An Introduction to Moselle Franconian

Where is Moselle Franconian spoken?

Moselle Franconian is heard in the region around the Moselle River, which is found in the western part of Germany. Moselle Franconian is one of two dialects which make up the Middle Franconian dialect (the other dialect being Ripuarian). Ripuarian is spoken in cities such as Cologne, while Moselle Franconian is spoken in cities such as Mayen and Trier.

A map of the area where Moselle Franconian is spoken

A map of the area where Moselle Franconian is spoken

Important terms: Moselle Franconian, Middle Franconian, Ripuarian, Moselle River

 

How is Moselle Franconian defined?

The region where Moselle Franconian is spoken is defined by several different isoglosses; an isogloss is a geographic line that acts as a border between two different pronunciations of a specific sound or word. The most important isoglosses for Moselle Franconian (and also for Middle Franconian) are the Benrath Line, the Bad Honnef Line, and the Sankt Goar Line.

The Benrath Line is a border between Lower Franconian (the dialect to the north of Middle Franconian) and Middle Franconian. This isogloss is known as the “maken”/”machen” line. North of the line (in the Lower Franconian dialect) one would hear the word “machen” pronounced as “maken”; in Middle Franconian one would hear “machen” pronounced normally.

The Bad Honnef Line is a border between the two dialects in Middle Franconian: Ripuarian and Moselle Franconian. This isogloss is known as the “Dorp”/”Dorf” line. In the Ripuarian dialect one would hear the word “Dorf” pronounced as “Dorp”; in Moselle Franconian one would hear “Dorf” pronounced normally.

The Sankt Goar Line is a border between Middle Franconian and Rhine Franconian, the dialect south of Middle Franconian. This isogloss is known as the “dat”/”das” line. In the Middle Franconian dialect one would hear the word “das” pronounced as “dat”; in Rhine Franconian one would hear “das” pronounced normally. This isogloss also leads to “es” being pronounced as “et” and “was” being pronounced as “wat” in Middle Franconian.

This map shows the important isoglosses for defining Moselle Franconian. Can you identify the Benrath Line, the Bad Honnef Line, and the Sankt Goar Line?

This map shows the important isoglosses for defining Moselle Franconian. Can you identify the Benrath Line, the Bad Honnef Line, and the Sankt Goar Line?

Important terms: isogloss, Benrath Line, Bad Honnef Line, Sankt Goar Line

 

Other characteristics of Moselle Franconian

  • Extra vowels (Sproßvokale) in many words: “elef” (“elf”, eleven), “Kallef” (“Kalb”, calf), “fären” (“fern”, far)
  • Changes in vowels like ü, ö, and eu (Entrundung, de-rounding): “Äppelbeemchen” (“Apfelbäumchen”, little apple tree), “schein” (“schön”, beautiful)
  • Changes in vowels that come before “r” and “sch”: “ärm” (“arm”, poor), “wärm” (“warm”, warm)
  • At the beginning of words, “t” changes to “d”: “Dier” (“Tier”, animal)
  • Instead of a “g”-sound, one often hears a “j”-sound: “jot” (“gut”, good), “Jlas” (“Glas”, glass)
  • Women or girls are referred to as “das”, and then their name. Example: “das Kate” instead of “die Kate”

And one last example…you will often hear “Jooooooo” instead of “ja”!

 

One last (and important) word on Moselle Franconian: Moselle Franconian can be a tricky dialect, as it is comprised of many very different varieties. For instance, in Mayen one would hear one variety spoken (“Mayener Platt”), while in Trier one would hear another variety (“Trierer Platt”), even though both variations are considered part of Moselle Franconian. When you are in Mayen, you can perhaps try to identify some examples of Mayener Platt that are not mentioned in this website!

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