This list is an attempt to bring a little light into the jungle of German dialects. There is no claim of completeness. We would be glad to receive further information, expecially on the geographic distribution of the individual dialects. Please note that the terms "High German" and "Low German" are often used in a different sense from the scientific sense used here. The common, though technically incorrect linguistically, use of these terms is:
- High German or Hochdeutsch
- The official language of Germany as promulgated in the schools, the press, the broadcast media, and specifically in the dictionary series called the Duden.
- Low German or Plattdeutsch
- Any dialect that differs from High German.
This list adheres to the definitions used by linguists in describing German dialects, and thus differs from the common definitions given above.
High German (Oberdeutsch)
To the High German dialects belong Swabian-Alemannic (Schwäbisch-Alemannisch), Bavarian (Bairisch), East Franconian (Ostfränkisch) and South (Rhine) Franconian (Süd(rhein)fränkische).
Includes Wuerttemberg (Württemberg), Baden, German-speaking Alsace (Elsaß), Bavaria (Bayern) west of the Lech, and the German-speaking parts of Switzerland (Schweiz) and Vorarlberg.
- Swabian (Schwäbisch)
- Low Alemannic (Niederalemannisch)
- High Alemannic (Hochalemannisch)
- High Alemannic is used in Switzerland.
- Highest Alemannic (Höchstalemannisch, or Walserdeutsch)
- A form of High Alemannic spoken in parts of the Canton of Wallis (in Oberwallis) is Highest Alemannic, also called Walserdeutsch or Walserish. The Walsers spread their dialect also into Graubünden and Vorarlberg and into other Walser settlements. Some parts of Walser German in Graubünden show influence from Rhaeto-Romanic.
- Alsatian (Elsässisch)
- Very ancient dialects, whose northern forms belong to Upper Rhenish, and whose southern forms belong to South Badensian and to Swiss German. To be pointed out especially is the so-called "Hanauer Land" near by Strassburg, the Münster valley country of the Vosges and to the south in the Sundgau.
Bavarian is divided into South, Middle, and High Bavarian, where the broad plains on the Isar and Danube rivers connect Upper and Lower Bavaria with the main parts of Upper and Lower Austria to the central territories of the largest German dialectal region of Middle Bavarian. Through this north-south gradation goes the broad West-East Bavarian dialectal boundary through Upper Austria, Salzburg, the Styrian Enns valley, and Upper Carinthia. This boundary goes back to the time of the first Bavarian land acquisition and follows approximately the outer boundary of East Carolingia and the former Duchy of Austria.
- South Bavarian (Südbairisch)
- South Bavarian is spoken mostly in Styria, Carinthia, and Tyrolia.
- Salzburgish (Salzburgisch)
- Salzburgish is an intermediate form between South and Middle Bavarian.
- Middle Bavarian (Mittelbairisch or Donaubairisch)
- This dialect, also called Danube Bavarian, occupies most of the Bavarian region including the Danube and the middle and lower Inn valleys and already in the early Middle Ages extended from the Lech to Bratislava (Pressburg).
- North Bavarian (Nordbairisch or Oberpfälzerisch)
- This dialect, also called Upper Franconian, is spoken in the region around Regensburg, Naab, the Fichtelgebirge (Fir Mountains), and in the northern Bohemian Forest.
East Franconian (Ostfränkisch, Main- or Oberfränkisch)
This dialectal area, also called Main Franconian (after the river Main) or Upper Franconian, extends as a well-defined area around Würzburg, Bamberg, Bayreuth, to southern and western Thuringia and out to the Vogtland. Nuremburg and its vicinity are also included.
South Franconian (Südfränkisch or Südrheinfränkisch)
This is a linguistic region that lies as a border swath between the Swabian-Alemannic, North Bavarian, East Franconian, and Rhine Franconian regions.
Middle German (Mitteldeutsch)
Middle German divides into West Middle German, with Rhine Franconian, to which Hessian belongs, and East Middle German, with Thuringian, Upper Saxon, Lausitzian, and formerly also Silesian. Mosel Franconian and Ripuarian also belong to Middle German.
Former Rhine Franconian or Hessian (Ehemaliges Rheinfränkisch or Hessisch)
The western part is taken up by Rhine-Palatinian (the region around Mainz), the eastern part by Hessian, and covers approximately the Archbishopric of Mainz. A Rhine-Palatinian island persists on the lower Rhine in Lower Franconia, where Palatines, who wanted to emigrate to join their countrymen in America, settled at the end of the 18th century. They come mostly from Simmern and Kreuznach. The boundary region between Hessian and Thuringian follows the watershed between the Werra and Fulda valleys over the High Meissen hills.
Middle Franconian (Mittelfränkisch)
The entire Middle Franconian region is one of linguistic transition between Rhine Franconian and Lower Franconian.
- Mosel Frankconian (Moselfränkisch)
- Mosel Franconian is spoken in the region of the old Electorate of Trier.
- Ripuarian (Ripuarisch)
- Ripuarian is the region of the old Electorate of Cologne (Köln).
The southern linguistic boundary to East Franconian is formed by the ridge of the Thuringian forest.
- Central Thuringian (Zentralthüringisch)
- Most strongly expressed in the Arnstadt-Erfurt-Gotha triangle.
Upper Saxon (Obersächsisch or Meißnisch)
Also called Meissenish, it is marked by Thuringian and Hessian characteristics. Low German, even Middle and Low Franconian (Flemish) elements have influence in the north, while characteristics of Main and East Franconianin appear in the south.
- Osterlandic (Osterländisch)
- Ostlandic extends north of around the Groitzsch-Grimma-Strehla line in a wedge shape out past Leipzig to Lower Lusatia.
- North Meissenish (Nordmeißnisch)
- The region of Grimma-Döbeln-Riesa.
- Northeast Meissenish (Nordostmeißnisch)
- A small region around Lommatzsch-Großenhain.
- West Meissenish (Westmeißnisch)
- West Meissenish, on both sides of the lower Zwickauer Mulde around Röchlitz, occupies an intermediate position between North Meissenish and South Meissenish on one side and Altenburgish on the other side.
- South Meissenish (Südmeißnisch)
- Lies in the region Öderan-Frankenberg-Hainichen-Freiberg.
- Southeast Meissenish (Südostmeißnisch)
- Southeast Meissenish, spoken in the region Dippoldswalde-Meißen-Radeburg-Bad Schandau, was influenced extensively by Dresden. It is identical in many circumstances with the former Silesian.
- Represents a transition dialect between West Erzgebirgish and Meissenish.
- West Erzgebirgish (Westerzgebirgisch)
- West Erzgebirgish lies in front of the Hither Erzgebirgish (with strong features of slang) in the north in the region, while in the west it borders on the Vogtlandish.
Lausitzian (Lausitzisch) and former Silesian (Schlesisch)
- West Lausitzian (Westlausitzisch)
- East of the upper course of the Pulsnitz and west of the so-called "New Lausitzian" spoken in the Sorbian region lies the small backwater territory of West Lausitzian around Pulsnitz and Kamenz.
- Former Silesian (Schlesisch)
- North of the Riesengebirge (Giants' Mountains) in the region of Glatz, in eastern Bohemia, and in Kuhländchen in the upper Oder area.
- Lower Lausitzian (Niederlausitzisch)
- Former High Prussian (Hochpreußisch)
- Lower Lausitzian and its neighboring Lower Silesian overlap geographically with the former High Prussian in central East Prussia and its neighboring West Prussia.
Low German (Niederdeutsch)
Low German is more uniform than High or Middle German. There are three large dialect regions: Low Franconian, Low Saxon (also West Low German) with Westphalian and Eastphalian, and East Low German with Mark-Brandenburg (with Middle Pomeranian) and Mecklenburgish (with Anterior Pomeranian).
Low Franconian (Niederfränkisch)
It is not to be equated with Dutch, rather it is spoken even on the northern German Lower Rhine, while the northeastern part of the Netherlands around the region of Groningen is Lower Saxon.
Lower Saxon (Niedersächsich)
To Lower Saxon belong the dialect regions of North Lower Saxon, Westphalian, and Eastphalian. A sharp boundary from the Rothaar mountains on divides Lower Saxon from Franconian and Hessian.
- Westphalian (Westfälisch)
- Among other places in the region Soest-Gütersloh-Paderborn. Also in the Münster area, while in the Ruhr region only oldtimer farmers speak Westphalian any more.
- Eastphalian (Ostfälisch)
- In the southeast part of Eastphalian lies the Elbe Eastphalian region.
- North Lower Saxon (Nordniedersächsich, Holsteinisch, Plattdeutsch)
- Region between Kiel, Lübeck, Hamburg, and the North Sea coast. Includes Holsteinish and Plattdeutsch.
- In addition to the aforementioned area, it is also spoken in the regions of East Frisia, Oldenburg, Bremen, Northern Lower Saxony, Schleswig-Holstein, and in some parts of Mecklenburg.
Brandenburgish includes the March of Brandenburg and a basis determined by Low German settlements that is best preserved in the Prignitz and Lower Lusatian regions.
- Middle Markish (Mittelmärkisch)
- Shows characterstics that can be traced to the Netherlands.
- North Markish (Nordmärkisch)
- Middle Pomeranian (Mittelpommersch)
- A broad stripe west of the Oder to the Baltic Sea, in the south though there is no dialectal boundary to North Markish.
- Berlinish (Berlinisch)
- Differs from Mark-Brandenburgish phonetically and in the style of speaking.
Mecklenburgish is well delineated in the west and south. In the east it has extended its dialectal range since the German settlement of Anterior Pomerania and Rügen. That is why it is also called Mecklenburgish-Anterior Pomeranian.
It is not a dialect, but rather its own language, which tends toward English.
- West Frisian (Westfriesisch)
- The largest area is occupied today by West Frisian, and above all west of Groningen, including the islands of Schiermonnikoog and Terschelling. This region is bounded by North Lower Saxon and by the Zuidersee.
- City Frisian (Stadtfriesisch)
- Since the 16th century, a mixed dialect of Frisian and Dutch has been spoken in spots in the Dutch regions. This is the so-called "City Frisian", e.g., in Leeuwarden, the central point of the Dutch province of Friesland, in Dokkum, Franeker, Harlingen, and Staveren.
- East Frisian (Ostfriesisch)
- It is spoken between the Lauwersee and the mouth of the Weser, but especially on the island of Wangeroog.
- Saterlandish (Saterländisch)
- Only Saterlandish, with its parishes of Ramsloh, Stücklingen, and Scharrel in the high moors of the interior of northern Lower Saxony betwen the lower Weser and Ems in the vicinity of Friesoythe, has been able to maintain its identity in the midst of Middle Low German.
North Frisian (Nordfriesisch)
North Frisian is spoken on the Hallig islands and the neighboring strip of mainland on the western coast of southern Jutland and Schleswig, with elements of Danish and Low German mixed in.
Helgoland Frisian (Helgoländer Friesisch)
Quite different from the other Frisian dialects is the one spoken on the island of Helgoland.