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Palatine German language

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Palatine German
Native toPalatinate; Pennsylvania Dutch Country
Native speakers
(undated figure of 400,000)[1]
Early forms
Latin (German alphabet)
Language codes
ISO 639-3pfl

Palatine German (Standard German: Pfälzisch, endonym: Pälzisch) is a group of Rhine Franconian dialects spoken in the Upper Rhine Valley, roughly in the area between Zweibrücken, Kaiserslautern, Alzey, Worms, Ludwigshafen am Rhein, Mannheim, Odenwald, Heidelberg, Speyer, Landau, Wörth am Rhein and the border to Alsace and Lorraine, in France, but also beyond.

The English term Palatine refers to the Palatinate region (German: Pfalz). Almost all traditional dialects of the Palatinate belong to the Palatine dialect group, but the Palatine speech area also extends to the west and east into neighboring regions (Saarland, Kurpfalz, southern Hesse). The main dialect divisions within Palatine German are Westpfälzisch (also called Hinterpfälzisch) and Vorderpfälzisch (also called Ostpfälzisch).[2][3]

The Pennsylvania Dutch language is descended primarily from the Palatine German that was spoken by Palatines who emigrated to North America from the 17th to the 19th centuries and maintained their native language. Danube Swabians in Croatia and Serbia also use many elements of Palatine German.


To the northwest, Palatine German is separated from Moselle Franconian by the das/dat-isogloss (Palatine German uses das or similar forms) and the absence of Rhenish pitch accent.[2][3] To the southeast, it borders on South Franconian, separated by the Appel/Apfel-line (Palatine German: Appel). Within the greater Rhine Franconian dialect area, the traditional defining isoglosses are the northern fescht/fest-line that separates Palatine German (fescht) from the Hessian dialects (fest), and the southern Haus/Hus-line that separates Palatine German (Haus) from Lorraine Franconian (Hus).[2]

Like other Rhine Franconian dialects, Palatine German has e-apocope (i.e. loss of earlier final -e), n-apocope (i.e. loss of earlier final n in the suffix -en) and /oː/ for earlier long a, e.g. Strooß/Strooße 'street'/'streets' (cf. Standard German Straße/Straßen). The major division of Palatine German into Westpfälzisch and Vorderpfälzisch is based on a bundle of distinguishing features, such as:[2][3]

  • Westpfälzisch lacks the suffix -en in the past participle of strong verbs (e.g. gebroch 'broken', geschripp 'written'). In Vorderpfälzisch, the suffix is retained as -e (with apocope of n, e.g. gebroche, geschriwwe).
  • Loss of medial g in Westpfälzisch in words like frooe /froːə/ (cf. Standard German fragen). In Vorderpfälzisch, it is retained as a voiced velar fricative (frooche /froːɣə/).
  • Westpfälzisch han/hun '(I) have' against Vorderpfälzisch hap/häp.


Here are some words in Palatine German with their Standard German equivalents:

Vorderpfälzisch Westpfälzisch Standard German English equivalent
Mais Mais Mäuse mice
Lais Lais Läuse lice
Grumbeea Grumbeer Kartoffel potato
Schnook Schdechmick Stechmücke mosquito
Bääm Bääm Bäume trees
Bää Bää Beine legs
Schdää Schdää Stein stone
soi sei sein his (possessive) / to be
unsa unser unsere ours
net (nit) net nicht not
dowedder/dewedda degeche dagegen against
Fisch (Fusch) Fisch Fisch fish
ebbes ebbes etwas something
Ärwett Arwett Arbeit work
Doa Dor Tor gate
Abbel Abbel Apfel apple
hawwe hann haben have
Haffe Hawwe Kochtopf pot (saucepan)

This sentence is pronounced in Vorderpfälzisch:

Isch habb's'm [habb es em] schunn vazehlt, awwa 'r [er] hat ma 's [es] nit geglaabt.

In Westpfälzisch, it would be the following:

Ich hann's'm schunn verzehlt, awwer er had mer's net geglaabt.

In Standard German, the sentence would read:

Ich habe es ihm schon erzählt, aber er hat es mir nicht geglaubt.

In English, it means:

I have already told [it to] him, but he didn't believe me.

Hasche aa Hunger? (Westpfälzisch)

Haschd ach Hunga? (Vorderpfälzisch)

Hast du auch Hunger? (Standard German)

Are you hungry too? (English)


Grammatically, all Palatine dialects do not use the genitive case, which is replaced by the dative, with or without von, and most dialects have no imperfect tense but only the perfect.

Notable speakers[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Palatine German at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022) Closed access icon
  2. ^ a b c d Green, W.A.I. (1990). "The Dialects of the Palatinate (Das Pfälzische)". In Russ, Charles (ed.). The Dialects of modern German. Abingdon: Routledge. pp. 241–264.
  3. ^ a b c Herrgen, Joachim; Vorberger, Lars (2019). "Rheinfränkisch". In Joachim Herrgen; Jürgen Erich Schmidt (eds.). Sprache und Raum: Ein internationales Handbuch der Sprachvariation. Band 4: Deutsch. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton. pp. 478–515. doi:10.1515/9783110261295-015.