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Often hear Swiss people say "Sali" which I think means salutations, a common informal greeting. But just found out someone writing "Salü" for the same meaning, which looks like it's pronounced differently. This one I've never heard in use.

What is the difference between these two usages? Does each belong to a different region of Swiss-German Switzerland? What are some other similars? On what occasions would they be inappropriate?

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The Swiss German greeting words “Sali” or “Salü” are not much older than 100 years. In the Swiss German dictionary of 1913, "Salü" is explained as follows:

Especially common in certain circles and among young people

"besonders in bestimmten Kreisen und bei jungen Leuten üblich"

"Sali" and "Salü" do not differ, and there are also further forms, e.g. "Sälü", "Salle" or "Sally" without differ to each other. The different forms of greeting are based on the different language areas/cantons (dialect) in Switzerland. "Sälü" is most used in the canton Bern, "Salü" mostly in the region Zürich and "Sally" in Basel. But you can't say that in general. Because someone with a dialect from Basel can also live in Bern.

Other common forms of greeting among friends:

  • Hallo
  • Hoi
  • Hey/Hei
  • Tschou
  • Tschau

Important note:

Sali/Salü/Sälü/Salle/Sally are only used to greet people you know well (friends), and not for a formal greeting. There you use best "Guten Tag", "Grüezi" (central and east Switzerland) or "Grüessech" (west and nordwest Switzerland)

Here is a sensational summary, unfortunately in German. Have also a look at this German-Question where was asked a few years ago but is still current (also in German…).

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  • Here's a link to the online version of Schweizerisches Idiotikon: digital.idiotikon.ch/idtkn/id7.htm#!page/70693/mode/1up. Since OP seems to refer to an answer of mine, I can confirm that I took over this spelling to make my answer more clear.
    – idmean
    Nov 6, 2021 at 8:47
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    Worth mentioning surely that "Salü" is simply French "Salut". "Sali" etc. are alternative pronunciations of the same.
    – fdb
    Nov 6, 2021 at 14:24
  • Which regions use Sally vs Sali vs Salle? How do their pronounciations differ?
    – user610620
    Nov 8, 2021 at 6:33
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(Swiss) German dialects are spoken languages and don't have a standardized spelling or orthography. This means that everyone can write dialectal words however they want. Depending on which variant of a dialect someone speaks, the French loanword salut /sa'ly/ "hello; goodbye" will sound more like ['saly] or ['sali] (note how the stress has moved from the second syllable in French to the first syllable in Swiss German). Swiss German speakers will render these sounds as <sal(l)i/ü/y>, according to the conventions of their community (e.g. WhatsApp group) or according to their personal preferences.

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  • what is the difference in pronounciation between /'saly/ and /'sali/? You only commented on the stress on syllables. These two look identical except for one vowel which to me have the same sound.
    – user610620
    Nov 9, 2021 at 2:42
  • @user610620 By convention, phonemes are notated between forward slashes. In linguistics, if you see something written between /.../, you can safely assume that what you are looking at is written in the international phonetic alphabet. In this case, /y/ is the close front rounded vowel, graphemically represented as <ü> in German (e.g. in <Tür>), while /i/ is the close front unrounded vowel, graphemically represented as <i> in German (e.g. in <Biene> [ˈbiːnə]).
    – Onomastik
    Nov 9, 2021 at 11:51
  • @user610620 <...> designates graphemes (the writing system of a language), /.../ designates phonemes (the sound system of a language), [...] designates a phonetic transcription (the actual sounds that you hear).
    – Onomastik
    Nov 9, 2021 at 11:53
  • how do i listen to a typed phoneme
    – user610620
    Nov 9, 2021 at 17:47

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