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Alemannic, or rarely Alemannish (Alemannisch, [alɛˈman(ː)ɪʃ] (listen)), is a group of High German dialects. The name derives from the ancient Germanic tribal confederation known as the Alamanni (“all men”).
|Native to||Switzerland: entire German-speaking part, except for the town of Samnaun.|
Germany: most of Baden-Württemberg and Bavarian Swabia.
Austria: Vorarlberg and some parts of Tyrol.
Liechtenstein: entire country.
France: most of Alsace.
Italy: some parts of Aosta Valley and northern Piedmont
United States: Parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and by Amish in Adams and Allen counties, Indiana
Venezuela: Alemán Coloniero
|Latin, Historically Elder Futhark|
Blue indicates the traditional distribution area of Western Upper German (=Alemannic) dialects.
Alemannic dialects are spoken by approximately ten million people in several countries:
- In Europe:
- Switzerland: all German-speaking parts of the country except Samnaun
- Germany: centre and south of Baden-Württemberg, Swabia, and certain districts of Bavaria
- Austria: Vorarlberg, Reutte District of Tyrol
- France: Alsace region (Alsatian dialect) and in some villages of the Phalsbourg county, in Lorraine
- Italy: Gressoney-La-Trinité, Gressoney-Saint-Jean, Issime, Alagna Valsesia, Rimella and Formazza, in some other villages almost extinct
- Outside Europe:
Alemannic comprises a dialect continuum from the Highest Alemannic spoken in the mountainous south to Swabian in the relatively flat north and more of the characteristics of Standard German the farther north one goes.
In Germany and other European countries, the abstand and ausbau language framework is used to decide what is a language and what is a dialect. According to this framework, Alemannic varieties of German form a dialect continuum and are clearly dialects. Some linguists and organisations that differentiate between languages and dialects primarily on the grounds of mutual intelligibility, such as SIL International and UNESCO, describe Alemannic as one of several independent languages. ISO 639-3 distinguishes four languages: gsw (Alemannic, Alsatian, Swiss German), swg (Swabian), wae (Walser German) and gct (Colonia Tovar German, spoken since 1843 in Venezuela).
Standard German is used in writing and in Germany orally in formal contexts throughout the Alemannic-speaking regions (with the exception of Alsace, where French or the Alsatian dialect of Alemannic is used instead).
Alemannic in the broad sense comprises the following variants:
- Swabian (mostly in Swabia, in Germany, covering large parts of Württemberg and all of Bavarian Swabia). Unlike most other Alemannic dialects, it does not retain the Middle High German monophthongs û, î but shifts them to [ou], [ei] (as opposed to Standard German [aʊ], [aɪ]). For this reason, "Swabian" is also used in opposition to "Alemannic".
- Alemannic in the strict sense:
- Low Alemannic dialects. Retain German initial /k/ as [kʰ] (or [kx]) rather than fricativising to [x] as in High Alemannic. Subvariants:
- Lake Constance Alemannic (Bodenseealemannisch) (in Southern Württemberg, Southeastern Baden, Northwestern Vorarlberg), a transitional dialect, close to High Alemannic, with some Swabian features in the vowel system.
- High Alemannic (mostly in Switzerland, parts of Vorarlberg, and in the southern parts of the Black Forest in Germany). Complete the High German consonant shift by fricativising initial /k/ to [x]. Subvariants:
- Highest Alemannic (in the Canton of Valais, in the Walser settlements (e.g., in the canton of Grisons), in the Bernese Oberland and in the German-speaking part of Fribourg) does not have the hiatus diphthongisation of other dialects of German. For example: [ˈʃnei̯jə] ('to snow') instead of [ˈʃniː.ə(n)], [ˈb̥ou̯wə] ('to build') instead of [ˈb̥uː.ə(n)]. Subvariants:
The Alemannic dialects of Switzerland are often called Swiss German or Schwiizerdütsch.
The oldest known texts in Alemannic are brief Elder Futhark inscriptions dating to the sixth century (Bülach fibula, Pforzen buckle, Nordendorf fibula). In the Old High German period, the first coherent texts are recorded in the St. Gall Abbey, among them the eighth-century Paternoster:
- Fater unser, thu bist in himile
- uuihi namu dinan
- qhueme rihhi diin
- uuerde uuillo diin,
- so in himile, sosa in erdu
- prooth unseer emezzihic kip uns hiutu
- oblaz uns sculdi unsero
- so uuir oblazem uns skuldikem
- enti ni unsih firleit in khorunka
- uzzer losi unsih fona ubile
Due to the importance of the Carolingian abbeys of St. Gall and Reichenau Island, a considerable part of the Old High German corpus has Alemannic traits. Alemannic Middle High German is less prominent, in spite of the Codex Manesse compiled by Johannes Hadlaub of Zürich. The rise of the Old Swiss Confederacy from the fourteenth century led to the creation of Alemannic Swiss chronicles. Huldrych Zwingli's bible translation of the 1520s (the 1531 Froschauer Bible) was in an Alemannic variant of Early Modern High German. From the seventeenth century, written Alemannic was displaced by Standard German, which emerged from sixteenth century Early Modern High German, in particular in the wake of Martin Luther's bible translation of the 1520s. The 1665 revision of the Froschauer Bible removed the Alemannic elements, approaching the language used by Luther. For this reason, no binding orthographical standard for writing modern Alemannic emerged, and orthographies in use usually compromise between a precise phonological notation, and proximity to the familiar Standard German orthography (in particular for loanwords).
Johann Peter Hebel published his Allemannische Gedichte in 1803. Swiss authors often consciously employ Helvetisms within Standard German, notably Jeremias Gotthelf in his novels set in the Emmental, Friedrich Glauser in his crime stories, and more recently Tim Krohn in his Quatemberkinder.
- The diminutive is used frequently in all Alemannic dialects. Northern and eastern dialects use the suffix -le; southern dialects use the suffix -li (Standard German suffix -lein or -chen). As in standard German, these suffixes cause umlaut. Depending on dialect, 'little house' may be Heisle, Hüüsle, Hüüsli or Hiisli (Standard German Häuslein or Häuschen). Some varieties have plural diminutives in -ler, -la or -lich.
- Northern variants of Alemannic (Swabian and Low Alemannic), like standard German, pronounce ch as a uvular or velar [χ] or [x] (Ach-Laut) after back vowels (a, o, u) and as a palatal [ç] consonant (Ich-Laut) elsewhere. High Alemannic, Lake Constance Alemannic and Highest Alemannic dialects exclusively use the Ach-Laut.
- In most Alemannic dialects, the past participle of the verb meaning to be (sein in standard German, with past participle gewesen) derives from a form akin to gesein (gsi, gsìnn, gsei etc.).
Lower High Alsace
|Upper Swabian||Eastern Swiss German||Western Swiss German||Sensler|
|I ben||Ìch bì||I bi||Ich bi||I bee||I bi||I(g) bi [ɪɡ̊ b̥ɪ]||I bü/bi|
|you (sg.) are
|du bisch||dü bìsch||du bisch||du bisch||d(o)u bisch||du bisch||du bisch [d̥ʊ b̥ɪʒ̊]||du büsch/bisch|
|er isch||är ìsch||är isch||är isch||är isch||är isch||är isch [æɾ ɪʒ̊]||är isch|
|sia isch||sa ìsch||sia isch||sie isch||si isch||si isch||si isch [sɪ ɪʒ̊]||sia isch|
|es isch||äs ìsch||as isch||as isch||äs isch||äs isch||äs isch [æz̊ (əʒ̊) ɪʒ̊]||as isch|
|mr sen(d)||mìr sìn||mir send/sönd||mir sin||mr send||m(i)r send/sön/sinn||mir sy [mɪɾ si]||wier sy|
|you (pl.) are
|ihr sen(d)||ìhr sìn||ihr send||ihr sin||ihr send||i(i)r sönd/sind||dir syt [d̥ɪɾ sit]||ier syt|
|se sen(d)||sa sìn||dia send||si sin||dia send||si sind/sönd||si sy [sɪ si]||si sy|
|I have been
(ich bin ... gewesen)
|i ben gwäa||ìch bì gsìì||i bi gsi||ich bi gsi||i bee gsei||i bi gsi||i bi gsy [ɪ(ɡ̊) b̥ɪ ksiː]||i bü/bi gsy|
- Colonia Tovar at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
Swiss German and Alsatian at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
Swabian at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
Walser at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
- "Swiss German / Alemannic / Alsatian". IANA language subtag registry. 8 March 2006. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
- Jordioechsler (5 November 2013). "Alemannic German and other features of language". WordPress. Archived from the original on 10 June 2017.
- Jacobs, Stefan. "Althochdeutsch (700 – 1050)". stefanjacob.de. Archived from the original on 18 October 2017. Retrieved 17 Oct 2017.