I came across the Swiss German word Gitzitrichäli (I couldn't find the meaning of it anywhere). In my head I always the "ä" as a short vowel and thus thought of it as being either [ɛ] or [e]. However, in this video, at 0:13, the word can be heard and the pronounciation to me is nearly identical to that of an "a" such as in gemacht.

I know that Swiss German doesn't have any written standard (so I shouldn't expect a lot of consistency), but I've seen so many double dots on vowels, and I wonder if all of them are there indeed to represent "umlaut", and if not, what is the real reason for them to exist.

Why is it written "Gitzitrichäli" and not "Gitzitrichali"? Why is pronounced the way it is?

Out of curiosity, if anyone could also provide the translation of the world, I would be thankful.

  • This youtube-URL links to the correct timestamp: youtube.com/… Dec 23, 2020 at 21:47
  • Please keep in mind that in many (German) dialects not only the pronunciation differs from other dialects. Each dialect has also special vocabulary and some syllibles change: As an example, in southern Germay the "-chen" at the end of a word (for example in "Mädchen") often becomes "-lein", "-len", "-lä", "-la", "-dele" or "-dela". It is very probable that you find such examples in Swiss German, too. Dec 24, 2020 at 7:27
  • Just a note: „ä“ it’s not always a short vowel, for example in „Krämer“ or „lähmen“ it’s long. I don’t know why Swiss German it’s called a dialect because it sounds like total gibberish to me as a native speaker of German (IMHO even Dutch is easier to understand). But the Swiss version of „Hochdeutsch“ sounds like a dialect to me. That word doesn’t seem to make any sense, but „Richäli“ looks like a Swiss version of „Richard“ to me, so it would be a version of the name „Richard Gitzit“.
    – Axel
    Dec 25, 2020 at 5:15

1 Answer 1


There are several things happening with ä in Swiss German:

  1. The very open front vowel that has developed from Germanic e or from the secondary umlaut of a is consistently transcribed with ä. While this sound is traditionally analyzed as IPA [æ], an analysis as [a] may be more accurate. You can hear two long occurrences of this sound in «Briefträger» and «Bärner» at the beginning of the video.
  2. In the word «Gitzitriichäli» ‘small goat kid bell’, it is a schwa that is transcribed with ä. There can be two reasons why this is done:
    • In a few dialects, transcribing the schwa as ä is customary since its pronunciation resembles the sound mentioned above. If I remember correctly, this is especially common in the alpine dialects of central Switzerland, which could be where the ensemble roots from. In other words, the spelling «Gitzitrichäli» might really be fully intentional.
    • In informal dialect writing, transcribing schwa as ä is widespread beyond these dialects. It might function as a kind of dialect marker. Lots of words have schwas, and by transcribing it as ä, it will be immediately obvious that the text is dialect. This usage is sometimes frowned upon by other, more traditional dialect writers who prefer transcribing schwa as e. In other words, the spelling «Gitzitrichäli» might be rather accidental, and it might have been «Gitzitricheli» instead.

Now the announcer’s pronunciation of the schwa in «Gitzitrichäli» appears to lean towards the very open front vowel, which is probably the reason why you perceive it as [a]. I am not good at identifying dialects, so I cannot tell where he is from.

The spelling «Gitzitrichäli» appears to be the one used on the album Dr Örgelidokter. The track list shows inconsistent schwa spelling: sometimes with e («Muggetanz», «bliibe», also in «Örgelidokter»), but sometimes with ä («Annäli», «Gitzitrichäli»).

P.S.: Regarding the translation:

  • «Gitzi» means and is cognate to ‘kid’ in the original sense of ‘goat kid’. According to the Idiotikon, the irregular G onset (a few dialects have regular «Chitzi») could be an influence of the word «Geiss» ‘goat’, cf. Gitzi – Idiotikon.
  • «Triichle» is an animal bell that is not cast, but made from hammered sheet metal. The word occurs in Southern and Western Swiss dialects and also in Schwarzwald, cf. Trycheln – Wikipedia. Its etymology is unclear, cf. Trinkeleⁿ – Idiotikon. There are different forms like «Trink(e)le», «Tringg(e)le», «Triich(e)le», «Treich(e)le». The form «Triichle», also spelled «Trychle» or «Trichle», occurs e.g. in Central Switzerland. «Triicheli» is the diminutive of «Triichle», that is, a small bell.
  • «Gitzitriicheli» [ˈkɪtsiˌtːriːxəli] thus means ‘kid bell’ or, more specifically, ‘small goat kid bell’.

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