When answering questions that do not state a particular interest in dialects, should we answer with dialect variations?


What is the translation of 'I'?

Answer (berlin dialect):


It seems pretty obvious to me that, if the dialect is not indicated or commented upon, this would be a misleading answer.

I think the main interest on this site is standard german (unless explicitly asked about dialects), possibly with a focus on German as spoken in Germany.

I think answers that point out variants, dialects or slang should at least identify themselves as such (and, even though they're not dialects, Austrian and Swiss Standard German are not what's usually meant when one - except Austrians or Swiss people - talks about "German"), if it isn't obvious from the context (e. g. the question directly asking about bavarian greetings, for instance). Ultimately I think uninvited postings about the many local variants would do more harm than good, cluttering up the answers.

What do you think? Are unsolicited answers about dialects acceptable for "ordinary", non-dialect questions, as long as they're pointing out that they're about a dialect/austrianism/helveticism? Are dialect answers acceptable that don't point this out? Should we assume German standard German as the standard German?

  • 2
    The "Icke" example is a bit contrived (no Berliner would write that non-jokingly), but the question is good nontheless.
    – balpha StaffMod
    Commented May 25, 2011 at 19:55

2 Answers 2


I agree that, unless indicated otherwise, Standard German as spoken in Germany should be assumed. The use of slang, dialects or of other forms of German like Austrian Standard German or Swiss Standard German should be indicated, if it differs from German Standard German.

That's not meant to discriminate against Austrians or Swiss. It's simply that German Standard German is the most widely used variant and is usually what's meant by "German".


No, Austrian German is not a "dialect" in contrast to "standard German". The Austrian German that is taught in Austrian schools is standardized, has dictionaries and is quite different from Viennese or Tyrolian or Berlin dialects.

Some of the words that you regard as dialect is the only German that is used in an Austrian high school examination to discuss a work of literature, say. You irritatingly suppose that we have learned your variant of German and just don't use it to annoy you.

Will you point out in every one of your answers that your answer might not be appropriate in Southern Germany, Austria and Switzerland? That people there might misunderstand if you use "laufen" for "walk", say?

  • 4
    Don't misunderstand me on purpose. I accept that Austrian German is a proper variant of Standard German, just as Swiss German and German German are. It's just that in ALL parts of the world minus Austria, when people say German, they mean German Standard German - thus, if somebody uses something that differs from that norm, it should be indicated so as not to confuse askers. My purpose is not to put down Austrian or Swiss German (or even real dialects and slang), just to establish that this deviation from what's expected by the asker should be indicated.
    – fzwo
    Commented May 25, 2011 at 22:44
  • 4
    I edited the question to make it clear that I don't think Austrian and Swiss Standard German are dialects. The reasoning still applies, though: 99% of the world means German Standard German when talking about German without further regional indication, so deviations from that should always be indicated. I don't think that's arrogant or irritating; just practical. I would say the same if I were from Austria.
    – fzwo
    Commented May 26, 2011 at 8:22
  • 3
    I've heard it said that "a language is a dialect with an army and navy". Neither Switzerland nor Austria have a navy...
    – misterben
    Commented May 26, 2011 at 12:40
  • @misterben: +1, but there is a Swiss naval patrol.
    – Tim
    Commented May 26, 2011 at 14:55

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