Austrian German

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Austrian German
Österreichisches Deutsch
Native to Austria, Italy
Native speakers
8.5 million  (date missing)[citation needed]
Official status
Official language in
 Austria
 Italy (South Tyrol)
Language codes
ISO 639-3

Austrian German (German: Deutsch in Österreich), or Austrian Standard German (Österreichisches Standard-Deutsch), is the standard variety of the German language spoken in Austria. The standardized form of German in Austrian 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.

General situation of German language[edit]

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[edit]

A street sign in Vienna, "Fußgeher" (meaning "pedestrian") is normally seen as "Fußgänger" in Germany.

With German being a pluricentric language, German dialects in Austrian 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)[edit]

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.[1]

Special forms in written language[edit]

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.

European Union[edit]

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.[2] 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.

Grammar[edit]

Verbs[edit]

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").

In addition, the preterite (simple past) is very rarely used in Austria, especially in the spoken language, with the exception of some modal verbs (i.e. ich sollte, ich wollte).

Vocabulary[edit]

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.).[3]

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[edit]

Classification[edit]

Intercomprehensibility and regional accents[edit]

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.

See also[edit]

Sources[edit]

  1. ^ Here are some examples of Schönbrunner Deutsch:
  2. ^ "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." 
  3. ^ 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[edit]