Gotthelf, Jeremias

Gotthelf, Jeremias

Gotthelf, Jeremias, 1797-1854, Swiss writer and clergyman. His real name was Albert Bitzius; his pen name is that of the hero of his autobiographical Bauernspiegel (1837). Gotthelf, working as Protestant pastor in Bern canton, took an active interest in the education and economic improvement of the poverty-stricken rural population. His 38 volumes of prose are characterized by Christian fervor, humor, sincerity, and vigor. Many were written in the Swiss-German idiom. Best known are Ulric, the Farm Servant (1840, tr. 1888) and Die schwarze Spinne [The Black Spider] (1842, tr. 1975).
Swiss German (Schweizerdeutsch, Schwyzerdütsch, Schwiizertüütsch, Schwizertitsch) is any of the Alemannic dialects spoken in Switzerland and in some Alpine communities in Northern Italy. Occasionally, the Alemannic dialects spoken in other countries are called Swiss German as well, especially the dialects of Liechtenstein and Austrian Vorarlberg which are closely associated to Switzerland's.

Linguistically, Swiss German forms no unity. The linguistic division of Alemannic is rather into Low, High and Highest Alemannic, varieties of all of which are spoken both inside and outside of Switzerland. The reason "Swiss German" dialects constitute a special group is their almost unrestricted use as a spoken language in practically all situations of daily life, whereas the use of the Alemannic dialects in the other countries is restricted or even endangered.

The dialects of Swiss German must not be confused with Swiss Standard German, the variety of Standard German used in Switzerland. Even though Swiss Standard German is influenced by the Swiss German dialects to a certain degree, it is a variety of the Standard German language and very distinct from Swiss German proper. Any native speaker will immediately note the difference.

There are quite a number of practical books and small dictionaries with direct English to Swiss German references, which can occasionally be found in bookstores in Switzerland. There also are a few comprehensive books and dictionaries that translate some of the major Swiss dialects into Standard German. To most Germans the Swiss dialects are as incomprehensible as the Dutch language. There is hardly any example of dialects in the English language that might illustrate the situation. However, almost any Swiss German speaker will be able to speak Standard German or even some English when necessary. Most conversations between native Swiss German speakers will be in Swiss German unless there are Germans or Austrians involved in the conversation, in which case the Swiss will usually switch to accommodate them.

Use

Unlike most regional dialects in modern Europe, Swiss German is the spoken everyday language of all social levels in industrial cities as well as in the countryside. Using dialect conveys no social nor educational inferiority and is spoken with pride. There are only a few specific settings where speaking Standard German is demanded or polite, e.g., in education (but not during breaks in school lessons, where the teachers will speak in dialect with students), in multilingual parliaments (the federal parliaments and a few cantonal and municipal ones), in the main news broadcast or in the presence of German-speaking foreigners. This situation has been called a medial diglossia since the spoken language is mainly the dialect whereas the written language is mainly Standard German.

Swiss German is intelligible to speakers of other Alemannic dialects but is usually not intelligible to speakers of Standard German, including French- or Italian-speaking Swiss who learn Standard German at school. Swiss German speakers on TV or in movies are thus usually dubbed or subtitled if shown in Germany.

Dialect rock is a music genre using the language; many Swiss rock bands, however, sing in English.

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.

Each dialect is separable in numerous local sub-dialects, sometimes down to a resolution of individual villages. Speaking the dialect is an important part of regional, cantonal and national identity. 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 (although on occasion just barely) but may particularly have trouble understanding Walliser dialects.

History

As Alemannic dialects, Swiss German dialects did not participate in the second German vowel shift during medieval times - they use mostly the same vowels as Middle High German. As such, even though the Alemannic dialects belong to High German, their vowels are closer to Low Saxon than other High German dialects or standard German. An exception are certain central Swiss and Walser dialects, e.g. some dialects of Unterwalden, of the Schanfigg Valley (Graubünden) and that of Issime (Piedmont).

Examples:

Zürich dialect Unterwalden dialect Schanfigg and Issime dialects Standard German translation
[huːs] [huis] [hous] [haʊ̯s] house
[tsiːt] [tseit] [tseit] [tsae̯t] time

Most Swiss German dialects, being High-Alemannic dialects, have completed the High German consonant shift, that is, they have not only changed t to [t͡s] or [s] and p to [p͡f] or [f] but also k to [k͡x] or [x]. Most Swiss dialects have initial [x] or [k͡x] instead of k; there are however exceptions, namely the idioms of Chur and Basel. Basel German is a Low Alemannic dialect (like most, but not all, Alemannic dialects spoken in Germany), and Chur German is basically High Alemannic without initial [x] or [k͡x].

Examples:

High Alemannic Low Alemannic Standard German translation
[ˈxaʃtə] [ˈkʰaʃtə] [ˈkʰastən] box
[k͡xaˈri(ː)b̥ik͡x] [kʰaˈriːbikʰ] [kʰaˈriːbɪk] Caribbean

Pronunciation

Consonants

Like all Southern German dialects, Swiss German dialects have no voiced obstruents. However, they have an opposition of consonant pairs such as [t] and [d] or [p] and [b]. Traditionally, that distinction is said to be a distinction of fortis and lenis, though it has been claimed to be a distinction of quantity.

Swiss German are not aspirated. Aspirated have (in most dialects) secondarily developed by contractions or by borrowings from other languages (mainly standard German), e.g., /ˈphaltə/ 'keep' (standard German behalten); /ˈtheː/ 'tea' (standard German Tee [ˈtʰeː]); /ˈkhalt/ 'salary' (standard German Gehalt).

In the dialects of Basel and Chur, aspirated /k/ is also present in native words.

Unlike Standard German, Swiss German /x/ does not have the allophone [ç], but is always [x], or in many dialects even [χ]. The typical Swiss shibboleth features this sound: Chuchichäschtli ('kitchen cupboard'), pronounced [ˈχuχːiˌχæʃtli].

Neither Swiss German nor the Swiss national variety of standard German exhibits final devoicing, unlike the German national variety of standard German (for example, "Zug" is pronounced [tsuːg] and not [tsuːk]).

Most Swiss German dialects have gone through the Alemannic n-apocope, which has led to the loss of final -n in words such as Garte 'garden' (standard German Garten) or mache 'to make' (standard German machen). In some Highest Alemannic dialects, the n-apocope has also been effective in consonant clusters, for instance in Hore 'horn' (High Alemannic Horn) or däiche 'to think' (High Alemannic dänke). Only the Highest Alemannic dialects of the Lötschental and of the Haslital have preserved the -n.

The phoneme /r/ is pronounced as an alveolar trill [r] in many dialects, though certain dialects, especially in the Northeast or in the Basel region, have an uvular trill [ʀ] like that of standard German.

Vowels

Most Swiss German dialects have rounded front vowels, unlike many German dialects. Only in the Low Alemannic dialects of northwest Switzerland (mainly Basel) and in the Walliser dialects, these have been unrounded. Under the influence of other Swiss German dialects, the rounding is spreading.

Like Bavarian dialects, Swiss German dialects have preserved the opening diphthongs of Middle High German: , e.g. in /liə̯b̥/ 'lovely' (standard German lieb, but pronounced /liːp/); /huə̯t/ 'hat' (standard German Hut /huːt/); /xyə̯l/ 'cool' (standard German kühl /kyːl/). Note that some of those diphthongs have been unrounded in several dialects.

Like Low Saxon dialects, most Swiss German dialects have preserved the old monophthongs , e.g. /pfiːl/ 'arrow' (standard German Pfeil /pfaɪ̯l/); /b̥uːx/ 'belly' (standard German Bauch /baʊ̯x/); /z̥yːlə/ 'pillar' (standard German Säule /zɔʏ̯lə/). A few Alpine dialects show diphthongation similar to Standard German, esp. some dialects of Unterwalden and Schanfigg (Graubünden) and that of Issime (Piedmont); for examples see above.

Some Western Swiss German dialects (e.g. Bernese German) have preserved the old diphthongs , whereas the other dialects have like Standard German. Zurich German and some other dialects distinguish primary diphthongs from secondary ones that arose in hiatus position, i.e. Zurich German from Middel High German versus Zurich German from Middle High German , e.g. Zurich German 'leg, woman' from M.H.G. bein, vrouwe versus Zurich German 'free, building' from M.H.G. frī, būw.

Suprasegmentals

In many Swiss German dialects, consonant length and vowel length are independent from each other, whereas they interdepend in the other Germanic languages. Examples from Bernese German:

short /a/ long /aː/
short /f/ /hafə/ 'bowl' 'the honest ones'
long /fː/ /afːə/ 'apes' /ʃlaːfːə/ 'to sleep'

Stress is more often on the first syllable than in standard German, even in French loans such as [ˈmɛrsːi] or [ˈmersːi] "thanks". Note that there are many different stress patterns even within dialects. Bernese German is one of the dialects where many words are stressed on the first syllable, e.g. [ˈkaz̥ino] 'casino', whereas standard German has [kʰaˈziːno]. However, no Swiss German dialect is as consistent as the Icelandic language in this respect.

Grammar

The grammar of Swiss dialects has some specialties compared to Standard German:

  • There is no preterite indicative (yet there is a preterite subjunctive).
  • There is no genitive case, though certain dialects have preserved a possessive genitive (for instance in rural Bernese German).
  • The order within verb groups may vary, e.g. wil du bisch cho/wil du cho bisch vs. standard German weil du gekommen bist "because you have come/came".
  • All relative clauses are introduced by the relative particle wo (‘where’), never by the relative pronouns der, die, das, welcher, welches as in Standard German, e.g. ds Bispil, wo si schrybt vs. Standard German das Beispiel, das sie schreibt (‘the example that she writes’); ds Bispil, wo si dra dänkt vs. Standard German das Beispiel, woran sie denkt (‘the example that she thinks of’).
  • In combinations with other verbs, the verbs gah or goh "go", cho "come", la or lo "let" and aafa or aafo "begin" reduplicate, prefixed to the main verb.

example: Si chunt üse Chrischtboum cho schmücke.
literal translation: she comes our Christmas tree come decorate
translation She comes to decorate our Christmas tree.
example: Si lat ne nid la schlafe.
literal translation: she lets him not let sleep
translation: She doesn't let him sleep.

This is probably a generalisation of a close association of these verbs with the following verb in perfect tense or modal verb constructions:
perfect tense: Si het ne nid la schlafe.
literal translation: she has him not let sleep
translation: She hasn't let/didn't let him sleep.
modal verb: Si wot ne nid la schlafe.
literal translation: she wants him not let sleep
translation: She doesn't want to let him sleep.

Vocabulary

The vocabulary is rather rich, especially in rural areas: there are many special terms retained, e.g., regarding cattle or weather. In the cities, much of the rural vocabulary has been lost.

Most borrowings come from Standard German. Many of these are now so common that they have totally replaced the original Swiss German words, e.g. the words Hügel 'hill' (instead of Egg, Bühl), Lippe 'lip' (instead of Lefzge). Others have replaced the original words only in parts of Switzerland, e.g., Butter 'butter' (originally called Anken in most parts of Switzerland). Virtually any Swiss Standard German word can be borrowed into Swiss German, always adapted to Swiss German phonology. However, certain Standard German words are never used in Swiss German, for instance Frühstück 'breakfast', niedlich 'cute' or zu hause 'at home'; instead, the native words Zmorge, härzig and dehei are used.

Swiss dialects have quite a few words from French, which are perfectly assimilated. Glace (ice cream) for example is pronounced /glas/ in French but [ˈɡ̊lasːeː] or [ˈɡ̊lasːə] in many Swiss German dialects. The French word for 'thank you', merci, is also used as in merci vilmal, literally "thanks many times". Maybe these words aren't direct borrowings from French but survivors of the once more numerous French loans in Standard German, many of which have fallen out of use in Germany.

In recent years, Swiss dialects have also borrowed some English words which already sound very Swiss, e.g., [ˈfuːd̥ə] ('to eat', from "food"), [ɡ̊ei̯mə] ('to play computer games', from "game") or [ˈz̥nœːb̥ə] or [ˈb̥oːrd̥ə] - ('to snowboard', from "snowboard"). These words are probably not direct loans from English, but have been adopted through standard German intermediation. While most of those loanwords are of recent origin, some have been in use for decades, e.g. [ˈʃutːə] (to play football, from "shoot").

There are also a few English words which are modern borrowings from the Swiss German languages. The dishes muesli, and rösti have become English words, as did loess (fine grain), flysch (sandstone formation), bivouac, kepi, landamman, kilch, schiffli, and the act of putsching in a political sense.

Literature

Written forms that were mostly based on the local Alemannic varieties, thus similar to Middle High German, were only gradually replaced by the forms of New High German. This replacement took from the 15th to the 18th century to be completed. In the 16th century, the Alemannic forms of writing were considered to be the original, truly Swiss forms, whereas the New High German forms were perceived as foreign innovations. The innovations were brought about by the printing press and were also associated with Lutheranism. An example of the language shift is the Froschauer Bible: Its first impressions after 1524 were largely written in an Alemannic language, but since 1527, the New High German forms were gradually adopted. The Alemannic forms were longest preserved in the chancelleries, with the chancellery of Berne being the last to adopt New High German in the second half of the 18th century.

Today all formal writing, newspapers, books and much informal writing is done in Swiss Standard German, which is usually called Schriftdeutsch (written German). Certain dialectal words are accepted regionalisms in Swiss Standard German and are also sanctioned by the Duden, e.g., Zvieri (afternoon snack). Note that Swiss Standard German is virtually identical to Standard German as used in Germany, with most differences in pronunciation, vocabulary and orthography. For example Swiss Standard German always uses a double s (ss) instead of the eszett (ß).

Today especially young people use the dialect more and more in informal written communication (e.g., e-mail or text messaging). However, most write standard German more fluently than their dialect.

There are no official rules about writing Swiss German. The orthographies used in the Swiss German literature can be roughly divided in two systems: Those that try to stay as close to standard German spelling as possible and those that try to represent the sounds as well as possible. The so-called Schwyzertütschi Dialäktschrift was developped by the famous Swiss anglist and phonologist Eugen Dieth, but nearly only language experts know about these guidelines. Furthermore, Dieth's originally proposed spelling proposed some special signs not found on a normal keyboard, such as 〈ʃ〉 instead of 〈sch〉 for [ʃ] or 〈ǜ〉 instead of 〈ü〉 for [ʏ]. Later on there was evolved a more simplified version, which can be written with "a normal typewriter" , and this one has found a good reception by dialect writing authors, dialectologists and, to a certain degree, also other users.

A few letters are used differently from the Standard German rules:

  • The letter (and ) is used for the affricate /kx/.
  • The letter is used for the fortis /k/.
  • (and sometimes ) traditionally stands for the /iː/ that corresponds to Standard German /aɪ̯/, e.g. in Rys ‘rice’ (standard German Reis /raɪ̯s/) vs. Ris ‘giant’ (standard German /riːzə/). This usage goes back to an old ij-ligature. Many writers, however, don't use , but Zürich German Riis /riːz̥/ ‘rice’ or 'giant' to Bernese German Rys /riːz̥/ 'rice' vs. Ris /rɪːz̥/ (‘giant’). Some use even , influenced by Standard German spelling, which leads to confusion with for /iə̯/.

Since the 19th century, a (more quantitatively than qualitatively) quite considerable body of Swiss German literature has accumulated. The earliest works were in Zurich German (Johann Martin Usteri, Jakob Stutz); strong Bernese influence show the works of Jeremias Gotthelf which were published at the same time. Some of the more important dialect writing authors and their works are:

  • Anna Maria Bacher (born 19..), Z Kschpel fam Tzit; Litteri un Schattä; Z Tzit fam Schnee (South Walser German of Formazza/Pomatt)
  • Albert Bächtold (1891-1981), De goldig Schmid; Wält uhni Liecht; De Studänt Räbme; Pjotr Ivanowitsch (Schaffhausen dialect of Klettgau)
  • Ernst Burren (born 1944), Dr Schtammgascht; Näschtwermi (Solothurn dialect)
  • August Corrodi (1826-1885), De Herr Professer; De Herr Vikari; De Herr Dokter, translation of Plautus's Mostellaria (Zurich dialect)
  • Barbara Egli (1918-2005), Wildi Chriesi (Zurich Oberland dialect)
  • Fritz Enderlin (1883-1971), De Sonderbunds-Chrieg, translated from C. F. Ramuz's French poem La Grande Guerre du Sondrebond (Upper Thurgovian dialect)
  • Martin Frank (born 1950), Ter Fögi ische Souhung; La Mort de Chevrolet (Bernese dialect with Zurich interferences)
  • Simon Gfeller (1868-1943), Ämmegrund; Drätti, Müetti u der Chlyn; Seminarzyt (Bernese dialect of Emmental)
  • Jeremias Gotthelf (1797-1854), only parts of his works are written in dialect (Bernese dialect)
  • Paul Haller (1882-1920), Maria und Robert (Western Aargau dialect)
  • Frida Hilty-Gröbli (1893-1957), Am aalte Maartplatz z Sant Galle; De hölzig Matroos (St Gall dialect)
  • Josef Hug (1903-1985), S Gmaiguet; Dunggli Wolgga ob Salaz (Graubünden Rhine Valley dialect)
  • Thomas Hürlimann (born 1950), Dr Franzos im Ybrig, loosely based on Morel's play
  • Michael Kuoni (1838-1891), Bilder aus dem Volksleben des Vorder-Prättigau's (Graubünden Walser dialect of Prättigau)
  • Maria Lauber (1891-1973), Chüngold; Bletter im Luft; Der jung Schuelmiischter (Bernese Oberland dialect)
  • Meinrad Lienert (1865-1933), Flüeblüemli; 's Mireli; Der Waldvogel (Schwyz dialect of Einsiedeln)
  • Carl Albert Loosli (1877-1959), Mys Dörfli; Mys Ämmitaw; Wi's öppe geit! (Bernese dialect of Emmental)
  • Kurt Marti (born 1921), Vierzg Gedicht ir Bärner Umgangssprache; Rosa Loui (Bernese dialect)
  • Mani Matter (1936-1972), songwriter (Bernese dialect)
  • Traugott Meyer (1895-1959), 's Tunnälldorf; Der Gänneral Sutter (Basel-Landschaft dialect)
  • Gall Morel (1803-1872), Dr Franzos im Ybrig (Schwyz German of Iberg)
  • Viktor Schobinger (born 1934), Der Ääschme trifft simpatisch lüüt and a lot of other Züri Krimi (Zurich dialect)
  • Caspar Streiff (1853-1917), Der Heiri Jenni im Sunnebärg (Glarus dialect)
  • Jakob Stutz (1801-1877), Gemälde aus dem Volksleben; Ernste und heitere Bilder aus dem Leben unseres Volkes (Zurich Oberland dialect)
  • Rudolf von Tavel (1866-1934), Ring i der Chetti; Gueti Gschpane; Meischter und Ritter; Der Stärn vo Buebebärg; D’Frou Kätheli und ihri Buebe; Der Frondeur; Ds velorene Lied; D’Haselmuus; Unspunne; Jä gäl, so geit’s!; Der Houpme Lombach; Götti und Gotteli; Der Donnergueg; Veteranezyt; Heinz Tillman; Die heilige Flamme; Am Kaminfüür; Bernbiet; Schweizer daheim und draußen; Simeon und Eisi; Geschichten aus dem Bernerland (Bernese dialect)
  • Alfred Tobler (1845-1923), Näbes oß mine Buebejohre (Appenzell dialect)
  • Johann Martin Usteri (1763-1827), Dichtungen in Versen und Prosa (Zurich German)
  • Hans Valär (1871-1947), Dr Türligiiger (Graubünden Walser dialect of Davos)
  • Bernhard Wyss (1833-1889), Schwizerdütsch. Bilder aus dem Stilleben unseres Volkes (Solothurn dialect)

See also

References

  • Verein für das Schweizerdeutsche Wörterbuch (ed.): Schweizerisches Idiotikon: Wörterbuch der schweizerdeutschen Sprache. Frauenfeld : Huber, 17 vols. (15 complete), 1881- , ISBN 978-3719304133. )
  • Albert Bachmann (ed.), Beiträge zur schweizerdeutschen Grammatik (BSG), 20 vols., Frauenfeld : Huber, 1919-1941.
  • Rudolf Hotzenköcherle (ed.), Beiträge zur schweizerdeutschen Mundartforschung (BSM), 24 vols., Frauenfeld : Huber, 1949-1982.

External links

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