The Gender of the Numeral Two in Bernese Swiss German

Schneider, Christa (10 September 2017). The Gender of the Numeral Two in Bernese Swiss German (Unpublished). In: SLE- Tagung. 10.09.2017.

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The Gender of the Numeral two/zwöi in Bernese German

The atlas of German-speaking Switzerland (SDS) was published in 8 volumes between 1962 and 1997, containing more than 1500 dialect maps. In order to describe the variety spoken in the greater area of Bern (Berner Mittelland), Baumgartner et al. collected data in 20 different towns and villages by questioning mainly NORMs, but some women have also been taken into account. In the SDS we find data on the greater area of Bern (Berner Mittelland), collected around 1944. Since then, only very specific factors of this particular linguistic variety have been examined, e.g. Hodler 1969 on Bernese German syntax, Marti 1976 on Bernese German grammar more generally or Siebenhaar 2000 on social varieties in the city of Bern, but the dialect has not been examined in its entirety.
In my PhD project, I collect new data for Bern and its greater area according to selected variables already surveyed in the SDS, and compare them to the original data. My main focus is on language change and its underlying reason.
The Alemannic dialects of German-speaking Switzerland differ in several points from the German standard language, e.g. in the existence of numeral gender. This variable, present in the Old-High-German period, is still documented in the 20th century, but has been lost in return in the German standard language (cf. Christen et al. 2012)..
The data in the SDS show a trichotomy in numeral gender (feminine, masculine, neuter) for the greater area of Bern but only for the numeral zwöi (engl. two): e.g. zwe Manne (m.), zwo Froue (f.), zwöi Ching (n.) (engl. two men, two women, two children).
My contemporary data show that only the oldest generation (60+) is able to produce the trichotomy spontaneously, whereas the youngest generation (16-35) is not even aware of the trichotomy anymore. Interestingly, the middle generation (35-60) has to be divided into three groups:
1. Speakers, who still produce the trichotomy spontaneously
2. Speakers, who are aware of the trichotomy but – generally – do not produce it
3. Speakers, who are not aware of the trichotomy anymore
The SDS clearly documents stability in this trichotomy, the contemporary data collection, however, shows a decline in variation and therefore evidences language change in progress.

Baumgartner Heinrich, Hotzenköcherle Rudolf (1962-2003). Sprachatlas der deutschen
Schweiz. Bern, Basel: Francke Verlag

Christen Helen, Glaser Elvira und Friedli Matthias (2012). Kleiner Sprachatlas der deutschen
Schweiz. Frauenfeld: Verlag Huber

Hodler, Werner (1969). Berndeutsche Syntax. Bern: Francke Verlag

Marti, Werner (1985). Berndeutsch-Grammatik für die heutige Mundart zwischen Thun und Jura. Bern: A. Francke

Siebenhaar Beat, Stäheli Fredy, Ris Roland (2000). Stadtberndeutsch : Sprachporträts aus der Stadt Bern. Murten: Licorne-Verlag

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Poster)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Other Institutions > Walter Benjamin Kolleg (WBKolleg) > Digital Humanities
06 Faculty of Humanities > Other Institutions > Walter Benjamin Kolleg (WBKolleg)
06 Faculty of Humanities > Other Institutions > Walter Benjamin Kolleg (WBKolleg) > Center for the Study of Language and Society (CSLS)

Graduate School:

Graduate School of the Humanities (GSH)

UniBE Contributor:

Schneider, Christa


400 Language
400 Language > 410 Linguistics
400 Language > 430 German & related languages




Christa Schneider

Date Deposited:

14 Apr 2021 12:22

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:50




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