Alemannic German

Alemannic, or rarely Alemmanish (German: Alemannisch ), is a group of dialects of the Upper German branch of the Germanic language family. The name derives from the ancient Germanic alliance of tribes known as the Alemanni ("all men").[4]

Native toSwitzerland: entire German-speaking part.
Germany: most of Baden-Württemberg and Bavarian Swabia.
Austria: Vorarlberg and some parts of Tyrol.
Liechtenstein: entire country.
France: most of Alsace.
Italy: some parts of Aosta Valley and northern Piedmont
United States: Amish in Adams and Allen counties, Indiana
Venezuela: Alemán Coloniero
Native speakers
7,162,000 (2004–2012)[1]
Latin, Historically Elder Futhark
Language codes
ISO 639-2gsw
ISO 639-3Variously:
gct – Colonia Tovar
gsw – Swiss German and Alsatian
swg – Swabian
wae – Walser
Blue indicates the traditional distribution area of Western Upper German (=Alemannic) dialects.


Alemannic dialects are spoken by approximately ten million people in several countries:


Linguists dispute whether Alemannic varities are dialects of German or languages in their own right.

Alemannic comprises a dialect continuum, from the Highest Alemannic spoken in the mountainous south to Swabian in the relatively flat north, with more of the characteristics of standard German the farther north one goes.

In Germany and other European countries, the abstand and ausbau language framework is used to decide what is a language and what a dialect. According to this framework Alemannic forms of German form a dialect continuum and are clearly dialects. Some linguists and organisations that differentiate between languages and dialects primarily on the grounds of mutual intelligibility, such as SIL International and UNESCO, describe Alemannic as one of several independent languages. ISO 639-3 distinguishes four languages: gsw (Swiss German), swg (Swabian German), wae (Walser German) and gct (Alemán Coloniero, spoken since 1843 in Venezuela).

Standard German is used in writing, and orally in formal contexts, throughout the Alemannic-speaking regions (with the exception of Alsace, where French or the Alsatian dialect of Alemannic is used).


Alemannic comprises the following variants:

The Alemannic dialects of Switzerland are often called Swiss German or Schwiizerdütsch.

Written Alemannic

The oldest known texts in Alemannic are brief Elder Futhark inscriptions dating to the sixth century (Bülach fibula, Pforzen buckle, Nordendorf fibula). In the Old High German period, the first coherent texts are recorded in the St. Gall Abbey, among them the eighth century Paternoster,[5]

Fater unser, thu bist in himile
uuihi namu dinan
qhueme rihhi diin
uuerde uuillo diin,
so in himile, sosa in erdu
prooth unseer emezzihic kip uns hiutu
oblaz uns sculdi unsero
so uuir oblazem uns skuldikem
enti ni unsih firleit in khorunka
uzzer losi unsih fona ubile

Due to the importance of the Carolingian abbeys of St. Gall and Reichenau Island, a considerable part of the Old High German corpus has Alemannic traits. Alemannic Middle High German is less prominent, in spite of the Codex Manesse compiled by Johannes Hadlaub of Zürich. The rise of the Old Swiss Confederacy from the fourteenth century leads to the creation of Alemannic Swiss chronicles. Huldrych Zwingli's bible translation of the 1520s (the 1531 Froschauer Bible) was in an Alemannic variant of Early Modern High German. From the seventeenth century, written Alemannic was displaced by Standard German, which emerged from sixteenth century Early Modern High German, in particular in the wake of Martin Luther's bible translation of the 1520s. The 1665 revision of the Froschauer Bible removed the Alemannic elements, approaching the language used by Luther. For this reason, no binding orthographical standard for writing modern Alemannic emerged, and orthographies in use usually compromise between a precise phonological notation, and proximity to the familiar Standard German orthography (in particular for loanwords).

Johann Peter Hebel published his Allemannische Gedichte in 1803. Swiss authors often consciously employ Helvetisms within Standard German, notably Jeremias Gotthelf in his novels set in the Emmental, and more recently Tim Krohn in his Quatemberkinder.


  • The diminutive is used frequently in all Alemannic dialects. Northern and eastern dialects use the suffix -le; southern dialects use the suffix -li (Standard German suffix -lein or -chen). Depending on dialect, thus, 'little house' could be Heisle, Hüüsle, Hüüsli or Hiisli (Standard German Häuslein or Häuschen).
  • A significant difference between the high and low variants is the pronunciation of ch after the front vowels (i, e, ä, ö and ü) and consonants. In Standard German and the lower variants, this is a palatal [ç] (the Ich-Laut), whereas in the higher variants, a uvular or velar [χ] or [x] (the Ach-Laut) is used.
  • The verb to be is conjugated differently in the various dialects:
    (The common gs*-forms do historically derive from words akin to ge-sein, not found in modern standard German.)
Some conjugated forms of the verb to be in Alemannic dialects
(standard German)
Low Swabian Alsatian
Lower High Alsace
Allgäuerisch Lower
Upper Swabian Eastern Swiss German Western Swiss German Sensler
I am
(ich bin)
I ben Ich bìn
[eç]~[ex] [ben]
I bi Ich bi I bee I bi I(g) bi [ɪɡ̊ b̥ɪ] I bü/bi
you (sg.) are
(du bist)
du bisch dü bìsch du bisch du bisch d(o)u bisch du bisch du bisch [d̥ʊ bɪʒ̊] du büsch/bisch
he is
(er ist)
er isch är ìsch är isch är isch är isch är isch är isch [æɾ ɪʒ̊] är isch
she is
(sie ist)
sia isch sie ìsch sia isch sie isch si isch si isch si isch [sɪ ɪʒ̊] sia isch
it is
(es ist)
es isch äs ìsch as isch as isch äs isch äs isch äs isch [æz̊ (əʒ̊) ɪʒ̊] as isch
we are
(wir sind)
mr sen(d) mir sìnn mir send/sönd mir sin mr send m(i)r send/sön/sinn mir sy [mɪɾ si] wier sy
you (pl.) are
(ihr seid)
ihr sen(d) ihr sìnn ihr send ihr sin ihr send i(i)r sönd/sind dir syt [d̥ɪɾ sit] ier syt
they are
(sie sind)
se sen(d) sie sìnn dia send si sin dia send si sind/sönd si sy [sɪ si] si sy
I have been
(ich bin ... gewesen)
i ben gwäa ich bìn gsìnn
[eç]~[ex] [ben] [ɡsenn]
i bi gsi ich bi gsi i bee gsei i bi gsi i bi gsy [ɪ(ɡ̊) b̥ɪ ksiː] i bü/bi gsy

See also


  1. ^ Colonia Tovar at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Swiss German and Alsatian at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Swabian at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Walser at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Alemannic". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ "Swiss German / Alemannic / Alsatian". IANA language subtag registry. 8 March 2006. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
  4. ^ Jordioechsler (5 November 2013). "Alemannic German and other features of language". Wordpress. Archived from the original on 10 Jun 2017.
  5. ^ Jacobs, Stefan. "Althochdeutsch (700 – 1050)". Retrieved 17 Oct 2017.

External links

Alsatian dialect

Alsatian (Alemannic German: Elsässerditsch "Alsatian German"; Frankish: Elsässerdeitsch; French: Alsacien; German: Elsässisch or Elsässerdeutsch) is a Low Alemannic German dialect spoken in most of Alsace, a formerly disputed region in eastern France that has passed between French and German control five times since 1681. A dialect of Alsatian German is spoken in the United States by the so-called Swiss Amish, whose ancestors emigrated there in the middle of the 19th century. The approximately 7,000 speakers are located mainly in Allen County, Indiana, with "daughter settlements"[Note 1] elsewhere.


Biederthal (Alemannic German: Bierthel) is a commune in the Haut-Rhin department in Alsace in north-eastern France. It is located on the border with Switzerland, next to the Swiss villages of Rodersdorf and Metzerlen-Mariastein.

High Alemannic German

High Alemannic is a dialect of Alemannic German spoken in the westernmost Austrian state of Voralberg, on the border with Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

Highest Alemannic German

Highest Alemannic (Hegschtalemannisch) is a branch of Alemannic German and is often considered to be part of the German language, even though mutual intelligibility with Standard German and other non-Alemannic German dialects is very limited.

Highest Alemannic dialects are spoken in alpine regions of Switzerland: In the Bernese Oberland, in the German-speaking parts of the Canton of Fribourg, in the Valais (see Walliser German) and in the Walser settlements (mostly in Switzerland, but also in Italy and in Austria; see Walser German). In the West, the South and the South-East, they are surrounded by Romance languages; in the North, by High Alemannic dialects. In the Swiss canton of Graubünden (Grisons) only the Walser exclaves in the Romansh part and the Prättigau, Schanfigg and Davos are Highest Alemannic; the Rhine Valley with Chur and Engadin are High Alemannic.


Knœringue (Alemannic German: Knehrige; German: Knöringen) is a commune in the Haut-Rhin department in Alsace in north-eastern France.


Kœstlach (Alemannic German: Cheschli; German: Köstlach) is a commune in the Haut-Rhin department in Alsace in north-eastern France.


Kœtzingue (French pronunciation: ​[kœtsɛ̃ɡ]; Alemannic German: Ketzige; German: Kötzingen) is a commune in the Haut-Rhin department in Alsace in north-eastern France.

The composer and organist Alphonse Schmitt (1875–1912) was born in Kœtzingue.


Liebenswiller (Alemannic German: Liebedswíller; German: Liebensweiler) is a commune in the Haut-Rhin department in Alsace in north-eastern France. It is located close to the border with Switzerland, near the Swiss village of Rodersdorf.

Low Alemannic German

Low Alemannic (German: Niederalemannisch) is a branch of Alemannic German, which is part of Upper German. Its varieties are only partly intelligible to non-Alemannic speakers.


Magstatt-le-Bas (Alemannic German: Màschgetz; German: Niedermagstatt) is a commune in the Haut-Rhin department in Alsace in north-eastern France.


Uffholtz (Alemannic German: Üffholz; German: Uffholz) is a commune in the Haut-Rhin department in Grand Est in north-eastern France. The organist and composer Aloÿs Claussmann (1850–1926) was born in Uffholtz


Urschenheim (Alemannic German: Ürsche) is a communes in the Haut-Rhin department in Grand Est in north-eastern France.


Vogelgrun (Alemannic German: Vogelgrien; German: Vogelgrün) is a commune in the Haut-Rhin department in Grand Est in north-eastern France.


Volgelsheim (Alemannic German: Volgelse) is a commune in the Haut-Rhin department in Grand Est in north-eastern France. The population in 2007 was 2,322.


Vœgtlinshoffen (Alemannic German: Vegelshofe; German: Vögtlinshofen) is a commune in the Haut-Rhin department in Grand Est in north-eastern France, approximately 9 kilometers south of Colmar.

Wahlbach, Haut-Rhin

Wahlbach (Alemannic German: Wàhlbi) is a commune in the Haut-Rhin department in Alsace in north-eastern France.


Waltenheim (Alemannic German: Wàltene) is a commune in the Haut-Rhin department in Alsace in north-eastern France.


Wuenheim (Alemannic German: Wüene; German: Wünheim) is a commune in the Haut-Rhin department in Grand Est in north-eastern France.


Zimmersheim (Alemannic German: Zímmersche) is a commune in the Haut-Rhin department of Alsace in eastern France. It forms part of the Mulhouse Alsace Agglomération, the inter-communal local government body for the Mulhouse conurbation.

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