A Remembrance of the Past; Building for the Future." ~ Eve Eckert Koehler

Remembering Our Danube Swabian Ancestors

The Dialect

By Peter Lang
Translated by Brad Schwebler

          The Beschka dialect was like the dialect in the mother communities in the Batschka.  An essential feature of this dialect was the pronunciation of the sound “ei”.  They count: eens, zwee, drei.  Who in high German can differentiate these two types of “ei” will know with every word how we pronounce it.  Here exists a legality, and one counts ans, zwa, drei, then he can not be from the mother communities of the Batschka.  Although there are also many Swabians among us, nobody counts ois, zwoi, drei.

          With the other vowels I could not find these legalities.  “A” was often changed to “o”, but not always.  For example: da – “da” was sometimes “do”, Nachmittag – Namittag (without ch), often Nomittag, and even the “o” was sometimes still changed to Numittag.  In the word “Tag”, the “a” always remained unchanged.

          The vowel “e” was always correctly pronounced in the dialect, that is where the “e” should be.  The fact that “Einwohner” was always said “Inwohner”, nothing changed in it.

          The vowel “i” was sometimes pronounced as “e”.  For example: Kirche – Kerch, Stirn – Stern.  Because “i” was often changed to “e” an uncertainty sometimes existed in high German.  For example Kerze (candle) was spoken well in the dialect and was first changed to “Kirze” in high German.  But that happened very seldom. 

          The vowel “o” was changed to “u”.  For example “komm” became “kumm”, “Konrad” became “Kunrad”.  Very often “o” remained unchanged: die Woche = die Woch.  Sometimes “o” was changed to “a”: guten Morgen = gutmarje, but also often gutmorje.

          The vowel “u” remained unchanged.  Seldom was it changed to “o”.  For example Wurst = Worscht, or even Warscht.

          The umlaut was always pronounced in the dialect like e and i.  Oddly enough though they had no difficulty with ö and ü in school, and the same was true for the double sounds eu, ai, äu.  They were already correctly pronounced in reading in the first year of school.  “Ä” was also pronounced correctly in the dialect in Kleinker, but mostly like “e”.

          The so-called hard middle sounds “r” and “p” were as a rule well pronounced, thereby always still sounding with an “h”.  For example: Ich khann die Khann hewe = Ich kann die Kanne heben.

          The soft middle sound b, d, g were pronounced somewhat harder, but never sounded with an “h”, as is the case with hard sounds.  “B” is often changed to “w”.  For example: Barbier became Balwerer, or Haber became Hawer or Hafer.  “St” and “sp” were pronounced like “scht” and “schp”, but never ending s or ß with t to scht.

          The articles were abbreviated: der = dr, die = die, das = ‘s.  The demonstrative pronoun remained unabbreviated: der = der, die = die, das = des.  The conjunction „daß“ remained unchanged.

          The verbs had no first tense, except the verbs tun, haben, wollen, and perhaps a few others with whose help one formed the subjunctive: Ich tät singe, wann ich Luscht hätt un wann ich wellt (wollte).

          The second tense was abbreviated at the end: gefunden = gfun, gesucht = gsucht, geworfen = g’worf, geschrieben = gschripp.  Where after the prefix „ge“ a second „g“ or „k“ followed, it was abbreviated: gekriegt = kriegt or kriet.

          Like the Neckar Swabians, the Donauschwaben have also done without the genitive.  They substitute it with the possessive pronoun and the dative: “Er hat dem Vatr sei stock un Hut g’numm” = Er nahm des Vaters Stock und Hut. 

Here I show the modifications of the nouns: 

   The helping verb “sein” was modified so: Ich bin, du bischt, er is.  Meer sin’, ehr sin’, sie ware.  Ich wer’, du werscht, er werd.  Meer were, her were, sie were.

   Some families used the plural instead of the singular.  Ich bin aufgestanden = Ich sin’ ufgstan’.

          Families who came from Bulkes deviated in the word order: Ich habe kein Brot mehr = Ich han kemeh Brot.  The people of Bulkes also changed the case: Komm zu mehr = Kumm bei mich.  Just as there is no rule in high German without exception, so here also principal rules are not without exception,  So for example the verb “sterben” has a middle form between the first and second tense: Er ist gestarb = Er ist gestorben.  But also taking into consideration that “o” was sometimes changed to “a”, then that is really no exception.  Our dialect is called the “Pfälz” dialect.  We speak “pfälzerisch.”  Around 1936 I heard a Pfälzer poet from the original homeland who recited some of his poems from his “Pfälzer Weltgeschicht.”  He spoke exactly like us.  Around 1929 I held a recital for the reading association for the same book.  Unfortunately I can no longer remember the names of the authors.  It is very puzzling to me how Eimann’s dialect deviated so much from ours.  Has the dialect in the Pfalz and by us developed further at the same rate?

          Thanks to the new edition of Eimann’s “Der deutsche Kolonist” (The German Colonist) and from the expansion of the book by Friedrich Lotz we have received a scant four lines in the Pfälzer dialect at the time in a letter from Eimanns to his cousin Gleib on the 15th of April 1832, which deviates very much from our dialect as we finally spoke it.  I cite: “Euch mus dem liewe Veder gestehe, das winnig Woche vergin, wu euch nit vun Dachroth ebes treeme; bal bin ich uf der Jagd ufm Gangelsberg, vun Duchroth ebes treeme; bal se Uberhause uf de grus Wis un su hin und her.  Ehr wered och verwunnere, daß euch so gut noch kann.“  One hundred years later the people of Beschka said it like this: „Ich muß dem liewe Vettr gstehn, daß wenich Woche vrgehn, wu ich net vun Tuchroth etwas treem’; bal bin ich uf dr Jacht uf’m Gangelsberch, bal im Roßberch, bal in Owrhause’ uf dr groß Wies’ un so hin un her.  Ehr werre’ Euch vrwunnre, daß ich noch so gut kann.

          From the comparison it becomes completely clear that in the written language the Pfälzer dialect in the original homeland as well as in the Danube area have become closer.  The word “vergin” I understand as infinitive, but it is not certain that Eimann meant the first tense with it.  The translation must then be: “vrgang’ sin…”, because we have no first tense.  The word “gin” is familiar to me from a Banat school friend, which is always used in the infinitive.  (Was werds do gin?)  I would still like to add about the comparison between Eimanns and our text that we pronounce the “ch” in the word “Roßberch” like the “ch” in the words “ich” and “mich”, while we pronounce the word “Jacht” the same way as “Dach”.  While we are already on the sound “ch” we should also note the progression of “hoch”: hoch, hecher, am hekste’.  The “ch” in “hecher” is pronounced like “ch” in the words “ich” and “mich”.

          Interesting as it may still be that the Donauschwaben pronounced all the new words well.  For example: Ballon (balloon), Zeppelin, Telegramm, Radio, Rundfunk (radio), Flieger (flyer), Grammophon, Zahnarzt (dentist).  The Sitzbank (bench) and Fleischbank (butcher block?) were pronounced hard, while the Geldinstitut (money institute), the bank, was pronounced soft.  That is attributed to earlier or later contact with the terms.

[Published at 2005 by Jody McKim Pharr]

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