A sketch with the best-known Swiss tongue twister

Martin J. Dürst via Unicode unicode at unicode.org
Tue Mar 13 02:52:57 CDT 2018

On 2018/03/10 20:26, philip chastney via Unicode wrote:

> I would make the following observations on terminology in practice:

> -- the newspapers in Zurich advertised courses in "Hoch Deutsch", for those who needed to deal with foreigners

This should probably be written 'the newspapers in Zurich advertised 
courses in "Hochdeutsch", for foreigners'. Hochdeutsch (Standard German) 
is the language used in school, and in writing, and while there may be 
some specialized courses for Swiss people who didn't do well throughout 
grade school and want to catch up, that's not what the advertisements 
are about.

> -- in Luxemburg, the same language was referred to as Luxemburgish (or Letzeburgesch, which is Luxemburgish for "Luxemburgish ")
>      (I forget what the Belgians called the language spoken in Ostbelgien)
> -- I was assured by a Luxemburgish-speaking car mechanic, with a Swiss German speaking wife, that the two languages (dialects?) were practically identical, except for the names of some household items

I can't comment on this, because I don't remember to ever have listened 
to somebody speaking Letzeburgesch.

> in short, there seems little point in making distinctions which cannot be precisely identified in practice
> there appear to be significant differences between between High German and (what the natives call) Swiss German
> there are far fewer significant differences between Swiss German and the other spoken Germanic languages found on the borders of Germany

In terms of linguistic analysis, that may be true. But virtually every 
native Swiss German speaker would draw a clear line between Swiss German 
(including the dialect(s) spoken in the upper Valais (Oberwallis), which 
are classified differently by linguists) and other varieties such as 
Swabian, Elsatian, Vorarlbergian, or even Letzeburgesch (which I have 
never seen classified as Allemannic)).

The reason for this is not so much basic linguistics, but much more a) 
vocabulary differences ranging from food to administrative terms, and b) 
the fact that people hear many different Swiss dialects on Swiss Radio 
and Television, while that's not the case for the dialects from outside 
the borders. So in practice, Swiss German can be delineated quite 
precisely, but more from a sociolinguistic and vocabulary perspective 
than from a purely evolutionary/historic linguistic perspective.

[Disclaimer: I'm not a linguist.]

Regards,   Martin.

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