Jump to content

Swiss Standard German

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Swiss Standard German
Swiss High German[note 1]
Schweizer Standarddeutsch
Schweizer Hochdeutsch, Schweizerhochdeutsch
RegionSwitzerland, Liechtenstein
Language codes
ISO 639-3

Swiss Standard German[1][2][3] (SSG; German: Schweizer Standarddeutsch),[4] or Swiss High German[5][6][7][note 1] (German: Schweizer Hochdeutsch[8] or Schweizerhochdeutsch[9]), referred to by the Swiss as Schriftdeutsch, or German: Hochdeutsch, is the written form of one of four official languages in Switzerland, besides French, Italian, and Romansh.[10] It is a variety of Standard German, used in the German-speaking part of Switzerland and in Liechtenstein. It is mainly written, and rather less often spoken.

Swiss Standard German differs from Swiss German, an umbrella term for the various Alemannic German dialects (in the sense of "traditional regional varieties") that are the default everyday languages in German-speaking Switzerland.

Standard German is a pluricentric language. In contrast with other local varieties of Standard German, Swiss Standard German has distinctive features in all linguistic domains: not only in phonology, but also in vocabulary, syntax, morphology, and orthography. These characteristics of Swiss Standard German are called Helvetisms. Besides influences from Alemannic German, those characteristics include extensive use of loan words from Romance languages, especially French.

Written Swiss Standard German

An example of Swiss Standard German used for a "no parking" sign. Fehlbare werden für Umtriebe behaftet would rather be expressed as Zuwiderhandelnde haften für die Kosten des entstehenden Aufwands in German Standard German. "Fehlbare" (as used in this context), "Umtriebe", and "behaftet" are Helvetisms.
Helvetism: parkieren

Swiss Standard German is the official written language in German-speaking Switzerland and Liechtenstein. It is used in books, all official publications (including all laws and regulations), in newspapers, printed notices, most advertising, and other printed matter. Authors write literature mainly using Swiss Standard German; some dialect literature exists. SSG is similar in most respects to the Standard German in Germany and Austria; there are a few differences in spelling, most notably the replacing of the German ß with ss (since the 20th century).[11][12] For example:

Swiss Standard German Non-Swiss Standard German English
Strasse Straße street
gross groß big
Fussball Fußball football
süss süß sweet
weiss, Weiss weiß, Weiß white
fliessen fließen to flow

There are some differences in vocabulary, including, for instance, using a loanword from another language. For example:

Swiss Standard German Non-Swiss Standard German English
Billett Fahrkarte ticket (for bus/tram/train etc.)
Cornet Eiswaffel,* Stanitzel** ice cream cone
Führerausweis or Fahrausweis Führerschein driving licence
Flaumer Mopp mop (with thrums)
grillieren grillen to grill
Jupe Rock skirt
Natel or Handy Handy or Mobiltelefon mobile phone
Ofenküchlein Windbeutel,* Brandteigkrapferl** cream puff
parkieren parken to park
Poulet Hähnchen chicken
Randen Rote Bete,* Rote Rübe** beetroot
Rüebli Karotte carrot
Velo Fahrrad bicycle
Zucchetti Zucchini zucchini/courgette

*only used in Germany, ** only used in Austria

In addition, SSG uses different orthography in letter writing, and the salutations used for the same also differ from Non-Swiss Standard German.

The Swiss use the Standard German word Spital (hospital). Spital is also found in volumes of Standard German language dictionaries; however, Germans from northern Germany prefer to use Krankenhaus, whereas Spital is also used in areas of southern Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, and South Tyrol.

Some nouns have different gender:

  • de-CH: das Tram (neuter); de: die Tram (feminine) (Straßenbahn is used more frequently in Germany); en: tram
  • de-CH: das E-Mail (neuter); de: die E-Mail (feminine); en: e-mail

Some expressions are borrowed from French and thus differ from usage in Germany, such as

  • de-CH: ich habe kalt (literally "I have cold"), de: mir ist [es] kalt (literally "[it] is cold to me")
  • de-CH: das geht dir gut, de: das passt dir gut (it suits you)

The Swiss keyboard layout has no ß key, nor does it have the capital umlaut keys Ä, Ö and Ü. This dates back to mechanical typewriters that had the French diacritical marks letters on these keys to allow the Swiss to write French on a Swiss German QWERTZ keyboard (and vice versa). Thus a Swiss German VSM keyboard has an ä key that prints an à (a-grave) when shifted.[13] However, it is possible to write uppercase umlauts by use of caps lock or by using the ¨ dead key.

The names of municipalities, towns, stations, and streets are often not written with a starting capital umlaut, but instead with Ae, Oe, or Ue, such as the Zürich suburb Oerlikon, the hamlet Aetzikofen, and the Bernese municipality Uebeschi.[14] However, field names, such as Äbenegg, Ötikon (near Stäfa), or Überthal, and any other word, such as Ärzte (English: physicians), usually start with capital umlauts.[15]

As for the various dialects of Swiss German, they are occasionally written, but their written usage is mostly restricted to informal situations such as private text messages, e-mails, letters, notes, or within social media such as Facebook. The ability of German Swiss to transliterate their language into writing is an integral and important part of the identity and culture of German-speaking Switzerland.[16]

Spoken Swiss Standard German


The default spoken language in German-speaking Switzerland is the respective local dialect. Due to a rather large inter-cantonal migration rate (about 5% p.a.) within modern Switzerland for decades, many different Swiss German dialects are spoken in any one place, especially in urban areas; for example, in the city of Zürich (end of 2013): of the 272,700 Swiss (total: 400,000) living in Zürich, only 40% (28%) are from Zürich itself with 51% (36%) from the entire canton of Zürich.[17]

Outside of any educational setting, Swiss Standard German is only spoken in very few specific formal situations, such as in news broadcasts and reputable programmes of the public media channels; in the parliaments of German-speaking cantons; in the federal parliament in Berne (unless another official language of Switzerland is used), although dialect is certainly encroaching on this domain; in loudspeaker announcements in public places such as railway stations, etc. Church services, including the sermon and prayers, are usually in Swiss Standard German. Generally in any educational setting Swiss Standard German is used (during lessons, lectures or tutorials). However, outside of lessons Swiss-German dialects are used, even when, for example, talking to a teacher about the class. The situations in which Swiss Standard German is spoken are characteristically formal and public, and there are situations where written communication is also important.

In informal situations, Swiss Standard German is only used whenever a German Swiss is communicating with a non-Swiss and it is assumed that this person does not understand the respective dialect. Amongst themselves, the German-speaking Swiss use their respective Swiss German dialect, irrespective of social class, education or topic.

Unlike other regions where German varieties are spoken, there is no continuum between Swiss Standard German and the Swiss German dialects. The speakers speak either Swiss Standard German, or a Swiss German dialect, and they are conscious about this choice.[16]

Nevertheless, about 10%, or 828,200, of Swiss residents speak High German (also called Standard German) at home, but mainly due to the presence of German or Austrian immigrants.[18]



The concurrent usage of Swiss Standard German and Swiss German dialects has been called a typical case of diglossia,[19] although this term is often reserved to language pairs where the vernacular has lower prestige than the other,[20] while Swiss German dialects do not meet this criterion as they permeate every socio-economic class of society. Since Swiss Standard German is the usual written language and the Swiss German dialects are the usual spoken language, their interrelation has sometimes been called a medial diglossia instead.[20]

Attitude to spoken Swiss Standard German


Most German Swiss can speak fluent Swiss Standard German, but may or may not like doing so, as it feels stilted and unnatural to many. When they compare their Swiss Standard German to the way people from Germany speak, they think their own proficiency is inferior because it is studied and slower. Most German Swiss think that the majority speak rather poor Swiss Standard German; however, when asked about their personal proficiency, a majority will answer that they speak quite well.[21]


  1. ^ a b High German can refer to Standard German or to the regional variety group with the same name.


  1. ^ Russ (1994), p. 7.
  2. ^ Sanders, Ruth H. (2010), German: Biography of a Language, New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., p. 200, ISBN 978-0-19-538845-9
  3. ^ Horvath, Barbara M.; Vaughan, Paul (1991), Community languages: a handbook, Multilingual Matters, Multilingual Matters, p. 101, ISBN 978-1853590917
  4. ^ Dürscheid & Businger (2006).
  5. ^ Russ (1994), pp. 55–56, 73–80, 84–87, 89–92, 96, 100 and 114.
  6. ^ "The problems of Austrian German in Europe". euro|topics. 16 March 2006. Archived from the original on 2015-05-18. Retrieved 2015-05-13.
  7. ^ Leeman, Adrian (2012), Swiss German Intonation Pattern, Studies in language variation, vol. 10, John Benjamins, ISBN 9789027234902
  8. ^ Hove (2007).
  9. ^ Hove (2007), pp. 2 and 4.
  10. ^ "Programme national de recherche PNR 56: Diversité des langues et compétences linguistiques en Suisse" (in French, German, and Italian). Berne, Switzerland: Fonds National Suisse. 2009. Archived from the original on 2012-06-03. Retrieved 2015-05-10.
  11. ^ Peter Gallmann. [de] "Warum die Schweizer weiterhin kein Eszett schreiben." in Die Neuregelung der deutschen Rechtschreibung. Begründung und Kritik. Gerhard Augst, et al., eds. Niemayer: 1997. (Archived.)
  12. ^ "Rechtscreibung: Leitfaden zur deutschen Rechtschreibung." Schweizerische Bundeskanzlei, in Absprache mit der Präsidentin der Staatsschreiberkonferenz. 2017. pp. 19, 21–22.
  13. ^ "Swiss standard: former VSM standard SN 07402". Winterhur. Switzerland: Schweizerische Normen-Vereinigung (SNV).
  14. ^ "Empfehlungen zur Schreibweise der Gemeinde- und Ortschaftsnamen, Richtlinien zur Schreibweise der Stationsnamen" (PDF) (Federal Recommendation) (in German) (Version 1.0 ed.). Bundesamt für Landestopografie, Bundesamt für Verkehr, Bundesamt für Statistik. 20 January 2010. p. 20. Retrieved 2014-05-16. In der Schweiz sind auf historischen Karten grosse Umlaute mit Ae, Oe und Ue bereits vor der Einführung der Schreibmaschine um ca. 1880 zu finden. Der Umstand, dass später auf der Schweizer Schreibmaschinentastatur keine Ä, Ö, Ü existierten, dürfte diese Schreibtradition gefördert haben. Heute wo die Schreibung Ä, Ö und Ü ohne weiteres möglich wäre, wurden wegen der einheitlichen Schreibweise in Verzeichnissen die grossen Umlaute von Gemeinde-, Ortschafts- und Stationsnamen konsequent als Ae, Oe und Ue geschrieben. ... Umlaute von A, O, U am Anfang von Flurnamen schreibt man gewöhnlich als Ä, Ö, Ü. Falls entsprechende Namen als Gemeinde oder Ortschaft existieren oder falls es sich um öffentliche Bauwerke handelt, werden die Umlaute häufig als Ae, Oe, Ue geschrieben
  15. ^ "Empfehlung: Gebäudeadressierung und Schreibweise von Strassennamen für die deutschsprachige Schweiz, Mai 2005" (PDF) (Federal Recommendation) (in German) (Version 1.6 ed.). Eidgenössische Vermessungsdirektion, Bundesamt für Landestopografie. 3 May 2005. p. 19. Archived from the original (MS Word) on 17 May 2014. Retrieved 2014-05-16. Die Schreibweise Ae, Oe, Ue am Anfang von Strassennamen ist weit verbreitet, ebenso bei Orts- und Stationsnamen. Die Weisung über die Erhebung und Schreibweise der Lokalnamen sieht für Lokalnamen Ä, Ö, Ü vor. Die Meinungen, welche Schreibweise für Strassennamen gewählt werden soll, sind recht unterschiedlich. Das Eidg. Gebäude- und Wohnungsregister macht zu einer allfälligen Umstellung keine Vorschläge, empfiehlt jedoch, sich innerhalb einer Gemeinde für die eine oder andere Variante zu entscheiden. Bei einer Schreibweise bestehender Namen mit Ae, Oe, Ue wird abgeraten, Ä, Ö und Ü für neue Strassennamen zu verwenden.
  16. ^ a b von Matt (2012).
  17. ^ "Bevölkerung Stadt Zürich" (PDF) (Publication) (in German) (Ausgabe 4/2013 ed.). Zürich: Statistik, Stadt Zürich. 17 April 2014. p. 5. Retrieved 2014-05-15.
  18. ^ "Sprachen, Religionen – Daten, Indikatoren: Sprachen – Üblicherweise zu Hause gesprochene Sprachen" (official site) (in German, French, and Italian). Neuchâtel, Switzerland: Swiss Federal Statistical Office. 2015. Archived from the original on 2016-01-14. Retrieved 2016-01-13. Zu Hause oder mit den Angehörigen sprechen 60,1% der betrachteten Bevölkerung hauptsächlich Schweizerdeutsch, 23,4% Französisch, 8,4% Italienisch, 10,1% Hochdeutsch und 4,6% Englisch
  19. ^ Ferguson, C. A. (1972) [orig. 1959–60], "Diglossia", in Giglioli, P. P. (ed.), Language and Social Context, Harmondsworth: Penguin, pp. 232–251
  20. ^ a b Barbour, S.; Stevenson, P. (1990), Variation in German, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 212–213
  21. ^ Heule (2006).


  • Ammon, Ulrich; Bickel, Hans; Ebner, Jakob; Gasser, Markus; Esterhammer, Ruth (2004), Ammon, Ulrich; et al. (eds.), Variantenwörterbuch des Deutschen. Die Standardsprache in Österreich, der Schweiz und Deutschland sowie in Liechtenstein, Luxemburg, Ostbelgien und Südtirol (in German), Berlin/New York, ISBN 978-3-11-016575-3{{citation}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
    • Ammon, Ulrich; Bickel, Hans; Lenz, Alexandra N., eds. (2016), Variantenwörterbuch des Deutschen. Die Standardsprache in Österreich, der Schweiz, Deutschland, Liechtenstein, Luxemburg, Ostbelgien und Südtirol sowie Rumänien, Namibia und Mennonitensiedlungen (in German) (2nd ed.), De Gruyter
  • Bickel, Hans; Landolt, Christoph (2012), Duden. Schweizerhochdeutsch. Wörterbuch der Standardsprache in der deutschen Schweiz (in German), Mannheim/Zürich: Schweizerischer Verein für die deutsche Sprache, ISBN 978-3-411-70417-0
  • Dürscheid, Christa; Businger, Martin, eds. (2006), Schweizer Standarddeutsch: Beiträge zur Varietätenlinguistik, Tübingen, Germany: Narr Francke Attempto, ISBN 978-3-8233-6225-8
  • Hägi, Sara (2006), Nationale Varietäten im Unterricht Deutsch als Fremdsprache (in German), Frankfurt am Main, Germany u. a., ISBN 978-3-631-54796-0{{citation}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  • Hägi, Sara; Scharloth, Joachim (March 2005), Ist Standarddeutsch für Deutschschweizer eine Fremdsprache? - Untersuchungen zu einem Topos des sprachreflexiven Diskurses, Linguistik online (in German), archived from the original on 2011-09-29, retrieved 2015-05-10
  • Heule, Martin (19 September 2006), Ist der Dialekt an allem schuld? (radio broadcast), Kontext (in German), Basel, Switzerland: SRG SSR idée suisse SRF 2, archived from the original (mp3) on 2016-01-25, retrieved 2009-12-15 {{citation}}: External link in |series= (help)
  • Hove, Ingrid (22 June 2007). Schweizer Hochdeutsch. Die Aussprache des Deutschen in der Schweiz (PDF) (Speech). Jahrestagung des Schweizerischen Vereins für die deutsche Sprache und der Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache (in German). Lucerne, Switzerland. Retrieved 2015-05-13.
  • Krech, Eva Maria; Stock, Eberhard; Hirschfeld, Ursula; Anders, Lutz-Christian (2009), "Die Standardaussprache in der deutschsprachigen Schweiz", Deutsches Aussprachewörterbuch, Berlin, New York: Walter de Gruyter, ISBN 978-3-11-018202-6
  • von Matt, Peter (2012), "Deutsch in der Deutschen Schweiz", in Peter von Matt (ed.), Das Kalb vor der Gotthardpost. Zur Literatur und Politik in der Schweiz (in German), München, Germany: Carl Hanser Verlag, pp. 127–138, ISBN 978-3-446-23880-0
  • Meyer, Kurt (2006), Schweizer Wörterbuch. So sagen wir in der Schweiz (in German), Frauenfeld, Switzerland, ISBN 978-3-7193-1382-1{{citation}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  • Russ, Charles (1994), The German Language Today: A Linguistic Introduction, London: Routledge, ISBN 978-0-203-42577-0
  • Scharloth, Joachim (June 2004), "6.1. Standardvariationen und Sprachauffassungen in verschiedenen Sprachkulturen [Standard Variations and Conceptions of Language in Various Language Cultures]", Zwischen Fremdsprache und nationaler Varietät: Untersuchungen zum Plurizentrizitätsbewusstsein der Deutschschweizer, Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften (in German), Graz, Austria: Rudolf Muhr (Universität Graz), retrieved 2015-05-10
  • Siebenhaar, Beat; Wyler, Alfred (1997), Dialekt und Hochsprache in der deutschsprachigen Schweiz (PDF) (in German) (5 ed.), Zurich, Switzerland: Pro Helvetia, retrieved 2015-05-10
  • Siebenhaar, Beat (n.d.), Das Verhältnis von Mundarten und Standardsprache in der deutschen Schweiz (PDF) (in German), ???: ???, retrieved 2015-05-10