If yes, how? For example, what are the strongest markers to differentiate between bairisch and frankisch first language?

  • 6
    Ich weiß net...
    – c.p.
    Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 12:22
  • 5
    @c.p. Hä, was meinsten jetz?
    – Raphael
    Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 15:06
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    As far as marker words go ... "fei" and "gell" are typically frankisch, and while commonly understood in the south of germany, very alien to northerners / high-german speakers. But then, native speakers notice the distinctions rather subconsciously ...
    – FrankH.
    Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 16:37
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    Ick' raff's nich'
    – Leo Pflug
    Commented Jun 4, 2014 at 7:20
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    Not reliably, no. Speakers will notice distance and often also direction relative to their own Mundart or dialect. Distance is both horizontal = geographical (regiolect) and vertical = social (stratalect). The answers telling you one could, are symptomatic, of course. There are many phonologic (incl. prosodic), lexical, grammatical and even pragmatic markers, but even though linguists have many of the catalogued, no-one knows and recognizes enough of them. Most laypeople cannot pinpoint what exactly distinguishes one dialect from the other, even if they are quite good at doing it.
    – Crissov
    Commented Jun 4, 2014 at 15:37

10 Answers 10


I don't entirely agree with either of the answers given so far.

Another answer here is correct in saying that vocabulary is a factor by which to distinguish dialects, but it's only one factor. A native German speaker will easily distinguish, say, a Saxon from a Bavarian by pronunciation alone.

It all depends on a number of factors:

  • Did the speaker grow up speaking dialect or Hochdeutsch?
  • If they grew up speaking dialect, how good are they at "hiding" their regional accent?
  • Is the dialect in question familiar to me as a listener? Also, the degree of familiarity can vary.

If a regional accent is audible, a listener's familiarity with it and similar accents obviously plays a large part in being able to place the speaker. Since German dialects can be roughly divided in north(west)ern and south(east)ern groups, a north German listener will usually be able to recognize fine distinctions in north German dialects, but will only be able to tell "south" when hearing Bavarian/Swabian/Austrian/Franconian/Hessian dialects. The same is true the other way around.

  • 1
    Just a question from a Bavarian living close to the Austrians, can you grow up anywhere without speaking dialect? I mean, is there any place where you learn only "Hochdeutsch" as we learn it in school (including all the grammar rules etc) ? Usually there are everywhere different idioms for so many words, that you cant grow up without learning at least a bit dialect.
    – DatRid
    Commented Jun 4, 2014 at 10:53
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    @DatRid In the Hanover region people speak pure "Hochdeutsch" since Hanover and Brunswick Low German dialects are almost extinct.
    – user6495
    Commented Jun 4, 2014 at 12:51
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    @Roland, no, that’s a common misconception; in and around “Hanofa”, a quite distinct regiolect is spoken. What’s true is that a lot of Northern Germans cannot consciously switch between their dialect and Hochdeutsch, because they neither know nor notice they differ. When they move elsewhere they will often automatically adapt to the local vernacular if it isn’t too dialectal. It’s also true that most varieties of Niederdeutsch are basically extinct, but they live on by having left their marks in the modern Mundarten of Hochdeutsch, which in turn is a variety of Oberdeutsch.
    – Crissov
    Commented Jun 4, 2014 at 15:21
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    "A native German speaker will easily distinguish, say, a Saxon from a Bavarian by pronunciation alone." ... even if they speak English (or should we call it anglo-saxon ;-) ?) Commented Jun 4, 2014 at 16:31
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    Yes, @Zane, if they know the differences in the first place. I'm sure speakers from Emden, Hamburg and Greifswald are easily told apart by north Germans, but I for one wouldn't be able to, simply because I don't know what to listen for.
    – elena
    Commented Jun 5, 2014 at 15:31

All I can see is that people normally try to speak Hochdeutsch, but most of the time I have a good understanding which region they come through.

There is a lot of telltale vocabulary (e.g. "Sonnabend" vs "Samstag", "dreiviertel Vier" vs. "viertel vor Vier", "Feudel" vs. "Wischlappen", etc.)

Further you will hear it from intonation and they way you pronounce certain letters/letter combinations. Do you say "Kemi" or "Schemi" (="Chemie")? Do you sing, like somebody from the Rhineland, or do you have more a military intonation. Kann you pronounce "ch" properly or not? And so on and so on and so on.

Then there is also lot of idioms and behavioral differences, like how do you say hello at the different times of the day, etc.

In the end, very very very very few Germans do speak proper Hochdeutsch. There is a certain prejudice, that only people from the middle of Germany actually can. Most Germans will agree that they have never heard a Bavarian speak Hochdeutsch at all 8^) In this regard, the claim is true, as the condition "if they speak Hochdeutsch" is always false.

  • Pronounciation "in the small" is definitely a huge factor. I once identified someone from the Leipzig area by the way they said "a" (in certain words). I can't do that for all regions, obviously.
    – Raphael
    Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 15:03
  • Maybe the middle-of-Germany dialect was the one german dialect chosen to be what is now known as Hochdeutsch. I.e. the middle-Germans speak it well because modern Hochdeutsch is rooted for a big part in their dialect.
    – phresnel
    Commented Jun 5, 2014 at 10:38
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    @Raphael: good point. My real name contains "ar": people already give away where they come from by pronouncing this as "aa" (Ruhrgebiet, Norden) or "ach" (typical for Dutch border).
    – Zane
    Commented Jun 5, 2014 at 14:47
  • @Zane I do not really agree with your point, that only few people can speak proper Hochdeutsch. At least in bigger cities, that isn't true. I'm living in munich, and I know few persons that really speak bayrisch. Most don't even say something like "wie" instead of "als" (regarding comparisons).
    – some_user
    Commented Jun 29, 2018 at 18:40
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    @Zane Ok, I now understand what you mean. Another slight difference north/south may be "semmeln" and "brötchen".
    – some_user
    Commented Jun 30, 2018 at 19:09

There's a certain "coloring" in pronunciation which gives the region away to a degree; say, for "Ich" (I), it's I/Ich/Isch/Ysch/Ick/Yck, and between those differences whether the 'ch' / 'sch' is guttural or aspired, and whether the i-sound is long or short. Similar differences for "nicht" (not), ned / nid / net / nit / nisch / nysch / nischd / nyscht /..., or "nein" (no), nain,ney,nee,... - such are quite common.
Certain consonants are also regional - frankish speakers know about "hard" and "soft" B/D (vs. aspired P/T and silent B/D), and while the south german dialects pronounce "sp" / "st" as "schp" / "scht", in Hamburg those are spoken like written.

There's also typical "marker" words; for Frankisch, the "fei" filler word (no specific meaning other than "this is emphasised") or the "gell" question (a little like the english "is[n't] it ?") are typical giveaways.
As was mentioned already, the way the person refers to the time is also a hint; in Franconia, one goes relative to the quarter, so 9:50 might be "five past a quarter to ten" just as well as "ten to ten".

The distinctions aren't as strong anymore as they used to be, though.

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    Hmmm, not so sure that fei and gell are "typical for Frankisch" - both are equally common in Upper and Lower Bavaria (pretty sure about the Upper Palatinate, too, although I wouldn't want to bet).
    – Mac
    Commented Jun 5, 2014 at 7:16

Generally yes, though to which degree depends very much on the people involved. Two anecdotes that might be helpful:

  • I was born in Franconia, lived in Munich since the age of 9, and my mother's family is from Mecklenburg. As a consequence I do not really have a dialect. Having lived in Bavaria for over 20 years, I cannot really speak the Bavarian dialect but have picked up some bits and pieces. So when I visited a friend in Berlin, within 5 Minutes her parents told me "ah, we can hear that you're Bavarian after all!" since I had just replied "Is' mir wurscht" to a question - a very distinct and well-known Bavarian idiom.
  • Being familiar with the Franconian dialect, I told a new colleague that she sounded Franconian. She replied "Aber net arg!" - Hilarious, since while her accent was minuscule, those last two words pronounced that way placed her (to me) as surely as wearing a "1. FCN" T-Shirt while holding a Rostbratwurst and a Bocksbeutel would have.

For me, this is more about vocabulary than dialect. I'm born in South Bavaria and live in Franconia. While there are differences in dialect, most people can hide it quite good (especially the younger generations) when speaking Hochdeutsch.

However, there are certain things which people say completely different, depending on where they were raised. One obvious example comes to mind:

As a Bavarian, I say "ebenfalls" ("and you!") as a response to "Schoenen Tag" ("have a nice day"). People quickly identify me as a foreigner, because they are all used to say "das gleiche" ("the same"), a phrase I have never heard before.


No, you can't. It's even almost impossible if they speak their dialect.

There is a handful of dialects that you may know. These are dialects that are spoken in your region or quite close and a few dialects from somewhere else which you happen to know (because of friends, television etc.).

I speak a mixture of three different but similar Ripuarian dialects and I'm able to pinpoint people from their dialect quite precisely to a region. I cannot, however, precisely tell from which town they are; just the region.

Other dialects like Bavarian are "foreign" to me. I can tell if someone is from Bavaria but I'm not able to tell if someone lives in Munich or Nuremberg. (Or I might entirely be wrong because they're actually from Austria.) I don't know nothing about differences between Bavarian and Franconian; or Austrian.
Same is true for other regions. I might be able to say that someone is from around Stuttgart, Dresden, Berlin or Hamburg, but I couldn't get any closer like "Stuttgart vs Karlsruhe".

However, when people are speaking "Hochdeutsch" the information you gain is a little less. For example, I cannot rely on certain words which are used in particular towns.
This makes it even less likely to pinpoint someone's dialect. There's still a chance, if you know their actual dialect, but it's harder.

Little "Sprachfehler" may be another identifier. I'm referring to letters that you may not be able to pronounce correctly because of your dialect (for instance, I speak the soft ch as sch and r as a hard ch). Some people might have trouble hiding these and you can tell their dialect from these errors even when they're speaking "Hochdeutsch".

  • 3
    "No, you can't." -- and then you explain how. The information is there; the fact that we lack knowledge/experience to use it is a different issue.
    – Raphael
    Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 15:04

Given that they are already speaking Hochdeutsch, it depends on a few things:

  • Does the speaker want to hide his/her dialect?

  • If yes, did the person in question grow up speaking mostly dialect or "Hochdeutsch"?

Education and age can make it very difficult. On the other hand some native kids at my school didn't even understand dialect.

  • Certain words.

Tomate/Paradeiser would be a prominent example. Although "Fernsehdeutsch" and globalisation are going to take care of that.

  • Maybe the 2nd-generation emigrant kids don't understand the dialect, because none of them and and their parents had close contact with any of them. I think, native kids at least understand at least one of the dialects of their grand parents, is it valid?
    – peterh
    Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 15:04
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    @PeterHorvath You'd be surprised. Immigrants combining their imported accent with local dialect can lead to the cutest things. <3
    – Raphael
    Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 15:05
  • @PeterHorvath Of course I wasn't referring to immigrants. The kids in question don't even have immigration background. But probably a lot of television background.
    – user6191
    Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 15:15

Yes it is possible to tell where in Germany people are from even if they speak "Hochdeutsch".

It all depends on how consonants and vowels are pronounced. In Frankonian there is no letter "p" like in "Paul" ;-) as people tend to pronounce it very soft, almost like a "b" so it sounds like "Baul".

People from northern Germany pronounce "st" very very strong exactly like it is written, whilst in rest of the country people usually pronounce it like "scht".

Some differences cause some confusion among people trying to learn German as the German word for chemistry is "Chemie". And north of the river Main people pronounce it like "Schemie" whilst south of the Main people say "Kemie".


I always had that slight feeling that the advertisement videos for germany and austria are using distinct speech synchronization (different dubbing actors). And I was confirmed about that by someone who's actually working in that business (no cites available, sorry).

It's actually a thing, even if they use strict Hochdeutsch, you can distinguish it.

It's all just about to hear how vowels sound or consonants are actually pronounced. Just a matter of how well trained your sense of hearing is.


While this is certainly just anecdotal evidence, I have been "called out" for a Swabian accent while traveling through other parts of Germany.

I spent a year learning German in situ living with a Swabian family in a small village, but I also attended school and thus learned to differentiate between Hochdeutsch and Mundart. Nevertheless, when I traveled to Berlin to meet up with friends I was consistently called out on my Swabian accent after having said only four-five words.

Having returned to the US and studied German with other non-native speakers at the university level, I have noticed that my "non-standard" pronunciation and word use has declined dramatically. Therefore, I would agree with the supposition that there is a wide spectrum of speaking "Hochdeutsch", whereby non-standard pronunciation could lead to an individual being able to single out regional origin. However, non-standard pronunciations are necessarily not "Hochdeutsch" - so I suppose the question itself is somewhat circular in nature.

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