Transylvanian Saxon dialect

Transylvanian Saxon (endonym: Siweberjesch Såksesch or just Såksesch, German: Siebenbürgisch-Sächsisch, Die Siebenbürgisch-Sächsisch Mundart/Dialekt, or Die siebenbürgisch-sächsische Sprache, obsolete German spelling: Siebenbürgisch Teutsch, Transylvanian Landler dialect: Soksisch, Hungarian: erdélyi szász nyelv, Romanian: Limba săsească, săsește, or dialectul săsesc) is the German dialect of the Transylvanian Saxons, an ethnic German minority group from Transylvania, central Romania and also one of the three oldest ethnic German and German-speaking groups of the German diaspora in Central and Eastern Europe along with the Baltic Germans (German: Deutsch-Balten) and Zipser Germans (German: Zipser Deutsche, Zipser Sachsen, or, simply, just Zipser).[2][3]

Transylvanian Saxon
Coa Romania Nationality Saxons.svg
Native toCoat of arms of Romania.svg Romania[a]
RegionCoat of arms of Transylvania.svg Transylvania (German: Siebenbürgen or Transsilvanien)
Native speakers
(undated figure of 200,000)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Areas where Transylvanian Saxon was spoken in the Kingdom of Romania in 1918 (the grey-coloured areas to the west denote where Swabian was spoken).
Lang Status 40-SE.svg
Transylvanian Saxon is classified as Severely Endangered by the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger
Thomas, a native Transylvanian Saxon speaker from Nösnerland/Nösnergau/Țara Năsăudului (i.e. Bistrița-Năsăud County), recorded in Freiberg am Neckar, Germany, speaking in Transylvanian Saxon about his upbringing, schooling, and profession (i.e. engineering).

The Transylvanian Saxon dialect is very close to Luxembourgish given the fact that many ancestors of the modern Transylvanian Saxons stemmed from present-day Luxembourg as early as the 12th century, especially in the area of contemporary Sibiu County (German: Kreis Hermannstadt), as part of the Ostsiedlung process in order to settle in southern, southeastern, and northeastern Transylvania for economic development, guarding the easternmost borders of the former Kingdom of Hungary as well as mining.[4] Consequently, it has been spoken in the south, southeast, and northeast of Transylvania since the High Middle Ages onwards.[5][6] The Transylvanian Saxon dialect is also similar to the Zipser German (German: Zipserdeutsch or Zipserisch) dialect spoken by the Zipsers in Spiš (German: Zips), northeastern Slovakia as well as Maramureș (i.e. Maramureș County) and Bukovina (i.e. Suceava County), northeastern Romania.[7]

There are two main types or varieties of the dialect, more specifically northern Transylvanian Saxon (German: Nordsiebenbürgisch), spoken in Nösnerland including the dialect of Bistrița (German: Bistritz, obsolete or old German name: Nösen), and south Transylvanian Saxon (German: Südsiebenbürgisch), including, most notably, the dialect of Sibiu (German: Hermannstadt). In the process of its development, the Transylvanian Saxon dialect has been influenced by Romanian as well.[8]


German-language map depicting, in yellow, the areas where Transylvanian Saxons had settled in Transylvania, Romania, during the passing of time, and, consequently, where the Transylvanian Saxon dialect has been traditionally spoken as well.
Old High German (German: Althochdeutsch) was spoken in the orange-coloured area on the map (corresponding to the late 10th century) and many German-speaking colonists in Transylvania subsequently stemmed from the areas of Luxembourg, Aachen, and Trier.

In terms of comparative linguistics, it pertains to the Moselle Franconian group of West Central German dialects. In this particular regard, it must be mentioned that it shares a consistent amount of lexical similarities with Luxembourgish.[9][10]

The dialect was mainly spoken in Transylvania (contemporary central Romania), by native speakers of German, Flemish, and Walloon origins who were settled in the Kingdom of Hungary starting in the mid and mid-late 12th century (more specifically from approximately the 1140s to the 19th century). Over the passing of time, it had been consistently influenced by both Romanian and Hungarian given the centuries-long cohabitation of the Saxons with Romanians and Hungarians (mostly Szeklers) in the south, southeast, and northeast of Transylvania.[11][12][13] The main areas where Transylvanian Saxon was spoken in Transylvania were southern and northern Transylvania.[14][15]

In the contemporary era, the vast majority of the native speakers have emigrated in several waves, initially to Germany and Austria, but then subsequently to the USA, Canada as well as other Western European countries, managing in the process to preserve (at least temporarily) their specific language there.

Lastly, one can perceive the Transylvanian Saxon dialect, bearing in mind its conservative character when compared to other dialects of the German language (due primarily to its geographic isolation from other German idioms) as a type of German spoken in medieval times, or, more specifically as Old High German or Middle High German.

Distribution of the dialect in TransylvaniaEdit

Traditionally, the Transylvanian Saxon dialect was mainly spoken in the rural areas of Transylvania throughout the passing of time, since the arrival of the Transylvanian Saxons in the Carpathian Basin during the Middle Ages (more specifically High Middle Ages) onwards. In the urban settlements (i.e. towns and cities), standard German (i.e. Hochdeutsch) was more spoken and written.

Furthermore, the Transylvanian Saxon dialect also varied from village to village where it was spoken (a village could have had a slightly different form of Transylvanian Saxon than the other but there was still a certain degree of mutual intelligibility between them; for instance, more or less analogous to how English accents vary on a radius of 5 miles in the United Kingdom).

Recent history of the dialect (1989–present)Edit

Before the Romanian Revolution of 1989, most of the Transylvanian Saxons were still living in Transylvania. During the communist dictatorship of Nicolae Ceaușescu, many thousands of these Saxons were sold for a total sum of money of around $6 million paid to communist Romania by West Germany.[16]

By 1990, the number of Saxons living in Transylvania had decreased dramatically. Shortly after the fall of communism, from 1991 to 1994, many Transylvanian Saxons who still remained in Transylvania decided to ultimately emigrate to re-unified Germany, leaving just a minority of approximately 20,0000 Transylvanian Saxons in Romania at the round of the 21st century (or less than 1 percent of the entire population of Transylvania).[17][18]

The number of native Transylvanian Saxon speakers today is estimated at approximately 200,000 persons. Transylvanian Saxon is also the native dialect of the current President of Romania, Klaus Iohannis, by virtue of the fact that he is a Transylvanian Saxon.[19] It is also the native dialect of well known German rock superstar Peter Maffay. Additionally, according to the 2011 Romanian census, only 11,400 Transylvanian Saxon were still living in Transylvania at that time.[20] The 2022 Romanian census will most likely report an even fewer number of native Transylvanian Saxon speakers still left in Transylvania.

Sample textEdit

Below is a sample text written in the Transylvanian Saxon dialect, entitled 'De Råch' (meaning 'The Revenge'), which is, more specifically, an old traditional ballad/poem (also translated and in comparison with standard German/Hochdeutsch and English):[21]

De Råch
(Transylvanian Saxon in original)

Hië ritt berjuëf, hië ritt berjåff,
bäs e se un em Brånnen tråf.

Geaden Dåch, geaden Dåch, ir läf Härrn,
nea wäll ich met ech riëde gärn!

Wat huët ech menj Fra uch Känjd gedon,
dåt ir mer se huët nedergeschlon?

Wat huët ech dä jang Easchuld gedon,
dåt sä nea stiindiut äm Iëren lån?

Den enen stauch hië vum Ruëß eruëf
diëm åndren schleach e det Hiift em uëf.

Dien drätten spålt e wä en Fäsch,
der viert lef än den gränen Bäsch.

Net ener wul do bläiwe stohn,
net ener wul an Åntwert son.

Hië ritt dohänne mät fräschem Meat,
esi bezuëlt em de Fånden geat.

Die Rache

(Standard German)[b]

Er ritt bergab, er ritt bergauf,
bis er sie an einem Brunnen traf.

Guten Tag, guten Tag, ihr lieben Herrn,
nun will ich mit euch reden gern!

Was hat euch mein' Frau und Kind getan
dass ihr sie mir habt niedergeschlag’n?

Was hat euch die junge Unschuld getan,
dass sie nun steintod am Boden lahn?

Den einen stach er vom Ross herab,
dem andern schlug er das Haupte ab.

Den dritten spaltete er wie einen Fisch,
der vierte lief in den grünen Busch.[c]

Kein einz’ger wollt’ dort bleiben stehn,
Kein einz'ger wollte Antwort geb’n.

Er ritt dahin mit frischem Mut,
so bezahlt man seine Feinde gut.

The Revenge

(English translation)

He rode downhill, he rode uphill,
until he met them at a well.

Good day, good day, dear sir,
now I would like to talk to you!

What did my woman and child do to you
that you knocked them down because of me?

What has young innocence done to you
that they are now stone dead on the ground?

One he stabbed down from his horse,
he cut off the head of the other.

The third one he split like a fish,
the fourth one ran into the green bush.

Not a single one wanted to stay there,
Not a single one wanted to answer.

He rode with fresh courage
that's how you pay your enemies well.

Below is another sample text of religious nature, more specifically the Our Father prayer:[22]

Foater auser
(Transylvanian Saxon in original)

Foater auser dier dau best em Hemmel,
geheleget verde deing numen,
zaukomm aus deing rech,
deing vell geschey aff ierden
als vey em hemmel,
auser däglich briut gaff aus heigd,
ond fergaff aus auser schuld,
vey mir fergien auser en schuldigeren.
Feir aus nèt en fersechung,
saunderen erlüs aus von dem üvvell.
Denn deing ess dat rech, dei krafft,
ond dei herrleget, von ieveget, zau ieveget,


  • A - a
  • B - be
  • C - ce
  • D - de
  • E - e
  • F - ef
  • G - ge
  • H - ha
  • I - i
  • J - jot
  • K - ka
  • L - el
  • M - em
  • N - en
  • O - o
  • P - pe
  • Q - ku
  • R - er
  • S - es
  • T - te
  • U - u
  • V - vau
  • W - we
  • X - ix
  • Y - ipsilon
  • Z - zet[23]

Orthography and pronunciationEdit


  • a - [a/aː]
  • au - [aʊ̯]
  • å - [ɔː]
  • ä - [ɛ/ɛː]
  • äi - [eɪ̯]
  • e - [ɛ~e~ə/eː]
  • ei - [aɪ̯]
  • ë - [e]
  • i - [ɪ/iː]
  • ië - [i]
  • o - [ɔ/oː]
  • u - [ʊ/uː]
  • uë - [u]
  • ü/y - [ʏ/yː][24]


  • b - [b~p]
  • c - [k~g̊]
  • ch - [x~ʃ]
  • ck - [k]
  • d - [d~t]
  • dsch - [d͡ʒ]
  • f - [f]
  • g - [g~k~ʃ]
  • h - [h~ː]
  • j - [j]
  • k - [k~g̊]
  • l - [l]
  • m - [m]
  • n - [n]
  • ng - [ŋ]
  • nj - [ɲ]
  • p - [p~b̥]
  • pf - [p͡f]
  • qv - [kv]
  • r - [r~∅]
  • s - [s~ʃ~z]
  • sch - [ʃ]
  • ss - [s]
  • t - [t~d̥]
  • tsch - [t͡ʃ]
  • v - [f/v]
  • w - [v]
  • x - [ks]
  • z - [t͡s][25]


  • Siebenbürgisch-Sächsisches Wörterbuch. A. Schullerus, B. Capesius, A. Tudt, S. Haldenwang et al. (in German)
    • Band 1, Buchstabe A – C, 1925, de Gruyter, ASIN: B0000BUORT
    • Band 2, Buchstabe D – F, 1926, de Gruyter, ASIN: B0000BUORU
    • Band 3, Buchstabe G, 1971, de Gruyter, ASIN: B0000BUORV
    • Band 4, Buchstabe H – J, 1972
    • Band 5, Buchstabe K, 1975
    • Band 6, Buchstabe L, 1997, Böhlau Verlag, ISBN 978-3-412-03286-9
    • Band 7: Buchstabe M, 1998, Böhlau Verlag, ISBN 978-3-412-09098-2
    • Band 8, Buchstabe N - P, 2002, Böhlau Verlag, ISBN 978-3-412-12801-2
    • Band 9: Buchstabe Q - R, 2007, Böhlau Verlag, ISBN 978-3-412-06906-3


  1. ^ Also spoken in Germany, Austria, several Western European countries, and in North America, more specifically in the United States and Canada.
  2. ^ Originally translated from Transylvanian Saxon to standard German by German Wikipedia user DietG.
  3. ^ Bäsch should mean forest or Wald in standard German, but, so as for the rhyme to still remain, Busch or bush was written here instead.


  1. ^ "Transylvanian Saxon (Siweberjesch Såksesch)". Omniglot. Retrieved 18 September 2022.
  2. ^ Victor Rouă (19 August 2015). "A Brief History Of The Transylvanian Saxon Dialect". The Dockyards. Retrieved 18 September 2022.
  3. ^ Adelheid Frățilă, Hildegard-Anna Falk (January 2011). "Das siebenbürgisch-sächsische eine inselmundart im vergleich mit dem Hochdeutschen" (PDF). Neue Didaktik (in German). Retrieved 5 December 2022.
  4. ^ Vu(m) Nathalie Lodhi (13 January 2020). "The Transylvanian Saxon dialect, a not-so-distant cousin of Luxembourgish". RTL Luxembourg. Retrieved 2 February 2023.
  5. ^ Ariana Bancu (March 2020). "Transylvanian Saxon dialectal areas". RsearchGate. Retrieved 21 February 2023.
  6. ^ Ariana Bancu. "The Transylvanian Saxon language islands around 1913 (Source: Klein 1961, map number 3)" (in German). Research Gate. Retrieved 22 February 2023.
  7. ^ Helmut Protze (2006). "Die Zipser Sachsen im sprachgeographischen und sprachhistorischen Vergleich zu den Siebenbürger Sachsen". Central and Eastern European Online Library (in German). Arbeitskreis für Siebenbürgische Landeskunde. Retrieved 14 April 2023.
  8. ^ Sigrid Haldenwang. "Zur Entlehnung rumänischer Verben ins Siebenbürgisch-Sächsische aufgrund von Fallbeispielen" (PDF). Academic article (in German). Retrieved 26 February 2023.
  9. ^ Vu(m) Nathalie Lodhi (13 January 2020). "The Transylvanian Saxon dialect, a not-so-distant cousin of Luxembourgish". RTL. Retrieved 18 September 2022.
  10. ^ Stephen McGrath (10 September 2019). "The Saxons first arrived in Romania's Transylvania region in the 12th Century, but over the past few decades the community has all but vanished from the region". BBC Travel. Retrieved 18 September 2022.
  11. ^ Bernhard Capesius. Wesen und Werden des Siebenbürgisch-Sächsischen, vol.8/1, 1965, p. 19 and 22 to 25 (in German).
  12. ^ "Dictionary of Transylvanian Saxon Dialects". Institute of Social Sciences and Humanities Sibiu. Retrieved 18 September 2022.
  13. ^ Gisela Richter (1960). "Zur Bereicherung der siebenbürgisch-sächsischen Mundart durch die rumänische Sprache/On the Enrichment of the Transylvanian-Saxon Dialect by the Romanian Language". Forschungen zur Volks- und Landeskunde (in German). Editura Academiei Române (3): 37–56. Retrieved 18 September 2022.
  14. ^ Bancu, Ariana. (2020). Two case studies on structural variation in multilingual settings. Proceedings of the Linguistic Society of America. 5. 750. 10.3765/plsa.v5i1.4760.
  15. ^ Ariana Bancu (March 2020). "Transylvanian Saxon dialectal areas". Two case studies on structural variation in multilingual settings. Retrieved 18 September 2022.
  16. ^ Popescu, Karin (12 October 1996). "Vast Corruption Revealed In Ceausescu Visa Scheme". The Moscow Times. Retrieved 30 July 2022.
  17. ^ "Transylvanian Saxons". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved 18 September 2022.
  18. ^ Nationalia (17 November 2014). "Saxon, Lutheran President for Romania: Klaus Iohannis and the "job well done"". Nationalia. Retrieved 18 September 2022.
  19. ^ Robert Schwartz (20 October 2015). "Breathing new life into Transylvania's crumbling cultural sites". Deutsche Welle. Retrieved 18 September 2022.
  20. ^ "Table no. 8". Recensământ România (in Romanian). Retrieved 15 March 2021.
  21. ^ Michael Markel (1973). Es sang ein klein Waldvögelein. Siebenbürgische Volkslieder, sächsisch und deutsch. Editura Dacia in Cluj-Napoca/Klausenburg.
  22. ^ "Siebenbürgisch-Sächsisch Rosary Prayers". Mary's Rosaries. Retrieved 24 February 2023.
  23. ^ "Transylvanian Saxon". Omniglot. Retrieved 8 February 2021.
  24. ^ "Transylvanian Saxon language". Omniglot. Retrieved 8 February 2021.
  25. ^ "Transylvanian Saxon language". Omniglot. Retrieved 8 February 2021.

External linksEdit