Bavarian language

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Parking sign in Munich
RegionAustria, Bavaria and South Tyrol
South Tyroleans
Native speakers
14,000,000 (2016)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3bar
Glottologbaye1239  Bairisch
bava1246  Bavarian
Extent of Bavarian
Bavarian is classified as Vulnerable by the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.
Upper German language area after 1945: blue: Bavarian-Austrian dialects

Bavarian (German: Bairisch [ˈbaɪʁɪʃ] ; Bavarian: Boarisch or Boirisch[2]), alternately Austro-Bavarian, is a West Germanic language[3] consisting of a group of dialects, part of the Upper German family, together with Alemannic and East Franconian.

Bavarian is spoken by approximately 12 million people in an area of around 125,000 square kilometres (48,000 sq mi), making it the largest of all German dialects. It can be found in the German state of Bavaria (especially Old Bavaria), most of the Republic of Austria (excluding Vorarlberg) and the Italian region of South Tyrol.[4] In 2008, 45 percent of Bavarians claimed to use only dialect in everyday communication.[5] Prior to 1945, Bavarian was also prevalent in parts of the southern Sudetenland and western Hungary.[6]

Language or dialect[edit]

Bavarian is commonly considered to be a dialect of German,[7][8][9] but some sources classify it as a separate language: the International Organization for Standardization has assigned a unique ISO 639-3 language code (bar),[10] and the UNESCO lists Bavarian in the Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger since 2009; however, the classification of Bavarian as an individual language has been criticized by some scholars of Bavarian.[11][12]

Reasons why Bavarian can be viewed as a dialect of German include the perception of its speakers, the lack of standardization, the traditional use of Standard German as a roofing language, the relative closeness to German which does not justify Bavarian to be viewed as an abstand language, or the fact that no country applied for Bavarian to be entered into the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.[13][14]

The difference between Bavarian and Standard German is larger than the difference between Danish and Norwegian or between Czech and Slovak.[15]


History and etymology[edit]

The word Bavarian is derived from the name of the people who settled Bavaria along with their tribal dialect. The origin of the word is disputed. The most common theory traces the word to Bajowarjōz, meaning "inhabitants of Bojer land". In turn, Bojer (Latin: Boii, German: Boier) originated as the name for former Celtic inhabitants of the area, with the name passing to the mixed population of Celts, Romans, and successive waves of German arrivals during the early medieval period.[16]

The local population eventually established the Duchy of Bavaria, forming the south-eastern part of the kingdom of Germany. The Old High German documents from the area of Bavaria are identified as Altbairisch ("Old Bavarian"), even though at this early date there were few distinctive features that would divide it from Alemannic German.

The dialectal separation of Upper German into East Upper German (Bavarian) and West Upper German (Alemannic) became more tangible in the Middle High German period, from about the 12th century.

Geographical distribution and dialects[edit]

Three main dialects of Bavarian are:

Differences are clearly noticeable within those three subgroups, which in Austria often coincide with the borders of the particular states. For example, each of the accents of Carinthia, Styria, and Tyrol can be easily recognised. Also, there is a marked difference between eastern and western central Bavarian, roughly coinciding with the border between Austria and Bavaria. In addition, the Viennese dialect has some characteristics distinguishing it from all other dialects. In Vienna, minor, but recognizable, variations are characteristic for distinct districts of the city.

Before the expulsion of Germans from Czechoslovakia, the linguistic border of Bavarian with Czech was on the farther side of the Bohemian Forest and its Bohemian foreland was Bavarian-speaking.

Alternatively, there are four main dialects:[17]

  • North Bavarian
  • Middle Bavarian
  • South Middle Bavarian
  • South Bavarian


Public sign combining Standard German and Bavarian

Bavarian differs sufficiently from Standard German to make it difficult for native speakers to adopt standard pronunciation. Educated Bavarians and Austrians can almost always read, write and understand Standard German, but they may have very little opportunity to speak it, especially in rural areas. In those regions, Standard German is restricted to use as the language of writing and the media. It is therefore often referred to as Schriftdeutsch ("written German") rather than the usual term Hochdeutsch ("High German" or "Standard German").[citation needed] Given that Central German and Upper German together comprise the High German languages, out of which the then new, written standard was developed and as opposed to Low German, that is an alternative naming many High German dialect speakers regard justified.


Bavaria and Austria officially use Standard German as the primary medium of education. With the spread of universal education, the exposure of speakers of Bavarian to Standard German has been increasing, and many younger people, especially in the region's cities and larger towns, speak Standard German with only a slight accent. This accent usually only exists in families where Bavarian is spoken regularly. Families that do not use Bavarian at home usually use Standard German instead. In Austria, some parts of grammar and spelling are taught in Standard German lessons. As reading and writing in Bavarian is generally not taught at schools, almost all literate speakers of the language prefer to use Standard German for writing. Regional authors and literature may play a role in education as well, but by and large, Standard German is the lingua franca.[citation needed]


Although there exist grammars, vocabularies, and a translation of the Bible in Bavarian, there is no common orthographic standard. Poetry is written in various Bavarian dialects, and many pop songs use the language as well, especially ones belonging to the Austropop wave of the 1970s and 1980s.[citation needed]

Although Bavarian as a spoken language is in daily use in its region, Standard German, often with strong regional influence, is preferred in the mass media.[citation needed]

Ludwig Thoma was a noted German author who wrote works such as Lausbubengeschichten in Bavarian.[citation needed]


There is a Bavarian Wikipedia. Also, the official FC Bayern Munich website was available in Bavarian.[18]



Labial Alveolar Post-
Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ŋ
Stop pb td kɡ (ʔ)
Affricate p͡f t͡s t͡ʃ
Fricative fv s ʃ (ç) x h
Trill r
Approximant l j


  • Aspiration may occur among voiceless plosives in word-initial position.
  • The phoneme /h/ is frequently realised as [ç] or [x] word-internally and is realised as [h] word-initially.
  • Intervocalic /s/ can be voiced to [z], unless it is fortis (lengthened), such as in /hɔasːn/ 'to be named', compared to /rɔasn/ 'to travel', where the sibilant is lenis.
  • A trill sound /r/ may also be realised as a flap [ɾ].
  • Intervocalic /v/ can be realised as [ʋ] or [β, w].
  • Some dialects, such as the Bavarian dialect in South Tyrol, realise /k/ as an affricate [k͡x] word-initially and before /m, n, l, r/, which is an extension of the High German consonant shift to velar consonants.


Vowel phonemes in parentheses occur only in certain Bavarian dialects or only appear as allophones or in diphthongs. Nasalization may also be distinguished in some dialects.

Front Central Back
unrounded rounded
Close i y u
Near-close ɪ ʏ ʊ
Close-mid e ø (ə) o
Open-mid ɛ œ (ɐ) ɔ
Open (æ) (ɶ) a (ɑ) ɒ

Bavarian has an extensive vowel inventory, like most Germanic languages. Vowels can be grouped as back rounded, front unrounded and front rounded. They are also traditionally distinguished by length or tenseness.


  • Bavarian usually has case inflection only for the article. With very few exceptions, nouns are not inflected for case.
  • The simple past tense is very rare in Bavarian and has been retained for only a few verbs, including 'to be' and 'to want'. In general, the perfect is used to express past time.
  • Bavarian features verbal inflection for several moods such as indicative, subjunctive, imperative and optative . See the table below for inflection of the Bavarian verb måcha, 'make; do':
måcha Indicative Imperative Subjunctive Optative
1. Sg i måch i måchad måchadi
2. Sg (informal) du måchst måch! du måchast måchast
3. Sg er måcht er måch! er måchad måchada
1. Pl mia måchan* måchma! mia måchadn måchadma
2. Pl eß måchts måchts! eß måchats måchats
3. Pl se måchan(t) se måchadn måchadns
2. Sg (formal) Si måchan måchan’S! Si måchadn måchadn’S


Personal pronouns[edit]

Singular Plural
1st person 2nd person informal 2nd person formal 3rd person 1st person 2nd person 3rd person
Nominative i du Si ea, se/de, des mia eß/öß / ia* se
Unstressed i -- -'S -a, -'s, -'s -ma -'s -'s
Dative mia dia Eana eam, eara/iara, dem uns, ins enk / eich* ea, eana
Unstressed -ma -da
Accusative -mi -di Eana eam, eara/iara, des uns, ins enk / eich* ea, eana
Unstressed Si -'n, ..., -'s -'s

* These are typically used in the very northern dialects of Bavarian.

Possessive pronouns[edit]

Masculine singular Feminine singular Neuter singular Plural (any gender)
Nominative mei meina mei meine mei mei(n)s meine
Accusative mein
Dative meim meina meim

The possessive pronouns Deina and Seina inflect in the same manner. Oftentimes, -nige is added to the nominative to form the adjective form of the possessive pronoun, like mei(nige), dei(nige), and the like.

Indefinite pronouns[edit]

Just like the possessive pronouns listed above, the indefinite pronouns koana, "none", and oana, "one" are inflected the same way.

There is also the indefinite pronoun ebba(d), "someone" with its impersonal form ebb(a)s, "something". It is inflected in the following way:

Personal Impersonal
Nominative ebba ebbs
Accusative ebban
Dative ebbam

Interrogative pronouns[edit]

The interrogative pronouns wea, "who", and wås, "what" are inflected the same way the indefinite pronoun ebba is inflected.

Personal Impersonal
Nominative wea wås
Accusative wen
Dative wem


Bavarians produce a variety of nicknames for those who bear traditional Bavarian or German names like Josef, Theresa or Georg (becoming Sepp'l or more commonly Sepp, Resi and Schorsch, respectively). Bavarians often refer to names with the family name coming first (like da Stoiber Ede instead of Edmund Stoiber). The use of the article is considered mandatory when using this linguistic variation. In addition, nicknames different from the family name exist for almost all families, especially in small villages. They consist largely of their profession, names or professions of deceased inhabitants of their homes or the site where their homes are located. This nickname is called Hausname (en: name of the house) and is seldom used to name the person, but more to state where they come from or live or to whom they are related. Examples of this are:

  • Mohler (e.g. Maler – painter)
  • Bachbauer (farmer who lives near a brook/creek)
  • Moosrees (Theresa (Rees/Resi) who lives near a moss)
  • Schreiner (joiner/carpenter)

Samples of Bavarian dialects[edit]

Spoken Bavarian
's Bóarische is a Grubbm fő Dialektt im Siin fåm dætschn Shbroochråm.
's Bóarische is a Grubbm fő Dialektt im Siin fóm daitschn Schproochraum.
Yiddish בײַריש איז אַ גרופּע פֿון דיאַלעקטן אין דרום פֿון דײַטשיש שפּראַך־קאָנטינום

Bairish iz a grupe fun dialektn in dorem fun daitshish shprakh-kontinuum.

German Das Bairische ist eine Gruppe von Dialekten im Süden des deutschen Sprachraumes.
English Bavarian is a group of dialects in the south of the German Sprachraum.
Sérawas*/Zéas/D'Ere/Griass Di/Griass Gód, i bĩ da Beeder und kumm/kimm fõ Minchn/Minicha.
Sérwus/Habedéare/Griass Di/Griass Gód, i bin/bĩ da Beeder und kimm/kumm fo Minga/Minka.
Yiddish שלום־עליכם, איך בין פּיטר און קום אױס מינכן

Sholem aleikhm, ikh bin Piter un kum oys Minkhn.

Standard German Hallo/Servus/Grüß dich, ich bin Peter und komme aus München.
English Hello, I am Peter and I come from Munich.
D'Lisa/'s-Liasl hod sé an Haxn bróchn/brócha.
Bavarian D'Lisa/As /Lisl hod sé an Hax brócha.
Yiddish ליסע/ליסל האָט זיך איר/דאָס/אַ בײן געבראָכן

Lise/Lisl hot zikh ir/dos/a beyn gebrokhn.

Standard German Lisa hat sich das Bein gebrochen.
English Lisa broke/has broken her leg.
I ho(b)/hã/hoo a Göd/Goid gfundn/gfunna.
I ho(b) a Gejd/Goid/Göld gfuna.
Yiddish איך האָב (עפּעס (אַ ביסל)) געלט געפֿונען

ikh hob (epes (a bisl)) gelt gefunen

Standard German Ich habe Geld gefunden.
English I (have) found money.

The dialects can be seen to share a number of features with Yiddish.[19][full citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bavarian at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ Rowley, Anthony R. (2023). Boarisch – Boirisch – Bairisch: Eine Sprachgeschichte (in German). Friedrich Pustet GmbH & Co. KG. ISBN 9783791734378.
  3. ^ "bar | ISO 639-3". Retrieved 2022-11-11.
  4. ^ Rowley 2011, p. 300.
  5. ^ Rowley 2011.
  6. ^ "Bavarian". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2017-08-31.
  7. ^ Zehetner 1985, p. 16: "Bairisch ist der oberdeutsche Dialekt, der dem Stamm der Baiern (oder Bajuwaren) eigen ist." [Bavarian is the Upper German dialect that is proper to the tribe of the Bavarians (or Baiuvarii).]
  8. ^ "Bairisch versus bayerisch". Bayerisches Wörterbuch (BWB). Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities. Retrieved 2023-02-26. Von der Verbreitung und von der Sprecherzahl her ist das Bairische die am weitesten verbreitete deutsche Mundart. [In terms of distribution and number of speakers, Bavarian is the most widespread German dialect.]
  9. ^ Anthony Rowley (2010-04-26). "Bairische Dialekte". Historisches Lexikon Bayerns. Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities. Retrieved 2023-02-26. Mit Bairisch wird die südöstliche Gruppe der oberdeutschen Dialekte bezeichnet. [Bairisch refers to the southeastern group of the Upper German dialects.]
  10. ^ "bar | ISO 639-3". Retrieved 2023-02-26.
  11. ^ Rowley 2011, pp. 301–302.
  12. ^ Eibl 2014, p. 96.
  13. ^ Rowley 2011, pp. 301–307.
  14. ^ Eibl 2014, pp. 90–91, 96.
  15. ^ Hinderling (1984) quoted in Rowley (2011, p. 301).
  16. ^ Hasenfratz, Hans-Peter (2011). Barbarian Rites: The Spiritual World of the Vikings and the Germanic Tribes. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-1594774218.
  17. ^ Kurt Gustav Goblirsch, Consonant Strength in Upper German Dialects, John Benjamins Publishing Company 2012 as NOWELE Supplement Series vol. 10 (originally Odense University Press 1994), p. 23 f.
  18. ^ "Home – FC Bayern München". 2021-10-11. Archived from the original on 2021-10-11. Retrieved 2021-12-02.
  19. ^ Weinreich

Further reading[edit]

  • Schmeller, Johann Andreas; edited by Frommann, Georg Karl (1872 & 1877). Bayerisches Wörterbuch. 2nd ed. in 2 vol., Rudolf Oldenbourg, München
  • Hietsch, Otto (2015), Wörterbuch Bairisch-Englisch, Von Apfelbutzen bis Zwickerbusserl, Regenstauf: SüdOst Verlag, ISBN 978-3-86646-307-3
  • Eibl, Melanie (2014). "Bairisch nach Maß?". JournaLIPP. 3: 87–99. doi:10.5282/journalipp/189.
  • Hinderling, Robert (1984). "Bairisch: Sprache oder Dialekt?". In Harnisch, Rüdiger (ed.). Jahrbuch der Johann-Andreas-Schmeller-Gesellschaft 1983. Bayreuth: Sprach- und Literaturwissenschaftliche Fakultät. pp. 47–64.
  • Kühebacher, Egon (1965–1971). Tirolischer Sprachatlas. 3 Vol.: Vokalismus, Konsonantismus, Sprachatlas. (= Deutscher Sprachatlas. Regionale Sprachatlanten. Hg. von Ludwig Erich Schmitt, Karl Kurt Klein, Reiner Hildebrandt, Kurt Rein. Bde. 3/1–3). Marburg: N. G. Elwert Verlag.
  • Rowley, Anthony (2011). "Bavarian: Successful Dialect or Failed Language?". In Fishman, Joshua; García, Ofelia (eds.). Handbook of Language and Ethnic Identity. Volume 2: The Success-Failure Continuum in Language and Ethnic Identity Efforts. Oxford University Press. pp. 299–309. ISBN 978-0-19-983799-1. OCLC 721195501.
  • Schikowski, Robert (2009), Die Phonologie des Westmittelbairischen
  • Traunmüller, Hartmut (1982), Der Vokalismus Im Ostmittelbairischen, pp. 289–333
  • Wiesinger, Peter (1990), The Dialects of Modern German: A Linguistic Survey, pp. 438–519
  • Zehetner, Ludwig (1985). Das bairische Dialektbuch (PDF). München: C. H. Beck. ISBN 3-406-30562-8.

External links[edit]

Media related to Bavarian language at Wikimedia Commons