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About Austrian (German) Language

Austrian German (German: Österreichisches Deutsch), or Austrian Standard German, is the national standard variety of the German language spoken in Austria and in South Tyrol (Italy). The standardized form of Austrian German for official texts and schools is defined by the Austrian dictionary (Österreichisches Wörterbuch), published under the authority of the ministry of education, art and culture.

German

As German is a pluricentric language, Austrian German is another standard variety in addition to the German spoken in Germany. Much like the relationship between American and British English, Austrian German is simply another standard form of the German language. The "Österreichisches Wörterbuch" states specific grammar rules and is a dictionary using Austrian spelling. In addition to this standard variety, in everyday life most Austrians speak one of a number of High German dialects.

Standard German in Austria

With German being a pluricentric language, Austrian dialects should not be confused with the variety of Standard German spoken by most Austrians, which is distinct from that of Germany or Switzerland. Distinctions in vocabulary persist, for example, in culinary terms, where communication with Germans is frequently difficult, and administrative and legal language, which is due to Austria's exclusion from the development of a German nation-state in the late 19th century and its manifold particular traditions. A comprehensive collection of Austrian-German legal, administrative and economic terms is offered in: Markhardt, Heidemarie: Wörterbuch der österreichischen Rechts-, Wirtschafts- und Verwaltungsterminologie (Peter Lang, 2006).

European Union

When Austria became a member of the European Union, the Austrian variety of the German language (limited to 23 agricultural terms) was “protected” in the so-called Protocol no. 10 (1) regarding the use of specific Austrian terms of the German language in the framework of the European Union, which forms part of the Austrian EU accession treaty. Austrian German is the only variety of a pluricentric language recognised under international law / EU primary law. All facts concerning “Protocol no. 10” are documented in Markhardt, Heidemarie: Das österreichische Deutsch im Rahmen der EU, Peter Lang, 2005.

Grammar

In Austria, as in the German-speaking parts of Switzerland and in southern Germany, verbs that express a state tend to use sein as the auxiliary verb in the perfect tense, as well as verbs of movement. Verbs which fall into this category include sitzen (to sit), liegen (to lie) and, in parts of Carinthia, schlafen (to sleep). Therefore the perfect tense of these verbs would be ich bin gesessen, ich bin gelegen and ich bin geschlafen respectively (note: ich bin geschlafen is a very rare form, usually you will hear ich habe geschlafen; but ich bin eingeschlafen (I fell asleep) is quite normal). (In the variant of German that is spoken in Germany, the words stehen (to stand) and gestehen (to confess) are identical in the present perfect tense: habe gestanden. The Austrian variant avoids this potential ambiguity (bin gestanden from stehen, habe gestanden from gestehen).

Also, the preterite (simple past) is very rarely used in Austria, especially in the spoken language, except for some modal verbs (ich war, ich wollte).

Vocabulary

There are many official terms that differ in Austrian German from their usage in most parts of Germany. These include Jänner (January) rather than Januar, Feber (February) rather than Februar, heuer (this year) rather than dieses Jahr, Kasten (wardrobe) instead of Schrank, Kiste (crate) instead of Schachtel, Sessel (chair) instead of Stuhl, Stiege (stairs) instead of Treppe, Rauchfang (chimney) instead of Schornstein, Vorzimmer (floor) instead of Diele, many administrative, legal and political terms - and a whole series of foods and vegetables such as: Erdäpfel (potatoes) German Kartoffeln (but Dutch Aardappel), Schlagobers (whipped cream) German Schlagsahne, Faschiertes (ground beef) German Hackfleisch, Fisolen (green beans) German Gartenbohne, Karfiol (cauliflower) German Blumenkohl, Karotte (carrot) German Möhre, Kohlsprossen (Brussels sprouts) German Rosenkohl, Marillen (apricots) German Aprikosen, Paradeiser (tomatoes) German Tomaten, Palatschinken (pancakes) German Pfannkuchen, Topfen (a semi-sweet cottage cheese) German Quark and Kren (horseradish) German Meerrettich.

Austrians, in particular (and especially in the countryside and in conservative settings[citation needed]), will say "Grüß Gott!" (literally "greet God!", meaning "May God bless you") when greeting someone, rather than the "Guten Tag!" ("[Have a] good day!") used by many Germans. Beside the official Austrian German, occasionally also Austrian dialects from various regions are seen in written form, containing a large number of contractions and abbreviations compared to standard German, which can be hard to understand for non-native speakers (although the same applies to German dialects in Germany and Switzerland).

 

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