. 9
( 12)


tion 2006): der Broiler ˜roast chicken™, die Datsche ˜country cottage™, die
Plaste ˜plastic™, die Zielstellung ˜objective™. Although there are other terms
whose referents no longer exist, these terms continue to be used in discussions
of the past and they can still be found in reference works. The Duden spelling
dictionary de¬nitions of terms like erweiterte Oberschule ˜upper secondary
school™ and Elternaktiv ˜parent representatives of a school class™, for example,
include the phrase in der DDR ˜in the GDR™, an indication of their “historical”
The of¬cial attitude towards foreign words has changed since the fall of the
Wall. A once negative (of¬cial) view of English words in the GDR has given
way to an increase in their use. Sch¨ nfeld and Schlobinski (1995:125“126), for
example, note a considerable rise in the number of foreign words used in East
Berlin, and cite the following examples from English: Timing, out, Crash-Kurs,
Count-down, Discounter.
Following forty years of separation, however, with different manners of
speaking, different expressions, the special use of particular words, special lin-
guistic habits, attitudes, and behavior, and very different experiences (M¨ ller
1994:119), linguistic unity has not been a simple process. Good (1993) speaks
of a Kultur des Mißverst¨ ndnisses ˜culture of misunderstanding™ in a united
Germany. In a brief article on the dif¬culties in communication between
Germans from the East and West, Fraas (1993:260) writes of the constant
sense of speaking at cross-purposes (aneinander vorbeireden) “ in spite of a
shared native language “ that characterizes an internal division in a politically
united Germany. In his assessment of the linguistic differences that still exist
nine years after the end of the GDR, Schlosser (1999:245) writes that innere
Regional variation 231

1. ik/ich isogloss (Urdingen Line)
2. maken/machen isogloss (Benrath Line)
3. Dorp/Dorf isogloss (Eifel Barrier)
4. dat/das isogloss (Hunsr¨ ck Barrier)
5. appel/apfel isogloss (Germersheim Line)
6. pund/fund isogloss
7. Kind/Chind isogloss (Sundgau-Bodensee Barrier)
Figure 6.1 Isoglosses of the High German Consonant Shift (modi¬ed from
Wells 1985:428)

Einheit ˜internal unity™ has by no means been achieved, and that only through
constant efforts towards mutual understanding can it be attained.22

6.6 The German dialects

6.6.1 Introduction
The modern German dialects are typically classi¬ed into three dialect areas,
Upper German, Central German, and Low German. Upper and Central German
together comprise the High German area. As mentioned in chapter 5, the extent
to which the High German Consonant Shift affected a dialect determines its
classi¬cation as Upper, Central, or Low German. The shift began in the south
and made its way northward. The furthest north was the shift of ¬nal — k to
ch. The ik/ich isogloss delineates the extent of this shift (see Figure 6.1).23
North of this isogloss, Germanic — k in word-¬nal position remains unshifted,
as in ik ˜I™; south of this isogloss ¬nal — k shifted to ch [x], as in ich. The ik/ich
¨ ¨
isogloss is also known as the Urdingen Line (Urdinger Linie), since Urdingen
is the town where the isogloss crosses the Rhine. The shift of medial — k did
232 German

not spread as far north; it is represented by the maken/machen isogloss, known
as the Benrath Line (Benrather Linie), since it crosses the Rhine at Benrath (a
district of D¨ sseldorf). The major isoglosses of the High German Consonant
Shift that play a role in delineating the modern German dialects are sketched in
Figure 6.1. The Low German dialects lie to the north of the maken/machen
isogloss; the Upper German dialects lie to the south of the appel/apfel isogloss;
and the Central German dialects lie between the two. The remaining isoglosses
play a role in determining the dialect boundaries within these three main dialect
areas (see below for further discussion).
Two other sound changes, in addition to the High German Consonant Shift,
are used to classify the modern German dialects: the (Early) New High German
(NHG) Diphthongization (which, roughly speaking, did not affect the Low
German dialects or the Alemannic area of the Upper German dialects) and
the (Early) New High German (NHG) Monophthongization (which affected
essentially only the Central German dialects).
The discussion in the following sections presents further details of the geo-
graphic spread of these sound changes (the High German Consonant Shift,
NHG Diphthongization, and NHG Monophthongization) and the role they play
in the delineation of the three major dialect areas and the dialects within these
areas. Additional salient features of the dialects are also identi¬ed. Only the
main divisions and subdivisions in each of the three dialect areas will be iden-
ti¬ed and discussed brie¬‚y.24
In the discussion of German in Switzerland and Austria (in sections 6.3 and
6.4), the role of dialect in comparison to the standard language and colloquial
speech was addressed. What can be said about dialect use in Germany? The
situation in central and southern Germany is similar to the situation in Austria in
that there is a standard“colloquial“dialect continuum. The following examples
(from Große 1955, cited in K¨ nig 2004:135) illustrate some of the many pos-
sible gradations from dialect to standard in the Meißen (Upper Saxon) dialect
area in central Germany.

(27) s ward b¯ e uanfang mid r¯ in
a a

s ward b¯ le anfang mit r¯ n
s w¨ rd balde anfang mit r¨ chn
a a
s werd balde anfang dse r¨ chn
s wird bald anfang dsu r¯ chnen
(es wird bald anfangen zu regnen ˜it will soon begin to rain™)

In northern Germany, there is no continuum of colloquial speech between the
standard and dialect. Colloquial speech is more a stylistically relaxed form of
the standard, and there is a gap between dialect on the one hand and the standard
on the other (K¨ nig 2004:135).25 Dialects in the north are further removed from
Regional variation 233

the standard than in central and southern Germany because of the absence of
the effects of the High German Consonant Shift in the north.
In both Germany and Austria, there has been a decline in local dialects in
favor of regional ones because of factors such as urbanization, commuter mobil-
ity, and improved communication and educational opportunities. In southern
Germany, dialects are used far more than in the north, where they are more
stigmatized (Clyne 1995:118). South Germans have a high degree of local
identity, so dialect is more likely to serve as a marker of identity in southern
Germany than in the north (Clyne 1995:97“98). Dialects have acquired new
functions in recent years. For example, dialect is now being used for radio call-
in shows; radio weather reports; radio, TV, and street advertisements; columns
in local and regional newspapers; and slogans and pamphlets of action groups
(Clyne 1995:112; Stevenson 1997:63). Dialect has also become the language
of protest, and a resurgence of dialect use in Germany and Austria is closely
connected with the “green” (conservation) movement (Clyne 1995:112“113).
Dialect revival (localization) can also be viewed as part of the resistance to
globalization (manifested linguistically, for example, in the spread of English
as the leading international language); see Fishman 1998. This revival of dialect
can be seen in spite of a continuing movement away from dialect in many parts
of Germany, motivated in part by the role of the standard language in education
(Clyne 1995:118“119).

6.6.2 Upper German dialects
The Upper German dialects lie to the south of the appel/apfel isogloss, that
is, south of the Germersheim Line.26 The German dialects south of this line
underwent the full extent of the High German Consonant Shift, traditionally
illustrated with the words ich ˜I™, machen ˜to make™, Dorf ˜village™, das ˜the™,
Apfel ˜apple™, and Pfund ˜pound™.
The Upper German dialect area is typically divided into three further areas,
Alemannic, Upper Franconian, and Bavaro-Austrian.27 Each of these areas
is further subdivided: Alemannic into Swabian and Low, High, and Highest
Alemannic; Upper Franconian into South and East Franconian; and Bavaro-
Austrian into North, Central, and South Bavaro-Austrian.
The Alemannic dialects are spoken in the German-speaking area of Switzer-
land, in the Austrian Vorarlberg, in Alsace (France), and in the German state
of Baden-W¨ rttemberg.
With the exception of Swabian (see below), the Alemannic dialects retain the
MHG monophthongs ˆ, u, and iu [u¦] ([u¦]f Schw[i¦]zerd[y¦]tsch ˜auf Schwei-
zerdeutsch™). That is, they were not affected by the NHG Diphthongization.
They were also not affected by the NHG Monophthongization. Like all Upper
German dialects (with the exception of most Upper Franconian dialects), the
234 German

Alemannic dialects retain the MHG diphthongs ie, uo, and ue as diphthongs,
with /ie/ in lieb ˜dear™, either /ie/ or /ye/ in m¨ de ˜tired™, and /ue/ in gut ˜good™
(Barbour and Stevenson 1990:88).
Swabian is the one Alemannic dialect that diphthongized the MHG monoph-
thongs ˆ, u, and iu. MHG ˆ and iu are both realized as /™i/ in Swabian: steif
±ˆ ±
[ʃd™if] ˜stiff™; heulen [h™il™] ˜to cry™; MHG u is realized as /™u/: Raupe [r™up]
˜caterpillar™ (Russ 1990c:346). Another feature of Swabian phonology is the
loss of n before s, with nasalization of a preceding vowel (Niebaum and Macha
1999:197): Gans [ a)s] ˜goose™ (Stevenson 1997:71).
The Alemannic dialects in the narrow sense (the Swiss German dialects),
with their retention of the MHG monophthongs and diphthongs, provide us with
a living example of features of an earlier stage of the language that are no longer
found (in this combination) in other varieties of German. The German dialects
in Wallis (Highest Alemannic dialects), which have retained the long vowels of
OHG endings in essentially unreduced form, are particularly fascinating. For
example, the plural forms of Tag ˜day™ in Wallis German are Taga (nominative,
accusative), Tago (genitive), and Tagu(n) (dative) (Schirmunski 1962:163).
Other examples are schi s¨ gunt (sie sagen) ˜they say™ and trichu (trinken) ˜to
drink™ (Baur 1983:148).
The Kind/Chind isogloss (see Figure 6.1) serves to distinguish Low Aleman-
nic (Kind) from High (and Highest) Alemannic (Chind).
All the Alemannic dialects (as well as the Upper Franconian dialects)
form diminutives with an l-suf¬x that ends in a vowel (Niebaum and Macha
1999:197). In High Alemannic, for example, we ¬nd -li or -eli: H¨ ndli, H¨ ndeli
u u
˜doggy™ (Russ 1990b:380). In Swabian, the diminutive suf¬x is -le (Niebaum
and Macha 1999:197).
u u¨
The following sentences from Z¨ rit¨ utsch, spoken in the Canton of
Z¨ rich, illustrate some features of (High) Alemannic (from Russ 1990b:

u u¨
(28) Z¨ rit¨ utsch
En ch¨ ele Wind strycht uber s Land und bewegt daa und deet es
Gresli. D Luft isch na chalt, und w¨ nn e Bluem wott uufgaa, so

verschrickt si ab der Ch¨ eli und planget uf der W¨ ermi vo der Sune.
Ein k¨ hler Wind streicht uber das Land und bewegt da und dort ein
Gr¨ slein. Die Luft ist noch kalt, und wenn eine Blume sich
aufmachen will, so erschrickt sie von der K¨ hle und sehnt sich
nach der W¨ rme von der Sonne.
˜A chilly wind brushes over the countryside and moves blades of
grass here and there. The air is still cold and when a ¬‚ower wants to
open itself up it recoils from the chill and longs for the warmth of
the sun.™
Regional variation 235

Notice the ch for initial — k in words like Ch¨ eli (K¨ hle) ˜chill™ and chalt (kalt)
u u
˜cold™, a feature of High Alemannic. Another feature of High Alemannic is the
diminutive suf¬x -li in Gresli (Gr¨ slein) ˜blade of grass™. A feature that belongs
to Alemannic proper is the “old” diphthongs in ch¨ el- (k¨ hl- < MHG k¨ el-)
u u u
˜cool™ and Bluem (Blume < MHG bluome) ˜¬‚ower™. The “old” monophthong
ˆ ˆa
u in uufgaa (aufgehen < MHG ufgˆ n) ˜to open™ is a feature of Upper German
in general.
The Upper Franconian dialects are spoken in southern central Germany north
of the Swabian dialect area and west of the North Bavaro-Austrian dialect
area. In these dialects (as in Swabian and the Bavaro-Austrian dialects), the
MHG monophthongs ˆ, u, and iu have been diphthongized. For example, in
East Franconian we ¬nd [za©] sein ˜his™ < MHG sˆn and [z‘uv] saufen ˜to
drink™ < MHG sˆ fen (Rowley 1990:414). In addition, most of the Upper
Franconian dialects differ from all the other Upper German dialects through
their monophthongization of the MHG diphthongs ie, uo, and ue. In East
Franconian we ¬nd, for example, [bi™] Bier ˜beer™ < MHG bier and [ ™nux]
genug ˜enough™ < MHG genuoc (Rowley 1990:414). The Upper Franconian
dialects are thus very similar to the Central German dialects with respect to
NHG Diphthongization and Monophthongization (the Central German dialects
underwent both sound changes). However, given their full participation in the
High German Consonant Shift, the Upper Franconian dialects are classi¬ed as
Upper rather than Central German.
Like the Alemannic dialects, Upper Franconian forms diminutives with an
l-suf¬x that ends in a vowel. In Upper Franconian, the diminutive suf¬x is
-la (Niebaum and Macha 1999:197). The ¬rst and third person plural present
indicative verb endings are -e(n) in Upper Franconian, in contrast to Swabian,
in which they are -et (Niebaum and Macha 1999:197).
The Bavaro-Austrian dialects are spoken primarily in southern Germany and
Austria. North Bavaro-Austrian is spoken in the Upper Palatinate and Upper
Franconia; Central Bavaro-Austrian is spoken in Upper and Lower Bavaria and
Upper and Lower Austria; South Bavaro-Austrian is spoken in the Austrian
states of Styria (Steiermark), Carinthia (K¨ rnten), and Tyrol.
One of the features that distinguishes the Bavaro-Austrian dialects from
the other Upper German dialects is the use of old dual forms, es and eŋk,
in place of the second person plural forms of the personal pronouns, ihr and
euch (Schirmunski 1962:29). A second feature is the form of the diminutive
suf¬x. In the Bavaro-Austrian dialects, this suf¬x is -el (-l, -erl) (Niebaum
and Macha 1999:197). For example, the North Bavaro-Austrian diminutive of
[ h”ts] (Katze) ˜cat™ is [ hatsl] or [ hats™rl] (Rowley 1990:434).
The various Bavaro-Austrian dialects can be distinguished from each other
by at least one feature. In North Bavaro-Austrian, MHD uo has become ou:
MHG bruoder ˜brother™ > Brouder (Bruder). In the other Bavaro-Austrian
dialects it has become ua: Bruader (Niebaum and Macha 1999:198). In Central
236 German

Bavaro-Austrian, l before a consonant is vocalized: Salz ˜salt™ > Soiz; Feld
˜¬eld™ > F¨ it (Niebaum and Macha 1999:198). In South Bavaro-Austrian,

Germanic k has been shifted to [kx] initially, when geminated, and sometimes
following a consonant: kxlu™g (klug) ˜clever™, trukx™ (trocken) ˜dry™, deŋkx™
(denken) ˜to think™ (Schirmunski 1962:30).
The following sentences, from southern Central Bavaro-Austrian, contain
some words with features that are typical of this dialect area (Wiesinger

(29) Southern Central Bavaro-Austrian
[dɐ v”…dɐ h”…dn rµχt µɐn kh”…p den ”©dn kχ ra©dzbra¦vm m”)¦]
Der Vater hat ihn recht gern gehabt, den alten kreuzbraven Mann.
˜Father liked him a lot, the very brave man.™
[d”¦ iz a…z wµ©n m˜˜ v”…dɐ h”…d niks lap v”) a©stɐ]
b. a±
. . . da ist es aus gewesen, mein Vater hat nichts geglaubt von
˜. . . then it was ¬nished, my father did not believe anything about
[i muɐs µNkχ ”)¦ vɐdz¨ ¦n]
c. e
Ich muss es euch schon erz¨ hlen.
˜I must tell you.™
[liɐwɐ vri¦z ©n zµ©m]
Lieber fresse ich ihn selber.
˜I™d rather eat it myself.™
e. [un h”)¦ voijɐ m”χt]
und habe Feuer gemacht
˜and made a ¬re™

In (29a), the [©] in [”©dn] (alten) ˜old™ is an example of vocalized l, a feature of
Central Bavaro-Austrian. The affricate [kχ] in [kχra©dzbra¦vm] (kreuzbraven)
˜very brave™ in (29a) and [µNkχ] (euch) ˜you™ in (29c) is a feature of South
Bavaro-Austrian, but it is not surprising to ¬nd it in neighboring southern
Central Bavaro-Austrian. We ¬nd evidence of the NHG Diphthongization in
[a…z] (aus < MHG us) ˜out™ and [ma)±] (mein < MHG mˆn) ˜my™ in (29b),
typical of the Upper German area (with the exception of the Alemannic dialects
proper). The word [liɐwɐ] (lieber) ˜rather™ in (29d), with the old diphthong
[iɐ], demonstrates the absence of the NHG Monophthongization, typical of
all Upper German dialects (with the exception of Upper Franconian). The old
dual form [µNkχ] for the second person plural pronoun euch ˜you™ in (29c) is a
feature that is typically Bavaro-Austrian. Various words in (29), in addition to
those with the affricate [kχ ], provide evidence of the High German Consonant
Shift, which is characteristic of the entire Upper German area: [a…z] (aus;
Regional variation 237

cf. Eng. out); [vɐdz¨ ¦n] (erz¨ hlen; cf. Eng. tell); [ m”χt] (gemacht; cf. Eng.
e a

6.6.3 Central German dialects
The Central German dialects lie to the north of the appel/apfel isogloss (the
Germersheim Line) and to the south of the ik/ich and maken/machen isoglosses
(the Urdingen and Benrath lines, respectively). The Benrath line is typically
cited as the boundary that separates the Central German dialects from their
Low German neighbors to the north. It crosses the Rhine at Benrath and runs to
the east in the area of Magdeburg and Berlin. The Germersheim Line begins in
the west, south of Saarbr¨ cken, crossing the Rhine at Germersheim, and then
goes north-east, to the east of Frankfurt, and then east, south of Erfurt, to the
Czech border.
The isoglosses of the High German Consonant Shift that lie between the
the Benrath Line and Germersheim Line (see Figure 6.1) play an important
role in distinguishing the major Central German dialects from each other. The
pund/fund isogloss (running roughly north“south to the east of Kassel) separates
the West Central German dialects (pund) from the East Central German dialects
(fund). In the west, the Dorp/Dorf isogloss (Eifel Barrier) separates Ripuarian
(Dorp) from Mosel Franconian (Dorf ), and the dat/das isogloss (Hunsr¨ ck u
Barrier) separates Mosel Franconian (dat) from Rhenish Franconian (das). The
isoglosses in the west, from the Benrath Line to the Germersheim Line, are
known as the Rhenish fan (Rheinischer F¨ cher) because of the fan-like shape
they form as they spread out from east to west (see Figure 6.1). The two main
East Central German dialects are Thuringian and Upper Saxon.
NHG Monophthongization is a feature that applies to all the Central German
dialects. In South Hessian (a Rhenish Franconian dialect), for example, we ¬nd
monophthongs for the MHG diphthongs ie, uo, and ue: liib (lieb) ˜dear™, Bluud
(Blut) ˜blood™, griise (gr¨ ßen) ˜to greet™ (Durrell and Davies 1990:226). The
Central German dialects typically have also undergone NHG Diphthongiza-
tion. For example, in South Hessian we ¬nd diphthongs for the MHG monoph-
thongs ˆ, u, and iu [y¦]: draiwe (treiben) ˜to drive™, Braud (Braut) ˜bride™, and
haid (heute) ˜today™ (Durrell and Davies 1990:226). Only Riuparian and some
Rhenish Franconian dialects do not show diphthongization.
A morphological feature that is characteristic of all Central German dialects
is the use of the diminutive suf¬x -chen. A morphological feature that serves
to distinguish Upper Saxon from its neighbor to the west, Thuringian, is the
retention of ¬nal -n in the in¬nitive: Upper Saxon [sa¦ ™n] (sagen ˜to say™),
[le¦s™n] (lesen ˜to read™); Thuringian [sa¦ ™], [le¦s™] (Bergmann 1990:293).
The phrases and sentences in (30) are from Westpf¨ lzisch, a dialect of Rhen-
ish Franconian. In this area we expect to ¬nd shifted — p, — t, and — k, with the
238 German

exception of unshifted — -pp- and — p-, as well as NHG Monophthongization and
Westpf¨ lzisch29
(30) a
[f”r siw™ p µn©c] (Karch 1980:16)
a. ¸
f¨ r sieben Pfennig
˜for seven pennies™
[le¦di lic hame¦r unɐ uns di ebl f™dµ¦ld ™had] (Karch 1980:86)
b. ¸
Lediglich haben wir unter uns die Apfel verteilt gehabt.
˜We had simply divided up the apples among us.™
c. [sund’Ú s med’¦ s k’mɐ dµs j” m’x™] (Karch 1980:12)
Sonntags mittags kann man das ja machen.
˜Sunday afternoons one can do that.™
d. [j”¦ n d’n h”d mɐ sa¦i ha¦us’¦w™t ] (Karch 1980:12)
Ja, und dann hat man seine Hausarbeit.
˜Yes, and then one has one™s housework.™
e. [dan kum™ diÚ bu¦w™] (Karch 1980:20)
Dann kommen die Buben.
˜Then the boys come.™
f. [mir w”ln™ di¦fbrun™ b”¦r™] (Karch 1980:26)
Wir wollen einen Tiefbrunnen bohren.
˜We want to drill a deep well.™
In (30a) we see unshifted — p- in [p µn©c] (Pfennig) ˜penny™, and in (30b) we
¬nd unshifted -pp- in [ebl] (Apfel) ˜apples™. Examples of shifted — k and — p
— ¨
can be found in [m’x™] (machen) ˜to make™ in (30c) and in [di¦f] (tief) ˜deep™
in (30f). The phrase [sa¦i ha¦us’¦w™t ] (seine Hausarbeit) ˜one™s housework™
in (30d) provides evidence of NHG Diphthongization (MHG sˆn > sein and
MHG hˆ s > Haus). The words [bu¦w™] (Buben) ˜boys™ (< MHG buoben) in
(30e) and [di¦f] (tief) ˜deep™ (< MHG tief) in (30f) provide evidence of NHG

6.6.4 Low German dialects
The Low German dialects are spoken north of the Benrath Line in an area that
extends from the Dutch“German border in the west, the Dano-German border
in the north, and the German“Polish border in the east. The Low German area
is traditionally divided into West and East Low German. West Low German is
subdivided into North Saxon in the north and Westphalian and Eastphalian in the
south; East Low German is subdivided into Mecklenburgish-West Pomeranian
in the north and Brandenburgish in the south (Goltz and Walker 1990:31).
The Low German dialects are characterized by the general absence of the
effects of the High German Consonant Shift. In contrast to the Upper German
Regional variation 239

dialects, where we ¬nd the words ich, machen, Dorf, das, Apfel, and Pfund
(see section 6.6.2), in the Low German dialects we ¬nd ik, maken, Dorp, dat,
Appel, and Pund. An exception is the area between the Benrath Line and the
Urdingen Line, where Germanic — k in word-¬nal position has been shifted to
[c] in a small number of monosyllabic words such as ich ˜I™. The dialects in this
area are nevertheless characterized as Low German (Barbour and Stevenson
The Low German dialects (with the exception of some Westphalian dialects)
have not diphthongized the Middle Low German (MLG) monophthongs ¯, u, ±¯
and u (comparable to the MHG monophthongs ˆ, u, and iu). Compare, for
¨ ±ˆ
example, the following North Central Westphalian words, which all exhibit
monophthongal re¬‚exes of these MLG monophthongs, with their NHG cog-
nates, which contain diphthongs (Durrell 1990:71).

(31) Westphalian MLG NHG cognates
a. /i¦/ Tiid ± Zeit ˜time™
b. /u¦/ Huus u Haus ˜house™
u¨ ¨
c. /y¦/ H¨ user u H¨ user ˜houses™

There is no process of monophthongization in the Low German dialects that is
comparable to the NHG Monophthongization, since MLG had monophthongs
¯ ¯
(e.g., e and o) that corresponded to the MHG diphthongs (ie and uo).
The Low German dialects also have an initial [s] before a consonant, where
Central and Upper German dialects have [ʃ]: [s]ten (Stein) ˜stone™, [s]n¯den±
(schneiden) ˜to cut™ (Schirmunski 1962:31).
All the Low German dialects have a single plural ending (one for all persons)
in the present tense: -et in the West Low German dialects, -(e)n in the East
Low German (Niebaum and Macha 1999:195). All Low German dialects also
have a single non-nominative case for the personal pronouns. In the Eastphalian
dialects this corresponds to the accusative form in Standard German: mik (mich)
˜me™; dik (dich) ˜you™. In all other Low German dialects it corresponds to the
dative form in Standard German: mi (mir) ˜me™; di (dir) ˜you™ (Niebaum and
Macha 1999:196).
The following sentences are from an East Low German dialect of
Mecklenburgish-West Pomeranian (Sch¨ nfeld 1990:99, 131).30

(32) a. [vat m”¦kt di¦n j…N]
Was macht dein Junge?
˜How is your son?™
b. [©k hµv hy¦¦t hae hµt z©k dat baen br”¦ (n]
Ich habe geh¨ rt, er hat sich das Bein gebrochen.
˜I have heard that he has broken his leg.™
240 German

Notice the unshifted — t in [vat] in (32a) and [dat] in (32b) and the unshifted — k in
[m”¦kt] in (32a) and [©k] and [z©k] in (32b). Notice also the MLG monophthong
¯ in [di¦n] in (32a). The form of the third person singular masculine pronoun
in the nominative, hae in (32b), is another feature of Low German dialects,
one that it has in common with English (he), in contrast to the High German
dialects (er).

1. Identify which of the following words exhibit GSG pronunciation. Provide
the GSG pronunciation for those that do not.
(a) Chemiker ["k e¦mik ɐ]
(b) (eine) Blamage [p#la"ma¦ʃ]
(c) (sie) dachte ["ta¦xt ™]
(d) genehmigt [k™"ne¦m©ct ]
(e) Leber ["le¦p#™r]
(f) wuchs ["v…ks]
(g) Monate ["mo¦nat ™]
(h) Tier ["t i¦ɐ8]
2. Consult works like Meyer 1989 and Back et al. 2006 to determine how the
following words differ from their GSG counterparts (e.g., in pronunciation,
gender, meaning, spelling, in¬‚ection, etc.).
(a) SSG einladen
(b) SSG die Strasse
(c) SSG der Park
(d) SSG der Couch
(e) SSG die Badanstalt
(f) ASG die Brosche
(g) ASG liegen
(h) ASG das Cola
(i) ASG der Zugsverkehr
(j) ASG dreif¨ rbig
3. The following words are found in SSG, ASG, northern German, or southern
German. What are their GSG equivalents?
(a) r¨ ntgenisieren
(b) kl¨ nen
(c) der Advokat
(d) das Billett
(e) die Gasse
(f) die Stulle
(g) garagieren
Regional variation 241

(h) das Nachtessen
(i) pl¨ tten
(j) die Kassa
4. Keeping in mind what you know about the spread of the High German
Consonant Shift, NHG Diphthongization, and NHG Monophthongization,
identify the following texts as Upper, Central, or Low German.31 Provide
evidence in support of your conclusions.
(a) [ha© lµÚd™ z©k d‘t ‘t ”u¦t f‘n “Ún™ “ ”…n f‘Úʁt l”Úos( “ m©t • dµn ’¦ . . . z‘
z©n d‘˚ • t“©m]
er lieh sich das Rad aus von dem “ und f¨ hrt los “ mit dem Rad . . . so
sind die Zeiten
(b) [n’)¦ uɐd . . . hiat ne¦m ɐn ha©zl ”¦wɐ ©z d "l’nd dr”s vɐ"ba©
" ’N™ . . . n”¦xn "bra©tt’nts zµkt z wa© de¦z zake a…v dɐ dr”s li¦N]
nun gut . . . hart neben dem H¨ uslein aber ist die Landstraße vorbeige-
gangen . . . nach dem Brauttanz sieht das Weib das S¨ ckel auf der Straße
(c) [”…n m”jµ)s • ʃ‘©t • d‘n d© "m‘m‘ “ m‘xt • d‘t • d™ ’Ú…s k…mt “ ”µt
eÚt • tsµÚ • ©t]
und morgens schreit dann die Mama “ macht dass ihr raus kommt “ es
wird Zeit
(d) [™z © n¦xt© n” l‘N l©™xt ks© © d™ ts…mftʃt…b™n • …nd © d™ w©¦rtshyz™r . . .
d™r ʃt‘tʃrib™r pfi¦ft tswʃʃ™ zin™ ts¦nd™ dr™]
es ist gestern-Abend noch lange Licht gewesen in den Zunftstuben und in
den Wirtsh¨ usern . . . der Stadtschreiber pfeift zwischen seinen Z¨ hnen
a a

1 The transcriptions in this chapter for varieties of German other than the standard
language spoken in Germany are taken from their original sources and thus do not
follow the conventions established in chapter 1. Lenis stops are typically transcribed
using the symbols b, d, and g; the fortis stops are transcribed using p, t, and k;
aspiration of fortis stops is often not indicated.
2 The stereotype that “High German (the Hochsprache) comes from the north (e.g.,
Hanover)” re¬‚ects the fact that the ¬rst codi¬ed pronunciation of the standard (Siebs
1898) was based on the pronunciation of the north. See chapter 5, section 5.6, for
further details.
3 See chapter 5 for a discussion of the process by which Standard German developed
and was established.
4 The Standard German spoken in Switzerland, Swiss Standard German, and the
standard spoken in Austria, Austrian Standard German, differ from the Standard
German spoken in Germany, German Standard German. See sections 6.3.2 and 6.4.2
242 German

for discussion of the ways in which these national varieties of Standard German differ
from German Standard German.
5 Samstag is making headway in the west and north, no doubt in part because of the use
of Samstag by the railway and postal service (to better distinguish ˜Saturday™ from
Sonntag ˜Sunday™); Sonnabend is still common in the east, however (Dudenredaktion
2001: 735).
6 The linguistic situation in Switzerland and Austria will be treated in sections 6.3
and 6.4.
7 For further discussion, see chapter 1, section
8 See Barbour and Stevenson 1990:168 for discussion of other examples of regional
variation in the use of past tense forms.
9 See Barbour and Stevenson 1990:213 for further discussion.
10 See Werlen (2004:21“24) for further discussion of the factors that play a role in the
choice of SSG versus dialect.
11 For further discussion of the linguistic characteristics of SSG, see, for example,
Panizzolo 1982, Meyer 1989, Ammon et al. 1995:251“282, Clyne 1995:47“49, and
Rash 1998:154“166.
12 See Rash (1998:154“155) for a discussion of the reasons given for the absence of
<ß> in SSG orthography.
13 The phonetic transcriptions here are from Wiesinger 1990:444“445.
14 This summary of the linguistic situation in Austria is from Wiesinger 1990:
15 This is also a feature of speech in Bavaria (C. Hall 2003:87).
16 Derivational suf¬xes are those suf¬xes that are used to create new lexemes (words).
17 Wimmerl ˜pimple™ is also used in colloquial speech in Bavaria.
18 Two separate volumes of the Duden Rechtschreibung appeared during this time, one
published in West Germany (Mannheim), the other in East Germany (Leipzig). See
Russ 1994:102“107 for a discussion of these two works and others that codi¬ed the
two national varieties of German, as well as a discussion of the minor differences
(in spelling, pronunciation, and grammar) between the two varieties.
19 I follow Clyne (1995:69) and use the term “public register” for what is referred to as
“¨ ffentliche Sprache” (˜public speech™) or “¨ ffentlicher Sprachgebrauch” (˜public
o o
usage™) in works such as Hellmann 1978 and Fraas and Steyer 1992.
20 By the 1980s there was already a general consensus that although there were two
different communication communities (Kommunikationsgemeinschaften), there was
still a single speech community (Schlosser 1999:234).
21 The word Wende is the term that is now used for the transitional period between the
peaceful revolution in the GDR in the fall of 1989 and the incorporation of the GDR
into the FRG (reuni¬cation) on October 3, 1990.
22 For a comprehensive treatment of the sociolinguistic issues that have played a
role during the periods of national disunity and unity in Germany since 1945, see
Stevenson 2002.
23 An isogloss is a line drawn on a dialect map that indicates where one variant of a
linguistic form is used (on one side of the line) and where another variant is used
(on the other side of the line).
24 Further dialects can be identi¬ed within the main subdivisions, but will not be
addressed here.
Regional variation 243

25 See K¨ nig (2004:134) for a map that illustrates graphically the continuum in central
and southern Germany and the absence of a continuum in the north.
26 Strictly speaking, the Upper German dialects lie to the south of the Speyer Line,
the pund/pfund isogloss, which diverges (southward) from the appel/apfel isogloss
brie¬‚y in the area around the Rhine (Frings 1956:125). The Germersheim Line,
however, is typically cited as the northern border of the Upper German dialects.
27 We follow here the Upper German divisions in Stevenson 1997:70. Instead of the
term “Bavarian” we use “Bavaro-Austrian” to re¬‚ect the fact that these dialects are
spoken in Bavaria and Austria.
28 The phonetic transcriptions of southern Central Bavaro-Austrian have been simpli-
¬ed somewhat. The symbol [χ ] stands for a voiceless uvular fricative. The “velo-
palatals” [ © e µ] and “palato-velars” [u … o ”] are slightly centralized mid-tongue
vowels with “something of a [y] and [ø] quality” (Wiesinger 1990:510).
29 These phonetic transcriptions of Westpf¨ lzisch have been simpli¬ed somewhat. The
vowel [’] found in these examples is characterized by Karch (1980:2) as a rounded
low back vowel. Vowels that are half long are indicated by using the half-length
mark, Ú.
30 The diacritic ˚ indicates that a segment is voiceless.
31 These (slightly altered) texts are from Keller 1961, Bethge and Bonnin 1969, and
Russ 1990a. The linking symbol, • , indicates the absence of a break.
Sociolinguistic issues

7.1 Introduction
The sub¬eld of linguistics known as sociolinguistics deals with the relationship
between language and society.1 Sociolinguistic research seeks to achieve a
better understanding of the nature of language by investigating the way in
which language functions in social contexts.2
A concept that is important in sociolinguistic investigation is the notion of
variety. A variety is any form of language used by a particular group of speakers
that can be identi¬ed in social, regional, or situational terms. Language varieties
that can be de¬ned according to the social groups to which their speakers
belong are known as social dialects or sociolects. Sociolects can be identi¬ed
in terms of the social class of their speakers, their ethnicity, religion, occupation,
education, and so on. Those varieties of language that are associated with a
particular geographical area and that can thus be de¬ned in regional terms are
dialects (in the narrow sense of the term). The varieties of language known
as registers are the special forms that are used when dealing with a speci¬c
subject matter or when engaged in a particular activity.3 Law and medicine,
for example, are well-known technical registers. Styles are those varieties of a
language that differ according to their level of formality. Styles can range from
very formal to very informal.
In this chapter we will look at some issues in German sociolinguistics, a num-
ber of which involve different varieties of German. (Regionally de¬ned varieties
“ dialects “ were discussed in chapter 6.) Section 7.2 deals with the topic of
style and the kinds of linguistic variation that can be found in German that are
based on differences in levels of formality. Section 7.3 discusses the forms of
address in German and the rules that underlie the system of address, which are
determined by the social relationships between speakers and addressees. Some
issues in language and gender are treated in section 7.4. The issues discussed
here address recent efforts to change the ways in which gender is encoded in
German. Section 7.5 deals with the characteristics of Jugendsprache ˜youth
speech™, which is probably best treated as a kind of jargon, a register char-
acterized by obscure vocabulary, among other things. Section 7.6 deals with

Sociolinguistic issues 245

the language of foreign workers, and section 7.7 treats language contact, in
particular the borrowing that has played and continues to play a role in German
as a result of language contact.

7.2 Style

7.2.1 Introduction
The situation in which language is used plays an important role in determining
one™s speech style, that is, the level of formality of one™s speech. In a casual
conversation with friends, an informal speech style would be appropriate. If
one were to give a speech in a highly formal situation, very formal speech
would be required. Although style is best viewed as a continuum from very
informal to very formal, it is useful to identify several levels for the purpose of
comparison: colloquial (informal), neutral, and formal.
The medium of discourse can have an effect on style. For example, written
language tends to be more formal than spoken language. There are of course
exceptions. A personal letter would not as a rule contain highly formal language;
it could be quite informal, depending on the relationship between the writer and
the addressee. A speech delivered in a formal setting would typically employ
formal language. However, if a speech were not spontaneous, but read from a
text written prior to delivery, it would simply be an example of written language
delivered orally. News broadcasts are another example of written language that
is spoken aloud.
The level of formality is manifested in all aspects of language. It affects pro-
nunciation, word choice, grammatical structures used, and so on. For example,
in a setting where informal language would be appropriate, it would be odd for
a speaker to use vocabulary that is marked as formal. If someone were having
a casual conversation with friends and mentioned that someone had died, it
would be odd to express this using the verb ableben ˜to pass away™ “ marked as
gehoben ˜elevated™ in the Duden Rechtschreibung dictionary (Dudenredaktion
2006:155) “ rather than the neutral sterben ˜to die™. One could even imag-
ine a situation where abkratzen ˜to kick the bucket™ (labled derb ˜crude™ in
Dudenredaktion 2006:155) would be more appropriate than ableben. In the
following sections we will look at some additional examples of the ways in
which differences in style (levels of formality) can have an effect on language.

7.2.2 Stylistic variation Pronunciation The discussion of the phonetics and phonol-
ogy of German in chapter 1 focused on the pronunciation of individual sounds
and the pronunciation of these sounds in words in isolation. In actual speech,
246 German

however, words are not pronounced in isolation, but in utterances, and in
utterances one typically does not ¬nd the careful pronunciation of words
said in isolation “ the pronunciation found in dictionaries like the Duden
Aussprachew¨ rterbuch (Mangold 2005). Both tempo and style have an effect
on pronunciation, and the faster the tempo and more informal the style, the
greater the frequency in the assimilation, reduction, and deletion of sounds.
Even in slow, formal speech, however, which is characterized by clear, careful
enunciation, one can ¬nd examples of reduction. In the following discussion
we will focus on the informal end of the style continuum and look at examples
of assimilation, reduction, and deletion that can be found in colloquial speech.
Keep in mind that we are dealing with formality and informality in the standard
language. Similar, but different, processes will be found in other varieties of
Assimilation takes place when two segments become more alike in one or
more features. Recall, for example, the examples of assimilation discussed in
chapter 1 (voicing assimilation, Velar Fricative Assimilation, Nasal Assimila-
tion). The following are some examples of assimilation that can be found in
colloquial speech (Kohler 1995:207“210; C. Hall 2003:141“144).4
(1) Assimilation
a. [tk ]’ [kk ] hat kein ˜has no™ ["hak k a©n]
b. [sʃ]’ [ʃʃ] sch¨ nes Spiel ˜nice game™ [ʃø¦n™ʃ "ʃpi¦l]
c. [nm]’ [mm] kann man ˜can one™ [k am man]
[mp#]’ [mm] zum Beispiel ˜for example™ [ts…m"ma©ʃpi¦l]
e. [f]’ [v] hoff™ ich ˜hope I™ [h”v©c]
The examples in (1a) through (1c) involve assimilation of place of articulation
(of stops, fricatives, and nasals). (1d) is an example of assimilation of manner
of articulation (a stop becomes a nasal). (1e) involves voicing assimilation: a
voiceless fricative becomes voiced between two voiced segments (vowels).
When vowels are in unstressed positions, they are subject to a number of
reduction processes. Vowel Shortening, discussed in chapter 1 (section,
applies in all pronunciation styles of German, including formal speech.
(2) Vowel Shortening
a. den ˜the™ /te¦n/’ [ten]
b. nun ˜now™ /nu¦n/’ [nun]
Further reduction processes affect vowels in colloquial speech. Centralization
reduces tense vowels to their lax counterparts.
(3) Centralization
a. den ˜the™ [ten]’ [tµn]
b. nun ˜now™ [nun]’ [n…n]
Sociolinguistic issues 247

Reduction to /™/ further weakens (and centralizes) vowels.
(4) Reduction to /™/
a. den ˜the™ [tµn]’ [t™n]
b. nun ˜now™ [n…n]’ [n™n]
Schwa Deletion is the ¬nal stage in the reduction of vowels.
(5) Schwa Deletion
a. den ˜the™ [t™n]’ [tn]
b. ein ˜a™ (/a©n/’ [a©n]’) [™n]’ [n]
In colloquial speech, Schwa Deletion is much less restricted than in “standard”
pronunciation (the pronunciation represented in the rule presented in chapter
1). For example, in standard pronunciation, schwa must be preceded by a stop
or fricative in order to be deleted before /n/. In colloquial speech, schwa can
be deleted without any preceding consonant, as the pronunciation of ein in the
following sentence demonstrates.
(6) Wollen Sie ein Foto? ˜Do you want a photo?™
["v”ln zi ™n "fo¦t o]’ ["v”ln z© n "fo¦t o] (C. Hall 2003:151)
Schwa is also typically deleted in verb endings.
(7) a. ich mache ˜I make™’ ich mach
b. ich habe ˜I have™’ ich hab
c. konnte ich ˜could I™’ konnt ich
Consonants as well as vowels are deleted in colloquial speech. This often affects
geminate consonants (Kohler 1995:210“211; C. Hall 2003:147).
(8) Geminate reduction
["k ”mm]’ ["k ”m]
a. kommen ˜to come™
b. mitteilen ˜to communicate™ ["m©tt a©ln]’ ["m©t a©ln]
It also affects /t / when it occurs in the middle of a consonant cluster (Kohler
1995:208“209; C. Hall 2003:146).
(9) Deletion of /t /
a. /st l/’ [sl] festlich ˜festive™ [fµsl©c]
b. /lt s/’ [ls] h¨ ltst ˜(you) hold™ [hµlst ]
A number of word classes in German are made up of words that are typically
unstressed in connected speech (e.g., pronouns, determiners, adverbs, prepo-
sitions, auxiliary verbs, conjunctions). When unstressed, these words are sus-
ceptible to various types of “reduction,” and in their reduced forms are known
as “weak forms” (schwache Formen).5 For example, the various reduced forms
of the determiners den ˜the™ and ein ˜a™ discussed above, as well as those of the
248 German

adverb nun ˜now™, are all weak forms. Additional examples of reduced forms
from other word classes are the following (see Kohler 1995:211“220 and C.
Hall 2003:148“157 for additional examples and further discussion):

(10) a. ihm ˜him™ /i¦m/ [im], [©m], [™m], [m]
b. ist ˜is™ /©st / [©s], [s]
c. vor ˜before™ /fo¦r/ [foɐ8], [f”ɐ8], [fɐ]
d. und ˜and™ /…nt / […n], [™n]

The following example compares the careful pronunciation of a sentence (one
that would be produced by applying the rules in chapter 1) with one that would
be characteristic of informal speech (Mangold 2005:67):

(11) Was haben sie denn der Frau gesagt? ˜What have they said to the
[vas "ha¦p#m zi tµn teɐ8 fʁa…8 k™"za¦kt ]
a. careful speech:
b. informal speech: [vas "han z™ n tɐ fʁa…8 k™"za¦t ]

The careful pronunciation of this sentence contains instances of assimilation,
reduction, and deletion. Unstressed long vowels are shortened (sie /zi¦/’ [zi]);
schwa is deleted in haben and then /n/ is assimilated to the preceding /p/
(/ha¦p™n/ ’ [ha¦p#m]). The informal pronunciation of this sentence, however,
exhibits many more examples of reduction and deletion. A long stressed vowel
is shortened in haben; a short tense vowel is reduced to schwa in sie. Vowels
are deleted in denn and der, and consonants are deleted in haben, denn, and
gesagt. Vocabulary Many lexical items in German are unmarked
with respect to the stylistic level to which they belong. They are neutral and
would not be inappropriate in an informal or a formal setting. Words such as
Straße ˜street™, lesen ˜to read™, and Liter ˜liter™, for example, do not have any
special stylistic status and could be used in essentially any situation regardless
of the level of formality. Other items are marked and thus appropriate only for
situations where informal or formal speech is expected. The word bl¨ d, foro
example, is a colloquial way of saying dumm ˜dumb™ and would be viewed as
an odd choice of lexical item in a formal speech situation. Just as odd would
be the use of the elevated form Gatte to speak of one™s husband in an informal
Table 7.1 provides some examples of words that are essentially synonymous
but that differ in their level of formality. Words that are colloquial are typi-
cally marked as such in dictionaries, but only highly formal lexical items tend
to be identi¬ed as formal vocabulary. For example, all but one of the words
(phrases) that are characterized as colloquial in Table 7.1 are marked “ugs.”
Sociolinguistic issues 249

Table 7.1 Stylistic variation in vocabulary (modi¬ed
from Durrell 1992:25“28)

Colloquial Neutral Formal

protzen angeben ˜to show off™ sich r¨ hmen
langen ausreichen ˜to be suf¬cient™ gen¨ gen
die Backe ˜cheek™ die Wange
der Sprit das Benzin ˜gas™, ˜petrol™ der Treibstoff
hereinlegen betr¨ gen ˜to deceive™
bl¨ d
o dumm ˜dumb™ t¨ richt
futtern essen ˜to eat™ speisen, tafeln
die Polente die Polizei ˜police™
mies schlecht ˜bad™ ubel
¬x schnell ˜fast™ ¬‚ink
klauen stehlen ˜to steal™ entwenden
den Mund halten still sein ˜to be quiet™ schweigen
der Quatsch der Unsinn ˜nonsense™ der Nonsens
abhauen weggehen ˜to leave™ sich entfernen

(umgangssprachlich ˜colloquial™) in the most recent Duden spelling dictio-
nary (Dudenredaktion 2006), whereas only tafeln ˜to dine™ is marked as being
formal (“geh.” = gehoben ˜elevated™). Notice that not all entries in the neu-
tral column in Table 7.1 have corresponding forms in both the colloquial and
formal columns. In cases like these, the neutral form can be used to ¬ll the
gap. Some colloquial language is considered crude or vulgar and is identi¬ed
accordingly in dictionaries (derb ˜crude™; vulg¨ r ˜vulgar™). For example, a syn-
onym of the colloquial hereinlegen ˜to take somebody for a ride™ is bescheißen
˜to cheat™, which is labeled “derb” in Dudenredaktion 2006:246 (cf. scheißen
˜to shit™). For further examples of stylistic variation in the lexicon, see Durrell
1992:25“28.6 Grammar The stylistic variation found in German grammar
is probably best exempli¬ed by a comparison of colloquial German with for-
mal Standard German, the variety of German that is codi¬ed in, for example,
the Duden grammar (Dudenredaktion 2005), since the grammatical structures
found in neutral style are often similar to those found at the formal level (Durrell
1992:18). An excellent data source is the Duden dictionary entitled Richtiges
und gutes Deutsch (Dudenredaktion 2001), which deals with questions about
usage (Zweifelsf¨ lle) and thus provides information on what is current in collo-
quial German and what is acceptable in the (formal) standard. Durrell 1992:18“
19, which provides a list of grammatical structures that are typical of colloquial
German and the corresponding structures that are acceptable in formal written
German, is also an excellent source of information.
250 German

The ¬rst two frequently asked questions under the heading Genitivattribut
˜genitive attribute™ in the Duden usage dictionary involve the acceptability of
phrases like the following (Dudenredaktion 2001:350):
(12) a. meinem Bruder sein Zimmer
my-dat. brother his room ˜my brother™s room™
b. das Haus von meinen Eltern
the house of my-dat. parents ˜my parents™ house™
Both phrases (which make use of the dative case or a dative preposition) are
common in colloquial German,7 but are to be avoided in the standard language
(Dudenredaktion 2001:353). The corresponding phrases found in the standard
language exhibit the genitive case.8
(13) a. das Zimmer meines Bruders
the room my-gen. brother-gen. ˜my brother™s room™
b. das Haus meiner Eltern
the house my-gen. parents ˜my parents™ house™
As mentioned in chapter 6 (section 6.1), the use of the dative case with prepo-
sitions like wegen ˜because of™ is the norm in colloquial speech, but considered
incorrect in the standard language, where the genitive is required.
According to the Duden usage dictionary, it is generally considered impolite
or colloquial to use demonstrative pronouns instead of personal pronouns to
refer to people unless demonstrative meaning is intended (Dudenredaktion
(14) Ich weiß es von meinem Vater. Der (standard: Er) hat es im Betrieb
geh¨ rt.
˜I know about it from my father. He heard it at work.™
The use of the de¬nite article with personal names is common in collo-
quial German and is also found in administrative language (Dudenredaktion
(15) a. colloquial: Die Inge hat mich verlassen. ˜Inge left me.™
b. administrative: die Frau Schmidt ˜Mrs. Schmidt™
In the (formal) standard, an article is not used with a personal name unless an
adjective precedes it (Dudenredaktion 2001:657).
(16) a. Hans ist ein braver Junge. ˜Hans is a good boy.™
b. der kleine Karl ˜little Karl™
The use of a preposition + was ˜what™ instead of a prepositional adverb
beginning with wo- is another feature that distinguishes colloquial speech from
the standard language.
Sociolinguistic issues 251

(17) Mit was (standard: Womit) soll das Brett befestigt werden?
(Dudenredaktion 2001:697)
˜With what should the board be attached?™

The colloquial German use of tun + in¬nitive is characterized as an “unnec-
essary extension of the predicate” in the Duden usage dictionary; it is considered
incorrect in the standard language (Dudenredaktion 2001:835).9

(18) Sie tut gerade schreiben. (standard: Sie schreibt gerade.)
she does just-now write ˜She™s writing.™

Only when the in¬nitive is preposed for purposes of emphasis is this con-
struction considered acceptable in the written standard (Dudenredaktion 2005:

(19) Verstehen tut er wie gew¨ hnlich nichts.
understand does he as usual nothing ˜As usual he understands

When the verb brauchen functions as an auxiliary (with modal meaning
similar to m¨ ssen ˜to have to™), it is typically used without zu in the spoken
language (Dudenredaktion 2001:184). This usage is thus common in spoken
neutral German as well as in colloquial German.

(20) a. spoken: Du brauchst nicht kommen. ˜You don™t need to come.™
b. written: Du brauchst nicht zu kommen.

In the written language (at the neutral and formal style levels), brauchen is
typically used with zu.
Several issues involving word order differentiate colloquial German from
the formal standard. In colloquial (and spoken neutral) German, the conjunc-
tion weil ˜because™ is often used with main clause (verb-second) word order
(Dudenredaktion 2001:930).

(21) a. colloquial: Sie kann nicht kommen, weil sie hat keine Zeit.
b. formal: . . . weil sie keine Zeit hat.

Although verb-second word order with weil is considered incorrect in the
standard language, its use in the spoken language is becoming increasingly
common “ an indication that weil is undergoing a change in status from a subor-
dinating (verb-¬nal) to a coordinating (verb-second) conjunction (Dudenredak-
tion 2001:930).
In the colloquial language, one often ¬nds main clauses used instead of
relative clauses (Durrell 1992:19).10
252 German

(22) a. colloquial: Es gibt Leute, die reden im Schlaf.
it gives people they speak in sleep ˜There are people who talk in
their sleep.™
b. formal: Es gibt Leute, die im Schlaf reden.
Although these clauses are used to further modify an entity and correspond to
relative clauses in formal German, they are not necessarily relative clauses with
aberrant (verb-second rather than verb-¬nal) word order. K¨ per (1991:134),
for example, argues that main clause (verb-second) word order is required in
these clauses because they begin with a demonstrative pronoun, not with a
relative pronoun.11 This would then be another example of the increased use of
demonstrative pronouns in the colloquial language in comparison to the formal
(see the discussion above regarding the use of demonstrative pronouns in place
of personal pronouns).
Demonstrative as well as personal pronouns that would otherwise occur
sentence-initially (in the Vorfeld) are often omitted in the spoken language
(Dudenredaktion 2005:894).
(23) a. Peter? Hat mich wirklich uberrascht. (Der hat mich . . .)
˜Peter? (He) really surprised me.™
b. Wo ist Anna? “ Arbeitet heute zu Hause. (Sie arbeitet heute . . .)
˜Where is Anna? “ (She™s) working at home today.™
These pronouns can be recovered (determined) from the context, and are
expendable when speaking, when shortcuts tend to be taken.
For further examples of stylistic variation in German grammar, see Durrell

7.3 Address

7.3.1 A brief history
The German language did not always make a du/Sie distinction in its forms of
address. The “original” pronoun used to address a single person was du. We
¬nd evidence of this in the Hildebrandslied, when Hildebrand and Hadubrand
address each other as strangers, not knowing that they are father and son.
(24) eddo hwelihhes cnuosles du sis (Braune et al. 1994:84)
and which lineage you are
The ¬rst evidence of a special pronoun of politeness (which has its roots in
Latin practices) is Otfrid™s use of ir (a second person plural form) in the ninth
century to address the Bishop of Salomo of Konstanz (Bach 1970:194; Besch
Sociolinguistic issues 253

1998:92“93). But even in the twelfth century the use of ir is still not a regular
occurrence. The German Rolandslied, by Pfaffe Konrad, which is based on a
French original, only uses du, although the French source exhibits the polite
form vos (Bach 1970:194). With the spread of chivalric culture, however, which
was greatly in¬‚uenced by the French tradition, came an increase in the use of ir
(= modern German ihr) as a pronoun of politeness, modeled on the French use
of vos (= modern French vous). By the sixteenth century, Ihr was regularly used
among the nobility and upper middle class.12 The pronoun du was exchanged
by members of the lowest social classes; the members of these classes were
also addressed with du by those of higher rank (Metcalf 1938:11).
During the sixteenth century, Ihr usage spread to the lower social classes and
Ihr was even used occasionally to address servants and beggars. This increase
in the use of Ihr caused it to lose its value as a pronoun of politeness, which led
to the development of new pronouns of politeness (Metcalf 1938:11). By the
middle of the seventeenth century, the forms Er and Sie-singular (< sie ˜she™)
had acquired this function. Er and Sie-singular were the pronominal develop-
ments of Herr and Frau, the nominal forms of address that had encroached
on the territory of Ihr among the lower nobility and the upper middle class
(Metcalf 1938:64).13 The following example of this use of Herr as a form of
address is from a play by Jacob Ayrer, written at the end of the sixteenth century
(cited in Metcalf 1938:60):
(25) Mich dunkt, der Herr beschweret sey Mit einer grosen Melancholey.
˜Me thinks, the lord is [= you are] burdened with a great
The Sie-plural form of address, which came into use at the end of the seventeenth
century, has its origin in pronominal extensions of abstract nominal forms of
address like Eure Majest¨ t ˜Your Majesty™ and Eure Gnade ˜Your Grace™. The
pronominal forms, like the abstractions themselves, were used increasingly
with plural verbs and were therefore identi¬ed with the plural third person
pronouns (Metcalf 1938:109“110).
By the beginning of the eighteenth century, there were ¬ve different types of
address for an individual: du, Ihr, Er/Sie-singular, Sie-plural, and abstractions
(e.g., Majest¨ t ˜Majesty™, Durchlaucht ˜Highness™, Gnaden ˜Grace™, Exzellenz
˜Excellency™).14 This proliferation of forms, however, eventually led to simpli-
¬cation, yielding the two forms we ¬nd today, du and Sie-plural.

7.3.2 The address system
The traditional “modern” use of du and Sie is one that can be characterized by
the contrast of the notions intimate (du) versus polite/respectful (Sie) (Besch
254 German

1998:14). Many of the conventions that governed this use of du and Sie until the
late 1960s are still valid today. Those conventions that can be considered tradi-
tional (pre-1968) are the following (Clyne 1995:130“131; Besch 1998:14“15):
Family members, relatives, children under ¬fteen, friends, animals, and God are
all addressed with du. Members of groups that have a strong bond (e.g., mem-
bers of clubs, sports groups, fraternities, some political parties, etc.) address
each other with du. Asymmetry can be found in the child“adult relationship,
in that children are addressed with du, but older children are urged to address
adult strangers with Sie. Clyne (1995:130) characterizes Sie as the unmarked
pronoun of address and du as being marked as the pronoun of solidarity (Brown
and Gilman 1960).15 The use of du can also be viewed as signaling disrespect,
however, as evidenced by the ¬nes that have been imposed on citizens for
addressing the police with du.16 In 1987, for example, a ¬ne of 300 DM for
addressing a police of¬cer with du was increased to 2,500 DM for using du with
an added insult, Du bl¨ de Sau ˜You stupid son-of-a-bitch™ (Besch 1998:56“58).
As a sign of friendship, people can decide to address each other with du, a deci-
sion that is sometimes celebrated with a ritual drink (Br¨ derschaft trinken) and
is subject to certain conventions. For example, it is the older person who is
expected to make the offer of du.17
Changes to this traditional system can be linked to the changes that came
about following the German student movement in the late 1960s. Before this
period, students addressed each other and their instructors with Sie; du was
used only for special friends. Bayer (1979) characterizes this system of address
as one based on an unmarked pronoun for formality (Sie) versus a marked
one for intimacy (du). In the late 1960s, as a protest against conventional
social relationships, students began to use du for communication with each
other. According to Bayer (1979), this new system of address is based on an
unmarked pronoun for solidarity (du) versus a marked one for social distance
(Sie). When both address systems were employed in a speech situation, misun-
derstandings were often the result. This led to a certain amount of uncertainty
when addressing others, uncertainty that still exists today. Zimmer (1986:53)
characterizes the “du/Sie-con¬‚ict” (do I say du or Sie?), which repeatedly raises
the question of one™s own social identity and group membership, as a common
daily occurrence.
One of the changes in the use of du and Sie that is evident today is the
more widespread use of du among members of the younger generation (Clyne
1995:131). The use of du among university students has become the norm,
although much of its status as a signal of ideology and solidarity has been lost;
it is simply an extension of the du of school children, used as the automatic
form of address among young people up to roughly age thirty (Besch 1998:25).
A longitudinal study based on opinion polls showed more Germans in 1993
Sociolinguistic issues 255

(34%) than in 1974 (25%) who were willing to use du with people they had
not known for a long time, a tendency that was strongest among people in the
16“29 age group (59%) (Clyne 1995:131). Ideological beliefs play a greater
role in promoting the use of du than they did previously. Not just membership
in a political party or club, but similarly radical or progressive political or social
views will trigger an automatic du relationship (Clyne 1995:134). Although du
is used more widely than it was prior to the late 1960s, Sie has by no means
been displaced. Stevenson (1997:139) suggests that the trend could in fact be
moving in the opposite direction.
Traditionally, du is used with a person™s ¬rst name; Sie is used with Herr/Frau
and a person™s last name, title, or title and last name. There is also the less
common combination of Sie plus ¬rst name, used, for example, in TV and
radio interviews with athletes and entertainers, where the use of ¬rst names
may be based on the Anglo-American practice (Clyne 1995:135).
There are national and regional differences in the practices that character-
ize the current system of address. In southern Germany and Austria, du is
used more than in northern Germany; it is also used more in rural areas than
in urban ones (Clyne 1995:136). A 1993 survey showed that East Germans
are more reluctant to enter into a quick du relationship than West Germans
(Clyne 1995:137). In Austria, one ¬nds du in combination with titles, which
are used frequently: Du, lieber Herr Hofrat! ˜You, Mr. Counsellor!™ (Muhr

7.4 Language and gender

7.4.1 Equal treatment
One of the issues in the study of language and gender involves the ways in
which women use language in comparison to men. Numerous studies have
described women™s speech as being different from that of men (e.g., Baron
1986, Arliss 1991). Another issue, the focus of this discussion, involves the
way in which women are represented in language, in particular the forms used
to address them and the terminology used to describe them.
In the late 1970s, inspired by the work on language and gender by linguists
such as Mary Ritchie Key (1975) and Robin Lakoff (1975), feminist linguists in
Germany began to call for the equal treatment of women and men in language
(e.g., Guentherodt et al. 1980, Hellinger 1980, Pusch 1980). One type of
unequal treatment they sought to replace was the subordinate, second-class,
and “silent” treatment of women in examples like the following (Guentherodt
et al. 1980:16, 19“20).
256 German

(26) a. Herr Meier mit Frau ˜Mr. Meier and wife™
non-sexist alternatives: Frau Meier und Herr Meier ˜Mrs. Meier and
Mr. Meier™; das Ehepaar Meier ˜the Meier couple™
b. Fr¨ ulein Sell ˜Miss Sell™ (cf. Herr Sell ˜Mr. Sell™)
non-sexist alternative: Frau Sell ˜Ms. Sell™18
c. Bundespr¨ sident Scheel und Ehefrau Mildred ˜Federal President
Scheel and wife Mildred™
non-sexist alternative: Bundespr¨ sident Scheel und Dr. Scheel
d. An die Familie Peter D¨ rsch ˜to the Peter D¨ rsch family™
o o
non-sexist alternative: An Frau Eva D¨ rsch und Herrn Peter D¨ rsch
o o
˜to Mrs. Eva D¨ rsch and Mr. Peter D¨ rsch™
o o

Another sexist practice was the use of the male (man) as the standard or
norm for people in general (Guentherodt et al. 1980:16“17).

(27) a. Sehr geehrte Herren ˜Dear sirs™
non-sexist alternative: Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren
b. der Glaube unserer V¨ ter ˜the belief of our fathers™
non-sexist alternative: der Glaube unserer Vorfahren ˜the belief of
our ancestors™
c. Weiblicher Kaufmann gesucht ˜female businessman wanted™
non-sexist alternative: Kauffrau gesucht ˜businesswoman wanted™
d. der Kontoinhaber ˜the account holder™
non-sexist alternative: die Kontoinhaber/innen ˜account holders™

Although expressions like der Kontoinhaber ˜the account holder™ and der
Bewerber ˜the applicant™ are considered generic forms that can refer to females
as well as males, the problem is that these forms are identical to the mas-
culine forms. In addition, all words that must agree in gender with these
generic forms (because of the requirements of the grammar of German) are

(28) Jeder Passagier m¨ ge seinen Platz identi¬zieren. (Tr¨ mel-Pl¨ tz
o o o
˜Each passenger should identify his seat.™

As Pusch (1984:7) points out, the following statement, which is in her pass-
port, is inaccurate (although grammatical) because it characterizes her as a
Deutscher, a male German:

(29) Der Inhaber dieses Passes ist Deutscher.
the bearer of-this passport is German-masc.
Sociolinguistic issues 257

7.4.2 Achieving linguistic equality
A number of general strategies have been proposed to deal with the issue
of linguistic equality in German, with varying degrees of success. Linguistic
equality is certainly more dif¬cult to achieve in German than in English. For
example, words that end in -man and -ess in English can be replaced by
neutral terms: one can replace policeman with police of¬cer, ¬reman with
¬re¬ghter, waiter and waitress with server, and steward and stewardess with
¬‚ight attendant. In German, however, because nouns have grammatical gender,
and because those that refer to individuals are typically either masculine or
feminine, it is much more dif¬cult to ¬nd a neutral term. The use of a plural
form (a common strategy in English) typically does not solve the problem. The
plural Studenten ˜students™, for example, is based on the masculine der Student;
Studentinnen ˜students™ is based on the feminine die Studentin.
A section in the Duden usage dictionary (Dudenredaktion 2001:392“398)
addresses the equal treatment of women and men in the German language.
According to Duden, the basic principles to be followed are visibility (when
women are included they should be mentioned) and symmetry (when women
and men are mentioned, they should be treated linguistically in an equal man-
ner). Generic masculine forms “ masculine forms (nouns, pronouns) that are
used to refer to women as well as men “ are thus out. Some of the current strate-
gies employed in the effort to avoid sexist language and discussed in Duden are
“splitting” (see below), various types of abbreviations, and alternative forms.
These strategies are still quite controversial and they are by no means accepted
universally, as a brief comparison of several online newspapers in section 7.4.4
reveals. Splitting “Splitting” is the explicit use of a feminine and
a masculine form (instead of a single form). Some examples of full (non-
abbreviated) double forms (Paarformeln) are the following (Dudenredaktion
(30) a. Kolleginnen und Kollegen
colleagues-fem. and colleagues-masc.
b. Assistentin oder Assistent
assistant-fem. or assistant-masc.
c. eine oder einer
one-fem. or one-masc.
According to Duden, this doubling is the most polite and most explicit variant of
linguistic equality and should be used above all in addressing others personally.
Women should be addressed exactly like men when using titles, ¬rst names,
last names, job designations, and so on (Dudenredaktion 2001:393).
258 German

(31) a. not acceptable: Frau Meier hat mit Oberstudiendirektor
Dr. Lehmann gesprochen. ˜Mrs. Meier spoke with Principal
Dr. Lehmann.™
b. acceptable: Studienr¨ tin Dr. Meier hat mit Oberstudiendirektor
Dr. Lehmann gesprochen. ˜Teacher Dr. Meier spoke with Principal
Dr. Lehmann.™

Virtually all titles and job designations have feminine as well as masculine
forms, and feminine forms have become well established (Dudenredaktion
(32) a. Ministerpr¨ sidentin N. N. sprach vor dem Kongress.
prime-minister-fem. N. N. spoke to the congress
b. Berlinerin wurde erste Prorektorin in Speyer.
Berliner-fem. became ¬rst deputy-vice-chancellor-fem. in Speyer
The feminine titles Doktorin ˜doctor™ and Professorin ˜professor™ are typically
not used to address women, however. In the spoken language, women are
commonly addressed as Frau Doktor and Frau Professor (Dudenredaktion
2001:828). Abbreviations In written texts, for reasons of economy, dou-
bled forms can be abbreviated in various ways. In keeping with the use of
the term Paarformeln for unabbreviated doubled forms, abbreviated forms are
commonly referred to as Sparformeln.19
A slash can be used as long as the doubled forms differ only by an ending
and a grammatically correct word is left if the slash is removed.
(33) a. Assistent und Assistentin > Assistent/-in ˜assistant™
b. Mitarbeiter und Mitarbeiterinnen > Mitarbeiter/-innen ˜coworkers™
c. jede und jeder > jede/-r ˜each™
Pairs like Arzt und Arztin ˜doctor™ cannot be abbreviated with a slash because
these words differ by more than just an ending.
Doubled forms can be abbreviated with the use of parentheses, which can
occur at the end of a word or in the middle of a word.
(34) a. Sch¨ ler(in) ˜pupil™
b. Student(inn)en ˜students™
c. eine(r) ˜one™
d. jede(r) ˜each™
The use of parentheses with a feminine ending is not recommended, however,
because it gives the impression that the feminine form is subordinate and less
important (Dudenredaktion 2001:394).
Sociolinguistic issues 259

The use of a capital -I- in the middle of a word as an abbreviation for doubled
forms has been attested since the beginning of the 1980s.
(35) a. KollegInnen ˜colleagues™ (= Kollegen und Kolleginnen)
b. MitarbeiterInnen ˜coworkers™
According to Duden, this type of abbreviation is common, but it is just as com-
monly rejected, and in some agencies and institutions it is explicitly forbidden
(Dudenredaktion 2001:394). The use of capital letters in the middle of a word
can also be found in the names of products, companies, and services (MiniDisc,
DaimlerChrysler, TeleBanking), but it is not something that is sanctioned by
the of¬cial spelling rules (Dudenredaktion 2006:58). Alternative forms Because abbreviations are not well suited
for use in the spoken language, and full forms can be cumbersome, alternatives
to splitting are useful. One common alternative is the conversion of participles
to plural nouns.20
(36) a. Studierende ˜those studying (students)™
b. Lehrende ˜those teaching (teachers)™
c. Gew¨ hlte ˜those elected™
A word designating an object rather than a word designating a person can be
(37) Leitung ˜leadership™ (instead of Leiter oder Leiterin ˜leader™)
Adjectives can be used in place of doubled nouns.
(38) arztlicher Rat ˜medical advice™ (instead of Rat der Arztin/des Arztes
˜advice of the doctor™)
Relative clauses can also be used in place of doubled forms.
(39) a. Wer einen Mord begeht, wird bestraft. ˜Whoever commits murder
will be punished.™ (Instead of Morderinnen und M¨ rder werden
bestraft. ˜Murderers will be punished.™)
b. Personen, die einen Antrag stellen ˜people who make an application™
(instead of Antragsteller und Antragstellerinnen ˜applicants™)
Although potentially just as lengthy as doubled forms, relative clauses can be
a stylistic improvement over splitting.

7.4.3 Legal language
The status of non-sexist language in legal spheres varies from one German-
speaking country to another. In some cases, legal language re¬‚ects current
260 German

usage norms as codi¬ed in Duden (Dudenredaktion 2001:392“398), in others
it has not kept up. A comparison of the situation in Germany with that in
Switzerland exempli¬es the range of approaches to non-sexist language in legal
A 1991 report by a task force on legal language (Arbeitsgruppe Rechts-
sprache) set up by the German Federal Government distinguished between
two types of legal language (Rechtssprache): of¬cial language (Amtssprache),
used, for example, for administrative communication, judicial decisions, and
forms; and legislative language (Vorschriftensprache), used to formulate laws
and decrees (Hellinger 1995:306). The task force supported the principle of vis-
ibility of the female in of¬cial language and thus revision of forms, educational
programs, examination regulations, and so on to include feminine occupational
titles and terms of address, but also the use of alternatives to linguistic visibility
such as nouns that refer to objects rather than people (das Ministerium ˜depart-
ment™ instead of der Minister ˜secretary™). The report argued, however, that the
use of splitting in a headline did not preclude the use of the generic masculine
in the following text (Hellinger 1995:306). Legislative language, on the other
hand, was exempt from changes in its use of the generic masculine. Justi¬ca-
tion for this position included the claim that the use of sex-speci¬c feminine


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