«Häppere» for potatoes or «ggùgge» for searching. This is Sensler German. This Freiburg dialect is spoken by 30,000 to 40,000 people.
Unusual and exotic
When out in the rest of German-speaking Switzerland, the Senslers often attract attention. Because their dialect still sounds unfamiliar to many German-speaking Swiss ears. “You stand out as Sensler,” says stage actress Eveline Dietrich, for example. “Even though I’ve been living and working in Bern for years, I’m regularly asked about my dialect.”
Typical German Sensler expressions
- just – right
- gggge – look
- inflate – dig, dig
- buzzard – prepare
- Häpper – Potatoes
- My fool – strawberries
- Bräg – A toast
- Real – an umbrella
- It is raining – Regen
- Subject – Pocket size
Yes, Senslers still attract attention with their language, but not in a negative way anymore. That’s what linguist Claudine Brohyová says. Because the image of dialects has improved. Also because the Sensers’ self-image has changed. “When I was young, I had to listen to a lot of Freiburg jokes,” says Sensler, a dialect expert who herself speaks German. “40 years ago, the Sensler dialect and the canton of Friborg were still identified with conservative, Catholic and rural.”
Are you ashamed of your own language? Even the actress Eveline Dietrich knows this feeling, for example from a theater course at the beginning of her career: “The people of Zurich spoke quickly and well. That made an impression on me.” So much so that she hardly dared to say anything herself: “Sensational German on the stage? I thought at the time that this agricultural language didn’t fit in at all. But now I know better.”
Today, the Senslers have a different idea of themselves and their dialect, Christian Schmutz is also convinced of this. He is a dialect expert: he wrote the Sensler German dictionary, founded the brand for Sensler companies and organizes cultural events for Sensler and for Sensler. “I get a lot of positive feedback on my dictionary. For many, it is important to preserve special dialect words,” says Christian Schmutz.
Since the 1990s, we have experienced a veritable dialect tsunami
But this does not only apply to the Sensler dialect. “Dialart now has very positive connotations in German-speaking Switzerland. Forty years ago it was different. But today people are proud of Swiss dialects,” says dialect expert Schmutz.
A trend that can also be seen in everyday life. For example, on social networks or chat messages. “Never before has so much Swiss German been written as there is today,” says linguist Claudine Brohy. “Since the 1990s, we’ve had a veritable dialect tsunami.”
Other features of Sensler German
Some phonetic features:
- monophthongization: Giss instead of goat, coffee instead of chuff, Bǜǜmli instead of Böimli
- D-decay after n: Hun instead of Hunter, Lina instead of Linda
- Feminine nouns ending in -a: Cheers, Zunga, Pride
Some grammatical peculiarities:
- Agreement of certain accusative and dative forms, e.g sea instead of Michigan, holes instead of you
- Adapting adjectives and past participles to the grammatical gender: är Count of Ghouen, she counted ghoueni, äs count ghues
The sea is empty, goats and chickens where they stand at Tanebǜǜmli, chämi juscht verschnyyti, we go nid in Schäarm.
High German translation:
He thinks that the goat and the dog standing there by the tree would be covered in snow if they were not protected.
Therefore, both dialect experts are convinced: the German-speaking Swiss dialects do not need any special protection. Because as long as the dialect is spoken – at home, on the street and on the stage – it remains alive. This also applies to Sensler German.