Dialects in Switzerland

Dialect Situation in Switzerland

Dialects form part of the daily linguistic reality in Switzerland. They are both externally and internally identity-establishing, distinguishing Swiss German speakers from standard German speakers, but also identifying a speaker as belonging to a certain dialect region within the country. Swiss natives believe to hear whether their discussion partner is from Bern or Zurich. This is not only true for the German-speaking part of Switzerland, but also for the Romandy, where the French language has various dialectal colourings.

German-speaking Switzerland: Dialectal Variety

Swiss German does not exist as a homogenous unit; rather, great dialectal variety is characteristic of the linguistic situation in Switzerland. The exact number of dialects in the German part of Switzerland is still open to debate.


French in the Romandie

The linguistic situation in the French-speaking part of Switzerland differs from the German-speaking part in that the differences between the varieties are not that marked. This does not mean that the French spoken in the Romandie is homogenous: There are differences between the cantons and some people claim to be able to distinguish between speakers from different locations within the same canton. In Neuchâtel, for example, native speakers are usually divided in “speakers from the littoral area” and “speakers from the mountain area”.