Kölsch dialect

Kölsch dialect
Spoken in Germany
Region Cologne and environs
Native speakers 250,000  (date missing)
Language family
Language codes
ISO 639-3 ksh

Kölsch (Colognian, Kölsch: Kölsch) is a very closely related small set of dialects, or variants, of the Ripuarian Central German group of languages. Kölsch is spoken in and partially around Cologne in the area covered by the Archdiocese and former Principality of Cologne ranging from Düsseldorf to just south of Bonn, west to Düren and east to Olpe. in the North-West of Germany. Kölsch is one of the very few city dialects in Germany, besides for example the one in Berlin ("Berliner Schnauze"). Kölsch is one of the few dialects of German where the eszett can appear in double form; for example, in the word ėßß ("is").



In Cologne, it is actively spoken by about 250,000 people, roughly one quarter of the population. Almost all speakers are also fluent in standard or 'high' German. It is widely understood in a region inhabited by some 10 million people (a conservative estimate).


There are local (decreasingly divergent) variants of Kölsch in the Quarters, most notably those only recently incorporated into the city, and the Hinterland.[clarification needed] Sometimes, also the far more than 100 clearly distinct Ripuarian languages of Belgium, Netherlands, and German Rhineland are incorrectly referred to as Kölsch, as well as the so called rheinisch tongue. In fact, the rheinisch regiolect has very little in common with Kölsch, being a variety of standard German, to which it is so close that local speakers of lesser education usually cannot even tell the difference.

Language family

Kölsch is one of the variants of the Ripuarian dialects (also known as the Rhinelandic or rheinisch dialects - as opposed to the regiolect), which belong to the West Franconian family, itself a variant of West Middle German. It is closely related to the lower Rhineland (niederrheinisch) and Moselle Franconian (moselfränkisch) dialects and combines some features of them, as well employing a variety of words being hardly in use elsewhere. Common with the Limburgish language group and other Ripuarian languages, it has a distinct intonation, referred to as the 'singing' rheinisch tone. In fact, there are several, rather often used words only distinguishable by slight intonation differences, very noticeable ones to locals, though. Also Kölsch conveys different meaning by different intonation inside sentences; for example each of: He meant what he said, He was only consoling (someone), He knew what he was saying, He did not mean what he said, He was lying/pretending, He said exactly that, It is most questionable that he said something like that, He did say that, It was him who said that (and no one else), He has expressed that precisely so, He would have said that so (but was involuntarily kept from), He said that so orally (but did not write it, sign it, etc.), and six different questions, can be meant by: Dat hätt dä esu jesaat.

Modern form

In its modern form it is of comparatively recent origin. It developed from Historic Colognian. It particularly thrived in contact with French during the occupation of Cologne under Napoleon Bonaparte from 1794–1815 and thus contains many words from and expressions pertaining to French. There are also phonological similarities in that it is regarded a very nasal dialect by some, and it exhibits consonant liaison.

Contrastive linguistics

In comparison to most other German dialects, Kölsch is unusually well documented through the work of the Akademie för uns Kölsche Sproch and scholars like Adam Wrede whose publications include a dictionary, a grammar and a variety of phrase books. While Kölsch is not commonly taught in schools (although there are often extracurricular offerings) and a lot of young people do not have a proper command of it, many theaters exist that perform exclusively in Kölsch, most notably the Volkstheater Millowitsch, named after the late Willy Millowitsch (1909–1999) and the famous puppet theater, Hänneschentheater. There has also recently been an increase in literature written in this dialect and both traditional music and rock in Kölsch are very popular in Cologne, especially around Carnival, including bands such as Brings, The piano has been drinking... (de), Bläck Fööss, Höhner and others. The Kölsch rock group BAP is even among the most successful rock bands in Germany. Another noticeable phenomenon is the watered-down usage of the dialect by German TV personalities, like comedian Gabi Köster.


In Kölsch, kölsch was originally and still is an adjective meaning 'of or pertaining to Cologne' and was nominalized to refer to the dialect or to the local beer.

The Lord's Prayer in Kölsch

This is a relatively recent, and modern, version of the Lord's Prayer in Colognian, by Jean Jenniches (1894–1979) [1]


Leeve Herrjott, hellich ess Dinge Name.
Vum Himmel us rejeers Do et janze Weltall
noh Dingem Welle.
Wie ne Vatter sorgs Do för de Minschheit,
die he op de Äd Di Rich erwaden deit.
Vill Nut es en der Welt, döm bedde mer:
maach doch, dat keine Minsch mieh muss
Hunger ligge.
Nemm vun uns alle Sündeschold,
domet och jederein ess jnädich de eije
Helf Do uns, dat meer alle Versökunge
un halt alles vun uns fähn, wat unsem
iwije Heil schade künnt.


See also


  1. ^ from page 139 of Jean Jenniches: Foder för Laachduve, Greven Verlag, Köln, 2009. ISBN 978-3-7743-0435-2

External links

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