. 8
( 12)


b. MHG uf (auf) ˜on™ MHG loufen (laufen) ˜to run™
c. MHG liuten (l¨ uten) ˜to ring™
a MHG vr¨ ude (Freude) ˜joy™
A mnemonic for remembering ENHG Diphthongization is the MHG phrase
mˆn niuwe hˆ s, which is mein neues Haus ˜my new house™ in modern German.
The second major phonological development in ENHG, Monophthongiza-
tion, affected the central dialects.39 The MHG diphthongs ie, uo, and ue were
monophthongized to the long vowels [i¦] (still spelled ie), [u¦], and [y¦].
(40) MHG NHG
a. ie > [i¦] lieb lieb ˜kind™
b. uo > [u¦] buoch Buch ˜book™
¨ s¨ e e s¨ ß ˜sweet™
c. ue > [y¦] u
Monophthongization began in the early twelfth century. It did not affect the
Upper German dialects; instead of lieb ˜kind™ and gut ˜good™, one ¬nds liab
and guat in Bavarian, and lieb and guet in Alemannic (Stedje 2001:135). Low
German dialects had other vowels from the beginning: Middle Low German
l¯ f, g¯ t (Stedje 2001:135). A mnemonic for remembering ENHG Monophthon-
gization is the MHG phrase lieben guoten br¨ eder, which is liebe gute Br¨ der
u u
˜dear good brothers™ in modern German.
202 German

Table 5.6 The declension of ENHG
tag ˜day™


Singular Nominative t[a]g
Accusative t[a]g
Dative t[a¦]ge
Genitive t[a¦]ges
Plural Nominative t[a¦]ge
Accusative t[a¦]ge
Dative t[a¦]gen
Genitive t[a¦]ge

A third important phonological change, which had morphological rami¬ca-
tions, particularly in nominal paradigms, was the lengthening of short vowels
in open syllables (syllables that end in a vowel).40
(41) MHG (short vowel) NHG (long vowel)
a. fa.ren fah.ren ˜to drive™
b. ne.men neh.men ˜to take™
c. si.ben sie.ben ˜seven™
In the paradigm of a noun like tag ˜day™, for example, vowel lengthening led to
some forms with a short vowel in the stem, others with a long vowel, as shown
in Table 5.6. This kind of variation within the stem of a noun was ultimately
eliminated. In the paradigm of Modern German Tag, we ¬nd a long vowel in
the stem in all forms, even in the closed syllables of the forms of the singular
without in¬‚ectional endings.
Before we turn to the morphology of ENHG, a few words about the orthogra-
phy of the language are in order. Spelling during the ENHG period was highly
inconsistent; in Waterman™s words, it was “¬‚agrantly haphazard” (1991:106).
A single text could reveal orthographic variants of a given word. Long vowels
were indicated by several means, by the doubling of the vowel or by a following
h, e, i, or y, although sometimes no indication of length was given.
(42) a. seer ˜very™, spraach ˜spoke™, froo ˜glad™
b. ehre ˜honor™, raht ˜advice™, verlohren ˜lost™
c. broeder ˜brother™, jair ˜year™
After the MHG diphthong ie (<ie>) had become monophthongized (to [i¦]),
the <e> was free to be used as a symbol of length. This explains its continued
use in words like lieb ˜dear™ and its appearance in words like jaer (Jahr)
˜year™. Modern German also continues to use <h> (ihn ˜him™, Floh ˜¬‚ea™, Ehe
History of the language 203

Table 5.7 The declension of “weak” feminine


Singular Nominative zunge Zunge
Accusative zungen Zunge
Dative zungen Zunge
Genitive zungen Zunge
Plural Nominative zungen Zungen
Accusative zungen Zungen
Dative zungen Zungen
Genitive zungen Zungen

˜marriage™) and doubled vowels (Paar ˜pair™, Meer ˜ocean™, Boot ˜boat™) to
signal length.
A particularly salient feature of ENHG orthography was the decorative dou-
bling or tripling of consonants (Konsonantenh¨ ufung): pffenning ˜penny™, auff
˜on™, czeytten (Zeiten) ˜times™, funffczig ˜¬fty™, wherdenn ˜to become™. In addi-
tion to <ʃʃ> and <ss>, one could also often ¬nd <ʃs>: saʃs ˜sat™, groʃs
˜large™. Later the spelling <ʃz> took hold (Schmidt 2000:305), out of which
the ß-ligature developed (from a “long” s and following z).41
By the sixteenth century, the use of a capital letter for the ¬rst word of
a sentence is a common practice. Earlier (in OHG and MHG times), capital
letters were only used for the beginning of a text or a section of text. During the
course of the ENHG period, the capitalization of nouns took hold. One can see
this development in Luther™s writings. In his “Sendbrief vom Dolmetschen”
(1530), only those nouns that have a special status or emphasis are capitalized
(Christus ˜Christ™, Deutsch ˜German™, Esel ˜ass™) “ in addition to proper names
and nouns in sentence-initial position; in 1540, roughly eighty percent of those
nouns that are not proper nouns are also capitalized (Schmidt 2000:307).

5.4.3 Morphology and syntax
The differences in morphology between MHG and ENHG are the result of ana-
logical change (generalization of a regularity), unlike the differences between
OHG and MHG morphology, which were the result of phonological changes
(e.g., the weakening of unstressed vowels).
In MHG, the “weak” feminine nouns had two different forms in the singular
(all but the nominative singular forms ended in -n) and one in the plural (all
ended in -n). In ENHG, all singular forms in this declension were identical:
the form of the nominative singular spread to all forms of the singular (see
Table 5.7). Similarly, i-stem nouns had forms with and without umlaut in the
204 German

Table 5.8 The declension of i-stem nouns


Singular Nominative kraft Kraft
Accusative kraft Kraft
Dative krefte Kraft
Genitive krefte Kraft
Plural Nominative krefte Kr¨ fte
Accusative krefte Kr¨ fte
Dative kreften Kr¨ ften
Genitive krefte Kr¨ fte

Table 5.9 Principal parts of selected strong verbs in MHG

In¬nitive Preterite Singular Preterite Plural Past Participle

grˆfen ˜to grasp™
± greif griffen gegriffen
biegen ˜to bend™ bouc bugen gebogen
binden ˜to tie™ bant bunden gebunden
helfen ˜to help™ half hulfen geholfen

singular in MHG (because of an i following the root in OHG times). The
umlauted forms were replaced in the singular in ENHG (see Table 5.8); thus
umlaut, which occurred only in plural forms, came to be viewed as a marker
of the plural. The function of umlaut as a plural marker spread to nouns that
did not originally have an i following the root in OHG: G¨ rten ˜gardens™, H¨ fe
a o
˜courts™, L¨ den ˜shops™, Sch¨ den ˜damages™. In MHG, a small number of neuter
a a
nouns formed their plural with an -er suf¬x and umlaut of the root (MHG lamp
˜lamb™, lember ˜lambs™). This class of nouns was expanded in ENHG, and
included masculine as well as neuter nouns that historically had not formed
their plurals in this way: Haus ˜house™, H¨ user ˜houses™; Mann ˜man™, M¨ nner
a a
˜men™; Wald ˜forest™, W¨ lder ˜forests™.
Analogical change brought simpli¬cation to ENHG verbal paradigms. The
preterite in MHG exhibited two different stems, one for the singular and
one for the plural, as Table 5.9 shows.42 The vowel of the preterite was
leveled during the ENHG period, sometimes in favor of the singular (bot
˜offered™, band ˜tied™, half ˜helped™), sometimes in favor of the plural (griff
˜grasped™). We ¬nd relics of the old preterite stems in some older Subjunctive
II forms (h¨ lfe ˜would help™, st¨ rbe ˜would die™), in the archaic past form
u u
ward ˜became™, and in the following proverb (with sungen instead of sangen
History of the language 205

˜sang™): Wie die Alten sungen, so zwitschern auch die Jungen ˜Like father, like
Personal endings become more uniform in ENHG. The third person plu-
ral present indicative ending -ent was replaced by -en, which was the third
person plural ending in the present subjunctive and preterite indicative and
(43) MHG sie gebent > NHG sie geben ˜they give™
The ending of the second person singular preterite indicative form, -e, was
replaced by -st (the second person singular ending elsewhere), and the root
vowel of this form, which had been the umlauted form of the root vowel of the
plural stem, was replaced by the root vowel of the other singular forms.
(44) MHG du g¦be > NHG du gabst ˜you took™
Some salient characteristics of ENHG word order are the following. Verb-
second word order in main declarative clauses is the norm.44
(45) das sah si niht allein (Ebert et al. 1993:432)
that saw she not alone
In subordinate clauses, several different word order patterns can be found
involving ¬nite and non-¬nite verb forms. For example, the ¬nite verb can
precede the past participle and be followed by an extraposed element.
(46) daz du virtzig wochen pist gelegen unter meim meitlichen hertzen
(Ebert et al. 1993:438)
that you forty weeks are lain under my maiden heart
The ¬nite verb can also follow the past participle.
(47) von der grozzen heilikeit die wir hie funden haben (Ebert et al.
from the great holiness that we here found have
Both of these orders are also possible with material between the ¬nite and
non-¬nite verb forms.
(48) wo jhr euch nicht wolt dero unw¨ rdig machen (Ebert et al.
where you yourself not want of-it unworthy make
The frequency of the modern German order, non-¬nite verb + ¬nite verb, which
we see in (47), increases during the ENHG period, and by 1600 it is the most
common order by far.
As in MHG, two or more negation words in a sentence do not cancel each
other out.
206 German

(49) Vorgisse nymmer nicht dez strengen gerichtes unsers herren. (Ebert
et al. 1993:427)
forget never not the rigorous judgment of-our lord
˜Never forget the rigorous judgment of our Lord.™

The use of multiple negation decreases signi¬cantly in the seventeenth

5.5 New High German
New High German (NHG), which covers the time from 1650 to 1900, can be
characterized as a period focused on the standardization of the language. At
the beginning of this period there were essentially two forms of the writ-
ten language, Ostmitteldeutsch and das Gemeine Deutsch, but by the end
of the eighteenth century, the south had adopted the writing practices of
Language societies (Sprachgesellschaften), whose members included gram-
marians and prominent authors, endeavored to create a standard literary lan-
guage free of foreign in¬‚uences. The ¬rst and most famous German language
society, die Fruchtbringende Gesellschaft, modeled on the Italian Accademia
della Crusca, was founded in Weimar in 1617, and included such authors as
Andreas Gryphius, Martin Opitz, and Philipp von Zesen in its membership.
During the “alamode era,” the period following the Thirty Years™ War (1618“
1648), the in¬‚uence of French on German was particularly great, and many
loanwords found their way into the language, roughly half of which remain in
it to this day (Stedje 2001:143): Mode ˜fashion™, Parf¨ m ˜perfume™, Serviette
˜napkin™, Tasse ˜cup™, Balkon ˜balcony™, Hotel ˜hotel™, Cousin ˜cousin™, etc.
In an attempt to rid the language of foreign words, members of the Sprachge-
sellschaften created new German replacements. The list in Table 5.10 contains
some of the successful (lasting) creations and the loanwords they were meant
to replace. Among the neologisms that were felt to be extreme and did not
survive the test of time were Zitterweh ˜shiver ache™ for Fieber ˜fever™ and
Gesichtserker ˜face projection™ for Nase ˜nose™ (which was incorrectly thought
to be a loanword).
A number of grammarians from this period contributed to the development
of a standard language. Justus Georg Schottel™s Ausf¨ hrliche Arbeit von der
Teutschen Haubt Sprache (1663) included rules for word formation, spelling,
in¬‚ection, and syntax. Johann Christoph Gottsched promoted Ostmitteldeutsch
as the ideal model for a literary standard in his Grundlegung einer deutschen
Sprachkunst, Nach dem Muster der besten Schriftsteller des vorigen und itzigen
Jahrhunderts aufgestellet (1748). Johann Christoph Adelung™s works included
a ¬ve-volume dictionary, a book on orthography, and a school grammar. Like
History of the language 207

Table 5.10 German replacements of French

Loanword German replacement

Adresse ˜address™ Anschrift
Akt ˜act™ Aufzug
Autor ˜author™ Verfasser
Dialekt ˜dialect™ Mundart
Korrespondenz ˜correspondence™ Briefwechsel
Nekrolog ˜obituary™ Nachruf
observieren ˜to observe™ beobachten
Teleskop ˜telescope™ Fernglas
Trag¨ die ˜tragedy™
o Trauerspiel

Gottsched, Adelung stressed the importance of usage in determining the gram-
matical norm.
Great poets and writers of the eighteenth century not only contributed to
the establishment of German as a literary language, they also provided support
for Ostmitteldeutsch as the standard. Klopstock, Lessing, Herder, Wieland,
Goethe, and Schiller all used Ostmitteldeutsch in their works (Chambers and
Wilkie 1970:50).
Much attention was given to the standardization of spelling. Schools sought
spelling guides, but could not use the printed word as a model. Publishing
practices were not uniform, and individual publishers were inconsistent. For
example, Gustav Freytag™s Die Geschwister, published by S. Hirzel in Leipzig
in 1878, contains variant spellings like the following: Schooß/Schoß ˜lap™, Der
Tod/der Tot ˜death™; t¨ ten/t¨ dten ˜to kill™ (Wells 1985:349). Various attempts
o o
at reform were made in the schools, but results did not come until after the
uni¬cation of Germany in 1871.
One of the issues treated in attempts to standardize German orthography
was whether one should spell phonetically or etymologically (historically).
Jacob Grimm favored an etymological approach, whereby etymologically
related words would be related orthographically. For example, he promoted
the spellings g¨ ste ˜guests™ and h¨ nde ˜hands™ rather than geste and hende (as
a a
in MHG), so that these plurals could easily be related to their singular forms,
gast and hand. He argued (unsuccessfully) for the use of ß for those s-sounds
that developed from Germanic t (through the High German Consonant shift):
e.g., Waßer (Eng. water), Haß (Eng. hate). He also argued unsuccessfully
against the capitalization of nouns.
Conferences on spelling reform were held in Berlin “ in 1876 and again
in 1901. Konrad Duden, a headmaster who had published a pamphlet of
spelling conventions for his grammar school in Schleiz, was invited to the
208 German

conference in 1876 (Wells 1985:350). In 1880 he published his Vollst¨ ndiges
orthographisches W¨ rterbuch f¨ r die Schule. Nach den amtlichen Regeln der
o u
neuen Orthographie. This work, now in its twenty-fourth edition, is the current
standard reference work on German orthography (Dudenredaktion 2006).
Efforts to standardize pronunciation led to the publication of Theodor Siebs™s
Deutsche B¨ hnenausprache in 1898, which was modeled on northern German
pronunciation (one exception being that <sp> and <st> were pronounced [ʃp]
and [ʃt]).46 Although the ¬rst edition was intended to codify the language of
the stage, later editions were less narrow in scope (Siebs 1969).
Since the ENHG period, the German language has seen further development
of analytic structures (although on a less grand scale than previously). Objects
that were in the genitive case in Luther™s time have been given up in favor of
prepositional objects (or have been replaced by accusative objects).

(50) a. hoffe ich liechtes (Luther, cited in Stedje 2001:156)
hope I light-genitive
b. modern German: auf etwas hoffen ˜to hope for something™

(51) a. brauch der Zeit (Luther, cited in Stedje 2001:156)
need the-genitive time
b. modern German: etwas (accusative) brauchen ˜to need something™

An analytic subjunctive (w¨ rde helfen ˜would help™) has developed alongside
the (older) synthetic subjunctive (h¨ lfe ˜would help™). This can be viewed as a
response to the uncertainty that arose (h¨ lfe or h¨ lfe?) because of the leveling
a u
of the distinction between the singular and plural in the stem of the preterite,
on which this subjunctive form is based (Stedje 2001:157).
By roughly 1900, the NHG standard can be viewed as having been estab-
lished. After the founding of the German Empire in 1871, a certain amount of
uniformity was achieved through the codi¬cation of orthography and pronun-
ciation. Changes have continued to take place since then, of course. “Duden”
is now an institution: what was once a spelling dictionary has evolved into a
twelve-volume reference work that treats topics such as pronunciation, gram-
mar, style, and usage “ in addition to spelling. And spelling remains as contro-
versial an issue as ever. Reforms were proposed (but not carried out) in 1944
and again in 1996. The 1996 reforms, which were met with much opposition
and are still hotly debated, became of¬cial “ with modi¬cations “ on August
1, 2006. Although we can now speak of a German standard language, there is
still much variation throughout the German-speaking region, in the colloquial
language (in pronunciation, “grammar,” and vocabulary), in the versions of
German that can be identi¬ed by national boundaries, and in the dialects, the
very local versions of German that are not bound by the rules of the standard.
The topic of regional variation is taken up in the following chapter.
History of the language 209

1. Apply Grimm™s Law to the following PIE roots to discover Modern English
PIE Modern English

(a) pent- ˜to tread, go™ _____ind

(b) dheub- ˜deep, hollow™ _____ee_____

(c) ters- ˜dry™ _____irst

(d) kerd- ˜heart™ _____ear_____

(e) ghos-ti- ˜stranger, guest, host™ _____ues_____

(f) del- ˜to recount, count™ _____ell

(g) bher- ˜to carry™ _____ear

(h) gerbh- ˜to scratch™ _____arve

(i) dem™- ˜to constrain, force™ _____ame

(j) kel- ˜to be prominent™ _____ill

2. Use what you know about the High German Consonant Shift (and the
changes that affected — d and — þ) to determine the German cognates of the
following words in English.
(a) plant; (b) tongue; (c) kiss; (d) to sleep; (e) to break; (f) vat; (g) tame;
(h) dapper; (i) thorn; (j) tug
3. The following words were borrowed from Latin. Use your knowledge of the
High German Consonant Shift to determine if they were borrowed before
or after this shift.
(a) Altar (Lat. alt¯ re); (b) kauf- (Lat. caup-); (c) Patient (Lat. pati¯ ns);
a e
(d) Pfeil (Lat. p¯lum); (e) P¬rsich (Lat. persica); (f) Pilger (Lat. pelegr¯nus);
± ±
(g) Rettich (Lat. radix); (h) Senf (Lat. sin¯ pis); (i) Teppich (Lat. tap¯ tum);
a e
(j) Zoll (Lat. tolon¯um)
4. Find evidence for weakening of unstressed syllables, Secondary Umlaut,
Palatalization, and Final Fortition in the following MHG text (from Das
Nibelungenlied; de Boor 1988:3).
Ez wuohs in B´ rg´ nden ein vil edel magedˆn,
uo ±
daz in allen landen niht sch“ners mohte sˆn,
Kriemhilt geheizen: si wart ein sc“ne wˆp.
dar umbe muosen degene vil verl´es´ n den lˆp.
±e ±
There grew a royal child in Burgundy “
In all the world none lovelier than she.
Her name was Kriemhild. Great her beauty when,
In womanhood, she cost the lives of many men.
(Ryder 1962:43)

(wuohs = NHG wuchs; sˆn = NHG sein; wart = NHG ward ˜wurde™; wˆp
± ±
= NHG Weib ˜Frau™; verl´es´ n = NHG verlieren; lˆp = NHG Leib ˜Leben™)
±e ±
210 German

5. Identify the following texts as OHG, MHG, or ENHG. Provide evidence
that supports your conclusions.47
(a) Der kunig zu Babylonien, hatte sein reych auch mit rauben vnnd gewalt
der K¨ nig zu Babylonien hatte sein Reich auch mit Rauben und Gewalt
(b) Thˆ quad zi imo thaz uuˆb: ˜hˆ rro, gib mir thaz uuazzar, thaz mih ni
o ± e
thurste noh ni queme hera scephen™.
da sprach zu ihm das Weib Herr gib mir das Wasser dass mich nie durste
noch nie komme hierher sch¨ pfen
(c) Swer mit s¨ nden sˆ geladen, der sol sˆn herze in riuwe baden.
u ± ±
wer mit S¨ nden sei geladen der soll sein Herz in Reue baden
(d) Uuurdun sum erkorane, Sume sˆ r verlorane.
wurden einige ausgew¨ hlt einige sofort verloren
(e) mit sˆme stabe, den er truoc,
dˆ mite er uf daz houbet sluoc
den knaben edele unde clˆ r,
daz im diu scheitel und daz hˆ r
von rˆ tem bluote wurden naz.

mit seinem Stab den er trug da mit er auf das Haupt schlug den Knaben
edel und sch¨ n dass ihm die Scheitel48 und das Haar von rotem Blut
wurden nass

1 The <th> in thu was pronounced like the <th> in Eng. thing.
2 A word of caution is in order here. Because this text is a translation from Latin, the
word order it exhibits does not necessarily re¬‚ect accurately the rules of Old High
German syntax. See section 5.2.3 for further discussion.
3 Various terms for the reconstructed parent language of the Germanic languages
can be found in the literature: “Proto-Germanic” (Urgemanisch), “Common Ger-
manic” (Gemeingermansich), etc. We use the simple term “Germanic” to refer to
this reconstructed form.
4 We use Fortson™s (2004) symbols for the reconstructed sounds of PIE; they are
similar to IPA symbols.
5 This does not take into account the laryngeals, a class of sounds whose exact
phonetic values are not known. The laryngeals are generally believed to have been
fricatives articulated in the back of the mouth and throat. However, they have no
certain consonantal re¬‚exes outside the Anatolian branch of PIE (Fortson 2004:
6 In historical linguistics, an asterisk is used to denote a reconstructed form “ one that
is not preserved in any written documents.
History of the language 211

7 The dual is used to signal two entities.
8 The perfect, traditionally viewed as a fourth tense, is now held to be a stative that
acquired a secondary use as a past tense (Fortson 2004:81).
9 See Fortson 2004:81“83 for further discussion of the various grammatical distinc-
tions in the PIE categories for tense, voice, and mood.
10 This is the de¬nition of topicalization that Fortson (2004:144) provides for the
process in PIE.
11 A clitic is an unstressed word that cannot stand alone but must attach to a neighboring
stressed word, with which it forms a unit. The m in I™m and the s in she™s, for example,
are clitics.
12 For further discussion of PIE, see, for example, Fortson 2004 and Watkins 1998.
13 In diachronic (historical) as well as synchronic linguistics (see chapter 2, section
2.3), the symbol “<” means ˜(comes) from™ or ˜(is) derived from™, and “>” means
˜becomes™ or ˜changes to™.
14 In an essay published in 1818, the Danish philologist Rasmus Rask ¬rst described
the sound correspondences that form the basis of Grimm™s Law. Jacob Grimm, who
had independently discovered these correspondences and then read Rask™s work,
published his formulation (generally considered the de¬nitive description) in 1822
in the second edition of his Deutsche Grammatik.
15 The voiced aspirated stops were voiced stops followed by a puff of breath or a
brief period of breathy voice (murmur) (Fortson 2004:50). Breathy voice is pro-
duced with the arytenoids apart and the ligamental vocal cords vibrating (Ladefoged
16 The ¬fteen different PIE stops in Table 5.1 have been reduced to nine in
Table 5.2. In Germanic, the palatal velars merge with the plain velars. To sim-
plify the discussion, we have left out the PIE labiovelars. The th sound in a word like
Eng. think ([T]), is represented with the symbol þ (thorn), since this is commonly
found in the handbooks.
17 The Sanskrit examples are from Fortson 2004:302.
18 See Iverson and Salmons 1995 for an account for this exception to Grimm™s Law.
19 The PIE and Germanic forms in (7) are from Fortson 2004:303. The symbol h2 in
(7a) stands for one of the IE laryngeals.
20 English choose and its cognate in German, k¨ ren ˜to choose™, provide evidence for
leveling of the s/r alternation: English has leveled the alternation in favor of s (with
s in all forms of the paradigm) and German has leveled it in favor of r.
21 These examples are from Fortson 2004:304.
22 In Gothic, o is spelled with o.
23 The vocative case marks words (nouns and pronouns) that are used to address
someone. In the sentence Beth, are you planning to go? the noun Beth has a vocative
24 The instrumental case marks words (nouns and pronouns) used to express instrument
or means. In Germanic, the instrumental was of limited use even in the oldest
surviving texts (Fortson 2004:304).
25 The middle in PIE could also express the passive voice. Fortson (2004:83) argues that
it is best to regard the middle as having been a mediopassive, capable of expressing
either middle or passive meaning depending on context.
26 The terms “strong” and “weak” were coined by Jacob Grimm.
212 German

27 The origin of this dental suf¬x has long been a topic of discussion; it is generally
believed to have developed from the same root as the English verb do.
28 The runic inscriptions, the oldest documents in Germanic, date back to roughly the
middle of the ¬rst century AD. These inscriptions make use of the Germanic runic
alphabet known as the futhark, named after its ¬rst six letters: f u þ a r k. For further
information on the runes, see, for example, Krause and Jankuhn 1966, Robinson
1992, and Antonsen 1975, 2002.
29 In synthetic languages, words are composed of more than one morpheme. In purely
analytic languages, each word contains a single morpheme. Grammatical categories
like number and tense are not realized as af¬xes in such languages, but are expressed
as separate words.
30 Cognates are words (in two or more different languages) that derive historically
from the same word. They are similar in form, but not necessarily identical because
of sound changes that may affect one language but not another. Cognates are also
similar but not necessarily identical in meaning because of semantic changes that
may affect a word in one language but not another.
31 See Stedje 2001:60 for examples of some additional environments in which — p — t — k
remain unshifted.
32 Some consonants that appeared between a and i functioned initially as a barrier to
Primary Umlaut, for example, ht: OHG mahti ˜powers (M¨ chte)™. The barriers were
eventually overcome in the Middle High German period. The later umlaut of short
a is subsumed under Secondary Umlaut (see below in the text and section 5.3.2).
33 Consonants as well as vowels were affected by the Germanic accent shift. The
changes were progressive, and those affecting consonants were earlier than those
affecting vowels. For further details of these Auslautsgesetze ˜laws of ¬nals™, see,
for example, Bach 1970:60“61 and Boutkan 1995.
34 There is only one example of a dual form, unk¯ r (¬rst person genitive dual), in a
work by Otfrid (Braune 2004:241).
35 The preterite is also used to express the pre-past; that is, it has the sense of a past
perfect (Schrodt 2004:128).
36 Extraposition is the movement of an element from its normal position to a position
at the end of a sentence. In the subordinate clause weil mein Freund viel besser war
als ich ˜because my friend was a lot better than I™, the comparative phrase als ich
˜than I™ has been extraposed.
37 The beginning of the MHG period is also considered to be 1100 or 1150 (rather
than 1050) because of the absence of literary works in the vernacular during the
century following the OHG period. The end of the MHG period is also debated,
some scholars (following Jacob Grimm) placing it at 1500.
38 In normalized MHG orthography, long vowels are indicated with a circum¬‚ex (e.g.,
a, e, etc.). The long umlauted vowels are ¦, “, and iu [y¦]. The affricate [ts] is
represented with z (zuo ˜to™), tz when in intervocalic position (setzen ˜to set™). The
s-sound that developed from t is represented with the symbol (wa er ˜water™) to
distinguish it from the affricate as well as the s-sound inherited from Germanic (hˆ s u
39 The alliterative German phrase that describes this process, die mitteldeutsche
Monophthongierung, is a good mnemonic for remembering the dialect area that
was affected.
History of the language 213

40 The period in the forms in (41) signals a syllable boundary.
41 Gothic script (Frakturschrift), in use since the ¬fteenth century, makes use of two
kinds of s symbols: a long s, which appears in medial position, and a round s, which
appears word-¬nally.
42 The second person singular preterite stem differed from the ¬rst and third person
stems; it contained the root vowel of the plural stem “ with umlaut: ich nam ˜I took™;
du n¦me ˜you took™; wir nˆ men ˜we took™.
43 The “present subjunctive” of MHG corresponds to the present Subjunctive I of
Modern Standard German; the “preterite subjunctive” of MHG corresponds to the
present Subjunctive II of Modern Standard German.
44 This description of ENHG word order is based on Ebert et al. 1993.
45 The largest Swiss chanceries and presses had switched to das Gemeine Deutsch at
the beginning of the NHG period.
46 Northern German pronunciation was held to be purer than that of German spoken
elsewhere, since it was based on the written language. In northern Germany, Low
German had long been the variety used in speech, although High German was used
for writing. When speakers in the cities began to use High German as the spoken
medium, they modeled their pronunciation on the written word (Stedje 2001:155).
47 These texts are from Bachmann 1970, Ebert et al. 1993, and Braune et al. 1994.
They have been modi¬ed slightly to remove some of the effects of normalized
48 The noun Scheitel is now masculine.
Regional variation

6.1 The standard“colloquial“dialect continuum
At the one end of the German standard“colloquial“dialect continuum is the
standard language. The standard language is the supraregional variety codi-
¬ed in works such as the Duden grammar (Dudenredaktion 2005) and pro-
nouncing dictionary (Mangold 2005). At the other end of the continuum are
the dialects, the local or regional varieties. Between these two extremes is
the colloquial language (Umgangssprache), which exhibits regional variation
in pronunciation, grammar, and lexicon, but not to the degree found in the
Various terms are used in German to refer to the standard language; some
common terms are Hochsprache, Schriftsprache, and Standardsprache. The
non-technical term Hochdeutsch is also used to refer to the standard lan-
guage. Virtually all native speakers interpret this term as synonymous with
Hochsprache and are unaware of its technical sense. In its technical sense,
Hochdeutsch means ˜High German™ and refers to those dialects that partici-
pated in the High German Consonant Shift (see the discussion in chapter 5,
section 5.3.2).2
The standard language is the variety that is typically described in grammar
books and dictionaries, the variety that is used in school (in Germany) and
taught to foreigners. Barbour and Stevenson label this variety “formal Standard
German,” since it is the variety that represents the speech and writing of
educated people in formal situations; it is comparable not to standard English,
but to formal standard English (1990:135).3
What is considered the norm in Standard German can differ signi¬cantly
from common practice. For example, although colloquially and regionally, the
preposition wegen ˜because of™ is common with the dative case (wegen dem
Wetter ˜because of the weather™), this is considered incorrect in the standard
language (Dudenredaktion 2001:928), where the genitive is required (wegen
des Wetters). Language textbooks are beginning to address such differences
between the standard and everyday usage. Lovik et al. (2007:423), for example,

Regional variation 215

note that while the genitive case is common with prepositions like wegen in
written texts, it is increasingly being replaced by the dative case in spoken
The status of the standard language differs from region to region. In German-
speaking Switzerland, no member of the native population speaks Standard
German as a native language, although most speakers do acquire a certain
level of pro¬ciency in it. In southern Germany and Austria, native speakers
of Standard German are a smaller proportion of the population than native
speakers in northern Germany (Barbour and Stevenson 1990:136).4
Although Standard German can be characterized as a supraregional variety,
with a uniform grammar and spelling, it does exhibit regional variation. For
example, there are some meanings for which there is no supraregional lexeme.
A well-known example is southern German Samstag ˜Saturday™ and northern
German Sonnabend ˜Saturday™.5 The words for ˜butcher™ are also regionally
bound (Clyne 1995:89): Fleischer (east central and some west central), Metzger
(southern and central), and Schlachter (northern). Although several different
consonantal r-sounds are accepted as standard pronunciation, their distribution
can be described in regional terms: Uvular r predominates in northern, central,
and south-western parts of the German-speaking area, alveolar r in south-
eastern parts (C. Hall 2003:65). In general, however, the standard is a fairly
uniform variety of German and regionalism is minimal.
The colloquial language can itself be divided up into different varieties,
although scholars are not in agreement as to how many varieties should be rec-
ognized. Sch¨ nfeld (1977:170) distinguishes three varieties of German between
the standard and the Low German dialect in the north of the former East
Germany. Veith (1983) also recognizes three varieties of the colloquial in a
study of the urban speech of Frankfurt, but his levels do not correspond exactly
to those of Sch¨ nfeld. Barbour and Stevenson (1990:140) differentiate between
two different types of colloquial German, colloquial Standard German and col-
loquial non-standard German, in part because German speakers recognize this
division in their own speech. In our discussion of regional variation within
the colloquial language (in section 6.1.3), we will make at most a distinction
between these two levels of the colloquial.
It is important to keep in mind that although we can identify the major vari-
eties of German on the continuum from the standard to dialect, there are often
no clear or sharp dividing lines separating them. The nature of the divisions
also differs from region to region. In the Low German area, for example, where
dialects are very far from Standard German, the division between dialect and
colloquial German is much sharper than in the Central German area, where
dialects are closer to the standard, having made the greatest contribution histor-
ically to the development of the standard (Stevenson and Barbour 1990:141“
216 German

6.2 Variation in the colloquial
Variation in colloquial German can be described in regional terms. We will limit
our discussion here to variation in the colloquial language spoken in Germany.6
The regions that are important to this discussion are northern, central, and
southern Germany. We will consider variation in pronunciation, in grammar,
and in vocabulary.

6.2.1 Variation in pronunciation
In northern Germany, the suf¬x -ung is pronounced […Nk ], not […N], as in
the standard language: Reibung ˜friction™ [ʁa©p#…Nk ] (rather than [ʁa©p#…N]). In
addition, word-initial <sp> and <st> are pronounced with [s] rather than [ʃ]:
Spiel ˜game™ [spi¦l] (rather than [ʃpi¦l]); Stein ˜stone™ [sta©n] (rather than [ʃta©n]).
In northern and central Germany, /k/ (<g>) in coda position is pronounced as
a fricative ([x] or [c], depending on the quality of the preceding vowel), not
as a stop, as in Standard German: Tag ˜day™ [t a¦x] (instead of [t a¦k ]), Teig
˜dough™ [t a©c] (instead of [t a©k ]).7 In southern Germany, the /k/ in the suf¬x
-ig is pronounced as a stop, not as a fricative, which is standard: wichtig
˜important™ [v©ct ©k ] (rather than [v©ct ©c]). Word-initial [c] is realized in
¸ ¸¸ ¸
southern Germany as [k ]: Chemie ˜chemistry™ [k emi¦] (rather than [cemi¦]). ¸
In southern and especially south-western Germany, there is a tendency to
pronounce medial and ¬nal <sp> and <st> with [ʃ] instead of [s], which is
standard: Wespen ˜wasps™ [vµʃpm], Wurst ˜sausage™ [v…ɐ8ʃt ]. One of the salient
regional pronunciations involving vowels is the substitution in northern and
central Germany of [e¦] for [µ¦], the pronunciation of long <¨ >: K¨ se [k e¦z™]
a a
(for standard [k µ¦z™]). For further discussion of non-standard pronunciations
in colloquial German, see, for example, Barbour and Stevenson 1990:151“155,
Durrell 1992:13, and C. Hall 2003.

6.2.2 Variation in grammar
There is less regional variation in grammar (morphology, syntax) than in pro-
nunciation or vocabulary, but there are a number of well-known deviations
from the standard that are typical of the north or the south.
The use of am + nominalized in¬nitive + sein is the typical northern German
way of expressing progressive meaning overtly: Mein Vater ist am Schreiben
for Standard German Mein Vater schreibt gerade ˜My father is writing™ (Durrell
1992:16). According to Duden (Dudenredaktion 2001:63), similar progressive
constructions with beim or im in place of am are considered standard; the use
of am is a regional colloquialism (found particularly in the Rhineland and in
Regional variation 217

Table 6.1 Personal pronouns in northern colloquial
non-standard German

˜I™ ˜you (singular)™ ˜he™ ˜she™ ˜it™

Nominative ich/ick(e) du er sie es/et
Oblique mi(r) di(r) ihm ihr es

The splitting of “da-compounds” is another characteristic of northern
German syntax. In Standard German, words formed using da followed by
a preposition (davon ˜from it/them™; daf¨ r ˜for that/it™) cannot be split into
their component parts and separated by other sentence constituents: Daf¨ r u
kann ich nichts ˜I can™t help it.™ In northern German, splitting is the norm in
the colloquial language: Da kann ich nichts fur.
In the north, in the variety of the colloquial language that Barbour and Steven-
son label “colloquial non-standard German,” the accusative“dative distinction
is absent, a feature shared by northern German dialects. Table 6.1 displays the
forms of the personal pronoun in the singular (from Barbour and Stevenson
1990:162), which illustrate this feature. The oblique case is the non-nominative
case, the case used when either the accusative or the dative would be used in
the standard language. The absence of an accusative“dative distinction in the
colloquial non-standard German of the north is no doubt the cause of the con-
fusion of accusative and dative found in the colloquial standard of this region.
For example, one might hear Er hat mir (dative) gesehen ˜He has seen me™
in the north instead of the standard Er hat mich (accusative) gesehen (Durrell
The use of the preposition nach ˜to™ instead of zu ˜to™ is a characteristic
of colloquial German in the north. One hears nach dem Bahnhof ˜to the train
station™ instead of the standard zum Bahnhof.
One sees a certain amount of regional variation in the choice of auxiliary
verb. In the colloquial language in northern Germany we ¬nd the auxiliary sein
rather than haben used with the verbs beginnen and anfangen, both meaning
˜to begin™: Ich bin begonnen/angefangen ˜I have begun™ (Durrell 1992:16). In
the south, we ¬nd the auxiliary sein instead of haben used with liegen ˜to lie™,
sitzen ˜to sit™, and stehen ˜to stand™: Ich bin gelegen/gesessen/gestanden ˜I have
The plural formation of nouns also exhibits regional variation. In the north,
the use of the plural ending -s has increased (Durrell 1992:16): die Doktors ˜the
doctors™ (for standard die Doktoren). It often replaces the zero-plural found
in Standard German: die Wagens ˜the cars™ (for standard die Wagen). Some
non-standard plurals found in the south are the following (Durrell 1992:17):
218 German

(1) South Standard
a. die W¨ gen ˜the cars™
a die Wagen
b. die St¨ cker ˜the pieces™
u die St¨ cke
c. die Stiefeln ˜the boots™ die Stiefel

Another non-standard feature of nouns in the south is gender. A number
of nouns exhibit genders that differ from those in Standard German (Durrell
(2) South Standard
a. der Butter ˜the butter™ die Butter
b. der Radio ˜the radio™ das Radio
c. der Gewalt ˜the violence™ die Gewalt
d. die Bach ˜the brook™ der Bach
e. der Kartoffel ˜the potato™ die Kartoffel
The use of past tense forms shows regional variation in the colloquial lan-
guage. Speakers in the south typically do not use the past; they use the present
perfect instead. Because of the lack of past forms, southern speakers do not have
a past perfect; they use the double present perfect to express a past event that
precedes another past event (see section 4.3.4): Ich habe es vergessen gehabt
˜I had forgotten it™ (instead of Standard German Ich hatte es vergessen). Some
speakers in the south have past tense forms in their speech, but only those of the
verbs haben ˜to have™ and sein ˜to be™. These speakers use the present perfect
for all verbs other than haben and sein. Because they have past forms for haben
and sein, they also have the past perfect, as in the standard language.8

6.2.3 Variation in vocabulary
As Durrell (1992:20) points out, it is sometimes dif¬cult to separate regionalism
from style level in the lexicon. Many regional words are limited to the collo-
quial language, whereas others are used in all speech styles. The examples in
Tables 6.2 and 6.3 are some of the more well-known regional variants with
their counterparts in the standard language. None of the examples is restricted
to the colloquial language, although some are more common in the colloquial
language than in more formal speech.

6.3 German in Switzerland

6.3.1 Diglossia
German-speaking Switzerland has been used in the linguistic literature as a
classic example of diglossia, a situation in which a community uses two distinct
Regional variation 219

Table 6.2 Vocabulary in northern German
(modi¬ed from Durrell 1992:20)

North Standard

das Abendbrot ˜supper™ das Abendessen
denn ˜then™ dann
¬‚¨ ten ˜to whistle™
o pfeifen
die G¨ ren ˜children™
o die Kinder
der Kasten ˜drawer™ die Schublade
kloppen ˜to hit™ schlagen
kucken ˜to look™ sehen
der Pott ˜pot™ der Topf
der Schlips ˜necktie™ die Krawatte
die Wurzel ˜carrot™ die Mohrr¨ be

Table 6.3 Vocabulary in southern German
(modi¬ed from Durrell 1992:21“22)

South Standard

arg ˜very™ sehr
geschwind ˜fast™ schnell
die gelbe R¨ be ˜carrot™
u die Mohrr¨ be
der Kamin ˜chimney™ der Schornstein
das M¨ del ˜girl™
a das M¨ dchen
die Orange ˜orange™ die Apfelsine
der Rahm ˜cream™ die Sahne
reden ˜to speak™ sprechen
schauen ˜to look™ sehen
sieden ˜to boil™ kochen

forms of the same language, one, the prestige form, learned in school and used
in one set of contexts (or domains), the other acquired as a native language and
used in another set of contexts (Ferguson 1959). In Switzerland, the two distinct
forms are Swiss Standard German (SSG), similar to the standard language of
Germany, and Schweizerdeutsch, a cover term for all German dialects spoken
in Switzerland. There is no colloquial language (Umgangssprache), as there is
in Germany, to mediate between SSG and the local Swiss dialects.
Although it is common to treat German-speaking Switzerland as a classic
case of diglossia, the term does not currently apply in the strict sense, since
SSG, in contrast to dialect, does not have the status of a prestige variety. Barbour
and Stevenson (1990:213) argue that both varieties have positive prestige, but
for different reasons and to different extents.9
220 German

It has generally been argued that SSG is used in writing and formal speech,
and dialect in informal speech. Although these may have been the traditional
domains of the two varieties, this division does not re¬‚ect current practice.
Dialect is being used increasingly in informal speech in formal domains (on
radio and television, in church services, in the military, in secondary and post-
secondary education, etc.) and even in formal speech (Clyne 1995:43, Werlen
2004). According to Barbour and Stevenson (1992:213), for the vast majority
of German Swiss, SSG is a variety of German used exclusively for writing.
The relationship between the two varieties of German used in Switzerland is
thus treated by many linguists as a special kind of diglossia, diglossia based on
medium (mediale Diglossie), where (in general) the standard language is used
for writing, and dialect for speaking (e.g., Sieber and Sitta 1986:20, Ramseier
1988:17). Rash (1998:50) suggests that the term “functional diglossia” may be
preferable, since it describes a situation in which each variety is allocated certain
functions. Werlen (2004:22) also points out the shortcomings of a simple model
of medial diglossia, noting, for example, that Swiss German dialects are written
as well as spoken: dialect is used in obituaries, for postcards, and especially in
electronic communication (e-mail, text-messaging).10
The relationship between SSG and the Swiss dialects is less clear-cut than
a textbook de¬nition of diglossia might suggest “ whether de¬ned in terms of
domain, medium, or function. Barbour and Stevenson argue that it is proba-
bly more appropriate to speak of tendencies rather than absolute rules, with
one variety more likely to be used in a given situation than another variety.
Ramseier (1988:545) argues that SSG and dialect cannot be neatly separated;
their domains can be viewed as overlapping. This situation, where two vari-
eties may be appropriate in a given situation, can lead to a greater degree of
code-switching, that is, switching from one language variety to another within
a single conversation (Barbour and Stevenson 1990:214).

6.3.2 Swiss Standard German
Although SSG is similar to the Standard German used in Germany, there are
differences between the two “ in pronunciation, orthography, morphology, and
vocabulary. Some of the more well-known differences are described in the
following sections.11 To avoid any confusion in terminology, we will refer to
the Standard German spoken in Germany as German Standard German (GSG). Pronunciation Boesch (1957) provided guidelines for the
pronunciation of SSG that sought a middle ground between a pronunciation
heavily in¬‚uenced by dialect and one adhering strictly to the GSG norm.
Some of these suggestions were included in the nineteenth edition (1969) of
the pronouncing dictionary by Siebs (Russ 1994:85). The Duden pronouncing
Regional variation 221

dictionary (Mangold 2005) aims to provide a supraregional standard and thus
does not address the pronunciation of SSG.
Vowels in SSG differ from those in GSG mainly in length. In some words
we ¬nd long vowels where GSG has short vowels; in other words we ¬nd the
opposite (Meyer 1989:26“27).
(3) German Standard German Swiss Standard German
a. br[a]chte ˜brought™ br[a¦]chte
b. H[”]chzeit ˜wedding™ H[o¦]chzeit
c. Ged[µ]chtnis ˜memory™ Ged[µ¦]chtnis
d. d[y¦]ster ˜gloomy™ d[]ster
e. Kr[e¦]bs ˜cancer™ Kr[µ]bs
f. N[i¦]sche ˜niche™ N[©]sche
One of the salient differences in the pronunciation of consonants in SSG
involves the pronunciation of <ch>. The velar fricative [x] tends to be used
for word-initial <ch>, where GSG requires [c] or [k ]. The velar fricative is
also often substituted for GSG [c] in words like ich ˜I™ and sicher ˜sure™ (Clyne
(4) German Standard German Swiss Standard German
a. [c]emie ˜Chemistry™
¸ [x]emie
b. [c]ina ˜China™
¸ [x]ina
c. [k ]ronik ˜chronicle™ [x]ronik
d. [k ]or ˜chorus™ [x]or
e. i[c] ˜I™
¸ i[x]
f. si[c]er ˜sure™
¸ si[x]er
The <g> in the -ig suf¬x is pronounced as [k] when GSG requires [c] (Ammon
et al. 1995:257).
(5) German Standard German Swiss Standard German
a. ewi[c] ˜eternal™
¸ ewi[k]
b. erledi[c]t ˜dealt with™
¸ erledi[k]t
Another important feature of SSG is the absence of r-Vocalization. SSG has
a consonantal pronunciation of <r> where GSG has a vocalized r: bitte[r]
˜bitter™ (GSG bitt[ɐ]).
SSG differs from GSG in various ways prosodically. One difference involves
word stress. In words borrowed from French, SSG exhibits stress on the initial
syllable, whereas GSG has non-initial stress.
(6) German Standard German Swiss Standard German
a. B¨ "ffet ˜sideboard™
u "B¨ ffet
b. B¨ "ro ˜of¬ce™
u "B¨ ro
c. Fi"let ˜¬llet™ "Filet
222 German

There is a general consensus that German-speaking Swiss can be recognized
by their intonation (Ammon 1995:257). According to Panizollo (1982:41“42),
the stressed syllables preceding the nucleus in SSG are low in pitch and the
unstressed syllables following them take on a slightly rising cadence. In GSG,
the pitch of prenuclear speech is in the medium range and the cadences are
relatively level. Ammon points out that it is not clear to what extent SSG
intonation differs from the intonation of Swiss dialects or possibly of the entire
Alemannic dialect region (1995:258). Orthography An important systemic difference between
SSG and GSG orthography “ one that is acknowledged in the Duden spelling
dictionary “ is the substitution in SSG of <ss> for <ß> (Dudenredaktion
2006:95). The use of <ß> is not taught in school and it is rarely found in Swiss
German texts (Rash 1998:154).12
Words of foreign origin tend to retain their original orthography more often
in SSG than in GSG (Meyer 1989:33; Rash 1998:155).
(7) German Standard German Swiss Standard German
a. Deb¨ t ˜debut™
u D´ but
b. Mokassin ˜moccasin™ Mocassin
c. schick ˜elegant™ chic
d. Soße ˜sauce™ Sauce
e. Res¨ mee ˜summary™
u R´ sum´
e e
Sometimes differences in spelling between SSG and GSG indicate differences
in pronunciation (Ammon 1995:254).
(8) German Standard German Swiss Standard German
a. M¨ sli ˜muesli™
u M¨ esli
b. Z¨ richer ˜native of Z¨ rich™
u u Z¨ rcher
u Morphology A comparison of SSG and GSG reveals differ-
ences in derivational morphology. For example, af¬xes like -ung, -nis, and -keit
are common in both SSG and GSG, but the following words, which contain
them, are unknown in GSG (Rash 1998:157):
(9) Swiss Standard German
a. -ung Gastung ˜guests™ (collective)
b. -nis Betreffnis ˜installment™ (cf. Teilbetrag)
c. -keit Sehnlichkeit ˜yearning™ (cf. Sehnsucht)
d. -schaft Dorfschaft ˜people in a village™
e. -ler B¨ hnler ˜railroad worker™ (cf. Bahnarbeiter)
Other af¬xes (from dialect) are found only in SSG (Rash 1998:159).
Regional variation 223

(10) Swiss Standard German
a. -et der Heuet ˜hay harvest™ (cf. Heuernte)
b. -ete das Tanzete ˜dancing™ (cf. das Tanzen)

Diminutives formed with the suf¬x -li are particularly common in SSG and
do not necessarily designate entities that are small: R¨ ebli ˜carrot(s)™, Peterli
˜parsley™, Pull¨ verli ˜pullover™ (Rash 1998:157“158).
The verbal suf¬x -ieren is often used in SSG when GSG would simply have

(11) German Standard German Swiss Standard German
a. campen ˜to camp™ campieren
b. grillen ˜to grill™ grillieren
c. handikapen ˜to handicap™ handicapieren
d. parken ˜to park™ parkieren

In the formation of compounds we ¬nd differences between SSG and GSG in
the use of in¬‚ectional af¬xes and linking elements. Compounds in SSG some-
times have in¬‚ectional af¬xes or linking elements between the two members
of a compound where their GSG counterparts do not.

(12) German Standard German Swiss Standard German
a. Uhrmacher ˜watch maker™ Uhrenmacher
b. Landgemeinde ˜rural community™ Landsgemeinde

Sometimes GSG compounds have these in¬‚ectional af¬xes and linking ele-
ments and their SSG counterparts do not.

(13) German Standard German Swiss Standard German
a. Tageblatt ˜daily paper™ Tagblatt
b. Sonntagsausgabe ˜Sunday edition™ Sonntagausgabe Vocabulary While SSG has many lexical items in com-
mon with German spoken in southern Germany and Austria (e.g., Orange
˜orange™), it also has words that are unique to SSG. Table 6.4 lists some
of the more common lexical items peculiar to SSG along with their GSG
counterparts. In some cases, a SSG word will exist in GSG, but with a
different meaning. For example, SSG Kleid means ˜suit™, whereas in GSG
it means ˜dress™; SSG schlimm means ˜clever™, whereas in GSG it means
Gender assignment in nouns is another area in which SSG differs from
224 German

Table 6.4 Vocabulary in Swiss Standard German
(modi¬ed from Durrell 1992:23“24)

Swiss Standard German German Standard German

die Base ˜aunt™ die Tante
der Camion ˜truck™ der Lastwagen
der Coiffeur ˜haircutter™ der Friseur
der F¨ hrer ˜car driver™
u der Autofahrer
gl¨ tten ˜to iron™
a b¨ geln
der Hausmeister ˜homeowner™ der Hausbesitzer
die Maturit¨ t (school-leaving exam)
a das Abitur
merci ˜thank you™ danke
R¨ sti ˜fried potatoes™
o Bratkartoffeln
schlimm ˜clever™ schlau
das Velo ˜bicycle™ das Fahrrad
der Vortritt ˜right-of-way™ der Vorfahrt

(14) German Standard German Swiss Standard German
a. die Couch ˜couch™ der Couch
b. die Semmel ˜roll™ der Semmel
c. das Drittel ˜third™ der Drittel

In the case of the word for ˜radio™, gender assignment in SSG is identical to
gender assignment in colloquial German in southern Germany (der Radio), in
contrast to gender assignment in GSG (das Radio).

6.4 German in Austria

6.4.1 Overview
In Austria, as in central and southern Germany, we ¬nd a standard“colloquial“
dialect continuum. Wiesinger (1990:443) makes a four-way distinction when
describing the speech varieties in Austria (particularly in the east and south):
primary dialect, regional dialect, colloquial speech, and the standard, which
we label Austrian Standard German (ASG). ASG, described below, differs
in pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary from GSG. With the exception
of the dialects of Vorarlberg in the west, which (like Swiss German) are
Alemannic dialects, Austrian dialects belong to the Bavaro-Austrian dialect
area. Colloquial speech re¬‚ects a leveling between dialect and the standard.
For example, in the Weinviertel of Lower Austria about 20 to 70 kilometers
from Vienna, heim [hoɐm] ˜home™ is used in primary dialect in the phrase
meaning ˜to go home™. In ASG, ˜home™ is rendered as nach Haus [n‘¦x h‘oz].
The colloquial form, zu Haus [dz aoz] ˜home™, acts as a mediating intermediate
Regional variation 225

form (Wiesinger 1990:444“445).13 Most speakers have competence in more
than one variety of speech in the continuum from standard to dialect and will
use these varieties differently depending on the situation and conversational
Roughly three-quarters of the population in Austria can be regarded as dialect
speakers, with the use of dialect being stronger in rural areas and small towns
than in cities. However, dialect is becoming restricted more and more to con-
versations with close friends and family, and colloquial speech and the standard
are used with greater frequency as the social distance between conversational
partners and the formality of the conversational situation increases. In general,
colloquial language is favored as the form of everyday speech in the middle
and upper classes, especially in towns.14

6.4.2 Austrian Standard German
The main Austrian work that codi¬es ASG is the Osterreichisches W¨ rterbuch
(Back et al. 2006), now in its fortieth edition, with over 80,000 entries. The cur-
rent version, which follows the most recent spelling reforms, aims to describe
Austrian German, in particular the features in vocabulary, pronunciation, gram-
mar, and phraseology that are peculiar to the language. It includes many tech-
nical terms as well as common vocabulary. In addition to pronunciation, gram-
matical information (gender, genitive and plural endings, etc.), and de¬nitions,
lexical entries include information regarding style (e.g., ugs. = umgangssprach-
lich ˜colloquial™), origin, and regional distribution. In this respect it describes
more than just the standard language. It includes the of¬cial spelling rules of
2006 and provides pertinent information and overviews on language and gram-
mar as well as spelling, and thus codi¬es more than just spelling, vocabulary,
and pronunciation.
Some examples of the special features of ASG pronunciation, grammar, and
vocabulary are provided in the following sections. Pronunciation One Austrian feature in the pronunciation of
vowels is the use of [”] (instead of [a]) as the realization of /a/ (C. Hall
(15) German Standard German Austrian Standard German
a. [a]st ˜branch™ [”]st
b. B[a]cke ˜cheek™ B[”]cke
Another systemic difference in the pronunciation of vowels involves the diph-
thong /a©/. In GSG this is realized as [a©]; in ASG, the vocalic member of the
diphthong has a less “open” pronunciation. According to Hall (2003:104), for
example, a typical realization of this diphthong in Austria is [µe]. A word like
226 German

kein ˜no™, for example, would be pronounced k[µe]n in ASG rather than k[a©]n,
as in GSG.
A feature of the pronunciation of vowels in ASG that is lexically governed
involves schwa ([™]). In words borrowed from French, word-¬nal schwa is
deleted. For example, GSG [™] in the following words is not pronounced in
ASG: Chanc[™] ˜chance™, Cliqu[™] ˜clique™, Nuanc[™] ˜nuance™.
As in SSG, there are differences between ASG and GSG in vowel length in
a number of words. Some of the words that exhibit such differences are also
found in SSG; others are not. The following examples exhibit pronunciations
that are unique to ASG (Back et al. 2006).
(16) German Standard German Austrian Standard German
a. Ch[µ]f ˜boss™ Ch[e¦]f
b. H[u¦]sten ˜cough™ H[…]sten
c. Beh[ø¦]rde ˜authorities™ Beh[“]rde
d. Gran[i¦]t ˜granite™ Gran[©]t
Although ASG has both [c] and [x] in its phonetic inventory, it differs from
GSG in the distribution of these sounds. In particular, ASG has [x] following
/r/ instead of [c], as in GSG (Clyne 1995:37).
(17) German Standard German Austrian Standard German
a. dur[c] ˜through™
¸ dur[x]
b. Kir[c]e ˜church™
¸ Kir[x]e
AGS has initial [k] in words of foreign origin where GSG has [c], a feature
it shares with colloquial German spoken in southern Germany (Back et al.
(18) German Standard German Austrian Standard German
a. [c]ina ˜China™
¸ [k]ina
b. [c]emie ˜chemistry™
¸ [k]emie
Word accent in ASG differs from that in GSG in a number of words, examples
of which are the following (Back et al. 2006:809):
(19) German Standard German Austrian Standard German
a. Vati"kan ˜Vatican™ "Vatikan
b. "Tabak ˜tobacco™ Ta"bak
c. Mathema"tik ˜mathematics™ Mathe"matik Grammar In word formation we ¬nd various differences
between ASG and GSG. For example, a derivational suf¬x that is particu-
larly productive in ASG but not found in GSG is -(e)rl (Clyne 1995:39).16
Regional variation 227

(20) a. Hintert¨ rl ˜back door™
b. Schnackerl ˜hiccups™
c. Wimmerl ˜pimple™17

In the formation of compounds, we ¬nd differences between ASG and GSG
(and SSG) in the use of in¬‚ectional af¬xes and linking elements.
(21) German Standard German Austrian Standard German
a. Toilettenpapier ˜toilet paper™ Toilettepapier
b. Fabrikbesitzer ˜factory owner™ Fabriksbesitzer
c. Aufnahmepr¨ fung ˜entrance exam™
u Aufnahmspr¨ fung
There are various differences between ASG and GSG in the conjugation
of particular verbs. Like SSG and colloquial southern German, ASG uses the
auxiliary sein ˜to be™ in the present perfect with the verbs liegen ˜to lie™, sitzen
˜to sit™, and stehen ˜to stand™. A feature unique to ASG is the absence of
distinct past participle forms for the modal verbs d¨ rfen ˜to be allowed to™,
k¨ nnen ˜to be able to™, and m¨ gen ˜to like™. Instead of using past participles
o o
in the perfect, as in GSG, we ¬nd the in¬nitive in ASG. For example, we
¬nd ASG hat d¨ rfen ˜has been allowed to™ instead of GSG hat gedurft (Clyne
A feature that is unique to the syntax of ASG is the placement of the auxiliary
in subordinate clauses with two in¬nitives. In GSG the order is auxiliary verb
+ main verb + modal verb. In ASG, the order is main verb + auxiliary verb +
modal verb.
(22) . . . obwohl sie andauernd etwas sagen hatte wollen . . . (attested;
cited in Stubkj¦r 1993:48)
although she constantly something to-say had to-want
˜ . . . although she constantly had wanted to say something . . . ™
GSG: . . . hatte sagen wollen Vocabulary There are many lexical items that are unique to
ASG. Table 6.5 lists some of the common words that are distinctively Austrian.
Some nouns in ASG have genders that differ from those in GSG. For example,
we ¬nd ASG der Gehalt ˜salary™, in contrast to GSG das Gehalt. There are a
number of examples where an ASG word has a choice of gender, but GSG has
only one (Clyne 1995:40).
(23) German Standard German Austrian Standard German
a. die Brezel ˜pretzel™ die/das Brezel
b. der Kunde ˜client™ der/die Kunde
c. der Monat ˜month™ der/das Monat
228 German

Table 6.5 Vocabulary in Austrian Standard German

Austrian Standard German German Standard German

die Abwasch ˜sink™ das Sp¨ lbecken
Feber ˜February™ Februar
Flugpost ˜airmail™ Luftpost
J¨ nner ˜January™
a Januar
die Jause ˜snack™ die Zwischenmahlzeit
das Nachtmahl ˜supper™ das Abendessen
der Polster ˜cushion™ das Kissen
die Putzerei ˜dry cleaners™ die chemische Reinigung
raunzen ˜to moan, whine™ jammern
die Schale ˜cup™ die Tasse
der Sessel ˜chair™ der Stuhl
das Spital ˜hospital™ das Krankenhaus

Some nouns in ASG have plural forms that differ from those in GSG. For
example, Kragen ˜collar™ and Wagen ˜car™ have an umlaut in the plural in ASG
(Kr¨ gen, W¨ gen), whereas they have “zero” plurals in GSG (Kragen, Wagen).
a a

6.5 German in the East and West
Germany was a divided nation for 45 years, beginning with its division into
four occupation zones in 1945 and then into two separate states in 1949, the
German Democratic Republic (GDR) and the Federal Republic of Germany
(FRG), and ending with reuni¬cation in 1990. Although each state produced
independent grammars and spelling and pronunciation dictionaries during the
period of division, signi¬cant differences between the two varieties of German
were to be found not in morphology, syntax, orthography, or pronunciation,
but in the lexicon.18 The very different political ideologies and economic and
social realities of the two states were re¬‚ected at the level of vocabulary, in the
inventory of lexical items, and in the meanings and use of these items.
In the GDR, new words were created (with borrowed and/or native material)
to express new entities and concepts (Russ 1994:107“111).

(24) a. das Aktiv ˜work team™ (Elternaktiv, Ernteaktiv, Gewerkschaftsaktiv,
Lernaktiv, Parteiaktiv)
b. die Aspirantur ˜research assistantship™
c. das Kombinat ˜large state concern™ (Fischkombinat, Textilkombinat)
d. das Kollektiv ˜work or production group for the achievement of
common goals™ (Autorenkollektiv, Architektenkollektiv,
Jugendkollektiv, Schriftstellerkollektiv, Schulkollektiv)
Regional variation 229

Existing words were given new meanings (Russ 1994:107“108).

(25) a. Brigade (new meaning: ˜work team or group™)
b. differenzieren (new meaning: ˜assess the delivery of agricultural

Words acquired connotations in the GDR that differed from their connotations
in the FRG. Words like Kommunist ˜communist™, Revolution ˜revolution™, and
Klassenkampf ˜class struggle™ had positive connotations in the GDR, but neg-
ative connotations in the FRG, whereas the opposite was true of words like
christlich ˜Christian™, idealistisch ˜idealistic™, and Dissident ˜dissident™ (Russ
1994:108). The in¬‚uence of English also differed in the two countries. Many
words borrowed from English made their way into the language in the FRG,
whereas only a handful could be found in the GDR, for example, das Meeting
˜political meeting™, die Rallye ˜car or motorcycle rally™, and der Broiler ˜roast
chicken™ (Clyne 1995:72).
In the GDR there was also a “public register,” used by the party and its func-
tionaries, the government, schools, military, and media (Hellmann 1978:27“30;
Fraas and Steyer 1992:175).19 This public means of communication was not
limited to party and government of¬cials; each citizen had some competence
(passive/active) in this register (Hellmann 1978:27). It was characterized by
its use of abstract lexical items, nominalizations, compound adjectives, clus-
tering of noun phrases, especially in the genitive, and repetition, and “by its
verbosity and semantic barrenness” (Clyne 1995:69). In the following example,
note in particular the use of the genitive (der Qualit¨ t und [der] Wirksamkeit
der . . . Betreung ˜of the quality and effectiveness . . . of the care™; des Betriebs-
gesundheitswesens ˜of the workplace health-care system™) and the compound
adjective (arbeitsmedizinischen ˜industrial medical™).

(26) Die Verordnung orientiert auf die weitere Erh¨ hung der Qualit¨ t
o a
und Wirksamkeit der ambulanten medizinischen sowie
arbeitsmedizinischen Betreuung in den Einrichtungen des
˜The regulation gives directions concerning the further increase in
quality and effectiveness of out-patients™ medical and industrial
medical care in institutions of health in the workplace.™ (attested;
Clyne 1995:69)

The private register, in contrast, was not so strikingly different from its West
German counterpart (Fraas and Steyer 1992:176). For example, the Berlin wall
was called the antifaschistischer Schutzwall ˜anti-Fascist rampart of protection™
in the public register, but was simply the Mauer ˜wall™ in the private register
(Schlosser 1999:163“164).
230 German

During the period of division, there was a long-standing debate about the sta-
tus of German in the two states: Were there two different national varieties of
German, on a par with the national varieties in Austria and Switzerland “
the Viervariantenthese ˜four varieties thesis™ (Lerchner 1974) “ or one?
Although this debate is now moot,20 one can still ask to what extent the lin-
guistic differences that existed prior to the Wende and subsequent reuni¬cation
remain today.21
One of the most important changes in the language of the East was the disap-
pearance of the old public register (Fraas and Steyer 1992:176), the reclaiming
of an unmanipulated public language (Schlosser 1999:184). A “semipublic”
register, which had been used in intellectual circles, in the churches, and in
opposition groups, spread into the public domain (Fraas and Steyer 1992:175“
177). The new public discourse conformed quickly to the model of the West
(Fraas and Steyer 1992:176).
Differences in the lexicon, however, did not disappear “ at least not entirely.
Some words that were unique to the GDR lexicon persist as regional terms, and
are labeled as such in the most recent Duden spelling dictionary (Dudenredak-


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