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Kapitel 9: Regional Dialects in Austria

Österreichisches map

In this chapter we take a look at the dialects spoken in Austria: Österreichisches Deutsch. Austria is a central European country located to the southeast of Germany. Since the High German sound shift took place in Austria as well, Österreichisches Deutsch shares many linguistic features with Upper German dialects (including, and especially with, Bavarian dialects). Yet despite the similarities in pronunciation and grammar, there are some significant differences between these varieties of German.


German is considered pluricentric, in that it has several standard languages, and speakers of these standards identify closely with the national variety they speak. Austrian German is no different. There is a standard Austrian German, and there are a number of regional dialects:

  1. Central Austro-Bavarian: (Northern and Northwestern parts of Austria)
  2. Southern Austro-Bavarian (spoken in the rest of Austria except in Voralberg; reflects considerable linguistic influence from neighboring countries for historical reasons: Slovenia, Hungary, Czech Republic, Italy)
  3. Voralbergisch (spoken in the state of Voralberg; a High Alemannic dialect, closer to Swiss-German linguistically than to Standard Austrian)

Due to space limitations, and given the introductory nature of these Aussprache segments, we will focus primarily on the Austrian Standard dialect in comparison to Standard German and will provide only a brief introduction into the Viennese dialect of Austrian German.

Austrian German dialect map

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Bairisches_Mundartgebiet.png

1. ÖSTERREICHISCHES DEUTSCH

While Austro-Bavarian dialects are generally mutually intelligible (with the exception of some versions of Tyrolean), Austrian varieties differ from German dialects in terms of vocabulary especially, due to historical reasons (close connection between the Habsburg and French royal families, which led to an influx of French words through education, diplomacy, court language, etc.). Below is a table comparing a few words from the Austrian dialect with Standard German.

Dialect features Beispiele
(Standard German Dialect)
Pronunciation
  • vocalization of 'l' and 'r' after e and i
  • viel vui / vüü

  • voiceless stops are voiced (softened)


  • die Gruppe die Grubbm

Grammar
  • verbs that involve body positions take "sein" instead of "haben" in conversational past
  • habe gesessen bin gesessen
  • habe gestanden bin gestanden

  • loss of genitive case

  • des Mannes vom Mann
Vocabulary
  • differences in institutional language
  • der Bundestag der Nationalrat
  • das Abitur die Matura
  • foreign influences from Italian, Czech, Slovakian, Slovenian, Hungarian
  • grüne Bohnen die Fisolen
  • der Blumenkohl der Karfiol
  • der Mais der Kukuruz
  • die Pflaume die Zwetschke
  • die Paradeiser die Tomaten
  • lots of vocabulary different from Standard German!
  • Tag! Servus!
  • Grüss Gott!
  • Januar Jänner
  • Februar Feber
  • die Aprikose die Marille
  • die Schlagsahne das Schlagobers
  • sparsam glua
  • der Wasserhahn die Pippe
  • der Strom das Natz

2. WIENERISCH

The Viennese dialect overlaps almost completely with Standard Austrian (and ergo Bavarian) German. The features that Wienerisch shares with these dialects are:

  • softening the voiceless stops (p b)
  • vocalizing 'l' and 'r' sounds after vowels (kalt kööd; viel vüü)
  • unrounding vowels (Glück Glick)

But there are some distinct sounds to be found in Viennese German as well:

  • making monophthongs out of diphthongs (heiße haas)
  • lengthening vowels at the end of a sentence (war woooa)

Grammatically speaking, Viennese German is like Standard Austrian. It is, really, most distinct in the vocabulary it uses. Viennese contains many lexical items, which have their origin in other parts of the former Habsburg Empire since Vienna served as the melting pot of the constituent populations. Here is some uniquely Viennese vocabulary:

English Standard German Viennese Borrowed from
shirt Hemd Hemad Old High German
slimy mass Schleim Baaz Middle High German
long underpants lange Unterhosen Gattihosn Hungarian
appetite Appetit Gusta Italian
sidewalk Gehsteig Trottoa French
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