Swabian German

Native to Germany[1]
Native speakers
820,000 (2006)[2]
Latin (German alphabet)
Language codes
ISO 639-3 swg
Glottolog swab1242[3]

Areas where Alemannic dialects are spoken

Swabian ( Schwäbisch ) is one of the Alemannic dialects of High German. It is spoken in Swabia, which covers much of the southwestern German state of Baden-Württemberg, including its capital, Stuttgart. It is also spoken in the rural area known as the Swabian Alb, and in the southwest of Bavarian Swabia. Swabian is also nominally spoken by the Danube Swabian population of Hungary, the former Yugoslavia and Romania and by the Caucasus Germans.


Swabian is difficult to understand for speakers of Standard German, not just because of its pronunciation but because it contains vocabulary that differs from Standard German. For example, "strawberry jam" in Standard German is Erdbeermarmelade while in Swabian it is Bräschdlingsgsälz.[4]

In 2009, the word "Muggeseggele" (a Swabian idiom), meaning the dirt a housefly leaves on surfaces, was voted in a readers' survey by Stuttgarter Nachrichten, the largest newspaper in Stuttgart, as the most beautiful Swabian word, well ahead of any other term.[4] The expression is used in an ironic way to describe a small unit of measure and is deemed appropriate to use in front of small children (compare Bubenspitzle). German broadcaster SWR's children's website, Kindernetz, explained the meaning of Muggeseggele in their Swabian dictionary in the Swabian-based TV series Ein Fall für B.A.R.Z.[5]


"t" to "d"
Tasche (bag)     becomes  Dasch
Tag (day)        becomes  Dag
"p" to "b"
putzen (to clean) becomes  butza
Papa (dad)        becomes Baba
Zug (train)      becomes  Zigle
Haus (house)     becomes  Heisle
Kerl (guy)       becomes  Kerle
Mädchen (girl)   becomes  Mädle
Baum (tree)      becomes  Baimle
In some regions "-la" for plural is used. (For example, Heisle may become Heisla, Spätzle  becomes Spätzla.)
Many surnames in Swabia are also made to end in "-le".
"ich" becomes i
"dich" becomes di
"mich" becomes mi
German Swabian Example
(German = Swabian)
short a [a] [a] machen = macha
long a [] [] schlafen = schlofa
short e [ɛ] [e] Mensch = Mentsch
[ɛ] fest = fäscht
long e [] [ɛa̯] leben = läaba
short o [ɔ] [ɔ] Kopf = Kopf
long o [] [aʊ̯] hoch, schon = hau, schau
short ö [œ] [e] können, Köpfe = kenna, Kepf
long ö [øː] [] schön = schee
short i [ɪ] [e] in = en
long i (ie) [] [ia̯] nie = nia
short ü [ʏ] [ɪ] über = iber
long ü [] [ia̯] müde = miad
short u [ʊ] [ɔ] und = ond
long u [] [ua̯] gut = guat
ei [aɪ̯] [ɔa̯], [ɔɪ̯][lower-alpha 1] Stein = Stoa/Stoi
[ei̯][lower-alpha 2] mein = mei
au [aʊ̯] [ou̯] Haus = Hous
eu [ɔʏ̯] [ei̯], [ui̯] Feuer = Feijer/Fuijer

In many regions, the Swabian dialect is spoken with a unique intonation that is also present when Swabian native speakers talk in Standard German. Similarly, a subtle but very prominent cue carrying over is the fact that the letter s is always pronounced voiceless - there is no voiced s in Swabian (or most southern dialects in general). While this should be very obvious to northern Germans, Swabian speakers are most often very unaware about this even while tending to speak perfect standard German in all other aspects.

The voiced plosives, the post-alveolar fricative, and the frequent use of diminutives based on "l" suffixes gives the dialect a very "soft" or "mild" feel, often felt to be in sharp contrast to the harder varieties of German spoken in the North.

Classification and variation

Swabian is categorized as an Alemannic dialect, which in turn is one of the two types of Upper German dialects (the other being Bavarian). The ISO 639-3 language code for Swabian is swg.[6]

A sticker that translates as: "We can do everything. Except [speak] standard German."

The Swabian dialect is composed of numerous sub-dialects, each of which has its own variations. These sub-dialects can be categorized by the difference in the formation of the past participle of 'sein' (to be) into gwäa and gsei. The Gsei group is nearer to other Alemannic dialects, such as Swiss German. It can be divided into South-East Swabian, West Swabian and Central Swabian.[7]

Recognition in mass media

Dominik Kuhn (2012)

The Baden-Württemberg Chamber of Commerce was praised for its advertising campaign with the slogan "Wir können alles. Außer Hochdeutsch." which means "We can [do] everything. Except [speak] Standard German." The campaign wanted to boost Swabian pride for their dialect and industrial achievements.[8] It however failed to impress Northern Germans[9] and neighboring Baden. Dominik Kuhn (Dodokay) became famous in Germany with schwäbisch fandub videos,[10] dubbing among others Barack Obama with German dialect vocals and revised text.[11]

Swabian dialect writers

See also


  1. From MHG [ei̯]
  2. From MHG []


  1. 1 2 3 Ethnologue entry
  2. Swabian at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  3. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Swabian". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  4. 1 2 Schönstes schwäbisches Wort, Großer Vorsprung für Schwabens kleinste Einheit, Jan Sellner 09.03.2009, Stuttgarter Nachrichten
  5. Swabian dictionary at website of Südwestrundfunk Ein Fall für B.A.R.Z.
  6. Code for Swabian German (swg)
  7. Noble, Cecil A. M. (1983). Modern German dialects New York [u.a.], Lang, p. 63.
  8. Baden-Württemberg Chamber of Commerce
  9. Diskriminiteer Dialekt Armes Süddeutsch FAZ 2013
  10. Star Wars dub sends jobbing ad man into orbit, By Dave Graham Reuters STUTTGART, Germany Thu Oct 14, 2010
  11. Barack Obama Schwäbisch - Rede Berlin 2013 - dodokay

External links

For a list of words relating to Swabian language, see the Swabian language category of words in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 8/11/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.