Talk:Swiss German

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Incredible article[edit]

This is an incredible and very beautiful (sehr schoen!) article -- a big thanks to all of those who contributed the time and effort writing this article for the English Wikipedia! -- Cazimi


What are the criteria being used in this article to classify this linguistic variety as a mere dialect of "German"? The description given sounds pretty much like a situation of diglossia and clearly complies with the fundamental requirement to consider two linguistic varieties as different languages: Swiss German and Standard German are not mutually intelligible, therefore they can hardly be mere dialects of the same language. Otherwise, what would stop me from claiming that Spanish and Portuguese are merely dialects of the same language? They are closely related linguistic varieties not mutually intelligible... in the Spaniard-undertanding-Portuguese direction mainly, because a Portuguese usually has little problem understanding Spanish; but even given that half degree of mutual intelligibility, nobody claims Portuguese is a fringe dialect of Spanish not intelligible for speakers of Standard Spanish (this aspect doesn't seem to matter to those who claim that Swiss German is a dialect of German, so... why not just say that Portuguese is a dialect of Spanish and, voila, we have one language less to translate all the European Union stuff into, wouldn't this be nice for the economy of European taxpayers who are paying for all that stupid translation work into a fringe dialect? — ok, so much of irony for today; you got my point). So I see even less reason to accept the claim that Swiss German is a mere dialect of a language whose speakers cannot understand that dialect. The Ethnologue clearly lists Swiss German (Alemannisch) as a language on its own, not even within the same subgroup as Standard German:

  • IE > Germanic > West > High German > German > East German > East Middle German > Standard German (GER)
  • IE > Germanic > West > High German > German > Upper German > Alemannic > Alemannisch (GSW)

Uaxuctum 17:03, 29 Jun 2004 (UTC)

The distinctions of languages is not a question of intelligibility, but a cultural question. In this respect, Swiss German belongs clearly to the German language. All newspapers use standard German, for instance, and by far most books are written in standard German, and except for very rare cases everybody speaks (the Swiss variety of) standard German. -- j. 'mach' wust ˈtʰɔ̝ːk͡x 12:27, 6 Jun 2005 (UTC)

As far as I know, the distinction between Languages and Dialects is an academical (and rather political) one. To take your argument a bit further: Dutch and Flemish are considered separate languages, although they are so similar to be mutually understandable (The major difference being that Dutch is spoken in the Nederlands and Flemish in Belgium). Mandarin and Pekingese on the other hand are considered dialects of Chinese, although they are not mutually understandable at all (the only thing they have in common is the writing system, they are mutually understandable when written).

Please note that I'm writing this off the top of my head, I don't have any sources at the moment... adebaumann 2004-07-02 17:11

Very exact information, in my opinion. Just a small remark on the example: the word coffee is a loan word, so some developments may be different from Germanic words. For example, the dialect spoken around Bern pronounces this as [kAffe:]. -- dnjansen 18:57 14 Jun 2003 (UTC)

Should we include the Swiss German word for Swiss German in every single dialect? Also, can anyone add a list with the different dialects there are and maybe some more on the differences between the dialects (anyone with access to the Idiotikon?)? Kokiri

High German[edit]

Currently it says: Unlike most German dialects, most Swiss dialects did not participate in the second German vowel shift during medieval times - they use mostly the same vowels as Middle High German. As such, it is in places closer to Low German or Dutch than High German. If I'm not mistaken the Swiss German dialects are linguistically High German. The confusion is of course that in Switzerland the standard language is referred to as Hochdeutsch... Does anyone know more? Kokiri 14:05, 7 Jan 2004 (UTC)

Actually, the Swiss usually refer to Standard German as Schriftdeutsch, meaning "written German", which emphasizes the fact that the written language is generally Standard German, whereas the spoken is the dialect. I find this an interesting insight into how Swiss German speakers think of their language, but it doesn't help answer the "High German" question. I suspect that any similarities to Dutch or other low German varieties may be coincidental. In fact, there are some rather large differences among the dialects that make up the "Swiss German" group, and this is reflected in vowel usage, too.--Thielke 03:18, 22 October 2005 (UTC)
I don't know whether Hochdeutsch or Schriftdeutsch are more common. I'd perceive Hochdeutsch as more common, but that's just my impression. -- j. 'mach' wust | 10:11, 22 October 2005 (UTC)
I'm in the process of adding articles on German dialects. Swiss belongs to the Alemannic dialect family of the Upper Germanic language family — Upper Germanic is one of the High German families. Hochdeutsch refers properly only to standard German, which is a form of Middle German. Confusingly enough German speakers (and others) tend to refer to standard German as High German, and call all dialects and other German languages Low German or Plattdeutsch. Since this is standard usage, there is no way to avoid confusion. Linguistically speaking, Swiss is a High German dialect, but the pronunciation of Swiss is in some places Low German, the group where Plattdüütsch and Dutch properly belong to. If you know a way out of this confusion, it's up to you: I'm rather lost in the maze of Germanics. — Jor 14:18, Jan 7, 2004 (UTC)
Changed it to Unlike most German dialects, most Swiss dialects did not participate in the second German vowel shift during medieval times - they use mostly the same vowels as Middle High German. As such, even though Swiss German linguistically is a High German language, its pronunciation is in places closer to Low German or Dutch than other High German dialects or standard German.. — Jor 14:23, Jan 7, 2004 (UTC)
That's what I thought... seems clearer now. Kokiri 17:12, 7 Jan 2004 (UTC)

If it helps: I'm Swiss and in at least where I live we never use "Schriftdeutsch" (written german) - It's just used when we're writing about upper german. If normal folk is talking to each other it's always "Hochdütsch - Hochdeutsch" (high german). And low german is never used for swiss german ( - perhaps for other german dialects, donno) even if it would be logical. --Sevku (talk) 19:19, 7 November 2012 (UTC)

I deleted the following sentence:

In Bern, even the word Tabu ('taboo') has stress on the first syllable.

This is simply not true. Maybe someone finds a better example? --Zumbo 21:33, 20 Mar 2004 (UTC)

I was pretty sure about that example, but of course I don't actually speak Berne German, so it's probably wrong. Another example would be Kasärne, which some people stress on the first syllable, whereas it may also be stressed on the penultimate. Wathiik 11:53, 26 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Can anyone confirm that ['fu:d@] is really derived from the English "food"? What about the German words "Futter" (animal food, col.: food) and "futtern" (col.: to eat)? I'm no expert on Swiss German, but the latter seems more probable to me...

"fuude" is definitly of english origin (english is cool, you know), but it was easily adopted because of the resemblance to "fuetere"
Linguistic analysis: Futter has [u@] in Swiss German, whereas foode has /u:/, hence, it cannot be derives from Swiss German Fuetter. The verb derives from Fuetter is fuettere. Wathiik 11:47, 26 Mar 2005 (UTC)

The word "futtere" ['fut:@r@] does exist, however, its meaning is totaly unrelated to food. It is a Bernese word meaning "complaining about something, usually at great length". adebaumann 7:57, 1 June 2005 (UTC)

Where does the assertion that the [huis], [bruin] pronunciation is older come from? The vowel in such words was [u:] in Middle High German - and in Old High German and reconstructed Proto-Germanic. Hedgehog 14:58, 6 Oct 2004 (UTC)

older than what? Wathiik 11:50, 26 Mar 2005 (UTC)
The shift did in fact go from [u:]>[ui]. In this respect, [ui] is an innovation of certain central Swiss dialects (especially of Engelberg). Trigaranus (talk) 13:52, 29 November 2007 (UTC)

I am not sure that putsch (for coup d'etat) is of swiss german origin

The Oxford Dictionary states so: putsch /pt/ → n. a violent attempt to overthrow a government. - ORIGIN 1920s: from Swiss Ger., lit. ‘thrust, blow’. Kokiri
The word entered the international political vocabulary in the aftermath of the Züriputsch of 1839. It's (besides "müesli") our most successful contribution to the international language potpourri. (Huzzah!) ;-) Trigaranus (talk) 13:52, 29 November 2007 (UTC)

Saying that Standard German was actually IMPORTED from Germany seems to be a political statement rather than a linguistic one. After all, Alemannic dialects and Standard German aren't unrelated languages, and while Standard German is mainly based on Middle German dialects, it is not a Middle German dialect itself. Wathiik 11:45, 26 Mar 2005 (UTC)

The statement is not political, but actually quite linguistic, as Standard High German was developed mostly in Germany (let's say between Luther and Goethe). Not only was it imported into Switzerland, but also into North and South Germany. It has not "evolved" as a regional dialect, but as a Hochsprache of the cultural élite, and has been adopted far and wide by local élites as it gained more prestige. Trigaranus (talk) 13:52, 29 November 2007 (UTC)


I think it's wrong to include neighbouring Alemannic dialects as Swiss German dialects, because Swiss German is not a LINGUISTIC concept per se, but a concept based on political boundaries. Thus, by definition, Germans or Austrians can't speak Swiss German, even though the Alemannic dialects from Germany and Austria are just as Alemannic as the ones spoken in Switzerland or France (Alsatian)...

Wathiik 19:40, 27 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Some of the vowels are basically the same as in Low German (e.g. /y/ in 'deutsch'), i.e. they didn't change since medieval times. However, in Dutch those vowels did change, hence I deleted the 'Dutch' bit. Wathiik 12:58, 28 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Move back to Swiss German[edit]

I'd like to move back Swiss German language to Swiss German. Swiss German is a variety of the German language. Of course there are those who prefer to consider it a language, but it is more often considered a dialect by its speakers and almost exclusively so in German language linguistics.

Talking about "Swiss German language" seems as inappropiate to me as talking about, for instance "Australian English language". Varieties of English are called XXX English. Why should this be any different with varieties of German. Of course, the different varieties of English are usually more intelligible with each other than the different varieties of German, but that's a characteristic of the German language, and mutual intelligibility is only one factor among others that are used to define language.

See also at Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Languages#Swiss German "language". -- j. 'mach' wust ˈtʰɔ̝ːk͡x 12:27, 6 Jun 2005 (UTC)

  • The differences between Standard German and Swiss German are far greater than the differences between, let's say, Australian and American English. If we were to consider Swiss German a mere dialect of German, then, by the same token, Afrikaans e.g. should be considered simply a dialect of Dutch. I guess the main difference between the two examples is that Afrikaans was standardized in the late 19th century and became an official written language in South Africa in the 1920s, whereas, in Switzerland, a political decision was made to retain Standard German as the official language of culture to be used in schools, books, government, and the media.
    • Exactly.
      • Also note the use of so called "helvetisms", words that are unique to Swiss German and are not exchangeable, even if Standard German substitutes are offered.
        • Actually, I strongly feel that I speak a language separate from that of my German friends, as they don't understand me when I use it. It's a very emotional topic for many Swiss people. :-) Subjectively, Standard German is considered a "foreign" language in the true sense of the word, as it is associated with foreigners (i.e. Germans), in spite of its use as a written language within Switzerland. Linguistically, High Alemannic (not "Swiss German") is certainly distinct enough to be considered a separate language, but it's one of those cases where dialect continuity and political boundaries don't overlap clearly enough. It's one of the rare situations where the motto "A language is a dialect with an army" does not hold. (BTW: The statement that Swiss German is considered a dialect by most Swiss people is a little bit misleading: "Dialäkt" or more commonly "Mundart" is simply the term used in contrast to "Schrifttüütsch" [Written German = Swiss Standard German].) Trigaranus (talk) 14:01, 29 November 2007 (UTC)

Grammar Differences[edit]

If I read right there is no mentioning of the tenses Swiss German lacks. There is no imperfect tense (e.g. the equivalent of 'waren') which creates a lot of complexity when there's a need for a clear time definition ('i be grad xi go poschte'). As a non-native German/Swiss German speaker, this is the most striking difference for me between Germand and Swiss German.

This is mentioned, and so is the phenomenon that really distinguishes your example from the German sentence ich bin gerade einkaufen gewesen. -- j. 'mach' wust ˈtʰɔ̝ːk͡x 22:50, 16 Jun 2005 (UTC)

I have been trying to get some further info on Coverbs, which appear in certain languages outside the Indo-European area. The present use of "go" and "cho" in Swiss German seems to partly fit the description I found on Wikipedia. Do we have any able linguists willing to comment on this one? Trigaranus (talk) 17:02, 19 December 2007 (UTC)

Rounded Front Vowels.[edit]

"Most Swiss German dialects have rounded front vowels, unlike many German dialects."

Wait, what? What would you call the vowels of "kühl", "Rücken", "hören" and "köstlich"? I would call them front rounded vowels. Can someone clarify why this sentence is in the article?

That's what I call them, too. Could you please clarify your Wait, what? :-) -- j. 'mach' wust ˈtʰɔ̝ːk͡x 19:17, 22 July 2005 (UTC)

Add a sound?[edit]

I was thinking of adding a sound file that shows how to pronounce the word "Chuchichäschtli". Sound like a good idea? ~~Mithcoriel, September 18 2005

In which Swiss dialect? ;-) Another nice sound file would be "Morn rägnet's z Züri" - Tomorrow it will rain in Zurich. (correct pronunciation three times ts ts ts with no vowel in between). Or Bernese-Chinese: "Schang chum hei, d'ching wei hung" (John (Jean), come home, the kids want honeybread) --Irmgard 21:00, 19 September 2005 (UTC)
"Blitzt's z'Züri?" [tstststs] :)

Well, my accent is Baselland. :) Does anyone else have something Bern-ish etc. to offer? We could also make a list of sounds, would be much more fitting to have different swiss accents anyway. For example, you could have the sentence "the fly flies" in all sorts of dialects. In some, this is "d'Fliege fliegt", or "d'Flüge flügt" or "d'Fleuge flügt". etc. But for that we'd need enough people (among the editors here?) who come from different parts of Switzerland. "D'ching wei hung" means "the kids want honeybread?" Ok, I guess I don't know Bernese so well. I though the phrase went "d'ching hei hung" = "the kids are hungry". --Mithcoriel 22:16, 3 February 2006 (UTC)

"D ching wei hung" is actually "The kids want honey" in the Bernese dialect. I'm claiming this on the authority that I am a Bernese speaker myself. --Ade 10:09, 9 August 2007 (UTC)

Old ui diphthong[edit]

I've removed the following:

Some dialects in central Switzerland (e.g. in Uri or Obwalden keep the old form of the Middle High German diphtong u-i which became long u or ü in other dialects, e.g. Huis 'house' /huɪ̯s/ compared to Hus /huːs/, in the diminutive Huisli /huɪ̯sli/ compared to Hüsli /hyːsli/.

Middle High German did not have any ui dipthong. There was an iu digraph, but it was pronounced [y:]. 'The house' was daȥ hûs (I couldn't figure out the plural, but I guess it would have been diu hiuser).

That is to say, the Central Swiss diphthongs are most likely innovations. -- j. 'mach' wust | 08:00, 30 September 2005 (UTC)

N usage[edit]

One of the most obvious differences between Swiss German and Standard German is the loss of the n on verb infinitives.

Another phenomenon is the addition of n between a word that ends in a vowel and the next word that starts with a vowel. E.g., i(ch) haa dich gärn ("I like you") but i(ch) haan es Buech (I have a book.) This occurs not only with verbs, but also with other words. E.g., Das isch es Buech, won ich gärn haa ("This is a book, that I like.") This is done to avoid the glottal stop on the leading vowel of the second word. This lack of glottal stops in Swiss German is a major difference in pronunciation with Standard German. Notice the similarity to the addition of n to the indefinite article a in English, giving an apple.--Thielke 05:47, 22 October 2005 (UTC)

The apocope of n is not only found in Swiss dialects, but I'm not sure whether it's found all over the upper German dialects or only in the Alemannic German ones. I suspect that many of the characteristics given in this article are not only found in Swiss dialects. -- j. 'mach' wust | 10:11, 22 October 2005 (UTC)


Hi. Under "Variation and Distribution" there's a map with the legend "Distribution of Swiss German dialects". Actually, that map only represents the distribution of the different languages in Switzerland (yellow = German, purple = french, red = romansh and green = italian). So maybe we should just take it out? On way or the other, the different dialects are almost only canton-specific, so we could just put a map that show the swiss cantons. Greets from Zug =)

Sorted, hopefully... it seems that somebody replaced the map at some stage... Kokiri 14:49, 11 December 2005 (UTC)

final devoicing[edit]

Can you explain what this sentence means:

Like in Swiss standard German, there is no final devoicing.

What does the "like in swiss standard german" refer to? Not standard german presumably, which is not swiss, and does have devoicing. Is there a Swiss version of standard german? The article standard german makes no mention of different languages referred to as "standard german", though it does say that standard german is used as the written language in Switzerland, and that standard german has influenced modern spoken swiss german. In short, can you answer me two questions: what does the term "swiss standard german" refer to? Is there or isn't there final devoicing in Swiss German? -lethe talk + 06:46, 3 May 2006 (UTC)

Why, yes, the article standard German mentions different varieties, see Standard German#Variants. Swiss standard German (from German Schweizer Hochdeutsch) refers to the variety of standard German as spoken in Switzerland. There is no final devoicing in the Swiss German dialects; there is mostly no final devoicing in Swiss standard German. ― j. 'mach' wust | 08:22, 3 May 2006 (UTC)
I see. So there is actually a swiss version of standard german, in addition to a swiss dialect of german. Would you object to changing the sentence to make this clearer? I was thinking something like

Swiss German along with the Swiss variant of Standard German has no final devoicing, unlike Standard German.

-lethe talk + 09:18, 3 May 2006 (UTC)
I'd rather not oppose Swiss standard German to standard German, since Swiss standard German is standard German (just another variety of it). So I'd prefer: Swiss German has no final devoicing, along with Swiss standard German, but unlike German standard German. I know that German standard German is clumsy, but it seemed less clumsy to me than saying: along with the Swiss variety of standard German, but unlike the German variety of standard German. ― j. 'mach' wust | 09:38, 3 May 2006 (UTC)
Maybe for the clumsiness, we could say "the German national variety of" and "Swiss national variety of standard German". -lethe talk + 09:59, 3 May 2006 (UTC)

Phonetic orthography of Zurich language[edit]

I have nominated Phonetic orthography of Zurich language for proposed deletion. It seems to be an uncontrovercial candidate for deletion, once the topic is researched. Where could it have been copied from, and what orthography is it referring to? The original version contained many misspellings. Graham talk 11:14, 10 May 2006 (UTC)

I get the feeling I've seen that strange, French-like transcription before. But where? I severely doubt that it is really used in Zürich, since the usual transcriptions are based only on German spelling conventions, not on French ones. Maybe a similar article was deleted once before? Ah, now I've found it: The original version of the Zürich German started with a table of the same content. That table was subsequently moved to the article Orthography of the Zurich dialect. I requested to delete that article, and so it was, see Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/Orthography of the Zurich dialect. I guess it might have been written by the same person, since the IP addresses are similar and since both IP addresses have very few contributions (one and two respectively), which might be a clue for a dynamic IP address. ― j. 'mach' wust | 12:07, 10 May 2006 (UTC)

Use of ß[edit]

I was surprised to notice that this article didn't mention anything about the use of ß in Swiss German - I was under the impression that this letter wasn't used in Switzerland. After looking around Wikipedia I found a section in the article on ß confirming what I believed, but as I know very little about the subject I'm reluctant to add it to the article myself. Would it be possible for someone who knows more about the subject to confirm the information at ß#Switzerland_and_Liechtenstein and add it to this article if correct? Ironfrost 14:53, 3 July 2006 (UTC)

I don't understand why you consider that the letter ß should be mentioned. ― j. 'mach' wust | 17:22, 3 July 2006 (UTC)
Half of the section labeled Swiss German#Writing discusses differences between the orthography of Swiss German and Standard German. I think a sentence about ß would fit very naturally in that discussion. It is after all a notable difference in orthography, right? -lethe talk + 17:30, 3 July 2006 (UTC).
No, there is no difference at all: ß is usually not used. Half of the section you've mentioned discusses the letters (c)k, gg, y that are used in a different way in Swiss German than in standard German. In this case, however, there is no difference. Those who don't use ß in standard German don't use it in Swiss German either. If I remember correctly, the few guidelines for writing Swiss German say that the letter ß may be used for writing Swiss German. ― j. 'mach' wust | 19:29, 3 July 2006 (UTC)
I don't understand what you mean by "no difference". How do they write "foot" in Germany and how do they write it in Switzerland? As far as I know, the usual spelling of that word in Switzerland is different from the usual spelling of that word in Germany. Surely the difference should be noted. OK, maybe some Germans don't use the ß and some Swiss do, so the comparison isn't perfect. That should also be noted in the article. -lethe talk + 19:49, 3 July 2006 (UTC)
The word is usually written Fuss in standard German of Switzerland and Liechtenstein, but always Fuß in standard German of Germany and Austria. It's not a difference between Swiss German and standard German, but two different uses within standard German. Maybe you are confusing Swiss German (de:Schweizerdeutsch) with Swiss standard German (de:Schweizer Hochdeutsch – I note there's still no article about it in the English wikipedia; I'm going to fix this once I find the time), in a similar way like Scots is very distinct from Scottish English (also called Scottish standard English). ― j. 'mach' wust | 17:10, 4 July 2006 (UTC)
Maybe I am. But how do they say "foot" in Swiss German? -lethe talk + 17:16, 4 July 2006 (UTC)
In most dialects, it's [fuə̯sː], I think. It might be written Fuess or Fueß. That depends on how you spell standard German. Most will use no ß in standard German, so they won't use any in Swiss German either – because it's the same in their standard German, and not because it's a difference between standard German and Swiss German. ― j. 'mach' wust | 22:03, 4 July 2006 (UTC)
I think I understand now. Thank you for explaining. Nevertheless, I still thought it wouldn't hurt to mention eszett in the article, and added something. Is the addition OK with you? -lethe talk + 22:08, 4 July 2006 (UTC)
If you want a reference for the non-use of ß in Swiss German, look at street name signs. In Germany they end xxxstraße, in Switzerland always xxxstrasse. Also a Swiss computer keyboard does not have a ß key. TiffaF 05:58, 16 August 2006 (UTC)
Signs are not written in Swiss German, but in (Swiss) standard German. ― j. 'mach' wust | 10:08, 16 August 2006 (UTC)
I haven't seen a lot of German keyboards, but the ones I have seen look identical to any other keyboard. The ß is typed using AltGr-S, just like I did just now on my own normal, ordinary keyboard. I wouldn't be surprised if Swiss keyboards allow for entry of ß the same way, if only because when writing official correspondence, you'll probably need it. Shinobu 01:23, 26 August 2006 (UTC)

On Germany and Austrian keyboards, the ß is typed with the key just in the right of the 0 key, but on the Swiss keyboard layout, that key types an apostroph, cf. keyboard layout (on the English keyboard layout, it types a hyphen -). I don't know whether Microsoft's Swiss German keyboard layout allows AltGr + s. The German article de:Tastaturlayout#Schweiz does not mention it, even though it discusses AltGr combinations, and neither do the articles ß or de:ß. On a Mac, for sure, it can be typed as Option + s on the Swiss just as on the English keyboard layout. ― j. 'mach' wust | 07:41, 26 August 2006 (UTC)

It does not seem to be present in the Microsoft Swiss German layout, hardly unsuprising as it is not needed for official correspondence (unless, maybe, it is German offical correspondance :)).
Whether or not we use an ß for writing - and it seems correct to do so in Swiss Standard German and Swiss German, though very probably connected with odd looks from Swiss people - changes the language just as much as whether or not we write an ue in "dialogue". Swiss German for "foot" is obviously Fuess. The important thing is not the ss but the e. -- (talk) 13:52, 30 April 2011 (UTC)

Use of Ä, Ö and Ü in Swiss German[edit]

I was taught that in Switzerland, Umlauts are only used on small letters, capitals are always written as Ae, Oe or Ue. You occasionally see Ä, Ö or Ü; but usually not. A Swiss map (e.g. TV weather map) always shows Oesterreich (not Österreich), but at the same time shows Umlauts in München and Köln. Does this deserve a mention? TiffaF 05:58, 16 August 2006 (UTC)

Never heard of that. Ä Ö Ü are indeed unusual at the beginning of Swiss municipal names, but for all other purposes, they are used (except by some who don't know how to use the umlaut deadkey on the Swiss keyboard layout). The meteoswiss site certainly uses the correct spelling Österreich, (cf. [1] [2] [3]).
And if there were such a phenomenon, it would be a phenomenon of Swiss standard German, not of Swiss German, since Swiss German has no standardized orthography at all. ― j. 'mach' wust | 10:08, 16 August 2006 (UTC)
There used to be spellings like Oensingen, presumably dating from the typewriter era when Umlauts weren't easily available on Swiss layouts. Even the modern keyboard layout requires the a key combination rather than a direct-access one like on the German keyboard. JREL (talk) 14:06, 27 July 2011 (UTC)
For sure, that is not Swiss German, but plain German. It has nothing to do with typewriters, but with the original Fraktur spelling of German which did not feature capital letters Ä, Ö, Ü, but used Ae, Oe, Ue instead. Incidently, the Google Ngram Viewer illustrates nicely that Ä, Ö, Ü only became common after the 1876 spelling reform, see for instance Google Ngram Viewer: Äpfel–Aepfel. -- mach 🙈🙉🙊 17:41, 27 July 2011 (UTC)


quote from the vocabulary section:

However, many Standard German words are never used
in Swiss German because they feel "wrong", e.g. 
nieseln 'mizzle/drizzle'.

i asked a guy from schaffhausen and he didn't understand this statement. he said he has always said/heard "nieslä" or "niesel regä" without any wrong feeling. can someoneone explain the example or find another one to support the statement? thanks! --ArinArin 09:33, 12 July 2006 (UTC)

Being a native Zürcher, I cannot speak for Schaffhausen's dialect, but it seems plausible that the person you asked is correct. Interestingly the word nisle (or niesle) sounds less Swiss German to my ears than the compound word 'Nieselräge' does. Similarly, most Swiss Dialects use the word 'Schtäge' for 'stairs', the German word 'Treppe' sounding very artificial if not downright incorrect when used in Swiss German speech. However, the Swiss German compound word for 'escalator', is 'Rollträppe'; I have only very rarely heard anyone use the word 'Rollschtäge'.
  • Other examples of words that are not directly translatable from Standard German to Swiss German include 'Frühstück' ('breakfast') and 'Fahrstuhl' ('elevator'), the correct Swiss German translations of which are 'Zmorge' and 'Lift' respectively.

Sluzzelin 22:06, 28 July 2006 (UTC)

I think we agree that there are usual standard German words that don't feel 'right' in Swiss German, but the sample word nieseln (which I originally chose) may not be a good sample. In Bernese German, the original word seems to be fiserle, but I haven't met anybody who'd know that word, I just have it from the dictionary. I'd prefer the samples Treppe vs. Stäge and Frühstück vs. Zmorge would be good samples, since Treppe and Frühstück are common in Swiss standard German, but not in the dialects. ― j. 'mach' wust | 19:16, 29 July 2006 (UTC)
Or what about the word niedlech. I for one would even hesitate whether to pronounce it with the diphthong ie [niədləx] or with long i [niːdləx], though both sound alien to Swiss German. The reason why this word is not used seems to be similar to the reason why the words Frühstück or Treppe (except in combinations like Wendeltreppe) are not used: There is already another equivalent, the word herzig. ― j. 'mach' wust | 07:47, 26 August 2006 (UTC)
1) "herzig" works for me (or maybe even "schnusig").
2) I'm not a linguist, so I don't know how to address this: but isn't a possible problem of this article that most of its info should refer to Swiss German in its entirety? In other words to make sure all these examples apply, they might need to be cross-referenced in a dictionary of collected swiss german or alemannic dialects. We have to make sure that people in Basel or Schaffhausen (e.g.) don't use the words "Frühstück", "niedlich" etc either.
3) On that note, I'm not sure i agree 100% with the statement "Swiss German is intelligible to speakers of other Alemannic dialects". I have had to translate the Obwaldner dialect for a person from St. Gallen. Moreover, it took me some practice to learn to understand an Oberwalliser (even now I don't find it easy). Again, I'm no linguist and don't know the linguistic definition of 'intelligible'. (A couple of British people may have trouble understanding some Texans and vice versa, but their dialects aren't necessarily mutually unintelligible either). Perhaps the quoted sentence could be qualified somewhat, or perhaps I'm wrong.
4)Finally: since there's an article on Alemannic German too, shouldn't the scope of this article be specified and distinguished from that page? Three variants of Alemannic seem to exist in Switzerland (low, high, highest), two of these variants also exist in other countries. In other words: Why is the Swissness of Alemannic of interest? (this is not a rhetorical question) And which parts dont belong in the Swiss German article at all but should be moved to the Alemannic German page? ---Sluzzelin 10:05, 27 August 2006 (UTC)
Sure, the skope of this article is somewhat problematic with respects to subordinated and superordinated dialects. I think this is partly a common problem of any speech variety group (except maybe a prescriptive standard language).
The reason why the Swissness of Alemannic is of interest, indeed an important question, is in my opinion fairly addressed in the second paragraph. Do you think it needs further elaboration?
You're certainly right about the intelligibility. And as a sidenote: All three major subdivisions of Alemannic are also spoken outside of Switzerland. ― j. 'mach' wust | 12:27, 27 August 2006 (UTC)
Thank you for replying. Yes, the justification of this article is fairly addressed in the 2nd paragraph. I guess my point was, we have to make sure that Swiss German speakers, from Riehen to Bosco Gurin can agree with this article. As for the sidenote, thanks for that bit of info. I have now read more on Highest Alemannic and Walser German after being somewhat misled by the Alemannic German page which only lists Swiss examples for Highest Alemannic. Sluzzelin 18:36, 27 August 2006 (UTC)

Use in Public[edit]

As a casual viewer of Swiss tv programs I noticed, that the anchor usually reads the news in Swiss Standard German but will swap to Swiss German when conducting an interview with a guest for example. This seems to be common to most broadcasts, commentaries are Swiss Standard German, talk is Swiss German.

"even some English"...[edit]

"However, almost any Swiss German speaker will be able to speak standard German or even some English when necessary." is a statement completely unrelated to the actual language; if there are sources, add them and mention why it is important; if not, it should be removed. --Kiwibird (talk) 16:03, 20 April 2008 (UTC)

Contradictory sentence about phonology[edit]

"Like all Southern German dialects, Swiss German dialects have no voiced obstruents." Whatever is that supposed to mean? It directly contradicts with the following "However, they have an opposition of consonant pairs such as [t] and [d] or [p] and [b]." and the later "Neither Swiss German nor the Swiss national variety of standard German exhibits final devoicing".

Keith Galveston (talk) 11:31, 29 June 2008 (UTC)

It's tricky business, I agree. [d], [b] and [g] are voiced obstruents in English, but not in Swiss German, where they are voiceless. One could go as far as to say that Swiss German does not have any voiced consonants at all, including fricatives and nasals (I once checked my own pronunciation in a phonetics course, and apparently even the nasals are hardly voiced at all).
The distinction in Swiss German and other southern varieties of German is not one between voiced and unvoiced plosives, but between fortis and lenis, much as in Mandarin Chinese (but without the Chinese aspirated plosives such as [t']). Whereas the distinction [d] / [t] in English is [d] = voiced, lenis and [t] = voiceless, fortis, sometimes aspirated, the distinction in Swiss German is simply [d] = lenis and [t] = fortis; neither of them is voiced nor aspirated.
Hope this helps. Trigaranus (talk) 08:08, 1 July 2008 (UTC)
What I can add is that even in English, [b d g] are not as fully voiced as in French for example. One way to put it is that French, English, and Swiss German all have a distinction between /p t k/ and /b d g/, but that the distinction is made differently (i.e in French between voiceless unaspirated stops and fully voiced ones, in English between aspirated voiceless and partially voiced ones, and in Swiss German between long and short unaspirated stops). --Chlämens (talk) 22:16, 1 July 2008 (UTC)
See also the article on fortis and lenis, especially the section fortis and lenis#Notation. Another discussion at User talk:Kwamikagami/Archive 5#Alsatian lenes. Note also that the article final obstruent devoicing explicitly notes that in these cases, this term "devoicing" is not accurate. -- machᵗᵃˡᵏ 06:57, 2 July 2008 (UTC)


Someone moved this article to "Swiss German (linguistics)" without discussion. Swiss is not a linguistic concept, as we even state in the article ("Linguistically, Swiss German forms no unity"), so the new title, besides being awkward, was factually incorrect. kwami (talk) 23:51, 21 September 2008 (UTC)

Vowel gibberish[edit]

This bit of gibberish has been in the article at least since 2005, when s.o. above complained about it, but nothing was done:

Most Swiss German dialects have rounded front vowels, unlike many German dialects. Only in the Low Alemannic dialects of northwest Switzerland (mainly Basel) and in the Walliser dialects, these have been unrounded. Under the influence of other Swiss German dialects, the rounding is spreading.

The first sentence is nonsense. The second sentence I can't evaluate, but it requires that these dialects once did have rounded front vowels (perhaps true). The third sentence is almost gibberish: I can't be sure what it is trying to say. (It seems to be saying that rounded front vowels are returning to the dialects which currently lack them.) kwami (talk) 10:01, 6 December 2008 (UTC)

Yep, that's what it says. Not written by me, but I think it makes sense, as much as I adore the word "gibberish" (it's lovely and should be used more often). What the nice contributor who wrote this stuff probably wanted to say can be exemplified a little:
Vowels such as y and œ have been unrounded (to i and e mostly) in some Swiss and some German dialects (for example behüt dichpfiati ["<may God> protect you"] in Bavarian; hüüserhiiser ["houses"]in trad. Basel dialect). This was indeed a case of unrounding; the rounded forms are the older ones. In Switzerland, dominant dialects such as Züritüütsch have retained the rounded vowels, which influences the "unrounded" dialects. My linguistics professor, who happens to be from Basel, even presented the reintroduction of hüüser into his dialect as a new variant triggered by the influx of other, more dominant dialectal forms. Trigaranus (talk) 10:35, 6 December 2008 (UTC)
Before getting to smug here, there's a point where I think you might be right: I don't suppose the unrounding is a universal feature of those dialects. Perhaps there are certain words that have traditionally retained rounded front vowels, even in Baselditsch. Not entirely sure. All the examples I can think of at the moment are unrounded. Can people from Basel comment? Trigaranus (talk) 10:47, 6 December 2008 (UTC)
That clears up most of the problem, but the first sentence still doesn't make any sense. Are "most Swiss dialects" like Züritüütsch, or like Baselditsch? Do most have FRVs, like German, or do most not have FRVs, unlike German? kwami (talk) 10:53, 6 December 2008 (UTC)
I think the first sentence was written by me. I don't see why you suppose it doesn't make any sense. The problem may be in the distinction between standard German which obviously has front rounded vowels and German dialects which usually don't have them. I've tried to fix this issue. -- machᵗᵃˡᵏ 11:35, 6 December 2008 (UTC)
Perfectly clear now with "unlike other High German dialects". I had been thinking of German dialects in general, which I think of as mostly having FRVs, so that was confusing to me. kwami (talk) 11:40, 6 December 2008 (UTC)
According to the dtv-Atlas, rounded front vowels only appear in Low German dialects, in some Middle German dialects, and in most Swiss German dialects. It also says that the restitution of rounded front vowels in modern standard German was probably a Low German substratum effect, while until the 19th century, "standard" German was usually spoken without rounded front vowels (when the Saxon variety of standard German was deemed to be the best one). -- machᵗᵃˡᵏ 12:41, 6 December 2008 (UTC)
In the dtv-Atlas (for those of you who have it) there's even a good map illustrating an example ("müde" - tired) of unrounding on page 148 top. Seems to totally agree with mach. Trigaranus (talk) 13:02, 6 December 2008 (UTC)

"There is hardly any example of dialects in the English language that might illustrate the situation.[edit]

Yes, there is an example: Scotland. The Scots have Scottish English and a very distinguish accent called "Scots". It's the same in Switzerland. We got Swiss Standard German and Swiss German, which is as different from High German as Scots is from Standard British English. We also got many words which are completely different from High German. These words are probably of Celtic-Helvetic or old Alemannic origin.

Fyi: The official name of the German part in Switzerland is "German Switzerland" ("Deutschschweiz" or "deutsche Schweiz" in German). (talk) 14:27, 5 April 2009 (UTC)

Yes, good point. Actually, the dialectal situation Scots/English is strikingly parallel in some parts (Scots: moose vs. Eng. "mouse"; SG: mūs vs. HG "Maus"). I suggest we re-word that paragraph. Trigaranus (talk) 22:23, 5 April 2009 (UTC)
Another Scottish parallel is that people in Scotland write almost exclusively in Standard English when many speak various dialects of Scots. Whether Scots is a dialect or a relative of Standard English has been much debated, but as a native speaker of Standard English, I find Scots very difficult to understand, even though I have had some exposure to it. (talk) 10:49, 13 May 2009 (UTC)

I'm not familiar with the situation in Scotland. Might be a great example. In many other parts of the world there are parallels, too. Standard Chinese (Putonghua, sometimes called Mandarin) vs. Shanghainese (Shanghaihua) for example. (talk) 13:46, 20 October 2013 (UTC)

r in syllable coda[edit]

In standard German, (e)r in the syllable coda is pronounced as the vowel [ɐ] or the semivowel [ɐ̯] (e.g. Butter, Saar) - does the same happen in Swiss German? I guess not, since the pronunciation of Schwyzerdütsch is given here as [ʃvitsəɾd̥ytʃ] - but this would be useful information for the article (whichever the answer is). Lfh (talk) 16:08, 16 October 2009 (UTC)

Depends on the dialect. Some dialects realise r as an alveolar, coronal trill / flap in every position; others, especially from Basel, Thurgau, Schaffhausen and other parts of mostly eastern Switzerland have a guttural r not unlike French or German. In these, r in the syllable coda is vocalised as well. Trigaranus (talk) 16:15, 16 October 2009 (UTC)
That's interesting. I assumed it would be more uniform, but that shows you what I know. Any specific information on this would be good for the article. Lfh (talk) 16:50, 16 October 2009 (UTC)
Actually, this is no different in standard German: It depends on the variety. There are varieties of standard German where /r/ in the syllable coda is vocalised, and there are others where it is not. In some varieties of standard German, Butter and Saar are pronouned as [ˈb̥ʊtɐ] and [ˈz̥aː(ɐ̯)], while in other varieties of standard German, it is pronounced as [ˈb̥ʊtər] or [b̥ʊtr̩] and [z̥aːr]. Incidently – and not very surprisingly –, this coincides with the dialects. In the very regions where standard German syllable coda /r/ is pronounced as [r], the dialects have [r] as well. -- machᵗᵃˡᵏ 18:12, 16 October 2009 (UTC)
So vocalisation occurs when /r/ is uvular (trill or fricative) and not when it is alveolar (trill or tap)? OK. So far all I could find was this, from German phonology: "In the syllable coda, the allophone [ɐ] is used in many varieties, except in the South-West." Lfh (talk) 20:20, 16 October 2009 (UTC)

"South-West" is a bit of a vague term there, but yeah: it's simplistic but more or less correct. Btw re mach: are you sure is there a "Standard" German variety that actually defines /r/ as alveolar? For all I know, standard pronunciation is quite clear about /r/ being either uvular or vocalised, and all other varieties are regional accents instead of defined standards. Did you mean "other varieties of High German" rather than "of standard German"? Mäinsch ned? Trigaranus (talk) 22:46, 16 October 2009 (UTC)

The prescriptive tradition of the standardized German pronunciation is far from taking the uvular side – to the contrary, Siebs' Deutsche Bühnenaussprache only accepts the alveolar pronunciation. However, I was not referring to the prescriptive tradition but to Hochdeutsch/Schriftdeutsch/Standarddeutsch in a more descriptive sense, the language that is farthest from the local dialect and that would be used for instance by newsspeakers or gymnasium German teachers. -- machᵗᵃˡᵏ 23:27, 16 October 2009 (UTC)

One other thing - under "Consonants" it says "The phoneme /r/ is pronounced as an alveolar trill [r] in many dialects, though certain dialects, especially in the Northeast or in the Basel region, have an uvular trill [ʀ]" - no mention of an alveolar tap, but we have [ʃvitsəɾd̥ytʃ] at the top of the page - so is [ɾ] just an allophone in the dialects that use [r]? Lfh (talk) 09:40, 17 October 2009 (UTC)

I think the sign [r] would be more appropiate, from the rational that whenever there are several possible pronunciations, the transcription should represent the least marked sign. My impression is that [r] and [ɾ] are likely to be allophones in all languages that don't oppose them as phonemes. -- machᵗᵃˡᵏ 11:21, 17 October 2009 (UTC)
Thanks. Actually I phrased that badly - what I meant to ask was whether there are any dialects which only use [ɾ], but I assume not. Lfh (talk) 16:19, 19 October 2009 (UTC)

Bernese Mountain Dog[edit]

Would the linguistic experts here please take a look at the recent change in that article. Thank you. 7&6=thirteen () 16:47, 2 October 2011 (UTC)

Word/verb order in subordinate clauses[edit]

Under Grammar, there is the following point:

The order within verb groups may vary, e.g. wil du bisch cho/wil du cho bisch vs. standard German weil du gekommen bist "because you have come/came".

No further explanation is given. It seems to me that the first ("wil du bisch cho") is more prevalent in Western Swissgerman dialects like Bern. You won't hear this word order from a Zurich native. I propose that this is due to proximity to the French speaking regions. The word sequence is actually French, not German ("parce-que tu es venu" vs. "weil du gekommen bist"). The Western Swissgerman dialects' vocabularies borrow much more from French than the Eastern ones, so why not also borrow grammar? I am no linguist, so could an expert confirm/refute this? Thanks. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Turicus2 (talkcontribs) 03:25, 7 December 2011 (UTC)

It is very unlikely that this is borrowed from French, especially since it only apparently reflects the French order. When you add an element to the sentence, the difference becomes visible: parce-que tu es venu chez moi — wil du zu mir bisch cho. Therefore, I think that this is a mere coincidence. However, there is evidence that German constituent order used to be more flexible than it is today. Your observation that the prevalent constituent order differs between Western and Eastern Switzerland is correct, as is certainly documented somewhere in the Sprachatlas der deutschen Schweiz. --mach 🙈🙉🙊 19:52, 7 November 2012 (UTC)
I've now had the time to look into it (it's in the article now). The SDS II 261 information makes a French influence even more unlikely. In gsi bi vs. bi gsi, the former order is found in the cantons of Berne (except the northernmost parts) and Valais, while the latter order (which is the same as in standard German) is found in the rest of German speaking Switzerland, including in the German speaking part of Fribourg, a region that lies even closer to the French speaking part than the canton of Berne. --mach 🙈🙉🙊 11:09, 21 November 2012 (UTC)

Written Swiss German[edit]

I think since the age of the SMS's writing Swiss German became very popular. Earlier postcards and personal letters were written in High German, Today they're written in Swiss German. So Swiss German displaced Upper German and nowadays it's only used in formal letters and official things anymore. Is it possible to include it in the Article? --Sevku (talk) 10:59, 19 January 2013 (UTC)

Voiced voiceless obstruents?[edit]

Like all Southern German dialects, Swiss German dialects have no voiced obstruents. ... Neither Swiss German nor the Swiss national variety of standard German exhibits final devoicing, unlike the German national variety of standard German (for example, "Zug" is pronounced [tsuːɡ] and not [tsuːk]).

If Swiss German has no voiced obstruents (which I can confirm), how can final obstruents be voiced? --SelfishSeahorse (talk) 16:35, 14 May 2015 (UTC)

See Final-obstruent devoicing#German – I hope that explains things. --mach 🙈🙉🙊 17:21, 14 May 2015 (UTC)
Yes, it does! Thank you very much! (Sorry for not reading the correspondent article before.) May I add a voicelessness-ring to [tsuːg̥]? --SelfishSeahorse (talk) 18:05, 14 May 2015 (UTC)

Oxymoronic sentence?[edit]

"Although Swiss German is the native language, from age 6 people additionally learn Swiss Standard German at school and are thus fully able to understand, write and to speak Standard German with varying abilities mainly based on the level of education."

The are "fully able" yet with "varying abilities." That doesn't make any sense. (talk) 04:51, 25 August 2015 (UTC)

External links modified[edit]

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