A Look at the Altaic Question, a Current Controversy in Linguistics

               Turkic    Tungusic*        Written Mongolian
1P sing.:
 
nominative      ban      bi               bi
oblique stem    man-     min-             min-
2P sing.:
nominative      san      chi    (<*ti)    si
oblique stem    san-     chiin- (<*tin)   sin-
(e.g. Evenki and Manchu)

The Altaic argument is one of the biggest controversies in current linguistics. It is said that Linguistics has decided that Altaic does not exist. Actually, the field has not decided that at all. The consensus in the field is that Altaic is still an open question. In other words, they are fighting about it.
The field is split up into Pro-Altaicists and Anti-Altaicists. It’s not true that the field has decided in favor of the Anti-Altaicists. The Antis say that there is no such thing as Altaic. The Pros said that Altaic exists, and here is the evidence. The consensus instead rejects both positions and says we don’t know if Altaic exists or not. There is a big difference between we don’t know if it exists (maybe it does and maybe it doesn’t) and it doesn’t exist. One statement is uncertainty and the other statement is negative.
According to Anti-Ataicists, every time a human can’t make up their mind about something yes or no, they actually are saying no. No they’re not! They’re not saying yes or no. They are rejecting both positions and saying instead that they are undecided. What the Anti-Altaicists are doing is akin to saying everyone who answers undecided on a political candidate poll is actually saying that want to vote against the person! The entire basis of political polling would change.
The Anti-Altaicists are typically quite vicious, while the other side is not. The safe position is Anti-Altaicism, so a lot of wimpy linguists too scared to stand up and fight have sought refuge in the negative position. Furthermore, Linguistics is like an 8th grade playground. Some positions are openly ridiculed. Pro-Altaicism is openly ridiculed, and taking that position is seen as prima facie evidence that a linguist is a crank, an idiot or a fool. I would imagine that if you told a hiring committee that you believed in Altaic, it would be harder to get hired than if you took the negative stand. And I could imagine that being pro-Altaic might keep you from getting tenure.
Not only are the Antis vicious (all of them are vicious, bar none), but many of them are complete idiots and fools, as seen above in the preposterous conflation of uncertain opinions with negative opinions above. The fools on Bad Linguistics Reddit are evidence of this. They all hate Altaic because they are wimps who are too afraid of a fight, so they take a safe position. They bashed me for saying Altaic was real, saying it was evidence of what a kook and crank I am, when in fact, Altaic exists is a completely acceptable position to take. Many famous linguists have supported Altaic in the past, and a number of top linguists currently support it.
Anti-Altaic papers are often vicious from an academic paper standpoint. In academic papers, you are supposed to be restrained and keep your strong opinions to yourself. Not so with anti-Altaicists. They are over the top insulting and ridiculing towards Altaicists.
Altaicists have accumulated quite a bit of evidence in support of their position. The pronouns above prove Altaic for me. All I have to do is look at those pronoun sets (and there are other pronouns that also line up precisely like above) and I know it’s real.
This is what Joseph Greenberg means when he says that proving whether language families exist and reconstructing proto-languages are two different things.
You figure out a language family by simple inspection. Greenberg uses the mass comparison method, and it has worked very well for him for African languages. His Amerindian languages proposals have not been well accepted, but it’s clear that there is a large family called Amerind. There is 1st person m and second person n all through the family, occurring ~450 times. Personal pronouns are rarely borrowed, and entire personal pronoun sets are almost never borrowed (Piraha did borrow all of its pronouns, but Piraha is bizarre in many ways).
Joanna Nichols, a current spokesperson for the conservative Linguistics Establishment as good as any other (and a fine linguist to boot) states that the current consensus is that there is no such thing as Amerind and that those 450 similar pronouns are all cases of borrowing. Wow! Personal pronoun sets (not just one pronoun but an entire paradigm) were borrowed 450 times in the Americas! That’s one of the most idiotic statements that one could make, but this is the current consensus of linguistic “science.” Dumb or what?
A much better position would be to say that Amerind is uncertain (maybe it exists, maybe it doesn’t), as the negative position is preposterous and idiotic right on its face. Nichols has also stated that all of the Altaic pronouns were borrowed.
That’s even more idiotic because unlike in the Americas, entire large pronoun paradigms exist in Altaic where they do not exist in Amerind. Paradigms, especially pronoun paradigms, are almost never borrowed, and paradigm evidence is considered excellent evidence of genetic relationship. English good, better, best is the same paradigm as German gut, besser, besten. That’s an odd way to set up comparatives, and the fact that that comparative set lines up perfectly is what is known as a paradigm. That one paradigm right there ought to be enough to prove the relatedness of English and German, even leaving out all other massive evidence for relatedness.
Greenberg says that after you decide that languages form a family, then you set about using the comparative method of reconstructing proto-languages, finding sound correspondences and whatnot. The current conservative or reactionary position of the field is that first you reconstruct the proto-languages and then and only then can you prove a language family. That’s absurd. They’re in effect doing everything ass backwards. Incidentally, long ago Edward Sapir agreed with Greenberg that language families were proven first by inspection and only later did reconstruction take place. Sapir also came up with the Amerind hypothesis decades before Greenberg. Sapir is quoted as saying:

Getting down to brass tacks, how are you going to prove Amerind 1st person m and second person n other than genetic relatedness?
– Edward Sapir, 1917?

Who was Edward Sapir? Only one of the greatest linguists in history.
I can look right there at that pronoun paradigm set and tell you flat out that those three language families are related. It’s not possible that all of those languages borrowed all of those pronouns. It didn’t happen. It didn’t happen because it couldn’t happen. It’s beyond the realm of statistical probability. A statement that is outside the realm of statistical probability is considered to be for all intents and purposes nonfactual. Ask anyone Statistics major.
Not only has Proto-Altaic been reconstructed at least in a tentative and initial form, but there are regular sound correspondences running through all of the comparative lexicon of the three proto-languages: Proto-Turkic, Proto-Tungusic and Proto-Mongolian.
Regular sound correspondences are another thing we look for. It would mean that every time you have VlV in Language A, you have VnV in Language B (V = vowel). We then say that Language A l -> Language B n. Regular sound correspondences are considered to be excellent evidence of genetic relatedness.
In fact, an entire etymological dictionary of Altaic has been produced, reconstructing a lot of Proto-Altaic lexicon along with the cognates in the daughter languages. This dictionary runs to over 1,000 pages, and it is a true work of art in the social sciences. The entire etymological dictionary has been rejected out of hand by the Anti-Altaicists. However, they have not directly attacked or tried to prove many of the etymologies wrong. They simply looked at it, said it’s junk, laughed at it and ridiculed it, and moved on.
This conservative or even reactionary mood has been the norm in Historic Linguistics for decades now. The field has become very stick in the mud about this.
However, in much of the rest of Linguistics, especially Sociolinguistics, Language Acquisition, and Applied Linguistics, the field has reached consensus on many a silly thing that makes little to no sense at all other than that it sounds very Politically Correct. Linguistics being a social science, PC and SJW Cultural Left culture has infected the field in an awful way.
You must understand that Cultural Left views did not just appear in a few select social sciences. Instead this ideology swept through the entire social sciences, sparing not a one. In terms of a March Through the Institutions for this ideology, it was akin to a rapid hostile takeover. Cultural Left and SJW views are now mandatory in Linguistics. If you refuse to go along, you will not get hired or get tenured. If your reputation is too bad, you may not be able to publish in academic journals or books.
Alas, my field has been poisoned with this Cultural Left toxin or venom like all the rest of them!

A Few Words on Language Endangerment

Carlos Lam: Congrats! However, isn’t language death a rather standard occurrence among societies?

It is, but we linguists don’t really like it. It is quite a debate going on, but the bottom line seems to be that ethnic groups and speaker groups have the right to ownership of their languages. We worry that a lot of speaker groups are being pressured into blowing up their languages prematurely. We like to study these languages and we are not real happy about seeing them vanish into the horizon. On the other hand, is cultural death a natural thing too? Both cultural death and language death are occurring at rates far beyond the normal background rates. English and some of the other major languages are like weapons of mass destruction in taking out languages. You really want a world with one language and one culture? I don’t.
The best position seems to be that speakers have the right to decide the fate of their languages. If speakers wish to continue speaking their languages, then governments and linguists should help them to preserve and continue to develop their languages. Quite a few groups do not seem to care that their languages are going are extinct or they are even driving or drove their languages extinct, and they have the full right to do so. In these cases, we will simply do salvage linguistics. There are many salvage linguistics projects going on in the world today.
You won’t get very far with linguists arguing that language death is a good thing. Most people don’t think so.
Occurring at the same time as language death is a lot of language revitalization. Even fully dead languages are being resurrected from the grave. Also in addition to language death, we are creating new languages all the time. In this piece, I created a total of net 13 new languages. And new languages are occurring on their own.
To give you an example. A group of Crimean Tatars moved from Crimea to Turkey about 200 years ago in the course of the Crimean War. They have been speaking Crimean Tatar in Turkey ever since, for 200 years now. But in that time, Crimean Tatar in Turkey and Crimean Tatar in Ukraine has diverged so much that Turkish Crimean Tatar is now, in my opinion, a fully separate tongue from the Ukrainian language. This is because in Turkey, a lot of Turkish has gone into Turkish Crimean Tatar which is not well understand in the Ukraine. And in the Ukraine, a lot of Russian has gone in which is not well understood in Turkey. Hence, Crimean Tatar speakers in Turkey and Ukraine can no longer understand each other well.
To give you another example, there are many Kazakh speakers in China. However, Kazakh speakers in China can no longer understand Standard Kazakh broadcasts from Kazakhstan because so many Russian loans have gone into Standard Kazakh that it is no longer intelligible with Chinese Kazakh speakers. I learned this too late for my paper, otherwise I would have split Chinese Kazakh off as a separate language.
There are many cases like this.
Further, many languages are being discovered. Sonqori, Western Khalaj, Todzhin, Duha, Dukha and Siberian Tatar are just a few of the new languages that I created. Khorosani Turkic was split into three different languages. Dayi was subsumed into one of the Khorosani Turkic languages. Altai was split from one into five separate languages, but the truth is that it is six languages, not five. Salar was split into Western Salara and Eastern Salar. Ili Turki was eliminated becuase it does not even exist. It is simply a form of Uighur. Kabardian and Balkar, Tatar and Bashkir, Kazakh and Kirghiz were some languages that were eliminated and subsumed into single tongues such as Tatar-Bashkir, Kazakh-Kirghiz, and Kabardian-Balkar. And on and on.
Languages and of course dialects are dying all the time, but new languages are being created by humans and by linguists as we continue our splitting projects. Many lects referred to as dialects are more properly seen as separate languages. Chinese is at least 450 separate languages, only 14 of which are recognized. German may be up to 130 separate languages, only 20 of which are recognized.
There are quite a few more languages to be created out there, but there is a lot of resistance to splitters like me from more conservative linguists and especially from linguistic nationalists. For while Chinese may well be over 1,000 languages, the Chinese government is anti-scientifically insistent that there is but one Chinese language and maybe 2,000 “dialects,” most of which are probably separate languages. The German government is quite resistant to the idea that there is more than one form of German, though I believe Bavarian and Swiss German have official status in Austria and Switzerland.

Is English a Scandinavian Language?

Philip Andrews writes:

It is surprising how little attention is paid to the influence of the Danelaw on the English language. no one in Old English academia seems to want to touch it. It’s a Norwegian article that has claimed English is a Scandinavian language.
Anglo-Saxon and the Early post-Norman Conquest English church put the dampers on the Scandinavian influence. Even the story of the Norman Conquest’ reads quite differently in the Norse Saga version to how it comes through the AS Chronicle.
AS lost most of its grammar to the Norse of the Danelaw. That’s why English has not the inflection system of Continental Germanic but rather that of Norse. I’m happy to think of English as Norse in grammar and Syntax but mostly Latin-French in vocabulary. About 60+% of English derives from Latin-French.
Personally I question the old story of the Normans being ‘Northmen’. Another AS/Norman manipulation. It was 1,000 years ago but the Normands were in what is now France earlier. Records 1,000 years ago as now were subject to political manipulation.
Why did William go to the Pope for a Blessing for a Crusade? Because he was intent on driving the pagan Vikings out of England and Christianizing the place under Norman tutelage. Hence the Harrying of the North. Yorkshire is still far more ‘Norse’ than any other part of England. Listening to people north of Watford speak English and you’re listening to Norse accents speaking English. With Norse words in dialects. If William hadn’t come with mounted archers (from the East) he could never have defeated the Vikings.
Much of English history abroad (empire etc.) equates to versions of Viking raiding. Old Norse habits die hard.

I don’t really agree with this, but it is an interesting idea anyway.
I did some research on this question recently. England was settled by the Angles, the Saxons, and the Jutes.
There is a Low German language called Anglish which is spoken in an areas of the far north of Germany called Schlesweig-Holstein. Anglish is apparently the remains of the Low German language spoken by the Angles. This is a peninsula that connects Germany with Denmark. The southern half of the peninsula is Germany, and the north half is Denmark. Anglish is not readily intelligible with any other Low German language, even those nearby.
The Saxons were found a bit to the south, but I believe that they also came from this peninsula.
And it is interesting that in this part of Germany, especially around Fleisburg on the border, the dialect of Low German that they speak is more or less intelligible not with Danish but with a Danish dialect called South Jutnish that is so divergent that in my opinion, it is a separate language from Danish. Danish speakers have poor intelligibility of South Jutnish. From the Net:

Sønderjysk is often seen as very difficult for other speakers of Danish even other Jysk or Jutnish dialects to understand. Instead of the normal Danish stød, it has tonal accents like Swedish. Many of the phonemes are also different, including velar fricatives much like in German. It also has the definite article before the noun, as opposed to the standard Danish postclitic article. South Jutlandic is surely a separate language.

So in this part of Germany, there are Low German lects that are actually intelligible with Danish lects. So here is where “German” and “Danish” are nearly transitional. However, Standard German and Standard Danish are not intelligible with each other at all. Nevertheless, German speakers can pick up Danish and other Scandinavian languages pretty easily.
And South Jutnish itself is interesting in that Jutnish was one of the languages spoken by one of the tribes that invaded England, the Jutes. So one of “Anglo-Saxon” tribes that invaded England actually spoke something like “Danish.” South Jutnish itself is said to be quite a bit like English, especially the older forms of English. There are stories about speakers of the pure Scots language spoken in Scotland going to the South Jutnish area and being able to converse with South Jutnish speakers.Scots can be thought of as English  from 500 years ago because Scots split from English about 500 years ago. So in this case we have West Germanic and North Germanic speakers who are able to actually converse.
There is also a suggestion based on the fact that North Germanic South Jutnish is intelligible with whatever odd West Germanic Low German lect is spoken near Fleisburg that South Jutnish itself may be nearly German-Danish transitional.
A few take-home points: the “Anglo-Saxons” actually something a lot more like Low German than Standard German. Low German and Standard German are separate languages and German speakers cannot understand Low German. And the “Anglo-Saxons” also spoke something like “Danish” in the form of Jutnish. Also all of these Low German lects that made up “Anglo-Saxon” came from the far north of Germany where “German” and “Danish” start to nearly blend into each other or better yet where West Germanic and North Germanic are almost transitional.
In addition to the evidence coming from the Danelaw area of England where actual Danish speakers settled, it appears that the Scandinavian or North Germanic influence in English is more with Danish than with any other Scandinavian language.
However, 2/3 of the Anglo-Saxon components were actually from West Germanic Low German lects which are not readily intelligible with any Danish, not even with South Jutnish.
It is often said that the closest language to English is West Frisian, spoken in the northwest of the Netherlands. This is a Germanic language that is close to Dutch. In fact, some say that West Frisian itself is straight up from Old Saxon, which is the language that the Saxons of the Anglo-Saxons spoke. A man who is able to speak Old English went to the West Frisia area of the Netherlands and spoke to an old farmer there who spoke good West Frisian. They were actually able to hold a conversation in English from 1,000 years ago and West Frisian of today. West Frisian of course is a West Germanic language.
However, if you look into the mater a bit more, the language that is closest to English is the endangered North Frisian, with 66% cognates with English in the most frequently used words, a bit more than West Frisian. Nevertheless, 66% cognates in the most frequently used words doesn’t do any good for intelligiblity. I listened to a 10 minute broadcast of an old woman speaking North Frisian and I could not understand one word.
North Frisian, which actually may be up to five separate languages, is also spoken in that same peninsula of far northern Germany that Anglish, Saxon and Jutnish were spoken in. However, it is spoken on the east coast of the peninsula whereas Anglish and Saxon were spoken more to the west. So once again with North Frisian and English we see one more connection with this far northern part of Germany that borders on Denmark. Yet North Frisian is a West Germanic language, not a North Germanic Scandinavian language.
A language called Ingeavonic was spoken long ago in this region, and some put “Anglo-Frisian” in a West Germanic node under Ingeavonic. For a long time there was something called the North Sea Fisherman’s lect that originated in this same part of Germany but over on the west coast by Fleisburg rather than on the east coast by the North Frisian language. It was said that fishermen from all over the North Sea from the nations of Germany, the Netherlands, England, Scotland, Norway and Sweden spoke this lingua franca or trade language. This North Sea Fisherman’s language is said to have looked a lot like Ingaevonic.

Is Old High German Close to Old Persian?

I am going to republish this older piece that has been called into question. Supposedly this language is totally made up. However, that is almost certainly not true, although I am looking into it at the moment. A Croatian professor even wrote a 27,500 word dictionary of this language. I am enclosing here 97 different references that discuss this language in the hopes that this puts an end to the Gan-Veyan controversy once and for all.

Beatrix writes:

Robert,Is it true that 1,000 yrs ago a German & a Persian spoke basically the same language?

No, it is not true at all that Old German and Old Persian were the same language 1,000 years ago.

However there are some Croatian dialects such as Archaic Islander Čakavian spoken on the islands off the coast of Croatia that are quite similar to Persian or Iranic. They are actually closer to Kurdish and Zazaki though. They are actually completely separate languages, as the lexical similarity with Croatian is only 4%! There is a theory that the pre-Slavic Croatians may have come originally from Persia, and there may be something to that.

These ancient tongues are the remains of the pre-Slavic languages spoken in this area before the Slavs came. The language that these tongues are closest to is called Liburnian. The Liburnians inhabited that region thousands of years ago. Liburnian is an ancient Indo-European language.

I did a study on one of those old languages, an Archaic Islander Čakavian tongue called Gan-Veyãn. I obtained a short dictionary of Gan-Veyãn and went through half of it from M-Z looking on my guesses as where the roots seemed to have originated. The results were remarkable and are listed in order with the language with the most roots first and the language with fewest roots last.

  • Indic
  • Persian
  • Avestan
  • Hittite
  • Akkadian
  • Basque
  • Tocharian
  • Sumerian
  • Lithuanian
  • Aramaic
  • Hurrian
  • Etruscan
  • Gothic
  • Russian
  • Ukrainian
  • Celtic
  • Kurdish
  • Armenian
  • Latin
  • Arabic
  • Mittani
  • Apian
  • German
  • Geez

I will go down the list now and describe these languages.

Indic means all of the Indo European or IE languages related to Hindi.

Persian is well known.

Avestan is best seen as the oldest form of Proto-Persian. This is the language from which all of the Iranic languages derived.

Hittite is an ancient IE tongue formerly spoken in Turkey.

Akkadian is a language isolate formerly spoken in Iraq by the people of that name who had a kingdom there.

Basque is the well known language isolate and pre-IE language spoken in northeastern Spain. Although it formally has no relatives, I would say it is related to NE Caucasian languages like Chechen. In fact the placename Iberia has deep connections to the land of Georgia.

Tocharian is an ancient IE languages formerly spoken by Caucasian people who lived in what is now Xinjiang in far western China where the Uyghurs now live.

Sumerian is an ancient tongue, a language isolate formerly spoken in the Sumerian Kingdom in Iraq.

Lithuanian is interesting because for some reason it is one of the most archaic living IE languages.

Aramaic of course is the language of Jesus spoken in the Levant, Mesopotamia, Iran and Turkey. It is still spoken by Assyrian Christians in Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey to this day.

Hurrian is an ancient IE language like Hittite formerly spoken in Turkey.

Etruscan is an ancient language isolate formerly spoken in Italy.

Gothic is the ancient Germanic language of the Visigoths who lived not only in Germany but also in Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary.

Russian and Ukrainian are well known. This ancient language may have roots close to these two Slavic languages because in a way Russian and Ukrainian are ancient Slavic languages being heavily based on Old Church Slavonic, a liturgical language that originated in northeastern Greece with roots close to Old Slavic or even Proto-Slavic.

Kurdish is the well known Iranic language of the Kurds.

Armenian is a living language, but it is rather ancient and archaic as IE languages go.

Latin is well known and these islands were part of the Roman Empire for a while.

Arabic is well known and quite a few languages along the European coast of the Mediterranean Sea have some Arabic in them.

Mittani is a language isolate formerly spoken around northern Iraq and Iran that nevertheless seems to have some relationship with Indo-Iranian languages.

Apian is an ancient IE language formerly spoken in Italy.

German is well known. How German words got into this language is a head scratcher but Croatia itself is quite close to Germany as a former part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire which had German as an official language.

Geez is the ancient language of the Ethiopian and Egyptian Coptic Christians which was thought to be long dead. However a family in Cairo was recently discovered who spoke Geez at home.

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Judith Mirville on English Spelling Reform

Judith Mirville,commenter, weighs in on English spelling reform. I really love this person’s wild prose.

It would be far easier to force Americans into Anglish, that is to say, English as it would have looked liked had William the Conqueror’s invasion of England never taken place. Or better still had The Normans themselves feared more for words of French, Latin and Greeks origin to give ideas of Greek democracy, Roman law and French sensuality to their subjects, than for their own Anglo-Saxon parlance to produce Robin Hoods. And seen in Anglo-Saxon a language having remained closer to their own forebears’ that the French-like one they had been forced to adopt in Normandy proper for political reasons.

I am now surrounded by people who are so intent on seeing Greece stifled with more economic sanctions, and are so resentful against that country for having given the world the idea of democracy (whatever the efforts I deploy to prove that their accusation to that effect is downright false: no other city than ancient classical Athens did more to vindicate the notions of Heaven-willed human inequality and human powerlessness as well as to make the quest of sheer contempt towards the downtrodden the noblest aim in life of all), that they have asked me, as an amateur linguist, to devise Greekless versions of English, French and other Western languages.

The World elites seem dead intent on suppressing the very notion of humanism not only as a form of benevolence towards fellow humans but also in the older Renaissance sense of the word meaning open-mindedness through knowledge of classical languages and cultures.

To that effect they have tried several times to disfigure etymological orthography in many languages, but the Anglo-Saxon egregor could never be convinced to accept what other European languages submitted to under the pretext of making school learning easier. So the thing to do with English is to bring it back to a purely Barbarian one so to speak, where scientific, political and other specialized terms would derive only from Germanic or Scandinavian roots through Nordic and Indic, not Greek-inspired metaphors, with the exception of a few monosyllables easy to seam into the fabric, such as joke, graph, rate…

The only rather proximate language I know of to be nearly devoid of Renaissance-inspired terms compounds is Arabic, safe for a few dozens no more of Greek words such as philosophy, democracy, geography that are half-heartedly accepted as temporary linguistic manpower so to speak, more to be humiliated as pariah words denoting concepts that will remain always alien and to be considered as foreign propaganda concepts than to render real communication service, it is the language now closest to the anti-humanistic ideal fostered by the world elites, a language where the higher level of cultural reference always refers to dogma, scripture, and military strategy at the service of predation, never to history or to former cultures of open-mindedness and research, a language where any notion of historical or political consciousness sounds like pollution by foreign intruders.

Hebrew hasn’t made such a meritorious effort and is half-Western, half-Oriental to the point it is now called an Euromitic language rather than a Semitic one (I rather say an emetic one, for modern Hebrew is downright ugly, vulgar, unwieldy, and unfit for information rendering, it is doomed to become rapidly a modern low-grade Westernized Arabic dialect like Casablanca Moroccan bound to flow into Globish).

The changes I would bring or bring back to English would be the following:

First of all, to make back English into a full-fledged Germanic language the passive form with “to be” should get replaced with “to get” as the most correct form, as is more or less the popular tendency.

German has the marvelous auxiliary verb “werden”, unfortunately the English cognate “worth” (“wirth”, “werth”) is worn out phonetically, but hadn’t it been for the late Latin style awkward French model with be (for it being ambiguous between perfect and present meaning and therefore less used in conversation for clarity’s sake) it would have been the medio-passive form of get, to git, I gat, which should be reestablished as the most regular form (many ghetto people already use git plus participle to form passives and do form it more frequently that active forms).

All Latin words such as allusion should be rebuilt for that instance as onplay, and Greek ones such as misogyny should be clearly understood as for that instance bitch-hunting, but forgotten medieval-sounding words should also be introduced to bring to the new language a more lurid and barbaric aspect as is the case with video games.

Social class distinctions as there are in Japanese should be implemented, by more regular and stringent rules than nowadays in class-conscious Britain four or five levels of status should be defined for each concept.

The ghetto and lower middle class people should be left out more or less with their vulgar parlance provided it be purged from forbidden elements, but the higher classes applying for qualified jobs should be given or imposed the luxury version of the language with a syntax imitated more or less from Icelandic minus the declensions, so as to smack of a perpetual Dungeons and Dragons game.

The highest version of it together with many terms should be forbidden of use by the lower ranks. Women should also be given a different version of the language, as well as different rules for pronunciation and this can be marketed through feminism before it be too late for these girls when they realize they have closed themselves back into gunaikeions smacking of Old Constantinople.

Of course I am speaking like some psychopathic nerd who would have been given the job to redesign English like is done with a computer programming language threatened with obsolescence and also, as a frustrated non-Anglo, with the afterthought of curbing the world-wide imperialistic prevalence of that language through ridiculous and gratuitous ideological impediments, with the most probable practical effect of breaking it for good into one thousand impoverished broken dialects no longer capable of intercommunication and yielding to a more civilized civilization language to come, I just want to give the American Republicans the neuroleptic dosage of obscurantism they need no longer to be able to use Monsanto’s products, I want them to become exactly like Haitian sorcerers in the middle run in the name of Jewish and Aryan racism not for real.

It must be noted as you showed it yourself that High German as has been imposed as Germany’s common language is a very artificial and quite recent and very ideological creation, with among others the objective to get the language rid of as many foreign coinages as possible, as if it were to become the new classical language owing nothing to any foreign one.

This objective has misfired as since the defeat of 1945 German is being flooded with English importations and with Greek and Latin terms again that come through English.

It is time for English itself to embark upon that kind of task, and the German experience that could have been successfully completed had the Nazis won over is the proof that it can work with a sufficiently fanatical regime acting at the behest of corporations dead intent on bringing back obscurantism and cut everybody, especially the new bailiff class, from the literary works of the free-thinking past.

Comparison of Inflected Verb Forms in English, Swedish, German and Finnish

Below is an Internet joke about the Finnish language. It shows how Swedish and German are both more complicated than English and in addition, how German is more complicate than Swedish. And of course, Finnish is wildly more complex than them all. You would think that Finnish dictionaries must be Hell, but that’s not the case. Generally only the root is listed, and the inflections are not. It is the same in English dictionaries where only run is listed and runs, ran, and running – the inflections, are not.

Of course, all of the forms below are not separate words for dog. Instead they mean things that would be expressed by a phrase in English such as with a dog, to a dog, from a dog, of a dog, for a dog, in a dog, dog’s. After that, there are the same forms with possessive suffixes such as with my dog, to your dog, from his dog, of their dog, for our dog, in her dog, its dog’s. And finally there are forms that attach to the possessive case forms such as My dog?, Even with your dog?, and Even without our dog.

“English: A dog.
Swedish: What?
English: The dog.
English: Two dogs.
Swedish: Okay. We have: En hund, hunden, Två hundar, hundarna.
German: Wait, I wan’t to try it too!
English: No, go away.
Swedish: No one invited you.
German: Der Hund.
English: I said go away.
German: Ein Hund, zwei Hunde.
Swedish: Stop it!
German: Den Hund, einen Hund, dem Hund, einem Hund, des Hundes, eines Hundes, den Hunden, der Hunden.
Finnish: Sup.
English: NO.
Swedish: NO.
German: NO. Finn, you go away!!
Finnish: Koira, koiran, koiraa, koiran again, koirassa, koirasta, koiraan, koiralla, koiralta, koiralle, koirana, koiraksi, koiratta, koirineen, koirin.
German: WHAT?
Swedish: You must be kidding us!
English: This must be a joke
Finnish: Aaaand… koirasi, koirani, koiransa, koiramme, koiranne, koiraani, koiraasi, koiraansa, koiraamme, koiraanne, koirassani, koirassasi, koirassansa, koirassamme, koirassanne, koirastani, koirastasi, koirastansa, koirastamme, koirastanne, koirallani, koirallasi, koirallansa, koirallamme, koirallanne, koiranani, koiranasi, koiranansa, koiranamme, koirananne, koirakseni, koiraksesi, koiraksensa, koiraksemme, koiraksenne, koirattani, koirattasi, koirattansa, koirattamme, koirattanne, koirineni, koirinesi, koirinensa, koirinemme, koirinenne.
English: Those are words for a dog???
Finnish: Wait! I didn’t stop yet. There is still: koirakaan, koirankaan, koiraakaan, koirassakaan, koirastakaan, koiraankaan, koirallakaan, koiraltakaan, koirallekaan, koiranakaan, koiraksikaan, koirattakaan, koirineenkaan, koirinkaan, koirako, koiranko, koiraako, koirassako, koirastako, koiraanko, koirallako, koiraltako, koiralleko, koiranako, koiraksiko, koirattako, koirineenko, koirinko, koirasikaan, koiranikaan, koiransakaan, koirammekaan, koirannekaan, koiraanikaan, koiraasikaan, koiraansakaan, koiraammekaan, koiraannekaan, koirassanikaan, koirassasikaan, koirassansakaan, koirassammekaan, koirassannekaan, koirastanikaan, koirastasikaan, koirastansakaan, koirastammekaan, koirastannekaan, koirallanikaan, koirallasikaan, koirallansakaan, koirallammekaan, koirallannekaan, koirananikaan, koiranasikaan, koiranansakaan, koiranammekaan, koiranannekaan, koiraksenikaan, koiraksesikaan, koiraksensakaan, koiraksemmekaan, koiraksennekaan, koirattanikaan, koirattasikaan, koirattansakaan, koirattammekaan, koirattannekaan, koirinenikaan, koirinesikaan, koirinensakaan, koirinemmekaan, koirinennekaan, koirasiko, koiraniko, koiransako, koirammeko, koiranneko, koiraaniko, koiraasiko, koiraansako, koiraammeko, koiraanneko, koirassaniko, koirassasiko, koirassansako, koirassammeko, koirassanneko, koirastaniko, koirastasiko, koirastansako, koirastammeko, koirastanneko, koirallaniko, koirallasiko, koirallansako, koirallammeko, koirallanneko, koirananiko, koiranasiko, koiranansako, koiranammeko, koirananneko, koirakseniko, koiraksesiko, koiraksensako, koiraksemmeko, koiraksenneko, koirattaniko, koirattasiko, koirattansako, koirattammeko, koirattanneko, koirineniko, koirinesiko, koirinensako, koirinemmeko, koirinenneko, koirasikaanko, koiranikaanko, koiransakaanko, koirammekaanko, koirannekaanko, koiraanikaanko, koiraasikaanko, koiraansakaanko, koiraammekaanko, koiraannekaanko, koirassanikaanko, koirassasikaanko, koirassansakaanko, koirassammekaanko, koirassannekaanko, koirastanikaanko, koirastasikaanko, koirastansakaanko, koirastammekaanko, koirastannekaanko, koirallanikaanko, koirallasikaanko, koirallansakaanko, koirallammekaanko, koirallannekaanko, koirananikaanko, koiranasikaanko, koiranansakaanko, koiranammekaanko, koiranannekaanko, koiraksenikaanko, koiraksesikaanko, koiraksensakaanko, koiraksemmekaanko, koiraksennekaanko, koirattanikaanko, koirattasikaanko, koirattansakaanko, koirattammekaanko, koirattannekaanko, koirinenikaanko, koirinesikaanko, koirinensakaanko, koirinemmekaanko, koirinennekaanko, koirasikokaan, koiranikokaan, koiransakokaan, koirammekokaan, koirannekokaan, koiraanikokaan, koiraasikokaan, koiraansakokaan, koiraammekokaan, koiraannekokaan, koirassanikokaan, koirassasikokaan, koirassansakokaan, koirassammekokaan, koirassannekokaan, koirastanikokaan, koirastasikokaan, koirastansakokaan, koirastammekokaan, koirastannekokaan, koirallanikokaan, koirallasikokaan, koirallansakokaan, koirallammekokaan, koirallannekokaan, koirananikokaan, koiranasikokaan, koiranansakokaan, koiranammekokaan, koiranannekokaan, koiraksenikokaan, koiraksesikokaan, koiraksensakokaan, koiraksemmekokaan, koiraksennekokaan, koirattanikokaan, koirattasikokaan, koirattansakokaan, koirattammekokaan, koirattannekokaan, koirinenikokaan, koirinesikokaan, koirinensakokaan, koirinemmekokaan, koirinennekokaan.
Swedish: Breath!!
German: Whattaaa?
English: Okay, now you’re just making things up!
Finnish: And now the plural forms…..”

What Is Plattdeutsch?

Beatrix writes:

‘Alt Hoch Deutsch’ (Old High German) sounds a bit like the Plattdeutsch my older Mennonite relatives spoke. But they left West Prussia for the Ukraine in 1802.

Plattdeutsch is a Low German language, and yes, it is an East Low German language with roots in far northeastern Germany and Prussia across the border into what is now Poland. It is close to Pomeranian, a dying East Low German language formerly spoken in that area that died out with the ethnic cleansing of the Germans there after WW2.

It is not intelligible with Standard German or really with any other German language, including other Low German languages. Low German is a completely different language from Standard German. German speakers cannot understand it at all.

Dutch speakers can actually understand Low German languages better than Germans can. That is because in some ways they are quite close to Dutch even though one is Old Franconian and the other is Old German. But there are also German “dialects” that are straight up from Franconian also, especially those spoken in northwest Germany near the borders of the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. There are dialects (or really languages in that area that are quite difficult to characterize as either:

German
Dutch
Neither

I am thinking specially of the languages spoken where German, the Netherlands and Belgium all come together around Kerkrade, Aachen and Stolberg.

Comparison of Old German with Modern German

Althochdeutsch

Ik gihorta dat seggen,
dat sih urhettun ænon muotin
Hiltibrant enti Hadubrant untar heriun tuem.
Sunufatarungo iro saro rihtun,
garutun se iro gudhamun, gurtun sih iro suert ana
helidos, ubar hringa, do sie to dero hiltiu ritun.

Modern German Language

Ich hörte (glaubwürdig) berichten,
dass zwei Krieger, Hildebrand und Hadubrand, (allein)
zwischen ihren beiden Heeren, aufeinanderstießen.
Zwei Leute von gleichem Blut, Vater und Sohn, rückten da ihre Rüstung zurecht,
sie strafften ihre Panzerhemden und gürteten ihre
Schwerter über die Eisenringe, die Männer,
als sie zu diesem Kampf ritten.

Alothochdeutsch was the first form of the |German language and it can be called Old German. It existed from 500-1000 CE. It is probably somewhat analogous to Old English, but I doubt if the two languages would have been intelligible. The passage above is from 900, written about the same time as Beowulf was written.

It is truly amazing how much German has changed. Old German for all intents and purposes is a completely different language. The two languages look nothing alike at all and there is no way that modern Germans would understand a passage spoken in Old German. In that sense they are analogous to the relationship between English and Old English.

The modern German language called Hochdeutsch or High German is based on the language that Martin Luther used in his Bible translation. Luther was from Saxonia and the language he used was an Upper Saxon dialect modified to make it intelligible to as many Germans as possible.

Presently Standard German is a mix of Upper Saxon and Thuringian spoken with a Northern German accent. No one ever spoke this way naturally as part of their dialect from their home region. For hundreds of years, Hochdeutsch was only a written language. Various German writers used variations of it to try to make their written German as intelligible to as many Germans as possible.

Only around 1800 did Hochdeutsch begin to be used as a spoken language. At this time it began to be taught in schools and for a long time, German students learned it as a what amounted to a foreign language, their first language being whatever German dialect was spoken in their region.

In the 20th Century, Hochdeutsch began to be a common first language for many Germans who grew up speaking it either alongside their regional dialect or instead of the dialect. It was also during the past century that Hochdeutsch began t supplant many German dialects. The truth is that many German dialects are not dialects at all but instead they are full blown language in terms of both intelligibility and structure. Ethnologue lists 20 different German dialects as separate languages and the truth is that there are many more than that.

Croatia, 1846

There probably wasn’t really any such thing as “Croatia” back then, but anyway, let us discuss what was happening in the territory we currently refer to as the nation of Croatia.

  • What was the official language (Slavic)?
  • What were the two other languages that were widely spoken everyone or nearly everyone along with the official one (both Slavic)?
  • What was the language most commonly spoken by educated people, especially in cities? For instance, if you went into a bookstore in Zagreb, the books would mostly be in this language (non-Slavic)?
  • What was the language of science and the ultra-elites? As an example of how this language was used, what was the official language for the Croatian Parliament? (non-Slavic)?
  • What was the official religion?

Five questions, five whole questions, now hard could it be?

Have fun kids!

A Look at the Dutch Languages

From here.
Here we will look at the three languages in the Dutch family – Dutch, Afrikaans and Flemish, from the point of view of how hard they are to learn for a native English speaker. The main focus will be on Dutch, but Afrikaans will also be discussed. Flemish will be discussed only peripherally.
Dutch is harder to learn than English due to the large number of rules used in both speaking and writing. The Dutch say that few foreigners learn to speak Dutch well. Part of the problem is that some words have no meaning at all in isolation (meaning is only derived via a phrase or sentence). Word order is somewhat difficult because it is quite rigid. It helps if you know German as the rule order is similar, but Dutch word order is harder than German word order. Foreigners often seem to get the relatively lax Dutch rules about word order wrong in long sentences.
Verbs can be difficult. For instance, there are no verbs get and move. Instead, get and move each have about a dozen different verbs in Dutch. A regular Dutch verb has six different forms.
Dutch spelling is difficult, and Most Dutch people cannot even spell Dutch correctly. There are only two genders – common and neuter – as opposed to three in German – feminine, neuter and masculine. In Dutch, the masculine and feminine merged in the common gender. But most Dutch speakers cannot tell you the gender of any individual word. In the Netherlands now, most Dutch speakers are simply using masculine for most nouns other than things that are obviously feminine like the words mother and sister.
However, in Belgium, where people speak Flemish, not Dutch, most people still know the genders of words. Not only that but the 3-gender system with masculine, feminine and neuter remains in place in Flemish. In addition, in Flemish, the definite article still makes an obvious distinction between masculine and feminine, so it is easy to figure out the gender of a noun:
ne man, nen boom, nen ezel, nen banaan (masculine)
een vrouw, een koe, een wolk, een peer (feminine)
In addition, most Dutch speakers cannot tell you what pronoun to use in the 3rd person singular when conjugating a verb.
This is because there are two different systems in use for conjugating the 3sing.
The basic paradigm is:


hij      he
zij (ze) she
het      it
System 1
male persons       hij
female persons     zij
neuter words       het
animals            hij, unless noun = neuter
objects            hij, "       "
abstractions       zij, "       "
substances         hij, "       "
System 2
male persons       hij
female persons     zij
all animals        hij
all objects        hij
all abstractions   zij
all substances     het

For instance, melk is a common noun. Under system 1, it would be hij. But under system 2, it would be het because it is a substance.
Dutch has something called modal particles, the meanings of which are quite obscure.
Some say Dutch is irregular, but the truth is that more than Dutch has a multitude of very complex rules, rules that are so complicated that is hard to even figure them out, much less understand them. Nevertheless, Dutch has 200 irregular verbs.
Dutch pronunciation is pretty easy, but the ui, euij, au, ou, eeuw and uu sounds can be hard to make. Dutch speakers say only Germans learn to pronounce it correctly.
Dutch is almost being buried in a flood of English loans. While this helps the English speaker, others worry that the Dutch nature of the language is at risk.
Dutch seems to be easier to learn than German. Dutch has fewer cases, thus fewer articles and and adjective endings. There are two main ways of pluralizing in Dutch: adding -‘s and adding -en. Unfortunately, in German, things are much more complex than that. Dutch has only two genders (and maybe just a trace of a third) but German definitely has three genders. Verb conjugation is quite similar in both languages, but it is a bit easier in Dutch. Word order is the same: complex in both languages. Both languages are equally complex in terms of pronunciation. Both have the difficult ø and y vowels.
Dutch gets a 3 rating, average difficulty.
Afrikaans is just Dutch simplified.
Where Dutch has 200 irregular verbs, Afrikaans has only 6. A Dutch verb has 6 different forms, but Afrikaans has only 2. Afrikaans has 2 fewer tense than Dutch. Dutch has two genders, and Afrikaans has only one. Surely Afrikaans ought to be easier to learn than Dutch.
Afrikaans gets a 2 rating, very easy to learn.

A Look at the German Language

From here.
We will look at German from the POV of how hard it is to learn German, coming from the background of a native English speaker.
German’s status is controversial. It’s long been considered hard to learn, but many learn it fairly easily.
Pronunciation is straightforward, but there are some problems with the müde, the Ach, and the two ch sounds in Geschichte. Although the first one is really an sch instead of a ch, English speakers lack an sch, so they will just see that as a ch. Further, there are specific rules about when to use the ss (or sz as Germans say) or hard s. The r in German is a quite strange ʁ, and of common languages, only French has a similar r. The ç, χ and ‘ü sounds can be hard to make. Consonant clusters like Herkunftswörterbuch or Herbstpflanze can be be difficult. Of the vowels, ö and ü seem to cause the most problems.
There are six different forms of the depending on the noun case:
der
die
das
den
dem
des

but 16 different slots to put the six forms in, and the gender system is irrational. In a more basic sense and similar to Danish, there are three basic forms of the:
der
die
das

Each one goes with a particular noun, and it’s not very clear what the rules are.
One problem with German syntax is that the verb, verbs or parts of verbs doesn’t occur until the end of the sentence. There are verbal prefixes, and they can be modified in all sorts of ways that change meanings in subtle ways. There are dozens of different declension types for verbs, similar to Russian and Irish. There are also quite a few irregular verbs that do not fit into any of the paradigms.
German also has Schachtelsätze, box clauses, which are like clauses piled into other clauses. In addition, subclauses use SOV word order. Whereas in Romance languages you can often throw words together into a sentence and still be understood if not grammatical, in German, you must learn the sentence structure – it is mandatory and there is no way around it. The syntax is very rigid but at least very regular.
German case is also quite regular. The case exceptions can be almost counted on one hand. However, look at the verb:
helfenhelp
in which the direct object is in dative rather than the expected absolutive.
An example of German case (and case in general) is here:
The leader of the group gives the boy a dog.
In German, the sentence is case marked with the four different German cases:
Der Führer (nominative)
der Gruppe
(genitive)
gibt dem Jungen (dative)
einen Hund (accusative).
There are three genders, masculine, feminine and neutral. Many nouns that you might think would be feminine are actually masculine, for instance,  petticoat is masculine! Any given noun inflects into the four cases and the three genders. Furthermore, the genders change between masculine and feminine in the same noun for no logical reason. Gender seems to be one of the main problems that German learners have with the language. Figuring out which word gets which gender must simply be memorized as there are no good clues.
Phonology also changes strangely as the number of the noun changes:
Haushouse (singular)
Haeuserhouses (plural with umlaut)
But to change the noun to a diminutive, you add -chen:
Haueschen – little house (singular, yet has the umlaut of the plural)
This is part of a general pattern in Germanic languages of roots changing the vowel as verbs, adjectives and nouns with common roots change from one into the other. For instance, in English we have the following vowel changes in these transformed roots:

foul filth
tell tale
long length
full fill
hot  heat
do   does

Much of this has gone out of English, but it is still very common in German. Dutch is in between English and German.
German:
For sick, we have:

krank      sick
kränker    sicker
kränklich  sickly
krankhaft  pathological
kranken an to suffer from
kränken    to hurt
kränkeln   to be ailing
erkranken  to fall ill

For good, we have:

gut     good
Güte    goodness
Gut     a good
Güter   goods
gütig   kind
gütlich amicable

German also has a complicated preposition system.
German also has a vast vocabulary, the fourth largest in the world. This is either positive or negative depending on your viewpoint. Language learners often complain about learning languages with huge vocabularies, but as a native English speaker, I’m happy to speak a language with a million words. There’s a word for just about everything you want to say about anything, and then some!
On the plus side, word formation is quite regular.
Pollution is Umweltverschmutzung. It consists, logically, of two words, Umwelt and Verschmutzung, which mean environment and dirtying.
In English, you have three words, environment, dirtying and pollution, the third one, the combination of the first two, has no relation to its semantic roots in the first two words.
Nevertheless, this has its problems, since it’s not simple to figure out how the words are stuck together into bigger words, and meanings of morphemes can take years to figure out.
German has phrasal verbs as in English, but the meaning is often somewhat clear if you take the morphemes apart and look at their literal meanings. For instance:
vorschlagento suggest parses out to er schlägt vorto hit forth
whereas in English you have phrasal verbs like to get over with which even when separated out, don’t make sense literally.
Reading German is actually much easier than speaking it, since to speak it correctly, you need to memorize not only genders but also adjectives and articles.
German is not very inflected, and the inflection that it does take is more regular than many other languages. Furthermore, German orthography is phonetic, and there are no silent letters.
German, like Dutch, is being flooded with English loans. While this helpful to the English speaker, others worry that the language is at risk of turning into English.
Learning German can be seen as a pyramid. It is very difficult to grasp the basics, but once you do that, it gets increasingly easy as the language follows relatively simple rules and many words are created from other words via compound words, prefixes and suffixes.
Rating German is hard to do. It doesn’t seem to deserve to a very high rating, but it makes a lot of people’s “hardest language you ever tried to learn” list for various reasons.
German gets a 3.5 rating, moderately difficult.

Phrasal Verbs in English

From here.
English verbal phrases or phrasal verbs are a nightmare for the English language learner. English language learners often say that phrasal verbs are one of the hardest if not the hardest aspects of learning English. Even after many years of even one or more decades of learning English, English L2 speakers often do not have phrasal verbs down pat (to have down pat is another phrasal verb by the way).
Phrasal verbs are not very common in other languages, and where they exist, you can often piece together the meaning a lot easier than you can in English. Phrasal verbs are formed by the addition of a preposition after the verb which changes the meaning of the verb. Phrasal verbs are probably left over from “separable verbs” in German. In most of the rest of IE, these become affixes as in Latin Latin cum-, ad-, pro-, in-, ex-, etc.. In many cases, phrasal verbs can have more than 10 different antagonistic meanings.
Here is a list of 123 phrasal verbs using the preposition up after a verb:
Back up – to go in reverse, often in a vehicle, or to go back over something previously dealt with that was poorly understood in order to understand it better.
Be up – to be in a waking state after having slept. I’ve been up for three hours. Also to be ready to do something challenging. Are you up for it?
Beat up
– to defeat someone thoroughly in a violent physical fight.
Bid up – to raise the price of something, usually at an auction, by calling out higher and higher bids.
Blow up – to explode an explosive or for a social situation to become violent and volatile.
Bone up – to study hard.
Book up – all of the booking seats have been filled for some entertainment or excursion.
Bottle up – to contain feelings until they are at the point of exploding.
Break up – to break into various pieces, or to end a relationship, either personal or between entitles, also to split a large entity, like a large company or a state.
Bruise up – to receive multiple bruises, often serious ones.
Brush up – to go over a previously learned skill.
Build up – to build intensively in an area, such as a town or city, from a previously less well-developed state.
Burn up – burn completely or to be made very angry.
Bust up – to burst out in laughter.
Buy up – to buy all or most all of something.
Call up – to telephone someone. Or to be ordered to appear in the military. The army called up all males aged 18-21 and ordered them to show up at the nearest recruiting office.
Catch up
– to reach a person or group that one had lagged behind earlier, or to take care of things, often hobbies, that had been put off by lack of time.
Chat up – to talk casually with a goal in mind, usually seduction or at least flirtation.
Cheer up – to change from a downcast mood to a more positive one.
Chop up – to cut into many, often small, pieces.
Clam up – to become very quiet suddenly and not say a thing.
Clean up – to make an area thoroughly tidy or to win completely and thoroughly.
Clear up – for a storm to dissipate, for a rash to go away, for a confusing matter to become understandable.
Close up – to close, also to end business hours for a public business.
Come up – to approach closely, to occur suddenly or to overflow.
Cook up – to prepare a meal or to configure a plan, often of a sly, ingenious or devious nature. They cooked up a scheme to swindle the boss.
Crack up
– to laugh, often heartily.
Crank up – elevate the volume.
Crawl up – to crawl inside something.
Curl up – to rest in a curled body position, either alone or with another being.
Cut up – to shred or to make jokes, often of a slapstick variety.
Do up – apply makeup to someone, often elaborately.
Dream up – to imagine a creative notion, often an elaborate one.
Dress up – to dress oneself in formal attire.
Drive up – to drive towards something, and then stop, or to raise the price of something by buying it intensively.
Drum up – to charge someone with wrongdoing, usually criminal, usually by a state actor, usually for false reasons.
Dry up – to dessicate.
Eat up – implies eating something ravenously or finishing the entire meal without leaving anything left.
End up – to arrive at some destination after a long winding, often convoluted journey either in space or in time.
Face up – to quit avoiding your problems and meet them head on.
Feel up – to grope someone sexually.
Get up – to awaken or rise from a prone position.
Give up – to surrender, in war or a contest, or to stop doing something trying or unpleasant that is yielding poor results, or to die, as in give up the ghost.
Grow up – to attain an age or maturity or to act like a mature person, often imperative.
Hang up – to place on a hanger or a wall, to end a phone call.
Hike up – to pull your clothes up when they are drifting down on your body.
Hit up – to visit someone casually or to ask for a favor or gift, usually small amounts of money.
Hold up – to delay, to ask someone ahead of you to wait, often imperative. Also a robbery, usually with a gun and a masked robber.
Hook up – to have a casual sexual encounter or to meet casually for a social encounter, often in a public place; also to connect together a mechanical devise or plug something in.
Hurry up – imperative, usually an order to quit delaying and join the general group or another person in some activity, often when they are leaving to go to another place.
Keep up – to maintain on a par with the competition without falling behind.
Kiss up – to mend a relationship after a fight.
Knock up – to impregnate.
Lay up – to be sidelined due to illness or injury for a time.
Let up – to ease off of someone or something, for a storm to dissipate, to stop attacking someone or s.t.
Lick up – to consume all of a liquid.
Light up – to set s.t. on fire or to smile suddenly and broadly.
Lighten up – to reduce the downcast or hostile seriousness of the mood of a person or setting.
Listen up – imperative – to order someone to pay attention, often with threats of aggression if they don’t comply.
Live up – to enjoy life.
Lock up – to lock securely, often locking various locks, or to imprison, or for an object or computer program to be frozen or jammed and unable to function.
Look up – to search for an item of information in some sort of a database, such as a phone book or dictionary. Also to admire someone.
Make up – to make amends, to apply cosmetics to one’s face or to invent a story.
Man up – to elevate oneself to manly behaviors when one is slacking and behaving in an unmanly fashion.
Mark up – to raise the price of s.t.
Measure up – in a competition, for an entity to match the competition.
Meet up – to meet someone or a group for a get meeting or date of some sort.
Mess up – to fail or to confuse and disarrange s.t. so much that it is bad need or reparation.
Mix up – to confuse, or to disarrange contents in a scattered fashion so that it does not resemble the original.
Mop up – mop a floor or finish off the remains of an enemy army or finalize a military operation.
Move up – to elevate the status of a person or entity in competition with other entities- to move up in the world.
Open up – when a person has been silent about something for a long time, as if holding a secret, finally reveals the secret and begins talking.
Own up – to confess to one’s sins under pressure and reluctantly.
Pass up – to miss an opportunity, often a good one.
Patch up – to put together a broken thing or relationship.
Pay up – to pay, usually a debt, often imperative to demand payment of a debt, to pay all of what one owes so you don’t owe anymore.
Pick up – to grasp an object and lift it higher, to seduce someone sexually or to acquire a new skill, usually rapidly.
Play up – to dramatize.
Pop up – for s.t. to appear suddenly, often out of nowhere.
Put up – to hang, to tolerate, often grudgingly, or to put forward a new image.
Read up – to read intensively as in studying.
Rev up – to turn the RPM’s higher on a stationary engine.
Ring up – to telephone someone or to charge someone on a cash register.
Rise up – for an oppressed group to arouse and fight back against their oppressors.
Roll up – to roll s.t. into a ball, to drive up to someone in a vehicle or to arrest all the members of an illegal group. The police rolled up that Mafia cell quickly.
Run up
– to tally a big bill, often foolishly or approach s.t. quickly.
Shake up – to upset a paradigm, to upset emotionally.
Shape up – usually imperative command ordering someone who is disorganized or slovenly to live life in a more orderly and proper fashion.
Shoot up – to inject, usually illegal drugs, or to fire many projectiles into a place with a gun.
Show up – to appear somewhere, often unexpectedly.
Shut up – to silence, often imperative, fighting words.
Sit up – to sit upright.
Slip up – to fail.
Speak up – to begin speaking after listening for a while, often imperative, a request for a silent person to say what they wish to say.
Spit up – to vomit, usually describing a child vomiting up its food.
Stand up – to go from a sitting position to a standing one quickly.
Start up – to initialize an engine or a program, to open a new business to go back to something that had been terminated previously, often a fight; a recrudescence.
Stay up – to not go to bed.
Stick up – to rob someone, usually a street robbery with a weapon, generally a gun.
Stir up – stir rapidly, upset a calm surrounding or scene or upset a paradigm.
Stop up – to block the flow of liquids with some object(s).
Straighten up – to go from living a dissolute or criminal life to a clean, law abiding one.
Suck up – to ingratiate oneself, often in an obsequious fashion.
Suit up – to get dressed in a uniform, often for athletics.
Sweep up – to arrest all the members of an illegal group, often a criminal gang.
Take up – to cohabit with someone – She has taken up with him. Or to develop a new skill, to bring something to a higher elevation, to cook something at a high heat to where it is assimilated.
Talk up – to try to convince someone of something by discussing it dramatically and intensively.
Tear up – to shred.
Think up – to conjure up a plan, often an elaborate or creative one.
Throw up – to vomit.
Touch up – to apply the final aspects of a work nearly finished.
Trip up – to stumble mentally over s.t. confusing.
Turn up – to increase volume or to appear suddenly somewhere.
Vacuum up – to vacuum.
Use up – to finish s.t. completely so there is no more left.
Wait up – to ask other parties to wait for someone who is coming in a hurry.
Wake up – to awaken.
Walk up – to approach someone or something.
Wash up – to wash.
Whip up – to cook a meal quickly or for winds to blow wildly.
Work up – to exercise heavily, until you sweat to work up a sweat. Or to generate s.t. a report or s.t. of that nature done rather hurriedly in a seat of the pants and unplanned fashion. We quickly worked up a formula for dealing with the matter.
Wrap up
– To finish something up, often something that is taking too long. Come on, let us wrap this up and getting it over with. Also, to bring to a conclusion that ties the ends together. The story wraps up with a scene where they all get together and sing a song.
Write up
– often to write a report of reprimand or a violation. The officer wrote him for having no tail lights.
Here is a much smaller list of phrasal verbs using the preposition down:
Be down  – to be ready to ready to do something daring, often s.t. bad, illegal or dangerous, such as a fight or a crime. Are you down?
Burn down
– reduce s.t. to ashes, like a structure.
Get down – to have fun and party, or to lie prone and remain there. Get down on the floor.
Drink down
to consume all of s.t.
Kick down – Drug slang meaning to contribute your drugs to a group drug stash so others can consume them with you, to share your drugs with others. Often used in a challenging sense.
Party down – to have fun and party
Pat down – to frisk.
Take down – to tackle.
Cook down – to reduce the liquid content in a cooked item.
Run down – to run over something, to review a list or to attack someone verbally for a long time.
Play down – to de-emphasize.
Write down – to write on a sheet of paper
Italian has phrasal verbs as in English, but the English ones are a lot more difficult. The Italian ones are usually a lot more clear given the verb and preposition involved, whereas with English if you have the verb and the preposition, the phrasal verb does not logically follow from their separate meanings. For instance:
andare fuorito go + out  – get out
andare giù
to go + downget down
German has phrasal verbs as in English, but the meaning is often somewhat clear if you take the morphemes apart and look at their literal meanings. For instance:
vorschlagento suggest parses out to er schlägt vorto hit forth
whereas in English you have phrasal verbs like to get over with which even when separated out, don’t make sense literally.

Somerset English

Here.
The Somerset English dialect.
I am sorry, but this is some of the most messed up English I have ever heard in my life. I could barely make out a single word this fellow is saying. Speaker is an elderly man, about 80 years old, from Somerset County in southwest England. This area is south of Wales and east of Cornwall in a region called Exmoor. It is heavily forested with rolling  hills. This is a rural area where homes are spaced far apart. Sheep grazing is a common industry.
This man’s speech was probably typical of the region 80 years ago, in the 1920’s. Nowadays few young people speak like this anymore, as most have adopted the more popular London dialect.
It is said that this accent is similar to that spoken by early immigrants to America from the Mayflower era to 50 years later, who came disproportionately from southwestern England for some reason. Why? Easy access to the coast from which to sail ships? There is a town in Virgina called Tangier that retains a Restoration Era English accent to this very day. It was settled in 1670 by English form the southwest of England near where this Somerset dialect is spoken.
The entire accent in this region is known globally by the term “West Country dialect.” It encompasses most of southwest England over to Cornwall, east to Bristol or so and then southeast at least to Bournemouth on the coast. It is quite a strong accent, and it is rather unique.
I am not sure what this even sounds like. It might sound a bit like Scottish or possibly like Scouse from Liverpool. It is possible that Middle or even Old English sounded something like this. A commenter from Ireland said that it sounds something like Irish Gaelic for some odd reason. Why would an English accent sound like Gaelic? Because of the nearby influence of Welsh perhaps?
But honestly I felt that it sounded more like German, or better yet, Frisian, than anything else. There is a dialect of Danish, actually a separate language, called Jutish spoken in the far south of Denmark that sounds something like Scots and possibly like this dialect. Danes report that Jutish, at least the hard form spoken by people middle aged and older, is not intelligible with Standard Danish. However, Jutish or Synnejysk is further from Standard Danish than Danish is Swedish. If this is true, then Jutish is surely a separate language.
As Old English came from the Frisian (especially North Frisian) region of far northern Germany and far southern Denmark, it makes sense that these lects would resemble each other. Recall that three tribes, the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes, were the ones who invaded England, conquering it from decaying Roman rule. Old Saxon pretty much went to Frisian, especially West Frisian. The language of the Jutes is maintained today by the Jutish speakers.

What Languages Are You Studying?

Please feel free to update us on your current language learning endeavors, if they exist.

As for me:

English: Native speaker, no need to study anything. In fact, it’s unusual that I run across a word that I don’t know. The most recent one was analphabetism. I bet you don’t know what that means.

Spanish: I have been studying Spanish on and off since I was 6 years old. Studying Spanish is more or less of an ongoing thing with me. We have a lot of bilingual signs and prinouts in our area. I often read them with the English translations to bone up on my Spanish.

I could do better. There is a bilingual newspaper that is issued around here for free, but I never bother to pick it up.

Part of the problem is that when you are as good at Spanish as I am, learning more Spanish (such as reading Spanish papers) is really a serious drag. Spanish as written down especially in papers does not translate literally. Not only are there a ton of not commonly used words, but there are also a lot of figures of speech. In addition, there are lots of phrases, that, when looking at the Spanish and then at the English, one wonders how they managed to go from one to the other. The Spanish-English translation is not transparent at all.

As you learn Portuguese, French and Italian, it only helps you with your Spanish, though the assistance is not obvious. After a while, all Romance just starts running together. You might as well just study Latin and get it over with.

I speak Spanish to Spanish speakers around here on a regular basis. It’s a lot of fun, and they really appreciate if you can speak three words of their language, unlike the French.

The Spanish-speakers who are actually born in Mexico appreciate it a lot more than the ones who are born in the US. I am not sure why that is, but in so many ways, Hispanics who were born in Latin America are much better people than Hispanics who were born on the US. It’s popular to dog on Latin America, but Latin American Hispanic culture is much superior to US Hispanic culture.

There are deep elements of respect, pride, kindness, brotherhood, politeness and dignity present in Latin American Hispanic culture that are almost neutered in US Hispanic culture. US Hispanics are pretty much just typical asshole Americans, except that they happen to be Hispanics. And in many ways, such as the lumpenization of their culture, US Hispanics are actually worse than the rest of Americans.

I’m not sure what it is with US Hispanics, but something has gone terribly wrong. They’ve lost most of what’s grand about Latin American culture, and they’ve replaced it with what’s worst about US culture, in addition to concocting up various cultural poisons of their own. It’s cultural mongrelization of the worst sort, all of the bad, none of the good and a bunch of new innovations, almost all bad.

Portuguese: Past. I studied it a bit in the past when I was hanging around with this Brazilian woman. Now I’ve given it up. I am already studying Spanish and French, and after a while, you are just studying too many Romance languages. The words are so similar that you start getting them all tangled up in your head. You go to say a Spanish word and you say the Portuguese, Italian or French word instead. If you have some Spanish (especially), French and Italian, you get lots of help with Portuguese.

Italian: I study this language a little bit, but not too much. I am not very good at it, but it’s interesting. If you know some French, Spanish and Portuguese, you can go a long way with Italian.

French: My latest fetish is French. I am not very good at it, so I am at the point where learning the language is fun because you’re always learning new stuff. I have blown off verbs and just concentrate on vocabulary. Verbal conjugations in Romance languages suck anyway. Even in Spanish, they can be quite complex.

German: Past. Mostly I just picked up some basic vocabulary. Attempts to run beyond that, I am afraid, run into Hell. I understand that they still have case, and that the nouns are pretty crazy. There are supposedly other difficult aspects of this language, but I am not sure what they are. Learning basic vocabulary is pretty fun though.

That’s about it. For the most part, as a language learner, I concentrate on the Romance languages. They are difficult enough, believe me! Going beyond Romance seems like a gigantic PITA to me. You’re pretty much traveling to whole new planets. Why bother when Romance is hard enough as it is?

Check Out Moselle Franconian

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lPjaa_7cisU&feature=related]

This is one Hell of a bizarre sounding language. I guess it sounds more like French than anything else, but it doesn’t sound much like French either! It doesn’t sound like much of anything!

Truth is, they are actually speaking and singing German in this video, as bizarre as that sounds. Yes, this is actually German. German with a very heavy French influence, but German nevertheless. It’s Moselle Franconian, a middle Franconian language in this case spoken in France in Sarreguemines right on the German border. It’s probably intelligible with other Moselle Franconian languages spoken over the border. I have heard that Germans visiting the city of Trier say that the Moselle Franconian spoken there might as well be Chinese!

These are Middle German languages that developed off the same tree – Franconian – that went to Dutch. The Low Franconian languages went to various forms of Dutch, and the Middle Franconian languages went to German. The Luxembourgish spoken in Luxembourg sounds something like this.

A Rather Subjective Analysis of European Minority Languages

One way to see how well European minority languages is if you run a popular website that gets a lot of hits from all over Europe. I run one here on my old site, which is in the top 1200 blogs on the Internet (This blog is also in the top 1200).
If you have a good weblog (a weblog allows a webmaster to monitor all of the visitors from your site), and I do, you can see what languages people are using on their browsers. When browsers come to the site, they are marked with language tracking. I am not sure if that is a language preference for webpages or if it is the language that the browser itself is written in.
Minority lanugages are languages that are not the main spoken language of the country or languages that only have a small speaker base. In this piece, we will be dealing with Irish, Welsh, Catalan, Basque, Galician and Luxemburgish. Those I am quite sure are offered as language versions of the major browsers.
Luxemburgish: Luxemburgish is the official language of Luxemburg, however, there are worries about it due to the small speaker base of only around 500,000. Further, there is a problem in that not enough new and technological words are coming into the language. Most browsers from Luxemburg are using the Luxemburgish language, so the language seems to be in pretty good shape.
Catalan: Catalan is the most popular of the remaining five. However, considering how many readers I get from the Catalan region, very few Catalans are using Catalan browsers. Most are using Spanish language browsers. So the situation of Catalan does not look so good.
Irish: I am amazed that there are any Irish browsers at all, but now and then, we do get one from Ireland. Needless to say, nearly all browsers from Ireland are using English. Still, everyone knows that Irish is in bad shape. Considering there are Irish browsers at all, I think Irish is in better shape than we think it is.
Galician: I was quite shocked to find a few Galician browsers out there coming out of Galicia in the far northwest of Spain. This language is probably in better shape than people think it is. Most Galician browsers use Spanish.
Welsh: Considering that most reports indicate that Welsh is doing pretty well, I was surprised that one almost never sees a Welsh browser. Almost all browsers coming out of Wales use English. I wonder if Welsh is in as good a shape as people say it is considering the dearth of Welsh browsers.
Basque: I have yet to see a Basque browser! If browsers are indeed offered in Basque (uncertain) this is very bad news. I get quite a bit of traffic out of the Basque country, and 100% of the time, Basque users are using Spanish as their browser language. Things don’t look good for the Basque language.
I can’t speak of other small languages in Europe because in general, browsers are not offered in those languages.
This was an interesting little experiment though.

A Reclassification of the Dutch Language

Warning! This post is quite long – it runs to 126 pages. Frequently updated – last updated May 24, 2015.

Where the Dutch language begins and where it ends is an important question. Ethnologue splits Low Franconian-Low Saxon (whatever that is) into 15 languages – Flemish, Dutch, Zeelandic, Afrikaans, Achterhoeks, Drents, Gronings, Plautdietsch, Sallands, Low Saxon, Stellingwerfs, Twents, Veluws, Westphalian and East Frisian Low Saxon. Instead of the confusing Low Franconian-Low Saxon, we will henceforth refer to the same as “Macro-Dutch.”

This treatment will lump together many of the Dutch Low Saxon lects as Dutch, put East Frisian Low Saxon into Dutch, put Westphalian and German Low Saxon into German, move Limburgish out of German to Dutch where it belongs, and create a dozen new Macro-Dutch languages.

An important question is the position of Frisian languages in all of this. Currently Ethnologue has them in Anglo-Frisian. Gooskens 2004 makes a good case that Frisian is better analyzed as Macro-Dutch than Anglo-Frisian based on Levenshtein distance. She is probably correct, but I am going to leave Frisian outside of Dutch until I can analyze it better.

Anyway, genetically, Frisian is a part of an Anglo-Frisian family (Gooskens 2004). However, Frisian has drifted far away from English due to massive influence from Dutch such that it now is closer to Dutch than the Scandinavian languages are to each other (Gooskens 2004). It depends on if you wish to analyze Frisian based on its genetic history or on which language it is closest to.

One thing that ought to be dispensed with immediately is the notion that German, Dutch, Flemish and Afrikaans are intelligible with each other. The truth is that Hochdeutsch speakers can at worst barely understand a word of any of them and at best have only limited intelligibility.

Neither is German intelligible to Dutch speakers, even after 3-4 years of studying German. This even holds for Low German, which is often held to be intelligible with Dutch. It’s not, even after 3-4 years of study and even to speakers of Dutch-German border lects in the Netherlands that are presumably closer to Low German than the rest of Dutch. After 3-4 years of German, Dutch speakers have only 55% intelligibility of Low German, and the ones on the border have only 59% intelligibility of Low German (Gooskens in publication).

Nor are Frisian and Dutch mutually intelligible, another common claim. They have combined intelligibility of 61% (Gooskens 2005). Neither are Afrikaans and Dutch mutually intelligible. Combined intelligibility of the two languages is 55%, the same as Spanish and Portuguese (Gooskens 2005).

The Dutch either have a nationalist complex or are possible simply ignorant or indifferent on the question of what constitutes “Dutch.” They take a very conservative, nationalist view of the language question. To the Dutch, every language spoken in the Netherlands and some spoken outside of it is Dutch. Brabantian, Flemish, Veluws, Afrikaans, Limburgish, Bergish, Guelderish, Kleverlandish and Dutch Low Saxon are often all considered to be dialects of Dutch.

To be fair to the Dutch, I’m making a similar claim here, but instead of calling all of the above dialects of Dutch, I will call them separate languages under an umbrella called Macro-Dutch which subsumes them all.

The Dutch do recognize Limburgs and Low Saxon as minority languages.

Spain, Germany, Italy, France and Sweden do not recognize the languages under the umbrellas of Macro-Spanish, Macro-German, Macro-Italian, Macro-French and Macro-Swedish umbrella.

Spain does not recognize Asturian, Aragonese or Extremaduran. France does not recognize the many langues d’oil. Italian does not recognize Piedmontese, Ligurian, Lombard, Venetian, Emigliano, Romano, Neapolitan or Sicilian. Sweden does not recognize Scanian, Gutnish, Jamska or Dalecarlian. Germany does not recognize Bavarian, Swabian, High Franconian, Low German, Westphalian, Upper Saxon, Ripuarian or Pfaelzisch.

Probably the reasons that these languages are not recognized is due to the national consolidationist efforts behind a standard language and the fears of splintering the standard into substandard forms and the separatism that may ensue. So the Dutch are simply following in standard European modernist tradition.

This has resulted in problems and violations of language rights for speakers of other Low Franconian lects. For instance, Zeelandic is definitely a separate language, not a dialect of Dutch. Zeelandic speakers petitioned to have their language recognized as a minority language nine years ago, but the Dutch government has refused to grant this request.

The truth may disturb many Dutch speakers. For Dutch is not just the 15 languages confusingly listed in Ethnologue; it is actually 30 separate languages, which I will attempt to demonstrate below.

Method: Various “Dutch” and “Low Franconian” lects were analyzed on the basis of mutual intelligibility with Standard Dutch to see if they warranted treatment as separate languages. A rough guide was >90% intelligibility = Dutch dialect and <90% intelligibility = separate “Macro-Dutch” language. There are reasons for choosing 90% as a metric. Below 90%, and it gets difficult to discuss complex or technical subjects. Also, 90% seems to be where Ethnologue splits dialects from languages these days, and they are in charge of giving out ISO codes.

Other lects in Ethnologue’s treatment were analyzed to determine whether they belonged in “Macro-German” or “Macro-Dutch.” Westphalian and German Low Saxon were moved to Macro-German; the rest were moved to Macro-Dutch.

Anecdotal reports and scientific studies were reviewed, and native speaker informants were interviewed. Where intelligibility estimates are controversial, scientific intelligibility studies could always settle the matter. The creole was not counted.

Results: Ethnologue’s Low Franconian-Low Saxon was expanded from 15 into 32 languages based on mutual intelligibility. Below, separate languages are in bold, while dialects are in italics. Dutch, like Arabic, Italian, German, Chinese and so many others, is a macrolanguage.

Discussion: This work is merely a working hypothesis intended to be discussed and criticized by scholars and interested parties. I would be interested in criticism on a peer review basis. Criticism must be both constructive and friendly, otherwise it will be summarily rejected. This is very much a work in progress.

Fig. 1 List of the major dialects and languages of the Low Countries. 1. South Hollands 2. Kennemerlands 3. Waterlands/Waterländisch 4. Zaans 5. West Frisian dialect – North Hollands 6. Utrechts-Alblasserwaards 7. Zeelandic 8. Westhoeks 9. West Flemish and Zeelandic Flanders Flemish 10. Transitional dialect between West and East Flemish 11. East Flemish 12. Transitional dialect between East Flemish and Brabantian 13. South Gelders 14. North Brabantian and North Limburgish 15. Brabantian 16. Transitional dialect between Brabantian and Limburgish 17. Limburgish 18. Veluws 19. Gelders-Overijssels 20. Twents-Graafschaps 21. Twents 22. Stellingswerfs 23. South Drents 24. Middle Drents 25. Kollumerlands 26. Gronings and North Drents 27. Frisian 28. Bildts, Stadsfries, Midlands, Amelands. Click to enlarge.

Dutch Creoles

In recent years, there were five Dutch creoles spoken in Indonesia, Guyana and the US Virgin Islands. It appears that four of the five are extinct, and one is barely alive.

Berbice Creole Dutch is barely alive, spoken in Guyana by only four speakers. There are another 15 with limited competence. It is spoken in the Berbice River region of the country. About 1/3 of the words and most of the morphology is from the Nigerian Bantu language Izon, a language with 1 million speakers. The rest of the lexicon is mostly from Dutch. 10% of the words are borrowings from Guyanese Creole English and Arawak, an Indian language still spoken in Guyana.

Click to enlarge. Extremely detailed map lists all of the major lects of Holland and Belgium, including Low Franconian, Low German, Middle German, West Frisian and langues d'oil.
Click to enlarge. Extremely detailed map lists all of the major lects of Holland and Belgium, including Low Franconian, Low German, Middle German, West Frisian and langues d’oil.

Low Franconian Languages and Dialects

Standard Dutch, Algemeen Nederlands or AN (henceforth, AN) is a major world language spoken by all 15 million residents of the Netherlands and an additional 7 million speakers elsewhere. Although one might suspect that Dutch goes all the way back to the oldest Old Franconian, actually, the lects closest to Old Franconian are French Flemish, West Flemish and Zeeland Flemish. Dutch proper seems to have broken off sooner.

Dutch has many dialects, but they are all more or less intelligible. There are two forms of Dutch in general – Hollandic and Brabantian. Both are part of AN. Modern Belgian Dutch is much more Brabantian than Hollandic.

There is also Brabantian Netherlands Dutch, a dialect of Netherlands Dutch, and Brabantian Belgian Dutch, a dialect of Belgian Dutch or Vlaams (Grondelaers 2009).

Surinamese Dutch is a Dutch dialect, easily intelligible with AN, that is spoken in Suriname. It has 280,000 speakers, or 60% of the population. It is the official language of Suriname.

Netherlands Dutch is the Dutch dialect spoken in the Netherlands, differentiating with Belgian Dutch. It is widely understood throughout the country, especially the Standard Dutch variety of this dialect that has been popularized in the Netherlands since the 1960’s.

Netherlands Brabantian Dutch is a Dutch dialect spoken in North Brabant Province in the Netherlands (Grondelaers 2009). It is easily intelligible with AN. This dialect has about 2.45 million speakers.

Belgian Brabantian Dutch is the same thing as the Verkavelingsvlaams described below. It is spoken in North Brabant Province and in Antwerp Province by about 3.4 million speakers. It is being replaced by French in Brussels, but it is still widely spoken elsewhere.

Stadsfries is a mixed dialect spoken in certain urban areas of Friesland such as the towns of Leeuwarden, Dokkum, Bolsward, Sneek, Stavoren, Harlingen and Franeker. Originally Frisian speakers, they gave up Frisian for Dutch about 500 years ago. The vocabulary is mostly Dutch with Frisian pronunciation. AN speakers can understand this dialect pretty easily. Lately it is seriously declining and has low prestige, hence it is becoming a sociolect spoken mostly by low-income people in the cities.

Snekers is a Stadsfries dialect spoken in the Friesland city of Sneker. It traces back to 1600 or so when locals abandoned West Frisian for Hollandic speech as an elite gesture, since Hollandic was not spoken much outside of the Holland Provinces. By 1800, the rest of the city had modeled their elitist behavior after the rich and the whole city spoke Snekers. It continued to be a highly valued speech until 1900. People kept speaking it a lot until WW2.

The disdain towards Frisian, seen as peasant speech, continues in many Snekers speakers to this day. In the 20th Century, many rural people moved to the city, and many foreigners moved there too. Snekers became a speech used only by Sneker natives among themselves. They spoke Dutch or sometimes Frisian to newcomers. Nowadays, Snekers is dying. The youth have taken it up, but they speak a watered down version that is probably intelligible to AN speakers.

Hollandic Dutch is the other large dialect of Dutch besides Brabantian. Hollandic is spoken in the provinces of North Holland and South Holland by about 6 million speakers. This dialect is intelligible with AN. Hollandic Dutch is the variety that is closest to AN. It is divided into two lects, North Hollandic Dutch and South Hollandic Dutch.

IJmuidens is a dialect spoken in by the lower classes in IJmuiden, the third largest port in the Netherlands, in North Holland. The dialect is probably readily intelligible with AN.

Haarlems is the dialect spoken in Haarlem in North Holland, especially by the lower classes. It does not differ much from Amsterdams or AN. This area has long had the reputation for being the place where the purest Dutch is spoken, although this is no longer true anymore. Nowadays, the purest Dutch is spoken in places like Dronten on the Dutch polders in the IJsselmeer.

Nijmeegs is a very interesting dialect spoken in the city of Nijmegen in eastern Gelderland. Although strictly speaking it should be a South Gulderish dialect, it has heavy Hollandic features such that it may well be intelligible to AN speakers. Until the late 1800’s, residents of the city were speaking a typical South Gulderish dialect. However, in the late 1800’s, the upper class of the city began speaking a Randstad dialect similar to Amsterdams and Haags.

The lower classes quickly began speaking the same dialect, and the traditional dialect of the city disappeared, as it was poorly valued anyway. Nijmeegs still has some East Brabantian, Limburgish and Achterhoeks features, but it also lacks many characteristic Limburgish and Brabantian features of surrounding dialects.

Amsterdams is the dialect of the city of Amsterdam, spoken by the lower classes in the city. It is still spoken in the city, especially in certain neighborhoods. Although it is located in North Hollands, Amsterdams is more of a South Hollands dialect. A book published in 1874 found an astounding 19 different dialects spoken in the city.

Although it is still spoken, Amsterdams is associated with lower-classes, street toughs, etc, such that many Amsterdammers try to unlearn the dialect in order to improve their career chances. Amsterdams has many Yiddish words due to the fact that a large Jewish community has traditionally lived there. Amsterdams is intelligible with AN.

Haags is a South Hollandic dialect spoken by the lower classes in The Hague. It is easily intelligible with AN. The dialect is dying out and undergoing serious leveling, but since the 1980’s there has been a movement to bring back the dialect, and more residents of the city are speaking it, often with intentionally exaggerated features. Its syntax is similar to AN and is quite different from the nearby Rotterdams and Leids dialects.

Gouds is a South Hollandic dialect spoken in the city of Gouda, 20 miles northeast of Rotterdam. In many ways it is similar to AN. With mass immigration and compulsory education in AN, the real Gouds is hardly heard anymore.

Rotterdams is the South Hollandic dialect spoken in the city of Rotterdam. It differs little from AN. This is because the standard for Hollandic dialects, dating back to 1600, was the Rotterdams dialect. Its influence spread throughout the region, first to the upper classes and then to the lower classes as they imitated the speech of the rich.

The Rotterdams dialect does have many unique features, mostly due the waves of immigrants who have come to the city, each bringing their own language which added to the Rotterdams dialect. In the 1800’s, there was a large influence from Brabantian and Zeelandic speakers. In the 1900’s, the influences have become more varied, as speakers of Arabic and the  Papiamento or Surinamese creoles added their words to the mix. It is still heard throughout the Rotterdam region and in the cities of Spijkenisse, Hellevoetsluis and Capelle aan den IJssel to the east and southwest.

Bildts is a mixed Frisian-Dutch lect spoken in the Het Bildt, a polder region in Friesland northwest of Leeuwarden that dates back to the 1500’s. Many immigrants came from the South Holland area to this part of Friesland to help create the polders. Their South Hollandic lects mixed with the Frisian spoken by the local farm workers to create this interesting mixed dialect.

Intelligibility between Bildts and AN is not known, but in a dialect map published in 1974 showed Bildts the furthest of all from AN (Berns 1991). On the basis of that study, Bildts may indeed be a separate language, but better intelligibility data would be nice.

Midslands is a North Hollandic dialect, similar to Stadsfries, that is still spoken in on Terschelling Island off the coast of Friesland in the village of Midsland. It has Hollandic and Frisian influences. Intelligibility data is lacking.

Amelands is a another dialect like Midslands and Stadsfries. It has mostly Hollandic vocabulary with Frisian grammar. There are four villages on the island, each with their own dialect. Nevertheless, all dialects are intelligible with each other.

The dialect developed in the 1700’s when Hollandic migrants moved to the island, probably for trade, and the locals gave up their Frisian speech for Hollandic. The process was not complete, and Amelands was the result. It is still very widely used. 85% of youth continue to speak Amelands. Intelligibility with AN is not known.

Westfries is a highly divergent dialect of Dutch spoken in West Friesland that is not to be confused with the West Frisian language. It is dying out and is only spoken by about 8% of the population. There are many subdialects, often one for every village or town they often differ considerably.

There is some confusion about the difference between this Dutch dialect and the West Frisian language proper. It has heavy Frisian influence. A better way to describe it might be to say that it is a mixed language of Dutch and West Frisian, almost a “creole.” It could also be described as Dutch with a heavy Frisian substrate.

Westfries was apparently a Frisian language for centuries until it died out about 200 years ago. It appears to have transformed from a full Frisian language to a form of Dutch. The strong variety is still used in cabaret performances.

Another way to look at it is that Westfries is one of the last of the more pure Hollandic dialects. Most of the rest of Hollandic has undergone serious leveling such that most of the peculiar features, such as the Frisian substrate that characterized all Hollandic, have washed out. AN speakers reportedly have a hard time understanding Westfries, and it is about as distant from AN as Zeelandic. There appears to be more than one language inside Westfries, since it’s not uncommon for speakers of varying Westfries lects to not understand each other.

Westfries consists of two parts. One, the Westfries language, which consists of Island Westfries. And two, Land Westfries, which is part of the North Hollandic language.

Island Westfries or Eland Westfries is a major split in Westfries. This is spoken on the islands and former islands of Texel, Vlieland and Wieringen and on land in the city of Enkhuizen. Island Westfries has poor intelligibility with the more common Land Westfries due to its archaic character, hence it may be a separate language.

Wierings is an Island Westfries dialect spoken on the former island of Wieringen. It is very close to Tess, the dialect of Texel Island. Wierings is rapidly disappearing and is only spoken by the older generation. Younger people speak a weak Wierings which looks more like Land Westfries. There is a navy base on Wieringen, so many non-islanders have come to live there.

Tessels is an Island Westfries dialect spoken on the island of Texel in North Holland that is so different from the rest of Island Westfries that it must be a separate language. It is still widely spoken, especially in the rural areas, but it is not much spoken in the larger cities. There are different varieties of Tessels spoken in the towns of Oudeschild, De Cocksdorp, Den Hoorn and Oosterend. The dialects differ greatly, and speakers from different towns do not necessarily understand each other fully, hence intelligibility is somewhat marginal among the dialects.

North Hollandic is a language spoken in North Holland Province. It consists of the Land Westfries, Zaans and Waterlands dialects. The situation is confusing, as there is also North Hollandic Dutch, a dialect of AN.

Land Westfries is a dialect of North Hollandic Dutch, a major split in the Westfries language. This variety is less conservative and has been influenced more by Dutch. The more archaic varieties of Island Westfries have poor intelligibility with Land Westfries, hence it may be a separate language.

Kennemerlands is a North Hollandic Dutch lect spoken in Kennermerland around the cities of Haarlem and Beverwijk. It arose in the Middle Ages due to contact between Frisian speaking fishermen and speakers of North Hollandic Dutch. Towards the north, it looks more like Westfries and the Zaans dialect. It is best analyzed as a transitional dialect between North Hollandic and Westfries. It is unintelligible to AN speakers, and is apparently a separate language.

Durkers or Egmonds is a strange dialect, often analyzed as either Westfries or Kennemerlands, spoken on Egmond aan Zee in the north of North Hollands Province. In this treatment, we will analyze it as Kennemerlands. It is not intelligible with AN (Anonymous January 2010)

Zaans-Waterlands is a North Hollandic lect spoken in North Holland Province. It is composed of two dialects, Zaans and Waterlands.

Zaans is an archaic North Hollandic dialect spoken in the Zaan, an old settled and industrial area between Amsterdam and Haarlem. It is spoken in the city of Zandam and in the towns of Wormerveer, Krommenie and Zaandijk. It apparently arose out of Westfries. Zaans has difficult intelligibility with AN.

Waterlands is a Zaans-Waterlands dialect that is spoken between the Zaan and the IJsselmeer, the inland sea in the Netherlands. This dialect is very archaic, though it is similar to Zaan and Westfries. It has difficult intelligibility with AN.

Volendams is a Waterlands dialect that is extremely divergent. It is unintelligible with AN, and even other Waterlands speakers have a hard time understanding it, so it is probably a separate language.

The city of Volendam was isolated for centuries, and this gave rise to its strange language. This isolation, combined with immigration of speakers of other odd dialects from fishing villages around the Zuiderzee, helped shape Volendams. Volendams received huge immigration in 1859 following the evacuation of the former Zuiderzee island of Schokland due to fierce storms. The Schokland residents spoke a strange dialect called Schokkers which was basically a Low Saxon dialect similar to Urkers.

Markens is a very unusual Waterlands dialect that is spoken on the former island of Marken. It also received large input from the fleeing residents of Schokland. Markens is one of the most unusual dialects in the Netherlands and has been the object of many studies. It has difficult intelligibility with AN, but intelligibility with the rest of Waterlands is not known.

Markens appears to have a heavy base of Frisian or even Old Frisian. It appears to be undergoing dialect leveling under the pressure of the mass media and immigration, and young people typically do not speak pure Markens.

Goois is a North Hollandic dialect spoken in Het Gooi, a region in the far southeast of North Hollands. Cities in this region include Naarden, Bussum, Huizon, Blaricum, Laren and Hilversum. Opinions on this dialect are varied. One view is it is a Dutch-Low Saxon transition dialect, mostly in the far east of Blaricum, Laren and Hilversum. That would be transitional to West Veluws. This view sees the rest of the area as Hollandic. There is also influence from the Utrechts dialects. The dialect is still alive, especially in the three eastern cities discussed above.

South Hollandic is a lect spoken in South Hollandic Province. A similar situation is going on here as with Brabantian and North Hollandic. As there is Brabantian Dutch and North Hollandic Dutch and Brabantian and North Hollandic languages, so there is South Hollandic Dutch and the South Hollandic language. The South Hollandic language is mostly gone now, as dialect leveling has moved most of the dialects to South Hollandic Dutch. However, it remains alive in the form of the Strandhollands and East IJsselmonds dialects.

Aalsmeers is a dialect spoken in the city of Aalsmeer in southern North Holland near the border with South Holland. Traditionally, it was a Strandhollands dialect, but it has lost most of its Strandhollands features and is probably not a part of that group anymore. It has a similar genesis with the Strandhollands language, in that it was formed by immigrants from the Frisian-speaking north moving down to the area long ago.

However, due to geographical isolation (they were cut off on three sides by marshes or lakes and only accessible via a sliver of land) they were cut off from the rest of Strandhollands and the convergent evolution with it ended. There was also a group of Mennonites who came down from Friesland and settled in the area.

Immigrants probably kept speaking Frisian here longer than in other places. In general, this dialect is best seen as transitional between North and South Hollandic. The original Aalsmeers dialect is nearly extinct. Intelligibility data with AN is not known.

Strandhollands is a very conservative dialect of the Hollandic language spoken in the fishing villages in the area of Sheveningen and Katwijik aan Zee in the Holland Provinces. Intelligibility in general is marginal at best and hardly possible at worst between this lect and AN (Anonymous January 2010), hence it is a separate language.

This is a very archaic South Hollandic language that has preserved many old features, while the rest of South Hollandic behind the dunes has trended towards Hollandic Dutch. Strandhollands retains many features of Medieval Dutch. It is interesting that the standard dialect of The Hague is close nearby.

It emerged about 400 years ago and its provenance is obscure. Probably fishermen from elsewhere on the coast, such as Friesland and and the Zuiderzee moved into the area to take up fishing. The language has a strong Frisian substrate. Probably the isolation of the villages helped to keep the lect different from surrounding evolving lects.

The Strandhollands dialects become more intelligible with AN, in general, as one moves to the south. The least comprehensible ones are generally in North Holland Province. Intelligibility data between this and the rest of South Hollandic, especially East IJsselmonds, is needed.

Wijk aan Zee is a Strandhollands dialect spoken in the fishing village of Wijk aan Zee that has poor intelligibility with AN (Anonymous January 2010). The town is located west of Beverwijk.

Zandvoort is a Strandhollands dialect that is hardly comprehensible to AN speakers (Anonymous January 2010). It is spoken in Zandvoort on the coast west of Haarlem.

Noordwijks is a Strandhollands dialect spoken in the fishing village of Noordwijks an Zee in South Holland Province. Intelligibility with AN is somewhat marginal (Anonymous January 2010). Noordwijks is probably the easiest Strandhollands lect for AN speakers to understand.

Katwijks is a Strandhollands lect spoken in the fishing village of Katwijks an Zee in South Holland Province. It is based on an archaic version of Leids, the dialect of the city of Leiden. Katwijks, like Zandvoort and Wijk aan Zee to the north, is barely comprehensible to AN speakers (Anonymous January 2010).

Schevenings is a Strandhollands dialect spoken in the fishing village of Scheveningen in South Holland Province. It has marginal intelligibility with AN (Anonymous January 2010). This dialect is said to be based an archaic version of Haags, the dialect of The Hague.

Zoetermeers is a very divergent South Hollandic dialect spoken in the city of Zoetermeer 10 miles east of the Hague. This was always an isolated farming village, so it was not effected much by the trends effecting the Haags dialect a short while away. In the 1960’s, the population grew from 10,000 to 120,000 as immigrants flooded into the Hague region. Hence, only a few locals speak the dialect anymore.

Westhoeks is spoken in the Westhoek in northwest North Brabant. It’s a Hollandic dialect spoken in Brabant. No one is sure why. They are Protestants, and this may have something to do with it, but it’s more likely a case similar to Bildts, where many Hollandic speaking immigrants moved to the area after the polders were created in the 1600’s and afterward. Intelligibility with the rest of South Hollandic is not known.

Westhoeks is divergent enough from the rest of South Hollandic to be given its own category in many analyses. It has some influence from Dordts, the old dialect of Dordrect not far to the north.

Fijnaarts is a Westhoeks dialect spoken in the village of Fijnaart in North Brabant.

Dordts is a South Hollandic dialect spoken in the city of Dordrect that is intelligible with the rest of South Hollandic. It has heavy Zeelandic and Brabantian influences. In the 20th Century, it underwent dialect leveling under the influence of the much less divergent Rotterdams dialect in Rotterdam. The strongest Dordts is now heard in the center of the city.

IJsselmonds is a South Hollandic lect spoken south of Rotterdam on the old island of IJsselmond, now reclaimed from the sea. The former island can now be seen via satellite as #9 on this map. In general, it is south of Rotterdam between the Niewe Maas and the Spijkenisse Rivers. The region is now heavily industrial, particularly gone over to shipbuilding. The lect is quite a bit different from both AN and Rotterdams. It has two main variants, West and East IJsselmonds.

West IJsselmonds has come under severe Rotterdams influence and can hardly be heard in its pure form anymore. It is only barely alive in the town of Pernis.

East IJsselmonds is extremely divergent from AN and Rotterdams and cannot be understood outside the region. It has mostly undergone dialect leveling and in general is rarely heard. The youth speak a watered down version that is intelligible with AN. Only in the city of Hedrik-Ido-Ambrecht can the true lect be heard on an everyday basis. Given that it’s unintelligible outside the region, it may be a separate language. Intelligibility data between this and the rest of South Hollandic, especially Strandhollands, is needed.

Ambachts is the last remaining holdout of the East IJsselmonds language. This is a deeply conservative dialect, the most conservative of the language, such that the lect of one village may differ greatly from the next. It has striking influences from the Umbrechts-Alblasserwards dialect group to the east.

Baorendrechts is a deeply conservative East IJsselmonds dialect that is spoken in the city of Barendrecht. It has been mostly superseded by AN these days.

Bulessers is another deeply conservative East IJsselmonds dialect spoken in the city of Bolnes. It is almost extinct, under heavy pressure from AN.

Zwindrechts is an East IJsselmonds dialect spoken in Zwijndrecht. It has undergone serious dialect leveling due to the effects of industrialization but can still be heard, mostly in farmers. It has some Dordts influence.

Rekkarkeks is a South Hollandic lect spoken in the city of Ridderkerk, halfway between Rotterdam and Dordrect. This is a very unusual lect that is very different from AN. Hence is has poor to marginal intelligibility with AN, and thus, it may well be a separate language.

It is located just to the east of the East IJsselmonds language, hence its unusualness is probably due to its East IJsselmonds features. It is barely alive and has only a few speakers left. A diluted version is still quite alive. Intelligibility data with the East IJsselmonds language is urgently needed.

Hoekschewaards is a South Hollandic dialect spoken on a former island southwest of Dordrecht, between the Spijkenisse River and the Haringvliet Channel. The city of Numansdorp is located in this region. This dialect has strong IJsselmonds and Albasserwards tendencies. These are much stronger than the Dordts influences. It has three divisions, West Hoekschewaards, East Hoekschewaards and Gravendeel. It is still very much alive, though it is coming under heavy influence from Rotterdams and AN.

West Albasserwards is spoken in the Western part of the Albasserwards, east of Rotterdam about halfway to the Utrecht border. The dialect is dying out in many areas, and there is little interest in preserving it. However, in many of the rural areas, a strong dialect is still alive.

In the eastern part of the Albasserwards, the dialect is like that of Utrecht, but in the west it is quite Hollandic, although it has some Utrecht influences. The dialect differs even from village to village. It is spoken in cities such as Sliedrecht and Papendrecht. The Papendrecht dialect is almost gone due to heavy immigration.

Slierechs is the very divergent West Albasserwards dialect spoken in the city of Sliedrecht. People here have taken more interest in their dialect than elsewhere in the region, and there are regular CD’s and books issued on it.

Utrechts-Alblasserwaards is a dialect group of Hollandic dialects spoken in Utrecht Province, far southeast South Hollands and a small part of Gelderland. To the south there are dialects heading into Brabantian and to the east, there are more dialects heading into South Gulderish. The dialect has low prestige, and there is little interest in it, even among speakers. Nevertheless, it is still learned by children, and there are 330,000 speakers of this dialect.

Utrechts is spoken by the lower classes of the city of Utrecht, capital of Utrecht Province. Nowadays it is spoken more in the rural areas around the city than in the city itself, but even in the city, it is still spoken in certain districts. There is a lot of immigration into the city and emigration out of it, so the dialect is dying.

Vijfheerenlands is an Utrechts-Alblasserwaards dialect spoken in the Vijfheerenland region in the southeast of South Holland. This area includes the cities of Vianen, Meerkerk, Leerdam and Lexmond.

Eemlands is a confusing set of dialects spoken in the eastern part of Utrecht and has strong Veluws influence. Some say that they are Utrechts-Alblasserwaards dialects, and others say that they are West Veluws. The best analysis is that they are transitional between the two varieties, in other words, that they are Low Franconian-Low Saxon transitional dialects. They are spoken in Soest, Amersfoort and Bunschoten. Amersfoort and Bunschoten tend to be considered more West Veluws, and Soest tends to be seen as more Utrechts. With the exception of Bunschoten, these dialects are highly endangered.

Geldersevalleis is a set of dialects spoken in the Gelders Valley, 2/3 of which is in Gelderland and 1/3 of which is in Utrechts. The towns of Ede, Wageningen and Veenendaal are located in this region. These dialects are very hard to characterize, as they have West Veluws, Utrechts and South Guelderish tendencies. They are seriously declining and becoming more Hollandized.

West Veluws is a strange dialect usually collated with Dutch Low Saxon, but which is in fact a Low Franconian dialect. Practically speaking it is best seen as transitional between Low Franconian and Low Saxon. For the most part it is intelligible with AN, but as one moves to the north and east of the West Veluws area, West Veluws gets harder for AN speakers to understand. This dialect has heavy Dutch influence. In most places, this is a dying dialect, and it is not spoken much by young people anymore.

Even the forms of West Veluws still spoken in the home are coming under increasing AN influence. It is spoken in Amersfoort, Spackenburg, Bunschoten, Nijkerk, Barneveld, Putten, Voorthuizen, Ermelo, Elspeet, Uddel, Leuvenum, Harderwijk, Hierden, Nunspeet, Lunteren, Otterlo and Huenderlo. In Nijkerk, Amersfoort, Spackenburg and Bunschoten in the west of the West Veluws region, the dialect is nearly dead.

Brabantian is actually a separate language. It is distinct from Netherlands Brabantian Dutch, which is merely a dialect of Dutch (Grondelaers 2009). The real hardcore Brabantian is dying out, but it is highly divergent, and Dutch speakers say it is incomprehensible. Intelligibility is far lower than for Zeelandic. However, Verkavelingsvlaams speakers can understand Brabantian pretty well, since Verkavelingsvlaams is very Brabantian.

Brabantian is dying out in the Netherlands, but it is still spoken in Tilburg and in the rural areas of Nord Brabant. There is quite a bit of confusion about what is the pure Brabantian and what is Brabantian Dutch, but the key is intelligibility. Brabantian Dutch is easily comprehensible to an AN speaker, and the real Brabantian is not at all. Other than South Brabantian, which is a separate language, all of the Brabantian dialects are mutually intelligible.

North Central Brabantian is a dialect of Brabantian that is spoken in the Netherlands and Belgium in a strip that runs along the border around the towns of Ravels, Tilburg, Loon op Zant, Waalwijik, Vlifjmen, Huesderf and Drunen.

Tilburgs is a hard North Central Brabantian dialect that is still widely spoken in the city of Tilburg in the southern part of the Netherlands. It is intelligible with the rest of Brabantian (Anonymous January 2010).

East Brabantian is spoken in the eastern part of North Brabant. It is one of the main Brabantian divisions. The various divisions of East Brabantian include Kempenlands, North Meierjis, Peellands, Geldrops and Heeze en Lendes.

It includes the towns of Eindhoven, Veldhoven, Vught, Boxtel, Oirshchot, Best, Acht, Middelbeers, Eersel, Waalre, Mierlo, Luijksgestel, Bergelijk, Aalst, Heeze, Leende, Son, Helmond, Berjeijk, Schijndel, Lieshout, Beek, Gemert, Aarle-Rixtel, Aasten, Someren, Liessel, Duerne, Bakel, Mill, Veghel, Volkel, Uden, Nistelrode, Heesch, Zeeland, Boekel, Sint Michielsgestel in the Netherlands and Arendonk and Lommel in Belgium. East Brabantian is intelligible with the rest of Brabantian (Anonymous January 2010).

Northern Kempens is a hard East Brabantian dialect spoken in an area on the border of Belgium and the Netherlands in eastern Antwerp and western Limburg Provinces in Belgium and north into the Netherlands. Major cities and towns in the region include Turnhout, Arendonk, Eersel, Oirshchot, Hilvarenbeek, Retie, Oisterwijk, Boxtel, and Eindhoven. It is an area of poor soil with many marshes, bogs and forests. Lately, it is primarily a tourist region. Northern Kempens is intelligible with the rest of Brabantian (Anonymous January 2010).

Arendonk is a very specific, apparently highly diverse and possibly archaic Northern Kempens Brabantian dialect spoken near Turnhout close to the Dutch border. It is said to be unintelligible outside of the nearby area. Hence, it may well be a separate language.

Northwest Brabantian is a Brabantian dialect spoken in the Netherlands and Belgium. It is spoken in Breda and the surrounding region to south into Belgium.

Cities in which it is spoken include Breda, Baarle-Hertog, Oosterhout, Steenbergben, Made, Raamsdonksveer, Roosendaal, Putte, Geertruidenberg Hoogstraten, Brecht, Moerdjik, Oudenbosch, Bergen Op Zoom, Huijbergen, Rijsbergen and Woesndrecht in the Netherlands and Woostwezel, Meer, Ekeren, Merksom, Kapellen, Lillo, Stabroek, Meerle and Rijkevorsel in Belgium.

This dialect was created from the Eighty Years War. After the war, this Brabantian-speaking region was essentially depopulated, and afterward, a large movement of immigration from the Antwerp region occurred, spreading the tendencies of the Antwerps dialect. Northwest Brabantian consists of three major dialects, Antwerps, Baronies and Markiezaats. Antwerps is spoken in Antwerp and north to the Netherlands border. Baronies is spoken in the area around Breda and Markiezaats is spoken in the west over by Zeeland.

Bredaas is a Northwest Brabantian dialect spoken in the city of Breda that is dying out. It is mostly spoken in certain areas and with the older generation. It tends to re-emerge around Carnival time though.

Markiezaats is spoken in the west of North Brabant around the cities of Bergen op Zoom and Steenbergen. It extends over to the Drimmelen region to the northeast and generally includes everything west of Breda.

Antwerps is a hard Brabantian dialect spoken in Antwerp, Belgium. It is intelligible with all the rest of Brabantian (Anonymous January 2010). This dialect is widely disliked in Belgium because it is neither Flemish nor a Dutch dialect, and hence is poorly understood.

It is often heard in the Belgian media, but it is rarely subtitled, and this is the cause of the frustration with non-Antwerps speakers. East Flemish speakers say that they cannot understand it. This language is spoken in Antwerp. In a study, 51% of East Flemish speakers said that they wanted subtitles when listening to Antwerps speakers on TV (De Houwer 2008). Antwerps was regularly heard on TV until recently.

This dialect is one of the most influential in terms of inputs towards the creation of Verkavelingsvlaams. Verkavelingsvlaams at the moment is heavily based on the Antwerps dialect. There is some uncertainty regarding the intelligibility of Antwerps with surrounding lects. Students who recently went to school in Antwerps say that they could not understand students who came from villages in the Antwerps area. It is not known what lects the villagers were speaking.

Wase is the name for a group of Brabantian dialects spoken in the Waseland in the far northeast of East Flanders. The capital of this region is the city of St. Niklaas. The area was originally wide fields bounded by willow trees. It flooded and was drained a few times. Many turnips are grown here.

Maaslands is a dialect of Brabantian that is spoken in a narrow strip in North Brabant south of the Maas River. It is spoken in the towns of Empel, Maren, Lith, Herpen, Oijen, Megen, Ravenstein, Oss and Grave, all of them along the Maas River.

Bosch is a Maaslands dialect spoken in Hertogenbosch, a large city a bit south of the Maas River in North Brabant. The dialect is still pretty well alive, but its use varies throughout the city, with some areas speaking a lot of Bosch and other areas in which it is rarely heard. Due to immigration and the fact that it has become a commuter town, the dialect has been declining for some time now.

Nederbetuws is a confusing dialect, usually included in South Guelderish, spoken in the Lower Betuws in Gelderland. It actually has heavy Brabantian features. The dialects of the river cities of Tiel and Culemborg are quite different. It is spoken in the towns of Tiel, Culemborg, Buren, Geldermalsen, Wadenoijen, Ophemert, Waardenburg, Herwijnen and Gorinchem. This is mostly a rural area, with a lot of livestock, fruit orchards, vegetables and greenhouses.

South Brabantian is a very divergent lect within Brabantian that is very hard for other Brabantian speakers, even those from nearby Antwerp Province, to understand (Anonymous January 2010). Therefore, it may well be a separate language. It is spoken in Brabant Province in Belgium and around the capital of Brussels. This area has retained the most extreme and archaic Brabantian features. It is under heavy pressure from Verkavelingsvlaams, especially in the cities and less so in the countryside.

The least intelligible variety seems to be spoken from Brussels west to the East Flanders border, especially in the rural areas and near the southern and western borders.

Brussels in the name for a group of South Brabantian lects that were traditionally spoken in Brussels, and still are by a small number of old people. In the past 200 years though, the language of the capital shifted to French. The remaining Brabantian speakers shifted to some form of Dutch, and many today speak some Dutch standard, usually VRT. At any rate, the original Brussels South Brabantian lects are now almost extinct, spoken only by the older generation, most of whom are also bilingual in French.

Traditionally, Brussels lects were very diverse and were not intelligible with Antwerps Brabantian or Leuvens South Brabantian from about 1650 on. Increasing French influence after the Eighty Years War which ended in 1648 resulted in a closing off of Brussels to most outside influence and increasing French influence on the Brussels lects. It was still the most widely used language in Brussels until the French occupation around 1800.

It then began to decline as more residents started speaking French. In part this was an urban elitist effect, as the local rural areas all spoke Brabantian dialects, and the city became increasingly French speaking, especially the upper class. To sum up, to speak French meant you sounded like an aristocrat and to speak Brabantian meant you were talking like a farmer.

During the 1800’s there was a big debate in Brussels about which form of Dutch to make the official language – some common Flemish form or something more like Netherlands Dutch? People could not make up their minds, and this gave people one more reason to just speak French instead.

Brussels is almost extinct, and only some older Brusseliers speak it. Apparently no one else, including almost everyone in Brussels, can understand them. As Brussels is barely understood even in the city, clearly it must not be understood outside the city either. Hence, Brussels may be a separate language. But intelligibility data with the rest of South Brabantian would be nice to have.

Marols is a divergent Brussels dialect traditionally spoken in the colorful Marollen district, traditionally a poorer, rundown working class area, that was recently full of drug dealers and bums, but is now undergoing gentrification. Marols is a strange mixture of Spanish, Yiddish, Walloon and Brabantian. The Yiddish and Spanish is from many Spanish Republicans and Polish Jews moving to this district just before WW2. Marols is rarely heard these days, and intelligibility with the rest of Brussels is not known.

Liekert is a South Brabantian dialect spoken in Liedekerke, Belgium in Brabant Province on the border with East Flanders. It is unintelligible with the rest of even Flemish Brabantian, including Antwerps.

Leuvens or Leives is a South Brabantian dialect spoken in the city of Leuven in Belgian Brabant. Many immigrants moved to the city after WW2, and use of the dialect reduced dramatically. Intelligibility between Leuvens and the rest of South Brabantian is not known.

Ninove is apparently a South Brabantian dialect spoken in the city of Ninove in the east of East Flanders. It is probably close to Liekert, and hence is very hard for even Flemish to understand.

Elingen is a South Brabantian dialect spoken in the town of Elingen on the border with Hainaut Province. It is not intelligible at all with Brabantian proper (Anonymous January 2010).

Aalsters is a South Brabantian dialect that is very hard for even the Flemish to understand. It is spoken in the city of Aalst in East Flanders, Belgium, on the border of Brabant Province. It is also spoken in Opwijks, Asses and Tenants over the border in Brabant Province.

Tiens is a South Brabantian dialect spoken in Tienen in Eastern Brabant, Belgium. It has Limburgish tendencies. It is dying out and tends to be spoken more by the working classes, but is still pretty widely spoken. Intelligibility with the rest of South Brabantian is not known.

Afrikaans is a separate language, recognized by Ethnologue. It is spoken in South Africa by 13.2 million people, including 6.45 million native speakers and 6.75 million second language speakers. 12-16 million people have basic knowledge of the language.

A study noted that Dutch speakers have 59% intelligibility of Afrikaans (Gooskens 2005), while Afrikaans speakers have 51% intelligibility of Dutch. The combined intelligibility estimate is 55%, close to distance between Spanish and Portuguese. Afrikaans split off from Dutch in about 1675 when Dutch settlers began settling in South Africa. The first written Afrikaans is dated to 1795.

Zeelandic or Zeêuws is a separate language, recognized by Ethnologue as a different Low Franconian language from Dutch. Zeelandic is not easily understood by AN speakers. It is spoken in Zeeland Province and in South Holland Province on the island of Goeree-Overflakee. This area is south of Rotterdam. It is best thought of as transitional between Dutch and West Flemish.

There are a variety of dialects, Walcheren, Zuid-Beveland and Goeree-Overflakee among others. Toward the north, Zeelandic looks more Hollandic or Dutch, and towards the south, it looks more Flemish. The dialects of Zeelandic Flanders are really outside of the definition of Zeelandic and are best described as East and West Flemish instead.

Although it is clearly a separate language from Dutch, Dutch nationalism mandates that it be seen as a dialect and not a separate language, hence the Dutch government refuses to recognize it as a separate language. The language is still in pretty good shape, though it is declining.

It still has 220,000 speakers. In some rural villages, up to 90% of the children still speak Zeelandic. The dialects of the larger cities are going extinct, yet Zeelandic is still in good shape in the rural areas. Surveys conducted in the 1990’s showed that 60% of residents of the area still spoke Zeelandic on an everyday basis. All Zeelandic dialects are intelligible with each other except South Beveland, which is possibly a separate language. Intelligibility between Zeelandic and West Flemish is not known, but may be high.

Along with French Flemish and West Flemish, Zeelandic is part of Southwest Low Franconian. These languages are said to be the remains of the oldest of Old Franconian.

Burgerzeeuws is a Dutch dialect spoken in Zeeland. Though it ought to be part of the Zeelandic language, it is not. It is originally Zeelandic, spoken in the cities of Zeeland, which was then replaced with Hollandic by status conscious upwardly mobile people. Like Stadsfries, this language developed in the 1600’s. It is especially spoken in Middelburg and Vissingen.

In the 1990’s, only 1/3 of urban Zeelanders spoke Zeelandic, compared to 2/3 in the province as a whole. This dialect is still alive though, even among the youth, especially in conservative Christian circles. In some areas this dialect is scorned, while in others it is valued. Burgerzeeuws has unknown intelligibility with AN, but it is probably easier to understand than Zeelandic proper.

Oostvoorns is a Zeelandic dialect spoken in the far north of the region that is actually spoken outside of Zeeland proper in the area called Oostverne just to the north. Some say that this dialect is actually Hollandic and not Zeelandic. It’s probably best seen as a transitional Zeelandic-Hollandic dialect. Intelligibility with AN is not known, but it’s probably better understood to AN speakers than the rest of Zeelandic.

Goerees is a Zeelandic dialect spoken in the Goeree region of Zeeland. The dialect of the fishing village of Ouddorp is quite different, with many unique words. It is quite a bit different from the rest of Zeelandic. This dialect is still widely spoken.

Flakkees is a Zeelandic dialect spoken in the region of Overflakee, east of Goeree. It is spoken in Ooltgensplaat, Middelharnis and Sommelsdijk. Flakkees is divided into three subdialects – West Flakkees, East Flakkees and Brabants Flakkees. Flakkees is still very widely spoken.

Schouwen-Duivelands is a Zeelandic dialect spoken in the Zeelandic region of Schouwen-Duivelands. In some places such as Bruinisse the dialect is in great shape, with 90% of youth even speaking it. In other places such as Burgh, Haamstede and Zierikzee it is undergoing decline due to tourism.

Thools is a Zeelandic dialect spoken on the former island of Tholen is Zeeland. It is undergoing some decline due to widespread immigration but is still widely spoken. There is a sharp barrier between Thools and the North Brabant area just to the east. The city of Oud Vesssemer speaks a mixed North Brabantian-Zeelandic dialect.

Walchers is a Zeelandic dialect spoken on the former island of Walcheren in Zeeland. It is spoken in the towns of Domburg, Westkapelle, Koudekerke, Arnemuiden and Oost Souburg. The dialect of the fishing village of Westkapelle is very different, with many unique words. In Westkapelle and Arnemuiden, the dialect is still doing very well. In other places it is under heavy pressure from tourism and immigration.

South Bevelands is a Zeelandic lect spoken in the Zuid Bevelands area of Zeeland. This area is still very rural, so the lect is in great shape. South Bevelands was scarcely touched by Hollandization during the Golden Age of Holland, hence its archaic character.

South Bevelands is extremely diverse, varying wildly from one village and town to the next to the point that communication is so seriously impaired that residents from different towns typically use AN to communicate rather than their town lects. On the face of it, it’s tempting to split off every town as a separate language, but that seems wild and threatens chaos, and until we get more data, it’s thankfully premature.

However, since South Bevelands is not even intelligible within itself, it can’t possibly be intelligible with the rest of Zeelandic, hence it may well be a separate language.

Land of Cadzands is a Zeelandic dialect spoken in the far south of the Netherlands in Zeelandic Flanders. It is properly seen as a Zeelandic dialect transitioning to West Flemish.

Dutch Low Saxon is a group of lects related to Dutch and German that are very hard to classify, especially in terms of their relationship with Low German in Germany and with Low Franconian (Macro-Dutch) in the Netherlands.

I originally put Dutch Low Saxon in with Low German and added it to my German reclassification. However, after thinking this over for a year now, I now believe that Dutch Low Saxon belongs much more in Macro-Dutch than in Macro-German. Nerbonne 1996 makes a convincing case that Dutch Low Saxon is more properly seen as Macro-Dutch than as Macro-German in a scientific paper analyzing Levenshtein distances between Dutch lects.

There is an argument floating around that all of Dutch Low Saxon is intelligible with all of German Low Saxon. This is certainly not true. Looking at Veluws to Schleswigsch, those two languages are not intelligible with each other at all. In fact, even Groningen and Veluws are not intelligible within the Netherlands alone.

Arguing against the notion of Dutch Low Saxon as being a Dutch dialect, many Dutch say that Dutch Low Saxon is not intelligible with Dutch. There is marginal intelligibility of around 90% between Dutch and Dutch Low Saxon (Zweers 2009). And some Dutch Low Saxon lects, for instance Veluws and Groningen, are not fully intelligible with each other either (Smith 2008).

Dutch Low Saxon includes four groups: Friso-Saxon, Westphalian, Gelders-Oaveriessels and Plautdietsch.

Friso-Saxon is a group of Low Saxon lects spoken in Groningen that have all been heavily influenced by the East Frisian language. These lects are Gronings-East Frisian Low Saxon, Stellingwerfs, Westerkwartiers, Kollumerpompsters, Kollumerlands, Middaglands, Middle Westerkwartiers, South Westerkwartiers, Hogelandsters, Stadsgronings, Westerwolds, Veenkoloniaals and Oldambtsters.

It is often stated that Friso-Saxon is intelligible with general Low Saxon across the board across the border in Germany. This is not true; it is only intelligible with East Frisian Low Saxon, which is not part of the greater German Low Saxon language. For instance, Gronings, Westerwolds and Veenkoloniaals have only 57% intelligibility of Bremen Low Saxon in Germany (Gooskens 2009). Friso-Saxon is broken into four principal groups: Groningen, East Frisian Low Saxon, Westerkwartiers and Stellingwerfs.

What is difficult is dividing up Dutch Low Saxon into different languages. Ethnologue has gone too far, with proper Dutch Low Saxon divided into eight separate languages – Gronings, Veluws, Sallands, Drents, Stellingwerfs, Twents, Achterhoeks and Plautdietsch. We have reduced this complexity quite a bit here, by reducing Dutch Low Saxon to Friso-Saxon, Stellingwerfs, Urkers and Plautdietsch – four languages, and a reduction of Ethnologue’s classification by 5 languages.

Gronings-East Frisian Low Saxon is a Friso-Saxon language, consisting of two parts, Gronings in the Netherlands and East Frisian Low Saxon across the border in Germany.

East Frisian Low Saxon is a Friso-Saxon dialect spoken in the East Frisian peninsula of northwestern Lower Saxony, Germany. It is intelligible with Gronings in the Netherlands. However, it has only 57% intelligibility with Bremen Low Saxon (Gooskens 2009). It has 230,000 speakers. There are still rural areas around here where the majority of people under age 40 speak the language. 50% of the population still speaks the dialect on a daily basis.

This dialect has an East Frisian substratum. There is dialectal diversity between the western and eastern branches. There are also speakers of this dialect in Iowa, about 500 of them, mostly over age 50. The classic variety of East Frisian Low Saxon probably looks something like this. Dialects include Hinte, Ems (Emsfriesisches), Weser (Weserfriesisches), Jeverländer, Harlingerländer, Ommelands and Mooringer.

Hinte East Frisian Low Saxon (Hintener) is a divergent dialect of East Frisian Low Saxon, but intelligibility data with the rest of East Frisian Low Saxon is not known. It is spoken in the town of Hinte in Germany on the Dutch-German border. Hinte is spoken in Eastern Friesland (Ostfriesland) in Lower Saxony in Germany and Groningen is on the Dutch side. It is somewhat similar to Twents.

Westerkwartiers is a group of Friso-Saxon dialects spoken in the far southwest of Groningen Province. This is the group of Friso-Saxon dialects that most resembles West Frisian. A good characterization of this group would be to say it is transitional from Gronings to West Frisian. The cities of Leek, Zuidhorn and Marum speak this dialect. The group includes Kollumerpompsters, Kollumerlands, Middle Westerkwartiers, South Westerkwartiers and Middaglands.

Kollumerpompsters is a Friso-Saxon Westerkwartiers dialect spoken in the city of Kollumerpomp and the surrounding area in the far east of Friesland. The municipality of Kollum speaks this dialect.

The Gronings group of dialects that are spoken in all of Groningen Province, some of Drenthe Province, and a bit of Friesland Province in far northeastern Netherlands. They have 320,000 speakers. They have a heavy Old Frisian (East Frisian) substrate.

Along with Limburgish, it is the group spoken in the Netherlands farthest from Dutch. Yet Gronings is intelligible with East Frisian Low Saxon across the border in Germany. Gronings is very close to Drents, but it is far from Achterhoeks, Twents and Stellingwerfs, and is not fully intelligible with Stellingwerfs or Veluws. Gronings appears to have good intelligibility of Drents (Felder 2015). Dutch speakers have 89-92% intelligibility of Gronings. But other Dutch speakers say that Gronings is often very hard to understand and sometimes they cannot understand anything at all of it (Felder 2015).

The original language of Groningen was Frisian, but there was a mass movement of Saxons from Drenthe to the area. They mostly settled in the city of Groningen, but then they radiated out from there. In addition, many East Frisian speakers came from across the border in Germany. This had to do with the reclamation of peat land in Groningen. The East Frisian language was supplanted by Low Saxon long ago, before the 1500’s. Traces of East Frisian still exist, but only in morphology and syntax and not in phonology (Heeringa 2004).

Gronings consists of North Drents, Hogelandsters, Stadsgronings, Westerwolds, Veenkoloniaals and Oldambtsters.

Hogelandsters is a Friso-Saxon dialect spoken in the far north of Groningen in a region called Hogeland. This is said to be the “purest” Gronings of all, and it is the hardest for AN speakers to understand. The cities of Leens, Ulrum, Baflo, Uithuizen, Bedum, Winsum, Loppersum and Uithuizermeeden are located in this region.

Stadsgronings is the Friso-Saxon dialect spoken in the city of Groningen itself. It is close to North Drents. The dialect is dying out in the city itself due to immigration of large numbers of students from outside the region who do not speak Gronings.

However, many people still speak Gronings in the city and some are more or less Gronings monolinguals who do not speak ABN well. These tend to be people age 40+ (Felder 2015).

Noordenvelds or North Drents is hard to analyze, but it is best analyzed as Friso-Saxon and not Drents proper. This dialect is close to Stadsgronings. It is spoken in the north of Drenthe Province in the towns of Roden, Norg, Eelde and Vries by 38,000 people. This is nearly the same speech as Stadsgronings (Felder 2015).

Oldambtsters-Reiderlands is a Friso-Saxon dialect spoken in a part of Groningen called Oldambt. It is related to Veenkoloniaals and Hogelandsters and has heavy Westphalian influence. Oldambtsters has a close relationship with the Rheiderlander dialect of East Frisian Low Saxon across the border in Germany; in fact, it is basically the same dialect. East Frisian was spoken here until 1400.

This dialect is steadily declining, but holds out best in the rural areas. German is still widely spoken in this part of the Netherlands, especially in the city of Winschoten. It is spoken in Winschoten, Scheemda, Noordbroek, Heiligerlee, Beerta and Nieuwe Schans.

Veenkoloniaals is a Friso-Saxon dialect spoken in eastern Groningen on the border between Groningen and Drenthe Provinces and over the border into Drenthe. This dialect came into being due to peat mining in the area. In recent years it has been expanding a lot, probably because it is closer to AN than neighboring lects.

Veenkoloniaals is close to Drents but even closer to Stellingwerfs. Veenkoloniaals lacks full intelligibility with Dutch. Veenkoloniaals is quite close to Stadsgronings and almost sounds like the same lect. There are a few differences between the two. This is a harder Gronings that is even harder for ABN speakers to understand than Stadsgronings (Felder 2015).

Westerwolds is another Friso-Saxon dialect. that, like Veenkoloniaals, is spoken in eastern Groningen. Westerwolds is not fully intelligible with Dutch and has heavy influence from East Frisian Low Saxon spoken in Germany. Although it is Friso-Saxon, it is closer to Westphalian than to Frisian. It has a particularly close relationship to Ems Low Saxon spoken in Germany.

Lately it has been losing ground to Veenkoloniaals. It is spoken in a small corner of far southeast Groningen on the German border in the towns of Stadskanaal, Musselkanaal, Ter Appelkanaal, Ter Appel and Vledderveen. ABN speakers say that this is an extremely hard form of Gronings that is very hard to understand, even harder to understand than Veenkoloniaals (Felder 2015).

Stellingwerfs is a Friso-Saxon language spoken in the municipalities of Weststellingwerfs and Oststellingwerfs in southeastern Friesland Province on the border with Drenthe and Overijssel Provinces and over the border into Drenthe and Overijssel.

It is spoken in towns such as Appelscha, Noordwolde, Tjalleberd, Luinjeberd, Donkerbroek, St. Johannesga, Rotsterhaule, Rotstergaast, Delfstrahuizen, Uffelte, Diever, Vledder, Echten, Steenwijk, Giethoorn, Tuk, Willemsoord, Oldemarkt, Kuinre, Smilde, Wolvega, Oldeberkoop, Oldeholtpa, Nijeholtpa, Dwingeloo and Oosterzee.

Frisian speakers moved into the formerly Drents-speaking area when peat-digging began. This began the process of Frisianization. Stellingwerfs is not usually put into Friso-Saxon, but Heeringa 2004 makes a good case for putting it into Friso-Saxon (Fig. 4, p. 97).

One way to look at Stellingwerfs is to see it as a Drents variety intermixed strongly with a Frisian layer (Heeringa 2004). The process of Frisianization began as early as the 1200’s. Stellingwerfs probably has over 300,000 speakers in two dialects, East Stellingwerfs and West Stellingwerfs. Stellingwerfs is not close to Gronings, Drents, Twents or Achterhoeks, and it is not fully intelligible with Dutch, nor with Gronings and Veluws.

Gelders-Oaveriessels is a dialect group within Dutch Low Saxon. It includes Urkers, Sallands, Drents and East Veluws. This group is also sometimes called West Dutch Low Saxon. This group has heavier Dutch (Low Franconian) influence than the rest of Dutch Low Saxon. The two other groups have heavy Frisian and Westphalian Low German influence respectively. The Dutch influence is primarily an archaic version of Hollandic from the 1600’s.

East Veluws is a Gelders-Overijssels Dutch Low Saxon dialect spoken in the Veluwe, a formerly heavily forested and swampy region along a ridge in northern Gelderland Province. This region has a lot of wildlife and used to be very popular with hunters. There are proposals to turn much of this region into a national park.

Although it is a part of Dutch Low Saxon, Veluws is marginal within this family (Smith 2009), with West Veluws looking a lot like Low Franconian (“Dutch”) proper, and East Veluws looking more like a typical Dutch Low Saxon. West Veluws and East Veluws can understand each other, and East Veluws and Twents are mutually intelligible. East Veluws is more intelligible with Dutch than any other type of Low Saxon, probably due to its close connection to West Veluws, a Low Franconian lect; however, East Veluws tends to have marginal intelligibility with AN.

Veluws is one of the lects where Low Saxon and Low Franconian are very close, similar to Gronings and East Frisian Low Saxon, except that Veluws in closer to Low Franconian, and Gronings is closer to Low Saxon. Nevertheless, Veluws is not fully intelligible with Stellingwerfs or Gronings. There are probably 300,000 speakers of all varieties of Veluws, but there are fewer Veluws speakers than speakers of Gronings, Stellingwerfs and Twents.

East Veluws is spoken in the towns of Apeldoorn, Doernspijk, Oldebroek, Elberg, Hattem, Heerde, Epe, Ernst, Vaasen, Het Loo, Twello, Gorssel, Brummen, Doesburg, Eerbeek and Dieren.

Sallands is a Gelders-Overijssels Dutch Low Saxon dialect spoken in the Salland region in the western part of Overijssel Province. Sallands has fewer than 300,000 speakers. Sallands lacks full intelligibility with Dutch, but is intelligible with Twents. Based on linguistic distance (Fig. 3) it may not be intelligible with Groningen. There is a transitional Sallands-Twents dialect spoken on the border with the northwest of the Twents-speaking area (ter Denge 2009). There is a lot of variability in Sallands.

Sallands is spoken in Zwolle, Zutphen, Nijverdal, Vroomshoop, Kloosterhaar, Marienberg, Hardenberg, Gramsbelgen, Lutten, Heemse, Witharen, Ommen, Oudleusen, Den Ham, Vilsteren, Dalfsen, Kampen, Heino, Lemereveld, Ittersum, Wijhe, Windesheim, Heeten, Olst, Espelo, Holten, Wesepe, Diepenveen, Lettele, Deventer, Bathmen, Genemuiden, Zwartsluis and Blokzijl.

Zwols is a Sallands dialect spoken in Zwolle, the capital of Overijssel Province. It has some similarities to Urkers nearby. 61% of the population still speaks Zwols. Nowadays, it is mostly spoken in the older districts. It contains many colorful slang expressions.

Dêmpters is the name of the Sallands dialect spoken in Deventer.

Zutphens is a transitional Achterhoeks-Sallands dialect that is spoken in Zutphen, a city in Gelderland. It is interesting because it has many Hollands features. Zutphens is still very heavily spoken by the population of the city.

Drents is a Dutch Low Saxon dialect that is in a group of its own. It has over 240,000 speakers in in Drenthe Province, where it is spoken by about 1/2 the population, and it also has some speakers in Overijssel. In towns like Zuidwolde, the majority of people even aged 30-40 continue to speak Drents as the main everyday language.

Every town and village has its own dialect. Drents is quite far from Twents, Achterhoeks and Stellingwerfs, but it is very close to Gronings and intelligible with Twents. Drents is not intelligible with Dutch.

It is spoken in Assen, Rolde, Geiten, Annen, Anlo, Eext, Klooverstervee, Gasselte, Borger, Grollo, Buinem, Elp, Amen, Beilen, Odoorn, Schoonloo, Hijken, Emmen, Valthermond, Zoordsleen, Sleen, Hoogeveen, Noordbarge, Dalen, Coevorden, Schoonebeek, Eursinge, Zuidwolde, Nieuw Amsterdam, Klazienaveen, Nieuw Schoonebeek, Zwartemeer, De Krim, Linde, Staphorst, Ruinen, Balkbrug, Meppel, Dedemsvaart, Rouveen, Den Hulst and Havelte.

Urkers is a very divergent Gelders-Overijssels Dutch Low Saxon lect spoken in the small city of Urks, formerly an island in the Zeelandic Sea. It is a very conservative Protestant town with no less than 17 churches, where 97% of the population goes to church every week for about three hours a day. Women marry young, and cohabitation is unheard of.

Urkers is utterly incomprehensible to AN speakers, and on structural and intelligibility grounds, there is justification for making it a separate language. Further, a linguistic analysis based on Levenshtein distance suggests that Urkers is best analyzed as a separate language in its own right, apart from all other Dutch lects (Heeringa 2004).

Westphalian Dutch Low Saxon is a branch of Dutch Low Saxon. It contains two dialects, Twents and Achterhoeks, is heavily Germanized and collates with the Westphalian Low German spoken across the border in Germany. Twents is one of the most divergent of all of the Dutch Low Saxon lects from AN, especially the dialects spoken in Vriezenzeen, Rijssen and Wierden.

Twents is a Westphalian Dutch Low Saxon dialect with 328,000 speakers, or 62% of the population of Twents, a region in Overijssel.

Every town has its own dialect, but all dialects are mutually intelligible. Twents is not close to Stellingwerfs or Gronings, but it is intelligible with Drents, Sallands, Achterhoeks (ter Denge 2009) and East Veluws. Based on linguistic distance (Fig. 3) it may not be intelligible with Groningen.

In the northwest of the Twents region, there is a transitional Sallands-Twents dialect that has a largely Twents vocabulary with a Sallands inflection. In the towns of Rijssen and Enter, there is a variety of Twents spoken that uses diphthongs where other varieties have monophthongs. This may be a remnant of an earlier Westphalian variety that may have been generalized throughout the Twents region. On the border with the Achterhoeks region, there is no clear dialect border, as Twents and Achterhoeks slide into each other (ter Denge 2009).

Many Dutch speakers find Twents unintelligible.

Twents is spoken in the towns of Vriezenveen, Almelo, Rijssen, Hengelo, Borne, Enschede, Oldenzaal, Tubbergen, Ootmarsum, Weerselo, Reutum, Denekamp, Deurningen, Losser, Lonneker, Glanerbrug, Usselo, Boekelo, Haaksenbergen, Diepenheim, Goor, Delden, Markelo and Wierden.

Achterhoeks is a Westphalian Dutch Low Saxon dialect. Achterhoeks is far from Drents, Gronings and Stellingwerfs but is intelligible with Twents (ter Denge 2009). Based on linguistic distance (Fig. 3) it may not be intelligible with Groningen. Achterhoeks is not intelligible with Dutch. Achterhoeks is in very good shape, and is widely used as an everyday language.

Achterhoeks is spoken Northern Gelderland east of East Veluws in towns such as Doetinchem, Terborg, Silvolde, Ulft, Dinxperlo, Alten, Winterswijk, Meddo, Groenle, Lichtenvoorde, Eibergen, Neede, Borculo, Ruunlo, Zelhem, Hengelo, Lochem, Laren, Almen and Vorden. Interestingly, Achterhoeks speakers in Dinxperlo can communicate with speakers of Westphalian German Low Saxon in Suderwick, Germany, across the border.

Plautdietsch is a Dutch Low Saxon language that originated in the Netherlands, but then spread to other parts of the world. It forms a subgroup of its own and is quite divergent from the rest of Dutch Low Saxon. It is not intelligible with many other Low German languages, Standard German, or Pennsylvania German. Plautdietsch has 50% intelligibility with Hutterite German.

This language was originally a Friesland Dutch Low Saxon lect, but they moved to Prussia after they were persecuted for their religion, and later they moved to the US. This is the language of the Mennonites worldwide.

Map showing the various lects spoken in Belgium, in the Dutch language. 1. West Flemish. 2. East Flemish. 3. Brabantian. 4. Limburgish. 5. Low German. 6. Ripaurian. 7. Luxembourgish. 8. Lorraine. 9. Champenois. 10. Walloon. 11. Picard.
Fig. 2. Map showing the various languages spoken in Belgium, in the Dutch language. 1. West Flemish. 2. East Flemish. 3. Brabantian. 4. Limburgish. 5. Low Dietsch. 6. Ripaurian. 7. Luxembourgish. 8. Lorraine. 9. Champenois. 10. Walloon. 11. Picard. 1-5 are varieties of Dutch, 6-7 are varieties of German and 8-11 are varieties of French. Click to enlarge.

Flemish or Vlaams is a separate language, recognized as such by Ethnologue. Flemish has anywhere from 30% (Zweers 2009) to 66% (Van Bezooijen 1999) intelligibility with AN. However, it is more complicated than that, for in truth, Flemish is more than one language. The primary split is between West Flemish and East Flemish. It’s now widely acknowledged by most that West Flemish and East Flemish are not completely mutually intelligible.

Hinrichs undated makes a strong case for the inclusion of Flemish as a recognized regional language in section III of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages based on linguistic distance to AN. The distance between Flemish and AN is as great as between Low Saxon and Dutch, and Low Saxon is recognized.

Fig. 3. Map of the major Dutch languages, including Hollandic, East Flemish, West Flemish, Zeelandic, Brabantian and Limburgish. Click to enlarge.

VRT-Nederlands, BRT-Nederlands, VT-Nederlands or BT-Nederlands are abbreviations for the form of AN spoken in Belgium. It may be thought as “Dutch with a Fleming accent.” It is easily intelligible with AN, and is increasingly heard on Belgian TV. Further, many Flemings can also speak this language, which is pretty much what they are taught in school under the rubric of “Dutch” classes. There is tremendous confusion between this dialect and “Flemish.”

This dialect is simply a dialect of Dutch or AN. The varieties subsumed under Flemish are completely different languages altogether. This dialect is making increasing inroads in Belgian life and some Flemish speakers are becoming alarmed about this.

Standard Flemish, Verkavelingsvlaams, Vlaamse Tussentaal, VT or Soap Vlaams (henceforth VT) is a koine developed recently in Belgium that is understood by all Flemish speakers and is used often on TV. It is a mixture both of an artificially created Standard Flemish and the local dialects, and AN speakers find it quite incomprehensible. It is nearly the same as Belgian Brabantian. It probably has around 3.4 million speakers in Belgium. VT is fully intelligible with the Brabantian language.

West Flemish or West Vlaams is a highly divergent Low Franconian language that, along with French Flemish and Zeelandic, is part of Southwest Low Franconian and is the closest to the original Old Franconian. This group of languages is interesting because they have retained features of Ingvaeonic or North Sea Germanic features. Ingvaeonic is the postulated language that gave birth to Old English, Old Saxon and Old Frisian, possibly 2,000 YBP. It was spoken what is now the Netherlands, northwest Germany and Denmark. There are also influences from langues d’oil, not so much French proper as Picard, which is spoken adjacent to the West Flemish region.

West Flemish is spoken in Zeelandic Flanders in the Netherlands, West Flanders Province in Belgium and French Flanders in Nord Province in France (see map Fig. 1). East Flemish speakers have a hard time understanding West Flemish, especially the variety spoken in France. For example, West Flemish speakers regularly get subtitles on Belgian TV. Studies have shown that speakers of Antwerp East Flemish cannot understand the West Flemish of Oostende, Diksmuide, or Kortrijk, cities in West Flanders Province (De Houwer 2008).

West Flemish has 1 million regular speakers in West Flanders in Belgium and 70,000 in Zeelandic Flanders for a total of 1.07 million speakers. It also has a few speakers in Flemish Zeeland in the Netherlands.

Brugs is a West Flemish dialect spoken in and around the city of Bruges. It is quite divergent from other West Flemish dialects and even other Flemish find it hard to understand. However, precise intelligibility with West Flemish per se and not Flemish per se (whatever that means) is needed before we can determine whether or not it is a separate language. Brugs is declining in recent days and is being replaced with a more widely spoken Flemish, possibly VT.

Kortrijks is a West Flemish dialect spoken in the city of Kortrijk in the southeast of West Flanders. It is also spoken in the towns of Kuurne, Wevelgem, Ledegem, Moorslede, Muelebeke, Tiens and Izegem. Past Tiens, it starts turning into the Brugs dialect. Past Moorslede, it starts turning into the Ypres dialect.

Ypres is a South Flanders dialect spoken in and around the city of Ypres in the south of West Flanders. It is different from Kortrijks.

Waregems is a dialect spoken in the West Flanders city of Waregem. It is different from Kortrijks and is unique in some ways. It is best seen as a West Flanders dialect heading out towards the East Flanders language. There is an entire area on the border between West Flanders and East Flanders where the dialects may be hard to characters as belonging to either the West Flanders or East Flanders languages. There is a suggestion that only those from the immediate area can understand Waregems well, but until we get better data, it is premature to split it.

Vlaemsch or French West Flemish is a highly divergent West Flemish lect spoken in France that has been diverging from the rest of West Flemish for over 300 years since Louis XIV annexed it to France around 1680. Vlaemsch is full of French loan words, and other West Flemish speakers (such as Oostende West Flemish speakers) have a hard time understanding it, so it is probably a separate language.

Though it is recognized by the French government as a minority language (as “Dutch”), it gets no support from them and has been declining for centuries. It has 60,000 speakers, 20,000 of whom use it every day. The vast majority of Vlaemsch speakers are over age 60. Vlaemsch will probably go extinct in a matter of decades.

East Flemish or East Vlaams is a separate language spoken mostly in East Flanders in Belgium but also in Zeelandic Flanders in the Netherlands. It is not intelligible with AN. For example, the East Flemish speakers in Zeelandic Flanders have a hard time understanding the Brabantian Dutch speakers across the Schelde River. Also, East Flemish speakers have a hard time understanding West Flemish.

West Flemish speakers moving to Ghent in large numbers have created so many problems that the city council took action against them for “speaking a language that no one could understand,” that is, West Flemish.

Not only is East Flemish a separate language, but there is tremendous dialect diversity inside of East Flanders. In fact, it appears that East Flanders is more than one language. East Flemish probably has about 1.1 million speakers, almost all in Belgium, but that figure may be inflated. The true number of speakers is hard to determine. There are 1.4 million residents in the area, but they cannot all speak East Flemish.

Gents is a highly divergent East Flemish lect spoken in Ghent, Belgium that appears to be a separate language. It is considered very hard to understand even by other East Flemish speakers, so it may be a separate language. To South Brabantian speakers, it may as well be Greek.

In fact, there are two different dialects of Gents, one on the west side of the city and another on the east side. In addition, the dialects of the villages around Ghent are also said to be different from Gents itself. Intelligibility data for the various dialects in and around Ghent is not known. This language has many features of a “language island,” in that it differs markedly from surrounding East Flemish lects. Gents has a strong French influence and many French loans.

Dendermonds is another highly divergent East Flemish lect spoken in the city of Dendermode. Studies indicate that other East Flemish speakers have a hard time understanding it (De Houwer 2008), so it may well be a separate language. Dendermode is about 1/2 way between Antwerp and Ghent. This language has heavy Brabantian influence, and that is why it is so different from the rest of East Flemish.

Lokers is an East Flemish dialect spoken in the city of Lokeren in the northeast of East Flanders on the border with Brabantian. Here East Flemish is transitioning to a group of Brabantian dialects called Wase, spoken in the Waseland. This dialect may be close to Dendermonds.

Limburgish is an East Low Franconian language that is spoken in the Netherlands and Belgium. It is a separate language and is not intelligible with other forms of Low Franconian nor with any Low German. As a part of Meuse-Rhenish, it is transitional between Low Franconian (Dutch) and Low German (German).

Limburgish and Dutch had very different geneses – Limburgish came from Old East Low Franconian, and Dutch came from Old West Low Franconian. It has 1.6 million speakers. Each village and city has its own dialect, but they are all mutually intelligible. There are as many as 580 different Limburgish dialects.

Although Limburgish is said to be intelligible with Ripuarian, the truth is that it is not inherently intelligible with it. There are however some Limburgish and Ripuarian dialects on the borders of the two that are transitional between Ripuarian and Limburgish. See the South Guelderish and the Low Dietsch entries here for more on those transitional languages.

Limburgish is one of the Meuse-Rhenish languages. It is often claimed that Limburgish is intelligible with German, but this is not so. The intelligibility situation with regard to Limburgish and AN is confusing.  Some say that Limburgish has marginal intelligibility with AN (Zweers 2009), but other Dutch speakers say that they can barely understand a word of Limburgish. A study concluded that Dutch speakers have about 89% intelligibility of Limburgish.

The real pure Limburgish is not intelligible with Standard Dutch at all, but what is most often spoken nowadays is a sort of a Dutch-Limburgish mixed language that is intelligible to most AN speakers. However, there are still some speakers of the real pure Limburgish around.

This Wikipedia article on Limburgish is wrong. It groups all of Bergish, South Guelderish, Southeast Limburgish and Dutch Limburgish into one “variety” or dialect, and then refuses to call that variety a language.

However, “Limburgish” is composed of at least four languages. Bergish is a separate language, not intelligible with Southeast Limburgish (60% intelligibility), South Guelderish, or Dutch Limburgish. Neither is Southeast Limburgish intelligible with Limburgish. And Venlo may well be a separate language all of its own.

Greater Limburgish, including Limburgish, SE Limburgish, Kleverlandish and Bergish.
Click to enlarge. Greater Limburgish, including Limburgish, SE Limburgish, Kleverlandish and Bergish.

Geleens is an East Limburgish dialect that is spoken in the city of Geleen in Limburg Province in the Netherlands. It differs quite a bit from the dialect of Sittard, even though the two cities have recently merged.

Sittards or Zittesj is an East Limburgish dialect that is spoken in Sittard in Limburg Province, the Netherlands. It’s quite different from Geleens. It is closest to dialects right across the German border, but otherwise it is a transitional Middle Limburgish-South Limburgish dialect, similar to Roermond.

Heerlen Dutch is a Limburgish-Dutch creole or dialect of Dutch spoken in the city of Heerlen in Limburg Province, the Netherlands. In the 1800’s, there were many coal miners in this area and everyone spoken Heerlen Limburgish. As the mines expanded, people came to work from all over the Netherlands and even the Kerkrade region of Germany.

None of them spoke Heerlen, and many didn’t even speak Limburgish. Later a sort of creole based on AN and Heerlen arose. What we have now is a Dutch dialect with a Heerlen base and a strong Limburgish flavor, not really a Limburgish dialect per se. Heerlen Dutch is apparently intelligible with AN.

Hasselts or Hessels is a Limburgish dialect spoken in Hasselt in Belgian Limburg. Dialect leveling has been occurring in the past 50 years as rural residents of the surrounding villages moved to Hasselt. It is best analyzed as a Belgian Limburgish dialect transitional with Brabantian.

Maastrichts is a Limburgish dialect spoken in the city of Maastricht in Dutch Limburgish. It has 60,000 speakers and hence is the largest Limburgish dialect. It is still widely spoken in the city. Maastrichts differs significantly from the dialects of the neighboring villages.

Horsters is the Limburgish dialect spoken in the city of Horst in Dutch Limburg. Some say that everything north of Venlo is outside of Limburgish proper and into South Guelderish. That’s an interesting argument, but we will leave it in Limburgish for now, especially since Limburgish isoglosses extend to just north of Horst. Some see it as transitional between Limburgish and South Guelderish, Kleverlandish and North Limburgish.

Tegels is is a Limburgish dialect spoken in the city of Tegelen in Dutch Limburg. Although it is very close to Venlo, Tegels speaks a typical Limburgish dialect, while Venlo is North Limburgish and is probably a separate language altogether.

They are so different because Tegelen was ruled by the Duchy of Gulik for 750 years, while Venlo was under the Duchy of Gelders for 400 years. The Duchys did not end their rule of both cities until around 1800 or so. Tegelen did not go to the Netherlands until 1817, when it was traded to Netherlands from Germany in exchange for the Dutch city of Henzogenrath, which was traded to Germany.

Weerts or Wieërts is a Limburgish dialect spoken in the city of Weert in Dutch Limburg. It is a Middle Limburgish dialect. Weerts, together with another Limburgish dialect spoken in Hamont in Belgian Limburg and a dialect of Bavarian, has more vowels than any other lect on Earth – 28 of them. The area around Weerts has many forests, sand dunes, bogs and marshes. This part of the Netherlands is also very Catholic. In the far north, it tends to be a lot more Protestant.

Hamont is a Limburgish dialect spoken in Hamont, on the border with the Netherlands in Belgian Limburg.

The map below (Fig. 3) is quite interesting. As we can see below, Limburgish is further removed from Dutch than Veluws, Afrikaans, and Dutch Low Saxon. Much of Dutch Low Saxon is also further from Dutch than Afrikaans.

Map of the Netherlands and Belgium, in Dutch, showing the positions of various lects. The map shows Dutch Low Saxon, Hollandic, Brabantian, Kleverlandish, Limburgish, Low German, Zeelandic, West Flemish, East Flemish and French Flemish and Afrikaans in South Africa. It also shows Indonesia, Suriname and the Dutch Antilles as Dutch speaking regions.
Fig. 3. Map of the Netherlands and Belgium, in Dutch, showing the positions of various lects. Higher numbers are farther from AN; lower numbers are closer to AN. As you can see, some varieties of West Flemish, Limburgish and Dutch Low Saxon are very far from AN.Afrikaans is also quite a ways away. The map shows Dutch Low Saxon, Hollandic, Brabantian, Kleverlandish, Limburgish, Low German, Zeelandic, West Flemish, East Flemish and French Flemish and Afrikaans in South Africa. It also shows Indonesia, Suriname and the Dutch Antilles as Dutch speaking regions. Click to enlarge.

South Low Franconian is the name for a lect spoken in Germany just east of the Limburgs Province in the Netherlands. Dialects include Jlabbacher Platt of central Mönchengladbach, Föschelner Platt of Fischeln in Krefeld, and Dremmener Platt of Dremmen near Heinsberg. The intelligibility of these German lects with the rest of Meuse-Rhenish is unclear, and it may be a separate language altogether. The closest in intelligibility would be to Bergish, Venloos and Southeast Limburgish in that order.

Southeast Limburgish (SE Limburgish) is a East Low Franconian language made up of a number of dialects that are transitional between Limburgish and Ripuarian. It has a close relationship with Limburgish. Some call SE Limburgish/Low Dietsch/Aachen German by an alternate name – Limburgish-Ripuarian of the Three Countries Area.

Some classifications put this language into Ripaurian, but it is possibly better analyzed as Limburgish or better yet Ripuarian-Limburgish transitional. The classification is important since if it is Ripaurian, this language is “German,” and if it is Limburgish, it is “Dutch.” But if we see it as Ripuarian-Limburgish transitional, this language may most properly be characterized as a Dutch-German transitional lect.

It is spoken in Belgium around Eupen, including Welkenraedt, Lontzen, Raeren, La Calamine, Eynatten, Gemmenich, and Moresnet; in the Netherlands between Ubach and Brunssum in the towns of Kerkrade, Bocholtz and Vaals, where it is known as Waals; and in a large area in North Rhine-Westphalia between the cities of Aachen and Eschweiler in the towns of Stolberg, Wurselen, Eilendorf and Kohlscheid. To the east over by Duren (Dürener Platt), we start moving into Ripuarian proper. It is also spoken in the far upper Eifel region around the Hurtgen Forest (Tulipan 2013).

It is a separate language, unintelligible to those outside the region. Most if not all Southeast Limburgish lects appear to be intelligible with each other (Tulipan 2013).

Bocholtzer is a SE Limburgish dialect spoken in the towns of Bocholtz, Bocholtzerheide and Baneheide in Limburg Province. It is still very widely spoken in the area. Intelligibility is about 90% with Stolberg German (Tulipan 2013).

Aachen German or Aachener Platt is a SE Limburgish dialect spoken in this same general region in Aachen, North Rhine-Westphalia on the border with Belgium. Aachen German has 60% intelligibility with Bergish, the form of Limburgish spoken across the border (Harms 2009). The common notion is that Aachen German and Bergish are the same language. Since they are not intelligible, this is not the case.

Intelligibility with Stolberg German is excellent (Tulipan 2013). Aachen German intelligibility with Ripaurian is variable, but averages 40% (Köhler 2015). Aachen German has 50% with Dürener Platt, 30% intelligibility with Kolsch, and 25% with Eupener Platt.

Stolberg German is a SE Limburgish dialect spoken in Stolberg, Germany, near Aachen. It is intelligible with Aachen German, though it has more Ripuarian influences. and 90% intelligibility with Kirchröadsj, Vaals, etc. Other than with Kirchröadsj and Vaals, etc. intelligibility is not good with the rest of the lects spoken in the Netherlands, including Limburgish proper. Stolberg German is still widely spoken (Tulipan 2013).

Kirchröadsj is a SE Limburgish dialect spoken in Kerkrade in the Netherlands. It is often put into Ripuarian, but we will put it in SE Limburgish instead. Kirchröadsj is not fully intelligible with Kölsch. But it along with Vaals and related lects is about 90% intelligible with Stolberg German (Tulipan 2013).

Low Dietsch is a lect, often thought to be a SE Limburgish dialect, that is made up of a number of subdialects that are transitional between Limburgish and Ripuarian. However, Low Dietsch is better seen as a separate language because intelligibility with Southeast Limburgs is poor (Köhler 2015). When people say that Limburgish and Ripuarian are mutually intelligible, what they mean is that there are languages like Low Dietsch and Southeast Limburgish that are transitional between Limburgish and Ripuarian.

Around Eupen a Low Dietsch dialect called Eupener Platt (Eupen German) is spoken. Eupener Platt has only 25% intelligibility with Aachen German. Aachen Platt speakers say that Eupener sounds funny, like a mixture of Platt, French and English (Köhler 2015). Intelligibility is difficult with Stolberg German (Tulipan 2013).

Low Dietsch has been slowly dying out for a long time, since World War 1, almost a century, and it is not spoken much anymore. However, in recent years it is undergoing a Renaissance, and it is now being spoken more, even by young people, who seem to be spearheading the resurgence (Tulipan 2013). Eupener Platt has high but not full intelligibility with Kolsch (~70%) and the Middle Limburgish spoken in Heeren.

The following is an example of Eupener Platt.

VERTÉLLTJERE

De Ammerekaaner
By Siegfried Theissen

Wi de Ammerekaaner no Öëpe koëmte – iich gelöüf, et woër veerenvärrtech off voëvenvärrtech – wonnde ver ä gene Wéërt. Wi ver no hoërte dat-te Ammerekaaner ä gene Hollefter, a ge Schokkelaates, en gruëte Käüche oppgemaakt hoë, léïpe véër Kaïnder dahään, waïl aïnder es fertaut hoë, dadd-et ta Panneköük ömmesöss güëf. Änn taatsächlech, jédderéïne kräch esuvoël Panneköük, wi-e draage koss!

Änn véër Kaïnder krächte ouch noch en Taafel Schokkelaat, gätt watt fer allt lang neet mië geséë hoë. Dé Schokkelaat woër esu schwarrt wi di ammerekaanesche Köch.

Di Schwarrte doschde suwisuë märr Dénnsmättje schpéële! Obb-ene gouwe Daach gäng derr Vadder métt, änn éïne van di Schwarrte, dé gätt Döttsch koss, waïl-e e gannts Joër bi de Döttsche gevange gewässt woër, vrodde ann derr Vadder, off-e neet föël Gaïlt ferdeene wöül. Derr Vadder woër natüürlech mésstrouwesch änn saat: „ Watt möss-ech da davöër doë?“. – „Véër Schwarrte, saat-é Schwarrte, wäärde van de wétte Offtséëre esuë schléët behaïndelt, ver wäärde ouch esuë schléët betallt, dadd-iich nou oug ens gätt ferdéïne wéll!

Iich hann ene ganntse Kammjong voll Tsigerätte geklaut, änn dé wéll ech nou vöër voëvduusent Frang verkoupe. Et möss waal hü noch séë, waïl möëre wäärde ver versatt!“ Derr Vadder ho jo di voëvduusent Frang geschpaart, mä e saat, e möss terösch métt sinn Vro drövver kalle.

De Modder saat: „ Dat-tönnt fer! Esunne Kammjong Tsigerätte éss en Milljuën wäärt! Di Tsigerätte verkloppe ver ä Oëke, änn dé Kammjong wäärt fer béï ene Buër kwiit.“ Mä derr Vadder woër te bang. E woss neet, wu e dé Kammjong aunderschtélle köss, änn-e saat ouch: „Wänn de Ammerekaaner es schnappe, da schéëte di es, of-fer koëme joërelang ä gene Topp.“ Do saat-e Modder: „No hä ver ens Milljonäär wäärde könne, änn no hass-tou géïn Kuraasch!“ Mä derr Vadder saat märr: „Dou haas-tech förrege Wéëk allt genoch gelaïst!“

Iich woss néït, watt-e damétt maïnt, änn do vertaut de Modder: „ Ä gen Gosspertschtroët sönnd ouch Ammerekaaner änne su Huus, änn jéddesch Kiër wi ech da verbéïkoëmt, vrodde esunne Schwarrte: ‚ No Cognac? I give Cigarettes and Chocolate for Cognac!’ Iich ho allt lang géïne Konnjakk mië, mä ech ho waal noch en léëch Konnjakkflaïsch, médd-et Étikätt änn dréï Schtääre dropp.

Iich di Bubbel voll Tië gedoë, derr Schtopp dropp, alles fië togepläkkt änn no di Ammerekaaner. Wi di di Flaïsch soëge, paggde di mech en Schtang Tsigerätte änn dréï Taafele Schokkelaat änn en Tüüt, änn ië di di Flaïsch oppmaake kosste, léïp iich ewäkk, datt mech de Vokke vloëge. Wänn di mech kréëge häë, di häë miich kaut gemakkt! Mä saïtämm bänn ech neet mië dörrech gen Gosspertschtroët gegange!“

Hôessëlts is a Low Dietsch dialect spoken in Belgian Limburg in the small city of Hoeselt. It’s dying out, but a dictionary of it was recently published.

Dutch to German transition dialects - Kleverlandish in the north, Niederfrankisch in the middle and Ripuarian in the south
Fig. 4 Dutch to German transition dialects – Kleverlandish in the north, Niederfrankisch in the middle and Ripuarian in the south. Click to enlarge.

Aeres, Æres or Ourish is a West Central German Central Franconian language spoken around the German-Dutch border area that is closely related to, but very different from, Limburgish. It is spoken in several villages in the Dutch provinces of Gelderland and Overijssel and in the German state of Nordrhein-Westfalen.

It has 600 speakers, but there were formerly many more. Most speakers are elderly. Some say it is part of Dutch Low Saxon, others that is close to Limburgish, and others that it is close to Frisian, so its classification is quite confused. Some people say that the whole idea of this language is a fraud since good sources are hard to find, but this seems questionable. On the other hand, the existence of this language has not been well proven.

South Guelderish/Kleverlandish is a Low Franconian language consisting of South Guelderish spoken in Netherlands and and Kleverlandish spoken in Germany. It is part of Meuse-Rhenish, and hence is transitional between Low Franconian (Dutch) and Low German (German).

Dialects include Rheden, Cleves (Kleve, Kleef), Oberhausen, Essen-Werder, Venlo, Venray, Liemers, Cuijk, Groesbeek and Zevenaar, and also the dialects of Northern Limburgish. The Cuijk dialect is typical. South Guelderish has a very heavy Frisian substratum. Based on its distance to AN alone (see Fig. 3) it must have difficult intelligibility with AN, probably along the lines of Zeelandic.

Overbetuws is a South Guelderish dialect spoken in the Upper Betuws region of Gelderland. Cities in this area include Valberg, Elst and Zetten. It was widely spoken until recently, when it began to decline. It is similar to Liemers.

Liemers is a South Guelderish dialect transitional to Achterhoeks that is spoken in the Liemers region in the far east of Gelderland east of Arnhem to the German border. It is spoken in the towns of Didam, Zevenaar, Lobith and Wehl. This dialect is basically South Guelderish transitional to Achterhoeks Low Saxon.

Kleverlandish is South Guelderish spoken in Germany along the border with the Netherlands. Kleverlandish lects are quite a bit different from South Gulderish, but intelligibility data is lacking.

This dialect is often referred to as Kleverländisch. It is spoken southeast of Munster along the border with the Netherlands and north of Cologne in North Rhine-Westphalia.

Kleverlandish is not intelligible with Bergish (Harms 2009), as one is an analogue of North Limburgish and the other an analogue of South Limburgish. Venlo Kleverlandish is incomprehensible to most Dutch speakers. Kleverlandish is still widely spoken in Wesels, Germany, at least by the older generation (Anonymous 2009).

Venloos is an extremely divergent Dutch lect spoken in the city of Venlo in the center of Limburg Province. In the north of Limburg, Limburgish is no longer spoken, and the lect changes to more of a Gulderish/Brabantian type.

Venloos is interesting because it is so different. It seems to be transitional between Limburgish, Ripuarian German, and Gulderish/Brabantian. On purely structural grounds, there are suggestions that it is a separate language, but since we are dividing only on intelligibility and not structural grounds here, that won’t cut it. In the linguistic literature, statements are made to the effect, “If Limburgish is a separate language, then Venloos must surely be also.”

Venloos is regarded as particularly incomprehensible by many AN speakers, much more so than Limburgish. Venloos may well be a separate language, as it appears to be poorly understood outside of the Venlo region. Venloos is still very widely spoken in Venlo, even by young people. The Heinisch dialects next to the Dutch border in Viersen (Viersener Platt), Breyellsch Platt of Breyell in Nettetal and Jriefrother Platt of Grefrath are intelligible with Venloos.

A map of the Kleverlandish language, including all of its dialects.
A map of the Kleverlandish language, including towns where it is spoken.

Bergish or Neiderrbergisch is a form of Low Rhenish that is analogous to Limburgish. This is Limburgish spoken on the other side of the border in Germany, but the variety in Germany is a separate language.

There are two high level splits in Neiderrbergisch, Südniederfränkisch or Bergisch and Ostbergisch. However, both appear to be intelligible, so they are dialects of a single language (Harms 2009). The following nonbolded entries are all dialects of Neiderrbergisch Low Rhenish.

Ostbergisch or East Bergisch is spoken around Mülheim an der Ruhr, Saarn and Gummersbach. Gummersbach is a dialect of this language. All dialects are intelligible with Düsseldorver Platt Bergish (Harms 2009). Ostbergisch has a close relationship with the Sallands Gelders-Overijssels Dutch Low Saxon dialect spoken in Zutphen, however, the two are not completely intelligible. Dialects include Duisburg and Wuppertal.

Mülheim an der Ruhr is the classic form of Ostbergisch spoken in Mülheim an der Ruhr, Nordrhein-Westfalen (North Rhine-Westphalia), Germany. It is quite different, but it is still intelligible with the other dialects.

Saarn Mülheim an der Ruhr is spoken in the Saarn District of Mülheim an der Ruhr, Nordrhein-Westfalen (North Rhine-Westphalia), Germany, but it differs considerably from the standard version of Ostbergisch. Nevertheless, it is fully intelligible with the other dialects.

Bergish is one of two high level splits in Neiderrbergisch. It is definitely not intelligible with Cleves Kleverlandish (Harms 2009). This language is based on Low Rhenish but has acquired a heavy Ripuarian layer such that speakers feel that their speech somewhat resembles the Ripuarian language Kölsch, which is nearby (Harms 2009).

There are various dialects of this language, including Krieewelsch, spoken in central Kresweld, Ödingsch of Uerdingen in Krefeld, Metmannsch Platt of Mettmann, Düsseldorver Platt of northern and central Düsseldorf, Vogteier, spoken in Nieukerk, Solinger Platt of Solingen, Remscheder Platt of Remscheid, Rotinger Platt of Ratingen, and Wülfrother Platt of Wülfrath which is located between Düsseldorf and Wuppertal. Solingen, Krieewelsch and Wülfrath are all mutually intelligible (Harms 2009). It is also spoke in Neuss, Remscheid, Mochengladbach and Heinsberg.

Düsseldorver Platt is intelligible with Ostbergisch but not with South Guelderish, Limburgish or Aachen German. Düsseldorver Platt has 60% intelligibility with Aachen German. Düsseldorver Platt is not fully intelligible with any of the various lects spoken in the Netherlands (Harms 2009).

Düsseldorver Platt is mostly only spoken by older people these days, who nevertheless keep it very well alive. Middle-aged people have passive competence, but often not active, and young people may lack either, though some can hear the language.

Solinger Platt is a form of Bergish spoken in Solingen, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. The link leads to a description of it and a transcription of a short story in the dialect. It is fully intelligible with Düsseldorver Platt (Harms 2009).

The Meuse-Rhenish lects, including SE Limburgish, Limburgish, Bergish, and Kleverlandish.
Click to enlarge. The Meuse-Rhenish lects, including SE Limburgish, Limburgish, Bergish, and Kleverlandish.

References

Anonymous. Wesels Kleverlandish native speaker, Wesels, Germany. Personal communication. July 2009.

Anonymous. Antwerps, AN and Verkavelingsvlaams speaker, Antwerp, Belgium. Personal communication. January 2010.

Berns, J.B. 1991. “De Kaart van de Nederlandse Dialecten”, in Herman Crompvoets and Ad Dams, eds., Kroesels op de Bozzem. Het Dialectenboek, Waalre:24-27

DeEllis, Jonathon. Dutch-English translator and former Venlo resident for 10 years. January 2010. Personal communication.

Felder, Lianne. May 2015. Resident of Groningen City, Netherlands, ABN speaker. Personal communication.

Gooskens, Charlotte & Heeringa, Wilbert. 2004. The Position of Frisian in the Germanic Language Area. In: Gilbert, D. &  Schreuder, M. &  Knevel, N. (eds.), On the Boundaries of Phonology and Phonetics, 61-87. Klankleergroep, Faculty of Arts, University of Groningen, Groningen. Dedicated to Tjeerd de Graaf.

Gooskens, Charlotte and Kürschner, Sebastian. 2009. On the Low Saxon Dialect Continuum – Terminology and Research. In Lenz, Alexandra N.; Gooskens, Charlotte and Reker, Siemon (Eds.). Low Saxon Dialects Across Borders – Niedersächsische Dialecte Über Grenzen Hinweg, Zeitschrift fur Dialektologie und Linguistik. Beihefte 138:9-27.

Gooskens, Charlotte; Kürschner, Sebastian and van Bezooijen, Renée. Intelligibility of Low and High German to Speakers of Dutch. Dialectologia (submitted for publication, not yet published).

Grondelaers, Stef. Linguist, the Netherlands. Personal communication, August 2009.

Harms, Biggi. Düsseldorf Bergish native speaker. Personal communication. March 2009.

Heeringa, Wilbert. 2004. Dialect Variation in and Around Frisia: Classification and Relationships. Us Wurk; Tydskrift foar Frisistyk 53(4).

Heeringa, Wilbert. Jan. 2004. Measuring Dialect Pronunciation Differences Using Levenshtein Distance (Chapter 9). PhD Dissertation, University of Groningen.

Gooskens, Charlotte and van Bezooijen, Renée. 2005. How Easy Is It For Speakers of Dutch To Understand Spoken and Written Frisian and Afrikaans, and Why? In: J. Doetjes and J. van de Weijer (eds). Linguistics in the Netherlands 22:13-24.

Houwer, Annick; Remael, Aline and Vandekerckhove, Reinhild. July 2008. Vandekerckhove Intralingual Open Subtitling in Flanders: Audiovisual Translation, Linguistic Variation and Audience Needs. Journal of Specialized Translation 10.

Hinrichs, Erhard; Gerdemann, Dale and Nerbonne, John. Undated. Measuring Linguistic Unity and Diversity in Europe. Project Proposal. Rijksuniversiteit Groningen.

Köhler, Pascal. Eschweiler German and German native speaker. Personal communication. January 20, 2015

Nerbonne, J. W.; Heeringa, E.; van den Hout, P.; van der Kooi, S. Otten, and van de Vis, W. 1996. Phonetic Distance Between Dutch Dialects. In: G. Durieux, W. Daelemans, and S. Gillis (eds.). CLIN VI, Papers from the Sixth CLIN Meeting. Antwerpen. University of Antwerp, Center for Dutch Language and Speech, 185-202.

Smith, Norval. Linguistics professor, the Netherlands. Personal communication. March 2009.

ter Denge, Martin. Twents native speaker, Rijssen, the Netherlands. Personal communication. November 2009.

Tulipan, Laszlo. Stolberg German native speaker, Stolberg, Germany. Personal communication. April 2013.

van Bezooijen, Renée and van den Berg, Rob. 1999.
Taalvariëteiten in Nederland en Vlaanderen: Hoe Staat Het Met Hun Verstaanbaarheid? Taal en Tongval 51(1): 15-33.

Zweers, Steven. Dutch native speaker, the Netherlands. Personal communication. March 2009.

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More On The Hardest Languages To Learn – Indo-European Languages

Caution: This post is very long! It runs to 184 pages on the Web. Updated November 25, 2016.

This post will deal with how hard it is for English speakers to learn other IE languages. The English section will necessarily deal with how hard it is for non-English speakers to learn English, and as such will be less scientific. Nevertheless, there are certain things about English that tend to cause problems for many, such as phrasal verbs.

We did a post on this earlier, but it looks like we only scratched the surface. There are many webpages on this topic, and one could read about the subject for a long time, but after a while, things start getting repetitive.

This post is very good. There are more in various places on the Web.

For starters, before we do our own analysis, let’s look at what some other people came up with. This post is very good. They did a survey, and the post describes the results of the survey.

According to the survey, the nine hardest languages to learn overall were Mandarin, Hungarian, Finnish, Polish, Arabic, Hindi, Icelandic, German and Swedish.

The eight hardest languages to speak (or to pronounce correctly, specifically) were French, Mandarin, Polish, Korean, Hungarian, Arabic, Basque and Hindi.

The nine hardest languages to write were Arabic, Mandarin, Polish, French, Serbo-Croatian, Japanese, Russian, Basque and English.

How does that survey line up with the facts? Surveys are just opinions of L2 learners, and carry variant validity. For starters, let’s throw Swedish off the list altogether, as it actually seems to be a pretty easy language to learn. It’s interesting that some people find it hard, but the weight of the evidence suggests that more folks find it easy than difficult.

Mandarin, Arabic, Japanese and Russian of course use different alphabets and this is why they were rated as hard to write.

Method. 42 IE languages were examined. A literature survey, combined with interviews of various L2 language learners was conducted. In addition, 100 years of surveys on the question by language instructors was reviewed. The US military’s School of Languages in Monterey’s ratings system for difficulty of learning various languages was analyzed.

Results were collated in an impressionistic manner along a majority rules line in order to form final opinions. For example, a minority said that Portuguese or Spanish were very hard to learn, but the consensus view was that they were quite easy. In this case, the minority opinion was rejected, and the consensus view was adopted. The work received a tremendous amount of criticism, often hostile to very hostile, after publication, and many changes were made to the text.

Clearly, such a project will necessarily be more impressionistic than scientific. Scientific tests of the relative difficulty of learning different languages will have to await the development of algorithms specifically designed to measure such things. And even then, surely there will be legions of “We can’t prove anything” naysayers, as this is the heyday of the “We can’t prove anything” School of Physics Envy in Linguistics.

One common criticism was, “In Linguistics, the standard view is that there is no such thing as an easy or difficult language to learn. All languages are equally difficult or easy to learn.” Unless we are talking about children learning an L1 (and even then that’s a dubious assertion), this statement was rejected as simply untrue and exemplar of the sort of soft science (“We can’t prove anything about anything”) mushiness that has overtaken Linguistics in recent years.

Sociolinguistics and Applied Linguistics have long been nearly ruined by soft science mushiness, and in recent years, soft science “We can’t prove anything” muddleheadedness has overtaken Historical Linguistics in a horrible way. Bizarrely enough, this epidemic of Physics Envy has been clouded, as one might suspect, in claims of rigorous application of the scientific method.

But hard sciences prove things all the time. Whenever a field claims that almost nothing in the field is provable, you’re heading in the realms of Politically Correct soft science Humanities brain mush.

Results. A ratings system was designed in terms of how difficult it would be for an English-language speaker to learn the language. In the case of English, English was judged according to how hard it would be for a non-English speaker to learn the language. Speaking, reading and writing were all considered.

Ratings. Languages were rated 1-5 based on difficulty for an English speaker, easiest to hardest. 1 = easiest, 2 = moderately easy to average, 3 = average to moderately difficult, 4 = very difficult, 5 = most difficult of all.

Time needed. Time needed for an English language speaker to learn the language “reasonably well”: Level 1 languages = 3 months-1 year. Level 2 languages = 6 months-1 year. Level 3 languages = 1-2 years. Level 4 languages = 2 years. Level 5 languages = 3-4 years, but some may take longer.

Conclusion. The soft science, Politically Correct mush-speak from the swamps of Sociolinguistics currently in vogue, “All languages are equally difficult or easy for any adult to learn,” was rejected. The results of this study indicate that languages to indeed differ dramatically in how difficult they are for L2 English language learners.

Indo-European

Indo-Iranian

Indo-Aryan

Ind0-Ayran languages like Kashmiri, Hindi and especially Sanskrit are quite hard, and Sanskrit is legendary for its extreme complexity.

Central Zone
Western Hindi
Hindustani
Khariboli

The Hindi script is quite opaque to Westerners, some of whom say that Chinese script is easier. You speak one way if you are talking to a man or a woman, and you also need to take into account whether you as speaker are male or female. Gender is also as prominent as in Spanish; you have to remember whether any given noun is masculine or feminine.Hindi is definitely an IE language by its rich system of gender, case and number inflection.

The most difficult aspects of Hindi are the pronunciation and the case system. In addition, Hindi is split ergative, and not only that, but it actually has a tripartite ergative system, and the ergativity is split by tense like in Persian.

The distinction between aspirated/unaspirated and alveolar/retroflex consonants is hard for many to make. There is a four-way distinction ion the t and d sounds with aspirated/unaspirated dental and aspirated/unaspirated retroflex t‘s and d‘s. The are three different r sounds – one that sounds like the English r and two retroflex r‘s that are quite hard to make or even distinguish, especially at the end of a word. Hindi also has nasalized vowels.

If you come from a language that has case, Hindi’s case system will not be overly difficult.

In addition, there is a completely separate word for each number from 1-100, which seems unnecessarily complicated.

However, Hindi has a number of cognates with English. I am not sure if they are Indic loans into English or they share a common root going back to Proto-Indo-European (PIE).

loot plunder/destroy, English loot.
mausaum
season/weather, English equivalent is monsoon
toofan
storm, English equiv. typhoon
kammarban
d – something tied around the waist, English equiv. cummerbund
badnaam
– literally bad name, means bad reputation. These are both cognates to the English words bad and name.
bangalaahouse, English equiv. bungalow
jangal
jungle
pandit
priest, English equiv. pundit

Nevertheless, Hindi typically gets a high score in ratings of difficult languages to learn. Based on this high score across multiple surveys, we will give it a relatively high rating.

Hindi is rated 4, very hard to learn.

Punjabi is probably harder than any other Indic language in terms of phonology because it uses tones. It’s like Hindi with tones. It has either two or three tones: high or high-falling, low or low-rising and possibly a neutral or mid tone. It is very odd for an IE language to have tones.

Punjabi is rated 4.5, very difficult.

Eastern Zone
Assamese–Bengali

Bengali is similar to Hindi, but it lacks grammatical gender, and that fact alone is said to make it much easier to learn. Bengali speak tend to make stereotypical gender errors when speaking in Hindi. Nevertheless, it uses the Sanskrit alphabet, and that alone makes it hard to read and write.

Bengali is rated 3.5, harder than average to learn.

Northern Zone
Eastern Pahari

Nepali is a very difficult language to learn as it has a complex grammar. It has case not for nouns themselves but for clause constituents. It has tense, aspect, and voice. Nepali has an unbelievable 11 noun classes or genders, and affixes on the verb mark the gender, number and person of the subject. It even has split ergativity, strange for an IE language.

Nepali has the odd feature, like Japanese, of having verbs have completely different positive and negative forms.

~ hoina (I am ~ I am not)
chas ~ chainas (you (intimate) are ~ you are not)
bolchu ~ boldina (I speak ~ I don’t speak)

Note the extreme differences on the conjugation of the present tense of the verb to be between 1 singular and 2 familiar singular. They look nothing like each other at all.

Adjectives decline in peculiar way. There is an inflection on adjectives that means “qualified.” So can say this by either inflecting the adjective:

dublo ~ dublai (tall ~ quite tall)
hoco ~ hocai (short ~ rather short)
rāmro ~ rāmrai (nice ~ nice enough)

or by putting the invariant qualifying adverb in front of the adjective:

ali dubloquite tall
ali hocorather short
ali rāmronice enough

Nepali gets a 4.5 rating, very difficult.

Northwestern Zone

Sinhalese-Maldivian

Sinhala is also difficult but it is probably easier than most other languages in the region.

Sinhala is rated 3, average difficulty.

Sanskrit

Sanskrit is legendary for its difficulty. It has script that goes on for long sequences in which many small individual words may be buried. You have to take apart the sequences to find the small words. However, the words are further masked by tone sandhi running everything together. Once you tease the sandhi apart, you have to deal with hundreds of compound characters in the script. Once you do those two things, you are left with eight cases, nine declensions, dual number and other fun things.

Even native speakers tend to make grammatical mistakes are admit that parts of the grammar are fiendishly difficult. There are many grammatical features that are rarely or never found in any other language. Noun declension is based on the letter than the noun ends in, for instance, nouns that end in a, e or u all decline differently. There are three genders for nouns, and those all decline differently also. Each noun has eight cases and three numbers (singular, dual and plural) so there are 24 different forms for each noun. Counting the different combinations of endings and genders (all subsumed into a sort of noun class system) there are 20 different “noun classes.”

Combining the “noun classes” with the three genders, you end up with 1,440 different regular forms that nouns can take. To make matters worse, some of the cases have different forms themselves. And there are some exceptions to these rules. The I and you pronouns decline differently, but pronouns are simple compared to nouns.

For the verbs, each verb had exist in 10 different forms of tense or mood (one from Vedic Sanskrit is no longer used). There are six tenses and four moods. The six tenses are: one present tense, two future tenses and three past tenses. The moods are: imperative, dubitive (expresses uncertainty), optative (expresses hope or offers a benediction) and a form that expresses the concept if only, then… There are two different conjugations based on who is the beneficiary of the action, you or others. There are ten different classes of verbs, each of which conjugates differently. Additionally, each verb has a different form in the singular, dual and plural and in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd persons.

Once you get past all of that, you are ready to take on the really difficult parts of the language, participles, noun derivatives and agglutination, each of which is far more complicated than the above. To add insult to injury, Sanskrit has pitch accent.

Nevertheless, the language is so mathematically precise and regular that some have said it is a perfect language for computer programming. There may not be a single irregularity in the whole language.

Sanskrit is rated 5, extremely difficult.

Indo-Iranian
Iranian
Western Iranian
Southwestern Iranian

Iranian

Persian is easier to learn than its reputation, as some say this is a difficult language to learn. In truth, it’s difficulty is only average, and it is one of the easier IE languages to learn. On the plus side, Persian has a very simple grammar and it is quite regular. It has no grammatical gender, no case, no articles, and adjectives never change form. Its noun system is as easy as that of English. The verbal system is a bit harder than English’s, but it is still much easier than that of even the Romance languages. The phonology is very simple.

On the down side, you will have to learn Arabic script. There are many lexical borrowings from Arabic which have no semantic equivalents in Persian.

English: two (native English word) ~ double (Latin borrowing)
Note the semantic transparency in the Latin borrowing.

Persian: do (native Persian word) ~ tasneyat (Arabic borrowing)
Note the utter lack of semantic correlation in the Arabic borrowing.

Some morphology was borrowed as well:

ketābbook
kotobxānah
library (has an Arabic broken plural)

It is a quite easy language to learn at the entry level, but it is much harder to learn at the advanced level, say Sufi poetry, due to difficulty in untangling subtleties of meaning.

Persian gets a 3 rating as average difficulty.

Northwestern Iranian
Kurdish

Kurdish is about as hard to learn as Persian, but it has the added difficulty of pharyngeals, which are very hard for English speakers to make. Like Persian, it is no gender or case, and it also has a tense split ergative system.

Kurdish gets a 4 rating, very hard to learn.

Eastern Iranian
Northeastern

Ossetian is a strange Iranian language that has somehow developed ejectives due to proximity of Caucasian languages which had them. An IE language with ejectives? How odd.

Ossetian gets a 4 rating, very hard to learn.

Indo-European
Romance
Italo-Western
Italo-Dalmatian

Italian is said to be easy to learn, especially if you speak a Romance language or English, but learning to order a pizza and really mastering it are two different things. Foreigners usually do not learn Italian at anywhere near a native level.

For instance, Italian has three types of tenses – simple, compound, and indefinite.

There are also various moods that combine to take tense forms – four subjunctive moods, two conditional moods, two gerund moods, two infinite moods, two participle moods and one imperative mood.

There are eight tenses in the indicative mood – recent past, remote pluperfect, recent pluperfect, preterite (remote past), imperfect, present, future, future perfect. There are four tenses in the subjunctive mood – present, imperfect, preterite and pluperfect. There are two tenses in the conditional mood – present and preterite. There is only one tense in the imperative mood – present. Gerund, participle and infinite moods all take only present and perfect tenses.

Altogether, using these mood-tense combinations, any Italian verb can decline in up to 21 different ways. However, the truth is that most Italians have little understanding of many of these tenses and moods. They do not know how to use them correctly. Hence they are often only used by the most educated people. So an Italian learner does not really need to learn all of these tenses and moods.

Italian has many irregular verbs. There are 600 irregular verbs with all sorts of different irregularities. Nevertheless, it is a Romance language, and Romance has gotten rid of most of its irregularity. The Slavic languages are much more irregular than Romance.

Counterintuitively, some Italian words are masculine in the singular and feminine in the plural. There are many different ways to say the:

Masculine:

il
i
lo
gli
l’

Feminine:

la
le
l’

Few Italians even write Italian 100% correctly. However, there is no case in Italian, as in all of Romance with the exception of Romanian.

Italian is still easier to learn than French – for evidence see the research that shows Italian children learning to write Italian properly by age six, 6-7 years ahead of French children. This is because Italian orthography is quite sensible and coherent, with good sound-symbol correspondence. Nevertheless, the orthography is not as transparent as Spanish’s.

In a similar sense, Italian changes the meaning of verbs via addition of a verbal prefix:

scrivere
ascrivere
descrivere
prescrivere

mettere
smettere
permettere
sottomettere

porre
proporre

portare
supportare

In these cases, you create completely new verbs via the addition of the verbal prefix to the base. Without the prefix, it is a completely different verb.

Like German and French, Italian forms the auxiliary tense with two different words: avere and essere. This dual auxiliary system is more difficult than French’s and much more difficult than German’s.

Italian is somewhat harder to learn than Spanish or Portuguese but not dramatically so. Italian has more irregularities than those two and has different ways of forming plurals, including two different ways of forming plurals that can mean different things depending on the context. This is a leftover from the peculiarities of the Latin neutral gender. The rules about when plurals end in -io or -e are opaque.

In addition, Italian pronouns and verbs are more difficult than in Spanish. Grammar rules in Spanish are simpler and seem more sensible than in Italian. Italian has the pronominal adverbs ne and se. Their use is not at all intuitive, however, they can be learned with a bit of practice.

Italian pronunciation is a straightforward, but the ce and ci sounds can be problematic. The only sounds that will give you trouble are r, gl and gn.

Italian gets a 3.5 rating, average difficulty.

Often thought to be an Italian dialect, Neapolitan is actually a full language all of its own. In Italy, there is the Neapolitan language and Neapolitan Italian, which is a dialect or “accent” of Italian. Many Italians speak with a Neapolitan accent, and it is easy for non-Neapolitans to understand. However, the Neapolitan language is a a full blown language and is nearly incomprehensible to even speakers of Standard Italian.Neapolitan is said to be easier than Standard Italian. Unlike Italian, Neapolitan conjugation and the vocative are both quite simple and any irregularities that exist seem to follow definite patters.

Neapolitan gets a 2.5 rating, fairly easy.

Western Romance
Gallo-Romance
Oïl
French

French is pretty easy to learn at a simple level, but it’s not easy to get to an advanced level. For instance, the language is full of idioms, many more than your average language, and it’s often hard to figure them out.

One problem is pronunciation. There are many nasal vowels, similar to Portuguese. The eu, u and all of the nasal vowels can be Hell for the learner. There is also a strange uvular r. The dictionary does not necessarily help you, as the pronunciation stated in the dictionary is often at odds with what you will find on the street.

There are phenomena called élision, liaison and enchainement, which is similar to sandhi in which vowels elide between words in fast speech. There are actually rules for this sort of thing, but the rules are complicated, and at any rate, for liaisons at least, they are either obligatory, permitted or forbidden depending on the nature of the words being run together, and it is hard to remember which category various word combinations fall under.

The orthography is also difficult since there are many sounds that are written but no longer pronounced, as in English. Also similar to English, orthography does not line up with pronunciation. For instance, there are 13 different ways to spell the o sound: o, ot, ots, os, ocs, au, aux, aud, auds, eau, eaux, ho and ö.

In addition, spoken French and written French can be quite different. Spoken French uses words and phrases such as c’est foututhe job will not be done, and on which you might never see in written French.

The English language, having no Language Committee, at least has an excuse for the frequently irrational nature of its spelling.

The French have no excuse, since they have a committee that is set up in part to keep the language as orthographically irrational as possible. One of their passions is refusing to change the spelling of words even as pronunciation changes, which is the opposite of what occurs in any sane spelling reform. So French is, like English, frozen in time, and each one has probably gone as long as the other with no spelling reform.

Furthermore, to make matters worse, the French are almost as prickly about writing properly as they are about speaking properly, and you know how they are about foreigners mangling their language.

Despite the many problems of French orthography, there are actually some rules running under the whole mess, and it is quite a bit more sensible than English orthography, which is much more chaotic.

French has a language committee that is always inventing new native French words to keep out the flood of English loans. They have a website up with an official French dictionary showing the proper native coinages to use. Another one for computer technology only is here.

On the plus side, French has a grammar that is neither simple nor difficult; that, combined with a syntax is pretty straightforward and a Latin alphabet make it relatively easy to learn for most Westerners. In addition, the English speaker will probably find more instantly recognizable cognates in French than in any other language.

A good case can be made that French is harder to learn than English. Verbs change much more, and it has grammatical gender. There are 15 tenses in the verb, 18 if you include the pluperfect and the Conditional Perfect 2 (now used only in Literary French) and the past imperative (now rarely used). That is quite a few tenses to learn, but Spanish and Portuguese have similar situations.

A good case can be made that French is harder to learn than Italian in that French children do not learn to write French properly until age 12-13, six years after Italian children.

Its grammar is much more complicated than Spanish’s. Although the subjunctive is more difficult in Spanish than in French, French is much more irregular. Like German, there are two different ways to form the auxiliary tense to have. In addition, French uses particles like y and en that complicate the grammar quite a bit.

French is one of the toughest languages to learn in the Romance family.  In many Internet threads about the hardest language to learn, many language learners list French as their most problematic language.

This is due to the illogical nature of French spelling discussed above such that the spelling of many French words must be memorized as opposed to applying a general sound-symbol correspondence rule. In addition, French uses both acute and grave accents – `´.

French gets a 3.5 rating for more than average difficulty.

Ibero-Romance
West-Iberian
Castilian

Spanish is often said to be one of the easiest languages to learn, though this is somewhat controversial. Personally, I’ve been learning it off and on since age six, and I still have problems, though Spanish speakers say my Spanish is good, but Hispanophones, unlike the French, are generous about these things.

It’s quite logical, though the verbs do decline a lot with tense and number, and there are many irregular verbs, similar to French.

Compare English declensions to Spanish declensions of the verb to read.

English

I read
He reads

Spanish

Yo leo
Tu lees
El lee
Nosotros leemos
Vosotros leéis
Ellos leen
leí
leeré
leería
leyese
leyésemos
leyéseis
¿leísteis?
leyéremos
leeréis
pudísteis haber leído
hubiéremos ó hubiésemos leído

Nevertheless, Romance grammar is much more regular than, say, Polish, as Romance has junked most of the irregularity. Spanish has the good grace to lack case, spelling is a piece of cake, and words are spoken just as they are written. However, there is a sort of case left over in the sense that one uses different pronouns when referring to the direct object (accusative) or indirect object (dative).

Spanish is probably the most regular of the Romance languages, surely more regular than French or Portuguese, and probably more regular than Italian or Romanian. Pluralization is very regular compared to say Italian. There are generally only two plurals, -s and -es, and the rules about when to use one or the other are straightforward. There is only one irregular plural:

hipérbaton -> hipérbatos

This is in reference to a literary figure and you would never use this form in day to day speech.

The trilled r in Spanish often hard for language learners to make.

There is a distinction in the verb to be with two different forms, ser and estar. Non-native speakers almost never learn the use these forms as well as a native speaker. The subjunctive is also difficult in Spanish, and L2 learners often struggle with it after decades of learning.

Spanish pronunciation is fairly straightforward, but there are some sounds that cause problems for learners: j, ll, ñ, g, and r.

One good thing about Spanish is Spanish speakers are generally grateful if you can speak any of their language at all, and are very tolerant of mistakes in L2 Spanish speakers.

Spanish is considered to be easier to learn for English speakers than many other languages, including German. This is because Spanish sentences follow English sentence structure more than German sentences do. Compared to other Romance languages, Spanish one of the easiest to learn. It is quite a bit easier than French, moderately easier than Literary Portuguese, and somewhat easier than Italian.

Nevertheless, Hispanophones say that few foreigners end up speaking like natives. Part of the reason for this is that Spanish is very idiomatic and the various forms of the subjunctive make for a wide range of nuance in expression. Even native speakers make many mistakes when using the subjunctive in conditional sentences. The dialects do differ quite a bit more than most people say they do. The dialects in Latin America and Spain are quite different, and in Latin America, the Argentine and Dominican dialects are very divergent.

Spanish gets rated 2.5, fairly easy.

Galician-Portuguese

Portuguese, like Spanish, is also very easy to learn, though Portuguese pronunciation is harder due to the unusual vowels such as nasal diphthongs and the strange palatal lateral ʎ, which many English speakers will mistake for an l.

Of the nasal diphthongs, ão is the hardest to make. In addition, Brazilian (Br) Portuguese has an r that sounds like an h, and l that sounds like a w and a d that sounds like a j, but only some of the time! Fortunately, in European (Eu) Portuguese, all of these sounds sound as you would expect them to.

Portuguese has two r sounds, a tapped r (ɾ) that is often misconceived as a trilled r (present in some British and Irish English dialects) and an uvular r (ʁ) which is truly difficult to make. However, this is the typical r sound found in French, German, Danish and Hebrew, so if you have a background in one of those languages, this should be an easy sound.  L2 learners not only have a hard time making them but also mix them up sometimes.

You can run many vowels together in Portuguese and still make a coherent sentence. See here:

É o a ou o b? [Euaoube]
Is it (is your answer) a or b?

That utterance turns an entire sentence into a single verb via run-on vowels, five of them in a row.

Most Portuguese speakers say that Portuguese is harder to learn than Spanish, especially the variety spoken in Portugal. Eu Portuguese elides many vowels and has more sounds per symbol than Br Portuguese does. Portuguese has both nasal and oral vowels, while Spanish has only oral values. In addition, Portuguese has 12 vowel phonemes to Spanish’s five.

Portuguese has also retained the archaic subjunctive future which has been lost in many Romance languages.

Try this sentence: When I am President, I will change the law.

In Spanish, one uses the future tense as in English:

Cuando yo soy presidente, voy a cambiar la ley.

In Portuguese, you use the subjunctive future, lost in all modern Romance languages and lacking in English:

Quando eu for presidente, vou mudar a lei. – literally, When I may be President, I will possibly change the law.

The future subjunctive causes a lot of problems for Portuguese learners and is one of the main ways that it is harder than Spanish.

There is a form called the personal infinitive in Eu Portuguese in which the infinitive is actually inflected that also causes a lot of problems for Portuguese learners.

Personal infinitive:

para eu cantar      for me to sing
para tu cantares    for you to sing
para el cantar      for him to sing
para nos cantarmos  for us to sing
para eles cantarem  for them to sing

Some sentences with the personal infinitive:

Ficamos em casa do Joao ao irmos ao Porto.
We are staying at John’s when we go to Porto.

Comprei-te um livro para o leres.
I bought you a book for you to read.

In addition, when making the present perfect in Spanish, it is fairly easy with the use have + participle as in English.

Compare I have worked.

In Spanish:

Yo he trabajado.

In Portuguese, there is no perfect to have nor is there any participle, instead, present perfect is formed via a conjugation that varies among verbs:

Eu trabalhei – because Eu hei trabalhado makes no sense in Portuguese.

Portuguese still uses the pluperfect tense quite a bit, a tense that gone out or is heading out of most IE languages. The pluperfect is used a lot less now in Br Portuguese, but it is still very widely used in Eu Portuguese. The pluperfect is used to discuss a past action that took place before another past action. An English translation might be:

He had already gone by the time she showed up.

The italicized part would be the equivalent to the pluperfect in English.

O pássaro voara quando o gato pulou sobre ele para tentar comê-lo.
The bird had (already) flown away when the cat jumped over it trying to eat it.

Even Br Portuguese has its difficulties centering around diglossia. It is written in 1700’s Eu Portuguese, but in speech, the Brazilian vernacular is used. Hence:

I love you

Amo-te or Amo-o [standard, written]
Eu te amo or Eu amo você  [spoken]

We saw them

Vimo-los [standard, written]
A gente viu eles  [spoken]

Even Eu Portuguese native speakers often make mistakes in Portuguese grammar when speaking. Young people writing today in Portuguese are said to be notorious for not writing or speaking it properly. The pronunciation is so complicated and difficult that even foreigners residing in Portugal for a decade never seem to get it quite right. In addition, Portuguese grammar is unimaginably complicated. There are probably more exceptions than there are rules, and even native speakers have issues with Portuguese grammar.

Portuguese gets a 3 rating, average difficulty.

Eastern Romance

Surprisingly enough, Romanian is said to be one of the harder Romance languages to speak or write properly. Even Romanians often get it wrong. One strange thing about Romanian is that the articles are attached to the noun as suffixes. In all the rest of Romance, articles are free words that precede the noun.

English  telephone the telephone
Romanian telefon   telefonul

Romanian is the only Romance language with case. There are five cases – nominative, accusative, genitive, dative, vocative – but vocative is not often use, and the other four cases combine as two cases: nominative/accusative and dative/genitive merge as single cases.

Nominative-Accusative aeroportul
Genitive-Dative       aeroportului

The genitive is hard for foreigners to learn as is the formation of plurals. The ending changes for no apparent reason when you pluralize a noun and there are also sound changes:

brad (singular)
brazi (plural)

Many native speakers have problems with plurals and some of the declensions. Unlike the rest of Romance which has only two genders, masculine and feminine, Romanian has three genders – masculine, feminine and neuter (the neuter is retained from Latin). However, neuter gender is realized on the surface as masculine in the singular and feminine in the plural, unlike languages such as Russian where neuter gender is an entirely different gender.

The pronunciation is not terribly difficult, but it is hard to learn at first. For some odd reason, the Latinization is considered to be terrible.

Romanian is harder to learn than Spanish or Italian and possibly harder than French. However, you can have odd sentences with nothing but vowels as in Maori.

Aia-i oaia ei, o iau eu?
That’s her sheep, should I take it?

It may have the most difficult grammar in Romance. Romanian has considerable Slavic influence and this will make it harder for the English speaker to learn than other Romance languages.

Romanian gets a 3.5 rating, more than average difficulty.

Germanic
West Germanic
Anglo–Frisian
Anglic

People often say that English is easy to learn, but that is deceptive. For one thing, English has anywhere from 500,000-1 million words (said to be twice as much as any other language – but there are claims that Dutch and Arabic each have 4 million words), and the number increases by the day. Furthermore, most people don’t understand more than 50,000, and a majority might only understand 30,000 words. Yet your average person only uses 5,000 at most.

Actually, the average American or Brit uses a mere 2,500 words. As we might expect, our cultivated Continentals in Europe, such as Spaniards and French, probably have twice the regular vocabulary of English speakers and far more colloquial expressions.

In addition, verbal phrases or phrasal verbs are a nightmare. Phrasal verbs are probably left over from “separable verbs” in German. In most of the rest of IE, these become affixes as in Latin Latin cum-, ad-, pro-, in-, ex-, etc.. In many cases, phrasal verbs can have more than 10 different antagonistic meanings.

Here is a list of 123 phrasal verbs using the preposition up after a verb:

Back up – to go in reverse, often in a vehicle, or to go back over something previously dealt with that was poorly understood in order to understand it better.
Be up – to be in a waking state after having slept. I’ve been up for three hours. Also to be ready to do something challenging. Are you up for it?
Beat up
– to defeat someone thoroughly in a violent physical fight.
Bid up – to raise the price of something, usually at an auction, by calling out higher and higher bids.
Blow up – to explode an explosive or for a social situation to become violent and volatile.
Bone up – to study hard.
Book up – all of the booking seats have been filled for some entertainment or excursion.
Bottle up – to contain feelings until they are at the point of exploding.
Break up – to break into various pieces, or to end a relationship, either personal or between entitles, also to split a large entity, like a large company or a state.
Bruise up – to receive multiple bruises, often serious ones.
Brush up – to go over a previously learned skill.
Build up – to build intensively in an area, such as a town or city, from a previously less well-developed state.
Burn up – burn completely or to be made very angry.
Bust up – to burst out in laughter.
Buy up – to buy all or most all of something.
Call up – to telephone someone. Or to be ordered to appear in the military. The army called up all males aged 18-21 and ordered them to show up at the nearest recruiting office.
Catch up
– to reach a person or group that one had lagged behind earlier, or to take care of things, often hobbies, that had been put off by lack of time.
Chat up – to talk casually with a goal in mind, usually seduction or at least flirtation.
Cheer up – to change from a downcast mood to a more positive one.
Chop up – to cut into many, often small, pieces.
Clam up – to become very quiet suddenly and not say a thing.
Clean up – to make an area thoroughly tidy or to win completely and thoroughly.
Clear up – for a storm to dissipate, for a rash to go away, for a confusing matter to become understandable.
Close up – to close, also to end business hours for a public business.
Come up – to approach closely, to occur suddenly or to overflow.
Cook up – to prepare a meal or to configure a plan, often of a sly, ingenious or devious nature. They cooked up a scheme to swindle the boss.
Crack up
– to laugh, often heartily or to fall apart emotionally.
Crank up – elevate the volume.
Crawl up – to crawl inside something.
Curl up – to rest in a curled body position, either alone or with another being.
Cut up – to shred or to make jokes, often of a slapstick variety.
Do up – apply makeup to someone, often elaborately.
Dream up – to imagine a creative notion, often an elaborate one.
Dress up – to dress oneself in formal attire.
Drive up – to drive towards something and then stop, or to raise the price of something by buying it intensively.
Drum up – to charge someone with wrongdoing, usually criminal, usually by a state actor, usually for false reasons.
Dry up – to dessicate.
Eat up – implies eating something ravenously or finishing the entire meal without leaving anything left.
End up – to arrive at some destination after a long winding, often convoluted journey either in space or in time.
Face up – to quit avoiding your problems and meet them head on.
Feel up – to grope someone sexually.
Get up – to awaken or rise from a prone position.
Give up – to surrender, in war or a contest, or to stop doing something trying or unpleasant that is yielding poor results, or to die, as in give up the ghost.
Grow up – to attain an age or maturity or to act like a mature person, often imperative.
Hang up – to place on a hanger or a wall, to end a phone call.
Hike up – to pull your clothes up when they are drifting down on your body.
Hit up – to visit someone casually or to ask for a favor or gift, usually small amounts of money.
Hold up – to delay, to ask someone ahead of you to wait, often imperative. Also a robbery, usually with a gun and a masked robber.
Hook up – to have a casual sexual encounter or to meet casually for a social encounter, often in a public place; also to connect together a mechanical devise or plug something in.
Hurry up – imperative, usually an order to quit delaying and join the general group or another person in some activity, often when they are leaving to go to another place.
Keep up – to maintain on a par with the competition without falling behind.
Kiss up – to mend a relationship after a fight.
Knock up – to impregnate.
Lay up – to be sidelined due to illness or injury for a time.
Let up – to ease off of someone or something, for a storm to dissipate, to stop attacking someone or s.t.
Lick up – to consume all of a liquid.
Light up – to set s.t. on fire or to smile suddenly and broadly.
Lighten up – to reduce the downcast or hostile seriousness of the mood of a person or setting.
Listen up – imperative – to order someone to pay attention, often with threats of aggression if they don’t comply.
Live up – to enjoy life.
Lock up – to lock securely, often locking various locks, or to imprison, or for an object or computer program to be frozen or jammed and unable to function.
Look up – to search for an item of information in some sort of a database, such as a phone book or dictionary. Also to admire someone.
Make up – to make amends, to apply cosmetics to one’s face or to invent a story.
Man up – to elevate oneself to manly behaviors when one is slacking and behaving in an unmanly fashion.
Mark up – to raise the price of s.t.
Measure up – in a competition, for an entity to match the competition.
Meet up – to meet someone or a group for a get meeting or date of some sort.
Mess up – to fail or to confuse and disarrange s.t. so much that it is bad need or reparation.
Mix up – to confuse, or to disarrange contents in a scattered fashion so that it does not resemble the original.
Mop up – mop a floor or finish off the remains of an enemy army or finalize a military operation.
Move up – to elevate the status of a person or entity in competition with other entities- to move up in the world.
Open up – when a person has been silent about something for a long time, as if holding a secret, finally reveals the secret and begins talking.
Own up – to confess to one’s sins under pressure and reluctantly.
Pass up – to miss an opportunity, often a good one.
Patch up – to put together a broken thing or relationship.
Pay up – to pay, usually a debt, often imperative to demand payment of a debt, to pay all of what one owes so you don’t owe anymore.
Pick up – to grasp an object and lift it higher, to seduce someone sexually or to acquire a new skill, usually rapidly.
Play up – to dramatize.
Pop up – for s.t. to appear suddenly, often out of nowhere.
Put up – to hang, to tolerate, often grudgingly, or to put forward a new image.
Read up – to read intensively as in studying.
Rev up – to turn the RPM’s higher on a stationary engine.
Ring up – to telephone someone or to charge someone on a cash register.
Rise up – for an oppressed group to arouse and fight back against their oppressors.
Roll up – to roll s.t. into a ball, to drive up to someone in a vehicle or to arrest all the members of an illegal group. The police rolled up that Mafia cell quickly.
Run up
– to tally a big bill, often foolishly or approach s.t. quickly.
Shake up – to upset a paradigm, to upset emotionally.
Shape up – usually imperative command ordering someone who is disorganized or slovenly to live life in a more orderly and proper fashion.
Shoot up – to inject, usually illegal drugs, or to fire many projectiles into a place with a gun.
Show up – to appear somewhere, often unexpectedly.
Shut up – to silence, often imperative, fighting words.
Sit up – to sit upright.
Slip up – to fail.
Speak up – to begin speaking after listening for a while, often imperative, a request for a silent person to say what they wish to say.
Spit up – to vomit, usually describing a child vomiting up its food.
Stand up – to go from a sitting position to a standing one quickly.
Start up – to initialize an engine or a program, to open a new business to go back to something that had been terminated previously, often a fight; a recrudescence.
Stay up – to not go to bed.
Stick up – to rob someone, usually a street robbery with a weapon, generally a gun.
Stir up – stir rapidly, upset a calm surrounding or scene or upset a paradigm.
Stop up – to block the flow of liquids with some object(s).
Straighten up – to go from living a dissolute or criminal life to a clean, law abiding one.
Suck up – to ingratiate oneself, often in an obsequious fashion.
Suit up – to get dressed in a uniform, often for athletics.
Sweep up – to arrest all the members of an illegal group, often a criminal gang.
Take up – to cohabit with someone – She has taken up with him. Or to develop a new skill, to bring something to a higher elevation, to cook something at a high heat to where it is assimilated.
Talk up – to try to convince someone of something by discussing it dramatically and intensively.
Tear up – to shred.
Think up – to conjure up a plan, often an elaborate or creative one.
Throw up – to vomit.
Touch up – to apply the final aspects of a work nearly finished.
Trip up – to stumble mentally over s.t. confusing.
Turn up – to increase volume or to appear suddenly somewhere.
Vacuum up – to vacuum.
Use up – to finish s.t. completely so there is no more left.
Wait up – to ask other parties to wait for someone who is coming in a hurry.
Wake up – to awaken.
Walk up – to approach someone or something.
Wash up – to wash.
Whip up – to cook a meal quickly or for winds to blow wildly.
Work up – to exercise heavily, until you sweat to work up a sweat. Or to generate s.t. a report or s.t. of that nature done rather hurriedly in a seat of the pants and unplanned fashion. We quickly worked up a formula for dealing with the matter.
Wrap up
– To finish something up, often something that is taking too long. Come on, let us wrap this up and getting it over with. Also, to bring to a conclusion that ties the ends together. The story wraps up with a scene where they all get together and sing a song.
Write up
– often to write a report of reprimand or a violation. The officer wrote him for having no tail lights.

Here are  phrasal verbs using the preposition down:

Back down – to retreat from a challenge or a threat.
Be down  – to be ready to ready to do something daring, often s.t. bad, illegal or dangerous, such as a fight or a crime. Are you down?
Blow down – to knock something down via a strong wind.
Break down – to take anything apart in order to reveal its component parts.
Burn down
– reduce s.t. to ashes, like a structure.
Chop down – to fell a tree with an ax.
Clamp down – to harshly police something bad in order to reduce its incidence, especially s.t. that had been ignored in the past.
Climb down – to retract a poorly made statement.
Cook down – to reduce the liquid content in a cooked item.
Crack down – To police harshly against people doing bad things.
Cut down – to fell a tree by any means or to reduce the incidence of anything, especially something bad.
Drink down – to consume all of s.t.
Drive down – to harshly bring down the price of something, often through brutal means. Investors drove down the price of the stock after the company’s latest product failed badly.
Dress down – to deliberately dress more poorly than expected, often as a trendy fashion statement.
Get down – to have fun and party, or to lie prone and remain there or to reduce something to bare essentials. Get down on the floor or Getting down to brass tacks, how can we possibly explain this anomaly other than in this particular manner?
Hang down – to let one’s hair fall down in front of one’s eyes or to hang s.t. often a banner, from a building or structure.
Hike down – to lower one’s pants. The gangsters hike their pants down to look tough.
Hold down – to hold someone or s.t. on the floor so they cannot rise or get up.
Keep down – to prevent a group, often a repressed group, from achieving via oppression by a ruling group. The Whites are keeping us Black people down.
Kick down – Drug slang meaning to contribute your drugs to a group drug stash so others can consume them with you, to share your drugs with others. Often used in a challenging sense.
Knock down – to hit or strike something so hard that it falls to the ground or collapses.
Let down – to be discouraged by something one had high hopes for.
Live down – to recover from a humiliating experience. After he was publicly humiliated, he was never able to live down his rejection by the people.
Look down – to regard someone in a negative or condemnatory way from a the point of a superior person.
Mark down – to discount the price of s.t., often significantly.
Party down – to have fun and party
Pass down – to leave s.t. of value to someone as an inheritance after a death or to inherit a saying or custom via one’s ancestors through time. It was passed down through the generations.
Pat down – to frisk.
Pay down – to reduce a bill, often a large bill, by making payments, often significant payments. We are slowly paying down that bill.
Play down – to reduce the significance of s.t. often s.t. negative, often in order to deceive people into thinking s.t. is better than it really is.
Put down – to criticize someone in a condescending way as a superior person, to insult.
Play down – to deemphasize.
Rip down – to tear s.t. off of a wall such as a sheet or poster.
Run down – to run over something or someone with a vehicle, to review a list or to attack someone verbally for a long time.
Set down – to postulate a set of rules for something.
Shake down – to rob someone purely through the use of verbal or nonphysical force or power.
Shoot down – to shoot at a flying object like a plane, hitting it so it crashes to the ground or to reject harshly a proposal.
Shut down – to close operations of an entity.
Speak down – to talk to someone in a condescending way from the point of view of a superior person.
Take down – to demolish s.t. like a building, to tackle someone, or to raid and arrest many members of an illegal organization.
Talk down – to speak to someone in an insulting manner as if one was superior or to mollify a very angry person to keep them from causing future damage. The police were able to talk down the shooter until he laid down his fun and set the hostages free.
Tear down – to demolish or destroy someone verbally or to destroy s.t. by mechanical means.
Throw down – to throw money or tokens into the pile in the center when gambling.
Turn down – to reduce the volume of something or to reject an offer.
Write down – to write on a sheet of paper

There are figures of speech and idioms everywhere (some estimate that up to 20% of casual English speech is idiomatic), and it seems impossible to learn them all. In fact, few second language learners get all the idioms down pat.

The spelling is insane and hardly follows any rules at all. The English spelling system in some ways is frozen at about the year 1500 or so. The pronunciation has changed but the spelling has not. Careful studies have shown that English-speaking children take longer to read than children speaking other languages (Finnish, Greek and various Romance and other Germanic languages) due to the difficulty of the spelling system. Romance languages were easier to read than Germanic ones.

This may be why English speakers are more likely to be diagnosed dyslexic than speakers of other languages. The dyslexia still exists if you speak a language with good sound-symbol correspondence, but it’s covered up so much by the ease of the orthography that it seems invisible, and the person can often function well. But for a dyslexic, trying to read English is like walking into a minefield.

Letters can make many different sounds, a consequence of the insane spelling system. A single sound can be spelled in many different ways: e can be spelled e, ea, ee, ei, eo, ey, ae, i, ie, and y. The k sound can spelled as c, cc, ch, ck, k, x, and q.

The rules governing the use of the indefinite, definite and zero article are opaque and possibly don’t even exist. There are synonyms for almost every word in a sentence, and the various shades of meaning can be difficult to discern. In addition, quite a few words have many different meanings. There are strange situations like read and read, which are pronounced differently and mean two different things.

English word derivation is difficult to get your mind around because of the dual origins of the English language in both Latin/French and German.

See and hear and perceptible and audible mean the same thing, but the first pair is derived from German, and the second pair is derived from Latin.

English word derivation is irregular due for the same reason:

assumeassumption (Latin)
childchildish (German)
buildbuilding (German)

In English we have at least 12 roots with the idea of two in them:

two
twenty
twelve
second
double
dual
twin
pair
half
both
dupl-
semi-
hemi
bi-
di-

However, English regular verbs generally have only a few forms in their normal paradigm. In this arrangement, there are only five forms of the verb in general use for the overwhelming majority of verbs:

present except 3rd singular  steal
3rd person singular          steals
progressive                  stealing
past                         stole
perfect                      stolen

Even a language like Spanish has many more basic forms than that. However, coming from an inflected language, the marking of only the 3rd singular and not marking anything else may seem odd.

The complicated part of English verbs is not their inflection – minimal as it is – but instead lies in the large number of irregular verbs.

There is also the oddity of the 2nd person being the same in both the singular and the plural – you. Some dialects such as US Southern English do mark the plural – you all or y’all.

English prepositions are notoriously hard, and few second language learners get them down right because they seem to obey no discernible rules.

One problem that English learners complain of is differential uses of have.

  1. Perfect tense. I have done it.
  2. Deontic (must). I have to do it.
  3. Causative. I had it done.

While English seems simple at first – past tense is easy, there is little or no case, no grammatical gender, little mood, etc., that can be quite deceptive. In European countries like Croatia, it’s hard to find a person who speaks English with even close to native speaker competence.

There are quite a few English dialects – over 100 have been recorded in London alone.

The problem with English is that it’s a mess! There are languages with very easy grammatical rules like Indonesian and languages with very hard grammatical rules like Arabic. English is one of those languages that is simply chaotic. There are rules, but there are exceptions everywhere and exceptions to the exceptions. Grammatically, it’s disaster area. It’s hard to know where to start.

However, it is often said that English has no grammatical rules. Even native speakers make this comment because that is how English seems due to its highly irregular nature. Most English native speakers, even highly educated ones, can’t name one English grammatical rule. Just to show you that English does have rules though, I will list some of them.

*Indicates an ungrammatical form.

Adjectives appear before the noun in noun phrases:

Small dogs barked.
*Dogs small barked.

Adjectives are numerically invariant:

the small dog
the small dogs
The dog is small.
The dogs are small.

Intensifiers appear before both attributive and predicative adjectives:

The very small dog barked.
*The small very dog barked.

The dog was very small.
*The dog was small very.

Attributive adjectives can have complements:

The dog was scared.
The dog was scared of cats.

But predicative adjectives cannot:

The scared dog barked.
*The scared of cats dog barked.

Articles, quantifiers, etc. appear before the adjective (and any intensifier) in a noun phrase:

The very small dog barked.
*Very the small dog barked.
*Very small the dog barked.

Every very small dog barked.
*Very every small dog barked.
*Very small every dog barked.

Relative clauses appear after the noun in a noun phrase:

The dog that barked.
*The that barked dog.

The progressive verb form is the bare form with the suffix -ing, even for the most irregular verbs in the language:

being
having
doing

*wasing
*aring
*aming

The infinitive verb form is to followed by the bare form, even for the most irregular verbs in the language:

to be
to have
to do

*to was
*to are
*to am.

The imperative verb form is the bare form, even for the most irregular verb in the language:

Be!
Have!
Do!

*Was!
*Are!
*Am!

All 1st person present, 2nd person present, and plural present verb forms are equivalent to the bare form, except for to be.

All past tense verb forms of a given verb are the same regardless of person and number, except for to be.

Question inversion is optional:

You are leaving?
Are you leaving?

But when inversion does occur in a wh-question, a wh-phrase is required to be fronted:

You’re seeing what?
What are you seeing?

*Are you seeing what?

Wh-fronting is required to affect an entire noun phrase, not just the wh-word:

You are going to which Italian restaurant?
Which Italian restaurant are you going to?

*Which are you going to Italian restaurant?
*Which Italian are you going to restaurant?
*Which restaurant are you going to Italian?

Wh-fronting only happens once, never more:

What are you buying from which store
Which store are you buying what from?

*What which store are you buying from?
*Which store what are you buying from?

The choice of auxiliary verb in compound past sentences does not depend on the choice of main verb:

I have eaten.
I have arrived.

*I am eaten.
*I am arrived.

cf. French

J’ai mangé.
Je suis arrivé.

English can be seen as an inverted pyramid in terms of ease of learning. The basics are easy, but it gets a lot more difficult as you progress in your learning.

While it is relatively easy to speak it well enough to be more or less understandable most of the time, speaking it correctly is often not possible for a foreigner even after 20 years of regular use.

English only gets a 2.5 rating , somewhat difficult.

High German

German’s status is controversial. It’s long been considered hard to learn, but many learn it fairly easily.

Pronunciation is straightforward, but there are some problems with the müde, the Ach, and the two ch sounds in Geschichte. Although the first one is really an sch instead of a ch, English speakers lack an sch, so they will just see that as a ch. Further, there are specific rules about when to use the ss (or sz as Germans say) or hard s. The r in German is a quite strange ʁ, and of common languages, only French has a similar r. The çχ and ‘ü sounds can be hard to make. Consonant clusters like Herkunftswörterbuch or Herbstpflanze can be be difficult. German permits the hard to pronounce shp and shtr consonant clusters. Of the vowels, ö and ü seem to cause the most problems.

German grammar is quite complex. It recently scored as one of the weirdest languages in Europe on a study, and it also makes it onto worst grammars lists. The main problem is that everything is irregular. Nouns, plurals, determiners, adjectives, superlatives, verbs, participles – they are all irregular. It seems that everything in the language is irregular.

There are six different forms of the depending on the noun case:

der
die
das
den
dem
des

but 16 different slots to put the six forms in, and the gender system is irrational. In a more basic sense and similar to Danish, there are three basic forms of the:

der
die
das

Each one goes with a particular noun, and it’s not very clear what the rules are.

One problem with German syntax is that the verb, verbs or parts of verbs doesn’t occur until the end of the sentence. This sentence structure is known as V2 syntax, and it is quite alien for English speakers. There are verbal prefixes, and they can be modified in all sorts of ways that change meanings in a subtle manner. There are dozens of different declension types for verbs, similar to Russian and Irish. There are also quite a few irregular verbs that do not fit into any of the paradigms.

German also has Schachtelsätze, box clauses, which are like clauses piled into other clauses. In addition, subclauses use SOV word order. Whereas in Romance languages you can often throw words together into a sentence and still be understood if not grammatical, in German, you must learn the sentence structure – it is mandatory and there is no way around it. The syntax is very rigid but at least very regular.

German case is also quite regular. The case exceptions can be almost counted on one hand. However, look at the verb:

helfenhelp

in which the direct object is in dative rather than the expected absolutive.

An example of German case (and case in general) is here:

The leader of the group gives the boy a dog.

In German, the sentence is case marked with the four different German cases:

Der Führer (nominative)
der Gruppe
(genitive)
gibt dem Jungen (dative)
einen Hund (accusative).

There are three genders, masculine, feminine and neutral. Yet it is difficult to tell which gender any particular noun is based on looking at it, for instance, petticoat is masculine! Any given noun inflects via the four cases and the three genders. Furthermore, the genders change between masculine and feminine in the same noun for no logical reason. Gender seems to be one of the main problems that German learners have with the language. Figuring out which word gets which gender must simply be memorized as there are no good clues.

Phonology also changes strangely as the number of the noun changes:

Haushouse (singular)
Haeuserhouses (plural with umlaut)

But to change the noun to a diminutive, you add -chen:

Haueschen – little house (singular, yet has the umlaut of the plural)

This is part of a general pattern in Germanic languages of roots changing the vowel as verbs, adjectives and nouns with common roots change from one into the other. For instance, in English we have the following vowel changes in these transformed roots:

foul filth
tell tale
long length
full fill
hot  heat
do   does

Much of this has gone out of English, but it is still very common in German. Dutch is in between English and German.

German:

For sick, we have:

krank      sick
kränker    sicker
kränklich  sickly
krankhaft  pathological
kranken an to suffer from
kränken    to hurt
kränkeln   to be ailing
erkranken  to fall ill

For good, we have:

gut     good
Güte    goodness
Gut     a good
Güter   goods
gütig   kind
gütlich amicable

German also has a complicated preposition system.

German also has a vast vocabulary, the fourth largest in the world. This is either positive or negative depending on your viewpoint. Language learners often complain about learning languages with huge vocabularies, but as a native English speaker, I’m happy to speak a language with a million words. There’s a word for just about everything you want to say about anything, and then some!

On the plus side, word formation is quite regular.

Pollution is Umweltverschmutzung. It consists, logically, of two words, Umwelt and Verschmutzung, which mean environment and dirtying.

In English, you have three words, environment, dirtying and pollution, the third one, the combination of the first two, has no relation to its semantic roots in the first two words.

Nevertheless, this has its problems, since it’s not simple to figure out how the words are stuck together into bigger words, and meanings of morphemes can take years to figure out.

German has phrasal verbs as in English, but the meaning is often somewhat clear if you take the morphemes apart and look at their literal meanings. For instance:

vorschlagento suggest parses out to er schlägt vorto hit forth

whereas in English you have phrasal verbs like to get over with which even when separated out, don’t make sense literally.

German, like French and Italian, has two auxiliary tenses – habe and bin. However, their use is quite predictable and the tenses are not inflected so the dual auxiliary is easier in German than in French or especially Italian.

Reading German is actually much easier than speaking it, since to speak it correctly, you need to memorize not only genders but also adjectives and articles.

German is not very inflected, and the inflection that it does take is more regular than many other languages. Furthermore, German orthography is phonetic, and there are no silent letters.

German, like Dutch, is being flooded with English loans. While this helpful to the English speaker, others worry that the language is at risk of turning into English.

Learning German can be seen as a pyramid. It is very difficult to grasp the basics, but once you do that, it gets increasingly easy as the language follows relatively simple rules and many words are created from other words via compound words, prefixes and suffixes.

Rating German is hard to do. It doesn’t seem to deserve to a very high rating, but it makes a lot of people’s “hardest language you ever tried to learn” list for various reasons.

German gets a 3.5 rating, moderately difficult.

Low Franconian
Dutch

While Dutch syntax is no more difficult than English syntax, Dutch is still harder to learn than English due to the large number of rules used in both speaking and writing. The Dutch say that few foreigners learn to speak Dutch well. Part of the problem is that some words have no meaning at all in isolation (meaning is only derived via a phrase or sentence). Word order is somewhat difficult because it is quite rigid. In particular, there are complex and very strange rules about the order of verbs in verbal clusters. It helps if you know German as the rule order is similar, but Dutch word order is harder than German word order. Foreigners often seem to get the relatively lax Dutch rules about word order wrong in long sentences.

Verbs can be difficult. For instance, there are no verbs get and move. Instead, get and move each have about a dozen different verbs in Dutch. A regular Dutch verb has six different forms.

Dutch spelling is difficult, and most Dutch people cannot even spell Dutch correctly. There are only two genders – common and neuter – as opposed to three in German – feminine, neuter and masculine. In Dutch, the masculine and feminine merged in the common gender. But most Dutch speakers cannot tell you the gender of any individual word, in part because there are few if any clues to the gender of any given noun.

There are remnants of the three gender system in that the Dutch still use masculine/feminine for some nouns. In the Netherlands now, most Dutch speakers are simply using masculine (common) for most nouns other than things that are obviously feminine like the words mother and sister.

However, in Belgium, where people speak Flemish, not Dutch, most people still know the genders of words. Not only that but the 3-gender system with masculine, feminine and neuter remains in place in Flemish. In addition, in Flemish, the definite article still makes an obvious distinction between masculine and feminine, so it is easy to figure out the gender of a noun:

ne man, nen boom, nen ezel, nen banaan (masculine)
een vrouw, een koe, een wolk, een peer (feminine)

In addition, most Dutch speakers cannot tell you what pronoun to use in the 3rd person singular when conjugating a verb.

This is because there are two different systems in use for conjugating the 3sing.

The basic paradigm is:


hij      he
zij (ze) she
het      it

System 1
male persons    hij
female persons  zij
neuter words    het
animals         hij, unless noun = neuter
objects         hij, "       "
abstractions    zij, "       "
substances      hij, "       "

System 2
male persons      hij
female persons    zij
all animals       hij
all objects       hij
all abstractions  zij
all substances    het

For instance, melk is a common noun. Under system 1, it would be hij. But under system 2, it would be het because it is a substance.

The er word is tricky in Dutch. Sometimes it is translated as English there, but more often then not it is simply not translated in English translations because there is no good translation for it. There are two definite articles, de and het, and they are easily confused.

Dutch has something called modal particles, the meanings of which are quite obscure.

Some say Dutch is irregular, but the truth is that more than Dutch has a multitude of very complex rules, rules that are so complicated that is hard to even figure them out, much less understand them. Nevertheless, Dutch has 200 irregular verbs.

In some respects, Dutch is a more difficult language than English. For instance, in English, one can simply say:

The tree is in the garden.

But in Dutch (and also in German) you can’t say that. You have to be more specific. What is the tree doing in the garden? Is it standing there? Is it lying on the grass? You have to say not only that the tree is in the garden, but what it is doing there.

In Dutch, you need to say:

Daar ligt een boom in de tuin.
The tree is standing in the garden.

Daar ligt een boom in de tuin.
The tree is lying in the garden.

Dutch pronunciation is pretty easy, but the ui, euij, au, ou, eeuw and uu sounds can be hard to make. Dutch speakers say only Germans learn to pronounce the ui correctly.

Dutch was listed as one of the top weirdest languages in Europe in a recent study.

Dutch is almost being buried in a flood of English loans. While this helps the English speaker, others worry that the Dutch nature of the language is at risk.

Dutch seems to be easier to learn than German. Dutch has fewer cases, thus fewer articles and and adjective endings. There are two main ways of pluralizing in Dutch: adding -‘s and adding -en. Unfortunately, in German, things are much more complex than that. Dutch has only two genders (and maybe just a trace of a third) but German definitely has three genders. Verb conjugation is quite similar in both languages, but it is a bit easier in Dutch. Word order is the same: complex in both languages. Both languages are equally complex in terms of pronunciation. Both have the difficult ø and y vowels.

Dutch gets a 3 rating, average difficulty.

Afrikaans is just Dutch simplified.

Where Dutch has 200 irregular verbs, Afrikaans has only six. A Dutch verb has six different forms, but Afrikaans has only two. Afrikaans has two fewer tense than Dutch. Dutch has two genders, and Afrikaans has only one. Surely Afrikaans ought to be easier to learn than Dutch.

Afrikaans gets a 2 rating, very easy to learn.

North Germanic
West Scandinavian

Icelandic is very hard to learn, much harder than Norwegian, German or Swedish. Part of the problem is pronunciation. The grammar is harder than German grammar, and there are almost no Latin-based words in it. The vocabulary is quite archaic. Modern loans are typically translated into Icelandic equivalents rather than borrowed fully into Icelandic.

There are four cases: nominative, accusative, dative and genitive – as in German – and there are many exceptions to the case rules, or “quirky case,” as it is called. In quirky case, case can be marked on verbs, prepositions and and adjectives. The noun morphology system is highly irregular. Articles can be postfixed and inflected and added to the noun. In fact, Icelandic in general is highly irregular, not just the nouns.

Verbs are modified for tense, mood, person and number, as in many other IE languages (this is almost gone from English). There are up to ten tenses, but most of these are formed with auxiliaries as in English. Icelandic also modifies verbs for voice – active, passive and medial. Furthermore, there are four different kinds of verbs – strong, weak, reduplicating and irregular, with several conjugation categories in each division.  Many verbs just have to be memorized.

Adjectives decline in an astounding 130 different ways, but many of these forms are the same.

The language is generally SVO, but since there is so much case-marking, in poetry all possibilities – SVO, SOV, VSO, VOS, OSV and OVS – are allowed. There is also something odd called “long distance reflexives,” which I do not understand.

In addition, Icelandic has the typical Scandinavian problem of a nutty orthography.

Icelandic verbs are very regular but the sounds change so much, especially the vowels, that the whole situation gets confusing pretty fast. In addition, there are three different verbal paradigms depending on the ending of the verb:

-er
-ir
-re

Icelandic verbs are commonly cited as some of the hardest verb systems around, at least in Europe. Even Icelandic people say their own verbs are difficult.

Icelandic has a voiceless lateral l. This can be a hard sound to make for many learners, especially in the middle of a word. In addition, there are two alveolar trills (the rolled r sound in Spanish), and one of them is voiced while the other is voiceless. Learners say they have problems with both of these sounds. In addition to voiceless l‘s and r‘s, Icelandic also has four voiceless nasals – , , ɲ̊, and ŋ̊ – the n, m, ny (as in Spanish nina), and ng sounds.

There are also contrasts between aspirated and nonaspirated stops including the odd palatal stops and c. In addition, there is a strange voiceless palatal fricative ç (similar to the h in English huge). In addition, Icelandic has a hard to pronounce four consonant cluster strj- that occurs at the beginning of a word.

Icelandic does have the advantage of being one of the few major languages with no significant dialects, so this is a plus. Icelandic has been separated from the rest of Scandinavian for 1,100 years. Icelandic is spoken over a significant region, much of which has inhabited places separated by large expanses of uninhabitable land such as impassable glaciers, volcanoes, lava flows,  geysers and almost no food. How Icelandic managed to not develop dialects in this situation is mysterious.

Icelandic has traditionally been considered to be one of the hardest languages on Earth to learn.

Icelandic gets a 5 rating, extremely difficult to learn.

Faroese is said to be even harder to learn than Icelandic, with some very strange vowels not found in other North Germanic languages.

Faroese has strong, weak and irregular verbs. It also has a strange supine tense.

The Faroese orthography is as irrational as Icelandic’s. There are so many rules to learn to be able to write Faroese properly. Faroese, like Icelandic, prefers to coin new words rather than borrow words wholesale into its language. Therefore the English speaker will not see a lot of obvious borrowings to help them out. Some argue against this nativization process, but maybe it is better than being buried in English loans like German and Dutch are at the moment.

computertelda (derived from at telja – to count. Icelandic has a similar term.
helicoptertyrla (derived from tyril – a spinning tool for making wool or loom.
musictónleikur
pocket calculator
telduhvølpur (Lit. computer puppy), roknimaskina (Lit. calculating machine)

Faroese has the advantage of having no verbal aspect, and verbal declension does not differ much according to person. However, Faroese has a case system like Icelandic.

Faroese gets a 5 rating,extremely difficult.

Norwegian is fairly easy to learn, and Norwegian is sometimes touted as the easiest language on Earth to learn for an English speaker.

This is confusing because Danish is described below as a more difficult language to learn, and critics say that Danish and Norwegian are the same, so they should have equal difficulty. But only one Norwegian writing system is almost the same as Danish the Danish writing system. Danish pronunciation is quite a bit different from Norwegian, and this is where the problems come in.

Even Norwegian dialects can be a problem. Foreigners get off the plane having learned a bit of Norwegian and are immediately struck by the strangeness of the multiplicity of dialects, which for the most part are easy for Norwegians to understand but can be hard for foreigners. Norwegians often only understand their many dialects due to bilingual learning and much exposure and there are definitely Norwegian dialects that even Norwegians have a hard time understand like Upper and Lower Sogn and Trondnersk.

There is also the problematic en and et alternation, as discussed with Danish. Norwegian has an irrational orthographic system, like Swedish, with silent letters and many insensible sounds, both consonants and vowels. It has gone a long time without a spelling reform. It has the additional orthographic issues of two different writing systems and a multitude of dialects. Norwegian, like Danish and Swedish, has a huge vowel inventory, one of the larger ones on Earth. It can be confusing and difficult to make all of those odd vowel sounds: 18 contrasting simple vowels, nine long and nine short , , ɛː, ɑː, , , ʉ̟ː, , øː, ɪ, ɛ, a, ɔ, ʊ, ɵ, ʏ and œ.

Norwegian has very little inflection in its words, but the syntax is very difficult. Norwegian also has “tonemes” which distinguish between homophones.

tankenthe tank
tanken
the thought

have two different meanings, even though the stress and pronunciation are the same. The words are distinguished by a toneme.

For some reason, Norwegian scored very high on a study of weirdest languages on Earth, but Swedish and Danish also got high scores.

However, Norwegian is a very regular language.

Norwegian gets a 2 rating, moderately easy to learn.

East Scandinavian

Danish is a harder language to learn than one might think. It’s not hard to read or even write, but it’s quite hard to speak. However, like English, Danish has a non-phonetic orthography, so this can be problematic. It has gone a long time without a spelling reform, so there are many silent letters and sounds, both vowels and consonants, that make no sense. Danish makes it on lists of most irrational orthographies of all.

In addition, there are d words where the d is silent and other d words where it is pronounced, and though the rules are straightforward, it’s often hard for foreigners to get the hang of this. The d in hund is silent, for instance. In addition, the b, d, and g sounds are somehow voiceless in many environments. There are also the strange labiodental glide and alveopalatal fricative sounds. In certain environments, d, g, v, and r turn into vowels.

There are three strange vowels that are not in English, represented by the letters æ, ø and å. They are all present in other Scandinavian languages – æ is present in Icelandic and Norwegian, ø is part of Norwegian, and å is part of Norwegian and Swedish, but English speakers will have problems with them. In addition, Danish has creaky-voiced vowels, which is very strange for an IE language. Danish language learners often report having a hard time pronouncing Danish vowels or even telling one apart from the other. Danish makes it onto lists of the wildest phonologies on Earth,and it made it high on a list of weirdest languages on Earth.

One advantage of all of the Scandinavian languages is that their basic vocabulary (the vocabulary needed to converse at a basic level and be understood) is fairly limited. In other words, without learning a huge number of words, it is possible to have a basic conversation in these languages. This is in contrast to Chinese, where you have to learn a lot of vocabulary just to converse at a basic level.

As with Maltese and Gaelic, there is little correlation between how a Danish word is written and how it is pronounced.

Pronunciation of Danish is difficult. Speech is very fast and comes out in a continuous stream that elides entire words. Vowels in the middle and at the end of words are seldom expressed. There are nine vowel characters, and each one can be pronounced in five or six different ways. There is nearly a full diphthong set, and somehow pharyngealization is used as an accent. Danish has a huge set of vowels, one of the largest sets on Earth. The sheer number of vowels is one reason that Danish is so hard to pronounce. Danish has 32 vowels, 15 short, 13 long and four unstressed: ɑ, ɑː, a, æ, æː, ɛ, ɛː, e, e̝ː, i, , o, , ɔ, ɔː, u, , ø, øː, œ, œː, ɶ, ɶː, y, , ʌ, ɒ, ɒː, ə, ɐ, ɪ, and ʊ.

There is also a strange phonetic element called a stød, which is a very short pause slightly before the vowel(s) in a word. This element is very hard for foreigners to get right.

Just about any word has at least four meanings, and can serve as noun, verb, adjective or adverb. Danish has two genders (feminine and masculine have merged into common gender), and whether a noun is common or neuter is almost impossible to predict and simply must be memorized.

Suggesting that Danish may be harder to learn than Swedish or Norwegian, it’s said that Danish children speak later than Swedish or Norwegian children. One study comparing Danish children to Croatian tots found that the Croat children had learned over twice as many words by 15 months as the Danes. According to the study:

The University of Southern Denmark study shows that at 15 months, the average Danish toddler has mastered just 80 words, whereas a Croatian tot of the same age has a vocabulary of up to 200 terms.

[…] According to the study, the primary reason Danish children lag behind in language comprehension is because single words are difficult to extract from Danish’s slurring together of words in sentences. Danish is also one of the languages with the most vowel sounds, which leads to a ‘mushier’ pronunciation of words in everyday conversation.

Danish gets a 3 rating, average difficulty.

Swedish has the disadvantage of having hundreds of irregular verbs. Swedish also has some difficult phonemes, especially vowels, since Swedish has nine vowels, not including diphthongs. Pronunciation of the ö and å (and sometimes ä, which has a different sound) can be difficult. Swedish also has pitch accent. Pronunciation is probably the hardest part of Swedish.

Words can take either an -en or an –ett ending, and there don’t seem to be any rules about which one to use. The same word can have a number of different meanings.

Swedish, like German, has gender, but Swedish gender is quite predictable by looking at the word, unlike German, where deciding which of the three genders to use seems like a spin of the Roulette wheel.

Word order is comparatively free in that one can write a single sentence multiple ways while changing the meaning somewhat. So I didn’t know that. can be written the following ways:

Det visste jag inte.
Det visste inte jag.
Jag visste inte det.
Jag visste det inte.
Inte visste jag det.

For some reason, Swedish got a very high score on a study of the weirdest languages on Earth.

The different ways of writing that sentence depend on context. In particular, the meaning varies in terms of topic and focus.

There is a 3-way contrast in deixis:

den
den här
den där

Swedish also has the same problematic phrasal verbs that English does:

att slå -  beat/hit

slå av     turn off
slå fast   settle/establish
slå igen   close/shut
slå igenom become known/be a success
slå in     wrap in, come true
slå ner    beat down
slå på     turn on
slå runt   overturn
slå till   hit/strike/slap, strike a deal
slå upp    open (a book), look s.t. up

Swedish orthography is difficult in learning how to write it, since the spelling seems illogical, like in English. The sj sound in particular can be spelled many different ways. However, Swedish spelling is probably easier than English since Swedish lacks a phonemic schwa, and schwa is the source of many of the problems in English. Where allophonic schwa does appear, it seems to be predictable.

One nice thing about Swedish grammar is that it is similar to English grammar in many ways.

Swedish can be compared to a tube in terms of ease of learning. The basics are harder to learn than in English, but instead of getting more difficult as one progresses as in English, the difficulty of Swedish stays more or less the same from basics to the most complicated. But learning to speak Swedish is easy enough compared to other languages.

Swedish gets a 2.5 rating, easy to average difficulty.

Celtic

Any Gaelic language is tough. Celtic languages are harder to learn than German or Russian.

Insular Celtic
Goidelic

Old Irish was the version of Irish written from 650 to 900 AD. It was used only by the educated and aristocratic elites. The rest of the population spoke a simplified version that was already on its way to becoming Middle Irish.

The verbal system in Old Irish was one of most complicated of all of the classical languages.

The persons were 1st, 2nd, 3rd and plural. The tenses were present, preterite, imperfect, perfect, future and an odd tense called secondary future. There were imperative and subjunctive moods. There was no infinitive – instead it was formed rather erratically as a verbal noun derived from the verb. This gerund underwent 10 different declensions and often looked little like the verb it is derived from.

cingidto step -> céimstepping

There were both strong and weak verbs, and each had both simple and compound forms.

Bizarrely, every verb had not one but two different paradigms – the conjunct and the absolute. You used the conjunct when the verb is preceded by a conjunct particle such as (not) or in (the question particle). You used the absolute when there was no conjunct particle in front of the verb.

Hence, the present indicative of glenaid (sticks fast), is:

Absolute   Conjunct

glenaim    :glenaim
glenai     :glenai
glenaid    :glen
glenmai    :glenam
glenthae   :glenaid
glenait    :glenat

The colon before the conjunct verbs indicates that a conjunct particle preceded the verb.

The phonological changes were some of the most complicated you could imagine. An attempt was made to orthographically portray all of these convoluted changes, but the orthography ended up a total mess.

Each consonant had four different values depending on where it was in the word and whether or not it was palatal. Hence, even though the 1st person absolute and conjunct look identical above (both are spelled glenaim), they were pronounced differently. The absolute was pronounced glyenum, and the conjunct was pronounced glyenuv.

The grammar was unbelievably complex, probably harder than Ancient Greek. There was even a non-IE substratum running underneath the language.

Old Irish gets a 5 rating, extremely difficult.

Irish students take Irish for 13 years, and some take French for five years. These students typically know French better than Irish. There are inflections for the inflections of the inflections, a convoluted aspiration system, and no words for yes or no. The system of initial consonant mutation is quite baffling. Noun declension is mystifying. Irish has irregular nouns, but there are not many of them:

the womanan bhean
the women
na mná

and there are only about 10 irregular verbs. There are dozens of different declension types for verbs. The various phonological gradations, lenitions and eclipses are not particularly regular. There are “slender” and “broad” variants of many of the consonants, and it is hard to tell the difference between them when you hear them. Many learners find the slender/broad consonants the hardest part of Irish. The orthography makes many lists of worst orthographies on Earth.

Irish gets a 4.5 ratings, very difficult.

Both Scots Gaelic and Irish Gaelic are written with non-phonetic spelling that is even more convoluted and irrational than English. This archaic spelling is in drastic need of revision, and it makes learners not want to learn the language. For instance, in Scots Gaelic, the word for taxi is tacsaidh, although the word is pronounced the same as the English word. There are simply too many unnecessary letters for too few sounds. Of the two, Scots Gaelic is harder due to many silent consonants.

Irish actually has rules for its convoluted spelling, and once you figure out the rules, it is fairly straightforward, as it is quite regular and it is actually rational in its own way. In addition, Irish recently underwent a spelling reform. The Irish spelling system does make sense in an odd way, as it marks things such as palatalization and velarization.

Scottish Gaelic and Manx have gone a long time with no spelling reforms.

Scottish Gaelic gets a 4.5 ratings, very difficult.

Manx is probably the worst Gaelic language of all in terms of its spelling since it has Gaelic spelling yet uses an orthography based on English which results in a crazy mix that makes many lists of worst scripts.

Manx gets a 4.5 rating, very difficult.

Common Byrthonic

Welsh is also very hard to learn, although Welsh has no case compared to Irish’s two cases. And Welsh has a mere five irregular verbs. The Byrthonic languages like Welsh and Breton are easier to learn than Gaelic languages like Irish and Scots Gaelic. One reason is because Welsh is written with a logical, phonetic alphabet. Welsh is also simpler grammar-wise, but things like initial consonant mutations can still seem pretty confusing and are difficult for the non-Celtic speaker to master and understand. Verbal declension is irregular.

caraf   I love
carwn   we love

cerais  I loved
carasom we loved

The problem above is that one cannot find any morpheme that means 1st person, 3rd person, or past tense in the examples. Even car- itself can change, and in connected speech often surfaces as gar-/ger-. And carwn can mean I was loving (imperfect) in addition to we love. There are no rules here, and you simply have to memorize the different forms.

Welsh gets a 4 rating, very hard to learn.

Breton is about in the same ballpark as Welsh. It has a flexible grammar, a logical orthography and only four irregular verbs.

On the other hand, there are very few language learning materials, and most of those available are only written in French.

Breton gets a 4 rating, very hard to learn.

Hellenic

Greek is a difficult language to learn, and it’s rated the second hardest language to learn by language professors. It’s easy to learn to speak simply, but it’s quite hard to get it down like a native. It’s the rare second language learner who attains native competence. Like English, the spelling doesn’t seem to make sense, and you have to memorize many words. Further, there is the unusual alphabet. However, the orthography is quite rational, about as good as that of Spanish. Whether or not Greek is an irregular language is controversial. It has that reputation, but some say it is not as irregular as it seems.

Greek has four cases: nominative, accusative, genitive and vocative (used when addressing someone). There are three genders: masculine, feminine and neuter. Nouns have several different declension patterns determined by the ending on the noun. Verb conjugations are about as complicated as in Romance. Greek does retain the odd aorist tense. In addition, it has the odd middle voice and optative mood. Greek syntax is quite complicated.

Greek gets a 5 rating, extremely difficult to learn.

Classic or Ancient Greek was worse, with a distinction between aspirated and unaspirated consonants, a pitch accent system and a truly convoluted, insanely irregular system of noun and verb inflection. It had a dual number in addition to singular and plural and a very difficult optative case. Irregular verbs had one of six different stem types. The grammar was one of the most complex of all languages, and the phonology and morphology were truly convoluted.

Ancient Greek is said to have had four different genitive cases, but it actually had four different uses of the genitive:

  1. Objective Genitive – “for obedience to faith”
  2. Subjective Genitive – “faith’s obedience” or faithful obedience
  3. Attributive Genitive – “obedience of faith”
  4. Genitive of Apposition – obedience, i.e. faith

How confusing!

Classic Greek gets a 5.5 rating, nearly hardest of all to learn.

Armenian

An  obscure branch of Indo-European, Armenian, is very hard to learn. Armenian is a difficult language in terms of grammar and phonetics, not to mention the very odd alphabet. The orthography is very regular, however there are some irregularities. For instance:

գրել , written grel but spoken gərel (schwa removed in orthography)
խոսել, written xosel but spoken xosal  (a changed to e in orthography)

However, the alphabet itself presents many problems. Print and cursive can be very different, and upper case and lower case can also be quite different. Here are some pairs of letters in upper and lower case:

Ա ա
Յ յ
Փ փ

All in all, this means you have to memorize as many as four different shapes for each letter. However, the grammar is very regular.

In addition, many letters very closely resemble other letters, which makes it very easy to get them mixed up:

գ and զ
ե
and է
դ
and ղ
ո
and ռ

There are voiced consonants and an alternation between aspirated and unaspirated unvoiced consonants, so some mix up the forms for b, p and , for instance. Nevertheless, there are many things about the grammar that seem odd compared to other IE languages. For instance, Armenian has agglutination, and that is a very strange feature for an IE language.

Part of the problem is that due to its location in the Caucasus, Armenian has absorbed influences from some of the wild nearly Caucasian languages. For instance, an extinct NE Caucasian Nakh language called Tsov is thought to have contributed to the Hurro-Ururtian substratum in Armenian. So in a sense when you learn Armenian, you are also learning a bit of Chechen at the same time. For some reason, Armenian scored very high on a weirdest languages survey.

People who have learned both Arabic and Armenian felt that Armenian was much easier, so Armenian seems to be much easier than Arabic.

Armenian is rated 4, very hard to learn.

Albanian

Albanian is another obscure branch of Indo-European. Albanian nouns have two genders (masculine and feminine), five cases including the ablative, lost in all other IE. Both definite and indefinite articles are widely used, a plus for English speakers. Most inflections were lost, and whatever is left doesn’t even look very IE. The verbal system is complex, having eight tenses including two aorists and two futures, and several moods, including indicative, imperative, subjunctive, conjunctive, optative and admirative. The last three are odd cases for IE. The optative only exists in IE in Ancient Greek, Sanskrit and Manx. Oddly enough, there is no infinitive. Active and passive voices are used.

Similarly to Gaelic, Albanian is even harder to learn than either German or Russian. Albanian may be even harder to learn than Polish.

Albanian is rated 5,extremely difficult.

Slavic

All Slavic languages have certain difficulties. For instance, the problematic perfect/imperfect tenses discussed below in Czech and Slovak are present in all of Slavic. The animate/inanimate noun class distinction is present in all of Slavic also. Slavic languages also add verb prefixes to verbs, completely changing the meaning of the verb and creating a new verb (see Italian above).

East Slavic

People are divided on the difficulty of Russian, but language teachers say it’s one of the hardest to learn. Even after a couple of years of study, some learners find it hard to speak even a simple sentence correctly.

It has six basic cases – nominative, accusative, dative, genitive, instrumental and prepositional – and analyses have suggested up to 10 other cases. The most common of the extra cases are locative, partitive and several forms of vocative. All of these extra cases either do not apply to all nouns (“incomplete” cases) or seem to be identical to an existing case. At any rate, the vocative is only used in archaic prose. And there is also a locative case, which is what the exceptions to the prepositional case are referred to. Russian has two genitive cases, the so-called Genitive 1 and Genitive 2. The first one is standard genitive and the second is the genitive-partitive (see above), which is now only used in archaic prose.

The grammar is fairly easy for a Slavic language. The problem comes with the variability in pronunciation. The adjectives and endings can be difficult. In addition, Russian has gender and lots of declensions. Like Lithuanian, almost everything in the language seems to decline. The adjectives change form if the nouns they describe have different endings. Adjectives also take case somehow.

Verbs have different forms depending on the pronouns that precede them. Russian has the same issues with perfective and imperfective forms as Polish does (see the Polish section below). There are dozens of different declension types for verbs and many verbs that are irregular and don’t fit into any of the declension types. In addition, there are many irregular nouns, syncretisms, and an aspectual system that is morphologically unpredictable.

Word order is pretty free. For instance, you can say:

I love you by saying

I love you.
You love I.
Love you I.
I you love.
Love I you.
You I love
.

Pronunciation is strange, with one vowel that is between an ü and i. Many consonants are odd, and every consonant has a palatalized counterpart, which will be difficult to speakers whose languages lack phonemic palatalized consonants. These are the soft and hard consonants that people talk about in Russian. The bl sound is probably the hardest to make, but the trilled r is also problematic.

Russian has several words that, bizarrely, are made up of only a single consonant:

s with, off of
k
to, towards
v
in, into
b
– subjunctive/conditional mood particle (would)
Z – emphatic particle

In addition, Russian has some very strange words that begin with a doubled consonant sound:

вводить
ввести
ссылка

The orthography system is irregular, so there are quite a few silent letters and words that are pronounced differently than they are spelled.

Word Silent Letters Example
здн  [знпраздник
рдц  [рцсердце
лнц  [нцсолнце
стн  [снлестница
вств [ств]          чувство
жч   [щ]            мужчина
зч   [щ]            извозчик
сч   [щ]            счастье
чт   [штчто
чн   [шнконечно
тц   [ц]            вкратце
дц   [ц]            двадцать
тч   [ч]            лётчик
дч   [ч]            докладчик
тся  [цца]          учится
ться [цца]          учиться

Stress is quite difficult in Russian since it seems arbitrary and does not appear to follow obvious rules:

дóмаat home
домá
buildings

One problem is that phonemic stress, not written out, changes the way the vowel is pronounced. For instance:

узнаюI’m finding out
узнаю
I will find out

The two are written identically, so how you tell them apart in written Russian, I have no idea. However in speech you can tell one from the other because the two forms have different stress.

Russian also has vowel reduction that is not represented in the orthography. The combination of stress and vowel reduction means that even looking at a Russian word, you are not quite sure how to pronounce it.

Like German, Russian builds morphemes into larger words. Again like German, this is worse than it sounds since the rules are not so obvious. In addition, there is the strange Cyrillic alphabet, which is nevertheless easier than the Arabic or Chinese ones. Russian also uses prepositions to combine with verbs to form the nightmare of phrasal verbs, but whereas English puts the preposition after the verb, Russian puts it in front of the verb.

All of Slavic has a distinction between animate and inanimate nouns as a sort of a noun class. Russian takes it further and even has a distinction between animate and inanimate pronouns in the male gender:

dvoje muzhchin     two men
troje muzhchin     three men
chetvero muzhchin  four men
pyatero muzhchin   five men
shestero muzhchin  six men
semero muzhchin    seven men

Compare to:

dva duba      two oaks 
tri duba      three oaks 
chetyre duba  four oaks

However, Russian only has the animate/inanimate distinction in pronouns and not in nouns in general.

Like Polish below, you use different verbs depending if you are going somewhere on foot or other than on foot. Second there is a distinction between going somewhere with a goal in mind and going somewhere with no particular goal in mind. For instance, to go:

idti (by foot, specific endpoint)
xodit’ (by foot, no specific endpoint)
exat’ (by conveyance, specific endpoint)
ezdit’ (by conveyance, no specific endpoint)

The verb to carry also has four different forms with the same distinctions as above.

In addition, there are various prefixes you can put on a verb:

into                  v-
out of                vy-
towards               po-
away from             u-
up to the edge of     pod-
away from the edge of ot-
through               pro-
around                ob-

These prefixes look something like “verbal case.” You an add any of those prefixes to any of the going or carrying verbs above. Therefore, you can have:

poiti  –walk up to something
obezdit’
drive around with no goal
uxodit’
–  walk away from something with no goal in mind

The combination of paths and goals results in some very specific motion verbs.

Russian is harder to learn than English. We know this because Russian children take longer to learn their language than English speaking children do. The reason given was that Russian words tended to be longer, but there may be other reasons.

Russian has the advantage of having quite a bit of Romance and Greek loans for a Slavic language, but unfortunately, you will not typically hear these words in casual conversion. Russian also has no articles. English speakers will find this odd, but others regard it as a plus.

Russian is less difficult than Czech, Polish or Serbo-Croatian.

Russian gets a 4 rating, very hard to learn.

West Slavic
Czech and Slovak

Czech and Slovak are notoriously hard to learn; in fact, all Slavic languages are. Language professors rate the Slavic languages the third hardest to learn on Earth. Czech is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the hardest language to learn. Even the vast majority of Czechs never learn to speak their language correctly. They spend nine years in school studying Czech grammar, but some rules are learned only at university. Immigrants never seem to learn Czech well, however, there are a few foreigners who have learned Czech very well – say, three or fewer errors in a 30 minute monologue, so it is possible to learn Czech well even if it is not very common.

Writing Czech properly is even more difficult than speaking it correctly, so few Czechs write without errors. In fact, an astounding 1/3 of the population makes at least on grammatical or spelling mistake in every sentence they write! The younger generation is now even worse as far as this goes, as Czech language teaching for natives has become more lax in recent years and drills have become fewer. Nevertheless, the Czech and Slovak orthographies are very rational. There is nearly a 1-1 sound/symbol correspondence.

Even natives often mess up the conditional (would). The 3rd conditional (past conditional) has nearly gone out of modern Czech and has merged with the present conditional:

3rd conditional – If I “would have known” it, I would not have asked has merged with
2nd conditional – If I “would know” it, I would not ask.

This means conditional events in the present are no longer distinguished between those in the past, and the language is impoverished.

Native speakers also mix up a specific use of the gerund:

English:

She looked at me smiling.
He walked along whistling.
He was in his bed reading a book.

This is easy to say in English, and the use of these forms is rather common. However, it is very hard to make those sentences in Czech, and possibly only 3% of the population can formulate those sentences properly. Instead, they break them up into two sentences:

Czech:

She looked at me, and she smiled.
He was in his bed, and he was reading.

Czech is full of exceptions and exceptions to the exceptions. It is said that there are more exceptions than there are rules. Czech has seven cases in singular and seven more cases in plural for nouns, for a total of 59 different “modes” of declension. There are also words that swing back and forth between “modes.” Adjectives and pronouns also have seven cases in the singular and plural. Czech is one of the few languages that actually has two genitive cases – one more or less possessive and the other more or less partitive. There are six genders, three in the singular and three in the plural.

When you put all that together, each noun can decline in 59 different ways. Further, these 59 different types of nouns each have 14 different forms depending on case. Verbs also decline. The verbs have both perfective and imperfective and have 45 different conjugation patterns. Czech learners often confuse the perfect and imperfect verbs. Verbs of motion can also be quite tricky.

One of the problems with Czech is that not only nouns but also verbs take gender, but they only do so in the past tense. In addition, Czech has a complicated aspect system that is often quite irregular and simply must be memorized to be learned.

This conjugation is fairly regular:

viděl continuous past – he saw
uviděl
punctual – once he suddenly saw
vídával
repetitive – he used to see (somebody/something) repeatedly

Others are less regular:

jedl continuous – he ate
snědl dojedl
he ate it all up
ujedl
he ate a bit of it
pojedl
he finished eating
jídával
repetitive – he used to eat repeatedly

Czech also has an evidential system. The particle prý is used to refer to hearsay evidence that you did not personally witness.

Prý je tam zima.
Someone said/People say it’s cold outside.

Truth is that almost every word in the language is subject to declension. The suffixes on nouns and verbs change all the time in strange ways.

There are some difficult consonants such as š, č, ť, ž, ľ, ď, dz, , ĺ and ŕ. It’s full of words that don’t seem to have vowels.

Entire Czech sentences can have extreme consonant clusters that appear to lack vowels:

Strč prst skrz krk.
Stick a finger through your neck.

Smrž pln skvrn zvlhl z mlh.
A morel full of spots welted from fogs…

Mlž pln skvrn zvh.

However, the letters r and l are considered “half-vowels” in Czech, so the sentences above are easier to pronounce than you might think.

The letters ř and r (Czech has contrasting alveolar trills) are hard to pronounce, and ř is often said to exist in no longer language, including other Slavic languages. It is only found in one other language on Earth –  the Papuan language Kobon, which pronounces it a bit differently. Even Czechs have a hard time making these sounds properly (especially the ř), and many L2 speakers never get them right. There is also a hard and soft i which is hard to figure out.

As with other Slavic languages like Russian, it has the added problem of fairly loose word order. In addition, there are significant differences between casual and formal speech where you use different forms for someone you are familiar with (are on a first name basis with) as opposed to someone you do not know well. In addition, females use different endings for the past tense than men do.

On the plus side, Czech stress, like that of Polish, is regular as the accent is always on the first syllable. But if you come from a language such as Spanish where the accent is typically on the second syllable, this might present an obstacle.

Czech gets a 5.5 rating, nearly hardest of all.

Slovak is closely related to Czech, and it is controversial which one is harder to learn. Slovak is definitely more archaic than Czech. Some say that Slovak is easier because it has a more regular grammar. Slovak has the additional problem is marking acute accents: á, é, í, ĺ, ó, ŕ, ú and ý. Slovak fortunately lacks the impossible Czech ř sound. Instead it has something called a “long r,” (ŕ) which is not very easy to make either. This is something like the er sound in English her.

Slovak, like Czech, has retained the vocative, but it almost extinct as it is restricted to only a few nouns. Like Polish and Sorbian, Slovak also has an animate/inanimate distinction in gender for plural nouns. So Slovak has five genders: masculine, feminine and neuter in the singular and animate and inanimate in the plural.

Some say that Slovak is even harder than Polish, and there may be a good case that Czech and Slovak are harder than Polish.

Slovak gets a 5.5 rating, nearly hardest of all.

Lechitic

Polish is similar to Czech and Slovak in having words that seem to have no vowels, but in Polish at least there are invisible vowels. That’s not so obviously the case with Czech. Nevertheless, try these sentences:

  1. Wszczebrzeszynie chrząszcz brzmi w trzcinie i Szczebrzeszyn z tego słynie.
  2. Wyindywidualizowaliśmy się z rozentuzjazmowanego tłumu.
  3. W Szczebrzeszynie chrząszcz brzmi w trzcinie.

I and y, s and z, je and ě alternate at the ends of some words, but the rules governing when to do this, if they exist, don’t seem sensible. The letter ť is very hard to pronounce. There are nasal vowels as in Portuguese. The ą, ć, ę, ł, ń, ó, sz, cz, dz, , sounds are hard for foreigners to make. There are sounds that it is even hard for native speakers to make as they require a lot tongue movements. A word such as szczescie is hard to Polish L2 speakers to pronounce. Polish written to spoken pronunciation makes little sense, as in English – h and ch are one sound – h, ó and u are the same sound, and u may form diphthongs where it sounds like ł, so u and ł can be the same sound in some cases.

The confusing distinction between h/ch has gone of most spoken Polish. Furthermore, there is a language committee, but like the French one, it is more concerned with preserving the history or the etymology of the word and less with spelling the word phonemically. Language committees don’t always do their jobs!

Polish orthography, while being regular, is very complex. Polish uses a Latin alphabet unlike most other Slavic languages which use a Cyrillic alphabet. The letters are: A Ą B C Ć D E Ę F G H I J K L Ł M N Ń O Ó Q P R S T U V W X  Y Z Ź Ż. Even Poles say that their orthography is very complicated.

Polish is even complex in terms of pronunciation. There are apparently rules for regarding comma use, but the rules are so complex that even native speakers can’t make sense of them.

Further, native speakers speak so fast it’s hard for non-natives to understand them. Due to the consonant-ridden nature of Polish, it is harder to pronounce than most Asian languages. Listening comprehension is made difficult by all of the sh and ch like sounds. Furthermore, since few foreigners learn Polish, Poles are not used to hearing their language mangled by second-language learners. Therefore, foreigners’ Polish will seldom be understood.

Polish grammar is said to be more difficult than Russian grammar. Polish has the following:

There are five different tenses: zaprzeszły, przeszły, teraźniejszy, przyszły prosty, and przyszły złozony.

There are seven different genders: masculine animate, masculine inanimate, feminine, and neuter in the singular and animate and inanimate in the plural. However, masculine animate and masculine inanimate and the plural genders are only distinguished in accusative. Masculine animate, masculine inanimate and neuter genders have similar declensions; only feminine gender differs significantly.

Masculine nouns have five patterns of declension, and feminine and neuter nouns have six different patterns of declension. Adjectives have two different declension patterns. Numbers have five different declension patterns: główne, porządkowe, zbiorowe, nieokreślone, and ułamkowe. There is a special pattern for nouns that are only plural.

There are seven different cases: nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, instrumental, locative, vocative. Only the genitive locative cases are irregular, the latter only in the singular. Verbs have nine different persons in their declensions: ja, ty, on, ona, ono, my, wy, oni, one. There are different conjugation patterns for men and women. There are 18 different conjugation patterns in the verb (11 main ones). There are five different polite forms: for a man, a woman, men, women and men and women combined.

There are four different participle forms, three of which inflect. Some of these are active and others are passive, but the whole system is incredibly complex. All of the participles decline like nouns, each gender adds its bit to each pattern which in turn change more according to tense.

Polish has seven cases, including the vocative which has gone out of most Slavic. The vocative is often said to be dying out, becoming less common or only used in formal situations, but the truth is that it is still commonly used.

In an informal situation, a Pole might be more like to use nominative rather than vocative:

Cześć Marek! (Nom.), rather than
Cześć Marku! (Voc.)

However, in a more formal situation, the vocative is still likely to be used:

Dzień dobry panie profesorze/doktorze! (Voc.). Dzień dobry pan profesor/doktor! (Nom.) would never be used, even in casual conversation.

Case declension is very irregular, unlike German. Polish consonant gradation is called oboczność (variation).

The genders of nouns cause the adjectives modifying them to inflect differently.

Noun
matka    mother (female gender)
ojciec   father (male gender)
dziecko  child (neuter gender)

Modifying Adjective
brzydkiugly ugly

Singular
brzydka matka     ugly mother
brzydki ojciec    ugly father
brzydkie dziecko  ugly child

Plural
brzydkie matki    ugly mothers
brzydcy ojcowie  ugly fathers
brzydkie dzieci   ugly children

Gender even effects verbs.

I ate (female speaker) Ja zjadłam
I ate (male speaker)   Ja zjadłem

There are two different forms of the verb kill depending on whether the 1st person singular and plural and 2nd person plural killers are males or females.

I killed     zabiłem/zabiłam
We killed    zabiliśmy/zabiłyśmy
They killed  zabili/zabiły

The perfective and imperfective tenses create a dense jungle of forms:

kupować - to buy

Singular  Simple Past         Imperfect
I (f.)    kupiłam             kupowałam
I (m.)    kupiłem             kupowałem
you (f.)  kupiłaś             kupowałaś
you (m.)  kupiłeś             kupowałeś
he        kupił               kupował
she       kupiła              kupowała
it        kupiło              kupowało

Plural
we (f.)   kupiłyśmy           kupowałyśmy
we (m.)   kupiliśmy           kupowaliśmy
you (f.)  kupiłyście          kupowałyście 
you (m.)  kupiliście          kupowaliście
they (f.) kupiły              kupowały
they (m.) kupili              kupowali

The verb above forms an incredible 28 different forms in the perfect and imperfect past tense alone.

The existence of the perfective and imperfective verbs themselves is the least of the problem. The problem is that each verb – perfective or imperfective – is in effect a separate verb altogether, instead of just being conjugated differently.

The verb to see has two completely different verbs in Polish:

widziec
zobaczyc

WidziałemI saw (repeatedly in the past, like I saw the sun come up every morning).
ZobaczyłemI saw (only once; I saw the sun come up yesterday).

Some of these verbs are obviously related to each other:

robić/zrobić
czytać
/przeczytać
zachowywać
/zachować
jeść
/zjeść

But others are very different:

mówić/powiedzieć
widzieć
/zobaczyć
kłaść
/położyć

This is not a tense difference – the very verbs themselves are different! So for every verb in the language, you effectively have to learn two different verbs. The irregular forms may date from archaic Polish.

In addition, the future perfect and future imperfect often conjugate completely differently, though the past forms usually conjugate in the same way – note the -em endings above. There is no present perfect as in English, since in Polish the action must be completed, and you can’t be doing something at this precise moment and at the same time have just finished doing it. 95% of verbs have these maddening dual forms, but for 5% of verbs that lack a perfective version, you only have one form.

It’s often said that one of the advantages of Polish is that there are only three tenses, but this is not really case, as there are at least eight tenses:

Indicative         grac       to play
Present            gram       I play 
Past               gralem     I played
Conditional        gralbym    I would play
Future             będę grać  I will play
Continuous future  będę grał  I will be playing
Perfective future  bogram     I will have played*
Perf. conditional  pogralbym  I would have played

*Implies you will finish the action

There is also an aspectual distinction made when referring to the past. Different forms are used based on whether or not the action has been completed.

Whereas in English we use one word for go no matter what mode of transportation we are using to get from one place to another, in Polish, you use different verbs if you are going by foot, by car, by plane, by boat or by other means of transportation.

In addition, there is an animate-inanimate distinction in gender. Look at the following nouns:

hat      kapelusz
computer komputer
dog      pies
student  uczen

All are masculine gender, but computer and hat are inanimate, and student and dog are animate, so they inflect differently.

I see a new hatWidze nowy kapelusz
I see a new student
Widze nowego ucznia

Notice how the now- form changed.

In addition to completely irregular verbs, there are also irregular nouns in Polish:

człowiek -> ludzie

Let us look at pronouns. English has one word for the genitive case of the 1st person singular – my. In Polish, depending on the context, you can have the following 11 forms, and actually there are even more than 11:

mój
moje
moja
moją
mojego
mojemu
mojej
moim
moi
moich
moimi

Numerals can be complex. English has one word for the number 2 – two. Polish has 21 words for two, and  all of them are in common use.

dwa (nominative non-masculine personal male and neuter and non-masculine personal accusative)
dwaj (masculine personal nominative)
dwie (nominative and accusative female)
dwóch (genitive, locative and masculine personal accusative)
dwom (dative)
dwóm (dative)
dwu (alternative version sometimes used for instrumental, genitive, locative and dative)
dwoma (masculine instrumental)
dwiema (female instrumental)
dwoje (collective, nominative + accusative)
dwojga (collective, genitive)
dwojgu (collective, dative + locative)
dwójka (noun, nominative)
dwójkę (noun, accusative)
dwójki (noun, genitive)
dwójce (noun, dative and locative)
dwójką (noun, instrumental)
dwójko (vocative)
dwojgiem (collective, instrumental)
dwójkach
dwójek
dwója
dwójkami

Polish also has the paucal form like Serbo-Croatian. It is the remains of the old dual. The paucal applies to impersonal masculine, feminine and neuter nouns but not to personal masculine nouns.

Personal Masculine

one boy     jeden chłopiec
two boys    dwóch chłopców
three boys  trzech chłopców
four boys   czterech chłopców
five boys   pięciu chłopców
six boys    sześciu chłopców
seven boys  siedmiu chłopców
eight boys  ośmiu chłopców

Impersonal Masculine

one dog     jeden pies
two dogs    dwa psy
three dogs  trzy psy
four dogs   cztery psy
five dogs   pięć psów
six dogs    sześć psów
seven dogs  siedem psów
eight dogs  osiem psów

In the above, two, three and four dogs is in the paucal (psy), while two, three or four men is not and is instead in the plural (chłopców)

A single noun can change in many ways and take many different forms. Compare przyjacielfriend

                             Singular         Plural
who is my friend             przyjaciel       przyjaciele
who is not my friend         przyjaciela      przyjaciół
friend who I give s.t. to    przyjacielowi    przyjaciołom
friend who I see             przyjaciela      przyjaciół
friend who I go with         z przyajcielem   z przyjaciółmi
friend who I dream of        o przyjacielu    o przyjaciołach
Oh my friend!                Przyajcielu!     Przyjaciele!

There are 12 different forms of the noun friend above.

Plurals change based on number. In English, the plural of telephone is telephones, whether you have two or 1,000 of them. In Polish, you use different words depending on how many telephones you have:

two, three or four telefony, but
five telefonów.

Sometimes, this radically changes the word, as in hands:

four ręce, but
five rąk.

There are also irregular diminutives such as

psiaczek  -> słoneczko

Polish seems like Lithuanian in the sense that almost every grammatical form seems to inflect in some way or other. Even conjunctions inflect in Polish.

In addition, like Serbo-Croatian, Polish can use multiple negation in a sentence. You can use up to five negatives in a perfectly grammatical sentence:

Nikt nikomu nigdy nic nie powiedział.
Nobody ever said anything to anyone
.

Like Russian, there are multiple different ways to say the same thing in Polish. However, the meaning changes subtly with these different word combinations, so you are not exactly saying the same thing with each change or word order. Nevertheless, this mess does not seem to be something that would be transparent to the Polish learner.

In English, you can say Ann has a cat, but you can’t mix the words up and mean the same thing. In Polish you can say Ann has a cat five different ways:

Ania ma kota.
Kota ma Ania.
Ma Ania kota.
Kota Ania ma.
Ma kota Ania.

The first one is the most common, but the other four can certainly be used. The truth that while the general meaning is the same in each sentence, the deep meaning changes with each sentence having a slightly different nuanced interpretation.

In addition, Polish has a wide variety of dialects, and a huge vocabulary. Although Polish grammar is said to be irregular, this is probably not true. It only gives the appearance of being irregular as there are so many different rules, but there is a method to the madness underneath it all. The rules themselves are so complex and numerous that it is hard to figure them all out.

Polish appears to be more difficult than Russian. For example, in Russian as in English, the 1st through 3rd person past tense forms are equivalent, whereas in Polish, they are each different:

          English   Russian     Polish

1st past  I went    ya pashou   ja poszedłem 
2nd past  you went  ty pashou   ty poszedłeś
3rd past  he went   on pashou   on poszedł

Even adult Poles make a lot of mistakes in speaking and writing Polish properly. However, most Poles are quite proud of their difficult language (though a few hate it) and even take pride in its difficult nature.

On the positive side, in Polish, the stress is fixed, there are no short or long vowels nor is there any vowel harmony, there are no tones and it uses a Latin alphabet.

Polish is one of the most difficult of the Slavic languages. Even Poles say it is very hard to learn. Most Poles do not learn to speak proper Polish until they are 16 years old! Although most Poles know how to speak proper Polish, they often use improper forms when speaking formally, not because they do not know how to speak correctly but simply because they feel like it.do

It is harder than Russian and probably also harder than Czech, though this is controversial. There is a lot of controversy regarding which is harder, Czech or Polish.

Polish gets a 5 rating, extremely difficult.

South Slavic
Eastern

It’s controversial whether Bulgarian is an easy or hard language to learn. The truth is that it may be the easiest Slavic language to learn, but all Slavic language  are hard. Though it is close to Russian, there are Russians who have been living there for 20 years and still can’t understand it well.

It has few cases compared to the rest of Slavic. There are three cases, but they are present only in pronouns. The only case in nouns is vocative. This is odd because most Slavic languages have either lost or are in the process of losing the vocative, and in Bulgarian it is the only case that has been retained. Compared to English, Bulgarian is well structured and straightforward with little irregularity. In addition, Bulgarian has more Romance (mostly French) and Greek borrowings than any other Slavic languages. Romance came in via the Vlahs who lived there before the Slavs moved in and Greek from the Byzantine period. In recent years, many English borrowings have also gone in.

Bulgarian has a suffixed general article that is not found in the rest of Slavic but is apparently an areal feature borrowed from Albanian. The stress rules are nightmarish, and it seems as if there are no rules.

Bulgarian has grammatical gender, with three genders – masculine, feminine and neuter. In addition, adjectives must agree with the gender of the noun they are modifying. In English, adjectives are invariable no matter what the noun is:

pretty man
pretty woman
pretty horse
pretty table

However, the Bulgarian alphabet is comparatively simple compared to other Slavic alphabets. Since 1945, it has only had 30 letters. Compare this to the 70 letters in Polish. There are only six vowels, and it has the easiest consonant clusters in Slavic. The orthography is very regular, with no odd spellings. The Cyrillic alphabet is different for those coming from a Latin alphabet and can present problems. For one thing, letters that look like English letters are pronounced in different ways:

В is pronounced v in Bulgarian
E is pronounced eh in Bulgarian
P is pronounced r in Bulgarian

There are a number of Bulgarian letters that look like nothing you have ever seen before: Ж, Я, Ь, Ю, Й, Щ, Ш, and Ч. Bulgarian handwriting varies to a great degree and the various styles are often difficult to map back onto the typewritten letters that they represent.

While Bulgarian has the advantage of lacking much case, Bulgarian verbs are quite complex even compared to other Slavic languages. Each Bulgarian verb can have up to 3,000 forms as it changes across person, number, voice, aspect, mood, tense and gender. Bulgarian has two aspects (perfect and imperfect), voice, nine tenses, five moods and six non infinitival verbal forms.

For instance, each verb has at two aspects – simple and continuous – for each of the tenses, which are formed in different ways. Onto this they add a variety of derivatives such as prefixes, suffixes, etc. that change the meaning in subtle ways:

Aorist or Perfect:

да прочитамto read in whole a single text/book/etc (viewed as fact, that is the duration of the action does not interest us)
да изчитам – to read every book there is on the subject (viewed as fact, that is the duration of the action does not interest us)
да дочетаto finish reading something (viewed as fact, that is the duration of the action does not interest us)

Continuous or Imperfect:

да четаto be reading (viewed as an action in progress)
да прочитамto read in whole a single text/book/etc (viewed as an action in progress)
да изчитамto read every book there is on the subject (viewed as an action in progress)

Mood is very complicated. There are different ways to say the same idea depending on how you know of the event. If you know about it historically, you mark the sentence with a particular mood. If you doubt the event, you mark with another mood.

If you know it historically but doubt it, you use yet another mood. And there are more than that. These forms were apparently borrowed from Turkish. These forms are rare in world languages. One is Yamana, a Patagonian language that has only one speaker left.

In Bulgarian, you always know if something is a noun, a verb or an adjective due to its marking. You will never have the same word as an adjective, noun and verb. In English, you can have words that act as verbs, adjectives and nouns.

Let’s dance!
Let’s go to the dance.
Let’s go to dance lessons.

Bulgarian is probably the easiest Slavic language to learn.

Bulgarian gets a 3.5 rating, above average difficulty.

Macedonian is very close to Bulgarian, and some say it is a dialect of Bulgarian. However, I believe that is a separate language closely related to Bulgarian. Macedonian is said the be the easiest Slavic language to learn, easier than Bulgarian. This is because it is easier to pronounce than Bulgarian. Like Bulgarian, Macedonian has lost most all of its case. But there are very few language learning materials for Macedonian.

Macedonian gets a 3.5 rating, above average difficulty.

Western

Serbo-Croatian, similar to Czech, has seven cases in the singular and seven in the plural, plus there are several different declensions. The vocative is still going strong in Serbo-Croatian (S-C), as in Polish, Ukrainian and Bulgarian. There 15 different types of declensions: seven tenses, three genders, three genres or moods, and two aspects. Whereas English has one word for the number 2 – two, Serbo-Croatian has 17 words or forms.

Case abbreviations below:
N = NAV – nominative, accusative, vocative
G = Genitive
D = Dative
L =Locative
I = Instrumental

Masculine inanimate gender
N dva
G dvaju
D L I dvama

Feminine gender
N dve
G dveju
D L I dvema

Mixed gender
N dvoje
G dvoga
D L I dvoma

Masculine animate gender
N dvojica
G dvojice
D L dvojici
I dvojicom

“Twosome”
N dvojka
G dvojke
D L dvojci
I dvojkom

The grammar is incredibly complex. There are imperfective and perfective verbs, but when you try to figure out how to build one from the other, it seems irregular. This is the hardest part of Serbo-Croatian grammar, and foreigners not familiar with other Slavic tongues usually never get it right.

Serbian has a strange form called the “paucal.” It is the remains of the old dual, and it also exists in Polish and Russian.  The paucal is a verbal number like singular, plural and dual. It is used with the numbers dva (2), tri (3), četiri (4) and oba/obadva (both) and also with any number that contains 2, 3 or 4 (22, 102, 1032).

gledalac            viewer
pažljiv(i)          careful
gledalac pažljiv(i) careful viewer

1 careful viewer  jedan pažljivi gledalac 
2 careful viewers dva pažljiva gledaoca   
3 careful viewers tri pažljiva gledaoca   
5 careful viewers pet pažljivih gledalaca

Above, pažljivi gledalac is singular, pažljivih gledalaca is plural and pažljiva gledaoca is paucal.

As in English, there are many different ways to say the same thing. Pronouns are so rarely used that some learners are surprised that they exist, since pronimalization is marked on the verb as person and number. Word order is almost free or at least seems arbitrary, similar to Russian.

Serbo-Croatian, like Lithuanian, has pitch accent – low-rising, low-falling, short-rising and short-falling. It’s not the same as tone, but it’s similar. In addition to the pitch accent differentiating words, you also have an accented syllable somewhere in the word, which as in English, is unmarked. And when the word conjugates or declines, the pitch accent can jump around in the word to another syllable and even changes its type in ways that do not seem transparent. It’s almost impossible for foreigners to get this pitch-accent right.

The “hard” ch sound is written č, while the “soft” ch sound is written ć. It has syllabic r and l. Long consonant clusters are permitted. See this sentence:

Na vrh brda vrba mrda.

However, in many of these consonant clusters, a schwa is present between consonants in speech, though it is not written out.

S-C, like Russian, has words that consist of only a single consonant:

swith

Serbo-Croatian does benefit from a phonetic orthography.

It is said that few if any foreigners ever master Serbo-Croatian well. Similar to Czech and Polish, it is said that many native speakers make mistakes in S-C even after decades of speaking it, especially in pitch accent.

Serbo-Croatian is often considered to be one of the hardest languages on Earth to learn. It is harder than Russian but not as hard as Polish.

Serbo-Croatian gets a 4.5 rating, very difficult.

Slovenian or Slovene is also a very hard language to learn, probably on a par with Serbo-Croatian. It has three number distinctions, singular, dual and plural. It’s the only major IE European language that has retained the dual. Sorbian has also retained the dual, but it is a minor tongue. However, the dual may be going out in Slovenia. In Primorska it is not used at all, and in the rest of Slovenia, the feminine dual is not used in casual speech (plural is used instead), but the masculine dual is still used for masculine nouns and mixed pairs of masculine and feminine nouns.

In addition, there are six cases, as Slovene has lost the vocative. There are 18 different declensions of the word son, but five of them are identical, so there are really only 13 different forms.

   Singular Dual       Plural 
1. Sin      Sina       Sini
2. Sina     Sinov      Sinov
3. Sinu     Sinovoma   Sinovom
4. Sina     Sinova     Sinove
5. O sinu   O sinovoma O sinovih
6. S sinom  Z sinovoma Z sini

There are seven different ways that nouns decline depending on gender, but there are exceptions to all of the gender rules. The use of particles such as pa is largely idiomatic. In addition, there is a lack of language learning materials for Slovene.

Some sounds are problematic. Learners have a hard time with the č and ž sounds. There are also “open” and “closed” vowels as in Portuguese.

Here is an example of a word that can be difficult to pronounce:

križiščecrossroads

However, Slovene has the past perfect that is the same as the English tense, lost in the rest of Slavic. In addition, via contact with German and Italian, many Germanic and Romance loans have gone in. If you know some German and have some knowledge of another Slavic language, Slovene is not overwhelmingly difficult.

Some people worry that Slovene might go extinct in the near future, as it is spoken by only 2 million people. However, even this small language has 356, 881 headwords in an online dictionary. So it is clear that Slovene has plenty enough vocabulary to deal with the modern world.

Slovene is easier than Russian, Serbo-Croatian, Polish, Czech or Slovak.

Slovenian gets a 4 rating, very hard.

Baltic

Eastern Baltic

Lithuanian, an archaic Indo-European Baltic tongue, is extremely difficult to learn. There are many dialects, which is interesting for such a small country, and the grammar is very difficult, with many rules. There is grammatical gender for nouns, and in addition, even numerals have gender in all cases. The language is heavily inflectional such that you can almost speak without using prepositions.

A single verb has 16 participial forms, and that is just using masculine gender for the participles. You can also add feminine forms to that verb. There are two main genders or giminės, masculine and feminine, but there is also neutral gender (bevardė giminė), which has three different forms. Verbs further decline via number (singular, dual and plural) and six different cases. There are five classes of verbs and six modes of declension for nouns (linksniai). However, Lithuanian verb tense is quite regular. You only need to remember infinitive, 3rd person present and 3rd person past, and after that, all of the conjugations are regular.

Here is an example of the Lithuanian verb:

Eiti – “to go. Ei is the verb root, and ti is in infinitival suffix.

Verbs decline according to:

Person and number
1st singular einu   I go  
3rd dual     einava we two go
1st plural   einame we go

The four tenses

2nd pl. past       Ėjote    you (guys) went
2 sing. imperfect  eidavote you used to go
2 sing. indicative einate   you go
2 sing. future     eisite   you will go

They also change according to something called “participants.” The participant paradigm has three tenses and all three genders. Participants are further divided into direct and indirect.

Regular direct participant (3 tenses, 3 genders)

Male
Ėjęs   while he himself went
einąs  while he himself is going
eisiąs while he himself will be going

Female
Ėjusi  while she herself went

Neuter
buvo einama while it itself went
einama      while it itself was going
bus einama  while it itself will be going

Regular indirect participant (3 tenses, 3 genders)

Male
past    eidytas     one that was forced to go
present eidomas     one that is being forced to go
future  bus eidomas one that will be forced to go

Semi participant (no tenses, 2 genders)

Male
eidamas while going himself

Female
eidama  while going herself

Active participant (2 tenses, no genders)

past    Ėjus   while going (in the past)
present einant while going now

2nd infinitive or budinys (no tenses)

eite in a way of going

Plusquamperfect (be + regular participants)

Paradigm
indicative būti   to have been gone
present    yra    has been gone
past       buvo   had been gone 
imperfect  būdavo used to have been gone 
future     bus    will have been gone

past 3pl   buvo ėję they had been gone 

Additional moods 

Imperative (all persons) 

Eik!             Go! 
Eikime!          Let's go! 
Teeina/Lai eina! Let him/her go! 

Subjunctive (all persons) 
eičiau I would go 
eitum  thou would go

In addition, while most verb marking is done via suffixes, Lithuanian can make aspect via both suffixes and prefixes, bizarrely enough (Arkadiev 2011).

Determining whether a noun is masculine or feminine is easier than in German where you often have to memorize which noun takes which gender. Lithuanian is similar to Spanish in that the ending will often give you a hint about which gender the noun takes.

Here is an example of the sort of convolutions you have to go through to attach the adjective good to a noun.

geras - good

             Masculine          Feminine

             Singular  Plural   Singular  Plural
Nominative   geras     geri     gera      geros
Genitive     gero      gerų     geros     gerų
Dative       geram     geriems  gerai     geroms
Accusative   gerą      gerus    gerą      geras
Instrumental geru      gerais   gera      geromis
Locative     gerame    geruose  geroje    gerose

The noun system in general of Lithuanian is probably more complicated even than the complex Russian noun system. Lithuanian is possibly more irregular and may have more declensions than even Polish. Learners often feel that the grammar is illogical.

Furthermore, while it does not have lexical tone per se, it does have pitch accent – there are three different pitches or degrees (laipsniai), which sound like tones but are not tones. Stress is hardly predictable and nearly needs to be learned word by word. It’s almost impossible for foreigners to get the accent right, and the accents tend to move around a lot across words during declension/conjugation such that the rules are opaque if they exist at all. It was formerly thought to be nearly random, but it has now been found that Lithuanian stress actually falls into four paradigms, so there is a system there after all.

You cannot really forget about lexical tone when learning Lithuanian, as stress is as fundamental to Lithuanian as tone is to Mandarin.

Often you need a dictionary to figure out where the accent should be on a word. Lithuanian pronunciation is also difficult. For example, look at rimti (to get calm) and rimti (serious – plural, masculine, nominative). There is a short i sound that is the same in both words, but the only difference is where the stress or pitch accent goes. Consonants undergo some complicated changes due to palatalization. Lithuanian has soft and hard (palatalized and nonpalatalized) consonants as in Russian.

Try these words and phrases:

šalna
šąla šiandien
ačiū už skanią vakarienę
pasikiškiakopūsteliaudamasis
ūkis
malūnas
čežėti šiauduose

Or this paragraph:

Labas, kaip šiandien sekasi? Aš esu iš Lietuvos, kur gyvenu visą savo gyvenimą. Lietuvių kalba yra sunkiausia iš visų pasaulyje. Ačiū už dėmesį.

Lithuanian is an archaic IE language that has preserved a lot of forms that the others have lost.

In spite of all of that, picking up the basics of Lithuanian may be easier than it seems, and while foreigners usually never get the pitch-accent down, the actual rules are fairly sensible. Nevertheless, many learners never figure out these rules and to them, there seem to be no rules for pitch accent.

Learning Lithuanian is similar to learning Latin. If you’ve been able to learn Latin, Lithuanian should not be too hard. Also, Lithuanian is very phonetic; words are pronounced how they are spelled.

Some languages that are similar to English, like Norwegian and Dutch, can be learned to a certain extent simply by learning words and ignoring grammar. I know Spanish and have been able to learn a fair amount of Portuguese, French and Italian without learning a bit of grammar in any of them.

Lithuanian won’t work that way because due to case, base words change form all the time, so it will seem like you are always running into new words, when it fact it’s the same base word declining in various case forms. There’s no shortcut with Latin and Lithuanian. You need to learn the case grammar first, or little of it will make sense.

Some say that Lithuanian is even harder to learn than the hardest Slavic languages like Polish and Czech. It may be true.

Lithuanian gets a 5 rating, extremely hard to learn.

Latvian is another Baltic language that is somewhat similar to Lithuanian. It’s also hard to learn. Try this:

Sveiki, esmu no Latvijas, un mūsu valoda ir skanīga, skaista un ar ļoti sarežģītu gramatisko sistēmu.

Latvian and Lithuanian are definitely harder to learn than Russian. They both have aspects like in Russian but have more cases than Russian, plus a lot more irregular verbs. Latvian, like Lithuanian, has a tremendous amount of inflection. The long vowels can be hard to pronounce.

Latvian is easier to learn than Lithuanian. The grammar is easier to figure out and the phonological system is much easier. Also, Latvian has lost many archaic IE features that Lithuanian has retained. Latvian has regular stress, always on the first syllable, as opposed to Lithuanian’s truly insane stress system. Latvian has fewer noun declensions, and fewer difficult consonant clusters.

Latvian gets a 4.5 rating, very hard.

References

Arkadiev, Peter. 2011. On the Aspectual Uses of the Prefix Be- in Lithuanian.
Baltic Linguistics 2:37-78.
Seymour, Philip H. K.; Aro, Mikko; Erskine, Jane M. and the COST Action A8 Network. 2003. Foundation Literacy Acquisition in European Orthographies. British Journal of Psychology 94:143–174.

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A Reworking of German Language Classification Part 3: Upper German

Updated May 10, 2017. This post will be regularly updated for some time. Warning! This essay is very long; it runs to 101 pages.
This is Part 3 of my reclassification of the German language. Part 3 deals with Upper German.
Part 2, dealing with Middle German, is here, and Part 1, dealing with Low German, is here.
This classification splits Upper German from 10 languages into 81 languages using the criterion of >90% intelligibility = dialect and <90% intelligibility = language.
There is much confusion about the phrase High German or Upper German. Standard German is referred to as Hochdeutsch, or High German, and many think that that means that Standard German is a High German or Upper German language. In fact, it is a Middle German language. However, there is a conflation of Middle German and High or Upper German in which both are subsumed under the mantle of High German. In reality, though, Middle German and High or Upper German are quite different.
The Upper German lects are in pretty good shape. They are located in Southern Germany, and most are doing extremely well. The Upper German Franconian lects are doing fine. The Bavarian lects are going strong. Swabisch and Badisch are doing great.
Low Alemannic in southern Germany is doing fine. Bavarian is the standard language of communication in Austria, and Swiss German is the standard language of communication in Switzerland. Only Alsatian, spoken in France, is somewhat in trouble due to France’s one-language policy.
It is uncertain why Standard German has been unable to take out Upper German languages well, but Southern Germany has always been isolated from the rest due to mountainous terrain and an independent spirit. Bavarian and Swiss German are guaranteed as official languages of nations and are in no danger. A few small Upper German languages in Italy are in trouble, but that is mostly due to their being linguistic islands in a sea of Italian. Upper German Hutterite is doing very well.
This treatment breaks Upper German from Ethnologue’s 10 languages into 82 separate languages.

The Alemannic languages, including Swabish and South Franconian.
The Alemannic languages, including Swabish and South Franconian.

Sudfrankisch (South Franconian) is an Upper German language transitional between Central and Upper German. It is spoken in northwest and north-central Baden-Württemberg around Heidelberg, Karlsruhe, Pforzheim and Rastatt. It has a low number of speakers, and some do not even consider this lect to be a separate entity, so its treatment here is tentative.
The very existence of this language is controversial. For instance, although Karlsruhe and Heidelberg are said to be South Franconian-speaking, in other analyses, the language is “Kurpfalzisch”. This language, or at least the variety spoken in Heidelberg and Karlsruhe, is very hard for Standard German speakers to understand.
Dialects include Bad Schönborn, spoken around the city of the same name, Odenwäldisch, Kraichgauisch, spoken around the cities of Kraichgau and Santkanna, Unterländisch, spoken in and around Heilbronn, Central North Badisch (Zentral Nordbadisch), and Southern North Badisch (Süd Nordbadisch). Intelligibility is apparently good between all dialects (Costin 2015)
The Swabish speaking area in Germany
The Swabish speaking area in Germany.

Schwabian is a Alemannic lect that has about 40% intelligibility with Standard German. Speakers of Standard German say they find it almost impossible to understand. Commercials and TV series in Swabian are shown on German TV with subtitles. It is spoken in southwest Germany in a region called Swabia.
The southern border of the Swabian language is Villingen-Schwenningen. After that, it follows the Danube to the east. In the east, the border is a line from Augsburg south to the Aargau. Reutte/Außerfern, a dialect in upper East Tirol on the Lech River just south of the Bavarian border, is considered to be Swabian. Stuttgart is in the Schwabian speaking area and the standard version of Swabian is spoken in Stuttgart.
It has 820,000 speakers. Swabian has great dialectal diversity, and there is more than one language in Swabian.
Badisch and Swabian form a dialect chain in which the dialects at the far ends of the chain are not intelligible with each other. The Western Swabian dialects are most comprehensible with the eastern Badisch dialects. Swabian is not intelligible with Alsatian, Swiss German or Bavarian. In fact, the differences between Swabian and Swiss German are tremendous. This is important to note because there are claims that the two are mutually intelligible.
Swabian has many lects. Some of the major groupings are Lower Swabian (Niederschwäbisch or Neckarschwäbisch), East Swabian (Ostschwäbisch), Upper Swabian (Oberschwäbisch), and Southwest Swabian (Südwestschwäbisch). Schwäbisch vom Haiberg is an unclassified dialect spoken in the Swabian Alps.
Lower Swabian is spoken in and around Stuttgart and in the Eastern Black Forest. It is not fully intelligible with Upper Swabian (see the Würtingen entry below). In fact, separate languages develop quickly only a few miles from the Upper Swabian/Lower Swabian border. Lower Swabian is also spoken north of Stuttgart up to around Pforzheim and Heilbronn, where it starts shading into East Franconian. Some of the big cities in the Lower Swabia area include Esslingen, Reutlingen and Tubingen.
Würtingen Lower Swabian is a divergent Upper Swabian dialect spoken in Würtingen, 35 miles south of Stuttgart. It is not intelligible with the Upper Swabian spoken just six miles away and may not be intelligible with the rest of Lower Swabian. Investigation is needed to determine if Würtingen is intelligible with the rest of Lower Swabian.
The dialects of Würtingen and Dettingen 35 miles south of Stuttgart are so different as to represent separate languages, Würtingen Lower Swabian and Dettingen Upper Swabian, yet they are only 6 miles away from each other. Dettingen seems to be a Upper Swabian dialect, and Würtingen seems to be an Lower Swabian dialect. This is in the area around Reutlingen, where there are several distinct dialects of Swabian spoken.
Upper Swabian is language a spoken in the Upper Swabia in the Swabian  Mountains (Swabian Alps) in Baden-Württemberg. Tuttlingen is a main city in this area. Upper Swabia is the region from the Swabian Alps south to the Danube. At least the type spoken in Albstadt seems to be unintelligible with the rest of Swabian, in particular with the Swabian spoken in Tuttlingen and Esslingen. Even in and around Albstadt, there are villages only three miles away that speak completely separate languages of Alpine Swabian that are not intelligible with each other, so clearly there are multiple languages within Upper Swabian.
Dettingen Upper Swabian is spoken in and around Dettingen, 35 miles south of Stuttgart. It is not intelligible with the Lower Swabian spoken in Würtingen nearby.
Bavarian Swabian (Bayerisch Schwaben or Rieser Schwäbisch) is a major division of this language that is spoken in the Donau Reis, a region of Bavaria. It can be seen on the map as the Swabish speaking area of Bavaria north of the Danube. This is the form of Upper Swabian spoken in the Schwaben region of southwest Bavaria. According to residents, it is not intelligible with either Bavarian or with the rest of Swabian spoken in Baden-Württemberg (Kirmaier 2009), hence it is a separate language. Dialects include Augsburg and Lechhausen. Lechhausen is quite different. Other towns in the area include Brenz, Iller, and Lech. The town of Lech is said to be the border between Bavarian Swabian and Bavarian.
East Swabian is spoken in the Eastern Swabish Alps. It is also spoken in East Württemberg. Major towns in East Württemberg include Aalen, Ellwangen, Heidenheim an der Brenz, and Schwäbisch Gmünd.
Southwest Swabian is spoken in the Neckar Mountains.
Allgäu Swabian (Schwäbisch-Allgäuerisch) is spoken in the Allgäu region on the border of Switzerland, Swabia and Bavaria. It contains three divisions. Lower Allgäu Swabian (Unterallgäuerisch), Northern Upper Allgäu Swabian (Nord Oberallgäuerisch) and East Allgäu Swabian (Ostallgäuerisch). Wolfegg, Biberach an der Riß, and Bergatreute are dialects.
Reports indicate that the type of Swabian spoken where Austria, Switzerland and Germany all come together is not understood anywhere else in Germany. On that basis, we can assume that Allgäu Swabian is a separate language. Internal intelligibility data for the dialects is lacking.
Russian German Swabish is one of the divergent Swabish dialect spoken by Russian Germans in their widespread colonies. In general, it is not understood by anyone in Germany. There are only a few elderly speakers left. Whether or not it is intelligible with specific Swabish lects is not known. This is an old Swabish from around 200 years ago.
Low Alemannic is a group of Alemmanic Upper German lects that are spoken in southern Baden-Württemberg, across the border into France, a bit into Switzerland, and over into southwestern Bavaria.
A chart of the Alemannic languages in 1950 based on the work of Karl Bohnenberger in 1953. Bodensee and Upper Rhine Alemannic were added based on Hugo Steger's 1983 work
A chart of the Alemannic languages in 1950 based on the work of Karl Bohnenberger in 1953. Bodensee and Upper Rhine Alemannic were added based on Hugo Steger’s 1983 work.

Upper Rhine Alemannic (Oberrhiinalemannisch) is a Low Alemannic superfamily division based on the work of linguist Karl Bohnenberger. This group includes Alsatian, Badisch, Upper Rhine Alemannic proper, and Basel German.
South Badisch is a group of dialects, apparently a separate language, spoken along the French border of Germany and east a ways to the border with Swabian starting near Freiburg im Breisgau and heading up towards Karlsruhe, where it borders South Franconian. The differences between South Badisch and South Alemannic spoken just to the South are considerable, and the two are probably separate languages.
Dialects include Ortenau (Ortenauer), Gottenheim, Freiburg-Opfingen, Elz, Kuppenheim, Iffezheim, Zell am Harmersbach, Kämpflbach, Breisgau (Breisgauer), Middle Kinzig River, and Black Forest (Schwarzwälder).
Elz, a subdialect of Black Forest, is spoken around the city of Waldkirch in the Elz Valley. Gottenheim is spoken 6 miles northwest of Freiburg. Freiburg-Opfingen is spoken in and around the city of Freiburg and is composed to two dialects, Freiburg and Opfingen. Zell am Harmersbach is a dialect of Middle Kinzig River.
Badisch forms a dialect chain with Swabian in which the far ends of the chain are not intelligible. The eastern dialects of Badisch are intelligible with the western dialects of Swabian. Intelligibility data between this and Alsatian is needed. Badisch is not at all intelligible with Standard German.
Alemán Coloniero (Colonia Tovar) is a Low Alemannic language spoken in Venezuela. It is not intelligible with Standard German. It is originally derived from a Badisch-type lect.
Baar Alemannic (Baar Alemannisch) is a Low Alemannic dialect. It is spoken in a region called the Baar in the upper headwaters of the Danube River in far southern Baden-Württemberg.
Towns in this region include Löffingen, Tuttlingen, Bad Dürrheim, St. Georgen, Furtwangen, Villingen-Schwenningen, Rottweil, Trossingen, Hüfingen, Spaichingen, Geisingen, and Donaueschingen. Intelligibility data between this lect, Basel German, South Badisch and Upper Rhine Alemannic and is needed. Rottweil is a dialect spoken in the town of the same name.
Click to enlarge. A map of the languages of Alsace. Alsatian proper is in shades of green. Purples is Rhenish Franconian and light blue is Pfalzisch. Orange and pink are langues d’oil – orange is Welche, and pink is Franche-Compte. As you can see, more languages than just Alsatian are spoken in the Alsace.

Alsatian is a Low Alemannic language spoken in Alsace, France around Strasbourg, and is not intelligible with Standard German, Swabian, Swiss German or Bavarian. In Alsace, it is mostly spoken in the Sundgau region of south Alsace and in the rural areas of the center.
It is an Upper German language related to Schwabian, Swiss German and Walliser. It has 700,000 speakers. The language is still widely spoken despite the fact that it gets little to no support from the French state. 20 years ago, 70% of teenagers said they could speak the language well.
This is a strange area where there are speakers of French, German, and languages that are neither French nor German but are transitional between the two. In this way it resembles the Limburgs region in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. Alsatian borders Upper Rhine Alemannic on the east and Alsatian speakers say it is not the same language as what they speak (Auer 2005). Furthermore, Alsatian is not intelligible with the Upper Rhine Alemannic spoken over the border.
The reason is that Alsace has been cut off from the culture of Germany and Switzerland for so long that it has retained many archaic forms that went out to the east. At the same time, a huge amount of French has gone into Alsatian that has not gone into the languages to the east.
Alsatian is actually a number of dialects, not all of which are completely mutually intelligible, although this is somewhat controversial. The language changes from village to village, and it is common for Alsatians to not understand each other. This implies that Alsatian is actually more than one language, but we don’t have enough data yet about intelligibility between varieties to split any of them yet.
However, the Strasbourg variety has been promoted as the standard and is used on the local TV station (Osorio 2001). Dialects include Strasbourg, Colmar, Vosges, Orbey Valley, and Mulhouse.
Alsatian has only 40% intelligibility with Standard German (Minahan 2002).
Another map of the languages of the Alsace.

Lake Constance Alemannic (Bodeseealemannisch) is a super split in the Low Alemannic languages according to linguist Karl Bohnenberger. It includes Allgäuisch, Vorarlbergerisch, and South Württembergish (Süd Württembergisch), all separate languages.
It has a strong French influence. It has 50% intelligibility with Central Bavarian. It is probably not intelligible with Swiss German.
This language family is spoken in Vaduz, Lichtenstein; Bregenz, Austria, and Ravensburg and Tuttlingnen in Baden-Württemberg. In Tuttlingnen, it borders on Swabish.
Allgäuisch (Allgäuerisch) is a group of Low Alemannic lects spoken in far southwestern part of German Bavaria on the border with Switzerland, Austria and Baden-Württemberg. This is part of the Lake Constance Alemannic superfamily. It is not intelligible with Swabish.
It probably resembles Swiss German, but considering that you need a dictionary to translate between Allgäuisch and Swiss German, they must be separate languages.
This language is probably closest to Swabish and the Vorarlbergerisch spoken in far western Austria, to which it is geographically close. This language has heavy French influence.
There are four different Allgäuisch subdialects in each of the four major valleys in the region. One of the dialects is Bernbueren, spoken near Schongau and Weilheim. Other dialects include West Allgäuisch (Westallgäuerisch), East Allgäuisch, Upper Allgäuisch and Lower Allgäuisch. Upper Allgäuisch is further divided into Southern Upper Allgäuisch (Süd Oberallgäuerisch) and Northern Upper Allgäuisch.
Lower Allgäuisch is spoken in the northern Allgäu.
Opfenbach West Allgäuisch is a West Allgauisch dialect. It is spoken at least in and around the town of Opfenbach in far southwestern Bavaria between Wangen and Lindenberg.
East Allgäuisch is spoken in the East Allgäu and in the area around Füssen and the Upper Lech River.
Upper Allgäuisch is spoken in the southern Allgäu and in central Allgäu around Immenstadt and Kempten. The area around Immenstadt and Kempten is probably where Northern Upper Allgäuisch is spoken. Oberstdorf is a dialect of Southern Upper Allgäuisch.
Vorarlbergerisch Vorarlbergerisch is a group of Low Alemannic languages that is part of the Low Alemannic Lake Constance Alemannic Family. It is similar to Swiss German. Vorarlbergerisch was originally a Swabian language. For the most part, the Vorarlbergers came from Valais in Switzerland in the 1200’s and 1300’s.
This language is spoken in Austria and is not intelligible with Bavarian, Standard German or other German languages. It is spoken in Vorarlberg, a region in far western Austria near the Swiss border.
This is a very different form of Eastern Upper Alemannic Swiss German that is still widely spoken in the area of Vorarlberg. Most reports on the lect indicate that it seems to be a separate language, unintelligible with all other German, Swiss German and Austrian lects other than West Allgauish and Appenzell Swiss German.
Most towns in Vorarlberg have their own dialects. It has elements of Swiss German along with Tyrolean and Bavarian. Vorarlbergerisch is so different that speakers are given subtitles when they speak on Austrian TV. Many Vorarlbergerisch speakers either cannot or do not speak Standard German. There are three main divisions of Vorarlberg – Montafon, Lustenauerisch and Bregenzwalderisch.
Feldkirch, Lustenauerisch, and Dornbin are listed as dialects, but Lustenauerisch is so different that it is a separate language. Most Vorarlbergers have some difficulty understanding Lustenauerisch, Muntafunerisch and Wälderisch.
South Württembergish (Süd Württembergisch) is a major division of Lake Constance Alemannic. It is spoken east of Tuttlingnen and the Baar along the Upper Danube, south to the Swiss border and over to the border with Bavaria. This language has a heavy French flavor. South Wurttembergish has good intelligibility of Vorarlbergerisch (Scheffknecht 2015) and is best seen as a form of that language.
Überlingen, Radolfzell, and Konstanz are dialects. Konstanz is spoken in the city of Konstanz on Lake Constance straddling the Swiss border. It is very different from the Thurgau Swiss German spoken across the border in Kruezlingen (Auer 2005).
Lustenauerisch is so different that it itself is a separate language. Most people in Vorarlberg say that they cannot completely understand Lustenauerisch when it is spoken. That is because for many vocabulary items, the words are completely different. In addition, vowels also differ (Scheffknecht 2015).
Bregenz Forest Vorarlbergerisch (Bregenzwalderisch or Wälderisch) is a very distinct form of Vorarlbergerisch spoken in the Bregenz Forest (Bregenzerwald) in far northwest Vorarlberg on the borders of Switzerland and Germany. Other Vorarlbergerisch speakers from elsewhere in Vorarlberg have some difficulty understanding Bregenzerwald speakers, so it may be a separate language (Scheffknecht 2015). This area is very famous for its dairy products, especially its cheeses. Lustenauerisch speakers say this is a different language from both Vorarlbergerisch and Lustenauerisch.
There are two main dialects of this language – Vorderwald and Hinterwald – and they are quite different. Nearly every village has its own dialect. Intelligibility between dialects is not known. Egg is a dialect of this language.
West Allgäuisch is spoken in the western Allgäu, in the Alemannic-Swabish transition zone of the Allgäu and in the city of Lindau and the area around far eastern Lake Bodensee. West Allgäuisch is close to Swiss German and especially the form of Vorarlbergerisch spoken in the Bregenz Forest (Bregenzerwald) in the northern part of Vorarlberg on the German border. This dialect is apparently intelligible with Vorarlbergerisch (Scheffknecht 2015), at least with Bregenz Vorarlbergerisch. This lect is best seen as a form of Bregenz Vorarlbergerisch.
Montafon Vorarlbergerisch (Muntafunerisch) is a Vorarlbergerisch language that is spoken in the Montafon Valley in Vorarlberg, Austria. This valley extends from about Bludenz to the Silvretta Mountains on the border with Switzerland. Speakers say that the situation is better described as other Vorarlbergerisch speakers having some difficulty understanding Muntafunerisch (Scheffknecht 2015).
It has Romansch influences since it is spoken near the Romansch-speaking part of Switzerland. Even villages 15-20 miles away cannot understand this language. This language is utterly unintelligible to any German. Schruns is a dialect of this language.
Appenzell Swiss German (Appenzellerisch) is an Eastern Upper Alemannic Swiss German lect that, while not intelligible with other forms of Swiss German, is actually intelligible with Vorarlbergerisch (Scheffknecht 2015) and is best seen as a form of that language. It is spoken in Appenzell Canton in Switzerland near the border with Germany, Austria and Liechtenstein. Appenzell Innerhoden and St. Gallen (Sankt Gallener or St. Galler Deutsch) are dialects of this language.
High Alemannic is a group of lects that are spoken primarily in Switzerland. However, a few are also spoken in Baden-Württemberg right on the border with Switzerland. The most famous High Alemannic language is Swiss German. Central Bavarian has 50% intelligibility with High Alemmanic languages.
South Alemmanic is a group of High Alemannic dialects, apparently a separate language, spoken in far southwestern Baden-Württemberg in regions called Markgräflerland and Hotzenwäld. Markgräflerland goes from about Basel to about Bad Krozingen in the north and to the Black Forest in the east. Hotzenwäld is a region around the Swiss border from Wehr to Waldshut-Tiengen, otherwise known as the Waldshut District. The differences between South Alemannic and Banish are considerable, and the two are probably separate languages.
Klettgau is a South Alemannic dialect spoken on the Swiss border in the Waldshut District. Other dialects include Markgräflerland (Markgräflerisch), Hotzenwäld (Hotzenwälderisch), Rheinfelden, and High Rhine Alemannic (Hochrhein Alemannisch). Intelligibility between this and Swiss German in Switzerland and South Sundgau in Germany is not known, although it is probably not fully intelligible with Swiss German. Within Markgräflerland, there are subdialects such as Lörrach, Grenzach-Wyhlen, and Weil am Rhein.
South Sundgau (Süd Sundgauisch) is a High Alemannic dialect spoken in southern Baden down around the Swiss border. Intelligibility between this and Swiss German is not known, but it is said that once you leave Switzerland and cross the border, people are no longer speaking anything close to Swiss German.
Standard Swiss German (Schwyzerdütsch) is a High Alemannic language that is from 20% intelligible with Standard German. For many Germans, Swiss German is about as intelligible as Dutch. It has over 6 million speakers. There are dozens of varieties, and every canton in Switzerland has its own lect. Two major varieties are Zurich and Bernese German. However, Bernese is not intelligible with Swiss German proper. Thurgau is  very different.
The city of Vaduz, Austria, also speaks Swiss German. There are 20-70 different lects within Swiss German, and according to Ethnologue, many of them are not mutually intelligible. Swiss German is so diverse that speakers are given subtitles when they speak on Austrian and German TV.
The dialectal situation of Swiss German is very complex. About 30-40 years ago, before people started moving around a lot, there were many full Swiss German languages that were not intelligible to other speakers. We can call these the pure dialects. However, the situation has changed a lot since then. A form of Swiss German, call it Standard Swiss German, is now used across Switzerland when communicating with people who speak another form of the language.
Many of the dialects seem to be changing from full languages into mutually intelligible forms of Standard Swiss German with regional dialects, similar to the situation in the US with our mutually intelligible regional dialects. When people are interviewed on Swiss TV, they typically speak in this standard language to make sure that they are understood.
There are some elderly people who can speak only their regional form of Swiss German and not the standard version, and sometimes they cannot communicate with people in a similar situation speaking another version of the language.
However, if you recorded speakers of many of the various forms of Swiss German speaking among themselves and then presented it to speakers of other forms of the language, you would probably need subtitles for them to understand it. In terms of lexicon, the Swiss German lects differ dramatically. There may be 40 different words for the same term in 40 different lects.
Many Swiss German speakers dislike speaking Hochdeutsch, only speak it if they have to, and may refuse to speak it unless it is mandatory. Hochdeutsch classes are now mandatory in the schools, but most Swiss hate to study the language, and this requirement is resented by many Swiss. Some can understand the Hochdeutsch spoken on TV but may not understand the Hochdeutsch of a visitor. Some older Swiss cannot understand Hochdeutsch at all.
However, most even elderly Swiss can speak some form of Hochdeutsch (Chervet 2016).
Although Swiss German is considered to be a Upper German language, it has Low, High and Highest Alemannic forms inside of it. Hence, “Swiss German” is something of a trashcan description for forms of German spoken in Switzerland. The Pündner dialect is unclassified.
Basel German (Baseldeutsch, Baslerdütsch, Baslerdietsch, Baseldütsch) is a type of Low Alemannic Swiss German spoken in and around Basel, Switzerland, that is not intelligible with High Alemannic Swiss German.
However, the watered-down lect spoken in the city of Basel itself nowadays is indeed intelligible with Swiss German Proper (Chervet 2016). It is spoken across the border a bit into France west of Basel and north and northeast of Basel up into Baden-Württemberg to Freiburg.
There are different dialects spoken in Baselstadt (a canton encompassing the city of Basel) and Baselland (Basel Canton), but it is not known how much they differ. Intelligibility between Basel German and South Alemmanic spoken to the north is not known, but it is said that when you cross from Germany to Switzerland in this region, people are no longer speaking the same language.
Bernese Swiss German (Bärndütsch, Bäärndüütsch, Berndüütsche, Baernduetsch, Bern Deutsch) is is a Western High Alemannic Swiss German language that is not intelligible with Swiss German proper and is thus a separate language. Langenthal is a dialect of this language.
Other Western High Alemannic Swiss German dialects include Solothurn (Solothurner, Solothurnerdütsch), Olten, West Aargau (Westaargauisch), Lower Frick Valley (Unterfricktal), Möhlin, Upper Frick Valley (Oberfricktal), Laufenburg, Central Aargau, Aargau, Middle Bernese (Mittelbernisch), Entlebuchisch, Lucerne (Lozärno, Lozärnerdütsch), and Zug (Zogerdütsch).
The Frick Valley is located in northwest Aargau Canton. Möhlin is a subdialect of Lower Frick Valley and Laufenburg is a subdialect of Upper Frick Valley. Olten is a subdialect of Solothurn. Intelligibility data between the lects is not known.
Ettiswil Bernese Swiss German is spoken in the town of Ettiswil in the canton Bern. It is so divergent that it may well be a separate language.
Zurich Swiss German (Zuridootch, Züridüütsch, Zürcher, Züritüüstcht, Züritütsch, Züridütsch, Zöridütsch, Zuerideutsch or Zürischnüre) is not readily intelligible to speakers of Standard Swiss German. It is spoken in Zurich.
As most Swiss hear this language a lot on TV, they are familiar with it and it is probably intelligible to most of them, but that does not mean it’s inherently mutually intelligible, because it’s not. Züridüütsch is a Central Swiss German dialect. Zurich Oberland and Goldbach are dialects of this language.
Other Central Swiss German dialects include Stadtzürcherisch, Ämtler, See, Oberländer, Winterthurer and Unterländer.
Schaffhausen (Neu Schaffhauserdeutsch, Schaffhuserisch), Zurich Weinland (Zürcher Weinländerdeutsch), Davos, Lower Toggenburg (Untertoggenburgerisch), Upper Toggenburg (Obertoggenburgerisch), and Rheintal (Rheintalerisch), Seeztal (Seeztalerdeutsch).
Other dialects in the same group include Middle Lucerne/South Aargau (Mittelland Luzerndeutsch/Südaargauisch), Sursee, East Aargau (Ostaargauisch), Schaan, Balzers, Lucerne (Luzerndeutsch, Luzerner, Luzärnerisch, Luzärner), Bünd (Bündnerisch, Bündner, Bündnerdüütsh, Bündnerdütsh), Bad Ragaz, Chur (Churertütsch, Churer) and Graubünden (Graubündnerisch).
Intelligibility data is lacking. Lucerne contains the following subdialects: Lucerne Hinterland (Hinterland Luzerndeutsch), Middle Lucerne (Lucerne Mittelland), Rigi, Sursee, Entlebuch and Lucerne/Hochdorf. Bad Ragaz is a subdialect of St. Gallen. Chur and Davos are subdialects of Graubünden. Schaan and Balzers are spoken in Lichtenstein.
Thurgau Swiss German is an Eastern High Alemannic Swiss German language that is hard for many Swiss German speakers to understand. Dialects include West Thurgau (West Thurgauerisch), East Thurgau (Ost Thurgauerisch) and Upper Thurgau.
Inner Swiss German is a group of Swiss German lects that are transitional between High Alemannic Swiss German and Highest Alemannic Swiss German. Intelligibility data is lacking. Dialects include West Oberland (Westoberländisch), Haslital (Haslitalerisch), Lungern, North Urn (Nord Urnerdeutsch), South Urn (Süd Urnerdeutsch), Obwalden (Obwaldnerisch), Nidwalden (Nidwaldnerisch), Engelberg (Engelbergisch) and West Obwalden (Westobwaldnerisch). Lungern is a dialect of Obwalden.
Nidwalden Swiss German (Nidwaldnerisch) is an Inner Swiss German language that is not intelligible with other Swiss German lects, especially with Zurich Swiss German. Intelligibility with other Inner Swiss German lects is not known.
Fribourg Swiss German (Fribourgerisch, Friburgerisch) is a Highest Alemannic Swiss German language that is not intelligible to other speakers of Swiss German and must be a separate language. It is spoken in Fribourg Canton southwest of Bern in southwest Switzerland. Intelligibility with other Highest Alemmanic Swiss German lects is not known. Jaun, Sensebezirk and St. Antoni are dialects of this language.
Other Highest Alemannic Swiss German lects include Unterwalden and Glarus (Glarnerdeutsch, Glarner). Since Highest Alemannic languages seem to be hard for High Alemannic Swiss German speakers to understand, it is questionable to what degree the lects above are intelligible to High Alemannic. Intelligibility testing is in order.
Bernese Oberland Swiss German is a Highest Alemmanic Swiss German language notorious for having poor intelligibility even with native speakers of Swiss German. It therefore qualifies as a separate language. Intelligibility with other Highest Alemmanic Swiss German lects is not known.
Uri Swiss German (Ursnerisch)is a Highest Alemannnic Swiss German language has poor intelligibility with other Swiss German speakers, in particular with Zurich. It is spoken in Uri Canton. Intelligibility with other Highest Alemmanic Swiss German lects is not known. Attinghausen is a dialect.
Schwyz Swiss German is a Highest Alemannnic Swiss German that is not intelligible to other Swiss German speakers, especially speakers of Zurich. It is spoken in the canton of Schwyz. Intelligibility with other Highest Alemmanic Swiss German lects is not known.
Walser German is a Highest Alemannic language spoken in Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Lichtenstein and Germany. It is spoken by 22,780 speakers. It is not intelligible with any other Alemannic languages and is very different. This is very different from the Walliser language, which is a variety of Swiss German spoken in Wallis Canton.
The Walsers split off from the Walliser group in about 1200 and moved to other areas. The Walsers moved into many areas of the Alps, often displacing or attempting to displace Romansch speakers. In many places, settlements failed, but they held in a few others.
By the mid-1300’s, Black Plague ended the Walser migrations by devastating both the source and the destinations of the migrants.
Most Walser dialects are very different even from one another, so there may be more than three languages in Walser. A process of assimilation is occurring in Switzerland whereby Walser speakers are assimilating to the German-speaking culture around them and in the process losing their language. Intelligibility between the widely variant dialects, other than Toitschu, is not known.
The Walser are expert dairymen, woodworkers, weavers and mountain-climbers who often build a distinctive style house called a Walser house.
Walser has many dialects.
Prättigau (Prätttigauer), Avers, Obersaxen, Davos and Rheinwald are spoken in Grisons Canton.
Triesenberg is spoken in Lichtenstein and has the support of the local government.
Kleinwalsertal is spoken in Austria and has been on the decline lately.
Rimella, Rima San-Giuseppe, Alagna Vallesia, Macugnaga and Formatta are dialects of Walser spoken in northwest Italy. The dictionary for Algana Walser has an incredible 22,000 words. Intelligibility data among dialects is not known.
Gurin Walser German (Gurinerdeutsch) is a Walser dialect spoken in Bosco-Gurin, Ticino (Italian-speaking) Canton, Switzerland. It has remained isolated from other German varieties for centuries and may well be a separate language. This is close to the forms of Walser spoken in Italy. It must be unintelligible with other forms of Walser other than Italian Walser, and since Italian Walser is not even intelligible to the villages right next door, Gurin Walser must be a separate language.
There are only 23 speakers of this language left in the village of Bosco-Gurin, and it seems to be dying out (PFECMR 2006). However, including speakers outside the town, there are 120 speakers. In addition, 40 people have receptive but not productive competence in the language (COE 2006).
Toitschu Walser German is an outlying language related to Walser that is spoken in the village of Issime in the Upper Lys Valley in Valle d’Aosta in far northwest Italy.
Toitschu is a highly divergent Walser lect that has been heavily influenced by Piedmontese and Francoprovencal. It is unintelligible with the rest of Walser and is a separate language. Both Toitschu and Titsch have 600 speakers and are both an endangered languages.
Titsch Walser German is spoken in the same region as Toitschu in the Italian Alps of northwest Italy in the nearby villages of Gressoney-Saint-Jean and Gressoney-La-Trinité. There are currently major efforts underway to preserve both Toitschu and Titsch, but the regional Italian government does not seem very cooperative.
Both languages are quickly giving way to Italian especially and both lack many words for modern things. Titsch is much different from Toitschu as it seems to have continued to evolve in time, while Toitschu seems to have been frozen back in 1200 or so.
There is poor intelligibility between Toitschu and Titsch, and both must be separate languages. Major dictionary projects have just been completed and a large conference on both languages was held in the region recently which resulted in the publication of an amazing 163 page document exclusively about the Walser language. The dictionary of Titsch has an incredible 125,000 words, only 4% of which are foreign loans.
Walliser German has about 250,000 speakers in the German part of Wallis (Valais) Canton, Central Switzerland. It is is a Highest Alemannic language. It is not intelligible with Standard German or with Walser. This is the more modern form of  older, archaic Walser German.
There are six dialects: Gomer, Briger, Saaser, Zermatter (spoken in Zermatt), Lötschentaler and Raron. Simplon is a dialect of Gomer. There is currently a petition before SIL to have it recognized as a separate language. The petition states that all of the the dialects are mutually intelligible.
Gomer differs in having a vowel shift to öi > ö. Briger is the most commonly spoken dialect. Zermatter has a different phonology and sounds melodic. Saaser is similar to Zermatter but not as melodic-sounding. It has a lot of unique vocabulary.
Lötschentaler Walliser is the most archaic dialect, about halfway between the archaic Walser German and the modern Walliser German. It also has a lot of unique vocabulary. It is so different that other Walliser German speakers have a hard time understanding it (Chervet 2016). Therefore it makes sense to split it off into a separate language.
Raron is characterized by a vowel shift ä > e. General Walliser Cäse > Raron Cese.
The main city here is Brig.
The language arose from immigrants from the Bern region who came to Wallis in the 700’s. Two different immigration waves led to two different Walliser dialect groups. In the 1100’s, a Walliser group split off and moved to other parts of the Alps. This group became the Walser German language speakers.
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Bavarian. North Bavarian is in yellow, Central Bavarian in pink, and Southern Bavarian is in blue.

Bavarian is a macro-language with three main varieties: Northern Bavarian, Central Bavarian and Southern Bavarian.
There are claims that broad Bavarian is mutually intelligible across its length and breadth, but these claims seem somewhat dubious if not false in light of the 40% intelligibility figure with Standard German and in light of my interviews with native speakers.
Also, there are claims that the diversity of dialects of Bavarian makes it impossible to create one unified dialect for writing Bavarian, as the debate over the Bavarian Wikipedia shows. Even Northern and Central Bavarian, supposedly mutually intelligible, are so different that to create one written form to unite them is impossible.
For these reasons, intelligibility testing is imperative for Bavarian.
Central Bavarian is described as extremely diverse. The various Vienna dialects have all died in the last 20 years, and Viennese now speak a Bavarian-Standard German mixed language based on an old East Viennese dialect mixed with Standard German and no longer speak pure Bavarian.
The differences between Tyrolean Southern Bavarian, Carinthian Southern Bavarian, Styrian Southern Bavarian and Viennese are described as great. An attempt on the Internet to compare Bavarian with Texan English was described as ridiculous.
All of this suggests that intelligibility inside of Bavarian is not all it is cracked up to be.
Bavaria itself is very diverse linguistically, and the state is not synonymous with the language. In Southwestern Bavaria, Bavarian Swabian is spoken; the northern half of Bavaria speaks several Middle German Franconian lects (Bavarian is Upper German); and the far northwest of Bavaria speaks a Palatinian Rhine-Franconian language.
Hence, less than 1/4 of Bavaria actually speaks Bavarian, adding up to about 1/3 of the population of the region. Each Bavarian-speaking village in Germany is said to have its own dialect.
Bavarian is not intelligible with Swabian, Alsatian or Swiss German.
A nice chart of the various Bavarian lects is here.
Northern Bavarian or German Bavarian is spoken in Upper Palatinate, Bavaria. It is not intelligible with Central Bavarian (Kirmaier 2009).
Another map of the various Bavarian languages.

Oberpfälz North Bavarian (Oberpfälzerisch or Oberpfälzisch) is a language spoken in southeastern Germany in central eastern and northeastern Bavaria from Regensburg, Kelheim and the Bavarian Forest north along the Naab River to the Fichtelgebirge (Fir Mountains) and in the Northern Bohemian Forest along the border with Czechoslovakia. It is also spoken up by Neumarkt.
According to residents (Kirmaier 2009), this is a separate language, not intelligible with other German Bavarian lects. Dialects of this language include Danube Oberpfälzisch, which, though different, is fully intelligible with the Oberpfälzisch spoken in Neumarkt. This is the Oberpfälzisch spoken along the Danube around the towns of Kelheim and Regensburg.
Bohemian German (Boehmerwaelderischish) is a Upper German language spoken in Czechoslovakia, Germany and the US. It looks like both North and Central Bavarian.
Starting in the 1200’s, Germans began moving into the Sudetenland, often invited by Bohemian kings. Over the centuries, they pushed out the Czechs and Slavs living in the area and took it over for farming. Although intelligibility data for Bohemian German is lacking, it is often considered to be a full language of its own, so we will treat it as one in this analysis.
Actually, since it ranges from East Middle German to Bavarian Upper German, Bohemian German seems to be a wastebasket designation for the varying lects spoken in the Sudetenland.
On the border of Silesia, it resembled Silesian. On the border of the Erzgebirge, it looked like Erzgebirgisch. In the far northeast, where the Riesengebirge separated Bohemia from Silesia, in the Hultschiner Laendle, the people had a very divergent lect of their own.
To the south of the city of Mies, along the Bohemian Mountains, it looked like Niederbayerisch. A dialect called Böhmish is spoken spoken in the Böhmerwald or Bohemian Forest. In the south, extending all the way towards Moravia, it looked very much like the Central Bavarian spoken in Austria. Sorting all of this out and determining what was a dialect and what was a separate language is going to be difficult. Schönhengst is a dialect of this language spoken in Moravia. Some Bohemian German speakers migrated to New Ulm, Minnesota. Quite a few others could be found in Bukovina, Romania.
Egerland Bohemian German (Egerlaenderisch) is spoken in Bischofteinitz, Mies, Tachau and Taus Counties in the Czech Republic in Western Bohemia and in and around New Ulm, Minnesota, where there are still speakers ranging from 52-98 years old. In the Czech Republic, each village had a separate dialect, but all dialects are mutually intelligible. This appears to be a separate language from Oberpfalz Northern Bavarian. German speakers visiting New Ulm say that they cannot understand one word of this language.
This seems to be the same language as Sechsämterland spoken across the border. The Sechsämterland dialect is spoken in the area around Selb, Wunsiedel, Hohenberg and Thierstein in the far northeast of Bavaria near the border with Czechoslovakia and Lower Saxony.
Dialectal diversity is very high in this area, and every village has its own dialect.
Lauterbach is a divergent dialect spoken east of Tirschenreuth on the Czech border. Tiss is a divergent subdialect of Egerland. Sangerberg is a divergent Egerlaenderisch dialect spoken in Prameny, Czechoslovakia. Eger is spoken in the large German city of the same name. Tachauer is a dialect that formed the basis for the Machliniec dialect spoken formerly spoken by the Carpathian Germans in their language island in the Machliniec area of the Ukraine. They left during WW2.
German Central Bavarian is a group of Bavarian lects that are spoken in Germany. This group includes Lower Bavarian, Upper Bavarian and Lechrain Bavarian (Lechrainisch). It has 50% intelligibility of High Alemannic and Lake Constance Low Alemannic. Lechrain Bavarian is spoken in Western Bavaria and is transitional to Swabian. Map of the Lechrain region. Lechrain is very different from the rest of Bavarian, but intelligibility data is lacking.
Lower Bavarian includes the Bohemian Forest language and many dialects.
Upper Bavarian includes the Starnberg, Highland and Meisbach languages and many dialects.
Lower Bavarian Central Bavarian (Niederbayerisch) is spoken in the Lower Bavarian region of German Bavaria. Major cities include Landshut.
According to residents (Kirmaier 2009), this is a full language unintelligible with other German Bavarian lects. Speakers of Landshut Lower Bavarian Central Bavarian claim that Landshut is intelligible with Münchnerisch.
On the other hand, some speakers of Münchnerisch find Regensburg Niederbayerisch almost impossible to understand. Dialects include Landshut, Regensburg, Passau, Straubing, Rottal-Inn, Breitenberg, Neureichenau, Thalberg, Germannsdorf, Untergriesbach, Wegscheid, Geiselhöring, Rattenberg and Landau.
Rottal-Inn is spoken in the Rottal-Inn district east of Munich. Towns here include Eggenfelden, Pfarrkirchen and Simbach am Inn. Rottal-Inn is a fairly typical Central Bavarian dialect, nevertheless, the dialect of Simbach is different from the dialect spoken just across the border in Braunau.
Breitenberg, Neureichenau, Thalberg, Germannsdorf, Untergriesbach and Wegscheid are spoken in far southeast Bavaria near the Austrian and Czech border and are very divergent. Geiselhöring is spoken in the Straubing-Bogen area of the Bavarian Forest. Rattenberg is also spoken in the Straubing-Bogen area and sounds like Viennese.
Bohemian Forest Lower Bavarian is spoken in the far southern Bohemian Forest, at least along the Regen River and around the town of Zwiesel, where a dialect called Zwieslerisch is spoken. At least Zwieslerisch is not intelligible with the Niederbayerisch spoken around Straubing, which is only 60 miles away. This language is interesting because it has significant influence from Muhlviertel Lower Bavarian in Austria.
Upper Bavarian Central Bavarian (Oberbayerisch) is spoken in the Upper Bavarian region of German Bavaria. The major city in this region is Munich. According to residents, it is a separate language not intelligible with the rest of German Central Bavarian (Kirmaier 2009).
Upper Bavarian Central Bavarian is said to be intelligible across the border into Austria for some ways, but this notion needs clarification since it is said that if you go 15-20 miles in any direction outside of Munich, you are dealing with separate languages.
Some say that people in Munich do not speak Bavarian anymore, but this does not seem to be the case. On the contrary, 20% of the population are Bavarian native speakers and with them, nearly all casual conversation is carried on in Oberbayerisch, and they often refuse to speak Standard German on principle at parties and such.
However, the variety spoken in Munich (Münchnerisch) is a very watered-down type of Bavarian that is no longer the real deal. Nevertheless, speakers of Standard German often find it baffling. The pure Bavarian Münchnerisch seems to be dying in Munich with the massive influx of immigrants from all over Germany. Münchnerisch is still holding on very well in the boroughs of Sendling, Giesling, Obermenzing and parts of Neuhausen.
The type of broad Central Bavarian spoken in Munich is widely understood in the urban centers from Munich to Vienna. There are at least 19 major Central Bavarian dialects, some of which are separate languages.
Dialects include Oberschweinbach, Friedberg, Holledau and Bad Reichenhall. Holledau is spoken in a region north of Munich roughly bounded by Moosburg, Pfaffenhofen, Ingolstadt and Neustadt. This is the largest hops-growing region in the world.
Oberschweinbach is spoken the Fürstenfeldbruck district west of Munich. Bad Reichenhall is spoken southeast of Munich on the border with Austria, near Salzburg. Friedberg, while located in Bavarian Swabia, speaks Bavarian, not Swabian.
Starnberg Upper Bavarian is spoken in and around the city of Starnberg, 12 miles southwest of Munich. It has poor intelligibility with Munich Upper Bavarian. This language is mutually intelligible for some distance around it, but speakers cannot understand the Highland Upper Bavarian spoken 20 miles to the south (Anonymous July 2009).
Highland Upper Bavarian is spoken along the German-Austrian border in Germany and Austria in the regions of Rosenheim, Meisbach and Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Germany and across the border in the Karwendel Mountains in Austria.
Rosenheim Upper Bavarian is spoken in the Rosenheim District south of Munich near the Austrian border, especially along the Mangfall River in the foothills of the Alps, the Chiegmau Mountains. Towns here include Rosenheim and Bad Aibling. It has very poor intelligibility with Münchnerisch. Intelligibility testing is needed between this language, Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Meisbach.
Meisbach Upper Bavarian is a Bavarian language spoken in the Meisbach district of Bavaria in the towns of Meisbach, Finsterwald and possibly others. It is not intelligible with at least some other highland Bavarian lects (de Gyurky 2006). Intelligibility testing is needed between this and other highland Bavarian languages, especially Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Rosenheim, which are close by. Rosenheim is actually the next district over.
Garmisch-Partenkirchen Upper Bavarian is a separate language that is spoken in Garmisch-Partenkirchen 50 miles southwest of Munich 6 miles from the Austrian border. This language is not intelligible at all with Münchnerisch. There are 2 dialects in this language – Garmisch and Partenkirchen. Intelligibility between the two is not known, and intelligibility between this language, Rosenheim and Meisbach is also unknown. This language is also spoken across the border in the Karwendel Mountains in Austria.
This language is said to resemble the Tirol Bavarian spoken in Innsbruck, and may not even be a Central Bavarian language.
Austrian Standard Central Bavarian is a koine language that is understood in most of Austria except for many in Vorarlberg who speak Vorarlbergerisch. It is based somewhat on the Vienna dialect, but it seems to have diverged quite a bit from the true pure Viennese. It is even understood in Tirol.
This language differs dramatically from the Central Bavarian spoken across the border in Munich and in general is often not intelligible with it. There is a wide diversity of lects in Austrian Bavarian. It is not unusual for one lect to not be understood 50-80 miles away. In Austria as a whole, one source describes the dialects of the country as akin to dozens of different languages, which implies that there are more than 20 languages spoken here. Other sources say that there is a different dialect in each Austrian region, and none of them are intelligible with each other. Based on that, further investigation into Austrian Bavarian intelligibility is urgently needed.
The lects are reasonably stable compared to the situation in Germany because most Austrians still grow up and live most of their lives in one area. Nevertheless, the situation is still poorly understood. Central Bavarian is not intelligible with the Southern Bavarian spoken in Tirol, Carinthia or Syria in Austria.
Austrian Central Bavarian has two major divisions, Austrian Central Bavarian proper and Austrian Southern Central Bavarian.
Southern Central Bavarian includes two main divisions – Styrian and West Southern Central Bavarian. Styrian includes West Styrian (Weststeirisch), Middle Styrian (Mittelsteirisch), Upper Styrian (Obersteirisch), East Styrian (Oststeirisch), Southeast Lower Austrian (Südostniederösterreichisch) and Burgenländ (Burgenländisch).
West Southern Central Bavarian includes dialects such as Salzburg (Salzburgisch), Ausseerländ (Ausseerländisch), North Tirol (Nordtirolerisch) and Werdenfelsisch.
Dialects include Innviertlerisch, Linz, Upper Pielachtal, Salzburgerisch , Wienerwald, Braunau, Bad Aussee, Bad Goisern, St. Johann in Tirol, Salzkammergut, Kufstein and many more.
Viennese and Linz are very different. Innviertlerisch is spoken in the Innviertel Mountains in Upper Austria near the Bavarian border. Intelligibility testing is needed between this and Mühlviertlerisch. Upper Pielachtal is spoken along the Mariazellerbahn Railway from Mariazell to St. Polen in Lower Austria.
Salzburgerisch is spoken in Salzburg. Wienerwald is spoken in the Vienna Forest west of Vienna. Bad Aussee is spoken in far northwest Styria near the border with Upper Austria. Bad Goisern is spoken in far southern Upper Austria near the borders with Salzburg and Styria. Braunau is spoken on the border with Bavaria.
St. Johann in Tirol and Kufstein are actually spoken in Tirol – there are a few Central Bavarian lects spoken there. St. Johann is spoken in the Kitzbühel district in the far northeast of Tirol near the border with Salzburg. Kufstein is spoken in the Kufstein district in northeast Tirol near the Bavarian border.
Central Bavarian is a dialect chain in which, while the lects of two adjoining cities are similar, the lects of major cities can differ dramatically. Speakers of Standard German sometimes say that they cannot a word of Viennese Central Bavarian.
Thalgau Central Bavarian is spoken at the very least in and around the town of Thalgau east of Salzburg in Salzburg state. It is utterly unintelligible with other forms of Central Bavarian.
Salzburg Central Bavarian (Salzburgerisch) is spoken in and around Salzburg, Austria. However, as of 30-35 years ago, it had poor intelligibility with Pongauer, Pinzgauer and Flachgauer. Hence, it may well be a separate language. The situation today is not known except that dialect use has dropped off alarmingly in Salzburg since then.
Pongau Central Bavarian is spoken in the Pongau region south of Salzburg in Austria. Towns ion the area include Bad Hofgastein, Schwarzach, Werfen, Bad Gastein, Dorfgastein, Radstadt, Flachau, and Bischofshofen. 30-35 years ago, it had poor intelligibility with Pinzgauer, Salzburger and Flachgauer. Thus it may well be a separate language. Pongauer has Danube Bavarian influences. The situation today is unknown.
Pinzgau Central Bavarian is spoken in the Pinzgau region southwest of Salzburg on the German border near the border with Tirol. The principal town in this region is Zell am See. Towns in the region include Bruck an der Großglocknerstraße, Dienten am Hochkönig, Ferleiten, Fusch an der Großglocknerstraße, Hollersbach im Pinzgau, Kaprun, Krimml, Lend, Lofer, Mittersill, Neukirchen am Großvenediger, Rauris, Saalbach-Hinterglemm, Saalfelden am Steinernen Meer, Taxenbach, Unken, and Uttendorf.
Dialect use remains very high in this area. Pinzgauer is transitional between Central Bavarian and Southern Bavarian, but it is utterly unintelligible with Tyrolerisch. As of 30-35 years ago, it had poor intelligibility with Pongauer, Salzburger and Flachgauer. The situation today is not known.
Flachgau Central Bavarian is spoken in the Flachgau region surrounding Salzburg. 30-35 years ago, it had poor intelligibility with Pinzgauer, Salzburger and Pongauer. The situation today is not known. Like Pongauer, it is similar to the Danube Bavarian spoken across the border to the west in Germany. Towns in the area include Neumarkt am Wallersee, Seekirchen am Wallersee, Mattsee, Anif, Fuschl am See, Sankt Gilgen, Lamprechtshausen, Oberndorf bei Salzburg and Straßwalchen.
Lungau Central Bavarian is a lect spoken in the Lungau District in the southeast part of Salzburg state. It is quite different from surrounding lects. It is transitional between South Bavarian (Tyrolean, Styrian and Carinthian) and Central Bavarian (Salzburg, Upper Austria, Lower Austria. Carinthian influences are most prominent. It has 20,000 speakers. Use of this dialect has dropped off a lot in recent decades.
Intelligibility data with surrounding Bavarian languages is not known, but considering that the other Salzburg district dialects have poor intelligibility with each other, and the uniqueness of Lungauer, Lungauer is probably a separate language.
Mühlviertel Central Bavarian (Mühlviertlerisch) is spoken in the Muhlviertel, or Bohemian Forest, region of Austria where Austria, Czechoslovakia and Germany all come together. It has poor intelligibility with other types of Austrian Central Bavarian. This language is extremely variable, with each village having its own dialect, and the dialects even between villages often differing markedly.
It does not appear to be readily intelligible with the Linz dialect spoken in the biggest city of Upper Austria either. Intelligibility is unknown between this language and Bohemian Forest Lower Bavarian spoken in the German part of the Bohemian Forest. Rural Upper Austrian Central Bavarian in general is unintelligible in both Vienna and Graz.
Viennese Central Bavarian (Wienerisch) itself seems to be a separate language. The stronger form of the dialect spoken by low level workers, taxi drivers, etc. is hard to understand even for other Austrians speaking closely related lects. It is therefore reasonable to assume that this hard form of Wienerisch is a separate language. It is still alive in some suburbs such as Ottakring.
Viennese has many unusual words that other forms of German lack. It has a comical quality that is sometimes imitated in parodies.
Most Viennese now speak a Viennese German dialect that is readily understandable to any speaker of German. It is quite similar to the standard German spoken on news outlets. There are a few words that are different for body parts, expletives and food, but other than that, the vocabulary is the same as Hochdeutsch. The accent is less different than the difference between British and American English.
However, Lower Austrian Central Bavarian is still spoken, mostly by older people, in the countryside outside Vienna. It is only about 50% intelligible with Viennese Central Bavarian, so it is a separate language. Further investigation is needed to determine the exact names of these various rural lects and how well they can communicate with each other.
Carpathian Central Bavarian was formerly spoken in Slovakia by scattered German colonies. They were ethnically cleansed after WW2, and most ended up in Germany. There still appear to be some speakers left, but they are probably elderly and the languages appear to be moribund.
Dialects included Pressburg, Zipser and Hauerlaender. Pressburg was spoken near the city of Pressburg, and Zips and Hauerlaender were spoken near areas of the same names. Pressburg is a dialect of Viennese, but Zips and Hauerlaender are so diverse that they are not intelligible with any other forms of Bavarian.
Zipser Carpathian Central Bavarian was spoken in an area of Slovakia called the Zips. Speakers were ethnically cleansed after WW2. Scattered elderly speakers probably remain, mostly in Germany. Not intelligible with any other forms of Bavarian (sample).
Hauerlaender Carpathian Central Bavarian was spoken in and around an area called the Hauerland in Slovakia. Speakers were ethnically cleansed after WW2. Scattered elderly speakers probably remain, mostly in Germany. Not intelligible with any other forms of Bavarian (sample).
Landers Central Bavarian is spoken by Transylvanian Saxons who lived in Transylvania in Romania. They were deported from the Salzkammergut region of Austria northeast of Salzburg in the 1730’s. They were ethnically cleansed after WW2, but then were allowed to return.
The language is still spoken in Neppendorf, Großau, and Großpold in Romania and in Germany where many of the Landers fled to after the war. They originally spoke a Salzkammergut Central Bavarian lect, but over time, it changed so much that it must surely be a separate language, and that is the impression that Tapani Salminem, top expert on European languages, gives in a recent assessment.
Southern Bavarian is spoken in Austria and in Alto Adige-Südtiro in Italy and includes the cities of Graz, Klagenfurt, Lienz and Innsbruck in Austria and Bozen and Moran in Italy. It is also spoken in the Samnaun region in Switzerland.
Some of the Tyrolean lects in Austria, referred to here for convenience sake as Tyrolean Southern Bavarian (Tirolerisch), are so divergent that they are not intelligible with the rest of even Southern Bavarian; further, each valley has its own lect , and some are not intelligible even with each other. Hence, Austrian Tyrolean Southern Bavarian is a separate language.
In Innsbruck, the main city in the Tyrolean Bavarian region, speakers have a hard time understanding many of the Tyrolean Bavarian lects spoken in many of the surrounding valleys.
There are several main divisions in this language, including Tirol Highlands (Tiroler Oberländisch), Central Tirol (Zentral Tirolerisch), Tirol Lowlands (Tiroler Unterländisch) and East Tirol (Osttirolerisch). Smaller dialects include Innsbruck, Galtür, West Steeg, West Stuben, West Ischgl, West Lech, West Warth, West St. Anton/Tirol, Imst and Zillertal. Zillertal is spoken in the Zillertal Valley.
Samnaun is an isolated dialect of this language spoken in the Samnaun region of the Lower Engadine Valley on the border of Austria and Switzerland. It is also spoken in the town of Samnaun in Switzerland, making it the only Bavarian lect spoken in that country. It is said to be very different from the rest of Southern Bavarian, possibly due to its heavy Romansch influence. The Samnaun area was Puter Romansch speaking all the way up into the 1800’s. Intelligibility between Samnaun and the rest of Austrian Tyrolean Bavarian is not known.
Zillertal Tyrolean Southern Bavarian is not intelligible with Kitzbuhele spoken to the northwest, therefore, it is a separate language. Zillertal is transitional with Salzburg Central Bavarian to the east.
Kitzbuhele Tyrolean Southern Bavarian has poor intelligibility with Zillertal, therefore, it is a separate language. Kitzbuhele has probably even more Salzburg Central Bavarian influence than Zillertal. Kitzbuhele is spoken in the Kitzbuhele Mountains on the eastern border of Tirol Province.
Ötztal Tyrolean Southern Bavarian is one of the most ancient and divergent lects in Austrian Tyrolean Southern Bavarian. It has about 8-15,000 speakers. It was recently awarded a UNESCO cultural heritage award as a unique cultural heritage. There is no one Ötztal lect, but there are separate dialects in every little village, and they often vary dramatically.
It is spoken in the Ötztal Valley in Austria is understood at least into the Upper Inn Valley in Austria and over the border in Italy to the Schnals region northwest of Merano. Ötztal appears to be secure for the next few generations anyway and is the common means of communication among people of all ages. Since Ötztal is not understood outside the region, it must be a separate language.
Lower Inn Valley Tyrolean Southern Bavarian is not intelligible with Lechtal Tyrolean Southern Bavarian spoken just to the northwest. This language is spoken in the lower valley of the Inn River west of Innsbruck. Therefore, it is a separate language.
Lechtal Tyrolean Southern Bavarian has poor intelligibility with Lower Inn Valley Tyrolean Southern Bavarian spoken just to the southeast. This language is spoken in the Lechtaler Mountains west of Innsbruck. Towns in the region include Steeg, Bach, Elbigenalp, Elmen, Stanzach, Weissbach and Reutte. This language is on the border between the Alemannic and Bavarian language groups, and it also has an Allgauish flavor.
Pitztal Tyrolean Southern Bavarian is spoken in the Pitztal Mountains west of Innsbruck. Towns in this region include Arzl and St. Leonhard. Pitztal is very different from Ötztal Austrian Tyrolean Southern Bavarian and communication between the two lects is difficult. Therefore, Pitztal is a separate language.
West Tyrolean Galtür was Swiss German speaking until 1900, and today its dialect is more Alemannic than other Tyrolean lects. The West Tyrolean areas of West Steeg, West Stuben, West Ischgl, West Lech, West Warth and West St. Anton/Tirol, all along the border of West Tyrol and Vorarlberg, were originally Highest Alemannic Walser settlements like Vorarlberg. All of West Tyrol was Swabian-Bavarian speaking until the Middle Ages.
Onto this Swabian base came influence from the Walser and Swiss German villages described above, and all of this on top of an earlier Romansch base, as the whole region was also Romansch-speaking. All of these have receded, leaving only Tyrolean Bavarian, but these are the substantial inputs into Western Tyrolean Bavarian.
Western Styrian or Western Styrian Southern Bavarian, (Steirisch) is said to be unintelligible outside of the region, and hence must be a separate language. Another lect spoken in Styria, this one in the southern part, is South Styrian. Intelligibility data is not available.
Speakers of Central Austrian spoken on the Austrian flats cannot understand Carinthian Southern Bavarian (Kärntnerisch) either, so it looks like a separate language too. There are three principal dialects of Carinthian, Upper Carinthian (Oberkärntnerisch), Middle Carinthian (Mittelkärntnerisch) and Lower Carinthian (Unterkärntnerisch). Intelligibility data is lacking. Carinthian has heavy Slavic influence due to its proximity to Slovenia.
There are also speakers of Carinthian Southern Bavarian in the Canale Valley/Val Canale area of Udine in Italy. This area used to be part of Austria but it changed hands after WW2 and most of the German speakers moved to Austria. Now about 80% of the population speaks Italian and Friuli and 20% speak Carinthian. This appears to be the same language in Italy and Austria. In Carinthia, there are at least 10 separate dialects of this language.
Intelligibility testing is needed between Tyrolean Southern Bavarian and Carinthian Southern Bavarian.
Gottschee Southern Bavarian (Göttscheabarisch or Gottscheerisch) is an outlying Bavarian language spoken by people called the Gottscheers in Kocevje, Slovenia. They apparently originally came to the region in the 1300’s from the Carinthian/Tyrolean border area. It is heavily influenced by the Slovene Carniolan dialects.
It is closely related to the lects of other outlying German colonies in the area, including Zahre (Sauris in Italian), Tischelwang (Paluzza-Timau in Italian) and Pladen (Sappada in Italian) in Northern Italy. The Italian settlements were settled around 1420.
Pladen/Sappada is in the eastern Upper Italian province of Belluno at the far end of the Piave Valley, to the south of the Carnic Alps. These people originally came from the East Tyrolean Pustertal Valley in Austria in the vicinity of Sillian-Heimfels near the towns of Villgraten, Tilliach, Kartitsch, Abfaltersbach and Maria Luggau. Pladen Southern Bavarian is spoken here by about 1,000 of the 1,500 residents, but many also speak Friulian (Maurer-Lausegger 2007).
Southern Bavarian is spoken in Zahre and based on an old East Tyrolean language from the Lesach Valley, which they left in 1280. Zahre is very similar to Pladen, but has more influence from the Romance family, particularly Italian (Maurer-Lausegger 2007). However, Zahre has been isolated from Pladen for 700 years (Denison 1971). This time period is so long that the two lects are probably no longer mutually intelligible.
Zahre is still very much alive and spoken in the town, but it is being displaced by Friulian among young adults and by Italian among children. The Zahre lect was pronounced nearly extinct in 1849 and again in 1897 by visitors.
In Timau, Tischelwang Southern Bavarian is spoken in the But valley, on a tributary of the Tagliamento River on the southern slopes of the Plöcken Pass in the Carnic Alps in the province of Udine. This is actually a Carinthian lect that is probably not intelligible with the Pladen and Zahre lects, though intelligibility data is needed (Maurer-Lausegger 2007).
Therefore, Tischelwang Southern Bavarian is in all probability a separate language. Pladen and Zahre are probably no longer intelligible with lects in Austria, considering they have been isolated from their Austrian parents for 700 years, hence they are probably separate languages. Pladen and Zahre have been isolated from each other for 700 years since the migration, hence they are probably two separate languages, Pladen Southern Bavarian and Zahre Southern Bavarian.
Tischelwang has been heavily influenced by the Friulian language.
Gottscheerisch has maintained many of the features of the Medieval Bavarian languages and it is said to be the oldest living Bavarian language. Speakers were ethnically cleansed after WW2, and now they are scattered about the world. There are about 3,000 native speakers left in the world, many of them living in Ridgewood, New York, where speakers still maintain the language. All remaining speakers are elderly.
It does not appear to be intelligible with the rest of Bavarian or with other German languages and is therefore a separate language.
In Italy, Italian Southern Bavarian encompasses three different lects that differ dramatically from one another. It is spoken in Belluno, Trento and Udine (Maurer-Lausegger 2007).
The Fersina Valley/Valle del Fersina is in Eastern Upper Italy, to the north of Pergine (Persen) near the capital of Trento in the province of Trentino. There are many Bavarian speakers here. They originally came from various valleys in North and South Tyrol. They speak an old mixed Tyrolean vernacular from the 1200’s with a lot of unique developments.
In addition, in the Fersina Valley, every village has its own subdialect. Fersina Valley Southern Bavarian is probably a separate language and is probably not intelligible with other Bavarian lects (Maurer-Lausegger 2007).
In this area, everyone speaks Italian too. This variety of Bavarian has heavy Italian influence.
There is also a South Tyrol Standard Southern Bavarian (Südtirolerisch) that is beginning to emerge in this part of Italy so the three dialects can talk to each other (Maurer-Lausegger 2007). Although intelligibility data between this koine and the rest of Southern Bavarian is not known, it does appear to be a separate language, as most koines are.
One Tyrolean lect spoken in this area is called Eisacktalerisch. It is spoken in the Eisack Valley of South Tyrol and is about halfway between the Innsbruck dialect and the lect spoken in Bolzano. Intelligibility data is not known.
Since the three dialects of Southern Bavarian in Italy cannot understand each other, we may as well split them off.
Udine Southern Bavarian is spoken in the province of Udine in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region. It is not intelligible with the varieties of Southern Bavarian spoken in Trentino or Belluno.
Belluno Southern Bavarian is a Bavarian language spoken in the province of Belluno in the Veneto region of Italy. It is not intelligible with either Trento Southern Bavarian or Udine Southern Bavarian. One dialect of Belluno is called Puschterisch and is spoken in the area of Brunico only 15 miles south of East Tirol. Intelligibility with the rest of Belluno is not known.
Trento Southern Bavarian is spoken in the province of Trento in the Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol region of Italy. It is not intelligible with Belluno Southern Bavarian or Udine Southern Bavarian.
Hianzen Southern Bavarian (Hianzisch) is spoken in southern Burgenland, Austria, along the Hungarian border, particularly around the town of Güssing. It seems to have poor intelligibility even with other nearby forms of Southern Bavarian.
Cimbrian is a Bavarian macrolanguage spoken in northeastern Italy. It is not intelligible with Standard German or with other Bavarian languages. It has 2,230 speakers. Cimbrian is actually three separate languages.
Lusernese (Lusern) Cimbrian is a separate Cimbrian language not intelligible with other types of Cimbrian. It is spoken in the province of Trento, Italy, where it has 500 speakers in Trentino Alto Adige 40 km southeast of the city of Trento.
Tredici Communi (Dreizehn Gemeinden) Cimbrian (Tauch) is a separate Cimbrian language not intelligible with other types of Cimbrian. It has 230 speakers near Verona, Italy, where it is currently spoken only the village of Giazza-Ljetzan.
Sette Comuni (Sieben Gemeinden) Cimbrian is a separate Cimbrian language not intelligible with other types of Cimbrian. It is spoken near Asiago, Italy, where it is currently spoken only the village of Roana-Robaan. It has 1,500 speakers.
Mocheno is a Bavarian language spoken in Alto Adige-Südtirol, Italy. It is not intelligible with Standard German or with other Bavarian languages. It has 3,500 speakers.
Hutterite German is a Bavarian language spoken in Canada and the US. Intelligibility: 70% intelligible with Pennsylvania German, a Palatine language, but only 50% intelligible with the Low German Plautdietsch and Standard German. Hutterite is derived from a Carinthian Bavarian lect.
Yiddish is a language spoken by European Jews that has heavy Hebrew influence on a Germanic background. It branched off from Medieval Middle German (mostly Rhenish languages) and was influenced by modern German in the 1800’s and 1900’s. It is not a dialect of German as commonly thought, but is instead a full language. It contains two languages, Western Yiddish and Eastern Yiddish.
Eastern Yiddish is spoken in Israel by 215,000 speakers and by 3,142,560 Jewish speakers worldwide. It has poor intelligibility with Western Yiddish. Eastern Yiddish originated east of the Oder River through Poland, in an area moving into Belarus, Russia (to Smolensk), Lithuania, Latvia, Hungary, Romania, Ukraine, and Palestine before 1917 (in Jerusalem and Safed).
There are three dialects: Southeastern, Mideastern and Northeastern. Dialects are apparently intelligible. Southeastern is spoken in Ukraine and Romania, Mideastern is spoken in Poland and Hungary and Northeastern is spoken in Lithuania and Belarus. Eastern Yiddish is not intelligible with Standard German or any other form of German.
Linguist Paul Wexler argues that Eastern Yiddish is a version of West Yiddish creolized over a Kiev-Polessian Slavic lect. Hence, it is a Germano-Slavic creole.
Western Yiddish is a language spoken in Germany by 49,210 Jewish speakers. There are also speakers in Belgium, France, Hungary, Israel, the Netherlands and Switzerland. There are three dialects: Southwestern , Midwestern and Northwestern .
Southwestern is spoken in southern Germany, Switzerland, and Alsace (France). Midwestern is spoken in central Germany and parts of the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Northwestern is spoken in northern Germany and the Netherlands. West Yiddish has poor intelligibility with East Yiddish. Western Yiddish is not intelligible with Standard German or any other form of German.
Linguist Paul Wexler has argued that Western Yiddish is a Germano-Sorbian creole.
Crimean German is an extremely divergent lect of German that must be a separate language. There are probably few speakers of this language left. It is poorly known.
Baltic German (Baltendeutsch) is another extremely divergent lect of German that in all probability is a separate language. They were ethnically cleansed by the Soviets in 1939. This language was formerly spoken by German colonies in the Baltic states. Most of them left for Germany after World War 2. About 10% of the words are unique to Baltic German. The last remaining speakers are mostly over age 45, and it is not being taught to children. There are about 300-400 of them left in Canada, but the youngest of them are age 45. They grew up speaking the language.

References

Anonymous A and B. Starnberg Upper Bavarian speakers. Oakhurst, California, USA. Personal communication. July 2009.
Auer, Peter. The Construction Of Linguistic Borders And The Linguistic Construction Of Borders. 2005. In Filppula, Markku, Palander, Marjatta and Penttilä, Esa (eds.) Dialects Across Borders: Selected Papers From the 11th International Conference on Methods in Dialectology (Methods XI), Joensuu, August 2002. Current Issues in Linguistic Theory 273. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Bindorffer, Györgyi. 2004. Hungarian Germans. Identity Questions: Past and Present. Ethnologia Balkanica 8:115-127.
Chervet, Ben. Swiss German speaker, Bern, Switzerland. Personal communication. February 2016.
Costin, Paul. Karlsruhe South Franconian native speaker. Personal communication. May 2015.
Council of Europe (COE). May 26, 2006. Periodical Report Relating to the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages Third Report – Switzerland. Strasbourg, Germany.
de Gyurky, Szabolcs Michael. 2006. The Cognitive Dynamics of Computer Science: Cost-Effective Large Scale Software Development, p. 86. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-IEEE Computer Society, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Denison, Norman. 1971. Some Observations on Language Variety and Plurilingualism, chapter 7 in Ardener, Edwin. Social Anthropology and Language. London: Tavistock Publications.Jeep, John M., editor. 2001.
Kirmaier, Andrea. Oberpfälzisch North Bavarian native speaker, Neumark, Germany. Personal communication. March 2009.
Maurer-Lausegger, H. May 21, 2007 The Diversity of Languages in the Alpine-Adriatic Region I. Linguistic Minorities and Enclaves in Northern Italy. Tidsskrift for Sprogforskning, North America.
Medieval Germany: An Encyclopedia. New York and London: Garland.
Minahan, James. 2002. Encyclopedia of the Stateless Nations, Illustrated Edition, p. 42. Westport, CN: Greenwood Publishing Group.
Myhill, John. 2006. Language, Religion and National Identity in Europe and the Middle East: A Historical Study. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Osorio, Fransisco. 2001. Mass Media Anthropology. Unpublished PhD thesis: Santiago: University of Chile.
Public Foundation for European Comparative Minority Research (PFECMR). 2006. Walser German In Switzerland – Through the Lenses of the European Charter For Regional or Minority Languages. Council of Europe.
Ross, Charles. 1989. The Dialects of Modern German: A Linguistics Survey. London: Routledge.
Scheffknecht, Sibylle. Lustenauerisch native speaker. Lustenau, Austria. Personal communication, March-April 2015.

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A Reworking of German Language Classification Part 2: Middle German

Updated June 27, 2016. This post will be regularly updated for some time. Warning! This essay is very long; it runs to 79 pages.
Part 2 post deals with the huge language family known as Middle German. Part 1 deals with Low German and Part 3 deals with High German.
This classification splits Middle German from 15 languages into 43 languages using the criterion of >90% intelligibility = dialect and <90% intelligibility = language.
Middle German is easily the most famous German division of them all, and it is doing better than Low German or High German. That is because Standard German is a Middle German language.
There is much confusion about this because Middle German and High German are often lumped in together as “High German” with Middle German being a branch of High German.  This is reflected in the term for Standard German “Hochdeutsch”, which means High German.
Thuringian (Thüringisch) is group of East Middle German lects related to Upper Saxon spoken to the west of Berlinisch and Upper Saxon. The status of Thuringian is very confused. It’s often said to be easy to understand, but some of the individual dialects are quite hard for Standard German speakers to understand.
However, at least people from Schleswig-Holstein cannot understand Thuringian, so it is not true that all Hochdeutsch speakers can understand this lect. Therefore, Thuringian is best seen a separate language.
Thuringian has a sing-song quality and is one of the easier lects for Standard German speakers to understand. The southern linguistic boundary of Thuringian with East Franconian is formed by the ridge of the Thuringian forest. Thuringian has many dialects.
Northeast Thuringian (Nordostthüringisch) is a Thuringian language spoken in Halle, Merseburg and Bernburg (Saale) in Saxony-Anhalt and in Artern in Thuringia. At least the Halle form of this language is very difficult for outsiders to understand. It is spoken very near the Upper Saxon zone, so possibly it has been influenced by Upper Saxon.
Mansfeldisch is a dialect of Northeast Thuringian spoken in Hettstedt, Mansfeld, and Eisleben in Saxony-Anhalt.
Eichsfeldisch is a Thuringian language spoken in Heilbad Heiligenstadt, Leinefelde, Worbis, and Mühlhausen in Thuringia and in Eschwege, Bad Sooden-Allendorf, and Witzenhausen in Hessen. This dialect is quite divergent and has Eastphalian and North Hessian features.
This language appears to be quite diverse internally, and there may be more than one language in it. It is not intelligible with Eastphalian, North Hessian or other types of Thuringian.
Central Thuringian (Zentralthüringisch) is a dialect of Thuringian that is spoken in a triangle in central Germany formed by Arnstadt, Erfurt, and Gotha.
Ilm Thuringian (Ilmthüringisch) is a dialect of Thuringian is spoken in Königsee, Bad Blankenburg, Rudolstad, Weimar, Jena, and Apolda in Thuringia and in Bad Bibra in Saxony-Anhalt. It has two subdialects, North Ilm Thuringian (Nord Ilmthüringisch) and South Ilm Thuringian (Süd Ilmthüringisch). The lect spoken in Weimar at least is hard for speakers of Standard German to understand.
North Thuringian (Nordthüringisch) is a dialect of Thuringian spoken in Nordhausen, Bad Frankenhausen, and Sondershausen in Thuringia, in Sangerhausen, Harzgerode, and Stolberg (Harz) in Saxony-Anhalt, and in Bad Lauterberg and Bad Sachsa in Lower Saxony.
Stiege North Thuringian is a North Thuringian dialect spoken in the town of Stiege in the Lower Harz Mountains in Saxony-Anhalt just north of the Thuringian border. This area is transitional between Low German and Middle German. The town of Hassenfelde four miles to the north was Eastphalian speaking, but Stiege is Thuringian. So Stieger is a Thuringian language with strong Eastphalian influence. A century ago, Stieger was not intelligible with the rest of North Thuringian (Liesenberg 2008).
West Thuringian (Westthüringisch) is a dialect of Thuringian spoken in Eisenach, Bad Liebenstein, Bad Salzungen, and Ruhla in Thuringia.
Southeast Thuringian (Südostthüringisch) is a dialect of Thuringian spoken in Saalfeld/Saale, Gera, Greiz, Neustadt, and Bad Lobenstein in Thuringia, in Mühltroff and Elsterberg in Saxony and in Ludwigsstadt and Teuschnitz in Bavaria.
Upper Saxon is an East Middle German language that is not mutually intelligible with Standard German. What’s odd is that Standard German was based on a specific Upper Saxon dialect as spoken in about 1700. It has since drifted into a language of its own. Intelligibility between Upper Saxon and Standard German is very poor, worse than intelligibility with Bavarian, and is probably less than 40%.
It is spoken in southeastern Germany, southwest of Berlin near Saxony, in Dresden, Leipzig and Chemnitz in Saxony and around Halle in Saxony-Anhalt. Some other Germans, especially from southern Germany, find Upper Saxon almost impossible to understand (Kirmaier 2009). Upper Saxon is considered by many Germans to be among the hardest dialects of all to understand, if speaking of dialects spoken in Germany proper.
It has extensive Slavic borrowings. Since German reunification in 1990, Upper Saxon has been giving way to Standard German. It has 2-4 million speakers. Upper Saxon has nine different dialects within it.
Standard German (Hochdeutsch) is an East Middle German language based on Upper Saxon, the pluricentric language of German, and the official and uniting language of all German speakers. Genetically, it is closest to Thuringian, Upper Saxon and Lower Silesian, but it has diverged dramatically. It was originally based on a certain Upper Saxon dialect, and there is a dialect of Upper Saxon today that still bears remarkable similarity to Standard German.
The best version of Standard German spoken today (the one that “lacks an accent”) is said to be the speech of Hanover in central Lower Saxony. This is in the Eastphalian Low Saxon area, but Standard German has pretty much cleaned out the Low Saxon in the area and has almost completely replaced it.
It is also known as Hochdeutsch. Most German dialect speakers also speak Standard German, but in a few places there are speakers of German type languages in and around Germany that cannot speak Hochdeutsch, notably in far western Austria, to some extent in Switzerland, and a few older people in Hessen.
Further, the Dutch Low Saxon speakers in the Netherlands, treated as Macro-German speakers in this analysis, may not speak Standard German, though many Dutch have at least some understanding of German. It is possible that some of the South Meuse-Rhenish transitional lects may not speak German either.
Standard German has been seriously impacting Low German since the 1700’s, but it has only effected other German languages recently. Like other pluricentric languages, Standard German serves the function of being a common language for many Macro-German speakers who would not ordinarily have one.
Unserdeutsch is a German-based creole spoken in New Guinea by only about 100 remaining speakers, some of whom are middle aged. It originated based on the Standard German spoken in German colonial times.
It was formed, oddly enough, by New Guinean children who were raised in an orphanage run by German speakers. It then came to be spoken by the White-New Guinean Catholic Vunapope community in the Gazelle Peninsula of New Britain. It is one of only two German-based creoles.
Belgranodeutsch is a German-Spanish creole spoken in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It is a mixture between Spanish and Standard German and is no doubt not intelligible with Standard German. The Belgrano district is a part of Buenos Aires that has many German speakers.
Namibian Black German (Küchendeutsch) is a German pidgin spoken in Namibia based on Standard German. It is presently nearly extinct. It used to be spoken by Namibian Blacks who were servants for their German colonial masters in the German colony of Sudwest Africa. It is probably not intelligible with Standard German.
Berlinerisch is an East Middle German lect, and is one of the easiest German dialects to understand, however, some speakers of Standard German say it takes them several months to learn to understand it completely, so in that sense it may be a separate language. But those speakers were generally Americans who spoke German as a second language. It is said by Berliners that any German can understand Berlinerisch, but there are reports that Upper Saxon speakers have a hard time with Berlinerisch, so it appears to be a separate language.
Ruhrdeutsch is an East Middle German language spoken in the Ruhr far away from the other East Middle German languages. It is a strange language which spoken around Essen in North Rhine-Westphalia. It has elements of Low Franconian Bergisch lects and Westphalian Low Saxon. It is quite distinct and is probably a separate language (sample).
North Upper Saxon (Nordobersächsisch). This Upper Saxon dialect is spoken in the Elbe-Elster Region. Intelligibility data is needed between this and other forms of Upper Saxon. It is not well-known.
Anhaltisch is an Upper Saxon dialect spoken in Dessau, Köthen, Bernburg, Staßfurt and Aschersleben in central Saxony-Anhalt south of Magdeburg. It is also spoken down around Zietz and Hohenmolsen in far southern Saxony-Anhalt where it meets Thuringia and Saxony. It is very divergent. Anhaltisch is transitional between Upper Saxon and Thuringian. Anhaltisch speakers say other Germans find Alhaltisch almost impossible to understand (Wahl July 2014).
Dialects include Gladitz and Trebnitz. The two are very different. Trebnitz is closer to Upper Saxon. Gladitz at least has poor intelligibility even with Brandenburgish.
Osterlandic (Osterländisch) is an Upper Saxon dialect that is spoken in Delitzsch and Torgau in far northwest Saxony, across the border into far southern Saxony-Anhalt in Wittenberg and Bitterfeld, and into far southeastern Brandenburg in Liebenwerda and Elsterwerda. Osterlandic is not intelligible with any Upper Saxon lects spoken in Saxony, nor with Erzgebirgish. This language is still doing very well.
Dialects include Northeast Osterlandic (Nordost Osterländisch), Southwest Osterlandic (Südwest Osterländisch), Southeast Osterlandic (Südost Osterländisch) and Schraden Osterlandic (Schraden Osterländisch).
Meissenish is a group of Upper Saxon lects spoken in Saxony.
North Meissenish (Nordmeißenisch) is an Upper Saxon dialect spoken around the cities of Grimma, Döbeln and Riesa in northern Saxony east of Leipzig. It is little known, but there are still many speakers. This language is incredibly hard for Standard German speakers to understand.
Northeast Meissenish (Nordostmeißenisch) is an Upper Saxon dialect spoken in a small area around Lommatzsch and Großenhain in Saxony northwest of Dresden. It is little known, but must still have many speakers. Intelligibility data is needed between this and other forms of Upper Saxon.
West Meissenish (Westmeißenisch) is an Upper Saxon dialect spoken in Saxony on both sides of the lower Zwickauer Mulde River around Rochlitz, Mittweida, and Borna north and northwest of Chemnitz which forms an intermediate position between North Meissenish and South Meissenish on one side and a Thuringian dialect called Altenburg (Altenburgish) on the other side.
It has Thuringian and Hessian characteristics. It is little known, but still has many speakers. Intelligibility data is needed between this and other forms of Upper Saxon.
South Meissenish (Südmeißenisch) is an Upper Saxon dialect spoken in an area of Saxony around the cities of Öderan, Frankenberg, Hainichen, and Freiberg northeast of Chemnitz. It is poorly known, but still has quite a few speakers. Poor intelligibility with Southeast Meissenish.
Southeast Meissenish (Südostmeißnisch) is an Upper Saxon language spoken in Saxony in a circle around Dresden around the cities of Dippoldswalde, Meißen, Radeburg, Pirna, and Bad Schandau. It was heavily influenced extensively by the old language spoken in Dresden. Many speakers remain, but it is poorly known.
Southeast Meissenish is utterly unintelligible even with other East German lects such as the Havelländisch Markish spoken in Brandenburg west of Berlin. Southeast Meissenish speakers have a hard time understanding South Meissenish.
Northern Bohemian is an Upper Saxon language formerly spoken in the part of Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia near Saxony. It was spoken in the towns of Děčín, Ústí nad Labem, and Teplice south and southeast of Dresden. It is apparently now extinct. The % of German speakers in the Czech Republic is down from 30% before WW2 to 1% today, or 18,000 speakers. No one speaks Northern Bohemian anymore; all German speakers speak Standard German instead.
East Thuringian (Ostthüringisch) is an Upper Saxon language spoken in Eisenberg and Altenburg in Thuringia and in Zeitz, Naumburg (Saale), and Hohenmölsen in Saxony-Anhalt. It is almost completely unintelligible with Standard German. Intelligibility with other Upper Saxon lects is unknown.
Fore Vogtländisch (Vorvogtländisch) is an Upper Saxon lect that is transitional to East Franconian. It is little known.
Lusatian (Lausitzisch) is an East Middle German language spoken in Eastern Germany. There is difficult intelligibility between this language and Standard German. It has some traces that go back to Dutch for some reason. There are various dialects of Lusatian. Dialects include West Lusatian, East Lusatian, New Lusatian, Upper Lusatian and Lower Lusatian. This language has very marginal intelligibility with Standard German, and intelligibility testing is indicated.
West Lusatian (Westlausitzisch) is a lect spoken in eastern Saxony, east of the upper Pulsnitz River, west of the Lausitzian speakers in the Sorbian area and northwest of Dresden in an isolated region around Pulsnitz, Bichofswerda and Kamenz. This dialect is transitional between Upper Saxon and Upper Lusatian. This lect is little known, but it still has 50,000 speakers.
New Lusatian (Neulausitzer) is spoken in Saxony in the Sorb-speaking area around Bautzen and Hoyerswerda.
Upper Lusatian (Oberlausitzer) is a lect spoken in southeastern Saxony near Zittau by the border of Germany, Czechoslovakia and Poland. It is spoken in the village of Schönbach and other areas. This lect is still the primary means of communication in the region. Difficult intelligibility with Standard German (90% comprehension with slow speech). Upper Lusatian lects only 5 miles away can differ markedly. Intelligibility within these lects is not known. This dialect has a lot of Slavic in it and also some French.
Lower Lusatian (Niederlausitzisch) is spoken around Cottbus, Finsterwalde, Senftenberg, and Spreewald in far southern Brandenburg and south across the border in Hoyerswerda, Weißwasser in far northern Saxony.
Lower Lausitzian and Lower Silesian overlap geographically with High Prussian in central East Prussia and neighboring West Prussia. This dialect is transitional between Low German and Middle German. This dialect appears to be in good shape, has many speakers at least in Cottbus and has poor intelligibility with Standard German.
Silesian* (Schlesisch) is a group of two East Middle German languages. As a separate language, Lower Silesian it is recognized by Ethnologue. It is spoken north of the Riesengebirge (Giants Mountains) around Glatz in eastern Bohemia, Czechoslovakia and in Kuhländchen in the upper Oder area. It was formerly spoken in Western Moravia. By the 1100’s, this region was covered with German settlements and was completely Germanophone. As a high-level German dialect grouping, it must be a separate language.
Silesian dialects include Neiderländisch, Kräuter Silesian (Kräuterschlesisch), Mountain Silesian (Gebirgsschlesisch), Glätzisch, Brieg-Grottkau Silesian (Brieg-Grottkauer Schlesisch), Reichenberg, and Upper Silesian (Oberschlesisch). This language is often described as a sort of German Creole with heavy Polish elements in it.
Lower Silesian (Niederschlesisch) is an East Middle German language spoken southeast of Berlin close to the Polish border near Bautzen and in Eastern Bohemia in Czechoslovakia. It was formerly spoken extensively in Poland. It is not mutually intelligible with Standard German. In some places, it is still spoken by young people. It still has quite a few speakers, possibly as many as 500,000. It overlaps with High Prussian in central East Prussia and West Prussia. Oppelner is a dialect of this language.
Hultschiner Laendle Bohemian German is a Silesian dialect spoken in a pocket of the Sudetenland where Bohemia borders Silesia. This divergent lect is considered to be a separate lect from the rest of Bohemian German and is probably close to and may be a dialect of Lower Silesian. Poorly known, but there are probably still some speakers left.
High Prussian (Hochpreußisch) is an East Middle German Silesian language that was formerly spoken extensively in East Prussia, now part of Poland. The language is moribund with the expulsion of Germans from Poland after WW2, and there are only a few elderly speakers left. It must surely be a separate language and must be unintelligible with other German languages or with Standard German.
The language originated from Silesian speakers who moved to the area in the 1200’s-1400’s. It was then influenced by the extinct (since 1700’s) Baltic Low Prussian language, a West Baltic language related to Lithuanian and Latvian. All West Baltic tongues have gone extinct. Baltic Low Prussian went extinct around 1710 when a series of famines and bubonic plague epidemics swept through the population, decimating the speakers.
Dialects of High Prussian include Oberländisch and Breslau (Breslausch).
Barossa German is a moribund language spoken in Australia by a few remaining elderly speakers. Speakers came from the High Prussian and Silesian regions, so the language is a Middle East German tongue.
It is very strange, barely intelligible at all to Standard German speakers and probably not intelligible with any other German lects either. German settlers arriving around 1840 settled in the Barossa Valley in South Australia. It declined with the suppression of Germans and the German language in Australia during WW1.
Vilamovian (Wilamowicean or Wymysorys) is a West Germanic language spoken in Wilamowice (Wymysoj), Poland near Bielsko-Biała, on the border between the regions of Silesia and Lesser Poland. This is in the far southwestern part of Poland near Germany and Czechoslovakia. It is derived from the Middle German circa the 1200’s spoken by settlers who came to the area from Germany, Scotland and the Netherlands.
Why they all decided to speak a German language is not known. Further, despite their disparate origins, they all decided on a Dutch identity, while speaking German nevertheless. Very confusing. Low German, Dutch, Frisian, Old English and Polish went into the mix.
The Polish Communists banned the language after WW2, but the ban was lifted in 1956. Nevertheless, the language has been replaced by Polish, and the only speakers now are 70 elderly speakers, so it is moribund.

The Middle German languages, with West Middle German on the left and East Middle German on the right and Thuringian in light blue in the middle.
The Middle German languages, with West Middle German on the left and East Middle German on the right and Thuringian in light blue in the middle.

Ripuarian Franconian is a West Central German Central Franconian language spoken in northwest Germany on the borders of Netherlands and Belgium in North Rhine-Westphalia around the town of Cologne. Ripuarian Franconian consists of 150 different, often quite divergent, lects for which dictionaries have been published. The Ripuarian lects are not intelligible at all with Standard German.
They form a dialect chain whereby one city can understand itself and the cities next to it, but once you get a couple of cities over, they can’t understand each other anymore. At the extremes of the Ripuarian dialect chain, intelligibility is as low as 20%. Therefore, Ripuarian is clearly more than one language. There are 1 million speakers of Ripuarian.
Some of the varieties include Bonn German or Bönnsch, Homburgisch, Lammersdorf, Neusser, Bad Neuenahr/Ahrweiler, and Bocholtz German, which may well be separate languages, but we will need more evidence before splitting them.
Kölsch is the specific variety of Ripuarian Franconian spoken in Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia. Kölsch is not intelligible with the rest of Ripuarian Franconian. It has about 250,000 speakers. Here is a sample of Kölsch. You can see it doesn’t look much like any of the surrounding languages. Kolsch has 30% intelligibility with Aachen Platt and 75% with Eschweiler German (Köhler 2015).
Hommersch is a Ripuarian Franconian language at the other end of the huge Ripuarian dialect chain from Eschweiler German, and therefore it makes sense to split it into a separate language . Intelligibility with Kolsch is not known but is probably difficult.
Eschweiler German, spoken in Eschweiler, Germany, is often considered to be  a SE Limburgish lect, but actually it is a Ripaurian lect as it has difficult intelligibility with Southeast Limburgs. It is intelligible with Stolberg German, but it has more Ripaurian influences (Tulipan 2013). It is said to be halfway between Aachen Platt and Kolsch. Intelligibility is 55% with Aachen German and 75% with Kolsch (Köhler 2015). As it is not fully intelligible with Kolsch, it must be a separate language.
The various Low Franconian and Middle Franconian languages. D is Ripaurian, E is Moselle Franconian, F is Luxembourgish, G is Rhenish Franconian, H is South Franconian and I is East Franconian.

Moselle Franconian (Moselfränkisch) is a West Central German Central Franconian language spoken south of Ripuarian Franconian in Germany on the borders of Belgium and France and which also shades into Belgium and France. It is not intelligible with Luxembourgish other than that the westernmost dialects of Moselle are intelligible with the easternmost dialects of Luxembourgish near the Luxembourg border. Trier is a major city in this speaking area.
There are many Moselle Franconian lects. All are spoken in Germany unless otherwise noted.
Lorraine Franconian is a simply Moselle Franconian spoken in France. It is apparently intelligible with the Moselle Franconian spoken across the border in Germany. It is not intelligible with Standard German, Luxembourgish, or the Alemannic High German language Alsatian with which it is often paired, or with the Rhenish Franconian spoken in the Lorraine. It has 78,000 speakers. Use is decreasing, and only 20% of children under age 15 are able to speak it.
It is mostly spoken in the Moselle Department of the state of Lorraine around Thionville. Hettangeois, Bitscherland, and Rodener are some of the dialects of Lorraine Franconian.
Trierisch is spoken in Trier, Germany. The Trierisch dialect differs even within the city of Trier. Outside the city of Trier, the dialect is clearly different from that spoken in the city, and village residents do not refer to their lects as Trierisch. Eifler speakers cannot understand Trierisch and vice versa. However, Trierisch and Konz are intelligible with the East Luxembourgeois spoken in the far east of Luxembourg on the German border in the towns of Grevenmacher and Echternach.
The following Moselle Franconian dialects are spoken in Germany.
Reiler is spoken in and around Reil. There are various Moselle Franconian dialects spoken around the Schneifel Mountains and the Venn Region over near the Belgian border. Wäller is spoken in eastern Westerwald, on the border between Moselfränkisch and Hessisch. Westerwälder or West Westerwäldisch is spoken in the Westerwald. Wittlicher is spoken in Wittlich. Andernacher/Annenach/Annenache Platt is spoken in Andernach. It has more Ripuarian features than other Moselle lects due to its connection to Cologne. Unter Moselfränkisch is another Moselle dialect, but I am not sure where it is spoken.
Kröver is a Moselle Franconian language spoken in the town of Kröv on the Mosel River. Germans who lived in the area refer to it as a separate language, however precise intelligibility data is unknown.
Eifler or Eifelplatt is a Moselle Franconian dialect spoken in the Eifel Mountains in Germany. Eifler is so strange that intelligibility with Standard German is close to zero. It is said to be not intelligible to outsiders, but it is intelligible with the Bad Honningen dialect just to the west of Eifler. Eifler has dialects of its own, including Demerather, Maifeld, Southeifel, and Uebereltz. South Eifel is similar to Luxembourgish, in fact, the South Eifel spoken in Bitburg is often referred to simply as Luxembourgeois. Eifler is also spoken in Belgium around St. Vith. This was where the Battle of the Bulge was fought.
Siegerländer or Siegerländish is a Moselle Franconian dialect spoken in the Siegerland region in Nordrhein-Westfalen.
Luxembourgish (Lëtzebuergesch or Letzeburgisch) is a Moselle Franconian language spoken in Luxembourg. It is not intelligible with Moselle Franconian other than those Moselle dialects right next the German border with Luxembourg, where the easternmost dialects of Luxembourgish are intelligible with Moselle Franconian. Luxembourgish is close to the South Eifel dialect.
There are several distinct varieties of Luxembourgish, but there is a Standard Luxembourgish emerging now in place of them. Luxembourgish is not used in the classroom, and there is a tendency of the state to use German and French in public announcements. Both languages are heavily promoted, such that Luxembourgers are typically trilingual.
Although almost everyone speaks Luxembourgish, there is frustration on the part of speakers that the language cannot accommodate many modern and technical terms, for which German and French are often used instead. There is a heavy French influence. Luxembourgish has 40% intelligibility with Standard German.
It is also spoken in Belgium and France. In France, it is spoken in the Moselle Department of Lorraine around the Thionville area where Lorraine Franconian is also spoken (Hughes 2005). In Belgium, it is spoken in Arlerland in Eastern Belgium.
East Luxembourgish is language spoken in the far east of Luxembourg around the cities of Grevenmacher and Echternach on the border with Germany. It is not intelligible with the rest of Luxembourgish, so it appears to be a separate language. However, it is intelligible with the West Moselle Franconian spoken across the border in Trier and Konz. In Germany, it is probably also spoken in Nittel, Welschbilling, Irrel, and Waserbillig, and elsewhere in Luxembourg in Mertert, Mombach, and Rosport.
Since this is considered to be part of Luxembourgish and not Moselle Franconian, it is best to split is off as a separate Luxembourgish language. The exact borders of this language are not known – we do not know where the border between this language and Luxembourgeois is, we do not know where Trierisch ends and Eifler begins in the Eifel Mountains, we do not know where Trierisch lects become end and other Moselle Franconian lects begin heading up the Moselle River Valley, and we do not know the status of the Moselle Franconian lects to the southeast heading into northern Saarland.
Transylvanian Saxon (Siebenbürger Sächsisch) itself is a macrolanguage of Germans in Romania. It is derived from a movement of German settlers to Transylvania from 1150-1230, so it has been split off from other German lects for a very long time. The first phase were settlers from the Luxembourg and Moselle region. The second phase from 1200-1230 consisted mostly of settlers from the Rhineland, southern Netherlands and Belgium and the Moselle region once again. A few others came from Thuringia, Bavaria and even France. The main area where they settled in the center of Romania is called the Transylvanian Saxon Triangle.
Originally, it was basically an ancient form of the Moselle Franconian language because this is where most of the original settlers were from . It has incredible dialectal diversity, with over 250 documented dialects. Obviously, it is not intelligible with Standard German, but intelligibility data is lacking with the rest of Moselle Franconian, though considering the diversity of Moselle itself, this is probably for all intents and purposes a separate language from Moselle Franconian.
Transylvanian Saxon has 80% lexical similarity with Luxembourgeois, but that often boils down to less than 50% intelligibility in the real world. Transylvanian Saxon is completely unintelligible with Danube Swabian with only 30-40% intelligibility (Costin 2014), Standard German and even Franconian.
Every village has its own dialect, and dialects can be quite different. Intelligibility data for the various Transylvanian Saxon dialects is lacking and urgently needed. At least in 1855, there were 7 distinct dialects of Transylvanian Saxon and at this time, there were mutually unintelligible dialects of Transylvanian Saxon (separate languages).
In fact, prior to WW2, there were unintelligible dialects of Transylvanian Saxon between various villages, yet the Saxons had developed a Standard Transylvanian Saxon koine in order to communicate. Two separate languages may have been Hianzisch and Hittisch. They may well be extinct.
Transylvanian Saxon originally was a dialect chain, but villages that were too far apart could not understand each other. Apparently since at least World War 2, heavy dialect leveling has occurred along with koine adoption and while Transylvanian Saxon at some point in the last 150 years was made up of separate languages, in recent years, enough dialect leveling has occurred and there has been enough dialect merger such that present day Saxons can understand each other well. No one really knows why it is called Saxon, except that before the immigrants moved into the area, they moved through the state of Saxony.
With the return to capitalism in 1990, 90% of the 500,000 Saxon population left for Germany, leaving only 50,000 behind.
The area around the cities of Media and Sibiu speak this language, and they they call it Siebenbürger Sachsen. It is still spoken today even by people in their 20’s.
Rhine Franconian (Rheinfränkisch) is a family of lects that are spoken in the western German regions of Saarland, Rhineland-Palatinate and Hessen and in northern Bas-Rhin in the state of Alsace.
The Franconian language group is related to Hessian that is spoken in the Rhine River Valley in Germany over to the French border. It is not intelligible with Standard German. Rhine Franconian is also not intelligible with Moselle Franconian or with Luxembourgish. It is spoken to the southwest of the Hessian zone.
In the western part of this area, Pfälzisch is spoken in restaurants, stores, offices, schools, theaters. You would almost think that Standard German is the foreign language. Pfälzisch is still very popular and most kids still grow up speaking it. Every village has a different dialect.
Some of the dialects are Großrosseln, Saarbrücken, Zaisenhausen, Altrip, Bann, Gabsheim, Odenwälderisch, Rülzheim, Nordpfälzisch, Südpfälzisch, Wissembourg, Thaleischweiler-Fröschen and Pirmasens. Dialectal intelligibility is not known.
Odenwälderisch, spoken in the Odenwald, a mountain chain in southern Hesse, northern Bavaria and northern Baden-Württemberg, has been influenced by South Hessian. Rülzheim is spoken in the Germersheim area along the Rhine.
Pirmasens is spoken in the town of the same name in far southwest Palatine near the French border. Gabsheim is spoken in northern Palatine between Mainz and Alzey near the town of Wörrstadt.
Bann is spoken in the town of Bann, near Kaiserslautern. Thaleischweiler-Fröschen is spoken in the Palatine Forest 4 miles north of Pirmasens. Altrip is spoken in the city of Altrip 4 miles south of Ludwigshafen. Großrosseln and Saarbrücken, spoken in the Saarland, are partway between Rhine Franconian and Moselle Franconian. Großrosseln is almost a suburb of Saarbrücken. Wissembourg is spoken in northern Alsace, France.
Mainzerisch is spoken around the city of Mainz.
Westpalatine German or West Pfälzisch is a major level split in the Rhine Franconian lects. This is a separate language from Rhine Franconian proper because speakers refer to Rhine Franconian as one language and this as another language. For instance, Saarlandsich speakers say that Frankish (Rhine Franconian) is a different language from what they speak (Anonymous 2014).
Lects included in this grouping include Saarländisch, Saarpfälzisch, Westrichisch, Pfälzer-Bergländisch, Pfälzer-Wäldisch, Schwarzwälder-Hochwäldisch, Idarwäldisch, Hunsrückisch, Naheländisch, Rheinhessisch, Kaulbach, and Waldpfälzisch.
Saarländisch, Saarpfälzisch and Westrichisch are spoken in the Saarland. Most of the rest are spoken in the Rheinland Palatine.
Saarlännisch is a form of Westpfälzisch spoken in the Saarland. It is intelligible with the Lorraine Pfalzisch spoken right across the border in the French state of Lorraine (Hughes 2005). Saarlandisch is not intelligible with the rest of Westpfalzisch spoken in the Rhineland Palatinate (Anonymous 2014).
Here is a sample of the Saarland dialect. There are various subdialects within Saarlännisch, including Eschringen, Ensheim, Saarlouis, and Irsch.
Saarlouis is still spoken by almost everyone in the town, including teachers.
Lorraine Pfalzisch is a Rhenish Franconian Westpfälzisch tongue spoken in northeast France in eastern Moselle Department in the state of Lorraine region. In the Lorraine, it is spoken between Forbach and Biche in the Moselle Department of Lorraine Province.
The Rhenish Franconian spoken in Lorraine is not intelligible with the Luxembourgeois or with Lorraine Franconian spoken there. It is however intelligible with the Saarlännisch spoken just across the border in Germany in the state of Saarland (Hughes 2005).
Lothringian Pfalzisch is a separate language spoken in the transitional area in Lorraine between the Lorraine Franconian (Moselle Franconian) speakers and the Lorraine Pfalzisch (Rhenish Franconian) speakers. This language is transitional between these two lects. However, the hard Lothringian Pfalzisch is not intelligible with Saarlandisch spoken over the border into Germany (Anonymous 2014). Since it is not intelligible with Saarlandisch, it is no doubt also not intelligible with Lorraine Pfalzisch, which is a part of Saarlandisch. Intelligibility with Moselle Franconian is not known but is probably not full. St. Arnold is a dialect. Intelligibility with Hunsrücker, a similar lect, is not known.
Hunsrückisch, or Hunsrücker, is a Westpfälzisch dialect that is partway between the Rheinfränkisch and Moselfränkisch languages. Intelligibility with Lothringian Pfalzisch, a similar lect, is not known.
Riograndenser Hunsrückisch is a variety of Hunsrückisch that is widely spoken in southern Brazil. Although it resembles Hunsrückisch as of 100 years ago, it has also received many inputs from other German languages, including Low German languages like Pomeranian and Plautdietsch, other European languages such as Italian and Venetian and of course lots of Portuguese. Intelligibility between this and Hunsrückisch in Germany is not known.
The German grammar has been largely replaced by Brazilian Portuguese grammar. It is apparently not at all intelligible with Standard German.
Danube Swabian is spoken by former residents of the Danube region of Europe, especially Hungary, but also in Slovenia, Bosnia, Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria. Most were expelled from the area after WW2. They now live in Brazil and Germany. This language is not intelligible at all with Standard German and is  completely unintelligible with the Transylvanian Saxon that is spoken by other Hungarian Germans. Danube Swabian is ~30-40% intelligible with Transylvanian Saxon (Costin 2014) and is 65% intelligible with Standard German (Giesser 2014).
This language is only nominally Swabian, but it does sound like a combination of the earlier forms of many German languages such as Swabian, Pfälzisch, Alemannic and Alsatian circa the 1700’s, because that is what it seems like it is. But actually the High German aspect is a secondary layer to the essential core of the language, which is, to pin it down, best thought of as a Rhine Franconian lect similar to Saarlännisch.
It had many dialects, and you could often tell the particular village a person came from by his speech. It has many Hungarian borrowings. It is still spoken, but less and less. There are still many middle aged speakers age 45+.
It was still widely spoken in 1989, and many people could not even speak Hungarian but only spoke Swabian. Mandatory classes in Standard German have been introduced, and Danube Swabian is spoken less often.
The dialects are, incredibly enough, often regarded as largely mutually intelligible. However, other reports say that in Hungary, each village had its own dialect and adjacent villages sometimes could not understand each other (Bindorffer 2004). The latter report casts doubt on the mutual intelligibility of the Danube Swabian lects.
In the Banat (a region encompassing parts of Romania, Serbia and Hungary) alone, at one time there may have been as many as 24 different dialects. Danube Swabian has high intelligibility with Black Sea German, a form of German spoken in the southern Ukraine.
Kurpfälzisch is spoken in the northern part of Baden-Württemberg from Karlsruhe north to up around Heidelberg and Mannheim. This is a Palatinian lect. It is unintelligible with Standard German, but it is intelligible with Rhine Franconian in general. Even the young people of Heidelberg today no longer understand the dialect of their own city.
Other Germans find the language spoken in Mannheim to be nearly incomprehensible, on the order of Swabish and German Bavarian. It is probably about 40% intelligible with Standard German. This is a Rheinish language related to Pfälzisch and Hessian.
There are different dialects of this language, including Heidelberg, Viernheim, Sandheim, Seckenheim, and Mannheim.
The Mannheim dialect is described as “completely different” in the northern and southern parts of Mannheim, so there are two dialects, North Mannheim and South Mannheim. The Mannheim dialect is in excellent shape, and most of the town speaks it habitually. Sandhofen is one of the dialects spoken in the north of Mannheim. There seems to be a broad Mannheim dialect that is understood all across the general Mannheim region.
Pennsylvania German is a West Middle German Rhine Franconian (Rhenish Palatinate) macrolanguage that is descended from Pfälzisch. It is spoken in the USA. It is 70% intelligible with the Bavarian language Hutterite German. Although there are reports that it is mostly not intelligible with Pfälzisch nowadays, other reports say it is intelligible with the Mainzerisch spoken in Mainz. It seems to bear specific resemblance to the Kurpfälzisch spoken in Mannheim. There are also reports that it is intelligible with Riograndenser Hunsrückisch.
There are 2-3 million speakers of Pennsylvania German in the US, Canada and Central and South America. It has high intelligibility with Danube Swabian. Speakers are generally members of the Amish religious sect, though not all. Most speakers live in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana in the US.
It is often said that Pennsylvania German is one language with many dialects that are all mutually intelligible. However, recent data shows that this is not the case. There are differences in this language even within the same branch of Anabaptism. The differences are sometimes serious enough to cause major disruptions in communication (Bowie 1997).
In Ohio at least, there are two groups of Amish Pennsylvania German speakers. The first group is descended from Amish who moved to Indiana from Pennsylvania and Ohio starting in the 1840’s.
Swiss Pennsylvania German is the language spoken by the second group consisting of the second wave of Amish who came to the US from 1815-1860. They came mostly from Switzerland and went straight to Ohio. Swiss Pennsylvania German speakers and regular Pennsylvania German speakers in Ohio have poor mutual intelligibility hence they tend to communicate in English.
Forepalatine German or Vorderpfälzisch is a high level split in Rhenish Franconian that is probably a separate language. It is spoken in the Vorderpfälz Middle Rhine region near Mannheim in the southeast of Rhineland-Palatine.
Dialects include Alsatian Pfälzisch (Elsässisch-Pfälzisch) spoken near Weißenburg (Wissembourg) and Nordelsass in France, Haardtgebirgisch, spoken near Haardtgebirge, Germany, Speyerisch-Landauisch, spoken near Speyer and Landau, Germany, Ludwigshafenerisch, spoken near Ludwigshafen, Germany, and Wormserisch, spoken around Worms, Germany. Speyerisch-Landauisch is still very commonly used in everyday life. Dialect intelligibility is lacking.
Alsatian Pfalzisch is a dialect of Vorderpfälzisch that was spoken by many German colonists in the Black Sea area. This variety of Black Sea German derived from many immigrants that came from the Pfalzisch-speaking part of Alsace in France and settled in Russia during the 1800’s. Many then moved from the Black Sea to North Dakota in the US.
All forms – that spoken in the Black Sea, the form spoken in Alsace, and the form spoken in North Dakota – appear to be intelligible. It is not intelligible with the Low Alemannic Alsatian language widely spoken in Alsace. Intelligibility between this and the Lorraine Pfalzisch in Lorraine and Saarlännisch is not known.
Texas German is apparently a Forepalatine dialect of German spoken by German settlers who came to central Texas in the 1840’s in an attempt to establish a New Germany in the US. It is an endangered language, and there are now projects to try to save it. The youngest speaker is 47 years old. Although it is a unique dialect, mutual intelligibility with Standard German is 95%, so it is not a separate language. It is most closely related to Forepalatine dialects west of Mannheim in the Ludwigshafen area (Guion 1996).
South Hessian (Südhessisch) is a form of Rhenish Franconian. Some South Hessian dialects and languages are Biblis, Darmstadt, Dörnigheim, Haaner, Hanau, Heppenheim, Langenselbold, Seligenstadt, Mainzerisch, Orwisch, Rodgau, Ronneburg, Wetterauisch, Taunus-Hessisch, Untermainländisch, Riedhessisch, and Odenwälderisch. Haaner is spoken in Dreieichenhain, 15 miles south of Frankfurt. Darmstadt South Hessian is still spoken in Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, today.
Frankfurterisch South Hessian is a South Hessian dialect spoken in the city of Frankfurt. It has poor intelligibility with Bad Homburg South Hessian 10 miles north of town. It is intelligible with the Kurpfälzisch spoken in Heidelberg.
Bad Homburg South Hessian is a South Hessian language that is spoken in and around Bad Homburg 10 miles north of Frankfurt in Southern Hessen. It is not intelligible with Frankfurterisch, but it is intelligible with lects spoken around it.
Rhenish Hessian (Rheinhessisch) is a South Hessian dialect spoken in Rhenish Hessen around Mainz, Bingen, Bad Kreuznach, and in Hessen in the Rheingau area and Wiesbaden. Others place this language within Westpfälzisch.
Rheingauer Rhinehessen is a dialect of Rhinehessen that is spoken in and around the wine-growing region of Rheingauer. It is intelligible with the rest of Rhenish Hessian.
The Franconian languages. Low Franconian (Dutch) in yellow, Middle Franconian in green and Upper Franconian in blue.
The Franconian languages. Low Franconian (Dutch) in yellow, Middle Franconian in green and Upper Franconian in blue.

Hessian is a West Middle German language spoken in Hessen that is closest to Pfalzisch. Hessian is only about 40% intelligible with Standard German. In many cases, Standard German speakers say they can scarcely understand a word of Hessian.
There are many Hessian lects, but intelligibility data is generally lacking between them. Some Hessian lects are surely separate languages. Hessian is spoken northeast of Pfälzisch. Hessian is not intelligible with Luxembourgish or with other Rheinish lects.
There are several main varieties of Hessian: Lower Hessian (or Niederhessisch), Upper Hessian or Central Hessian (Oberhessisch or Mittelhessisch), West Hessian (Weshessisch), South Hessian (Südhessisch) and Wittgenstein Hessian. Within Lower Hessian, there are two subvariants, North Hessian (Nordhessisch) and East Hessian (Osthessisch).
All of these have subdialects.
Lower Hessian (Niederhessisch) is a family of German dialects which contains two large dialects, North Hessian and East Hessian.
North Hessian (Nordhessisch) is a German dialect within Lower Hessian. Further, Hessian is an extremely diverse family. Schenklengsfeld and Kassel are dialects of North Hessian. North Hessian is no longer spoken in many parts of this region, especially in the cities. However, it is still quite alive in small villages, particularly around the Ohm River.
East Hessian (Osthessisch) is part of the Lower Hessian group and is a separate language. Dialects include Salzung.
Fulda East Hessian is not inherently intelligible with Schlitz East Hessian, though many Schlitz East Hessian speakers have learned to speak it (Wahl May 2009). Intelligibility with Voralberg East Hessian is unknown and needs investigation.
Schlitz East Hessian (Schlitzerplatt) is a form of East Hessian spoken in the town of Schlitz and surrounding villages in Hessen. Speakers say (Wahl 2009) that it is not intelligible with any other German lects. Hence, it is a separate language. Schlitzerplatt is now nearly extinct in Schlitz itself, but it may still have a few elderly speakers in outlying villages (Wahl 2014).
Voralberg East Hessian is a form of East Hessian spoken in the Voralberg region of the state of Hessen. It has poor intelligibility even with the nearby Schlitz East Hessian, even into the 2000’s. The region is described as desolate and the residents as poor farmers. The language is said to reflect the region and its residents and is described as “harsh, cold and brutal” (Wahl February 2010). The language is still widely spoken even recently. Since it has poor intelligibility even with Schlitzerplatt, it may well be a separate language.
Upper Hessian or Central Hessian (Oberhessisch or Mittelhessisch), is another high level split in the Hessian family that is definitely a separate language. Central Hessian dialects include Holzhausen, Ruttershausen, Langenbach, and Hättenberger Land (the area around Wetzlar and Gießen). Within Central Hessian, there are probably numerous languages because it is not uncommon for village dialects to not be understood even a few miles away.
The Hessich Hinterland 150-200 years ago
The Hessich Hinterland 150-200 years ago

Hinterlander Central Hessian (Hinterländer Platt) is a Central Hessian dialect spoken in the Hinterlander region of Hessen.
Wittgenstein Hessian is a highly divergent Hessian dialect that may or may not be a separate language. It is spoken in Wittgenstein in North Rhine-Westphalia.
Volga German is a language or series of languages spoken by Germans in the Volga Region of Russia. Beginning in 1763, Catherine the Great urged Germans to come to Russia to farm empty lands. Many deeply impoverished Germans took up the call and migrated to Russia, where they were given land in the Volga Region.
Volga German in general seems to be a West Middle German Rhenish Franconian language with deep affinities to Hessian, though there are Swabian influences too.
It is almost completely unintelligible with Standard German. This language, like Yiddish, has been deeply influenced by Russian in terms of both lexicon and syntax. Since 1990, many have left Russia for Germany. As in the case of Bohemian German, this may be another trash can category for a variety of lects spoken by different German groups in the Volga.
Although, arguing against this is evidence from the region in 1850 that a Standard Volga German koine (Kolonistendeutsch) was already developing. The language may have an archaic character. German visitors in 1924 noted that it sounded like 17th Century German.
Amana German is still spoken in the Amana Colonies of Iowa. This area was settled by a fundamentalist German Lutheran group called the Inspirationists around 1850. Amana is a mixture of many different German lects, but it is primarily a Buedingen-Geldhausen Hessian lect. There is also major Swabian influence.
Even in the US, each village continued to have its own dialect until major changes occurred in 1932, after which a Standard Amana German developed. Intelligibility with Amana German and the rest of German is not known.
Ostfränkisch (East Franconian) is a High German language group transitional between Central and High German. It is spoken in Thuringia, Bavaria, Hessen and Baden-Württemberg around Eisenach, Coburg, Würzburg, Hof, Bayreuth, Plauen and Bamberg, in the area east of Frankfurt, to southern and western Thuringia and out to the Vogtland. It has a very high number of speakers. Klein-Allmerspan, Oberschefflenz, and Kupfer River are dialects. It is not intelligible at all with any type of Bavarian, even the Bavarian spoken nearby, and it is said to be only understandable by those who live there.
ostfraenkischer_sprachraum
Map of the East Franconian lects

Main-Franconian is one of the Ostfrankisch (East Franconian) High German languages that are transitional between Central and High German. It is spoken along the Main River which runs into the Rhine.
It is spoken in Germany in the Main-Tauber District of Baden-Württemberg, in Upper Franconia (Oberfranken) in Bavaria, and in Schmalkalden-Meiningen, Hildburghausen, Sonneberg, and the city of Suhl in southern Thuringia. It is also spoken around Schlüchtern in Eastern Hesse near the border with northwest Bavaria.
Major cities where it is spoken include Bayreuth. This language is not intelligible at all with German Bavarian (Kirmaier 2009).
There are many Main-Franconian lects.
Taubergründisch is an East Franconian lect spoken in Bavaria in Euerhausen and Sonderhofen, and in Baden-Württemberg in Weikersheim, Bad Mergentheim, and Tauberbischofsheim. This lect borders on South Franconian.
Ansbachisch is an East Franconian lect. I am not sure where it is spoken.
Lower Franconian (Unterfränkisch) is a Main-Franconian lect spoken in Würzburg and Schweinfurt in the Unterfranken or Lower Franconian region of Bavaria. There is high but not complete intelligibility between Lower Franconian and the rest of Main-Franconian (Kirmaier 2009), but it appears that Lower Franconian is not fully intelligible with Main-Franconian since Lower Franconian is not even intelligible within itself.
However, Lower Franconian has huge dialectal diversity. There are apparently over 250 dialects of Lower Franconian alone. Some of these dialects are not very different, but others are so different that intelligibility is poor. Villages spaced far apart often have poor intelligibility. There are a number of separate languages in Lower Franconian, but until we can begin to delineate them, we can’t list any. These small lects appear to be dying out lately.
Grabfeldisch is a Main-Franconian lect spoken in Bad Königshofen and Mellrichstadt in Bavaria, in Römhild and Frankenheim in Thuringia, and in Gersfeld and Hilders in Hessen. Schlüchtern may be a dialect.
Bambergerisch is a Main-Franconian lect spoken in Bamberg, Forchheim, and Erlangen in Bavaria.
Hennebergisch is a Main-Franconian language spoken in Schmalkalden, Meiningen, Zella-Mehlis, Suhl, and Schleusingen in Thuringia.
Itzgründisch is a Main-Franconian language spoken in Coburg, Neustadt and Bad Staffelstein in Bavaria and in Sonneberg, Effelder-Rauenstein, and Hildburghausen in Thuringia. Itzgründisch is not intelligible with Upper Saxon and probably with none of the other Main-Franconian lects either. Sonnebarger is a dialect spoken in Sonneberg.
Frammersbacher Welschen is spoken in the town of Frammersbach in the Spessart area. It is a secret language, so not a dialect proper.
Upper Franconian (Oberfränkisch) is a Main-Franconian lect spoken in Bavaria in Bayreuth, Kulmbach, Kronach, Hof, and Lichtenfels. It has high, but not full, intelligibility with Lower Franconian.
Hof Upper Franconian (Hofer) is the Upper Franconian language spoken in Hof. Hofer is very divergent, even within itself, and in all probability it is a separate language.
Rhöner Platt East Franconian is a complex dialect, possibly a separate language, that is hard to characterize and is spoken around the Rhön area of eastern Hessen. This is a Middle German language, but it hard to say if it is East or West Middle German because it has been influenced by both.
It has been influenced by East Franconian, Hessian and Thuringian. This language is spoken around the Fulda Gap between the former nations of East and West Germany. It is not intelligible to people even 15 miles away, so it must be a separate language.
Central Franconian (Mittelfränkischen) is spoken in the Mittelfranken or Central Franconian region. This is a language spoken in and around Nuremberg that is very different from the rest of East Franconian to the extent that it is not intelligible with it (Kirmaier 2009). Therefore, it is a separate language.
There are some dialects of this language. Hetzle is spoken in the village of the same name near Nuremberg. Fürther is spoken in the town of Fürth near Nuremberg. Nuernbergerisch is spoken in the city of Nuremberg. There are apparently some dialects of Central Franconian in the rural areas that are impossible for even native speakers of Fürther to understand. Therefore, there is more than one language in Central Franconian, but we need some details before we proceed.
Hohenlohisch is an East Franconian dialect that is spoken around Bad Mergentheim, Crailsheim, Gerabronn, Künzelsau, Öhringen, and Schwäbisch Hall in Baden-Württemberg. This is probably the same language as Schwäbisch-Fränkisch, a type of East Franconian that is spoken on the border of the Swabian speaking area.
Vogtländisch is one of the Ostfrankisch (East Franconian) High German dialects that are transitional between Central and High German. It is spoken in Vogtland in Saxony, and it is also spoken in Austria. It is intelligible with Erzgebirgisch, but not with any other German lects (Goldammer 2009).
Speakers now are mostly elderly, as children have not been raised speaking it for some time now. Still, there are quite a few speakers.
The dialects differ drastically from one another but are nevertheless intelligible with each other. Cities where it is spoken include Plauen and Klingenthal.
There are four dialects.
Middle Vogtländisch (Mittelvogtländisch) is spoken around Mühltroff, Treuen, and Oelsnitz.
Northern or Nether Vogtländisch (Nordvogtländisch) is spoken along a line going from Reichenbach – Mylau – Netzschkau – Elsterberg – Pausa.
Eastern Vogtländisch (Ostvogtländisch) is spoken around Göltzschtal from Frankenstein to Lengenfeld.
Upper Vogtländisch (Obervogtländisch) is spoken south to a line running from Bobenneukirchen – Oelsnitz – Werda – Schöneck.
Eastern Vogtländisch around Klingenthal is regarded as particularly incomprehensible by Standard German speakers.
The Vogtlandisch language in far southwestern Saxony. Includes some Thuringian lects in Eastern Thuringia.
The Vogtländisch dialects in far southwestern Saxony. Includes some Thuringian lects in Eastern Thuringia.

Erzgebirgisch is an East Middle German language related to East Franconian. Although it is often said to be an Upper Saxon language, the latest thinking is that it is separate from Upper Saxon, and it has little in common linguistically with Upper Saxon. Neither is it intelligible with Upper Saxon.
A good case can be made that it is an East Franconian language. It has high intelligibility with Vogtlandisch and some of the furthermost east varieties of East Franconian.
It is spoken on on the border with the former Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia in Saxony, especially in the area of the Erzgebirge or Ore Mountains. There are other dialects spoken far away in the Harz Mountains in Lower Saxony.
It is losing ground to Upper Saxon, and many speakers are emigrating out of the area, hence the language is declining, but it still has 500,000 speakers. It is also close to Bavarian.
There has been little research on this language since 1929 and even that dealt only with Upper Harz. Historically, this language was created during the 1100’s and 1200’s as East Franconian speakers  from the West moved into the Ore Mountains and either displaced or assimilated Slavic speakers.
It has at least seven dialects, Upper Erzgebirgisch, Fore Erzgebirgisch (Vorerzgebirgisch), East Erzgebirgisch, West Erzgebirgisch, Clausthal-Zellerfeld Erzgebirgisch, Upper Harz Erzgebirgisch, and North Erzgebirgisch. Fore Erzgebirgisch is transitional to East Franconian. All dialects are intelligible.
Upper Harz Erzgebirgisch is located far away from the rest of the dialects to the north in the Upper Harz Mountains (see map below) of Lower Saxony. This dialect is nearly extinct. It still has many elderly speakers, but it is probably not being passed on to children. This dialect is the most different of all, but it is still intelligible with the rest of Erzgebirgisch (Goldammer 2009).
This lect is spoken in the Upper Harz Mountains, is heavily influenced by Ostfälisch and is nearly extinct. It is spoken around the city of Clausthal-Zellerfeld in Lower Saxony. This lect is different mostly in that it is very archaic.
West Erzgebirgish (Westerzgebirgisch), is an Erzgebirgisch dialect spoken around Scheeberg, Marienberg, and Annaberg. This language is not intelligible with Standard German and is regarded as being one of the toughest dialects for Standard German speakers to understand. Intelligibility with Standard German is surely below 40%.
As of 20 years ago, this language was still the primary means of communication in the area, and it still has many speakers. This dialect is transitional to East Franconian. There is a lot of East Franconian influence in this dialect.
The differences between West Erzgebirgisch and East Erzgebirgisch are considerable, but the two are nevertheless intelligible. This lect has a lot of Upper Franconian elements, along with a lot of influence from Eastern Meissenish. West Erzgebirgisch is also similar to Vogtlandisch.
Osterzgebirgisch or East Erzgebirgisch , an Erzgebirgisch dialect, represents a transitional dialect between West Erzgebirgish and Upper Saxon. This dialect has very heavy Upper Saxon influence, and it is losing speakers. This lect is close to Meissenish.
The Erzgebirgisch lects located in Saxony near Chemnitz.
The Erzgebirgisch dialects located in Saxony near Chemnitz.

References

Anonymous. Saarlandsich native speaker. Personal communication, Yosemite National Park, California. March 2014.
Bowie, David. 1997. Was Mir Wisse: A Review of the Literature on the Languages of the Pennsylvania Germans. In Current Work in Linguistics, ed.
Costin, Paul. Siebenbürger Sachsen native speaker. Personal communication. April 2014.
Dimitriadis, Alexis; Lee, Hikyoung; Siegel, Laura; Surek-Clark, Clarissa, and Williams, Alexander, 4 (3):1-18. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics.
Denison, Norman. 1971. Some Observations on Language Variety and Plurilingualism, chapter 7 in Ardener, Edwin. Social Anthropology and Language. London: Tavistock Publications.
Giesser, Diane. Danube Swabian native speaker. Personal communication. December 2014.
Goldammer, Thomas. Erzgebirgisch and Upper Saxon native speaker. Personal communication. August 2009.
Guion, S. 1996. The Death of Texas German in Gillespie County. In P.S. Ureland and I. Clarkson (eds.), Language Contact Across the North Atlantic. Tübingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag. 443-463.
Hughes, Stephanie. 2005. Bilingualism in North-East France With Specific Reference to Rhenish Franconian Spoken by Moselle Cross-border (or Frontier) Workers. In Preisler, Bent, et al., eds. The Consequences of Mobility: Linguistic and Sociocultural Contact Zones. Roskilde, Denmark: Roskilde Universitetscenter Institut for Sprog og Kultur.
Jeep, John M., editor. 2001. Medieval Germany: An Encyclopedia. New York and London: Garland.
Kirmaier, Andrea. Oberpfälzisch North Bavarian native speaker. Personal communication. March 2009.
Liesenberg, Friedrich. 1890. Die Stieger Mundart: ein Idiom des Unterharzes, besonders hinsichtlich der Lautlehre dargestellt, pp. 178. Charleston, SC: Bibliolife.
Myhill, John. 2006. Language, Religion and National Identity in Europe and the Middle East: A Historical Study. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Pützer, Manfred. 1997. Zu Transkriptionskonventionen Bei Plosiven im Übergangsgebiet Zwischen Moselfränkischen und Rheinfränkischen Dialekten im Germanophonen Lothringen (Frankreich). Phonus 3:25-60.
Ross, Charles. 1989. The Dialects of Modern German: A Linguistics Survey. London: Routledge.
Smith, Norval. Personal communication. March 2009.
Wahl, Petra. Schlitz East Hessian native speaker. Personal communication. March 2009.
Wahl, Petra. Schlitz East Hessian native speaker. Personal communication. May 2009.
Wahl, Petra. February 2010. Schlitz East Hessian native speaker. Personal communication.
Wahl, Petra. April 2014. Schlitz East Hessian native speaker. Personal communication.
Wahl, Petra. July 2014. Schlitz East Hessian native speaker. Personal communication.

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A Reworking of German Language Classification, Part 1: Low German

Updated June 28, 2016. This post will be regularly updated for some time. Warning! This essay is very long; it runs to 66 pages on the Internet. This is part 1 of the essay: Low German. Part 2 deals with Central German and Part 3 deals with High German.
This classification splits Low German from 10 languages into 12 languages using the criterion of >90% intelligibility = dialect and <90% intelligibility = language.
Low German or Low Saxon is a group of far northern German dialects. Dialects up by Hamburg and Friesland sound like English. According to an older edition of Ethnologue, there are 20-30 Low German lects which are all mutually unintelligible. None of the Low German languages are intelligible with Standard German. Low German differs from region to region and even from village to village.
Ethnologue says that there are only 1,000 speakers of Low German, but that 10 million can understand the language. This is completely wrong.
On the basis of a recent survey conducted in the former West Germany 25 years ago, 20%, or 3.5 million, said that they could speak Low German very well. Another 36%, or 6.5 million, said they had anywhere from some to good Low German speaking abilities. Fully 89%, or 16 million, had some reasonable amount of understanding of the language.
This means that 25 years ago, there were 10 million people in West Germany alone who could speak Low German to one degree or another.
Until fairly recently, most Low German speakers could only speak their Low German language and nothing else.

Low Saxon dialects extending from Netherlands to Lithuania
Low Saxon dialects extending from Netherlands to Lithuania.

Low German has over 4,000 different dialects in it. As late as 1960, a situation existed from Hamburg west to the Netherlands border in Germany whereby, while most spoke Standard German, most also spoke regional dialects. In general, one village could understand the next couple of villages over, but beyond that, things got dicey. So even 50 years, you had many de facto separate languages of Low German. The question is how many of these separate languages still exist.
Another view of Low Saxon dialects
Another view of Low Saxon dialects

Even today, more pure forms of Low Saxon have about 40% intelligibility with Standard German.
Recent writings suggest that all Low Saxon speakers can communicate adequately in any of these disparate lects. This flies in the face of SIL’s earlier statement about 20-30 inherently unintelligible languages. Therefore, there needs to be an assessment on the ground of what existing Low Saxon lects look like and how intelligible they are with each other.
Some descriptions describe the type of intelligibility within Low Saxon as akin to that between the Scandinavian languages. However, recent findings seem to indicate that the mutual intelligibility of the Scandinavian languages is much exaggerated.
Having seen transcriptions of translations of a single short story into different Low Saxon lects, it seems clear to me that they differ dramatically. Ethnologue has already split off Westphalian and East Frisian Low Saxon, so the matter is settled as far as those two go. All of the rest are lumped into Low German as some possibly dubious macrolect. The situation regarding intelligibility within German Low Saxon remains very confused.
North Low Saxon is a Low Saxon language spoken in the north of Germany. It is understood across a wide region. There is a standard version based broadly on the Hamburg dialect that is widely used on TV and in the media. Dialects include Holsteinisch, Schleswigsch, Bremen, Hamburgs, Emsland and Oldenberg. All of these dialects are apparently mutually intelligible, though transcribed versions of them are often quite divergent.
Schleswig-Holstein is a North Low Saxon language spoken in the Schleswig-Holstein region of Germany. Holsteinisch North Low Saxon and Schleswigsch North Low Saxon appear to be mutually intelligible, but some speakers of Schleswig-Holstein have difficulty understanding North Low Saxon from Lower Saxony to the south.
Holsteinisch (Holsatian) is a North Low Saxon dialect spoken in Holstein around Kiel. It has similarities with the Old Low German language and to Bremen Westphalian and Heide Westphalian. Holsteinisch is still holding up pretty well.
This is the area from which the Angles and Saxons originated before leaving for Britain. Holsteinisch may well be intelligible with Hamburgs, Oldenberg and Schleswigsch. Subdialects include Heikendoft, Dithmarscher, Central Holsteinisch (Zentral Holsteinisch), Stormarner, East Holsteinisch (Ostholsteinisch) and Kiel.
Schleswigsch (Schleswickian) is a North Low Saxon dialect spoken in Schleswig. It has a lot of influence from North Frisian and Low Danish. This lect is not intelligible at all with Standard German. People from around Berlin even say that they can’t understand a word of this lect in its pure form. In the city of Flensberg near the Danish border, the whole city speaks Schleswigsch. Very close to the border with Denmark, people speak a form of Schleswigsch that is intelligible with South Jutnish, a highly divergent form of Danish spoken in the far south of Denmark that is actually a separate language.
This dialect is doing very well compared to the rest of Low Saxon, especially in the west area of the zone.
Angel German is a North Low Saxon language spoken in the Anglen region of far northern German. This region stretches from the Baltic Sea in the north and east to the Dannevirke and the Slie in the south and the moors in the west, a triangle of 350 square miles. This is where the Angles who invaded England and gave the name of the country and the language their name came from. Angel German to this day sounds somewhat like English. Angel German is poorly understood even by other Low German speakers because it still has many Danish words and grammar (Bock 1933).
Most of the grammar is German, but most of the vocabulary is Danish with some German and Low German words mixed in (Gosch 1861). It sounds a lot more like Danish than German. There are certain Danish sounds such as the z, soft s and sch that no German can pronounce without special training. One theory is that this was formerly Danish or more properly South Jutnish, a dialect so divergent that it can be seen as a separate language from Danish, that simply became Germanized over time due to instruction in the German language.
At one time, fishermen around Lübeck spoke a form of Low Saxon koine that could be understood by sailors and fishermen from any of the Baltic Sea nations.
Hamburgisch is a North Low Saxon dialect that serves as something like the official form of Low Saxon, a koine, or Standard Low Saxon, in Germany. It is widely understood across the Low Saxon speaking region. The language itself is spoken and around Hamburg.
Ollands, spoken in Ollands, a fruit and vegetable growing region of northern Germany on the Lower Elbe, is a subdialect of Hamburgisch. Other subdialects include Finkwarder, Kirchwerder, Harburg , Olwarder, Veerlanner (with many sub-subdialects), and Barmbeker. Kirchwerder is spoken 12 miles southeast of Hamburg.
There are still some middle-aged speakers of Hamburgisch, and the language is doing better than most Low Saxon lects. In addition, there are also some young speakers of Hamburgish, especially on islands off the coast of the mouth of the Elbe River.
Bremen is a North Low Saxon dialect that is spoken in the area about from Bremen east. It has traces of both the Frisian and the Oldenberg languages and is related to both the Holstein and the Heide languages. It may be intelligible with Oldenberg, Hamburgs, Schleswigsch and Holsatian. Bremen has only 57% intelligibility to speakers of Gronings-East Frisian Low Saxon.
Oldenberg is a North Low Saxon dialect that is spoken just west of Bremen in what used to be the state of Oldenberg. This language is holding up better than a lot of the other Low Saxon lects.
It has been influenced somewhat in the north by East Frisian, and there is an inland version of East Frisian called Saterland Frisian that is spoken right around this area. To the south, it has been influenced by Munsterland Westphalian, and to the east, by Bremen Westphalian and Heine Westphalian.
Subdialects include North Oldenburg (Nordoldenburger). It may be intelligible with Holsatian, Hamburgs, Schleswigsch and Bremen.
Emsland includes the southern part of the former Weser-Ems district (the area around Osnabrück in Lower Saxony and Emsdetten in far Northern Rhine-Westphalia). This dialect has very heavy East Frisian, Dutch and Groningen influences. It is still doing fairly well. Weser-Trave is a subdialect.
West Low Saxon is a group of languages and dialects spoken in the Netherlands and Germany. For the West Low Saxon languages spoken in the Netherlands, see here. Dialects spoken in Germany include South Emsland (Südemsländisch), Hümmlinger, South Oldenburg (Südoldenburgisch), North Osnabrück (Nordosnabrückisch), and West Diepholzer. South Oldenburg is spoken in Oldenburger Münsterland.
Dialect in North Rhine Westphalia. North Low Saxon, Westphalian, Eastphalian, Hessian, Ripaurian, Low Franconian and Moselle Franconian are shown.
Dialect in North Rhine Westphalia. North Low Saxon, Westphalian, Eastphalian, Hessian, Ripaurian, Low Franconian and Moselle Franconian are shown.

Westphalian (Westfäölsk) is a West Low German language spoken in Westphalia in the northeastern part of North Rhine-Westphalia, but not in Siegerland and Wittgenstein. It is a separate language and is definitely not intelligible with other forms of Low German.
It is mostly spoken by older people now. Westphalian is doing fairly well, but not great, compared to other Low Saxon lects. There are still a tiny number of speakers in Iowa in the Waterloo and Cedar Falls area of Blackhawk and Bremer Counties. Dialects include West Munsterland (Westmünsterländisch), South Westphalian (Südwestfälisch), and Bentheimisch.
Münsterlandish is a Westphalian language spoken in Westphalia around Munster. Furthermore, it is very hard for Northern Low Saxon to understand, harder to understand than the rest of Westphalian. It is mostly spoken by older people now. Intelligibility testing with this language and the rest of Westphalian is indicated.
Steinfurt is a Munsterlandish dialect spoken in Westphalia around Munster. It is quite different from Munster Westphalian proper. This language is transitional between North Saxon, Eastphalian and Westphalian.
This seems to be the lect that is often described as Grafschafter Platt (County Language). The term “county” refers to the fact that this region was one of the few in Germany that had was ruled by a count (a feudal figure like a duke). Grafschafter Platt seems to be spoken in the region between Osnabrück (Emsland) and Munsterland and over to the Dutch border where it looks like it borders on Twents.
There are a tremendous number of dialects in this language, especially over by the Dutch border. It’s not really correct to say that each village has its own dialect, but there is definitely a dialect continuum with new dialects every few villages or so.
The five main dialects are Gildehaus, Upper Grafschaft, Nordhorn, Lower Grafschaft, and Wietermarschen Group.
Wietermarschen Group is spoken in Wietermarschen, Drievorden, and Engden.
Nordhorn is spoken in the city of that name.
Lower Grafschaft is spoken around the towns of Emlichheim, Laar, and Hoogstede. Lower Grafschaft has heavy Dutch influence, more than any other West Low German language spoken in Germany. This language has undergone a serious decline in the past 50 years. It is now spoken by 25% of the population and understood by 50%.
East Westphalian (Ostwestfälisch) is a series of lects that are spoken in the eastern parts of the Westphalian speaking zone.
Osnabrück is an East Westphalian dialect spoken in the area around Osnabrück in southern Lower Saxony.
Lübbecke is an East Westphalian language that is spoken in and around Lübbecke and to the north. The variety from around the towns of Stemwede and Oppenwehe has poor intelligibility with the Osnabrück Westphalian spoken around Bad Ilburg south of Osnabrück only 25 miles to the southwest. The region is heavily forested.
Ravensbergish-Lippish is an East Westphalian dialect that is spoken in the north of Northern Rhine-Westphalia near Lippstadt, Steinhagen, and Rheda-Wiedenbruck.
Paderborner is an East Westphalian dialect spoken around Paderborn in northeast Northern Rhine-Westphalia near the border with Lower Saxony.
Soester Westphalian is an East Westphalian dialect spoken in and around the city of Soester east of the Ruhr region.
Sauerland is an East Westphalian language, definitely a separate language, spoken in Westphalia in the Sauerland, which is in southeast North Rhine-Westphalia. Although it is related to Westphalian, it is a separate language and is not intelligible with other forms of Westphalian or Low German. This language is definitely still spoken. There are other languages spoken in the Ruhr-Sauerland region.
Balve is an East Westphalian dialect spoken in and around Balve, near Dortmund in the Sauerland region of North Rhine-Westphalia. This area has tremendous dialect diversity and there is a new language every couple dozen miles or so. Knowing this and comparing Balve with Lüdenscheid, Balve may be a separate language, however, until we get specific data, we can’t split it off.
Lüdenscheid is an East Westphalian language spoken in and around the city of Lüdenscheid in North Rhine Westphalia. Speakers report that the Low German in this region is incredibly varied, with new languages ever couple dozen miles or so. Thus, Lüdenscheid may be a separate language, , however, until we get specific data, we can’t split it off.
Gladbeck is an East Westphalian language spoken in the town of Gladbeck. Gladbeck is a town located in the Ruhr between Gelsenkirchen and Bottrop and north of Essen.
Eastphalian (Ostfälisch) is a West Low German language spoken east of the Weser River in southern parts of Lower Saxony and western parts of Saxony-Anhalt, in cities such as Hanover, Braunschweig, Hildesheim, Göttingen, and Magdeburg in Eastphalia. It is completely unintelligible with the rest of Low Saxon.This language is barely holding on, with very low activity and only a few speakers. Eastphalian is best seen as transitional between Low German and Middle German.
Eastphalian lects include Solling, Braunschweiger, Bode (Bode Ostfälisch), Calenberger, Elbe (Elbostfälisch), Göttingisch-Grubenhagensch, Heide (Heideostfälisch), Hildesheimer , Holzland (Holzland Ostfälisch), Huy (Huy Ostfälisch), North Eastphalian (Nord Ostfälisch), Oker (Oker Ostfälisch), East Eastphalian (Ostostfälisch), and Papenteicher .
Solling is an extremely divergent lect of Eastphalian that is spoken in the Solling Forest of Lower Saxony. It is dying out, but the pure form of it is still spoken by the elderly. It is very strange and is said to sound like the Frisian language. It is quite possible that this is a separate language, as it is said to be quite distant from Eastphalian proper.
Elbostfälisch is an Eastphalian language spoken around Oschersleben and Haldensleben in the Magdeburger Börde, which is between Helmstedt and Magdeburg. It is spoken on the west side of the Elbe River from Magdeburg west to the Harz Mountains in Saxony-Anhalt. This language has heavy influence from East Low German and is actually transitional between East and West Low German. It is still in very good shape and is widely spoken in Magdeburg at least.
Göttingisch-Grubenhagensch is a dialect of Eastphalian spoken around Göttingen, Northeim, and Osterode am Harz. It is mostly spoken by older people now.
Heideostfälisch is a dialect of Eastphalian spoken around Celle that has some with Northern Low Saxon elements. It is spoken between Hamburg, Bremen and Hanover. This language has many words that look like English. This suggests that Heide was close to one of the original Old Low German languages that gave rise to Old English. Heide means “pagan” in this language, and this group resisted feudalism and Christianity longer than most other groups in the area. This in part explains the ancient nature of their tongue. This is the area from which the Angles and Saxons originated before leaving for Britain.
Central Eastphalian is is a dialect of Eastphalian spoken in a large area surrounding Braunschweig and Hanover. It is mostly spoken by older people now. This dialect is in particularly poor shape.
Papenteicher is an Eastphalian dialect spoken just north of Brunswick. There are only about 300 speakers left. It is no longer taught to children. There are many more who know individual words and phrase. The language is almost never heard in the region anymore. This dialect has some interesting sounds that are only heard in Friesland and Jutland. It is thought that the region was originally settled by people from this region 1,500 years ago.
East Low German is a group of languages spoken in Mecklenburg – West Pomerania and Brandenburg and surrounding areas, including over into Poland. The two main branches are Mecklenburgish-Pomeranian and Markish. Low Prussian is not included in this grouping – it is a separate group. These are more recent lects, created from West Low German lects with Russian and Standard German admixture.
Mecklenburgisch-Vorpommersch is an East Low German language group. Lects in this group include Wendländisch, Mecklenburgish, West Pomeranian (Westpommersch), and Strelitzisch. Strelizisch is transitional to Mittelpommersch. There are still a considerable number of people who speak and understand this language.
Mecklenburgisch is an East Low Saxon dialect spoken in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania. It has very high to excellent intelligibility with North Low Saxon, so it may only be a dialect of Low German. It is spoken in far northeastern Germany around Straslund and Rostock. This area was once Slavic, but Charlemagne moved Germans in this area. These Germans spoke Low German. Many of these immigrants also spoke Frisian, so there is an element of that too.
However, in the 1700’s, High German became such a strong force in the area that this dialect began to be mixed with High German. The dialect remains very archaic, as the region is very resistant to change in general. This dialect is doing ok, but not great, compared to other Los Saxon lects. Although it is officially an East Low German dialect, it is actually on the border between East Low German and West Low German. Before 1945, this dialect was the main means of communication in the villages.
Vorpommern or West Pomeranian is an East Low Saxon language spoken in Western Pomerania, Vorpommern or Hither Pomerania, however you want to translate the term. This is a part of far northeast Germany on the border with Poland. The northern border is the North Sea. This language is doing ok, but not great, compared to other Low Saxon lects.
As part of a dialect continuum, Pomeranian is clearly not intelligible with East Frisian Low Saxon, but it may be intelligible with Mittelpommersch or Mecklenburgisch.
Markish (Märkisch)* is a group of East Low German lects spoken below Middle Pomeranian through Brandenburg down to Berlin and south and east of it, and over to the eastern parts of Saxony-Anhalt. It is little known. It is a major high level German dialect division. Markish is not intelligible with Upper Saxon. This suggests that Markish may well be a separate language. There are many Dutch words in this language.
There are nine lects of Markish.
Pomeranian or East Pomeranian is a Markish language spoken in Poland. This area was Slavic in the 600’s. The Danes laid waste to the area in the 1000’s. The destruction was so severe that the rulers invited German farmers to the area to rehabilitate the land, and this interesting language developed.
Speakers are all elderly and scattered, and the language is moribund. This language was also decimated by the expulsion of Germans from Poland after WW2.
There are five major dialects:
West Prussian (Westpreußisch) was formerly spoken in West Prussia.
Western Further Pomeranian (Westhinterpommersch) was formerly spoken in western Further Pomerania.
Eastern Further Pomeranian (Osthinterpommersch) was formerly spoken in eastern Further Pomerania.
Bublitzisch was formerly spoken in Bublitz (now Bobolice), Poland.
Pomerelian (Pommerellisch) was formerly spoken in a region called Pomerelia.
Pomeranian is not intelligible with Low Prussian or other Low German languages. There is still a significant Pomeranian community in Brazil, and there are some Pomeranian speakers in the US too.
North Margravian or Mittelpommersch is a Markish dialect spoken in the northern part of Brandenburg State around Prenzlau and Wittenberg and in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania around Pasewalk-Ueckermünde.
This dialect has or had two subdialects, West Middle Pomeranian (Westmittelpommersch) and East Middle Pomeranian (Ostmittelpommersch).
East Middle Pomeranian was spoken in the Lower Oder River region of Poland around Stettin and Stargard and may well be extinct since 1945.
West Middle Pomeranian is still alive and is spoken in the areas discussed above. There is some activity to keep this language going, and there are still some speakers left. Before 1945, this language was still the main medium of communication in almost all of the villages in the area.
North Markish (Nordmärkisch or Altmärkisch) is a Markish dialect spoken in Salzwedel, Gardelegen and Stendal in far northern Saxony-Anhalt. This dialect has Eastphalian influences.
Westprignitzisch is a Markish dialect spoken in Perleberg, Pritzwalk, and Wittstock in far northwestern Brandenburg.
Ostprignitzisch is a Markish dialect spoken in Löwenberg, Templin, Zehdenick, and Fürstenberg in far northern Brandenburg. The Prignitz dialects show less Dutch influence than other dialects in the area. They are also close to Mecklenburgish.
New Markish (Neumärkisch) is a Markish dialect spoken in Angermünde and Schwedt/Oder in northeastern Brandenburg.
Flämingisch is a Markish dialect spoken in Jüterbog and Buchenwald in Brandenburg south of Berlin near the border with Saxony-Anhalt and in Saxony-Anhalt in areas north of Wittenberg. Flämingisch is transitional between Low German and Middle German. It is little spoken anymore except by the elderly who are partial speakers. Persons composing a dictionary have only been able to come up with about 1,500 words. It is clearly dying out.
Havelländisch is a Markish dialect spoken in Rathenow, Premnitz and Nauen in Brandenburg west of Berlin.
Brandenburgish or Central Margravian is an East Low German dialect spoken west of Berlin in Staaken, Potsdam and Brandenburg and west of Berlin in Potsdam, Brandenburg an der Havel.
It has been influenced heavily by Dutch from guest workers who came in the 1700’s, and it also has a Westphalian influence. South Brandenburgish (Südbrandenburgisch) and Eberswalder are dialects of Brandenburgish.
There are suggestions that this language is nearly extinct, and may even be extinct, and that speakers for the most part have reverted to a Berlinisch sort of dialect of German. However, this new lect (or whatever lect they area speaking) is unintelligible with Standard German. This language, whatever form it is taking, is still going very strong as of three years ago.
New Mecklenburgish is spoken north and northwest of Berlin around Oranienburg and Neuruppin. It is not in good shape and is under heavy pressure from Berlinisch and Standard German. In fact, it may well be de facto extinct. Investigation is needed to determine if this dialect even exists anyone, or has reverted to some sort of Berlinisch dialect.
Low Prussian (Niederpreußisch) is a separate branch of Low German spoken in eastern Poland. It is spoken in the region where the Slavic Kashubian language is spoken, so it received some influence from that language. This area was Slavic in the 1200’s and became German in the 1700’s.
This is a full language, not intelligible with Standard German or with any other German language. It used to have many speakers, but now it is moribund. There are a few elderly speakers left, but no language community.
It has 11 major dialects.
Low Prussian-East Pomeranian (Übergangsmundart zum Ostpommerschen) was a transitional dialect with East Pomeranian.
Vistula Delta (Weichselmündungsgebietes) was spoken around Danzig (Gdansk) at the mouth of the Vistula River.
Frischen-Danzig Spit (Frischen-Nehrung Danziger-Nehrung) was spoken around the Vistula Lagoon.
Elbing Heights (Elbinger Höhe) was spoken around Elbing (Elblag).
Kürzungs was spoken around Braunsberg (Braniewo).
West Käslausch (Weskäslausch) was spoken around Mehlsack (Pieniezno).
East Käslausch (Ostkäslausch) was spoken around Rößel (Reszel).
Natangian-Bartish (Natangisch-Bartisch) was spoken around Bartenstein (Bartoszyce).
West Sambian (Westsamländisch) was spoken around Pillau (Baltiysk).
East Sambian (Ostsamländisch) was spoken around Königsberg (Kaliningrad), Labiau (Polessk) and Znamensk (Wehlau).
Eastern (Ostgebietes) was spoken around Insterburg (Chernyakhovsk), Memel (Klaipeda) and Sovetsk (Tilsit).
Another dialect was Haff (Haff Niederpreußisch). It is not known where this dialect was spoken.
Dialect intelligibility is not known.
It became moribund due to the expulsion of Prussian speakers from Poland after WW2. It is not intelligible with other Low German languages or with Pomeranian. There are apparently still some speakers in Wisconsin.

References

Auer, Peter. The Construction Of Linguistic Borders And The Linguistic Construction Of Borders. 2005. In Filppula, Markku, Palander, Marjatta and Penttilä, Esa (eds.) Dialects Across Borders: Selected Papers From the 11th International Conference on Methods in Dialectology (Methods XI), Joensuu, August 2002. Current Issues in Linguistic Theory 273. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Bock, Karl Nielson. 1933. Niederdeutsch auf dänischem Substrat. Studien zur Dialektgeographie Südostschleswigs. Mit 51 Abbildungen und einer Karte. Kph.
Denison, Norman. 1971. Some Observations on Language Variety and Plurilingualism, Chapter 7 in Ardener, Edwin. Social Anthropology and Language. London: Tavistock Publications.
Gosch, Christian Carl August. 1861. The Nationality of Slesvig. London: Chapman and Hall.
Harms, Biggi. German and Düsseldorferisch Bergisch native speaker. March 2009.
Jeep, John M., ed. 2001. Medieval Germany: An Encyclopedia. New York and London: Garland.
Myhill, John. 2006. Language, Religion and National Identity in Europe and the Middle East: A Historical Study. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Ross, Charles. 1989. The Dialects of Modern German: A Linguistics Survey. London: Routledge.
Wiggers, Heiko. 2006. Reevaluating Diglossia: Data from Low German. PhD dissertation. Austin, TX: University of Texas at Austin.

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North Sea Fisherman Patois

Interesting quote from the Free Republic:

I used to work with a Dutch guy who said that he was at some sort of North Sea confab, and when people spoke in their national languages they couldn’t understand one another but when they spoke their local dialects, they found them mutually intelligible. Who knows?

I have heard this before. A fisherman who lived in Heikendorf on the Eastern coast of Germany on the border between Schleswig and Holstein said that when he spoke his particular North Low Saxon dialect to any fisherman in the North Sea region, they could all understand it.
It was as if all of the fisherman, and only the fishermen, of the North Sea, all spoke a common language (in Linguistics we often call this a “jargon”) that they could all understand. The fishermen must have been from northern Germany, western Denmark, southern Norway, northern Netherlands, northern Belgium and the east coast of England and Scotland.
Far northern Low German looks like Danish, English and Dutch. Flemish, a Dutch language, is spoken in coastal Belgium. Frisian is close to English, Low German, Scots and Danish and is spoken on the Netherlands coast. Dialects of southern Norway look like Danish. Scots sounds similar to Frisian, English, Low German, and Danish. The English and Scots dialects of the eastern coast of the UK received major Scandinavian input. West Danish languages like Jutish look like Scots.
Somehow, all those fishermen just learned to talk to each other. Why? Maybe because they had to.
Jargons are interesting. We call them trade languages in Linguistics.
Chinook Jargon is a famous one. This was a mixed language made up of I think English, French and many Indian languages that was spoken by White and Indian traders in the Pacific Northwest.
Jargons seem to be full-fledged languages, unlike pidgins, which really are just poor excuses for languages. The reason for this is that the jargons are made up of the first languages of many speakers and pidgins are based on the inferior second language acquisition of adult language learners, who never really get the language right. I will discuss pidgins and hopefully creoles and koines in another post.

Questions About the German Language Classification

Updated March 28. In response to some criticisms, I agreed with Professor den Besten in part by removing Limburgs and South Gulderish from Macro-German. I put them in Macro-Dutch, which I will hopefully do a post on in the future. With languages like these, it’s pretty hard to tell where Dutch ends and German begins.I also split Veluws into East Veluws, which stayed in German, and West Veluws, which moved over to Dutch.

In response to the German language post, Hans den Besten, a top Dutch Germanist linguist, first agrees broadly with my classification, but then makes a critique about the scope of Macro-German:

But what is lacking is a definition of what counts as a German dialect. This may differ from case to case. The Low Saxon dialects of the Netherlands may have been included because they are an extension of Low Saxon Niederdeutsch, even though they are under the roof of Schrift-Dutch rather than Schrift-Deutsch. That Limburgish has been included may be due to a couple of High German Low German isoglosses running through that area. But if even South Guelderish and Veluws are included (in so far as I know Veluws is Franconian but for the eastern strip along the Overijssel) I don’t see any reason why Brabantian-East Flemish, West Flemish, Zealandic and Hollandic should be excluded. Furthermore, the exclusion of West and North Frisian also needs some justification. Referring to Anglo-Frisian isoglosses will not be enough because unlike English these languages share a lot of syntax with the rest of Continental West Germanic, since they are SOV cum Verb Second. And if we try to set the two Frisians apart by referring to the idiosyncrasies of the verbal cluster (no Ersatz-Infinitiv, strict head-final order but for the Frisian “kortstaarten” litt. ’short tails’) then — maybe — Gronings should be taken out of your list of German dialects/languages because it shares a lot of verbal cluster syntax with West Frisian.

Hans poses a number of interesting questions about the borders of Macro-German. Let’s look at them one by one.
The Dutch dialects and languages are on this page. As Brabantian-East Flemish, West Flemish, Zealandic and Hollandic are listed as Dutch on that page, I am treating them as Macro-Dutch and not Macro-German.
As far as Gronings goes, I am treating it as Macro-German due to Ethnologue’s grouping here. As you can see, Low Saxon is treated as separate from Macro-Dutch there and also in my treatment. To me, it is better to see Macro-Dutch as something equal to Low Franconian and to put Low Saxon in with Macro-German.
In terms of Frisian, Ethnologue places it outside of Macro-German altogether along with English in the West Germanic Family. Keep in mind that Germanic and German are not synonymous. After all, Swedish is Germanic but not German.
As far as Veluws, Ethnologue sees it as Low Saxon and not as Low Franconian.
Ethnologue has no listing for South Guelderish or for anything similar. South Guelderish is a very confusing classification, that, if anything, looks like a sister language to Limburgs, if not a part of Limburgs itself.
After conferring with a Dutch linguistics professor, I have now decided to remove Limburgs, South Guelderish and the related Low Rhenish lects spoken across the border in Germany from Macro-German.
I have put them in Macro-Dutch, and hopefully will redo the classification of Dutch soon in a separate post. As far as two languages, one called Southeast Limburgs/Aachen, and another called Low Dietsch, they have stayed in Macro-German, because my professor friend described at least the SE Limburgs lects as Ripuarian, with Ripuarian automatically going to Macro-German.
The languages described above are collectively known as Meuse-Rhenish, and to be honest they are transitional between Low Franconian (Dutch) and Low Saxon (German).
We run into a situation like what one finds in Alsace-Lorraine, where curious travelers said that, “Some people speak German, some people speak French,  and others seem to speak languages that are neither French nor German.” Substitute “Dutch” for “French” in the above situation and you have a pretty good portrayal of the confusing language situation on the Dutch-German border.
These languages are confusing because really they are  transitional languages between Dutch and German.
Hans also raises some questions about Dutch Low Saxon. I have decided to throw all of Dutch Low Saxon into Macro-German, as this seems to be the consensus these days. Hans says that Veluws is Franconian, but I am not so sure. My professor said Veluws is regarded as marginally Low Saxon. I am going to hold to my guns and keep Groningen in Low Saxon. A friend of mine remarked today that in some ways, “Dutch” in terms of linguistics is almost a political construct.
A very tricky language to classify was East Frisian Low Saxon.  It’s clearly not Low Franconian (Dutch) but neither is it Low Saxon (Low German). So what is it? It’s really in its own category, which is something like Friso-Saxon, a Low German language with a heavy Frisian base. I put it in Low German because that is where most folks seem to be tossing it.
There have also been criticisms that my treatment was overbroad in scope. If anything, it is conservative.
There may be up to 40 separate languages within Swiss German. The Ripuarian lects are so diverse that 150 of them are different enough that they have had separate dictionaries written for them. Of those 150, about 120 of those have serious differences in lexicon, phonology and morphology. Speakers of Ripuarian frequently refer to “150 Ripuarian languages.” There are probably a number of separate languages within Tyrolean South Bavarian.
However, barring solid documentation for these separate apparent separate languages, it’s not reasonable to split them off yet.
The question comes up about where you split a dialect chain. Indeed, this is one of the trying questions of Linguistics. Once you get to the point where there are some dialects in Lect A that cannot talk to some dialects in Lect B, you have yourself as dialect chain. Hence, Czech and Slovak are split even though Eastern Czech can understand Western Slovak, because Western Czech can’t understand Eastern Slovak.
A commenter points out that the problem of doing this is you are going to end up with separate languages that have communicable dialects. Indeed this is true, but it’s the case in many world languages that they have dialects that communicate with dialects of neighboring tongues.
There is a dialect chain running from Belgium to Austria where each village can talk to the next. There is another dialect chain running from Portugal to Sicily. There is yet another running from about Turkey way over to Siberia.
A greater problem with dialect chains is refusing to split them at some point into separate tongues, because then you have one language with noncommunicative dialects which makes less sense than separate languages with communicative dialects.
I use the term “lect” to mean something that may be either a dialect or a language, or some speech form that we can’t figure out if it is a dialect or a language.
Finally, the perennial question of intelligibility came up. You often read that this or that lect can easily communicate with some other lect, that they are mutually intelligible, more or less mutually intelligible, etc.
It is commonly noted that, for instance, Dutch and Afrikaans are highly mutually intelligible. In fact, my investigation revealed that Dutch speakers say that they have ~80% intelligibility of Afrikaans. That’s probably about what it is.
80% is not mutually intelligible. It means separate languages. The problem with 80% intelligibility is that it is just enough lack of communication to cause what I would call “significant disruption in communication.” This gets more important as we discuss more high-level things. It is almost impossible to discuss complicated and important topics well with less than 90% intelligibility. That’s just enough disruption to throw a serious monkey wrench into things.
At the other end of the spectrum, when we are discussing, say, the weather, much lower levels of intelligibility may be tolerated and we are still able to get our point across.
Some of these determinations were made simply by intuition. On this page, you can look at many different translations, often in Low German, of a single text. Looking at that text in different lects, it become clear which are dialects and which are so different that they may be languages.
Let us take a look here: Hamburgisch, Ollands and
Oldenburg, three Low Saxon lects:
Hamburgs
Ollands
Oldenburg
Quick observation shows us that Hamburgs and Ollands obviously must be dialects of one tongue. Yet Oldenburg seems so different that it seems dubious that Oldenburg speakers can converse with the others at 90%+ intelligibility.
Conclusion by “simple observation” (I prefer to call it “direct observation”) was criticized as somehow unscientific. However, direct observation is a well-known scientific technique involved in the hypothesis – testing – conclusion dance of the empirical method.
Keep in mind that much of science is simply observational, hunches, intuition, etc. Francis Crick visualized the double helix structure of DNA via sheer intuition while tripping on LSD.
Sir William Jones famous discovery of Indo-European certainly was simply obervational and intuitive also.

A Reworking of German Language Classification

Updated June 27, 2016. This post will be regularly updated for some time. Warning! This essay is very long; combining all 3 parts together, it runs to 255 pages.
This post has been broken into three parts: Part 1: Low German, Part 2: Middle German and Part 3: High German.
This classification divides German from 20 languages to 137 languages based on the criteria of intelligibility. >90% intelligibility = dialect, <90% intelligibility = language.
The German languages, and German is not a single language, but, like Chinese and Italian, a family of languages, have been in need of a good reclassification for some time now. Ethnologue has done an excellent job, dividing German into 20 separate languages.
However, Ethnologue’s treatment does not go nearly far enough, as they themselves admit in the entry for Standard German: “Our present treatment in this edition is incomplete.” The entry for Low German itself formerly stated that LG is made up of 20-30 separate mutually unintelligible dialects, although this has been revised to “differing intelligibility, depending on distance” in the latest edition.
Hence, this treatment will attempt to expand the 20 German languages listed at present into a higher number. Many of the language divisions noted below are arbitrary, and admittedly based on more intuition than hard evidence. In many cases, intelligibility testing could clear up a lot of confusion. This treatment, like my prior treatment of Chinese, is best seen as a series of often very tentative hypotheses rather than a set of conclusions.
The classification scheme (for instance, the decision to include Low Saxon as a part of Macro-German rather than a part of Macro-Dutch) is fairly arbitrary and is not the purpose of this treatment, which deals mainly with intelligibility. This treatment makes no statements about classification, generally just following Wikipedia and Ethnologue. There are others doing major work on classification, and I will leave that up to them.

The Frankish Kingdom and West Europe in general, probably around 700-900 or so. The Frankish Kingdom gave rise to the German, Dutch and French languages.
The Frankish Kingdom and West Europe in general, probably around 700-900 or so. The Frankish Kingdom gave rise to the German, Dutch and French languages.

So far, this classification expands German from 20 separate languages to 142 separate languages. It is incomplete, and it is also a pilot study intended to spur further research, analysis and especially evidence-based criticism.
Criticism is welcome, as long as it is rational and evidence-based. Keep in mind that we have valid intelligibility data for a lot of these languages, so wild claims of widespread intelligibility are likely to be ignored. Further splitting is certainly warranted, and lumping may be too. Both will require evidence before proceeding.
Method: Literature and reports were examined to determine the intelligibility of the various dialects of German. Native speakers of various lects were also interviewed, and the results of scientific intelligibility testing were examined. There was an appeal to authority – if states or the ISO recognized that a lect was a language, this determination was simply accepted.
>90% intelligibility was considered to be a dialect of German. <90% intelligibility was considered to be a separate language from Standard German.
The emphasis was on intelligibility rather than structural factors. Certain sociolinguistic factors also went into the calculation, but their use was minimized. Overtly political argumentation was ignored.
This piece may be seen as a companion piece to my other similar pieces. A reclassification of Chinese expands Chinese from 14 languages into 343 languages. A reclassification of Catalan reanalyzed it from 1 language to 2 languages. A reclassification of Occitan changes it from 6 languages to 12 languages. A reclassification of Dutch changed it from 15 to 30 languages.
As far as my qualifications for writing this, I have a Masters Degree in Linguistics, and I have been employed as a linguist for an American Indian tribe where I created an alphabet, ran the language program, worked on a dictionary and phrasebook and did fieldwork with native speakers.
German, like Chinese, is a pluricentric language, with a standard version and many typically mutually unintelligible major dialects surrounding it. Interdialectal comprehension is achieved via the use of Standard German.
Hence, the intelligibility estimates by the ignorant are going to be biased. What these people mean when they say that everyone in Germany can understand each other is that they can when they speak Standard German to each other. However, there are still a few older folks in Germany who cannot speak Standard German and can only speak their regional form of German.
There are 27 main German dialect families, and all are considered to be separate languages.
The German dialects exist as a dialect chain where dialects are normally intelligible to the dialect regions next door, but not to those more distant. At the same time, it is frequently stated that the major German dialects are not mutually intelligible. This makes delineating languages from dialects quite difficult and is why intelligibility testing is needed.
Most German “dialects” have low intelligibility (below 90%) to speakers of Standard German, because they are quite divergent and hence hard for a Standard German speaker to understand. There is a strong suggestion that all of the strong forms of the regional lects are not intelligible to a speaker of Standard German.
Germany is awash in dialects. There are over 4000 (!) different dialect groups within Low German alone, and there are 150 dialects in Ripuarian Franconian that were different enough to have dictionaries written for them.
In addition to not being intelligible with Standard German, the major German dialects are in general not mutually intelligible with each other either. Inside of that, there is the even more alarming suggestion that many of the major dialects are so diverse that they are not even completely intelligible among themselves.
A graph of the major German languages is here, and an even better one is here.
A map of the major German dialects by their German names.
A map of the major German dialects by their German names.

Separate languages or suspected separate languages are bolded below. Dialects or extinct languages are generally italicized. Macrolanguages that do not deserve separate language designation are generally printed in normal typeface. All languages and dialects are spoken in Germany unless otherwise noted.
Languages or dialects marked by an asterisk were definitely full languages 50 years ago, but whether they still are today is less certain. Some may still be languages, others may have dwindled to dialects and others may have disappeared. 50 years ago, those languages were still alive and well and probably even being taught to children. Most or all still have speakers, though the youngest speakers may be over 50 in some cases. These starred lects are very tentative additions to this classification.
The German dialects as they existed a while back, possibly about 150 years ago. This situation was still extant around World War 2. Note all of the isolated German speakers in the Slavic lands to the east.
The German dialects as they existed a while back, possibly about 150 years ago. This situation was still extant around World War 2. Note all of the isolated German speakers in the Slavic lands to the east.

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