Swiss German - Variation and Distribution

Variation and Distribution

Swiss German is a regional or political umbrella term, not a linguistic unity. For all dialects, there are idioms spoken outside Switzerland that are more closely related to them than some Swiss German dialects. The main linguistic divisions within Swiss German are those of Low, High and Highest Alemannic. Low Alemannic is only spoken in the northernmost parts of Switzerland, in Basel and around Lake Constance. High Alemannic is spoken in most of the Swiss plateau, and is divided in an eastern and a western group. Highest Alemannic is spoken in the Alps.

  • Low Alemannic
    • Basel German in Basel (BS & BL), closely related to Alsatian
  • High Alemannic
    • western
      • Bernese German, in the Swiss plateau parts of Bern (BE)
      • dialects of Solothurn (SO)
      • dialects of Aargau (AG)
      • dialects of Lucerne (LU)
      • dialects of Zug (ZG)
    • in a middle position between eastern and western is
      • Zürich German, in Zürich (ZH)
    • eastern
      • dialects of St. Gallen (SG)
      • dialects of Appenzell (AR & AI)
      • dialects of Thurgau (TG)
      • dialects of Schaffhausen (SH)
      • dialects of parts of Graubünden (GR)
  • Highest Alemannic
    • dialects of the German-speaking parts of Freiburg (FR).
    • dialects of the Bernese Oberland (BE)
    • dialects of Unterwalden (UW) and Uri (UR)
    • dialects of Schwyz (SZ)
    • dialects of Glarus (GL)
    • Walliser German in parts of the Valais (VS)
    • Walser German: Via the medieval migration of the Walser, Highest Alemannic spread to pockets of what are now parts of northern Italy (P), the north west of Ticino (TI), parts of Graubünden (GR), Liechtenstein and Vorarlberg.

Each dialect is separable into numerous local subdialects, sometimes down to a resolution of individual villages. Speaking the dialect is an important part of regional, cantonal and national identities. In the more urban areas of the Swiss plateau, regional differences are fading due to increasing mobility, and a growing population of non-Alemannic descent. Despite the varied dialects, the Swiss can still understand one another, but may particularly have trouble understanding Walliser dialects.

Read more about this topic:  Swiss German

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