BA French and German

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
German Dialects

Course unit fact file
Unit code GERM30341
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Dialects are living history. Contrary to popular belief, they are not “corrupt” or “lazy” forms of a language but represent older forms and structures that may have been lost in the modern standard language. So, this course unit takes you on a journey, not just through different parts of the German-speaking countries but also through time – giving you a chance to listen to a range of regional dialects as we hear them today and tracing them back through parts of their history over more than 1,500 years. 


Available on which programme(s)? 

Programmes with German Studies  

Available as Free Choice (UG) or to other programmes (PG)? 

Yes, subject to adequate German language skills and willingness to acquire basic concepts in phonetics independently if necessary 

Available to students on an Erasmus programme 


Pre/Co/Antirequisite units 

Normally GERM10040 Introduction to German Linguistics, or by consent of Course Unit Director. Students must be able to read German very well. 

Language of instruction 



  • To expand students’ knowledge of a range of regional varieties of German

  • To raise students’ awareness of the nature of regional dialects as living records of different historical processes that have shaped the German language over the past 1,500 years

  • To introduce students to a range of techniques of linguistic investigation, from observation of unmonitored linguistic behaviour to tightly focussed questionnaire-based study

  • To foster an appreciation of the social significance of dialect use, ranging from the stigma of educational disadvantage to the covert prestige of local group membership

  • To demonstrate to students the gradual development of the field of dialect geography over seven centuries, from the incidental beginnings to the highly sophisticated and technologically advanced studies of today

Knowledge and understanding

On successful completion of the course unit, students will be able to: 

  • show an appreciation of the range of regional varieties of German  

  • discuss the difficulties of defining the concept of ‘dialect’ 

  • critically review the aims and methods of dialect geography 

  • give a structured and detailed account of the key phonetic and phonological (as well as some morpho-syntactic and lexical) characteristics of a broad range of German dialect groups  

Intellectual skills

The course unit will provide opportunities for students to enhance their ability to  

  • critically evaluate specific techniques of data collection and their suitability for certain purposes 

  • collect, sift and evaluate arguments and factual evidence from published sources in order to shape these into a balanced and coherent discussion of key issues in dialect geography 

Practical skills

The course unit will provide opportunities for students to develop an ability to  

  • apply specific linguistic concepts to real-world (as well as fictitious) language data 

  • critically read and interpret phonetic transcriptions of dialect data, in conjunction with audio recordings of the same material 

  • identify a given sample of dialect material as belonging to a particular dialect group on the basis of their knowledge of key characteristics of certain groups of Low, Middle and Upper German dialects 

  • draw and interpret dialect maps 

  • gather evidence from a set of linguistic data to support or refute a particular hypothesis 

Transferable skills and personal qualities

On successful completion of the course unit, students will have further developed the following skills or competencies: 

  • working collaboratively (in a group) to analyse given material according to specified criteria 

  • presenting findings orally in a clear and accessible manner, using appropriate terminology 

  • reading published material critically 

  • viewing a given issue from the perspective of someone else’s intellectual position

Employability skills

On successful completion of the course unit, students will have further developed the following skills or competencies: ¿ German language skills ¿ intercultural awareness ¿ ability to critically interpret statistical information (e.g. data on dialect usage or variables) ¿ project planning and implementation (in the context of some coursework essay topics) ¿ time management

Assessment methods

Assessment task

Formative or Summative

Weighting within unit (if Summative)

Open-book online written examination



Coursework essay/project report




Resit Assessment

Coursework essay/project report


Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Written and/or face-to-face feedback on essay/project plan


Written feedback on coursework essay/project report

Formative and Summative

Feedback on exam technique and subject competence to students who submit up to two answers to exam questions from previous years


Written and, where possible, face-to-face feedback on exam performance (on request)

Formative and Summative

Recommended reading


Besch, Werner, Ulrich Knoop, Wolfgang Putschke & Herbert Ernst Wiegand (eds.). 1982/1983. Dialektologie: ein Handbuch zur deutschen und allgemeinen Dialektforschung (Handbücher zur Sprach- und Kommunikationswissenschaft 1.1 & 1.2). Berlin: de Gruyter. 

Boberg, Charles, John Nerbonne & Dominic Watt (eds.). 2018. The Handbook of Dialectology. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.  

Chambers, J.K. & Peter Trudgill. 1998. Dialectology. 2nd edn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 

Digitales Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache.  

Keller, Rudolf E. 1961. German dialects: phonology and morphology. Manchester: Manchester University Press. 

König, Werner. 2004. dtv-Atlas zur deutschen Sprache. 14th edn. Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag.  

Löffler, Heinrich. 2003. Dialektologie: eine Einführung. Tübingen: Narr. 

Niebaum, Hermann & Jürgen Macha. 2014. Einführung in die Dialektologie des Deutschen. 3rd edn. Tübingen: Niemeyer.  

Russ, Charles V.J. (ed.). 1990. The dialects of Modern German: a linguistic survey. London: Routledge. 

Stedje, Astrid. 2007. Deutsche Sprache gestern und heute: Einführung in Sprachgeschichte und Sprachkunde. Stuttgart: UTB.  

Wray, Alison & Aileen Bloomer. 2012. Projects in linguistics and language studies: a practical guide to researching language. 3rd edn. London: Routledge. 


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 1
Seminars 33
Independent study hours
Independent study 166

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Wiebke Brockhaus-Grand Unit coordinator

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