Tag Archives: Austria

A wengerl ondas*

*ein bisschen anders in Standard German (a bit different)

I remember me sitting in front of Dr Bert Vaux and another professor in my interview at Cambridge. I told them that I had lived in Austria for some years and they subsequently asked me about the differences between Standard German (SG) and Austrian German (AG). I replied with ‘different pronunciation, some different words and also the grammar differs a bit’. When they asked for examples, I had to pass. I never really got my head around really looking at the differences. So why not now, might come handy for those of you going on exchange to Austria next year.

AG is a standard variety of SG used in Austria. In everyday life, most Austrians speak different dialects of AG. AG mainly differs in lexicon, pronunciation and grammar from SG. Here some differences that I noticed myself.

(Always find the SG word first, then the AG one. Bold = what I would usually say. Cursive text following (AG) bold word(s) = why I might use this variant)

There are several words in AG that German people will most likely have troubles with understanding, for example:

  • langweilig > fad (maybe cos it’s shorter?) (boring)
  • Hefe > Germ (yeast)
  • Sahne > Obers (cream)
  • Januar > Jänner (January)
  • Kartoffel > Erdapfel (potato)
  • Rührei > Eierspeise (scrambled eggs)
  • Quark > Topfen (curd)
  • Guten Tag > Grüß Gott (depends where I am) (“Good Day” > “Greet God” Hello)

AG commonly inserts consonants (epenthesis) in compound words. For example “Zugverspätung” (train+lateness) becomes “Zugsverspätung”.
When constructing the perfect tenses, AG uses the auxiliary verb ‘sein’ not only for verbs of movement but also for verbs expressing a state; so instead of saying “Ich habe gesessen” they’d say “Ich bin gesessen” (“I have/am sat”).
Grammatical gender varies little, but there are a couple of differences, like: das vs der Gummi, das vs der Brösel, das vs die Cola, das E-Mail vs die E-Mail, der vs das Spray. There are occasionally also dialectal differences; e.g. der/die Butter, der/die Zwiebel

Many Austrians do not distinguish between p and b, t and d and sometimes also k and g.
The suffix –ig is not pronounced // but /ik/ or/ig/ (can’t decide just now, I think my pronunciation varies. Nevertheless, it feels ‘nicer’ to produce the // sound at the end of a word).
Loanwords often differ in stress and pronunciation (e.g. /çi:na:/ > /ki:na:/ (probably because I connect /çi:na:/ a little more to my name)).
Some Austrians pronounce the prefixes st- and sp- /st/ and /sp/ instead of /scht/ or /schp/ (I remember me and classmates being really annoyed by my Austrian teacher saying ).

So yeah, now you know a bit (about) Austrian German (so next time you’re in Austria you can show off/make people like you/make people laugh at you 😉 )

Appendix: I grew up in Germany and moved to Austria at the age of 11 and lived there until I was 17. I speak SG, at least in terms of pronunciation and lexicon (mostly). However, it seems that AG had quite an effect on my grammar. I wonder what my German will be like after a few more years in the UK (>the effects of English)…