Swabian (Schwäbisch ) is one of the dialect groups of Alemannic German that belong to the High German dialect continuum. It is mainly spoken in Swabia which is located in central and southeastern Baden-Württemberg (including e.g. its capital Stuttgart and the Swabian Jura region) and the southwest of Bavaria (Bavarian Swabia). Furthermore, Swabian German dialects are spoken by Caucasus Germans in Transcaucasia. The dialects of the Danube Swabian population of Hungary, the former Yugoslavia and Romania are only nominally Swabian and can be traced back not only to Swabian but also to Frankonian, Bavarian and Hessian German dialects, with locally varying degrees of influence of the initial dialects.
Swabian can be difficult to understand for speakers of Standard German due to its pronunciation and partly differing grammar and vocabulary. For example, the Standard German term for "strawberry jam" is Erdbeermarmelade, whereas in Swabian it is called Bräschdlingsgsälz.
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. 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.
- 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 very similar to or indistinguishable from voiced stops:
- One obvious feature 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 (Standard 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".
- 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".
In many regions, the Swabian dialect is spoken with a unique intonation that is also present when native speakers speak in Standard German. Similarly, there is only one alveolar fricative phoneme /s/, which 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 they speak 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
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.
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. However, it failed to impress Northern Germans and neighboring Baden. Dominik Kuhn (Dodokay) became famous in Germany with schwäbisch fandub videos, dubbing among others Barack Obama with German dialect vocals and revised text.
Swabian dialect writers
- Sebastian Sailer (1714–1777)
- August Lämmle (de) (1876-1962)
- Josef Eberle (as Sebastian Blau) (de) (1901-1986)
- Thaddäus Troll (1914–1980)
- Hellmut G. Haasis (born 1942)
- Peter Schlack (de) (born 1943)