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Low German, High German, Upper German- what is all that?

Updated: Mar 6

Dialects, we all know American dialects- you-y’all-yins, or the southern ‘my white knight” becomes “mah whaat naat”, Boston’s Haavaad Yaad, whether you say pop, soda, soda pop or cola, all that.

Are German dialects really more extreme than American dialects?

Are they ever! The Old World dialects in general are far, far more extreme than New World ones- American and Canadian dialects only go back four centuries, if that, and Australian and New Zealand have had half that time for dialects to diverge. What would become German, on the other hand, has had over twenty centuries to diverge, and even after multiple centuries of efforts to unify German, regionalisms continue, some as de facto independent languages. That dialect map above shows the Dutch dialects as related to German dialects, which they are- but the Dutch broke off from the Holy Roman Empire before a single German standard existed, so Dutch was always a cousin of German, but not German (more on that in this blog).

With German, the three main divisions are North, Central and Southern German, versus the formal High German standard. Within each of the three are further divisions, and within those subdialects, going all the way down to each village. A highly trained linguist can often, based on localisms in how they talk, locate where a German comes from, down to the village or part of town.

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