Why is Switzerland so boring at night?

Language - Schwyzerdütsch or Schwiizertüütsch? - a dialect lecturer makes suggestions

Schwyzerdütsch or Schwiizertüütsch? - a dialect lecturer makes suggestions

There is anarchy in dialect texts. But how do you write correctly?

Daniela Zimmermann is upset. Another apostrophe! In an advertising text, “Z’Nacht” has an apostrophe between “Z” and “Night”. Something like that catches the dialect corrector's eye immediately. Zimmermann explained to the advertisers on Instagram: "Since an apostrophe always marks a letter that has been omitted, but nothing is omitted here, it should mean 'night'."

The omitted "e" from the original dialect word "Zenachte" is no longer pronounced in any dialect today, which is why the apostrophe has become superfluous.

Apostrophes are common, but not the only mistakes Zimmermann sees. The commuter newspaper “20 Minuten” caught her when she translated boring into Swiss German as “boring”. "Boring" would be correct. "Willingly" would be something completely different again, jokes Zimmermann.

The 31-year-old from Winterthur, who edits song texts for Baschi and Dabu Fantastic, has specialized in Swiss dialect. She shouldn't run out of work as a proofreader in the near future. Because Swiss German is experiencing an upswing. Dialect literature and music are booming, and companies advertise in dialect (“For a tüüfä gsundä Schlaaf”, “Augelasere zum Fründschaftspriis”, “Stroll. Höckle. Gnüuss”).

"Sch" becomes "sh"

Anyone who has a smartphone can hardly avoid the written dialect. The boys in particular write almost exclusively in Swiss German.

There is anarchy on Whatsapp. There is no official spelling of Swiss German.

Zimmermann doesn't even want to change that. She takes care not to speak of "right" and "wrong". She prefers to speak of systematisation. "The point is that the same words or even individual sound combinations in a text are consistently written the same way."

The term time, for example, is spelled in dialect sometimes with Ypsilon, sometimes with two i's. Zimmermann recommends speakers of Zurich or Eastern Swiss dialects to consistently write “Ziit” with two i's. Their rule is: Whenever the Swiss German word has a long vowel that has become a double sound in the High German counterpart over time, the dialect word should be written with two vowels. Bauer becomes Buur, Mauer becomes Muur and far too wiit.

The editor emphasizes, however, that there is no solution that is valid for the whole of Switzerland. In the canton of Bern, for example, Zyt is written with Ypsilon to distinguish the closed "y" from Zyt from the open "i" from Gschiir. In Basel, too, the y is an indispensable part of the written dialect.

In her work as a proofreader of Swiss German lyrics, Zimmermann has to make compromises again and again. She generally advises against connecting individual words together. But sometimes it has to adapt to the audience. That is why the printed lyrics of Dabu Fantastic say “Lug eus a, frisch us em egg”. The album title is called "Frisch Usem Ei". The reason for this is that most young people combine the two words «us» and «em» to «usem». If you then look for the Dabu Fantastic song on streaming platforms, you may not find it.

In the chats, the boys use their own spelling anyway. The "sh", which comes from the English language, replaces the German "sch". In the soccer club's chat it is said: “Wänn ish de Match?”.

Young people have always cultivated their own language, also to differentiate themselves from adults. Zimmermann has nothing against that. "Even I don't follow my rules when I write a WhatsApp message." Zimmermann takes it easy. If only there weren't misplaced apostrophes everywhere.