Rhinelandic regiolect

The terms Rhinelandic, Rhenish, and Rhinelandic regiolect refer to the vernacular lect spoken in the so-called Rhineland of West Germany. This linguistic region is approximately formed of the West of North Rhine-Westphalia, the North of Rhineland-Palatinate and several smaller adjacent areas, including some areas in neighbouring countries.

Although there is such a thing as a Rhinelandic accent, and the regiolect uses it, the Rhinelandic variety is not simply German spoken with an accent. Indeed, it differs from Standard German in several thousand[1] commonly used additional words, phrases, and idioms, and some grammatical constructions. Like other German regiolects, there is not a strict definition of what constitutues Rhinelandic; it can be spoken in a way very close to the standard idiom, but if locals talk to each other, it is mostly unintelligible to inhabitants of other German-speaking regions.[citation needed]

Linguists classify the Rhinelandic regiolect as a dialectal variety of Standard German having a strong substratum of the many diverse local community languages of the Rhineland.[2] As such, it occupies a middle position between the group of older West Central German languages, and Low Franconian languages spoken in the Rhineland, and the newer Standard German. The latter has only been brought into the area recently, under the Prussian reign, when local speakers merged many common properties and words of their local languages into the standard language. Thus a new regiolect formed, which in many respects follows the conventions of Standard German, but at the same time continues local linguistic traditions, making it comprehensible in a much wider area than the original local languages. Nevertheless, it still reflects differences inside the dialect continuum of the Rhineland, since speakers often prefer distinct words, styles or linguistic forms depending on the subregion they come from.[3]

Scientific recognition and documentationEdit

Differing across subregions of the Rhineland, and continually evolving, the Rhinelandic regiolect is not easily formalized. Though spoken by millions, it is rarely written down, which hampers scientific treatment. It has long been regarded as 'sheer colloquial speech' by the scientific community, valued too low to be subject of serious recognition and research. Only recently[4] has it shifted into the focus of empirical research of some linguists. Most notably, the linguistics department of the Institut für Landeskunde und Regionalgeschichte (Institute for Regional Studies and History, former: Amt für Rheinische Landeskunde (ARL) – Office of Rhinelandic Regional Knowledge and Documentation) of the Landschaftsverband Rheinland (LVR) has contributed to that work.

Scientists of today's Landschaftsverband have observed, documented, and researched lingual development in the Rhine Province, and lately the Rhineland, for about two hundred years. During the past decades, they have published several studies of the current regiolect, as well as scientific books and papers, popular science books, articles and essays. Some of their findings are available in the world wide web.[5] They regularly make surveys based on printed questionnaires which more recently can also be obtained and submitted via e-mail. These surveys are supplemented, extended, and updated by use of their interactive website Mitmachwörterbuch der rheinischen Umgangssprache[6] (Cooperative Dictionary of the Rhinelandic Colloquial Language) since 2007.

Literature on colloquialisms and colloquial German generally lists words and phrases coming from the Rhineland, marking their regional provenience appropriately.[7]

Despite obviously not having heen created for this purpose and not including regiolect references at all, the well-known extensive multi-volume compendium Rheinisches Wörterbuch[8] is nevertheless usually very helpful for finding hints to the probable meanings of words of the Rhinelandic regiolect that cannot be determined from other sources. Many regiolectal words[9] come from, or are identical to, local language words which are documented in the Rheinisches Wörterbuch. They usually bear identical, related, or quite similar meanings.[10]

Grammatical and syntactical deviations from Standard GermanEdit

  • Two of the important and most eye-catching characteristics of Rhinelandic are the progressive tense and the so-called "possessive dative", both of which do not exist in the standard language. Rhinelandic constructs progressive forms with the verb "to be", the preposition "am" (= "at the") and the infinitive, e.g. "Ich bin am Warten" (literally: I am at the wait) is equivalent to English "I am waiting". The possessive-dative construction replaces the standard genitive. The possessor is named in the dative case, followed by a possessive pronoun, e.g. "der alten Frau ihr Mann" (literally: the old woman her husband), which is equivalent to English "the old woman's husband". The following exemplary sentence features both a progressive verb construction and a possessive dative. Sentences like this are common in the Rhinelandic parlance, but often not easy to understand for German speakers unfamiliar with it.
Rhinelandic Peter is - dem Manfred sein Farrad am Repariern.
Standard German [Der] Peter - repariert [des] Manfreds - Fahrrad -
English [The] Peter is fixing [the] Manfred‘s - bike -
Rhinelandic - komma bei mich [11]
Standard German bitte komme einmal zu mir
English please come - to me
  • The regiolect sometimes uses a different auxiliary verb to build the past tenses. Most commonly, "vergessen" ("to forget") and "anfangen" ("to begin") take the auxiliary "sein" ("to be") instead of "haben" ("to have"). This is the case especially in the Low Franconian area and makes sentences appear closer to Dutch than to German.
Rhinelandic ich bin dat ganz vergessen
Dutch ik ben dat helemaal vergeten
Standard German ich habe es völlig vergessen
English I have it completely forgotten
Rhinelandic ich bin dat ganz vergessen gewesen
Dutch ik was dat helemaal vergeten -
Standard German ich hatte es völlig vergessen -
English I had it completely forgotten -
  • Another phenomenon shared with Dutch is separation of "da + preposition" (dafür; damit = for that; with that). Standard German never splits this construction up, but in Rhinelandic and Dutch it is most common to do so. In this case, Rhinelandic "da" can be placed anywhere in the sentence, the preposition must follow at (or towards) the end of the sentence.
Rhinelandic Ich hab da - kein(e) Zeit für -
Dutch Ik heb daar - geen tijd voor -
Standard German Ich habe dafür keine Zeit - -
English I have - - no time for that
  • Individual expressions reflect dialectal usage, which also may lead to similarities with Dutch.
Rhinelandic du has den verschreck jemacht -
Dutch je hebt hem laten schrikken -
Standard German Du hast ihn erschreckt / erschrocken -
English you have scared or spooked him
  • Names of persons, and denominators of roles and social positions are almost always preceded by grammatical articles. References to females, and especially to young females, may decline with the neuter grammatical gender (which is not at all pejorative). Using articles with personal names is wrong in Standard German, but is normal not only in Rhinelandic but also in most dialects and colloquial varieties of German in central and southern Germany, as well as in Austria and Switzerland.
Rhinelandic es/et/das/dat/de/die Lisa heirat graad
Standard German [die] Lisa heiratet gerade
English [the] Lisa marries at the moment
Rhinelandic es/et/das/dat/de/die Lisa is am heiratn
Standard German [die] Lisa heiratet gerade
English [the] Lisa is marrying
Rhinelandic et kütt : Schmitz , die Schmitz , un - et Schmitz
Standard German (literally) es kommt : der Schmitz , die Schmitz und - das Schmitz
(better) es kommen die Eheleute Schmitz mit - Tochter
English (literally) there comes : the (masculine) Smith , the (feminine) Smith , and - the (neuter) Smith
(better) - coming are : Mr. and Mrs. Smith with their daughter
  • People talk about themselves in the third person in specific contexts, also with articles. This can be done in English, too, but not in correct Standard German. For example, a mother addressing her child:
Rhinelandic - hasse - schön geputz , da muss de Mamma - nich mehr bei [gehn] - [11]
Standard German das hast du [so] gut geputzt ,  dass - ich - nicht [mehr] nacharbeiten muss
English this have you [so] nicely cleaned ,  that - mom / I need[s] not any [more] rework -

Intermediate position between Standard German and broad dialectEdit

The following exemplary sentences may show how the regiolect is related to both Standard German and the actual dialect (Kölsch in this case), and found to be in the middle between the two.

Kölsch Dialect Jetz setze mer uns_eesch_ens hen un drinke_uns_e Käffje. Dann sühd_et Levve att widder anders uß. Ärbeide künne mer emmer noch!
Rhenish Regiolect Jetz setz'mer uns_ers'ma hin un trinken_uns_en Käffchen. Dann siehd_et Leben schonn wider anders_aus. Aabeiten köm_mer immer noch!
Standard German Jetzt setzen wir uns erst mal hin und trinken einen Kaffee. Dann sieht das Leben schon wieder anders aus. Arbeiten können wir noch immer!
English Now let's first sit down and have a cup of coffee. After that, life will look much better. Work can wait a while!

The example shows that the regiolect is based on Standard German. Thus, it uses ers'ma ("first") from the standard "erst mal" (vs. dialect: eesch ens), and schonn ("already") from the standard "schon" (vs. dialect: att or allt). With words common to both languages, vowel and consonant qualities are usually those of the standard (trinken instead of drinke; immer instead of emmer), as are the rules of morphology.

However, the strong dialectal influence is also evident: Word final t/d is often deleted after another consonant (jetz, un); there is a tendency towards vowel shortening (schonn, widder); some structure words come in the dialectal form (mer = "wir"; et = "es, das"); and words with an initial vowel are not separated from the preceding word by a glottal stop, but rather linked to it, like in English. (This is marked in the example by an underscore.) The regiolect also uses diminutives more often (Käffchen instead of "Kaffee"), and has borrowed from the dialect many syntactical constructions unknown in the standard, e.g. mer trinken uns (en Käffchen), literally "we drink (a coffee) to ourselves", meaning: "to drink something with ease and pleasure."

Another good example is the word "afternoon", for which the regiolect uses a form similar to the dialect, but has adapted a vowel and a consonant to the standard.

Kölsch Dialect Nommedach [ˈnɔməˌdax]
Rhenish Regiolect Nammetach [ˈnaməˌtax]
Standard German Nachmittag [ˈnaːxmɪˌtaːk]
English afternoon [ˌɑːftəˈnuːn]

The continuum Rhenish dialectsRhenish regiolectStandard German is comparable (however not wholly equal) to the continuum Scots(colloquial) Scottish EnglishBritish Standard English in Lowland Scotland. The first end of the continuum is made up by the traditional regional language, which is closely related to the standard, but has had its independent development for several centuries; in both cases, it is alive, but losing ground in everyday communication, especially among younger people. The other end of the continuum is the supra-regional standard language used for example on national television. In between the two, we find the new common speech, which is based on the standard, but has a strong substratum from the traditional language.

Regional differencesEdit

The Rhinelandic regiolect has several regional and subregional features. Very many approximately coincide with the general dialect groups found in the local languages. For example:

English German Rhinelandic
little jar Gefäß Kümpken Kümpche(n) Kimpche [12]

As usual, the Low Franconian area in the North uses their own way to build the diminutive. The Central Rhineland between the Benrath line and the Sankt Goar line usually has an intermediate position. In this instance, the South uses their own vocalism that already incorporates parts of the Palatinate German one, found even further South.

Rhinelandic influences on Standard GermanEdit

Like other jargons and regional varieties, also the Rhinelandic is influencing the Vocabulary of the German Standard. Instances of more recent additions are:

  • Knöllchen − a (parking or similar) ticket [13][14]
  • Poppen − to have sexual intercourse [15][16]
  • Sie sind sich nicht eins − they do not agree − instead of German: Sie sind nicht einig miteinander[17]
  • kungeln, Klüngel, rheinische Lösung (rhinelandic solution) − all three understood in the narrowed sense of corruption in office, nepotism, and the like. [18][19]
  • Schiss haben − to be afraid or anxious; to feel threatened; to be in sorrow about something. [20][21] (This expression is also in widespread use in Low German)

A grammatical deviation too, the am-Progressive mentioned above, has invaded the colloquial speech of other parts of the German-speaking areas. Experts state that it can be seen as "almost standard language use in wide parts."[22]


  • Dr. Georg Cornelissen: Rheinisches Deutsch. Wer spricht wie mit wem und warum. Greven Verlag, Köln 2005, ISBN 3-7743-0367-3
  • Peter Honnen: Kappes, Knies und Klüngel. Regionalwörterbuch des Rheinlandes. Greven, Köln 2003, ISBN 3-7743-0337-1
  • Dr. Georg Cornelissen (2008), Meine Oma spricht noch Platt – Wo bleibt der Dialekt im Rheinland? (in German), Köln: Greven Verlag, ISBN 978-3-7743-0417-8
  • Peter Honnen (2008), Alles Kokolores? - Wörter und Wortgeschichten aus dem Rheinland (in German), Köln: Greven Verlag, ISBN 978-3-7743-0418-5
  • Dr. Georg Cornelissen (2007), Der Niederrhein und sein Deutsch - sprechen tun et fast alle (in German), Köln: Greven Verlag, ISBN 978-3-7743-0394-2
  • Klaus J. Zöller: Rheinisch auf deutsch. Herkunft und Bedeutung rheinischer Wörter. 72 Seiten. Bruckmann, München 1974, ISBN 3-7654-1611-8


  1. ^ See "Mitmachwörterbuch" at http://www.mitmachwoerterbuch.lvr.de/lesen.php and following pages for an (incomplete) word list.
  2. ^ For the relations and differences between Dialect, Regiolect, and Standard variety, see also: Dr. Georg Cornelissen (2008), Meine Oma spricht noch Platt : Wo bleibt der Dialekt im Rheinland? (in German), Köln: Greven Verlag, pp. 9, lower end, and following, ISBN 978-3-7743-0417-8
  3. ^ Peter Honnen (2003), Kappes, Knies und Klüngel : Regionalwörterbuch des Rheinlands (in German), Köln: Greven Verlag, pp. 13 unten, ISBN 3-7743-0337-1
  4. ^ beginning approximately in the 1970s
  5. ^ An introduction can be found at "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-06-20. Retrieved 2013-10-10.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) (last visited: June 1st, 2011)
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-15. Retrieved 2012-03-05.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ For instance: Heinz Küpper (1987), Wörterbuch der deutschen Umgangssprache (in German), Stuttgart: Klett Verlag, ISBN 3-12-570600-9
  8. ^ Rheinisches Wörterbuch. Im Auftrag der Preußischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, der Gesellschaft für Rheinische Geschichtskunde und des Provinzialverbandes der Rheinprovinz auf Grund der von Johannes Franck begonnenen, von allen Kreisen des Rheinischen Volkes unterstützten Sammlung bearbeitet und herausgegeben von Josef Müller, Heinrich Dittmaier, Rudolf Schützeichel und Mattias Zender. 9 volumes. Bonn/Berlin 1928-1971.
    Available online at http://www.woerterbuchnetz.de/woerterbuecher/rhwb/wbgui?lemid=[permanent dead link]
  9. ^ According to an estimate of the linguistics department of the Institute for Regional Studies and History of the Landschaftsverband Rheinland, they have collected some 3000 to 6000 words of that kind.
  10. ^ See also: Peter Honnen (2003), Kappes, Knies und Klüngel : Regionalwörterbuch des Rheinlandes (in German), Köln: Greven Verlag, pp. 15, 16, ISBN 3-7743-0337-1
  11. ^ a b Rheinisches Mitmachwörterbuch: bei, last visited January 12, 2011.
  12. ^ (in German) Missing or empty |title= (help)
  13. ^ See also: Peter Honnen (2008), Alles Kokolores? - Wörter und Wortgeschichten aus dem Rheinland (in German), Köln: Greven Verlag, pp. 125 f, ISBN 978-3-7743-0418-5
  14. ^ Compare: Rheinisches Mitmachwörterbuch: Knöllchen retrieved 17 January 2011.
  15. ^ Peter Honnen (2003), Kappes, Knies und Klüngel. Regionalwörterbuch des Rheinlandes (in German), Köln: Greven Verlag, p. 156, ISBN 3-7743-0337-1
  16. ^ Compare: Rheinisches Mitmachwörterbuch: poppen retrieved 17 January 2011.
  17. ^ See also: Rheinisches Mitmachwörterbuch: eins retrieved 17 January 2011.
  18. ^ See also: Peter Honnen (2008), Alles Kokolores? - Wörter und Wortgeschichten aus dem Rheinland (in German), Köln: Greven Verlag, p. 120, ISBN 978-3-7743-0418-5
  19. ^ Compare: Rheinisches Mitmachwörterbuch: Klüngel retrieved 17 January 2011.
  20. ^ Peter Honnen (2003), Kappes, Knies und Klüngel. Regionalwörterbuch des Rheinlandes (in German), Köln: Greven Verlag, pp. 173 f, ISBN 3-7743-0337-1
  21. ^ See also: Rheinisches Mitmachwörterbuch: Schiss retrieved 17 January 2011.
  22. ^ Duden, Volume 9, 6. edition 2007, p. 62

External linksEdit

There are several sound samples of spoken Rhinelandic at the linguistic department at Institut für Landeskunde und Regionalgeschichte of the Landschaftsverband Rheinland: