Bergish dialects

Bergish is the collection of local speech varieties of the Bergisches Land Region east of the Rhine in West Germany. The term is common in the general populace, but is not of much linguistic relevance, because the varieties belong to several quite distinct groups inside the Continental West Germanic dialect continuum. As usual inside a dialect continuum, neighboring varieties have a maximum of similarities, and speakers being used to the rather small individual lingual differences in their immediate neighborhood perceive them naïvely as varieties of some bigger, undivided group, such as "Bergish", being part of "Rhinelandic", being part of "German", etc..

In fact, "Bergish" varieites belong to three major groups following the dialect geographers of today:[1]

  1. East Bergish in the North East is the smallest group. Combining features of the Westphalian group, the Limburgish, and (predominantly) the Zuid-Gelders or Cleverlands group, it is usually seen as part of the latter. Zuid-Gelders covers much of the Lower Rhine area in Germany and extends into the Central Netherlands. It is a Low Franconian group, whereas Westphalian belongs to the Low German group.
  2. Low Bergish, or Western Bergish, is located in the North West and is seen as the eastmost part of the Limburgish language group, which extends far beyond the rivers Rhine and Maas into the Netherlands and Belgium. They are also part of the East Limburgish group, that is, the varieties of Limbugish spoken in Germany. They combine Low Franconian properties with some Ripuarian properties.
  3. South Bergish, or Upper Bergish, varieties are part of the Ripuarian group, where they form the East Ripuarian subgroup. Ripuarian varieties are also spoken West of the Rhine, and in some small areas next to the respective borders in Belgium and in the Netherlands. Contrasting the abovementioned two Bergish groups, Ripuarian Bergish varieties belong to the Middle German group, and thus are High German varieties, together with for example Austro-Bavarian and Swiss German, among many others.

The Bergish varieties in the northern areas are also referred to as parts of Meuse-Rhenish, which exclusively refers to the Low Franconian varieties, that are Limburgish including Low Bergish, and Zuid-Gelders including East Bergish.

See also


  1. e.g. Dr. Georg Cornelissen


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