Celebrating Dialect Month: 31 songs in small Germanic varieties

In 1986, SONT – a dialect organisation from the Netherlands – declared March to be ‘Dialect Month’. In 2016, March as Dialect Month is surprisingly still celebrated in the Netherlands. Perhaps not so surprisingly, the idea did not catch on anywhere else (not even in Belgium). That is too bad.

My 2016 contribution to promoting March as Dialect Month outside the Netherlands – and slightly widening its focus – was this: On each day of March, I posted and tweeted about a song that is sung in a small Germanic variety. In my definition, this is any variety that belongs to the Germanic branch of the Indo-European language family, except for standardised varieties of the most widely spoken national languages (e.g. English, German, Dutch, Swedish etc.). You know what these standard varieties sound like (and if you don’t, that is easily remedied). My list of songs features varieties that are not used by as many speakers and therefore not heard as frequently. Some of the varieties in my list may even be at risk of becoming extinct in a not-too-distant future. Let’s listen to them while they are still being used.

Below is a highly subjective, completely unrepresentative list of 31 songs in small Germanic varieties. On Twitter, I used #SiSGV (Songs in Small Germanic Varieties) as a hashtag. All songs can be found in this Spotify playlist (I am sorry if you can’t listen to all songs in your country) and, whenever possible, I tried to supply links to other legal sources as well as the lyrics of each song. If you have any questions, suggestions or corrections, feel free to comment. Here is the list:

  • 1 March: BAP – Amerika (1996) 🇩🇪
    Variety: West Germanic → Central Franconian → Ripuarian → Colognian

    For many speakers of German, the Cologne dialect – called ‘Kölsch’ locally – is associated with Carnival, which is heavily celebrated in this city. BAP was one of the first and most successful bands to demonstrate to a nation-wide public that there is more to this variety. This song focuses on German (mis)perceptions of the United States after World War II. I’ve selected this song because it is Super Tuesday today – an event that will probably arouse almost as much interest as US soldiers did in post-war Cologne, testifying to a lasting American influence on Germany.
    Lyrics  |  Spotify  |  iTunes  |  YouTube

  • 2 March: Heigeign – Taunzn, taunzn (2008) 🇦🇹
    Variety: West Germanic → Upper German → Bavarian → Southern Central Bavarian → Hianzisch

    Bavarian dialects are Upper German varieties (‘Oberdeutsch’ in German), which are roughly spoken south of what is called the Speyer line. This is an isogloss separating varieties in which the word ‘apple’ has a [p] sound from varieties in which it has a [pf] sound. In the Colognian dialect we have listened to yesterday, an apple is called ‘Appel’. In Upper German varieties, it is ‘Apfel’ (or something along these lines), as in Standard German. The central subgroup of the Bavarian dialects covers a huge area in three countries (Germany, Austria, Switzerland). Hianzisch is a variety at the southern edge of this area. It is spoken in the centre and South of Burgenland, the Easternmost and least populous state of Austria. The singer of today’s song, Marianne Prenner, was born in Horitschon.
    Lyrics  |  Spotify  |  iTunes

  • 3 March: Hannelore Bedert – Ol de mens’n (2008) 🇧🇪
    Variety: West Germanic → Low Franconian → West Flemish → Continental West Flemish

    The way West Flemish treats word-final ‘-en’ is one of its striking features: In Standard Dutch, ‘-en’ can be pronounced [ən], but is often reduced to schwa (i.e. an unstressed ‘e’). In West Flemish, by contrast, it is not the consonant that is deleted, but schwa. That is why ‘mensen’ in the title of today’s song is not pronounced ‘mense’ [ˈmɛnsə], as in Standard Dutch, but ‘mensn’ [ˈmɛnsn̩] with a syllabic [n]. Interestingly, this is a pronunciation that we also find in many varieties of English and German as well as in Lower Saxon dialects in the North of the Netherlands. Just a coincidence? Maybe not. This and other features of West Flemish might go back to the language of Saxon tribes who colonised parts of present-day Belgium in the early Middle Ages. The concentration of such features of potentially Saxon origin is highest in dialects close to the coast of the North Sea. Hannelore Bedert, who was born up-country in Deerlijk, uses a more continental variety of the dialect.
    Lyrics  |  Spotify  |  iTunes

  • 4 March: Rickard Eklund – Finland (2016) 🇫🇮
    Variety: North Germanic → East Scandinavian → Swedish → Finland Swedish

    When making a list of countries where Germanic varieties are spoken, Finland may not be what first comes to mind. But in a number of municipalities on the Western coast of the country, Swedish is spoken as a native tongue. Närpes – the town where Rickard Eklund comes from – belongs to the Northern cluster of Swedish-speaking municipalities. In total, 271,000 native speakers of Swedish live in Finland (Ethnologue says), which is about 5% of the population. A characteristic of many Northern Finland Swedish varieties is the diphthongic pronunciation of phonemes that are monophthongs in Standard Swedish. In some cases, these Finland Swedish diphthongs reflect an older pronunciation that is not used any more in Standard Swedish; in other cases, the diphthongs have been introduced independently in the Finland varieties. Both types of diphthongs can be found in the lyrics of today’s song: The sound that is written as ‘öj’ corresponds to Standard Swedish ‘ö’ in many words, whereas most instances of Finland Swedish ‘oå’ would be monophthongic ‘å’ in Standard Swedish.
    Lyrics  |  Spotify  |  iTunes  |  YouTube  |  Soundcloud

  • 5 March: Jos Hol – Dans (2015) 🇳🇱
    Variety: West Germanic → Low Franconian → Limburgish → East Limburgish / Kleverlandish

    Jos Hol, the singer of today’s song, is from Venlo. The dialect spoken in this city is a transitional variety between East Limburgish dialects, spoken to the South of Venlo, and Kleverlandish dialects, spoken to the North of it. The region around Venlo is crossed by two well-known isoglosses: the Panningen line and the Uerdingen line. Venlo is just north of the Panningen line. That is because word-initial ‘st-’ is pronounced as [st] in its dialect (just like in Standard Dutch). Most other dialects of the province of Limburg, by contrast, side with German dialects (and Standard German) by pronouncing it [ʃt], written in Dutch as ‘sjt’. In today’s song, we hear that the translation of ‘voice’ is pronounced ‘stum’ [stʏm] rather than ‘sjtum’ [ʃtʏm], which you would hear further down South. In the region around Venlo, the Uerdingen line splits up into two sublines, reflecting differences with respect to the pronunciation of personal pronouns: Venlo is to the North of one of the two sublines, due to the fact that the subject pronoun ‘I’ is pronounced ‘ik’ in its dialect (as in Standard Dutch). Venlo is, however, to the South of the second subline because the speakers of its dialect pronounce the equivalent of the object pronoun ‘me’ as ‘mich’ (as in Standard German). And indeed: ‘Dance with me’ is rendered as ‘Dans met mich’ in the song (rather than ‘Dans met mij’, as in Standard Dutch). It is only further up North that no palatal [ç] is found any more in the translation of the pronoun.
    Lyrics  |  Spotify  |  iTunes  |  YouTube

  • 6 March: Grachmusikoff – N’ Stoi isch n’ Stoi (1984) 🇩🇪
    Variety: West Germanic → Upper German → Alemannic → Swabian → Upper Swabian

    Three days ago, I discussed two different ways of pronouncing ‘-en’: [ə], as in Standard Dutch, and [n̩], as in Standard German (and West Flemish). Swabian offers a third possibility: [a], sometimes slightly nasalised to [ã]. This is a purely phonetic correspondence that applies to all parts of speech: The noun ‘Lomba’ corresponds to Standard German ‘Lumpen’ (rag), the adverb ‘(do) oba’ to ‘(da) oben’ (up there) and the verb ‘vergeaba’ to ‘vergeben’ (forgive). But isn’t it surprising that in the lyrics of today’s song, ‘vergeaba’ is the only example of a verb form in which we find word-final ‘-a’? After all, German uses ‘-en’ as a suffix in two out of six finite verb forms in the present or simple past, so you’d expect this form to be more frequent. Well, here’s the rub: Swabian is one of the dialects that have what German linguists call ‘Einheitsplural’, that is, the same suffix for all three plural forms. And this suffix is ‘-ed’. Therefore, Swabian has ‘mir/ihr/se fliaged’, compared to Standard German ‘wir fliegen’, ‘ihr fliegt’, ‘sie fliegen’ (we/you/they fly). In Swabian varieties, only the infinitive has ‘-a’, which goes back to the same source as Standard German ‘-en’. Interestingly, an Einheitsplural on [t] is also found in parts of the Lower Saxon language area in the Netherlands and Germany: In the Dutch variety of Twente, for instance, ‘we fly’ is rendered as ‘wiej vleegt’ (or something along these lines).
    Lyrics  |  Spotify  |  iTunes

  • 7 March: Tourist LeMC – En route (2015) 🇧🇪
    Variety: West Germanic → Brabantian → North Western Brabantian → Antwerps

    The history of the Germanic languages is also a history of the collapse of grammatical gender systems. In English, this has happened centuries ago. In German, there’s not too much going on yet. But in Dutch, it happens as we speak. In varieties of the Northern half of the Dutch language area, two gender classes – traditionally called ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ – have merged, resulting in a class called ‘common’. This class is still distinguished from ‘neuter’ gender, but even this distinction seems to be waning. In many varieties of the Southern half of the Dutch language area, by contrast, all three classes (masculine, feminine, neuter) are still alive and kicking – just like in, say, German. And quite a few varieties of Southern Dutch, including Antwerps, up the ante by not only distinguishing three classes. They also mark these classes differently based on the phonetic environment. Turning to today’s song, we see this: ‘Naam’ (name) and ‘troep’ (troop) are both words that belong to the masculine class, but the possessive pronoun ‘mijn’, preceding these nouns, turns out to be ‘mijne’ in the former case and ‘mijnen’ in the latter. A similar alternation applies to other determiners. If you went through all songs by ‘den Tourist’, you’d see the following pattern: Forms on [n] are used whenever the determiner precedes a masculine word starting with a vowel (‘den artiest’, but also ‘den hulpverlener’, as ‘h’ is phonetically zero in Antwerps), [b], [d] or [t]. Given the above-mentioned differences between Northern and Southern Dutch, you may be inclined to think that such ‘complexities’ strengthen rather than weaken a grammatical gender system. You may be right in thinking so.
    Lyrics  |  Spotify  |  iTunes  |  YouTube

  • 8 March: Ziehgäuner – Negl mit Kepf (2011) 🇩🇪
    Variety: West Germanic → Upper German → Bavarian → Northern Central Bavarian → Lower Bavarian

    Among Bavarian dialects, Central Bavarian is unique in a feature that is also found in many languages of the world: English, Dutch, Brazilian Portuguese – to name just a few. The feature is /l/ vocalisation. In most of these languages, /l/ is realised as [w] or [u] in appropriate environments. This typically happens in the syllable coda rather than the onset and after a vowel rather than after a consonant. Historically, Dutch has lexicalised some of these vocalisations (cf. English ‘gold’ vs. Dutch ‘goud’). Synchronically, speakers of some varieties of English pronounce ‘milk’ as [mɪʊ̯k]. What’s interesting in Central Bavarian is the fact that /l/ is not only vocalised to [w] or [u], but also to [i]. In the lyrics of today’s song, this vocalisation happens in ‘ois’ [oi̯s] (the equivalent of Standard German ‘alles’ = everything), ‘woin’ [ʋoi̯n] (‘wollen’ = to want) and ‘Waid’ [ʋɛi̯t] (‘Welt’ = world).
    Lyrics & YouTube  |  Spotify  |  iTunes

  • 9 March: Eivør – Brotin (2015) 🇫🇴
    Variety: North Germanic → Insular Scandinavian → Faroese

    I’ve included Faroese in this list for several reasons: First, because I like the song (and the rest of the album). Second, because I wanted emphasise that I deliberately chose the term ‘varieties’ in order to include both what is intuitively considered a ‘dialect’ and what is thought of as a ‘language’. Most of the varieties I have discussed in the first week may be perceived as ‘dialects’, whereas even non-linguists would probably grant Faroese the status as a ‘language’. Third, I included it because Faroese is a language with a particularly small speaker community. For comparison: The number of native speakers of Swedish living in Finland is about five times as large as the number of native speakers of Faroese living on the islands. You may be surprised to hear that even in a community of 50,000 speakers (with some additional 20,000 living abroad, mainly in Denmark), there are a number of dialects: Three or four major groups are usually distinguished with none of them currently functioning as a spoken standard variety. Eivør was born on Eysturoy, an island in the North of the archipelago. Eysturoy neighbours on Streymoy, the largest and most-populous island of the Faroes, on which Tórs­havn, the capital, is situated. Based on my limited knowledge, I’d say that Eysturoy is – not only geographically, but also linguistically – not that far away from the capital and the central island.
    Lyrics  |  Spotify  |  iTunes  |  YouTube

  • 10 March: [klod] – Liewensmëtt (2015) 🇱🇺
    Variety: West Germanic → Central Franconian → Moselle Franconian → Luxembourgish

    Luxembourgish is frequently used as an example when discussing factors that make a variety either a ‘language’ or a ‘dialect’. Don’t ask a linguist about the difference between these two terms – at least if you don’t like clichés (‘A language is a dialect with an army and navy’) or evasive answers. If we assume that the two terms can be useful at all, one thing is clear: Purely structural attempts of distinguishing between languages and dialects are doomed to fail. There is no hard and fast criterion of how strongly two varieties need to diverge from one another to be considered separate languages (‘Come on, just one more sound shift and you’re home free’). The same holds for interintelligibility – that’s a nice research topic, not the be-all and end-all of telling whether a variety is a language or not. But what is? I’m most convinced by sociolinguistic approaches that base the distinction on how a variety is used by its speakers. Comparing Luxembourgish to Moselfränkisch in Germany, we see major differences: In Germany, Moselle Franconian varieties are only used in informal contexts (e.g. chatting with friends and family). They are not or rarely encountered in the media, in official communication or in academic writing. Luxembourgish, by contrast, is a variety that is used for regular television and radio programmes, in parliamentary debates and in (a small body of) scientific literature. All in all, Luxembourgish is used more broadly and widely than Moselle Franconian varieties in Germany. If you had only one ‘This is a language’ sticker to put on one of the varieties, Luxembourgish seems more qualified to get it than German Moselfränkisch. Alternatively, you could just scrap that distinction between languages and dialects and enjoy any variety for what it is.
    Spotify  |  iTunes  |  Soundcloud  |  Bandcamp

  • 11 March: Alldra – Himml (2006) 🇦🇹
    Variety: West Germanic → Upper German → Alemannic → Central Alemannic → Northern Vorarlbergisch

    Within Austria, Vorarlberg – the westernmost province – is special because it is the only region to which no Bavarian varieties are native. Instead, Alemannic varieties are spoken. To distinguish Central Alemannic varieties, one of which is heard in today’s song, from bordering Swabian and High Alemannic dialects, we have to look at both consonants and vowels: The most salient difference between High Alemannic, spoken in the South of Vorarlberg, and Central Alemannic (also called ‘Lake Constance Alemannic’) lies in the pronunciation of a consonant. As a result of the High German consonant shift, /k/ is affricated to /kx/ in High Alemannic dialects. In Central Alemannic varieties, as they are spoken in the North of Vorarlberg and elsewhere around Lake Constance, this shift did not happen, so the phoneme is pronounced /k/ as in Standard German. Vowels are the main difference between Swabian and Central Alemannic varieties. Again, speakers of Central Alemannic varieties could not be bothered to take part in a sound shift: the New High German Diphthongisation. It resulted in Middle High German monophthongs being diphthongised: ‘î’ [iː] to ‘ei’ [aɪ̯], ‘iu’ [yː] to ‘eu’ [ɔɪ̯] and ‘û’ [uː] to ‘au’ [aʊ̯]. Central (and other) Alemannic varieties do not exhibit this sound shift, so the equivalents of ‘house’ and ‘white’ are ‘Hus’ and ‘wiß’ (both with a long vowel). In Swabian varieties (as in Standard German), diphthongs are found in these words.
    Spotify  |  iTunes  |  Download

  • 12 March: Otto Groote Ensemble – Vörut (2015) 🇩🇪
    Variety: West Germanic → Low Saxon → Northern Low Saxon → East Frisian Low Saxon

    The variety that is heard in today’s song must not be confused with Saterland Frisian, a language that is also referred to as East Frisian, but that is not a Low Saxon Variety. East Frisian – related to West Frisian, spoken in the Netherlands – is used by not much more than 2,000 speakers in the municipality of Saterland. Incidentally that’s just a stone’s throw from the village of Ostrhauderfehn, where singer and songwriter Otto Groote was born. In his native variety, interesting developments can be observed: On the one hand, Standard German with its East Middle German roots is a rather distant relative of East Frisian Low Saxon (also called Low German or Plattdeutsch). Standard Dutch and particularly some dialects spoken in the Netherlands are phylogenetically much closer. On the other hand, Low German is now spoken on the territory of Germany, so maybe I should say that the ties to Dutch varieties were closer. In many respects, Standard German has developed into a ‘Dachsprache’ for Low German – literally a ‘roof language’ that is seen as a point of reference, just the way Standard Dutch has become a Dachsprache for Low Saxon varieties in the Netherlands. Also, Standard German obviously is the dominant ambient language for any Low German speaker. This is noticeable in syntax and lexicon, but also in the pronunciation: Older varieties of Low Saxon realised /r/ as [r] or [ɾ] (i.e. a trill or a flap) on both sides of the border. This coincides with the pronunciation of /r/ in Standard Dutch, so /r/ is still [ɾ] in Low Saxon varieties in the Netherlands. In Standard German, by contrast, the fricative [ʁ] is typically heard. As a consequence, the realisation of /r/ in East Frisian Low Saxon as it is spoken in Germany also tends towards [ʁ] or [ʀ]. Similarly, syllable-final /-ər/ seems to be changing from [ə] to [ɐ] under the influence of Standard German, which uses the latter sound.
    Lyrics  |  Spotify  |  iTunes

  • 13 March: Reinig, Braun + Böhm – Winzerhänd (2013) 🇩🇪
    Variety: West Germanic → West Central German → Rhine Franconian → Eastern Palatine German

    In today’s song, we hear a variety whose local name appropriately demonstrates a defining sound change: Pälzisch, spoken to the North of the Speyer (and Germersheim) line, is the southernmost German dialect group in which ‘apple’ is pronounced ‘Appel’ [abl̩]. The Speyer line is seen as the isogloss that separates Central German from Upper German varieties. To the South of this line (and in Standard German), ‘apple’ is pronounced ‘Apfel’ and Pälzisch would be called ‘Pfälzisch’. It is a characteristic aspect of many dialects that they use non-standard words to describe (informal) human communication in neutral terms: In Low Saxon dialects (discussed yesterday), this could be ‘snacken’ or ‘proaten’. In Central Franconian, ‘kallen’ and ‘küren’ are used. In Hessian, ‘babbeln’ may be heard. Palatine German stands out because the most frequent and neutral term is also highly common in Standard German: ‘reden’, pronounced [ˈʁɛdə] in the dialect (i.e. with a short vowel, unlike in Standard German). For the idiom in the chorus of the song, however, Standard German uses ‘sprechen’ (Bände sprechen = speak volumes). This word is also encountered in the Palatine dialect, but typically refers to speaking in official, solemn situations, as opposed to the more commonplace ‘reden’. Of the example sentences that the ‘Palatine Dictionary’ gives for ‘sprechen’, three involve ‘de Herr Parre’ – a priest – whose speech inherently seems to have an official, solemn ring.
    Spotify  |  iTunes  |  YouTube (excerpt)

  • 14 March: Riku Lätti – Pakpoort (2001) 🇿🇦
    Variety: West Germanic → Low Franconian → Dutch → Afrikaans

    With its more than seven million native speakers (and at least as many L2 users), Afrikaans may not be the most typical example of a ‘small’ Germanic variety. It is, however, a language that is not frequently heard in Europe, the continent with the highest density of Germanic varieties. That is why a song in Afrikaans seemed like a good addition to this list. In the lyrics of today’s song, we notice many details in which Afrikaans diverges from today’s Standard Dutch – and one aspect in which the two languages might become more similar again in the near future: In the plural, Afrikaans does not distinguish between subjective and objective personal pronouns (as English still does in the first and third person). Here’s what is most interesting about this: When the pronouns merged, it was not the subjective, but the objective form that was generalised in Afrikaans. The Standard Dutch contrast ‘we – ons’ (we – us) was reduced to ‘ons’. That’s why the lyrics of the song say ‘Ons kyk hoe sak die son’, rather than Standard Dutch ‘We kijken hoe de zon zakt’. The generalisation of objective pronouns is known from Dutch dialects, but has also recently made advances in non-regional colloquial varieties in the Netherlands. In the last 30 years or so, there has been quite a bit of discussion about the use of ‘hun’ – traditionally one of the equivalents of English ‘them’ – instead of the traditional subjective form ‘ze’ (they). It does not seem unlikely that in a few decades, the Dutch translation of Afrikaans ‘Hulle is hier’ (They are here) will be ‘Hun zijn hier’ rather than ‘Ze zijn hier’.
    Lyrics  |  Spotify  |  iTunes  |  Bandcamp

  • 15 March: Icke & Er – Wie watt Berlin? (2010) 🇩🇪
    Variety: West Germanic → High German → Central German → East Central German → Berlinisch

    Berlinisch – just like Kölsch, the first entry in this list – is a variety that any native speaker of German can easily recognise. But unlike Kölsch, Berlinisch is rather a ‘metrolect’ than a dialect, that is, a variety characteristic for big cities. Metrolects are rooted in traditional dialects, but end up close to the standard language. After all, big cities tend to attract people from all corners of the world, so the local variety should be intelligible for as many speakers as possible. In addition to traits that go back to dialects, metrolects are often rich in turns of speech that were introduced by occupants, immigrants and other newcomers. In the case of Berlinisch, a Low German substrate was largely displaced by East Central German dialects and enriched by French, Yiddish and Slavic influences. The resulting variety, though intelligible for speakers of Standard German, retains distinctive features, mainly in the vocabulary and phonetics. In the latter domain, we notice a monophthongic pronunciation of a phoneme that corresponds to Standard German ‘ei’ [aɪ̯] (in words where this sound correspond to Middle High German ‘ei’). That’s why we hear ‘keene’ instead of ‘keine’ in the lyrics of today’s song. To a lesser extent, this monophthongisation is also noticeable for the counterpart of Standard German ‘au’ [aʊ̯], as in ‘laufen’, which is pronounced ‘loofen’ by some speakers in the Berlin area. Another well-known non-standard feature is not exclusive to Berlin, but shared with Kölsch: the lenition of [ɡ] to [j] or [ɣ], exemplified in ‘jar’ and ‘jeht’, which correspond to Standard German ‘gar’ and ‘geht’.
    Spotify  |  iTunes  |  YouTube

  • 16 March: Prins Póló – París Norðursins (2014) 🇮🇸
    Variety: North Germanic → Insular Scandinavian → Icelandic

    Translated to English, the title of today’s song is ‘Paris of the North’. It is the soundtrack to an eponymous film by Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson. I haven’t seen the film, but its title seems to refer, somewhat ironically, to the village of Flateyri. If Flateyri is the Paris of the North, we could say, somewhat ironically, that Icelandic is the French of the North. The two language communities share a tendency that is less pronounced elsewhere: purism and conservatism. In both countries, systematic efforts to preserve the mother tongue started in the 17th and 18th centuries. The Académie Française (French Academy) was founded in 1634/35, the Íslenska Lærdómslistafélag (Icelandic Society for the Art of Learning) in 1779. There are two main differences between the situations in French and in Icelandic: First, morphology and syntax changed more radically from Old French to Early Modern French than from Old Icelandic (or Old Norse) to Early Modern Icelandic (whereas the pronunciation and spelling changed considerably in both languages). The state of Icelandic that has been actively preserved since the 17th century is remarkably similar to even older stages of the language, so Icelandic was more conservative to begin with than French. Second, attempts at keeping the number of direct loanwords at a low level – a hot topic for purists of both languages – seem to have been more successful in Icelandic than in French. In recent times, the most sizeable influx of words into both languages has come from English (with Danish as an additional source for Icelandic). In French, words invented by the Commission de terminologie et de néologie (Commission on Terminology and Neology) are often seen as amusing rather than useful and avoided even in formal usage. Many Icelandic terms suggested by the Málnefnd (Language Committee), by contrast, are actually used outside official communication, although a higher share of direct loanwords is found in colloquial registers.
    Lyrics  |  Spotify  |  iTunes  |  YouTube  |  Soundcloud  |  Download

  • 17 March: Isabelle Grussenmeyer – D’Summerfäde (2010) 🇫🇷
    Variety: West Germanic → Upper German → Low Alemannic → Alsatian

    Yesterday I discussed the preoccupation of the French with French – a language that, in their view, has to be protected, cherished and maintained at all costs. Nothing wrong with that. But until fairly recently, these efforts were made at the expense of all other languages and dialects that are spoken in France. Or should I say: were spoken? Starting in the late 19th century, attempts to push back the regional languages (i.e., the mother tongues of the majority of the French population of that time) went as far as prohibiting and punishing their use at school. Alas, these restrictions – abolished in the 1950s – were strikingly successful. Breton, a Celtic language that was the primary target of the campaign against the langues régionales, is now “severely endangered” according to UNESCO. Other varieties are as well. Alsatian, spoken in the East of France, was less strongly affected, but the number of native speakers who pass the language on to their children is alarmingly low. Alsatian is a variety at the border between Central German and Upper German dialects. The variety in today’s song, spoken in Northern Alsace, exhibits some similarities with Palatine dialects, but also many differences: A similarity lies in the diminutive suffix ‘-el’ – as in ‘Liedel’ (little song) – that differs both from Standard German (‘Liedchen’ or ‘Liedlein’) and other Alemannic varieties in France and Germany (mostly ‘Liedle’). A clear difference is the retention of Middle High German monophthongs: ‘Sid’ instead of ‘Seide’ (silk), ‘Hüss’ instead of ‘Haus’ (house). Another characteristic sound is heard in the name of the region: In many words, the equivalent of Standard German [ä] (i.e., an unrounded open central vowel) is [ɒ] (i.e., a rounded open back vowel), so ‘Elsass’ is pronounced [ˈɛ̝lz̥ɒs] locally.
    Spotify  |  iTunes

  • 18 March: Stephan Eicher – Kreis 5 (2003) 🇨🇭
    Variety: West Germanic → Upper German → High Alemannic → Western High Alemannic → Bernese German

    Whereas the previous examples of Upper German varieties (Vorarlbergisch on 11 March and Alsatian yesterday) belonged to the Low and Central Alemannic dialect groups, we are now entering the language area of High Alemannic varieties. As opposed to the shift-lazy guys from the lowlands, the High German consonant shift has been completed here. In stressed and unstressed syllables alike, /k/ has been shifted to [kx], as in ‘hochkant’ (on edge), or [x], as in ‘Chatze’ (cats). In the lyrics of today’s song, two more characteristic sound shifts can be observed, both concerning phonemes that are consonants in Standard German: First, Bernese German (or Bärndütsch, as it is called locally) is another variety with a classic example of /l/ vocalisation. The vocalisation target is [u] here – unlike in Lower Bavarian, where we had seen vocalisation towards [i]. Second, many words that have syllable-final /-nd/ in Standard German are pronounced with [-ŋ] in Bernese German (with exceptions: ‘Wind’ does not become ‘Wing’). Both phenomena are exemplified in just one verse of the song: ‘Hei e Vogu, hei e Hung’ corresponds to Standard German ‘Haben einen Vogel, haben einen Hund’. And as you certainly noticed, the diphthong ‘ei’, though often written the same as in the standard language, is pronounced quite differently in the dialect: [eɪ̯] or [ɛɪ̯], rather than [aɪ̯].
    Lyrics  |  Spotify  |  iTunes

  • 19 March: Pé Daalemmer & Rooie Rinus – Even stemmen (2011) 🇳🇱
    Variety: West Germanic → Low Saxon → Gronings → Hogelandsters

    Today’s song mainly consists of place names in the local dialect. I selected it because non-standard forms of place names are sometimes the last trace of a variety when it has all but disappeared. Also, proper nouns are more resistant to language change than common nouns. That’s why they are – or can become – witnesses of linguistic forms that have vanished anywhere else. One example: In older Gronings, ‘-(e)n’ is used as the equivalent of the Standard Dutch suffix ‘-ing’, both used to form deverbal nouns (Standard Dutch: ver­kiezen ‘elect’ > ver­kiezing ‘election’ ≈ Gronings: ver­kai­zen > ver­kai­zen). However, in both the standard and the dialect, infinitival verb forms typically end in ‘-en’, in which case the suffix ‘-en’ merges with ‘-en’ at the end of the verb. In some cases, this yields highly ambiguous forms, such as ‘reken’ (≈ rekening ‘bill, invoice’), which could just as well be an infinitive or some other verb form. For this and other reasons, newer varieties of Gronings use the Standard Dutch suffix ‘-ing’, making it likely that forms like ‘verkaizen’ and ‘reken’ will die out soon. But even if they do, the villages of Groot and Klein Wetsinge will probably still be called Groot and Klaain Wetsen in the dialect, faintly reminiscent of the ‘-en’ suffix that used to be the equivalent of Standard Dutch ‘-ing’. Oh, and one more thing: At the very end of the song, we hear another turn of phrase that is on the brink of extinction. In older varieties of Gronings, ‘Wie haren zeggen kind’ (we had say could – with a past participle at the end) corresponds to English ‘we could have said’ or Standard Dutch ‘we hadden kunnen zeggen’ (we had can say). In newer varieties, this construction, which I’ve written about in German here, is often replaced by a literal translation from Standard Dutch.
    Spotify  |  iTunes  |  YouTube

  • 20 March: Harpiks – Æ staj (2015) 🇩🇰
    Variety: North Germanic → East Scandinavian → Danish → Jutlandic → Eastern South Jutlandic

    Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic and Faroese are the North Germanic languages with the most speakers. The fact that these languages are related is easily seen in the lexicon, but also in morphology: In all of them, definite articles are often realised as enclitics. This means that, unlike in English or German, the definite article does not precede its head noun (das Haus ‘the house’), but follow it (Swedish/Danish/Norwegian: huset ‘the house’). For some constructions, most North Germanic languages have a determiner that precedes the head noun and is used in addition to or instead of the enclitic article (Swedish: det nya huset; Norwegian (Nynorsk): det nye huset; Danish: det nye hus ‘the new house’). Enter Southern (and Western) Jutlandic. In these varieties, as in English and German, a definite article precedes the head noun in any case: In most cases and in the title of today’s song, the characteristic determiner ‘æ’ [æ] is used; in some other cases, Southern Jutlandic uses d-articles (‘det’ etc.), as does Standard Danish. The determiner ‘æ’ is also heard in regions that border the German language area, where no enclitics are used either. However, an influence of (Low) German on determiner use in Southern Jutlandic dialects has been deemed unlikely.
    Lyrics  |  Spotify  |  iTunes

  • 21 March: Sigi Inlejnda – Do drin (2015) 🇦🇹
    Variety: West Germanic → Upper German → Central Bavarian → Southern Central Bavarian → East Styrian

    Today’s song demonstrates one more type of /l/ realisation in Upper German varieties. We have seen vocalisation towards /u/ – probably the most frequent type in Germanic dialects – in Bernese German (cf. 18 March) and towards /i/ in Western Central Bavarian dialects (cf. 8 March). For Eastern Central Bavarian dialects, like this variety from Styria, a three-step development can be assumed: In a first step, vowels preceding /l/ are rounded. The equivalents of Standard German ‘Spiel’ (game) and ‘Welt’ (world) are then pronounced [ʃpyːl] and [ʋœlt]. The second step consists in a vocalisation of /l/ towards [ʏ], producing diphthongs as in [ʃpyːʏ̯] and [ʋœʏ̯t]. As the last step, the second part of the diphthong is deleted and the first part, if short, is lengthened, which results in pronunciations like [ʃpyː] and [ʋœːt]. In Western Central varieties, the words are pronounced [ʃpui̯] and [ʋɛɪ̯t]. Another aspect that is evident from the song is the strong influence of the Viennese dialect on Eastern Central Bavarian varieties: One example is the monophthongisation of three diphthong phonemes – corresponding to Standard German /aɪ̯/, /aʊ̯/ and /ɔɪ̯/ – that started in the capital more than a century ago and was completed after World War II. Since that time, its spread across other Eastern Central Bavarian dialects can be observed, where monophthongic realisations from Viennese replace original diphthongs (that may or may not be identical with the diphthongs of older Viennese).
    Spotify  |  iTunes  |  YouTube

  • 22 March: Daniël Lohues – Knooin (2016) 🇳🇱
    Variety: West Germanic → Low Saxon → Drents → Southeastern Drents → Southeastern Veendrents

    If I were lazy, I could just say: Read this. It’s the same in Drents, mutatis mutandis. But I am not lazy and the older post is in German, so here we go: The phenomenon illustrated in today’s song has a wide distribution among Germanic varieties. It also occurs in Gronings varieties in the Netherlands (19 March) and East Frisian varieties in Germany (12 March). Just like in Standard German, Dutch and English, verbs can be regular or irregular in these varieties. This is typically relevant in the past tense: ‘dance – danced’ is regular, ‘take – took’ is not. Nothing exciting about that. But in Drents, verbs can be irregular in one more way. Let’s take one example from today’s song: ‘Blef’ in the first verse of the chorus is the third-person singular form of the present tense of ‘blieven’ (stay, remain). This verb is irregular because the third-person form has a different vowel than the infinitive: [ɛ] instead of [i]. Similar alternations – often with more open vowels in the third person – are found in quite a number of verbs. In Dutch dialects, this phenomenon seems to be under more pressure towards regularisation (i.e., use of the infinitive vowel in the third person) than in German varieties. Most likely, this is due to influence from the ambient language: Standard German has this vowel alternation as well (though not necessarily in the same verbs). In Standard Dutch, by contrast, it is missing altogether.
    Spotify  |  iTunes  |  YouTube

  • 23 March: Manuel Stahlberger – Leaving Eggersriet (2012) 🇨🇭
    Variety: West Germanic → Upper German → High Alemannic → Eastern High Alemannic → St. Gallerdeutsch

    The dialect of St. Gallen is the easternmost High Alemannic variety spoken in Switzerland. From the varieties in this list, Vorarlbergisch (11 March) – spoken in Austria – is geographically closest and, though it is a Central Alemannic variety, exhibits some linguistic overlap with St. Gallerdeutsch: Both varieties are part of the same Upper German language area where an Einheitsplural (i.e., the same suffix for all plural forms) is used. Similar to Swabian (6 March), this suffix is ‘-ed’ in the variety of St. Gallen. With Bernese German, a Western High Alemannic variety, St. Gallerdeutsch shares the affrication of /k/ to [x] or [kx]. A difference between the two Swiss varieties lies in their determiner systems. In both dialects, the indefinite determiner of only of the three grammatical genders – traditionally called masculine, feminine and neuter – is marked unambiguously: neuter in Bern (with ‘es’ as the determiner) and masculine in St. Gallen (‘en’). Masculine and feminine determiners in Bern are ‘e’, just like feminine and neuter determiners in St. Gallen. That’s why Manuel Stahlberger sings about ‘e Chind’ (a-NEU child) on the one hand, but about ‘en Bueb’ (a-MAS boy) on the other. A shared feature of all three Upper German varieties relates to a deverbal noun suffix that I have discussed before (19 March): Just as Gronings differs from Standard Dutch in using ‘-en’ (verkaizen ‘election’) rather than ‘-ing’ (verkiezing), Vorarlbergisch, Bernese German and St. Gallerdeutsch use ‘-ig’ (Vorstellig ‘performance’) rather than Standard German ‘-ung’ (Vorstellung). But unlike in the Netherlands, the non-standard suffix in Switzerland and Austria seems to be in no danger of disappearing.
    Lyrics  |  Spotify  |  iTunes  |  YouTube

  • 24 March: Broeder Dieleman – Aalscholvers (2014) 🇳🇱
    Variety: West Germanic → Low Franconian → Zeeuws → Land-van-Axels

    The singer of today’s song comes from Axel. This small town in the Netherlands is just 70 km from Deerlijk in Belgium, the birthplace of Hannelore Bedert, who sang the third song on this list. It is not unsurprising that we find many similarities between the two varieties: West-Vlaams on the Belgian side of the border, Zeeuws-Vlaams on the Dutch side. In both varieties, the pronunciation of word-final ‘-en’ differs from Standard Dutch: Bedert sings about [ˈmɛnsn̩] (people), Dieleman about his [ˈvutn̩] (feet). The two dialects also share the pronunciation of phonemes that are /h/ and /x/ in Standard Dutch: On the one hand, /h/ is phonetically zero in both varieties, so Broeder Dieleman wants to go ‘naar uus’ [yˑs] (home). /x/, on the other hand, becomes [ɦ] (or something similar), as in ‘gebaar’ [ɦəˈbaˑɾ]. This sound shift opens the door to a phenomenon that is called ‘hypercorrection’ – a misleading word, if you ask me, that has nothing to do with people trying to speak ‘hypercorrectly’. A better term would be overgeneralisation: You discover a rule, fail to see exceptions to it and apply it to all cases, including the exceptions. This happens in morphology: From a small set of words, you might conclude that all words ending in ‘-o’ are masculine in Spanish and all words ending in ‘-a’ are feminine. But based on that rule, you would get the gender of ‘día’ (the day; masculine) and ‘mano’ (the hand; feminine) wrong. And it happens in phonology as well: In a variety that deletes /h/, how would you know if a word that starts with a vowel has initial /h/ in Standard Dutch or not? Most bilingual speakers of the standard and regional varieties are proficient enough to know, but there are anecdotal reports – and a bunch of old jokes – about misunderstandings resulting from adding [h] to words that don’t have one in Standard Dutch. Also, speakers of these varieties are said to occasionally mix up their own [ɦ] = /x/ with [ɦ] = /h/ of Standard Dutch, ending up using /x/ in words that have /h/. However, this is not the greatest example of overgeneralisation (or hypercorrection), but rather plain and simple confusion that can happen in any language combination.
    Lyrics  |  Spotify  |  iTunes  |  Bandcamp

  • 25 March: Glesbygd’n – Tjufiirsju (2010) 🇸🇪
    Variety: North Germanic → East Scandinavian → Swedish → Norrland Swedish → North Westrobothnian

    Glesbygd’n from Arvidsjaur are appropriately named: The band, whose name roughly translates to ‘sparsely populated areas’, comes from Norrbotten, which happens to be the most sparsely populated county in Sweden. The dialect spoken there is, if you will, a friendly dialect for second-language learners. Standard Swedish features a sound that arguably occurs in no other language and is represented by a special symbol in the chart of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA): [ɧ], described as ‘simultaneous [ʃ] and [x]’. Orthographically, the sound is most frequently represented by ‘sj’, as in ‘sju’ (seven). You can listen to it here – and don’t miss the sentence about the ‘sjösjuka sjömän’ (seasick seamen) at the bottom of the page. There has been some linguistic debate about the phonetic properties of [ɧ] and it is certainly difficult to acquire for non-native speakers. The advantage of many Norrland dialects is that they replace [ɧ] by [ʃ] or something along these lines, that is, by a sound that is comparatively common in the world’s languages. But then again, you probably wouldn’t advise anyone who struggles to pronounce a rolled [r] to learn Limburgs instead of Standard Dutch.
    Lyrics  |  Spotify  |  iTunes

  • 26 March: De Fanfaar feat. Berlaen – In een leig tejoêter (2013) 🇧🇪
    Variety: West Germanic → Low Franconian → Brabantian → Southern Brabantian → Brussels

    Just the title of this nice little song is enough to notice two things: First, this is clearly Brussels – a Dutch dialect that is spoken by a minority of speakers in a thoroughly Frenchified city. In this variety, the sound that is /aː/ in Standard (Belgian) Dutch has shifted to a sound that is written ‘oê’ (or just ‘oe’). Listening to the song, I’d say that it is pronounced [oː] or maybe [ʊː], so the sound shift mainly involves some backing and raising. Brussels is not the only variety where such a shift has happened: Gronings has a similar sound for Standard Dutch /aː/, but it is written ‘oa’ in this dialect. This brings me to the second point that also becomes evident from the title of the song: The spelling of non-standard varieties often sucks. Even in semi-official dialect spelling (and even more in unofficial efforts), too much emphasis is put on phonetic peculiarities of the dialect, compared to the ambient standard language. Admittedly the pronunciation of a dialect often is its most salient feature, but any attempts to render it in a writing system that is poorly equipped to express fine phonetic detail are made to the detriment of readability. Why, for example, is it ‘leig’ instead of ‘leeg’ (empty)? Fine, there is a bit of diphthongisation in the vowel, but I don’t think it is enough to justify the departure from the spelling of the standard language that every speaker of the dialect is familiar with. Whence the ‘j’ in ‘tejoêter’ (theatre)? English has a weird spelling, but even in this language, we don’t write ‘she yought’ or ‘you waren’t’ – although that is the way ‘she ought’ and ‘you aren’t’ are usually pronounced. The same applies to Standard Dutch: You pronounce the word with a linking [j], but the agreed-upon spelling is ‘theater’. A rather reader-unfriendly, pseudo-phonetic spelling is by no means a specific shortcoming of the Brussels dialect (or Brabantian dialects in general). According to the semi-official spelling of Gronings, the equivalent of the Standard Dutch word ‘demonstratie’ is written ‘demonstroa­tsie’ (i.e., with an extra ‘s’), emphasising the pronunciation of the last syllable as [t͜si]. But: The pronunciation of that last syllable is exactly the same in Standard Dutch. Apparently the sole purpose of the extra letter is to say something like ‘Look, you are not reading a standard variety here, but a dialect with fancy pronunciation’. Most dialects, I’m convinced, do not need a fancy spelling to underline the fact that they do have a fancy – or, rather, interesting – pronunciation. End of rant. Enjoy the music.
    Lyrics  |  Spotify  |  iTunes

  • 27 March: Kofelgschroa – Takatukatrip (2014) 🇩🇪
    Variety: West Germanic → Upper German → Central Bavarian → Southern Central Bavarian

    Following traditional classifications, we expect to hear a Southern Bavarian dialect in the Southwestern part of Upper Bavaria where Kofelgschroa hail from. But listening closely to today’s song, I think it would be more appropriate to say that its singer uses a transitional variety between Central and Southern Bavarian. The dialect that we hear is close to what many speakers of German would probably see as the epitome of Bavarian (as it is spoken in Bavaria, not in Austria). One well-known feature is the realisation of the diphthongs that correspond to Standard German /aɪ̯/ and /ɔɪ̯/: We have seen on 21 March that the Eastern varieties of Central Bavarian tend to monophthongise these phonemes under the influence of the dialect of Vienna. In Western varieties of Central Bavarian, they are realised as diphthongs: /aɪ̯/ is [o̯a] in words that had ‘ei’ rather than ‘î’ in Middle High German, as the second part of the name of the band: ‘Gschroa’ corresponds to ‘Geschrei’ (clamour) in Standard German (and Kofel is a prominent mountain near Oberammergau). /ɔɪ̯/ is pronounced as [aɪ̯], as in ‘heit’, which corresponds to ‘heute’ (today) in the standard. In another respect, however, the variety in today’s song is a typical Southern Bavarian dialect with /s/ in word-final /-st/ clusters being pronounced [ʃ] in any case. In Central Bavarian, this is only true for /-rst/ clusters, so a sausage is a ‘Wur[ʃ]t’ in both dialect groups, whereas frost is ‘Fro[s]t’ in Central Bavarian and ‘Fro[ʃ]t’ in Southern Bavarian. Do note how the singer differentiates between words: ‘Schüttelfrost’ (shivers) as a term that is native to the dialect gets the [-ʃt] pronunciation, whereas ‘Attest’ as a relatively recent loanword has [-st], as in Standard German. Outside the realm of phonetics, the song additionally demonstrates a small, but characteristic peculiarity: In Bavarian, verbs can have ‘der-’ (or ‘da-’) as a prefix, in addition to the Standard German options ‘er-’, ‘ver-’ or ‘zer-’. Semantically, a good part of the Bavarian verbs that use this prefix relate to damage, destruction or death: A speaker of a standard variety may ‘erfrieren’ (freeze to death). A speaker of Bavarian, by contrast, will ‘derfrieren’. Or maybe he won’t: It’s not the locals, but always the tourists who are caught off-guard by the weather, after all.
    Lyrics  |  Spotify  |  iTunes  |  YouTube

  • 28 March: VON – Planlaus (2013) 🇳🇴
    Variety: North Germanic → West Scandinavian → Norwegian → Midland Norwegian → Gudbrandsdalsmål

    I have discussed a song in a transitional variety yesterday – between Central and Southern Bavarian – and I will discuss a song in another transitional variety today. In Norway, two major dialect groups can be distinguished: Western and Eastern. The variety spoken in VON’s hometown Heidal – one of the highland dialects from the county of Oppland – is somewhat betwixt and between. One phonological development relating to word-final vowels of Old Norse – the predecessor of the Germanic Scandinavian languages – demonstrates this intermediate position quite nicely: On the one hand, we have Western Norwegian dialects that stick rather closely to Old (West) Norse in general and in which word-final full vowels were preserved in any case. On the other hand, we have Eastern Norwegian dialects, such as the dialects from the lowlands of the county of Oppland, where these final vowels were reduced to schwa in any case. In between, we have the dialects from the highlands of Oppland (and some others). Here, the fate of the final vowels depended on the length of the root syllable in Old Norse: If it was long, the vowel in the final syllable was reduced to schwa. If the root vowel was short (and only lengthened later on), the full vowel in the final syllable was kept, as in ‘viku’ (week) – heard in today’s song. In Old Norse, ‘viku’ was the oblique rather than the nominative case form, but this is an unrelated change. The form ‘viku’ is only found in dialects, not in one of the two standard varieties of Norwegian: In Bokmål, the word is ‘uke’ (similar to Danish ‘uge’ – at least in writing, less so in pronunciation). And even in Nynorsk, which is less similar to Danish and based on dialects from Central and Western regions, the word is ‘veke’ or ‘veka’.
    Lyrics  |  Spotify  |  iTunes

  • 29 March: Katterpillaar – Bloed ûnder de neilen (2010) 🇳🇱
    Variety: West Germanic → Frisian → West Frisian → Clay Frisian

    West Frisian is the only variety of the Frisian language group with a substantial number of speakers. East Frisian and North Frisian in Germany are used by some 2,000 or 5,000 speakers, respectively, according to the most recent estimates. West Frisian, by contrast, has more than 350,000 native and quite a few second-language speakers. Still, the language, more or less widely spoken in only one of the provinces of the Netherlands, is under considerable pressure from Dutch. Some say that the Frisian languages are the closest continental relatives of English – but such blanket statements are difficult to veri- or falsify. In any case, it is true that West Frisian (henceforth: Frisian) has something in common with English that other varieties spoken in the Netherlands do not: In all Low Franconian and Low Saxon dialects I am aware of, the voiced stop [ɡ] has at best marginal status and the translation of a word like ‘good’ has an initial fricative, such as [χ], [x] or [ɣ]. In Frisian, however, ‘goed’ – though written the same as in Standard Dutch – is pronounced with [ɡ], as ‘good’ is in English. But the word ‘goed’ also demonstrates a salient difference between Frisian and English (and other Germanic languages): In these other languages, the vowel in ‘good’ is a monophthong (of an [u]-like quality). In Frisian, it is a diphthong (with [u] as the first and schwa as the second element). And Frisian has a lot more diphthongs – much more than English, which is not short on diphthongs, or Dutch. Some of these diphthongs figure in a phonological process that is called ‘(new) breaking’. This term refers to an alternation between falling diphthongs (with a weak second element) and rising diphthongs (with a weak first element) in inflected forms of the same word. In the word ‘keamer’ (room), for instance, we hear [ɪə̯] (i.e., a falling diphthong) in the first syllable, whereas the diminutive ‘keammerke’ (little room) has [jɛ] (i.e., a rising diphthong) in the first syllable.
    Lyrics  |  Spotify  |  iTunes  |  YouTube  |  Download

  • 30 March: Malinky – Thaney (2002) 🇬🇧
    Variety: West Germanic → Anglic → Scots → Central Scots

    Few of the varieties that I have discussed here are on a par with Scots when it comes to literature. Scots looks back on a considerable body of belletristic works from at least six centuries. It has to be said, though, that the golden age of Scots literature was not exactly yesterday, but in the 16th century (with a notable revival in the 18th century). The decline in Scots-language literature since that time may be seen as somewhat representative of the history of the language in general: The variety that once displaced Scottish Gaelic in parts of Scotland and was used widely – alongside English – until the early 18th century, also by educated speakers, now seems to have a lot in common with dialects that never had the same prestige and relevance in the first place. But there is an important difference between present-day Scots and other traditional varieties concerning the relationship with the respective standard language: In some communities, there is a sharp separation of non-standard and standard varieties and of settings in which either of the two is used. This situation is called ‘diglossia’. A textbook example of diglossia is Switzerland; similar situations exist in language areas where the varieties in question are not part of the same language family or dialect group (e.g., Alsatian vs. French or Low German vs. Standard German). In contrast to this, the relationship between Scots and Standard English – two closely related varieties that have always been in close contact – is described as ‘diaglossia’ (note the extra ‘a’). In diaglossia, we find a continuum of intermediate varieties with ‘full-on’ dialect at one end of the scale and the standard variety – here: (Scottish) Standard English – at the other. Anything along this continuum can be acceptable in a given situation. There is no clear boundary or even binary distinction between varieties, as in diglossic situations.
    Lyrics  |  Spotify  |  iTunes  |  YouTube

  • 31 March: ’t Jód Tsimmer – Niersjprinksjtroas (2014) 🇳🇱
    Variety: West Germanic → Central Franconian → Ripuarian → Kerkraads

    Our journey through (part of) the world of Germanic languages and dialects ends where it began: in the area where Ripuarian dialects are spoken. There are remarkable similarities between the dialects of Cologne (1 March) and Kerkrade, but there is also a crucial difference. Let’s start with the similarities: The words ‘street’ and ‘time’ translate to ‘Strooß’ and ‘Zick’ in Colognian and to ‘sjtroas’ en ‘tsiet’ in Kerkraads. Disregarding different spelling conventions, we notice that the translation of ‘street’ ends with [s] and the translation of ‘time’ begins with [t͜s] in both varieties. The difference between the two dialects is rather areal than purely linguistic: On the one hand, Colognian and surrounding (non-)standard varieties share the phonological features behind the pronunciation of these words. In Standard German, for instance, the words translate to ‘Straße’ [-s-] and ‘Zeit’ [t͜s-]. Kerkraads, on the other hand, ploughs a lonely furrow in the Netherlands: In nearby dialects and in Standard Dutch, respectively, the words are ‘straot’ or ‘straat’ [-t] and ‘tied’ or ‘tijd’ [t-]. Kerkraads happens to be one of few Dutch dialects that were affected by the High German consonant shift – well, the most basic parts of it at any rate. Though spoken in the province of Limburg, it is not a Limburgish dialect. But of course, it shares some features with Limburgish dialects, too: The initial [ʃt-] of ‘sjtroas’, for example, contrasts with Standard Dutch [st-], but is also widely found in East Limburgish varieties. Another shared feature is umlaut, a type of vowel change: In Standard Dutch, ‘bread’ is ‘brood’ and ‘small bread’ is ‘broodje’ with the same vowel. In Kerkraads, it is ‘broeëd’ (bread) with /uə/, but ‘brüedsje’ (small bread) with /ʏə/. Similar vowel changes are also found in other Limburgish dialects, such as Maastrichts, which has ‘broed’ /u/ for ‘bread’, but ‘bruudsje’ /y/ in the diminutive.
    Lyrics  |  Spotify  |  iTunes

8 Gedanken zu „Celebrating Dialect Month: 31 songs in small Germanic varieties

  1. Jaap Bakker

    Hail mooi initiatief! En t begunt geliek al goud mit BAP. t Is al weer verschaaiden joar leden dat k dat heurd heb, mor wat n prachtege muziek. Stief bedankt.

  2. Christopher Beitragsautor

    k Reageer loat, mor k wol toch nog even dank zeggen veur dien commentaar. Mooi om te heuren dast t n interessant projectje vinst! Ik leer der zulf ook hail wat bie.

  3. Henk Scholte

    Moi Christopher, mien kompelmenten veur dien initiatief. Ik bekiek t aiglieks as n uutvoerege en fleurege bloumlezen van klaanken. Hest mie weer op wat wezen woar k gain wait van har. Groutnis en achtens Hinderk uut Stad

    1. Christopher Beitragsautor

      Hartelijk dank! Today is the last day of this series. It would have been nice to continue after the end of the month, but that won’t happen – not for a lack of songs or varieties, but for a lack of spare time on my part. Maybe there’ll be another season next year.

  4. Henk Scholte

    Moi Christopher,
    Dien 31-doagse streektoalmeziekmoand marathon het veur mie krek woar k wel wait van har, ook n bult nijloodjes opleverd en doar wil k die vanzulf nog stief veur bedaanken. Doar komt wel bie dat k bie zetten ook wel ais wat overvalen wuir deur dien deurwrochte infermoatsie en k mos mien geheugenloatje doar bie zetten ook wel hail woagenwied veur openschoeven. Hest ducht mie veur menneg pazzipant de grundel doarvan van deure hoald en ons n hail aigen inkiekje geven in dien vrizze onbekommerde benoadern mit aal dij toalege dwaarsverbanden van dij rieke Europese Streektoalmeziek wereld. Dien smuie combinoatsie van tekst en uutleg mit de doar bie heurende audio-visuele middeln om t verhoal derbie te illustreren moakt zuks, veur dij der veur zitten gaait, din ook nog extra behapboar. Kopschraberij holdt n mins goud op schaarp en kin t globoale kerakter dervan op n schiere menaaier aan gaang holden. Kört zegd van proat komt proat en ik neem mien pedde der bie òf. k Heb de smoak in aalsgeval te pakken en goa t vervast weer ais herlezen.


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