GERMAN DIALECTS.

A nice link catalogue (maintained by the University of Exeter) of sites having to do with German dialects; the coverage (links in the right and left margins) is pretty amazing, with everything from maps to obscure Low Saxon dialects to related languages like Yiddish and Lëtzebuergesch (though Sorbian would seem to be pushing it, since it’s not even Germanic). Thanks, as so often, to aldi at Wordorigins.org.

Comments

  1. Sorbian may not be a dialect of German, but it’s a dialect spoken in Germany, so I think it could rightly be called a “German dialect.” (Well, I guess “dialect” is misleading — of what language is it a dialect? — but it still seems to be well within the scope of the site.)

  2. Didn’t you link to a website documenting German spoken in Brazil before? Or maybe I found that elsewhere. It was intriguing because I understood everything but the nouns that were crucial to the meaning – those were loans from Portuguese.
    It took me a while to figure out what Drents was when I first heard of it. The descriptions indicated that it was not a dialect of Dutch, Frisian or German, so I wondered what the heck it could be. It turned out that the people who stated that it wasn’t a dialect of German meant High German.
    To be fair, Sorbian is only listed under “related languages”. Then again, PC-minded inhabitants of Flensburg might raise an eyebrow because of the absence of Danish. Not to mention Sinti.
    Since it (kind of) pertains, here’s an anecdote any of your readers are free to skip. There are fewer differences between German German and Austrian German than there are between British and American English, and in both cases the most salient ones have to do with phonology. But there are some lexical differences too. I suspect none of them are as dangerous as false friends as asking for a rubber in an American classroom*, but they can cause confusion.
    Legend has it that a German professor was offered a full professorship in Indo-European linguistics at an Austrian university. He went there to negotiate, and apparently what you do is you break the ice with some questions about unimportant technicalities. The German said he would like to have a “Sessel” in his office. The Austrians looked at him as if he had asked for a key to his office. In the end he accepted the position, but he was surprised when he took a look at his office. Hadn’t he specifically asked for an armchair (“Sessel”)? Well, yes and no. He didn’t ask for a fauteuil (Austrian German for “armchair”). In Austrian German, a “Sessel” is a stool, and they had duely provided him with one.
    Se non è vero, è ben trovato.
    *For those who are still reading: I managed to make an entire classroom laugh out loud only once, but I will never forget that day. When I was 16, I spent one school year as an exchange student in Connecticut. The city only has one high school, so it was a big one. It offered an elective called Journalism. I took that. Our #1 source was the Hartford Courant.
    One day we got our first assignment, and I figured I had better not pick the local news or the food section. World news would probably be OK, but I thought that sports was my best bet. And I knew that sports was always the third section in that paper.
    I didn’t understand why everyone burst into laughter when I announced to the whole classroom that I needed a C-section.
    (This one is a true story.)

  3. Great site, thanks L’Hat!
    I had fun going through the dialect sites. In Hungary the local dialect of Schwabian has been going deeply under since 1989, as minority village schools teach Hochdeutsch to students whose home language was once the local Sváb dialect. I remember asking for directions in Sváb villages twenty kilometers north of Budapest and meeting people who really could not speak Hungarian. Now it is really rare to hear Sváb spoken at all. I used to comunicate with my ex-wife’s grandmother – who was a Svab – in Yiddish. I actually heard some high school aged kids speaking Svab on the tram in Pest a few months ago and was really surprised. I have been to Svab villages quite a lot recently and have not heard it spoken on the street as I had fifteen years ago.
    In Transylvania there are still pockets where Svab and Saxon are spoken, but a large part of those communities emigrated to Germany beginning in the 1980s. (Old Berlin Joke: What is the difference between a Turk and a Transylvanian Saxon? The Turk speaks German and has a job…)
    In Maramures there are still a few Zipser Germans, but they tend to have assimilated into the Hungarian minority or moved. I met an old Zipser man in Ocna Sugatag once who spoke Hungarian. He toild me he was Zipser, and added “I’m the last Zipser in Ocna… and the last Hungarian…”

  4. zaelic: I was thinking of you when I posted this; I’m glad you’re someplace with internet access! And of course you remember my love for Zipsers

  5. The next time I head up into Maramures I think I’ll look for Zipser speakers around Viseu and Petrova and see what happens. They seem to have assimilated out of the German language around the 1930s or so.
    I sent some photos of my last trip in that region to my buddy, Klezmer tuba player Marc Rubin who put tem in his blog at: http://markdrubin.blogspot.com/2005/12/bob-cohens-october-romanian-expedition.html

  6. michael farris says:

    Very valuable resource but a _lot_ of links don’t work (at least the ones I tried). But, it’s still far better than being hit with a stick and having your clothes made fun of.

  7. Thanks for the link — particularly interesting to me now that I’m living in Germany.
    I actually ran across the very first of the Lëtzebuergesch links (hosted by the Luxembourg Tourist Office in London, apparently) several years back, and was struck by its odd tone. There are some interesting but perhaps overly pessimistic discussions about the problems facing Luxembourgers trying to write in French or German, and a curiously apologetic, even slightly embarrassed attitude towards Lëtzebuergesch itself. The article notes that Lëtzebuergesch is “the symbol of the Luxembourgers national identity,” but goes on to claim that “… it is a poor culture-bearer. As soon as a conversation reaches out into the higher levels of abstraction or refined sentiment, the limits of the vocabulary and grammatical constructions available are all too apparent and it becomes necessary to borrow from other languages.”

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