High German languages

High German dialects
Irminonic
Geographic
distribution
predominantly central and southern Germany, Austria, South Tyrol, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, northern and central Switzerland, Poland, Czech Republic and Alsace
Linguistic classificationIndo-European
Subdivisions
high1286[1]

The High German languages or High German dialects (German: hochdeutsche Mundarten) comprise the varieties of German spoken south of the Benrath and Uerdingen isoglosses in central and southern Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, and Luxembourg, as well as in neighboring portions of France (Alsace and northern Lorraine), Italy (South Tyrol), the Czech Republic (Bohemia), and Poland (Upper Silesia). They are also spoken in diaspora in Romania, Russia, the United States, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Chile, and Namibia.

The High German languages are marked by the High German consonant shift, separating them from Low German and Low Franconian (Dutch) within the continental West Germanic dialect continuum.

Classification

The present-day distribution of continental High German languages:
  Central German dialects
  Upper German dialects

As a technical term, the "high" in High German is a geographical reference to the group of dialects that forms "High German" (i.e. "Highland" German), out of which developed Standard German, Yiddish and Luxembourgish. It refers to the Central Uplands (Mittelgebirge) and Alpine areas of central and southern Germany; it also includes Luxembourg, Austria, Liechtenstein and most of Switzerland. This is opposed to Low German, which is spoken in the lowlands and along the flat sea coasts of the North German Plain.[2]

High German in this broader sense can be subdivided into Upper German (Oberdeutsch, this includes the Austrian and Swiss German dialects), Central German (Mitteldeutsch, this includes Luxembourgish, which itself is now a standard language), and High Franconian German, which is a transitional dialect between the two.[3]

High German (in the broader sense) is distinguished from other West Germanic varieties in that it took part in the High German consonant shift (c. AD 500). To see this, compare English/Low German (Low Saxon) pan/Pann with Standard German Pfanne ([p] to [p͡f]), English/Low German two/twee with Standard German zwei ([t] to [t͡s]), English/Low German make/maken with Standard German machen ([k] to [x]).[4] In the southernmost High Alemannic dialects, there is a further shift; Sack (like English/Low German "sack/Sack") is pronounced [z̥ak͡x] ([k] to [k͡x]).

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