Swabian German

Native to Germany[1]
Native speakers
820,000 (2006)[2]
Latin (German alphabet)
Language codes
ISO 639-3 swg
Glottolog swab1242[3]
Areas where Alemannic dialects are spoken

Swabian ( Schwäbisch ) is one of the dialect groups of Alemannic German that belong to the High German dialect continuum. It is spoken in Swabia, which covers much of the southwestern German state of Baden-Württemberg, including its capital, Stuttgart. It is also spoken in the rural area known as the Swabian Alb, and in the southwest of Bavarian Swabia. Swabian is also nominally spoken by the Danube Swabian population of Hungary, the former Yugoslavia and Romania and by the Caucasus Germans.


Swabian is difficult to understand for speakers of Standard German, not just because of its pronunciation but because it contains vocabulary that differs from Standard German. For example, "strawberry jam" in Standard German is Erdbeermarmelade while in Swabian it is Bräschdlingsgsälz.[4]

In 2009, the word "Muggeseggele" (a Swabian idiom), meaning the scrotum of a housefly, was voted in a readers' survey by Stuttgarter Nachrichten, the largest newspaper in Stuttgart, as the most beautiful Swabian word, well ahead of any other term.[4] The expression is used in an ironic way to describe a small unit of measure and is deemed appropriate to use in front of small children (compare Bubenspitzle). German broadcaster SWR's children's website, Kindernetz, explained the meaning of Muggeseggele in their Swabian dictionary in the Swabian-based TV series Ein Fall für B.A.R.Z.[5]


  • The ending "-ad" is used for verbs in the first person plural. (For example, "we go" is mir gangad instead of Standard German's wir gehen.)
  • As in other Alemannic dialects, the pronunciation of "s" before "t" and "p" is [ʃ] (For example, Fest ("party"), is pronounced as Feschd.)
  • The voice-onset time for plosives is about halfway between where it would be expected for a clear contrast between voiced and unvoiced-aspirated stops. This difference is most noticeable on the unvoiced stops, rendering them extremely similar to or indistinguishable from voiced stops:
"t" to "d" "p" to "b"
German Swabian German Swabian
Tasche (bag) Dasch putzen (to clean) butza
Tag (day) Dag Papa (dad) Baba
  • One simple thing to look for is the addition of the diminutive "-le" suffix on many words in the German language. With the addition of this "-le" (pronounced /lə/), the article of the noun automatically becomes "das" in the German language, as in Standard German. The Swabian "-le" is the same as standard German "-lein" or "-chen", but is used, arguably, more often in Swabian. A small house (German: Haus) is a Häuschen in Standard German, a Heisle in Swabian. In some regions "-la" for plural is used. (For example, Heisle may become Heisla, Spätzle becomes Spätzla.) Many surnames in Swabia are also made to end in "-le".
German Swabian
Zug (train) Zigle
Haus (house) Heisle
Kerl (guy) Kerle
Mädchen (girl) Mädle
Baum (tree) Baimle
  • Articles (der, die and das) are often pronounced as "dr", "d" and "s" ("s Haus" instead of "das Haus").
  • The "ch" is sometimes omitted or replaced. "ich", "dich" and "mich" may become "i", "di" and "mi".
  • Vowels:
German Swabian Example
(German = Swabian)
short a [a] [a] machen = macha
long a [] [ɔː] schlafen = schlofa
short e [ɛ] [e] Mensch, fest = Mentsch, fescht
[ɛ] Fest = Fäscht
long e [] [ɛa̯] leben = läaba
short o [ɔ] [ɔ] Kopf = Kopf
long o [] [aʊ̯] hoch, schon = hau, schau
short ö [œ] [e] können, Köpfe = kenna, Kepf
long ö [øː] [] schön = schee
short i [ɪ] [e] in = en
long i (ie) [] [ia̯] nie = nia
short ü [ʏ] [ɪ] über = iber
long ü [] [ia̯] müde = miad
short u [ʊ] [ɔ] und = ond
long u [] [ua̯] gut = guat
ei [aɪ̯] [ɔa̯], [ɔɪ̯][lower-alpha 1] Stein = Schdoa/Schdoi
[a̯i][lower-alpha 2] mein = mei
au [aʊ̯] [aʊ̯][lower-alpha 3] laufen = laofa
[a̯u][lower-alpha 4] Haus = Hous
eu [ɔʏ̯] [a̯i], [ui̯] Feuer = Feijer/Fuijer

In many regions, the Swabian dialect is spoken with a unique intonation that is also present when Swabian native speakers talk in Standard German. Similarly, there is only one alveolar fricative phoneme /s/, a feature that is shared with most other southern dialects. Most Swabian speakers are unaware of the difference between /s/ and /z/ and do not attempt to make it when speaking Standard German.

The voiced plosives, the post-alveolar fricative, and the frequent use of diminutives based on "l" suffixes gives the dialect a very "soft" or "mild" feel, often felt to be in sharp contrast to the harder varieties of German spoken in the North.

Classification and variation

Swabian is categorized as an Alemannic dialect, which in turn is one of the two types of Upper German dialects (the other being Bavarian). The ISO 639-3 language code for Swabian is swg.[6]

The Swabian dialect is composed of numerous sub-dialects, each of which has its own variations. These sub-dialects can be categorized by the difference in the formation of the past participle of 'sein' (to be) into gwäa and gsei. The Gsei group is nearer to other Alemannic dialects, such as Swiss German. It can be divided into South-East Swabian, West Swabian and Central Swabian.[7]

Recognition in mass media

The Baden-Württemberg Chamber of Commerce launched an advertising campaign with the slogan "Wir können alles. Außer Hochdeutsch." which means "We can [do] everything. Except [speak] Standard German" to boost Swabian pride for their dialect and industrial achievements.[8] However, it failed to impress Northern Germans[9] and neighboring Baden. Dominik Kuhn (Dodokay) became famous in Germany with schwäbisch fandub videos,[10] dubbing among others Barack Obama with German dialect vocals and revised text.[11]

Swabian dialect writers

See also


  • Streck, Tobias (2012). Phonologischer Wandel im Konsonantismus der alemannischen Dialekte Baden-Württembergs : Sprachatlasvergleich, Spontansprache und dialektometrische Studien (in German). Stuttgart: Steiner. ISBN 978-3-515-10068-7. 
  • Cercignani, Fausto (1979). The consonants of German : synchrony and diachrony. Milano: Cisalpino-Goliardica. LCCN 81192307. 


  1. From MHG [ei̯]
  2. From MHG []
  3. From MHG â, ô or ou
  4. From MHG û


  1. 1 2 3 Ethnologue entry
  2. Swabian at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  3. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Swabian". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  4. 1 2 Schönstes schwäbisches Wort, Großer Vorsprung für Schwabens kleinste Einheit Archived 2013-09-27 at the Wayback Machine., Jan Sellner 09.03.2009, Stuttgarter Nachrichten
  5. Swabian dictionary Archived 2015-06-03 at the Wayback Machine. at website of Südwestrundfunk Ein Fall für B.A.R.Z.
  6. Code for Swabian German (swg)
  7. Noble, Cecil A. M. (1983). Modern German dialects New York [u.a.], Lang, p. 63.
  8. Baden-Württemberg Chamber of Commerce Archived 2007-11-10 at the Wayback Machine.
  9. Diskriminiteer Dialekt Armes Süddeutsch FAZ 2013
  10. Star Wars dub sends jobbing ad man into orbit, By Dave Graham Reuters STUTTGART, Germany Thu Oct 14, 2010
  11. Barack Obama Schwäbisch - Rede Berlin 2013 - dodokay
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