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Baden-Wurttemberg is a diverse linguistic landscape. The motto: "We can do anything. Except High German."makes dialect-speaking people a strong community, which, however, does not sound uniform at all. "Unity through diversity" applies not only to the state’s regions, but also to its dialects.
One’s own language is probably one of the strongest characteristics of regional identity. The dialects enrich High German by finding expressions and words for which High German would at best have complicated transliterations. Or how to translate "Herrgottsbscheiberle" into High German?
The dialects are by no means only present in the spoken language. Numerous authors from Baden-Wurttemberg also wrote and still write in their native dialect. In Baden-Wurttemberg there are two major dialects: Franconian in the northern third and Alemannic in the southern two-thirds. The names are derived from the tribal settlement areas of the Franks and Alemanni. But the distribution areas of the dialects today cannot be transferred one-to-one to the old settlement areas. Both major dialects are divided into subgroups, and these in turn are divided into many regional dialect forms.
Kurpfalzisch and Hohenlohisch
Franconian dialects are spoken in the northern part of Baden-Wurttemberg. Franconian dialects already belong in part to the Central German languages. The Kurpfalzische, spoken in the area around Mannheim and Heidelberg, for example, already belongs to the Rhenish-Franconian dialect area. Hohenlohe is also a Franconian dialect, spoken in particular in the districts of Schwabisch Hall, Hohenlohekreis and Bad Mergentheim.
Baden and Swabian
The largest language group in Baden-Wurttemberg is formed by the Alemannic dialects. They are spoken in the southern part of the country, approximately south of the line Rastatt, Pforzheim, Backnang, Ellwangen. Alemannic is an Upper German language. Even if Swabians may not like to hear it, Swabian is also a form of Alemannic.
When one speaks colloquially of Badisch, one is primarily looking for a counter term to Swabian and means such different dialects as Franconian in the north or Upper Rhine, High German or Lake Constance Alemannic in the southwest. Even if Swabian is related to the last-mentioned Alemannic dialects, they are clearly different from each other.
Dialects continue to evolve
However, language and dialects are not static entities, they were and still are permanently exposed to influences from inside and outside. However, this is not a phenomenon of modern times. Because people and sometimes whole groups of people have always migrated. Therefore, it is difficult to define exact language boundaries. The various conquerors and occupiers also exerted an influence on the language. So that the dialects have always been influenced by other languages. In the past, this process usually took place more slowly. With the increased mobility in the last 100 years, however, this process has certainly accelerated. The spread of written or High German through the mass media is also leading to a grinding down of the dialects. Globalization and English as an international language have also brought us many new loan words. The spoken dialects are able to deal with this dynamic. New words and phrases are assimilated, sometimes to such an extent that their origin is no longer apparent to the layman.
Promoting dialects and using them as an opportunity
One of the best-known dialect speakers in the state is Minister President Winfried Kretschmann. "For me, the dialect is not an inescapable fate, but an option and an opportunity. It expands the possibilities of what can be said in standard language and creates a sense of community," he confesses. And he is not the only one who is a great supporter of the dialect. The Baden-Wurttemberg state government is also currently looking for ways to strengthen active dialect use in the state. Initial ideas were provided by the dialect congress "Daheim schwatzen die Leut’" (People talk at home). Here, experts from the fields of science, schools, culture and the media met to discuss intensively the present and future of Baden-Wurttemberg’s dialects.
"Linguistic diversity is a value in itself. However, when languages are only spoken at home, they are considered endangered. That is why we are politically obligated in matters of dialects to take the measures agreed upon in the UNESCO Convention of 2007 to protect the diversity of cultural forms of expression," Kretschmann explains his concern. Dialects are also particularly suitable for communicating emotions and creating resonance. "The high emotional power of dialect, I hope, can help make debates more peaceful and strengthen social cohesion," Kretschmann says.