Language variation and change in Bernese Swiss German

Schneider, Christa (6 June 2018). Language variation and change in Bernese Swiss German (Unpublished). In: IClave 9. Malaga. 06.-09.06.2018.

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Language Variation in Bernese Swiss German

In the atlas of German-speaking Switzerland (SDS) (cf. Hotzenköcherle et al. 1962-2003) 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. Therefore, developments which origin in language contact or speaker mobility and have effectively influenced the dialects of this region, have not been documented to the present day.
In my project the focus is on language change in the research area and on reasons for the present changes. Currently I collect new data for Bern and its greater area according to selected variables already surveyed in the SDS, and I then compare the new data to the original data. In addition to the variables originating in the SDS, also some new variables are taken into account. Of special interest are borrowings from foreign languages, e.g. the realization of engl. steak (stɛɪk vs. ʃtɛik(x) vs. ʃti:kx) or recent lexical changes as from Swiss German Nidle (ni:dlə) [cream] to Rahm (rɑ:m), a variant which is mainly used in southern Germany and Austria. My survey includes 20 places in the greater area of Bern where I record 4 speakers per place. The speakers are classified in three age groups (18-35, 35-65, 65+) and I also take an agriculturalist into account. This occupational group is meant to be more traditional in respect of language, as the language atlas of Middle Franconia (cf. Mang 2004) shows repeatedly. In this respect, my project differs clearly from the SDS, where mainly NORMs have been taken into account (one or two per place).
I suggest the main reasons for language change in my research area in speaker mobility and migration movement. Already the present, relatively small set of data shows tendencies, which support my suggestions, as e.g. the decline of pronunciation according to Staub's law (/n/--> ø_fricative; with vowel lengthening and/or diphthongisation) shows. Whereas the pronunciation of the variable Fenster [window] was represented by (fæiʃtəɾ) in the majority of places examined in the SDS within the greater area of Bern, today the realization (fænʃtəɾ) is common to be found.
Currently, more variables and places are examined in order to present the shift of the isogloss as soon as possible.

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

Baumgartner, Heinrich (1940). Stadtmundart : Stadt- und Landmundart : Beiträge zur
bernischen Mundartgeographie. Bern: Lang

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

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

Mang, Alexander (2004). Sprachatlas von Mittelfranken. Sprachregion Nürnberg (Band 6).
Heidelberg,: Universitätsverlag C. Winter.

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 (Speech)


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 10:40

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:50




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