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Westphalian language

Westphalian or Westfalish/Westphalish (Standard German Westfälisch) is one of the major dialect groups of West Low German. Its most salient feature is its diphthongization (rising diphthongs). For example, speakers say ieten ([ɪɛtn̩]) instead of essen for "to eat". (There is also a difference in the use of consonants within the Westphalian dialects: North of the Wiehengebirge, people tend to speak unvoiced consonants, south of the Wiehengebirge they voiced their consonants, e.g. Foite > Foide.)

Native toGermany,[1] Netherlands
RegionWestphalia[1], southwest Lower Saxony
Language codes
ISO 639-3wep
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The Westphalian dialect region includes the north-eastern part of North Rhine-Westphalia, i.e. the former Prussian province of Westphalia, without Siegerland and Wittgenstein, but including the southern part of former government district Weser-Ems (e.g. the region around Osnabrück and the landscape of Emsland in modern Lower Saxony).


Among the Westphalian language there are different subgroups of dialects:

  • East Westphalian in East Westphalia (including the dialect of Osnabrück)
  • Munsterlandic
  • South Westphalian
  • West Münsterland dialect

Westphalian has many lexical similarities and other proximities to Eastphalian, extending to the East and slightly to the North of the area where Westphalian is spoken.


True Westphalian is currently spoken mostly by elderly people. The majority of the Westphalian population speak instead a local variety of standard German with a Westphalian accent. This accent, however, does not stand out as much as for example Bavarian, because Westphalia is closer to the Hanover region, whose speech variety is generally considered to be standard modern German.

One of the reasons for the diminishing use of Westphalian is the rigorous enforcement of German-only policies in traditionally Low German-speaking areas during the 18th century. Westphalian, and Low German in general, unlike many of the High German dialects, were too distant from standard German to be considered dialects and were therefore not tolerated and efforts were made to stamp it out. In an extreme case, Hanover and its hinterland were forced to adopt rather unnaturally a form of German based on the written standard.

Westphalian was spoken in Kruppwerke up to the 19th century.

Nevertheless, the Westphalian dialect of German includes some words that originate from the dying Westphalian language, which are otherwise unintelligible for other German speakers from outside Westphalia. Examples include Pölter [ˈpœltɐ], "pajamas", Plörre [ˈplœʁə] "dirty liquid", and Mötke [ˈmœtkə] "mud, dirt".


  1. ^ a b c Westphalian language at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Westphalic". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.