Friday, December 5, 2014

Online resources for teaching German dialectology

This last semester, I've had the chance to teach a phonetics/introduction to German linguistics course for undergraduate German majors. It's been a fun class. We used the second edition of Sally Johnson and Natalie Braber's Exploring the German Language as the primary textbook, which generally worked well. I found several points needing clarification in the chapter on the history of the German language, but fewer in other chapters.

For teaching about German dialects, I was fortunate to have two native speakers on campus who each came in to talk about their own local dialects and language use. But for class discussion of German dialects, it was a bit tricky to find material that was right for my students (and I'm still looking to add to the collection). Here's a list of things I thought were most useful.

Dialect atlases
  • Online Wenker-Atlas. I'm excited to finally have access to the Wenker maps, but the GIS-powered interface can require a lot of time to figure out how the interface works. Some background in Germanic linguistics and information technology is helpful.
  • Sprechender Sprachatlas von Bayern. This excellent project was user-friendly enough that I could send my students there and let them work independently. I wish there were similar projects for every German state.

Dialect maps
  • Statistik Schweiz. This page from the Swiss government offers several excellent dialect maps of Switzerland, as well as a wealth of other information about Switzerland.

Dialect texts
  • tz auf Bairisch. It was surprisingly difficult to find authentic texts that were not poems, proverbs, nineteenth-century literature, or about Christmas. For comprehensible dialect texts for my students, the dialect edition of a local Munich paper was just right.


  • American English Dialects. This dialect map of North America gives students an idea of American dialect geography.
  • NY Times Dialect Quiz. After looking at the static map, it was useful to go through this dialect quiz so that students could see how their personal and family history influenced the regional affiliation of how they spoke.
  • The Sounds of German. The old site is still incredibly valuable. Let's hope the site redesign now underway doesn't take anything away from that.

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