Bernese German

Bernese German (Standard German: Berndeutsch, Alemannic German: Bärndütsch) is the dialect of High Alemannic German spoken in the Swiss plateau (Mittelland) part of the canton of Bern and in some neighbouring regions. A form of Bernese German is spoken by the Swiss Amish affiliation of the Amish in Adams County, Indiana, United States and their daughter settlements.


There is a lot of regional variation within Bernese German dialects. However, with the increasing importance of the big agglomeration of Bern, the variety of Bern is spreading out, levelling the old village dialects.

Until the second half of the 20th century, there was a considerable range of sociolects in the city of Bern where four different groups could be distinguished:


Bernese German is distinguished from other Swiss German dialects by the following characteristics:


Äuä (pronounced [ˈæ̞wːæ̞ː], other possible spellings include äuää, äuuä, äuwä, ällwä) is a typical shibboleth of Bernese German.[1] There are two different uses:

Bernese comedian Massimo Rocchi used äuä as the title for one of his shows, which derives much of its comical effect from the bewilderment an outsider experiences (in this case, Italian-born Rocchi) when first confronted with the idiosyncrasies of Bernese German.


As in other Western Swiss German dialects and as in French, the polite form of address is the second person plural and not the third person plural as in German.

Unlike German and all other Swiss-German dialects there are 3 words for the enumerator "two" (2):[2]

... but only 2 words for "three" (3):


A lot of the vocabulary known as typical to Bernese German comes from the Mattenenglisch, e.g. Gieu 'boy', Modi 'girl'. The best known shibboleths of Bernese German may be the words äuä 'no way' or 'probably', (j)ieu 'yes', geng (or ging, gäng) 'always'. Bernese typically say mängisch for the German manchmal (sometimes). An often used word at the end of a sentence is a question tag, "gäu" (2nd person singular) or "gäuet" (2nd person plural, polite form) meaning 'isn't it?', whereas other Swiss German dialects prefer "oder", like 'or what?'.

Bernese German literature

Although Bernese German is mainly a spoken language (for writing, the standard German language is used), there is a relatively extensive literature which goes back to the beginnings of the 20th century.

Bernese German grammars and dictionaries also exist.

Bernese German cinema

The 2014 film Der Goalie bin ig (English title: I Am the Keeper),[3] whose dialogue is in Bernese German,[4] was a major winner at the 2014 Swiss Film Awards with seven nominations[5] from which it won four trophies including Best Feature Film.[6] The film, directed by Sabine Boss, was adapted from the novel Der Goalie bin ig by Pedro Lenz (which was translated into Glasgow patter by Pedro Lenz and Donal McLaughlin under the title Naw Much of a Talker[7]). The film played at the Locarno Film Festival in August 2014.[8]

Bernese German music

Many Bernese German songs have become popular all over the German-speaking part of Switzerland, especially those of Mani Matter. This may have influenced the development of Bernese German rock music, which was the first Swiss German rock music to appear and continues to be one of the most important ones.

Today, notable bands singing in Bernese German include Patent Ochsner, Züri West and Stiller Has.



  1. Otto von Greyerz, Ruth Bietenhard: Berndeutsches Wörterbuch ISBN 3-305-00255-7
  3. "I am the Keeper". Cineuropa. Retrieved 2014-10-14.
  4. ""Der goalie bin ig." A Swiss film phenomenon by Sabine Boss". Swiss Review. 2014-09-25. Retrieved 2014-10-14.
  5. "Nominations for the 2014 Swiss Film Award". 2014-01-29. Retrieved 2014-03-29.
  6. "Swiss Film Award 2014: "I Am The Keeper (Der Goalie bin ig)" is biggest winner of the night". Swiss Films. 2014-03-21. Retrieved 2014-10-14.
  7. Clare O'Dea (2014-09-23). "Swiss bestseller sparkles in Glaswegian dialect". Retrieved 2014-10-14.
  8. "Der Goalie bin ig (programme note)". Festival del film Locarno. Retrieved 2014-10-14.

External links

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