Upper Saxon German

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Upper Saxon
Native to Germany
Region Saxony
Native speakers
2 million  (1998)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 sxu
Glottolog uppe1400[2]
Central German dialects
  Upper Saxon (8)
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Upper Saxon (German: Obersächsisch) is an East Central German dialect spoken in much of the modern German State of Saxony and in the adjacent parts of Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia. Though colloquially called "Saxon" (Sächsisch), it is not to be confused with the Low Saxon dialect group in Northern Germany. Upper Saxon is closely linked to the Thuringian dialect spoken in the adjacent areas to the west.


The Upper Saxon dialect evolved as a new variety in the course of the medieval German Ostsiedlung (eastern settlement) from about 1100 onwards. Settlers descending from the stem duchy of Saxony speaking Old Saxon, but also from Thuringia, moved into the Margraviate of Meissen beyond the Elbe and Saale rivers then populated by Polabian Slavs. The importance of the Upper Saxon chancery German rose with establishment of the Saxon electorate. In the context of the Bible translation by Martin Luther, it played a large part in the development of the Early New High German language as a standard variety.

Spoken by leading communists descending from the Central German industrial area like Walter Ulbricht, Sächseln was commonly perceived as the colloquial language of East Germany by West German citizens and up to today is a subject of numerous stereotype jokes.


The most notable distinguishing feature of the dialect is that the letters o and u are pronounced as centralized vowels ([ɞ] and [ɵ], respectively, when short; [ɵː] and [ʉː], respectively, when long). Speakers of other German dialects that do not have these sounds tend to perceive these sounds as being ö [øː] and ü [yː] respectively. For example, they hear [ʔæʉs] 'out' as if written aüs (Standard aus [ʔaʊs]) and [ˈʔɵːma] 'grandma' as if written Öma (Standard Oma [ˈʔoːma]). Front rounded vowels are pronounced as non-rounded (ö = [eː], ü = [iː]). Final -er is pronounced [ɔ̴] (or similarly, depending on the subdialect), which speakers of other German dialects tend to hear as [oː]; e.g. [ˈheːɔ̴] 'higher' (Standard [ˈhøːɐ̯] höher) is misheard as if written he(h)o.

The Upper Saxon dialects outside the Ore Mountains can be easily recognized by the supposed "softening" (lenition) of the voiceless stop consonants /p/, /t/ and /k/. Speakers of other dialects hear these as if they were "b", "d" and "g" respectively. In reality, these are merely non-aspirated versions of the same /p/, /t/ and /k/, a widespread feature among Central German dialects, as opposed to strongly aspirated [pʰ], [tʰ] and [kʰ] in dominant German dialects.


The degree of accent varies from place to place, from a relatively mild accent in the larger cities such as Dresden or Chemnitz to a stronger form in rural areas, depending on the grade of the High German consonant shift:


The sample text is a reading of The North Wind and the Sun by a speaker of the Chemnitz dialect.[5]

Broad phonetic transcription[edit]

[ˈeːnəs ˈtʌːχəs hʌmʃ toˤ ˈnoˤːtʋɪnt ɵnt tə ˈsɞnə kəˈtsʌŋt | ʋaˤː fɞn ˈpeːtn̩ tɛn nʉː toˤ ˈʃtaˤːkʁ̞ə ɪs | ɛls ə ˈʋʌntʁ̞oˤ mɪt nəm ˈʋɔˤːmən ˈmʌntl̩ ʌn | foˤˈpeːkʰʌːm || toˤ ˈnoˤːtʋɪnt ɵnt tə ˈsɞnə ʋɔˤːnʃ ae̯nʃ tʌs toˤ ˈʃtaˤːkʁ̞ə fɞn ˈpeːtn̩ tɛn ˈmʌntl̩ fɞm ˈʋʌntʁ̞oˤ ˈkʁ̞iːʃn̩ sɞl || toˤ ˈnoˤːtʋɪnt ˈpʉːstətə ʋʌs tʌs tsɞʏʃ hiːlt ˈʌːpoˤ jə maˤː aˤː ˈpʉːstətə ɵm sɵː maˤː foˤˈkʁ̞iːʃtə sɪʃ toˤ ˈʋʌntʁ̞oˤ ɪn sae̯nn̩ ˈmʌntl̩ || toˤ ˈnoˤːtʋɪnt kʌːp ɞf || tʌn hʌts tə ˈsɞnə ɵːχ foˤˈsʉːχt mɪt ʌˤːn ˈʋɔˤːmm̩ ˈsɞnn̩ʃtʁ̞ɔˤːln̩ || ɵnt ɪm nʉː ʃmɪs toˤ ˈʋʌntʁ̞oˤ sae̯nn̩ ˈmʌntl̩ ʋɛʃ || tɔˤː ˈmɵstə toˤ ˈnoˤːtʋɪnt ˈtsʉːkɛpm̩ tʌs tə ˈsɞnə toˤ ˈʃtaˤːkʁ̞ə fɞnn̩ ˈpeːtn̩ ɪs][5]

Orthographic version (standard German)[edit]

Eines Tages haben sich der Nordwind und die Sonne gezankt, wer von den beiden denn nun der Stärkere ist, als ein Wanderer mit einem warmen Mantel ein, vorbeikam. Der Nordwind und die Sonne waren sich einig, dass der Stärkere von den beiden den Mantel vom Wanderer kriegen soll. Der Nordwind pustete was das Zeug hielt, aber je mehr er pustete, um so mehr verkriechte sich der Wanderer in seinen Mantel. Der Nordwind gab auf. Dann hat es die Sonne auch versucht mit ihren warmen Sonnenstrahlen. Und im Nu schmiss der Wanderer seinen Mantel weg. Da musste der Nordwind zugeben, dass die Sonne die Stärkere von den beiden ist.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Upper Saxon at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Upper Saxon". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ Ludwig Erich Schmitt (editor): Germanische Dialektologie. Franz Steiner, Wiesbaden 1968, p. 143
  4. ^ http://web.uni-marburg.de/sprache-in-hessen/flash/dt.swf
  5. ^ a b c Khan, Sameer ud Dowla; Weise, Constanze (2013), "Upper Saxon (Chemnitz dialect)", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 43 (2): 239, doi:10.1017/S0025100313000145 

External links[edit]