Alemannic, or rarely Alemannish (Alemannisch), is a group of dialects of the Upper German branch of the Germanic language family. The name derives from the ancient Germanic alliance of tribes known as the Alemanni ("all men").
Alemannic dialects are spoken by approximately ten million people in several countries:
- Switzerland: all German-speaking parts of the country except Samnaun
- Germany: center and south of Baden-Württemberg, Swabia district of Bavaria
- Austria: Vorarlberg, Reutte District of Tyrol
- Liechtenstein: entire country
- France: Alsace region (Alsatian dialect)
- Italy: Gressoney-La-Trinité, Gressoney-Saint-Jean, Issime, Alagna Valsesia and Rimella, in some other villages almost extinct
- United States: Allen and Adams County, Indiana by the Amish there and also in their daughter settlements in Indiana and other U.S. states.
- Venezuela: Colonia Tovar (Colonia Tovar dialect)
Alemannic comprises a dialect continuum, from the Highest Alemannic spoken in the mountainous south to Swabian in the relatively flat north, with more of the characteristics of standard German the farther north one goes.
In Germany and other European countries, the abstand and ausbau language framework is used to decide what is a language and what a dialect. According to this framework Alemannic forms of German form a dialect continuum and are clearly dialects. Some linguists and organisations that differentiate between languages and dialects primarily on the grounds of mutual intelligibility, such as SIL International and UNESCO, describe Alemannic as one of several independent languages. ISO 639-3 distinguishes four languages: gsw (Swiss German), swg (Swabian German), wae (Walser German) and gct (Alemán Coloniero, spoken since 1843 in Venezuela).
Alemannic comprises the following variants:
- Swabian (mostly in Swabia, in Germany). Unlike most other Alemannic dialects, it does not retain the Middle High German monophthongs û, î but shifts them to [ou], [ei] (as opposed to Standard German [aʊ], [aɪ]). For this reason, "Swabian" is sometimes used in opposition to "Alemannic".
- Low Alemannic dialects. Retain German initial /k/ as [kʰ] (or [kx]) rather than fricativising to [x] as in High Alemannic. Subvariants: Lake Constance Alemannic (in Southern Württemberg, Southeastern Baden, Northwestern Vorarlberg) Upper-Rhine Alemannic in Southwestern Baden and its variant Alsatian (in Alsace, France) Alemán Coloniero (in Venezuela) Basel German (in Basel, Switzerland)
- High Alemannic (mostly in Switzerland, parts of Vorarlberg, and in the southern parts of the Black Forest in Germany). Complete the High German consonant shift by fricativising initial /k/ to [x]. Subvariants: Bernese German Zürich German Vorarlbergisch Liechtensteinisch
- Highest Alemannic (in the Canton of Valais, in the Walser settlements (e.g., in the canton of Grisons), in the Bernese Oberland and in the German-speaking part of Fribourg) does not have the hiatus diphthongisation of other dialects of German. For example: [ˈʃnei̯jə] ('to snow') instead of [ˈʃniː.ə(n)], [ˈb̥ou̯wə] ('to build') instead of [ˈb̥uː.ə(n)]. Subvariants: Walliser German Walser German
The Alemannic dialects of Switzerland are often called Swiss German or Schwiizerdütsch.
The oldest known texts in Alemannic are brief Elder Futhark inscriptions dating to the sixth century (Bülach fibula, Pforzen buckle, Nordendorf fibula). In the Old High German period, the first coherent texts are recorded in the St. Gall Abbey, among them the eighth century Paternoster,
Due to the importance of the Carolingian abbeys of St. Gall and Reichenau Island, a considerable part of the Old High German corpus has Alemannic traits. Alemannic Middle High German is less prominent, in spite of the Codex Manesse compiled by Johannes Hadlaub of Zürich. The rise of the Old Swiss Confederacy from the fourteenth century led to the creation of Alemannic Swiss chronicles. Huldrych Zwingli's bible translation of the 1520s (the 1531 Froschauer Bible) was in an Alemannic variant of Early Modern High German. From the seventeenth century, written Alemannic was displaced by Standard German, which emerged from sixteenth century Early Modern High German, in particular in the wake of Martin Luther's bible translation of the 1520s. The 1665 revision of the Froschauer Bible removed the Alemannic elements, approaching the language used by Luther. For this reason, no binding orthographical standard for writing modern Alemannic emerged, and orthographies in use usually compromise between a precise phonological notation, and proximity to the familiar Standard German orthography (in particular for loanwords).
Johann Peter Hebel published his Allemannische Gedichte in 1803. Swiss authors often consciously employ Helvetisms within Standard German, notably Jeremias Gotthelf in his novels set in the Emmental, Friedrich Glauser in his crime stories, and more recently Tim Krohn in his Quatemberkinder.
- The diminutive is used frequently in all Alemannic dialects. Northern and eastern dialects use the suffix -le; southern dialects use the suffix -li (Standard German suffix -lein or -chen). As in standard German, these suffixes cause umlaut. Depending on dialect, 'little house' may be Heisle, Hüüsle, Hüüsli or Hiisli (Standard German Häuslein or Häuschen).
- Lower variants of Alemannic, like standard German, prnounce ch as a uvular or velar [χ] or [x] (Ach-Laut) after back vowels (a, o, u) and as a palatal [ç] consonant (Ich-Laut) elsewhere. High Alemannic dialects exclusively use Ach-Laut.
- In many Alemannic dialects, the past participle of the verb meaning to be (sein in standard German, with past participle gewesen) derives from a form akin to gesein (gsìnn, gsei etc.).