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Alsatian dialect

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(Redirected from Elsässerdeutsch)
Elsässisch, Elsässerditsch
Native toFrance
Native speakers
900,000 (2013)[1]
Official status
Recognised minority
language in
Regulated byNo official regulation
Officially promoted through the 'Office pour la Langue et les Cultures d’Alsace et de Moselle (OLCA)' (Office for the language and cultures of Alsace and Moselle), funded by the Grand Est region (formerly the Alsace region), and the departmental councils of Bas-Rhin and Haut-Rhin.
Language codes
ISO 639-2gsw
ISO 639-3gsw (with Swiss German)
Glottologswis1247  Central Alemannic
Linguistic Map of Alsace
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

Alsatian (Alsatian: Elsässisch or Elsässerditsch "Alsatian German"; Lorraine Franconian: Elsässerdeitsch; French: Alsacien; German: Elsässisch or Elsässerdeutsch) is the group of Alemannic German dialects spoken in most of Alsace, a formerly disputed region in eastern France that has passed between French and German control five times since 1681.

Language family[edit]

Alsatian is closely related to other nearby Alemannic dialects, such as Swiss German, Swabian, Markgräflerisch, Kaiserstühlerisch and the other Alemannic dialects of Baden. It is often confused with Lorraine Franconian, a more distantly related Franconian dialect spoken in the northwest corner of Alsace and in neighbouring Lorraine. Like other dialects and languages, Alsatian has also been influenced by outside sources. Words of Yiddish origin can be found in Alsatian, and modern conversational Alsatian includes adaptations of French words and English words, especially concerning new technologies.

Many speakers of Alsatian could, if necessary, write in reasonable standard German. For most this would be rare and confined to those who have learned German at school or through work. As with other dialects, various factors determine when, where, and with whom one might converse in Alsatian. Some dialect speakers are unwilling to speak standard German, at times, to certain outsiders and prefer to use French. In contrast, many people living near the border with Basel, Switzerland, will speak their dialect with a Swiss person from that area, as they are mutually intelligible for the most part; similar habits may apply to conversations with people of the nearby German Markgräflerland. Some street names in Alsace may use Alsatian spellings (they were formerly displayed only in French but are now bilingual in some places, especially Strasbourg and Mulhouse).


Fraction of Alsatian speakers in Alsace[2][3]

Status of Alsatian in France[edit]

A bilingual (French and Alsatian) sign in Mulhouse
An Alsatian dialect speaker

Since 1992, the constitution of the Fifth Republic states that French is the official language of the Republic. However, Alsatian, along with other regional languages, is recognized by the French government in the official list of languages of France. France is a signatory to the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages but has never ratified the law and has not given regional languages the support that would be required by the charter.

Alsatian has gone from being the prevalent language of the region to one in decline. A 1999 INSEE survey counted 548,000 adult speakers of Alsatian in France, making it the second-most-spoken regional language in the country (after Occitan). Like all regional languages in France, however, the transmission of Alsatian is declining. While 43% of the adult population of Alsace speaks Alsatian, its use has been largely declining amongst the youngest generations.

In 2023 local French public schools began offering Alsatian immersion for the first time. The programs have proven popular with students and parents but after years of official state suppression of the language, struggle to find enough teachers.[4]

A dialect of Alsatian German is spoken in the United States by a group known as the Swiss Amish, whose ancestors emigrated there in the middle of the 19th century. The approximately 7,000 speakers are located mainly in Allen County, Indiana, with "daughter settlements"[Note 1] elsewhere.[5]


Majuscule forms A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z Ä À Ë É È Ì Ö Ü Ù
Minuscule forms a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z ä à ë é è ì ö ü ù
IPA /a/, /ə/ /b̥/ /k/, /ɡ̊/ /d̥/ /e/, /eː/, /ə/ /f/ /ɡ̊/ /h/ /i/ /j/ /k/ /l/ /m/ /n/, /ŋ/ /o/ /p/ /k/ /ʁ/, /ʁ̞/, /ʀ/ /s/ /t/ /u/ /v/, /f/ /ʋ/, /v/ /ks/ /ʏ/, /yː/, /ɪ/, /iː/ /z/ /ɛ/ /ɑ/, /ɑː/ /æ/ /e/ /ɛ/ /ɪ/ /ø/ /y/ /ʊ/

C, Q, and X are only used in loanwords. Y is also used in native words, but is more common in loanwords.


Orthal (Orthographe alsacienne)[6] is a revised orthography meant for use by all dialects of Alsatian promoted by the Office pour la Langue et les Cultures d'Alsace et de Moselle (OLCA).[7]

The latest version (2016)[8] of Orthal is described below. Not all dialects are expected to use all letters & diacritics. For example, Owerlandisch from Southern Alsace primarily uses the additional vowel letters, Ä À Ì Ü.

Dialects from the north (Strasbourg region) make use of more letters including Ë, Ö, Ù and the diphthong ÈI.

In general the principles of Orthal are to:

  1. Follow standard German orthography for the regular vowels A, E, I, O, U and their umlauted Standard German forms Ä, Ö, Ü
  2. For diphthongs & triphthongs that do not exist in Standard German Orthal combines standard German letters to create anew – e.g., ia, üe (or üa), öi, àui, äi (or èi)
  3. For vowel sounds not represented in the Standard German orthography, it uses the French acute & grave accent marks to create new graphemes that can represent sounds unique to the Alsatian dialects
  4. It also follows standard German orthography for consonants as well.

The vowels are pronounced short or long based on their position in the syllable besides the letter type.

A vowel at the end of a syllable, without a subsequent consonant, is a long vowel "V" = Long Vowel (LV). e.g., hà, sì

A vowel followed by a single consonant in a syllable is pronounced as a long vowel "V + C" = Long Vowel (LV). e.g., Ros

Note – A vowel followed by several consonants ("V + C + C") in a syllable is pronounced as a Short Vowel. e.g., Ross

Monophthong – short vowels[edit]

Majuscule forms A Ä À E É È Ë I Ì O Ö U Ü Ù
Minuscule forms a ä à e é è ë i ì o ö u ü ù
IPA /a/ /ɛ/ ~ ɒ/ /e/, /ə/ /e/ /ɛ/ /æ/ /i/ /ɪ/ /o/ /ø/ /u/ /y/ /ʊ/

Monophthong – long vowels[edit]

Majuscule forms A , AH, AA À , ÀH, ÀÀ Ä , ÄH E , EH, EE Ë , ËH È , ÈÈ ÈH I , II, IH Ì , ÌH O , OO, OH Ö , U , UU, UH Ü ,ÜÜ, ÜH Ù , ÙÙ, ÙH Œ UE
IPA /aː/ /ɒː/ /ɛː/ /eː/ /æː/ /ɛː/ /iː/ /ɪː/ /oː/ /øː/ /uː/ /yː/ /ʊː/ /œː/ /ʏ/



Alsatian has a set of 19 consonants:

Labial Alveolar Postalveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Nasal m n ŋ
Stop ɡ̊,
Affricate pf ts
Fricative f, v s ʃ ç (x) ʁ h
Approximant ʋ l j

Three consonants are restricted in their distribution: /kʰ/ and /h/ only occur at the beginning of a word or morpheme, and then only if followed immediately by a vowel; /ŋ/ never occurs at the beginning of a word or morpheme.

Alsatian, like some German dialects, has lenited all obstruents but [k]. Its lenes are, however, voiceless as in all Southern German varieties. Therefore, they are here transcribed /b̥/, /d̥/, /ɡ̊/. Speakers of French tend to hear them as their /p, t, k/, which also are voiceless and unaspirated.

The phoneme /ç/ has a velar allophone [x] after back vowels (/u/, /o/, /ɔ/, and /a/ in those speakers who do not pronounce this as [æ]), and palatal [ç] elsewhere. In southern dialects, there is a tendency to pronounce it /x/ in all positions, and in Strasbourg the palatal allophone tends to conflate with the phoneme /ʃ/. A labiodental voiced fricative /v/ sound is also present as well as an approximant /ʋ/ sound. /ʁ/ may have phonetic realizations as [ʁ], [ʁ̞], and [ʀ].


Front Central Back
Close i y u
Near-close ɪ ʏ ʊ
Close-mid e ø (ə) o
Open-mid ɛ œ ɔ
Open æ a ɑ ~ ɒ

Short vowels: /ʊ/, /o/, /ɒ/, /a/ ([æ] in Strasbourg), /ɛ/, /ɪ/, /i/, /y/.

Long vowels: /ʊː/, /oː/, /ɒː/, /aː/, /ɛː/, /eː/, /iː/, /yː/



Alsatian nouns inflect by case, gender and number:

  • Three cases: nominative, accusative, dative. Unlike Standard German, Alsatian does not have a genitive case and instead utilises the dative or the preposition vu ("of", German "von") plus the dative to fulfill that role in certain cases.
  • Three genders: masculine, feminine and neuter.
  • Two numbers: singular and plural.

Comparative vocabulary list[edit]

English Southern Alsatian
Northern Alsatian
High Alemannic
(Swiss German)
Standard German Swabian German Luxembourgish Pennsylvania German Standard French
house 's Hüss s' Hüs Huus Haus Hous Haus Haus maison
loud lütt lüt luut laut lout haart laut bruyant
people d' Litt d' Lit Lüt Leute Leid Leit Leit gens/peuple
today hìtt hit hüt heute heid haut heit aujourd'hui
beautiful scheen scheen schö(n) schön sche schéin schee beau
Earth d' Arda d' Erd Ärd(e) Erde Erd Äerd Erd terre
Fog d'r Nawel de Näwwel Näbel Nebel Nebl Niwwel Newwel brouillard
water 's Wàsser 's Wàsser Wasser Wasser Wasser Waasser Wasser eau
man d'r Mànn de Mànn Maa Mann Mann Mann homme
to eat assa esse ässe essen essa iessen esse manger
to drink trìnka trinke trinkche trinken trenka drénken drinke boire
little klei klein/klaan/klëën chl(e)i klein kloi kleng glee petit, petite
child 's Kìnd 's Kind Chind Kind Kind Kand Kind enfant
day d'r Tàg de Dàà Dag Tag Dàg Dag Daag jour
woman d' Fràui d' Frau Frou/Frau Frau Frau Fra Fraa femme

See also[edit]


  1. ^ When Amish communities become too big, a number of families move away and form a new settlement, which is referred to as a daughter settlement. The settlement from which they leave is the mother settlement.[9][10]


  1. ^ Alsatian at Ethnologue (19th ed., 2016) Closed access icon
  2. ^ "Le dialecte en chiffres". www.OLCAlsace.org. Retrieved 2019-02-03.
  3. ^ Denis, Marie-Noële (2003). "Le dialecte alsacien : état des lieux". Cairn.info.
  4. ^ https://www.thelocal.de/20231019/alsation-german-dialect-to-be-taught-in-french-schools-for-the-first-time
  5. ^ Thompson, Chad (1994). "The Languages of the Amish of Allen County, Indiana: Multilingualism and Convergence". Anthropological Linguistics. 36 (1): 69–91. JSTOR 30028275.
  6. ^ "Guide pour écrire et lire l'alsacien | www.OLCAlsace.org". www.olcalsace.org. Retrieved 2020-12-21.
  7. ^ "Langue et culture régionales en Alsace, tout savoir sur le dialecte alsacien, bienvenue à l'OLCA | www.OLCAlsace.org". www.olcalsace.org. Retrieved 2020-12-21.
  8. ^ "Orthal" (PDF). www.orthal.fr.
  9. ^ "Prince Edward Island Fever". ontariomennonitehistory.org. 8 February 2016. Retrieved 5 April 2018.
  10. ^ "Following are relevant excerpts from a letter written to the ministry at Aylmer" (PDF). thecommonlife.com.au. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 February 2016. Retrieved 22 May 2022.


  • Marthe Philipp and Arlette Bothorel-Witz. 1990. Low Alemannic. In Charles V. J. Russ (ed.), The Dialects of modern German: a linguistic survey, 313–336. Routledge.
  • (in French) [1] François Héran, et al. (2002) "La Dynamique des langues en France au fil du XXe siècle". Population et sociétés 376, Ined.
  • (in French) Le système ORTHAL 2016 – Orthographe alsacienne - Quelques règles de base pour faciliter l’écriture et la lecture de l’alsacien dans toutes ses variantes », Jérôme Do Bentzinger, 2016
  • (in French) "L'Alsacien, deuxième langue régionale de France" (PDF). Chiffres pour l'Alsace. INSEE. December 2002.
  • (in French) Brunner, Jean-Jacques. L'Alsacien sans peine. ASSiMiL, 2001. ISBN 2-7005-0222-1
  • (in French) Jung, Edmond. Grammaire de L'Alsacien. Dialecte de Strasbourg avec indications historiques. 1983. Straßburg: Ed. Oberlin.
  • (in French) Laugel-Erny, Elsa. Cours d'alsacien. Les Editions du Quai, 1999.
  • (in French) Matzen, Raymond, and Léon Daul. Wie Geht's ? Le Dialecte à la portée de tous La Nuée Bleue, 1999. ISBN 2-7165-0464-4
  • (in French) Matzen, Raymond, and Léon Daul. Wie Steht's ? Lexiques alsacien et français, Variantes dialectales, Grammaire La Nuée Bleue, 2000. ISBN 2-7165-0525-X
  • (in French) Steible, Lucie. Le contrôle temporel des consonnes occlusives de l’alsacien et du français parlé en Alsace. Linguistique. Université de Strasbourg, 2014.
  • (in French) Rünneburger, Henri. Dictionnaire alsacien-francais. 3 vols. Hamburg: Baar 2021 (100.000 lemmata).

External links[edit]