Swiss Standard German
Swiss Standard German, referred to by the Swiss as Schriftdeutsch, or Hochdeutsch, is one of four official languages in Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

, besides French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

, Italian
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

 and Romansh. It is a variety of Standard German
Standard German
Standard German is the standard variety of the German language used as a written language, in formal contexts, and for communication between different dialect areas...

, used in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, mainly written, and rather less often spoken.

Spoken Swiss Standard German must not be confused with Swiss German
Swiss German
Swiss German is any of the Alemannic dialects spoken in Switzerland and in some Alpine communities in Northern Italy. Occasionally, the Alemannic dialects spoken in other countries are grouped together with Swiss German as well, especially the dialects of Liechtenstein and Austrian Vorarlberg...

, the Alemannic dialect
Alemannic German
Alemannic is a group of dialects of the Upper German branch of the Germanic language family. It is spoken by approximately ten million people in six countries: Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, France and Italy...

s that are the normal everyday language of all people in the German-speaking part of Switzerland.

Standard German is a pluricentric language
Pluricentric language
A pluricentric language is a language with several standard versions, both in spoken and in written forms. This situation usually arises when language and the national identity of its native speakers do not, or did not, coincide.-English:...

. In comparison with other local varieties
Variety (linguistics)
In sociolinguistics a variety, also called a lect, is a specific form of a language or language cluster. This may include languages, dialects, accents, registers, styles or other sociolinguistic variation, as well as the standard variety itself...

 of Standard German, Swiss Standard German has distinctive features in all linguistic domains: not only in phonology
Phonology is, broadly speaking, the subdiscipline of linguistics concerned with the sounds of language. That is, it is the systematic use of sound to encode meaning in any spoken human language, or the field of linguistics studying this use...

, but also in vocabulary
A person's vocabulary is the set of words within a language that are familiar to that person. A vocabulary usually develops with age, and serves as a useful and fundamental tool for communication and acquiring knowledge...

, syntax
In linguistics, syntax is the study of the principles and rules for constructing phrases and sentences in natural languages....

, morphology
Morphology (linguistics)
In linguistics, morphology is the identification, analysis and description, in a language, of the structure of morphemes and other linguistic units, such as words, affixes, parts of speech, intonation/stress, or implied context...

 and orthography
The orthography of a language specifies a standardized way of using a specific writing system to write the language. Where more than one writing system is used for a language, for example Kurdish, Uyghur, Serbian or Inuktitut, there can be more than one orthography...

. These characteristics of Swiss Standard German are called helvetism
Helvetisms are a large group of words typical for Swiss Standard German, which do not appear in either of Standard German or Standard German dialects...


Written Swiss Standard German

Swiss Standard German is the official written language
Written language
A written language is the representation of a language by means of a writing system. Written language is an invention in that it must be taught to children, who will instinctively learn or create spoken or gestural languages....

 in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. It is used in books, all official publications (including all laws and regulations), in newspapers, printed notices, most advertising and in other printed matter. Authors write literature in Swiss Standard German, although some specific dialect literature exists. SSG is similar in most respects to the Standard German in Germany and Austria, although there are a few differences in spelling, most notably the replacing of the German ligature ß
In the German alphabet, ß is a letter that originated as a ligature of ss or sz. Like double "s", it is pronounced as an , but in standard spelling, it is only used after long vowels and diphthongs, while ss is used after short vowels...

with ss and in some cases different words are used.

Examples of differences between Swiss Standard German and that used in Germany:
  • Strasse = Straße (Germany) = street
  • Tram = Straßenbahn (Germany)
  • Billet = Fahrkarte (Germany) = ticket (for bus/tram/train etc.)
  • Führerausweis = Führerschein (Germany) = driving licence
  • Velo = Fahrrad (Germany) = bicycle
  • Natel = Handy/Mobiltelefon (Germany) = mobile phone

However, the Swiss use the Swiss Standard German word "Lernfahrausweis" for a learner's driving permit (note how it differs from the SSG word for a "regular" driving license: Führerausweis).

The Swiss sometimes use a different Standard German word from their neighbours from Germany to say the same thing, and an example of this is: "Spital" (hospital). "Spital", being Standard German, is found in most large volumes of Standard German language dictionaries. However, the Germans prefer to use "Krankenhaus".

Differences in grammar are apparent, as Swiss have different genders for some nouns:

Swiss das Tram, Germany die Tram (English: tram, although "Straßenbahn" is mostly used in Germany)
Swiss das E-Mail, Germany die E-Mail (English: e-mail)

Some expressions are more akin to a translation from the French, and differ from usage in Germany, such as
  • Swiss ich habe kalt (literally "I have cold"), Germany mir ist [es] kalt (literally "me [Dative] is cold")
  • Swiss das geht dir gut, Germany das passt dir gut (it suits you)

The Swiss keyboard layout has no key, nor does it have capital A-, O-, U-Umlaut keys (Ä, Ö, Ü). This dates back to mechanical typewriter
A typewriter is a mechanical or electromechanical device with keys that, when pressed, cause characters to be printed on a medium, usually paper. Typically one character is printed per keypress, and the machine prints the characters by making ink impressions of type elements similar to the pieces...

s that had the French diacritical marks
A diacritic is a glyph added to a letter, or basic glyph. The term derives from the Greek διακριτικός . Diacritic is both an adjective and a noun, whereas diacritical is only an adjective. Some diacritical marks, such as the acute and grave are often called accents...

 letters on these keys to allow the Swiss to write French on a Swiss German QWERTZ
thumb|175px|A computer QWERTZ keyboardThe QWERTZ or QWERTZU keyboard is a widely used computer and typewriter keyboard layout that is mostly used in Central Europe...

 keyboard (and vice versa). Thus a Swiss German VSM-Keyboard has an key that prints an à (a-grave) when shifted. Although it is possible to write upper Umlauts by use of caps lock
Caps lock
Caps lock is a key on many computer keyboards. Pressing it sets an input mode in which typed letters are uppercase by default. The keyboard remains in caps lock mode until the key is pressed again...

 or by using the dead key
Dead key
A dead key is a special kind of a modifier key on a typewriter or computer keyboard that is typically used to attach a specific diacritic to a base letter. The dead key does not generate a character by itself but modifies the character generated by the key struck immediately after...

. Accordingly, the Swiss are accustomed to names not being written with a starting capital umlaut, but instead with Ae, Oe and Ue, such as the Zürich suburb Oerlikon.

Even though the local dialects are occasionally written, their written usage is mostly restricted to informal situations such as private text messages, e-mail
Electronic mail, commonly known as email or e-mail, is a method of exchanging digital messages from an author to one or more recipients. Modern email operates across the Internet or other computer networks. Some early email systems required that the author and the recipient both be online at the...

s, letters or notes.

Spoken Swiss Standard German

The normal spoken language
Spoken language
Spoken language is a form of human communication in which words derived from a large vocabulary together with a diverse variety of names are uttered through or with the mouth. All words are made up from a limited set of vowels and consonants. The spoken words they make are stringed into...

 in the German-speaking part of Switzerland is the local dialects. Outside of any educational setting, Swiss Standard German is only spoken in very few specific situations in news broadcasts and serious programmes of the public media channels; in the parliaments of certain German-speaking canton
Cantons of Switzerland
The 26 cantons of Switzerland are the member states of the federal state of Switzerland. Each canton was a fully sovereign state with its own borders, army and currency from the Treaty of Westphalia until the establishment of the Swiss federal state in 1848...

s; in the national parliament (unless another official language of Switzerland is used), although dialect is certainly encroaching on this domain; in loudspeaker announcements in public places such as railway stations, etc. Church services, including the sermon and prayers are usually in Standard German. Generally in any educational setting Swiss Standard German is used (during lesssons, lectures or tutorials). However outside of lessons Swiss German dialects are used, even when, for example, talking to a teacher about the class. The situations when Swiss Standard German is spoken are characteristically formal and public, and they are situations where written communication is also important.

In informal situations, Swiss Standard German is only used with people who don't understand the dialects. Among each other, the German-speaking Swiss use their respective Swiss German dialects, irrespective of social class, education or topic.

Unlike in other regions where High German varieties are spoken, there is no continuum between Swiss Standard German and the Swiss German dialects. The speakers speak either Swiss Standard German or a Swiss German dialect, and they are conscious about this choice.


The concurrent usage of Swiss Standard German and Swiss German dialects has been called a typical case of diglossia
In linguistics, diglossia refers to a situation in which two dialects or languages are used by a single language community. In addition to the community's everyday or vernacular language variety , a second, highly codified variety is used in certain situations such as literature, formal...

. This claim has been debated, because the typical diglossia situation assumes that the standard variety has high prestige, whereas the informal variety has low prestige. In the German-speaking part of Switzerland, however, the Swiss German dialects do not have a low prestige. The situation is rather like in parts of Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 and Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

, where Scottish English
Scottish English
Scottish English refers to the varieties of English spoken in Scotland. It may or may not be considered distinct from the Scots language. It is always considered distinct from Scottish Gaelic, a Celtic language....

/Mid-Ulster English and Scots
Scots language
Scots is the Germanic language variety spoken in Lowland Scotland and parts of Ulster . It is sometimes called Lowland Scots to distinguish it from Scottish Gaelic, the Celtic language variety spoken in most of the western Highlands and in the Hebrides.Since there are no universally accepted...

play similar roles.

Since Swiss Standard German is the usual written language and the Swiss German dialects are the usual spoken language, their interrelation has been called a medial diglossia.

Attitude to spoken Swiss Standard German

Most Swiss-Germans speak fluent Swiss Standard German, and are happy to use it where necessary.
When they compare their Swiss Standard German to the way people from Germany speak, they think their own proficiency is inferior because it is studied and slower. Most Swiss-Germans think that the majority speak a rather poor Swiss Standard German; however, when asked about their personal proficiency, a majority will answer that they speak quite well.


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