Bavarian language

Boarisch, Bairisch
Region Austria, Bavaria, and South Tyrol
Native speakers
14,000,000 (2016)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 bar
Glottolog bava1246  Bavarian proper[2]
baye1239  Bayerisch[3]
Location map of Bavarian

Bavarian (also known as Bavarian Austrian or Austro-Bavarian; Boarisch [ˈbɔɑrɪʃ] or Bairisch; German: Bairisch [ˈbaɪʁɪʃ] ( listen); Hungarian: bajor) is a West Germanic language[4] belonging to the Upper German group, spoken in the southeast of the German language area, much of Bavaria, much of Austria and South Tyrol in Italy, as well as Samnaun in Switzerland.[5] Before 1945, Bavarian was also prevalent in parts of the southern Czech Republic and western Hungary. It forms a continuum of more or less mutually intelligible local and regional variants.

This cluster of dialects is classified as individual language (distinct and independent[6]) by ISO 693-3 codification.[4]


The Bavarians as a group formed in the early medieval period, as the population of the Duchy of Bavaria, forming the south-eastern part of the kingdom of Germany. The Old High German documents from the area of Bavaria are identified as Altbairisch ("Old Bavarian"), even though at this early date there are few distinctive features that would divide it from Alemannic German.

The dialectal separation of Upper German into East Upper German (Bavarian) and West Upper German (Alemannic) becomes more tangible in the Middle High German period, from about the 12th century.

Geographical distribution and dialects

Three main dialect groups in Bavarian are:

Differences are clearly noticeable within those three subgroups, which in Austria often coincide with the borders of the particular states. For example, each of the accents of Carinthia, Styria, and Tyrol can be easily recognised. Also, there is a marked difference between eastern and western central Bavarian, roughly coinciding with the border between Austria and Bavaria. In addition, the Viennese dialect has some characteristics distinguishing it from all other dialects. In Vienna, minor, but recognizable, variations are characteristic for distinct districts of the city.


In contrast to many other varieties of German, Bavarian differs sufficiently from Standard German to make it difficult for native speakers to adopt standard pronunciation. All educated Bavarians and Austrians, however, can read, write and understand Standard German, but may have very little opportunity to speak it, especially in rural areas. In those regions, Standard German is restricted to use as the language of writing and the media. It is therefore often referred to as Schriftdeutsch ("written German") rather than the usual term Hochdeutsch ("High German" or "Standard German").


Bavaria and Austria officially use Standard German as the primary medium of education. With the spread of universal education, the exposure of speakers of Bavarian to Standard German has been increasing, and many younger people, especially in the region's cities, and larger towns speak Standard German with only a slight accent. This accent usually only exists in families where Bavarian is spoken regularly. Families that do not use Bavarian at home usually use Standard German instead. In Austria, some parts of grammar and spelling are taught in Standard German lessons. As reading and writing in Bavarian is generally not taught at schools, almost all literate speakers of the language prefer to use Standard German for writing. Regional authors and literature may play a role in education as well, but by and large, Standard German is the lingua franca.


Although there exist grammars, vocabularies, and a translation of the Bible in Bavarian, there is no common orthographic standard. Poetry is written in various Bavarian dialects, and many pop songs use the language as well, especially ones belonging to the Austropop wave of the 1970s and 1980s.

Although Bavarian as a spoken language is in daily use in its region, Standard German, often with strong regional influence, is preferred in the mass media.

Ludwig Thoma is a noted author who wrote works such as Lausbubengeschichten in Bavarian.


There is a Bavarian Wikipedia, completely in Bavarian.



  Bilabial Labio-
Alveolar Post-
Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ŋ
Stop p b t d k ɡ ʔ
Affricate pf ts
Fricative f v s ʃ (ç) (x) h
Trill r
Approximant l j


  • The phoneme /h/ is frequently realised as [ç] or [x] word-internally and is realised as [h] word-initially.
  • Intervocalic /s/ can be voiced to [z].
  • Intervocalic /v/ or /w/ sound can be realised as [ʋ] or [β].
  • Some dialects, such as the Bavarian dialect in South Tyrol, realise /k/ as an affricate [kx] word-initially and before /m, n, l, r/, which is an extension of the High German consonant shift to velar consonants.


Vowel phonemes in parentheses occur only in diphthongs, are allophones, or are rare. Nasal vowels may also appear in some dialects.

Front Central Back
unrounded rounded
Close ɪ i ʏ y ʊ u
Close-mid e ø (ə) o
Open-mid ɛ œ (ɐ) ɔ
Open æ (ɶ) (a) (ɑ) ɒ

Bavarian has an extensive vowel inventory, like most Germanic languages. Vowels can be grouped as back rounded, front unrounded and front rounded. They are also traditionally distinguished by length or tenseness.


The commonly accepted grammar and spelling system for Bavarian has been documented by A. Schmeller;[7] see more details at the German Wikipedia page for Bairische Dialekte.

  • Bavarian usually has case inflection only for the article. With very few exceptions, nouns are not inflected for case.
  • The simple past tense is very rare in Bavarian and has been retained for only a few verbs, including 'to be' and 'to want'. In general, the perfect is used to express past time.
  • Bavarian features verbal inflection for several moods such as indicative, subjunctive and imperative. See the table below for inflection of the Bavarian verb måcha, 'make; do':
måcha Indicative Imperative Subjunctive Optative
1. Sgi måchi måchadmåchadi
2. Sg (informal)du måchstmåch!du måchastmåchast
3. Sger måchter måch!er måchadmåchada
1. Plmia måchan*måchma!mia måchadnmåchadma
2. Pleß måchtsmåchts!eß måchatsmåchats
3. Plse måchan(t)se måchadnmåchadns
2. Sg (formal)Si måchanmåchan’S!Si måchadnmåchadn’S


Personal pronouns

1st person2nd person informal2nd person formal3rd person 1st person2nd person3rd person
Nominative iduSiea, se/de, desmiaeß/öß / ia*se
Unstressed i---'S-a, -'s, -'s-ma-'s-'s
Dative miadiaEanaeam, eara/iara, demuns, insenk / eich*ea, eana
Unstressed -ma-da
Accusative -mi-diEanaeam, eara/iara, desuns, insenk / eich*ea, eana
Unstressed Si-'n, …, -'s-'s

* These are typically used in the very northern dialects of Bavarian.

Possessive pronouns

Masculine singularFeminine singularNeuter singularPlural (any gender) Masculine singularFeminine singularNeuter singularPlural (any gender)
Nominative meimeimeimeinemeinameinemei(n)smeine
Dative meimmeinameimmeinemeimmeinameimmeine
Accusative meinmeimeimeinemeinmeinemei(n)smeine

The possessive pronouns Deina and Seina inflect in the same manner. Oftentimes, nige is added to the nominative to form the adjective form of the possessive pronoun, like mei(nige), dei(nige), and the like.

Indefinite pronouns

Just like the possessive pronouns listed above, the indefinite pronouns koana, "none", and oana, "one" are inflected the same way.

There is also the indefinite pronoun ebba(d), "someone" with its impersonal form ebb(a)s, "something". It is inflected in the following way:

Nominative ebbaebbs
Dative ebbamebbam
Accusative ebbanebbs

Interrogative pronouns

The interrogative pronouns wea, "who", and wås, "what" are inflected the same way the indefinite pronoun ebba is inflected.

Nominative weawås
Dative wemwem
Accusative wenwås


Bavarians produce a variety of nicknames for those who bear traditional Bavarian or German names like Josef, Theresa or Georg (becoming Sepp'l or more commonly Sepp, Resi and Schorsch, respectively). Bavarians often refer to names with the family name coming first (like da Stoiber Ede instead of Edmund Stoiber). The use of the article is considered mandatory when using this linguistic variation. In addition, nicknames different from the family name exist for almost all families, especially in small villages. They consist largely of their profession, names or professions of deceased inhabitants of their homes or the site where their homes are located. This nickname is called Hausname (en: name of the house) and is seldom used to name the person, but more to state where they come from or live or to whom they are related. Examples of this are:

  • Mohler (e.g. Maler - painter)
  • Bachbauer (farmer who lives near a brook)
  • Moosrees (Resi who lives near a brook)
  • Schreiner (joiner)

Samples of Bavarian and Austrian

Austrian 's Bóarische is a Grubbm fő Dialektt im Siin vam daitschn Shproochraum.
Bavarian 's Bóarische is a Grubbm fő Dialektt im Siin vom daitschn Shproochram.
Standard German Das Bairische ist eine Gruppe von Dialekten im Süden des deutschen Sprachraumes.
English Bavarian is a group of dialects in the south of the German Sprachraum.
Austrian Séawas*/Zéas/D'Éare/Griass Di/Griass Gód, i bĩ da Beder und kumm/kimm fõ Minchn/Minicha.
Bavarian Séawus/Habedéare/Griass Di/Griass Gód, i bin/bĩ da Peder und kimm fő Minga/Minka.
Standard German Hallo/Servus/Grüß dich, ich heiße Peter und ich komme aus München.
English Hello, I am Peter and I come from Munich.
Austrian D' Lisa/'s-Liasl hod si an Haxn bróchn/brócha.
Bavarian D'Lisa/As Liasal hod sé an Hax brócha.
Standard German Lisa hat sich das Bein gebrochen.
English Lisa broke/has broken her leg.
Austrian I ho(b)/hã/hoo a Göd/Goid gfundn/gfunna.
Bavarian I ho(b) a Gejd/Goid/Göld gfuna.
Standard German Ich habe Geld gefunden.
English I (have) found money.

See also


  1. Bavarian at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Bavarian". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Bayerisch". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  4. 1 2 "Documentation for ISO 639 identifier: bar".
  5. "Bavarian". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2017-08-31.
  6. "Scope of denotation for language identifiers - Individual languages".
  7. Schmeller, Johann Andreas; edited by Frommann, Georg Carl (1872). Bayerisches Wörterbuch. München, Oldenbourg 2002. ISBN 3-486-52603-0.

Further reading

  • Hietsch, Otto (2015), Wörterbuch Bairisch-Englisch, Von Apfelbutzen bis Zwickerbusserl, Regenstauf: SüdOst Verlag, ISBN 978-3-86646-307-3 
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