Alsatian dialect

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Alsatian language)
Jump to: navigation, search
"Alsacien" redirects here. For the German wine grape that is also known as Alsacien, see Elbling.
Not to be confused with Lorraine Franconian.
Native to France
Region Alsace
Native speakers
unknown (1.5 million in France cited 1987)[1]
Official status
Recognised minority
language in
Regulated by No official regulation
Language codes
ISO 639-3 gsw (with Swiss German)
Glottolog swis1247  (Swiss German)[2]
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.
Part of the series on
Flag of Alsace (historical).svg
Rot un Wiss, flag of Alsace since 11th century.

Alsatian (Alsatian and Alemannic German: Elsässerditsch (literally Alsatian German); French: Alsacien; German: Elsässisch or Elsässerdeutsch) is a Low Alemannic German dialect spoken in most of Alsace, a region in eastern France which has passed between French and German control five times since 1681.

Alsace Dialects.PNG

Language family[edit]

A bilingual (French and Alsatian) sign in Mulhouse.

Alsatian is closely related to other nearby Alemannic dialects, such as Swiss German, Swabian, and Markgräflerisch as well as Kaiserstühlerisch. It is often confused with Lorraine Franconian, a more distantly related Franconian dialect spoken in the northeast corner of Alsace and in neighbouring Lorraine. Like other dialects and languages, Alsatian has also been influenced by outside sources. Words of Yiddish origin can be found in Alsatian, and modern conversational Alsatian includes adaptations of French words and English words, especially concerning new technologies.

Many speakers of Alsatian could, if necessary, write in reasonable standard German. For most this would be rare and confined to those who have learned German at school or through work. As with other dialects, various factors determine when, where, and with whom one might converse in Alsatian. Some dialect speakers are unwilling to speak standard German, at times, to certain outsiders and prefer to use French. In contrast, many people living near the border with Basel, Switzerland, will speak their dialect with a Swiss person from that area, as they are mutually understandable for the most part; similar habits may apply to conversations with people of the nearby German Markgräflerland. Some street names in Alsace may use Alsatian spellings (they were formerly displayed only in French but are now bilingual in some places, especially Strasbourg and Mulhouse).[citation needed]


Majuscule forms
Minuscule forms
a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z ä à é ö ü ù
/a/, /ə/ /b̥/ /k/, /ɡ̊/ /d̥/ /e/, /eː/, /ə/ /f/ /ɡ̊/ /h/ /ɪ/ /j/ /k/ /l/ /m/ /n/, /ŋ/ /o/ /p/ /k/ /ɾ/ /s/ /t/ /ʊ/ /v/ /ʋ/ /ks/ /j/ /z/ /ɛ/ /ɑ/, /ɑː/ /ɛ/ /œ/ /y/ /u/

C, Q, X, and Y are only used in loanwords.



Alsatian has a rather simple set of 14 consonants:

Labial Alveolar Postalveolar Palatal Velar
Nasal m n ŋ
Stop ɡ̊,
Affricate pf ts
Fricative f s ʃ ç (x)
Sonorant ʋ l

Two consonants are restricted in their distribution: /kʰ/ only occurs at the beginning of a word or morpheme, and then only if followed immediately by a vowel; /ŋ/ never occurs at the beginning of a word or morpheme.

Alsatian, like some German dialects, has lenited all obstruents but [k]. Its lenes are, however, voiceless as in all Southern German varieties. Therefore, they are here transcribed /b̥/, /d̥/, /ɡ̊/.

The phoneme /ç/ has a velar allophone [x] after back vowels (/u/, /o/, /ɔ/, and /a/ in those speakers who do not pronounce this as [æ]), and palatal [ç] elsewhere. In southern dialects, there is a tendency to pronounce it /x/ in all positions, and in Strasbourg the palatal allophone tends to conflate with the phoneme /ʃ/.


Short vowels: /ʊ/, /o/, /ɒ/, /a/ ([æ] in Strasbourg), /ɛ/, /ɪ/, /i/, /y/.

Long vowels: /ʊː/, /oː/, /ɒː/, /aː/, /ɛː/, /eː/, /iː/, /yː/


Comparative vocabulary list[edit]

English Alsatian High Alemannic Standard German Swabian German Standard French Standard Dutch
house Hüüs [hyˑs] Huus Haus Hous maison huis
loud lüüt [lyˑd̥] luut laut lout bruyant luid
people Lit [lɪd̥] Lüt Leute Leid gens/peuple lui
today hit [hɪd̥] hüt heute heid aujourd'hui heden
beautiful schen [ʃeːn] schö schön sche beau schoon (Belgium), mooi (the Netherlands)
Earth Ard [aˑɾd̥] Ärd Erde Erd terre aarde
Fog Nabel [naːb̥l̩] Näbel Nebel Nebl brouillard nevel
water Wàsser [ʋɑsəɾ] Wasser Wasser Wasser eau water
man Mànn [mɑˑn] Maa Mann homme man
to eat assa [asə] ässe essen essa manger eten
to drink trenka [d̥ɾəŋɡ̊ə] trinkche trinken trenka boire drinken
little klai [ɡ̊laɪ̯] chlei klein kloi petit, petite klein
child Kind [kɪnd̥] Chind Kind Kind enfant kind
day Däi Dag Tag Dàg jour dag
woman Frài Frou Frau Frau femme vrouw

Status of Alsatian in France[edit]

The constitution of the Fifth Republic states that French alone is the official language of the Republic. However, Alsatian, along with other regional languages, is recognized by the French government in the official list of languages of France. France is a signatory to the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages but has never ratified the law and has not given regional languages the support that would be required by the charter. The policies of the Paris government have had the deliberate effect of greatly weakening the prevalence of native languages in France that are not "French." As a result, the Alsatian dialect of German has gone from being the prevalent language of the region to one in decline. A 1999 INSEE survey counted 548,000 adult speakers of Alsatian in France, making it the second most-spoken regional language in the country (after Occitan). Like all regional languages in France, however, the transmission of Alsatian is on the decline. While 43% of the adult population of Alsace speaks Alsatian, its use has been largely declining amongst the youngest generations.


  1. ^ Alsatian at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Swiss German". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  • (French) [1] François Héran, et al. (2002) "La dynamique des langues en France au fil du XXe siècle". Population et sociétés 376, Ined.
  • (French) [2] "L'alsacien, deuxième langue régionale de France" Insee, Chiffres pour l'Alsace no. 12, December 2002
  • (French) Brunner, Jean-Jacques. L'alsacien sans peine. ASSiMiL, 2001. ISBN 2-7005-0222-1
  • (French) Laugel-Erny, Elsa. Cours d'alsacien. Les Editions du Quai, 1999.
  • (French) Matzen, Raymond, and Léon Daul. Wie Geht's ? Le dialecte à la portée de tous La Nuée Bleue, 1999. ISBN 2-7165-0464-4
  • (French)Matzen, Raymond, and Léon Daul. Wie Steht's ? Lexiques alsacien et français, Variantes dialectales, Grammaire La Nuée Bleue, 2000. ISBN 2-7165-0525-X

External links[edit]

Media related to Alsatian dialect at Wikimedia Commons