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Read somewhere that the numbers 2 and 3 are "zwoi" and "drüü" in some Swiss-German dialect as opposed to "zwei" and "drei" in high German. Not sure which one since there are many dialects in Switzerland.

How many different variations of the numbers "eins" to "zehn" (1 to 10) are there in German Switzerland? Could you please list them comparatively to high German and Standard Swiss German based on region?

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The typical Swiss German forms are not zwöü and drü as opposed to Standard German zwei and drei. Instead, Swiss German dialects typically differentiate between drü and drei, whereas there is regional variation whereby some Swiss German dialects use the form zwöü while others use the form zwei. This means that the forms zwei and drei are also found in Swiss German.

Different numerals by gender

The differentiation is based on gender. The numeral ‘two’ typically has three different forms:

  • zwo (feminine)
  • zwe (masculine)
  • zwei (neutrum)

The same differentiation used to be common in Standard German up to the 18th century. Doubtlessly, it is also found in dialects outside of Switzerland.

The numeral ‘three’ typically has two different forms:

  • drei (feminine/masculine)
  • drü (neutrum)

The default forms when counting are the neutrum forms zwei and drü. There is a tendency towards merging the forms in the neutrum. In the early 20th century, that merger was complete in the cities of Basel, Schaffhausen and Murten as well as in the Wallis. I expect that the merger is now also common in other cities.

Regional variation

There is quite a lot of regional variation.

The Kleiner Sprachatlas der deutschen Schweiz, which contains excerpts from the Sprachatlas der deutschen Schweiz (SDS), has the following maps:

zwei (Kleiner Sprachatlas der deutschen Schweiz)

sechs (Kleiner Sprachatlas der deutschen Schweiz)

These two maps roughly show the following variation:

  • zwei:
    • pronunciation as zwai in Zurich, Central Switzerland and Wallis
    • monophthongization to zwa in Northeastern Switzerland
    • rounding to zwöi in Western Switzerland and Lucerne
    • monophthongization to zwö in Southwestern Switzerland
  • zwe:
    • Rounding to zwö in Lucerne
  • zwo:
    • Merged into zwe in much of Central Switzerland
  • sechs:
    • sächs in Western Switzerland
    • sechs in Eastern Switzerland
    • säks in Basel, Solothurn, Bernese Oberland, Uri, and Graubünden Walser
    • seks along the Bodensee and in the Eastern Switzerland Rhine valley
    • säksch in Wallis

SDS Maps

The Sprachatlas der deutschen Schweiz (SDS) has additional maps. They can be viewed with the SprachGIS – regionalsprachen.de, which is a very powerful tool, though I always have a hard time finding my way around it. And here it is:

  1. Open SprachGIS – regionalsprachen.de
  2. Click on the «🔍 Kartensuche» button in the top right. This opens a map chooser pop-up.
  3. Make your search (e.g. restrict Atlas to «Sprachatlas der deutschen Schweiz» and use the search field to search for numerals)
  4. When you found a result in the map chooser, click on the Ⓡ symbol next to the result. This will add the result as a map layer in the main SprachGIS window.

By this method, I have found the following Sprachatlas der deutschen Schweiz maps for numerals (unfortunately, I have not succeeded in making the SprachGIS permalink feature work):

  • #96 zwee (mhd. zwêne)
  • #236 zwei
  • #240 drei
  • #125 fünf
  • #22 sechs
  • #114 sechs
  • #241 neun

Edit: Idiotikon

For numerals not found in the SDS, the Schweizerische Idiotikon is probably the best source, unless you want to browse through the regional dialect dictionaries (there is no entry for ‘ten’, though, since the Idiotikon is not finished yet):

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  • So there's alot of variation in 2, 3 and 6. How about other numbers?
    – user610620
    Apr 23, 2022 at 20:15
  • 1
    I have paraphrased the regional variation for 2 and 6. I have explained how you can view maps with the regional variation for 3, 5, and 9. I have now added links to the Idiotikon entries for 1, 4, 7, and 8. Maybe somebody else will look at those sources and paraphrase them for you in their answer.
    – mach
    Apr 24, 2022 at 7:19

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