Zurich German

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Monophthongs of the Zürich dialect, from Fleischer & Schmid (2006:256)
Zuercher Mundarten.png
Isoglosses in the canton of Zurich. The red line marks the transition of /äng/ "narrow" vs. /eng/ in the dialect of the Thurgau. The green line separates the /o:big/ "evening" of the Oberland from /a:big/ elsewhere.

Zurich German (German: Zürichdeutsch, Zurich German: Züritüütsch) is the High Alemannic dialect spoken in the Canton of Zurich, Switzerland.

It is divided in six sub-dialects, covering the entire Canton with the exception of the parts north of the Thur and the Rhine.

Like all Swiss German dialects, it is essentially a spoken language, whereas the written language is standard German. Likewise, there is no official orthography of the Zurich dialect. When it is written, it rarely follows the guidelines published by Eugen Dieth in his book Schwyzertütschi Dialäktschrift; in fact, only language experts know about these guidelines. Furthermore, Dieth's spelling uses a lot of diacritical marks not found on a normal keyboard. Young people often use dialect for personal messages, such as when texting with their mobile phones. As they do not have a standard way of writing they tend to blend Standard German spelling with Swiss German phrasing.

The Zurich dialect is generally perceived as fast spoken, less melodic than, for example, the Bernese. In the northern parts of the canton, the "r" is pronounced as a uvular trill, whereas in the city around the lake and in the southern parts, it is pronounced as an alveolar trill.

Characteristic of the city dialect is that it most easily adopts external influences; in particular, the second generation Italians (secondi) have had a crucial influence, as has the English language through the media. The wave of Turkish and ex-Yugoslavian immigration of the 1990s is leaving its imprint on the dialect of the city in particular.


The following text is an example of Zürichdeutsch taken from a news article:

"Wiä's Bieler Tagblatt uf sinerä Online-Plattform am Nammitag brichtet hät, sind d'Strassesperrigä i Biel wiedr ufghobe wördä. D'Strassä seget wiedr befahrbar und d'Polizeiaktion isch beendet wördä. D'Polizei hät am Mittwuch Morgä ufnerä Boustell äs vrdächtigs Paket gfundä chaa und churz druf s'Gbiet um d'Bieler Spitalstrass abgsperrt. D'Öffentlichkeit sött i de nächschtä paar Stundä über d'gnoieri Umständ informiärt werdä."

Here is the following text translated into standard German, or Hochdeutsch:

"Wie das Bieler Tagblatt auf seiner Online-Plattform am Nachmittag berichtet hat wurden die Strassensperren in Biel wieder aufgehoben. Die Strassen seien wieder befahrbar und die Polizeiaktion wurde beendet. Die Polizei hatte am Mittwochmorgen auf einer Baustelle ein verdächtiges Paket gefunden und kurz darauf das Gebiet um die Bieler Spitalstrasse abgesperrt. Die Öffentlichkeit soll in den nächsten Stunden über die genaueren Umstände informiert werden."

And finally, the text translated into English:

"As Biel's daily paper stated on its online platform in the afternoon, the roadblocks in Biel had been lifted. It stated the streets were driveable again and the police operation had finished. On Wednesday morning, the police found a suspicious package at a construction site and shortly after, they closed off the area around the 'Bieler Spitalstrasse.' The public will be informed about the situation with more detail in the next few hours."


  • Dieth, Eugen: Schwyzertütschi Dialäktschrift. Aarau: Sauerländer. ISBN 978-3-7941-2832-7 (proposed orthography, in German)
  • Salzmann, Martin: Resumptive Prolepsis: A study in indirect A'-dependencies. Utrecht: LOT, 2006 (=LOT Dissertation Series 136). Chapter 4: Resumptives in Zurich German relative clauses, online [1].
  • Weber, Albert: Zürichdeutsche Grammatik. Ein Wegweiser zur guten Mundart. Unter Mitwirkung von Eugen Dieth. Zürich (=und Wörterbücher des Schweizerdeutschen in allgemeinverständlicher Darstellung. Bd. I). (prescriptive grammar book, in German)
  • Weber, Albert and Bächtold, Jacques M.: Zürichdeutsches Wörterbuch. Zürich (=Grammatiken und Wörterbücher des Schweizerdeutschen in allgemeinverständlicher Darstellung. Bd. III). (dictionary Zurich German - Standard German)
  • Renate Egli-Wildi: Züritüütsch verstaa, Züritüütsch rede A study book for the Zürich variant of Swiss German, intended for fluent German speakers, published by the Society for Swiss German, Zürich Section. 108 pages, 2 CDs. Küsnacht 2007. ISBN 978-3-033-01382-7 (in German)
  • Fleischer, Jürg; Schmid, Stephan (2006), "Zurich German", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 36 (2), doi:10.1017/S0025100306002441 
  • Heinz Gallmann: Zürichdeutsches Wörterbuch Zurich German Dictionary. 695 pages NZZ Libro, Zürich 2009, ISBN 978-3-03823-555-2