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Bernese German
Native toCanton of Bern
Latin script
Language codes
ISO 639-3

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


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

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


Main article: Bernese German phonology

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


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


Like other Swiss German dialects, but unlike modern standard German, Bernese German typically keeps the original grammatical gender distinction in the numerals 'two' (2) and 'three' (3):[3]

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


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


Äuä (pronounced [ˈæ̞wːæ̞ː] , other possible spellings include äuää, äuuä, äuwä, ällwä) is a typical shibboleth of Bernese German.[4] There are two different uses:

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

Bernese German literature

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

Bernese German grammars and dictionaries also exist.

Bernese German cinema

The 2014 film Der Goalie bin ig (English title: I Am the Keeper),[5] whose dialogue is in Bernese German,[6] was a major winner at the 2014 Swiss Film Awards with seven nominations[7] from which it won four trophies including Best Feature Film.[8] The film, directed by Sabine Boss, was adapted from the novel Der Goalie bin ig by Pedro Lenz (which was translated into Glasgow patter by Pedro Lenz and Donal McLaughlin under the title Naw Much of a Talker[9]). The film played at the Locarno Film Festival in August 2014.[10]

In the 2012 Swiss film, More Than Honey, two Swiss beekeepers describe beekeeping techniques between each other about limiting bee swarms in "As we say in Bernese German: No more beekeeping with a ladder on my back".

Bernese German music

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

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

Translations into Bernese German


  1. ^ "Swiss German". IANA language subtag registry. 8 March 2006. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
  2. ^ "Territory Subdivisions: Switzerland". Common Locale Data Repository. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
  3. ^ Werner Marti: Berndeutsch-Grammatik ISBN 3-305-00073-2
  4. ^ Otto von Greyerz, Ruth Bietenhard: Berndeutsches Wörterbuch ISBN 3-305-00255-7
  5. ^ "I am the Keeper". Cineuropa. Retrieved 2014-10-14.
  6. ^ ""Der goalie bin ig." A Swiss film phenomenon by Sabine Boss". Swiss Review. 2014-09-25. Retrieved 2014-10-14.
  7. ^ "Nominations for the 2014 Swiss Film Award". 2014-01-29. Archived from the original on 2014-11-02. Retrieved 2014-03-29.
  8. ^ "Swiss Film Award 2014: "I Am The Keeper (Der Goalie bin ig)" is biggest winner of the night". Swiss Films. 2014-03-21. Archived from the original on 2018-12-30. Retrieved 2014-10-14.
  9. ^ Clare O'Dea (2014-09-23). "Swiss bestseller sparkles in Glaswegian dialect". Retrieved 2014-10-14.
  10. ^ "Der Goalie bin ig (programme note)". Festival del film Locarno. Archived from the original on 2014-10-15. Retrieved 2014-10-14.