Posts Tagged ‘High German’

“Berlinisch”, dialect of the Berliner

Monday, July 1st, 2013

Berlinisch is a vernacular that is spoken only in Berlin, Germany. It is not a written language, only a spoken one, and mirrors the character of its people. The born-and-bred Berliner has a reputation of being a matter-of-fact, self-confident, often flippant individual who has at his disposal a sufficient dose of skeptical optimism, ready wit, and down-to-earth humor.

The city of Berlin is first mentioned in 1244, but we know that Germanic settlements existed in the region, dating as far back as the 6th century. Originally Plattdeutsch (Low German) was the official language and spoken at the courts. But in the 15th century, businessmen from Frankfurt/Oder and Leipzig (65 miles southeast and 200 miles southwest respectively) brought the language of Upper Saxony to Berlin. Upper Saxon was more similar in character to the High German that the reformer, Martin Luther, spoke. Over time, the upper circles and administrative bodies in Berlin combined the Upper Saxon sounds with their customary Low German language. And by the 17th and 18th centuries, all levels of Berlin’s society spoke Berlinisch.

But by the end of the 18th century, Berlin’s educated circles felt that Berlinisch sounded too vulgar and should be replaced by High German. Soon, the children of the middle class no longer learned Berlinisch in school. To this day, Berlinisch is not spoken in school, yet; somehow, every Berliner learns to speak the vernacular. Indeed, Berlinisch sounds a little rough around the edges, but it is a dialect with lots and lots of heart and honestly. It would be a shame if it disappeared.

So red't der Berliner by Wilhelm Franke, 1966, a guide to speaking "Berlinisch".

So red’t der Berliner by Wilhelm Franke, 1966, a guide to speaking “Berlinisch”.

(the history of the rise and fall of Berlinisch is taken from a small booklet, called “So red’t der Berliner” by Wilhelm Franke and was given to me by his daughter)


For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of Walled-In is my story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.