Alemanic & Swiss German

Mark Davis mark.davis at
Mon Dec 4 19:41:03 CET 2006

On 12/4/06, Peter Constable <petercon at> wrote:
> > From: ietf-languages-bounces at [mailto:ietf-languages-
> > bounces at] On Behalf Of Doug Ewell
> > Rather, the debate is whether "gsw" represents only Schwyzerdütsch per
> > se, or other "Alemanic" languages and/or dialects which are not usually
> > identified as Schwyzerdütsch, such as Swabian.
> That is not under debate. The ID "gsw" denotes precisely one individual
> language, which in English is commonly referred to as "Swiss German".

Good, glad that is clear.

What is under debate is the name "Alemanic". It is a name used to refer to a
> collection of languages constituting a genetic subnode of Germanic. For that
> reason, Mark feels it is not appropriate to list "Alemanic" as a name.

It is not appropriate to list Alemanic as a synonym for "Swiss German",
since it isn't. (And even worse, as in the draft 636-3, to list it *instead
of* "Swiss German".

I agree with Mark on the principle, that an ID should mean one thing only:
> either it means an individual language, or it means a collection of
> languages, but it does not mean both.


But what is unclear to me is whether the lexeme "Alemanic" has two distinct
> senses. Ethnologue indicates that the individual language denoted by "gsw"
> is referred to by Germanic-speaking peoples as "Schwyzerdütsch" within
> Switzerland but elsewhere as "Alemanisch". In other words, "Alemanisch" is a
> Germanic name for the individual language denoted by "gsw". That suggests
> the possibility that "Alemanic" might similarly be used with the meaning of
> that individual language.

If "Alemanic" is ever used with that sense, I think I can agree with Mark
> that it is not commonly used as the English name for the individual language
> in question, whereas it is commonly used for the collection of related
> languages. Thus, I will agree with Mark that it is at best misleading to
> list "Alemanic" as an English name for this individual language.

Yes, Alemanic (Alemannisch in German) is simply not the same as Swiss
German, and should not be listed as a synonym. Here is a map with a
distribution of Alemanic; that matches the textbook that have have from
years ago.

> Unless this thread has something to do with adding or changing an entry
> > in the Registry, I agree with Michael that it should be confined to
> > LTRU, and will post any future comments only to that list.
> This thread very much has to do with entries in the Registry and is really
> out of scope for LTRU.

The only reason it does have to do with LTRU is that we are considering
adding 639-3, and 639-3 lists "Alemanic" as the *sole* name for gsw, which
is clearly incorrect. Thus it raises the issue of whether to take the 639-3
names wholesale, or allow corrections.

Peter Constable
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