Austrian German (German: Österreichisches Deutsch), Austrian
Standard German, Standard Austrian German (German:
Österreichisches Standarddeutsch) or Austrian High German
(German: Österreichisches Hochdeutsch), is the variety of Standard
German written and spoken in Austria. It has the highest
sociolinguistic prestige locally, as it is the variation used in the
media and for other formal situations. In Germany, however, Standard
Austrian German is still confused with some regional standard that is
not considered "pure".. This despite sound evidence that 80% of
Austrian high school students and 90% of Austrian high school teachers
consider German a pluricentric language, with more than one standard
In less formal situations, Austrians tend to use forms closer to or
identical with the Bavarian and Alemannic dialects, traditionally
spoken – but rarely written – in Austria.
2 General situation of German
Standard German in Austria
3.1 Former spoken standard
Special written forms
3.3 European Union
4.2 Regional accents
5 See also
Austrian German has its beginning in the mid-18th century, when
Maria Theresa and her son Joseph II introduced compulsory
schooling (in 1774) and several reforms of administration in their
multilingual Habsburg empire. At the time, the written standard was
Oberdeutsche Schreibsprache, which was highly influenced by the
Alemannic dialects of Austria. Another option was to
create a new standard based on the Southern German dialects, as
proposed by the linguist Johann Siegmund Popowitsch. Instead they
decided for pragmatic reasons to adopt the already standardized
Chancellery language of Saxony (Sächsische Kanzleisprache or Meißner
Kanzleideutsch), which was based on the administrative language of the
non-Austrian area of
Meißen and Dresden. Thus Standard Austrian
German has the same geographic origin as the
Standard German of
Germany (Bundesdeutsches Hochdeutsch, also Deutschländisches Deutsch)
Swiss High German (Schweizer Hochdeutsch, not to be confused with
Swiss German dialects).
The process of introducing the new written standard was led by Joseph
von Sonnenfels. Since 1951 the standardized form of Austrian German
for official texts and schools is defined by the Austrian Dictionary
(Österreichisches Wörterbuch), published under the authority of the
Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture.
General situation of German
As German is a pluricentric language,
Austrian German is merely one
among several varieties of Standard German. Much like the relationship
British English and American English, the German varieties
differ in minor respects (e.g., spelling, word usage and grammar) but
are recognizably equivalent and largely mutually intelligible.
Standard German in Austria
The official Austrian dictionary, das Österreichische Wörterbuch,
prescribes grammatical and spelling rules defining the official
language. Austrian delegates participated in the international working
group that drafted the German spelling reform of 1996—several
conferences leading up to the reform were hosted in
Vienna at the
invitation of the Austrian federal government—and adopted it as a
signatory, along with Germany, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein, of an
international memorandum of understanding (Wiener Absichtserklärung)
Vienna in 1996. The "sharp s" (ß) is used in Austria, as in
«Schulschrift 1995», one of Austria's elementary school handwriting
A street sign in Vienna: Fußgeher ("pedestrian") is normally
Fußgänger in Germany.
Capital ẞ is traditionally wrong in both
countries and has to be replaced by SS when in all caps - as ß is a
fusion of two different -sz- characters)
Because of the German language's pluricentric nature, German dialects
Austria should not be confused with the variety of Standard German
spoken by most Austrians, which is distinct from that of
Switzerland. Distinctions in vocabulary persist, for example, in
culinary terms, where communication with Germans is frequently
difficult, and administrative and legal language, which is due to
Austria's exclusion from the development of a German nation-state in
the late 19th century and its manifold particular traditions. A
comprehensive collection of Austrian-German legal, administrative and
economic terms is offered in Markhardt, Heidemarie: Wörterbuch der
österreichischen Rechts-, Wirtschafts- und Verwaltungsterminologie
(Peter Lang, 2006).
Former spoken standard
The "former standard", used for about 300 years or more in speech in
refined language, was the Schönbrunner Deutsch, a sociolect spoken by
Habsburg family and the nobility of Austria-Hungary. It
differed from other dialects in vocabulary and pronunciation; it
appears to have been spoken with a slight degree of nasality. This was
not a standard in a modern technical sense, as it was just the social
standard of upper-class speech.
Special written forms
For many years,
Austria had a special form of the language for
official government documents. This form is known as Österreichische
Kanzleisprache, or "Austrian chancellery language". It is a very
traditional form of the language, probably derived from medieval deeds
and documents, and has a very complicated structure and vocabulary
generally reserved for such documents. For most speakers (even native
speakers), this form of the language is generally difficult to
understand, as it contains many highly specialised terms for
diplomatic, internal, official, and military matters. There are no
regional variations, because this special written form has mainly been
used by a government that has now for centuries been based in Vienna.
Österreichische Kanzleisprache is now used less and less, thanks to
various administrative reforms that reduced the number of traditional
civil servants (Beamter). As a result,
Standard German is replacing it
in government and administrative texts.
Austria became a member of the European Union, the Austrian
variety of the
German language — limited to 23 agricultural terms
— was "protected" in Protocol no. 10, regarding the use of
Austrian-specific terms in the framework of the European Union, which
forms part of the Austrian EU accession treaty.
Austrian German is
the only variety of a pluricentric language recognized under
international law or EU primary law. All facts concerning “Protocol
no. 10” are documented in Markhardt's Das österreichische Deutsch
im Rahmen der EU, Peter Lang, 2005.
In Austria, as in the German-speaking parts of
Switzerland and in
southern Germany, verbs that express a state tend to use sein as the
auxiliary verb in the perfect, as well as verbs of movement. Verbs
which fall into this category include sitzen (to sit), liegen (to lie)
and, in parts of Carinthia, schlafen (to sleep). Therefore, the
perfect of these verbs would be ich bin gesessen, ich bin gelegen and
ich bin geschlafen respectively (note: ich bin geschlafen is a rarely
used form, more commonly ich habe geschlafen is used).
In Germany, the words stehen (to stand) and gestehen (to confess) are
identical in the present perfect: habe gestanden. The Austrian variant
avoids this potential ambiguity (bin gestanden from stehen, "to
stand"; and habe gestanden from gestehen, "to confess", e.g. "der
Verbrecher ist vor dem Richter gestanden und hat gestanden").
In addition, the preterite (simple past) is very rarely used in
Austria, especially in the spoken language, with the exception of some
modal verbs (i.e. ich sollte, ich wollte).
There are many official terms that differ in
Austrian German from
their usage in most parts of Germany. Words primarily used in Austria
are Jänner (January) rather than Januar, Feber (February) rather than
Februar, heuer (this year) rather than dieses Jahr, Stiege (stairs)
instead of Treppe, Rauchfang (chimney) instead of Schornstein, many
administrative, legal and political terms – and a whole series of
foods such as: Erdäpfel (potatoes) German Kartoffeln (but Dutch
aardappel), Schlagobers (whipped cream) German Schlagsahne,
Faschiertes (ground beef) German Hackfleisch (but Hungarian fasírt,
Croatian and Slovenian informal faširano), Fisolen (green beans)
German Gartenbohnen (but Czech fazole, Italian fagioli, Croatian
(regional) fažol, Slovenian fižol, Hungarian folkish paszuly),
Karfiol (cauliflower) German Blumenkohl (but Croatian, Hungarian and
Slovak karfiol, Italian cavolfiore), Kohlsprossen (Brussels sprouts)
German Rosenkohl, Marillen (apricots) German Aprikosen (but Slovak
marhuľa, Polish morela, Slovenian marelice, Croatian marelica),
Paradeiser ["Paradiesapfel"] (tomatoes) German Tomaten (but Hungarian
paradicsom, Slovak paradajka, Slovenian paradižnik, Serbian
paradajz), Palatschinken (pancakes) German Pfannkuchen (but Czech
palačinky, Hungarian palacsinta, Croatian and Slovenian palačinke),
Topfen (a semi-sweet cottage cheese) German Quark and Kren
(horseradish) German Meerrettich (but Czech křen, Slovak chren,
Croatian and Slovenian hren, etc.).
There are, however, some false friends between the two regional
Kasten (wardrobe) instead of Schrank, as opposed to Kiste (box)
instead of Kasten. Kiste in
Germany means both "box" and "chest".
Sessel (chair) instead of Stuhl. Sessel means "easy chair" in Germany
and Stuhl means "stool (faeces)" in both varieties.
Vorzimmer (hall[way]) instead of Diele. Vorzimmer means "antechamber"
Ofen (oven) instead of Kamin. Kamin is Schornstein (chimney) in
Polster (pillow) instead of Kissen.
Topfen (quark) instead of Quark.
Dialects of the
Austro-Bavarian group, which also comprises the
dialects of German Bavaria
Central Austro-Bavarian (along the main rivers
Isar and Danube, spoken
in the northern parts of the State of Salzburg, Upper Austria, Lower
Austria, and northern Burgenland)
Southern Austro-Bavarian (in Tyrol, South Tyrol, Carinthia, Styria,
and the southern parts of Salzburg and Burgenland)
Vorarlbergerisch, spoken in Vorarlberg, is a
High Alemannic dialect.
In addition to the standard variety, in everyday life most Austrians
speak one of a number of Upper German dialects.
While strong forms of the various dialects are not fully mutually
intelligible to northern Germans, communication is much easier in
Bavaria, especially rural areas, where the Bavarian dialect still
predominates as the mother tongue. The Central Austro-Bavarian
dialects are more intelligible to speakers of
Standard German than the
Southern Austro-Bavarian dialects of Tyrol.
Austro-Bavarian dialect of Vienna, is seen for many in
Germany as quintessentially Austrian. The people of Graz, the capital
of Styria, speak yet another dialect which is not very Styrian and
more easily understood by people from other parts of
other Styrian dialects, for example from western Styria.
Simple words in the various dialects are very similar, but
pronunciation is distinct for each and, after listening to a few
spoken words, it may be possible for an Austrian to realise which
dialect is being spoken. However, in regard to the dialects of the
deeper valleys of the Tirol, other Tyroleans are often unable to
understand them. Speakers from the different states of
easily be distinguished from each other by their particular accents
(probably more so than Bavarians), those of Carinthia, Styria, Vienna,
Upper Austria, and the Tyrol being very characteristic. Speakers from
those regions, even those speaking Standard German, can usually be
easily identified by their accent, even by an untrained listener.
Several of the dialects have been influenced by contact with
non-Germanic linguistic groups, such as the dialect of Carinthia,
where in the past many speakers were bilingual with Slovene, and the
dialect of Vienna, which has been influenced by immigration during the
Austro-Hungarian period, particularly from what is today the Czech
Republic. The German dialects of
South Tyrol have been influenced by
local Romance languages, particularly noticeable with the many
loanwords from Italian and Ladin.
Interestingly, the geographic borderlines between the different
accents (isoglosses) coincide strongly with the borders of the states
and also with the border with Bavaria, with Bavarians having a
markedly different rhythm of speech in spite of the linguistic
^ de-AT is an
IETF language tag that conforms with the current
specification BCP 47 Language Tags (where de-AT happens to be
mentioned explicitly). It is often used, for instance in major
operating systems (e.g. , )
^ a b "The problems of
Austrian German in Europe". eurotopics. 16
March 2006. Retrieved 2015-05-13.
^ Russ (1994:7, 61–65, 69, 70)
^ Sanders, Ruth H. (2010), German: Biography of a Language: Biography
of a Language, New York: Oxford University Press, Inc.,
pp. 197–198, ISBN 978-0-19-538845-9
^ Moosmüller, Sylvia (2007), Vowels in Standard Austrian German: An
Acoustic-Phonetic and Phonological Analysis (PDF), retrieved May 13,
^ Perfetti, Charles A.; Rieben, Laurence; Fayol, Michel, eds. (1997),
Learning to Spell: Research, Theory, and Practice Across Languages,
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, p. 88, ISBN 1-4106-0458-6
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^ Here are some examples of Schönbrunner Deutsch:
Otto von Habsburg
Otto von Habsburg (2004), former crown prince:
Otto von Habsburg
Otto von Habsburg - Quo
vadis Integration - Festvortrag Eggenberg
Emperor Charles I of
Austria (1916–1918): Recording (1.5 min)
Franz Joseph (1848–1916): Recording of a speech for a
military fund (30 sec)
^ "Documents concerning the accession of the Republic of Austria, the
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to the European Union". European Commission. 29 August 1994.
p. 370. Retrieved 24 October 2015. The specific Austrian terms of
German language contained in the Austrian legal order and listed
in the Annex to this Protocol shall have the same status and may be
used with the same legal effect as the corresponding terms used in
Germany listed in that Annex.
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Ulrich / Hans Bickel, Jakob Ebner u. a.:
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Languages of Austria
Austrian German (see also German)
Austrian Sign Language
See Also: Minority languages of Austria