German dialects - a practical approach [abstract]

Wolfgang Näser, Deutscher Sprachatlas, Fachbereich 09,
Philipps-Universitaet, D-35032 Marburg

The German dialects or Mundarten are as old as interesting. They are vivid and colourful, powerful and expressive for all sorts of utterances, be it grief or joy, humour or the philosophy of life. Initiated by the second sound shift progressing north like a tidal wave three main regions were formed with a lot of local dialects in each of them. 1300 Hugo von Trimberg first tried to classify areal languages. In the 16th century Luther's regional variant became normative and the prototype of our present-day standard German. As independent systems all dialects are equivalent so each of them hypothetically could have been chosen as standard. A hundred years ago there was the saying that German dialects were dying out but they have remained alive and active as a base of regional culture, tradition and identity; up to now they have been present in the media and there is a high-level German dialect poetry, too. What we know about dialects, their features and their classification we owe to Georg Wenker and linguistic geography which initiated complex dialect atlases all over the world. 19th and 20th century linguists tried to build paradigmatic systems and theories on the rise and types of dialects. On the other hand a dialect can be understood and detected only when it sounds, when it is acoustically perceived, which I will demonstrate using historical and present-day samples in this lecture.    

(c) WN 01/2k6