivalent and largely mutually intelligible. The official Austrian dictionary, "Das Österreichische Wörterbuch", gives grammar and spelling rules defining the official language. In addition to this standard variety, in everyday life most Austrians speak one of a number of Upper German dialects.
Standard German in Austria
With German being a pluricentric language, German dialects in Austria should not be confused with the variety of Standard German spoken by most Austrians, which is distinct from that of Germany or Switzerland. Distinctions in vocabulary persist, for example, in culinary terms, where communication with Germans is frequently difficult, and administrative and legal language, which is due to Austria's exclusion from the development of a German nation-state in the late 19th century and its manifold particular traditions. A comprehensive collection of Austrian-German legal, administrative and economic terms is offered in: Markhardt, Heidemarie: Wörterbuch der österreichischen Rechts-, Wirtschafts- und Verwaltungsterminologie (Peter Lang, 2006).
Former Standard (spoken)
The "Former Standard", used for about 300 years or more in speech in refined language, was the "Schönbrunner Deutsch", a sociolect spoken by the imperial Habsburg Family and the nobility of Austria-Hungary. It differed from other dialects in vocabulary and pronunciation: it appears to have been spoken slightly nasally. This was not a standard in a modern technical sense – it was the social standard of "upper class" speech.
Special forms in written language
For many years, Austria had a special form of the language for official government documents. This form is known as: "Österreichische Kanzleisprache" or "Austrian chancellery language" in English. It is a very traditional form of the language, probably derived from medieval deeds and documents, and has a very complicated structure and vocabulary which is generally reserved only for such documents. For most speakers (even native speakers), this form of the language is generally difficult to understand, as it contains many highly specialised terms for diplomatic, internal, official, and military matters. There are no regional variations, because this special written form has mainly been used by a government that has now for centuries been based in Vienna. "Österreichische Kanzleisprache" is now used less and less, thanks to various administrative reforms which have led to there being fewer of the classic civil servants, the Beamter. As a result, Standard German is replacing it in government and administrative texts.
When Austria became a member of the European Union, the Austrian variety of the German language — limited to 23 agricultural terms — was "protected" in Protocol No 10, regarding the use of specific Austrian terms of the German language in the framework of the European Union, which forms part of the Austrian EU accession treaty. Austrian German is the only variety of a pluricentric language recognized under international law / EU primary law. All facts concerning “Protocol no. 10” are documented in Markhardt, Heidemarie: “Das österreichische Deutsch im Rahmen der EU,” Peter Lang, 2005.
In Austria, as in the German-speaking parts of Switzerland and in southern Germany, verbs that express a state tend to use sein as the auxiliary verb in the perfect, as well as verbs of movement. Verbs which fall into this category include sitzen (to sit), liegen (to lie) and, in parts of Carinthia, schlafen (to sleep). Therefore the perfect of these verbs would be ich bin gesessen, ich bin gelegen and ich bin geschlafen respectively (note: ich bin geschlafen is a rarely used form, more commonly ich habe geschlafen is used; however ich bin eingeschlafen [I fell asleep] is not uncommon). In the variant of German that is spoken in Germany, the words stehen (to stand) and gestehen (to confess) are identical in the present perfect: habe gestanden. The Austrian variant avoids this potential ambiguity (bin gestanden from stehen, "to stand"; and habe gestanden from gestehen, "to confess").
There are many official terms that differ in Austrian German from their usage in most parts of Germany. Words primarily used in Austria are Jänner (January) rather than Januar, heuer (this year) rather than dieses Jahr, Stiege (stairs) instead of Treppe, Rauchfang (chimney) instead of Schornstein, many administrative, legal and political terms – and a whole series of foods such as: Erdäpfel (potatoes) German Kartoffeln (but Dutch Aardappel), Schlagobers (whipped cream) German Schlagsahne, Faschiertes (ground beef) German Hackfleisch (but Hungarian fasírt), Fisolen (green beans) German Gartenbohne (but Czech fazole, Italian fagioli, Hungarian folkish paszuly), Karfiol (cauliflower) German Blumenkohl (but Hungarian and Slovak karfiol, Italian cavolfiore), Kohlsprossen (Brussels sprouts) German Rosenkohl, Marillen (apricots) German Aprikosen (but Slovak marhuľa, Polish morela, Slovenian marelice, Croatian marelica), Paradeiser (tomatoes) German Tomaten (but Hungarian paradicsom, Slovak paradajka, Slovenian paradižnik, Serbian paradajz), Palatschinken (pancakes) German Pfannkuchen (but Czech palačinky, Hungarian palacsinta), Topfen (a semi-sweet cottage cheese) German Quark and Kren (horseradish) German Meerrettich (but Czech křen, Slovak chren etc.).
There are, however, some false friends between the two languages:
- Kasten (wardrobe) instead of Schrank – as opposed to Kiste (box) instead of Kasten (Kiste in Germany means both box and kist).
- Sessel (chair) instead of Stuhl – whereas Sessel means easy chair in Germany and Stuhl means stool (feces) in both varieties
- Vorzimmer (hall[way]) instead of Diele – whereas Vorzimmer means antechamber in Germany
- Ofen (oven) instead of Kamin – whereas Kamin means Schornstein in Germany
- Dialects of the Austro-Bavarian group, which also comprises the dialects of German Bavaria
- Central Austro-Bavarian (along the main rivers Isar and Danube, spoken in the northern parts of the State of Salzburg, Upper Austria, Lower Austria, and the Northern Burgenland)
- Southern Austro-Bavarian (in Tyrol, South Tyrol, Carinthia, Styria, and the southern parts of Salzburg and Burgenland).
- Vorarlbergerisch, spoken in Vorarlberg, is a High Alemannic dialect.
Intercomprehensibility and regional accents
While strong forms of the various dialects are not normally fully comprehensible to Northern Germans, communication is much easier in Bavaria, especially rural areas, where Bavarian dialect still predominates as the mother tongue. The Central Austro-Bavarian dialects are more intelligible to speakers of Standard German than the Southern Austro-Bavarian dialects of Tyrol. Viennese, the Austro-Bavarian dialect of Vienna, is most frequently used in Germany for impersonations of the typical inhabitant of Austria. The people of Graz, the capital of Styria, speak yet another dialect which is not very Styrian and more easily understood by people from other parts of Austria than other Styrian dialects, for example from western Styria.
Simple words in the various dialects are very similar, but pronunciation is distinct for each and, after listening to a few spoken words it may be possible for an Austrian to realise which dialect is being spoken. However, in regard to the dialects of the deeper valleys of the Tirol, other Tyroleans are often unable to understand them. Speakers from the different states of Austria can easily be distinguished from each other by their particular accents (probably more so than Bavarians), those of Carinthia, Styria, Vienna, Upper Austria, and the Tyrol being very characteristic. Speakers from those regions, even those speaking Standard German, can usually be easily identified by their accent, even by an untrained listener.
Several of the dialects have been influenced by contact with non-Germanic linguistic groups, such as the dialect of Carinthia, where in the past many speakers were bilingual with Slovene, and the dialect of Vienna, which has been influenced by immigration during the Austro-Hungarian period, particularly from what is today the Czech Republic. The German dialects of South Tyrol have been influenced by local Romance languages, in particular with many loan words from Italian, and Ladin.
Interestingly, the geographic borderlines between the different accents (isoglosses) coincide strongly with the borders of the states and also with the border with Bavaria, with Bavarians having a markedly different rhythm of speech in spite of the similarities in the language.
- Here are some examples of Schönbrunner Deutsch:
- "Crown Prince" Otto von Habsburg Otto von Habsburg - Quo vadis Integration - Festvortrag Eggenberg 2004
- Emperor Charles I. of Austria (1916–1918) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jMU9FFzez1A
- Emperor Franz Joseph (1848–1916) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jecUwMPk8pE&feature=related
- "DOCUMENTS concerning the accession of the Republic of Austria, the Kingdom of Sweden, the Republic of Finland and the Kingdom of Norway to the European Union". European Commission. 29 August 1994. Retrieved 27 January 2011. "The specific Austrian terms of the German language contained in the Austrian legal order and listed in the Annex to this Protocol shall have the same status and may be used with the same legal effect as the corresponding terms used in Germany listed in that Annex."
- Otto Back, Erich Benedikt, Karl Blüml, et al.: Österreichisches Wörterbuch (neue Rechtschreibung). Herausgegeben im Auftrag des Bundesministeriums für Unterricht, Kunst und Kultur. Auf der Grundlage des amtlichen Regelwerks. 41. circulation, Österreichischer Bundesverlag, Wien 2009, ISBN 978-3-209-06875-0
References and further reading
- Ammon, Ulrich: Die deutsche Sprache in Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz: Das Problem der nationalen Varietäten. de Gruyter, Berlin/New York 1995.
- Ammon, Ulrich / Hans Bickel, Jakob Ebner u. a.: Variantenwörterbuch des Deutschen. Die Standardsprache in Österreich, der Schweiz und Deutschland sowie in Liechtenstein, Luxemburg, Ostbelgien und Südtirol. Berlin/New York 2004, ISBN 3-11-016574-0.
- Grzega, Joachim: „Deutschländisch und Österreichisches Deutsch: Mehr Unterschiede als nur in Wortschatz und Aussprache.“ In: Joachim Grzega: Sprachwissenschaft ohne Fachchinesisch. Shaker, Aachen 2001, S. 7-26. ISBN 3-8265-8826-6.
- Grzega, Joachim: “On the Description of National Varieties: Examples from (German and Austrian) German and (English and American) English.” In: Linguistik Online 7 (2000).
- Grzega, Joachim: “Nonchalance als Merkmal des Österreichischen Deutsch.” In: Muttersprache 113 (2003): 242-254.
- Muhr, Rudolf / Schrodt, Richard: Österreichisches Deutsch und andere nationale Varietäten plurizentrischer Sprachen in Europa. Wien, 1997
- Muhr, Rudolf/Schrodt, Richard/Wiesinger, Peter (eds.): Österreichisches Deutsch: Linguistische, sozialpsychologische und sprachpolitische Aspekte einer nationalen Variante des Deutschen. Wien, 1995.
- Pohl, Heinz Dieter: „Österreichische Identität und österreichisches Deutsch“ aus dem „Kärntner Jahrbuch für Politik 1999“
- Wiesinger, Peter: Die deutsche Sprache in Österreich. Eine Einführung, In: Wiesinger (Hg.): Das österreichische Deutsch. Schriften zur deutschen Sprache. Band 12. (Wien, Köln, Graz, 1988, Verlag, Böhlau)