Major Homeland Dialect Regions of German Around 1900

German homeland dialects are divided into three major groups: Low German, Middle German and Upper German. German-speaking immigrants to Kansas speak dialects from all three regions. These major regions are subdivided into their most prominent sub-regions above. These sub-regions are subdivided into even smaller important regional dialects (see below) on many printed dialect maps where more detail can be displayed.
All these regions differentiate themselves in their pronunciation of certain consonants and vowels and sometimes in the loss of or differences in certain word endings.
The lines that separate the dialect areas are called isoglosses. Although isoglosses are displayed as lines, they are actually transition areas where pronunciation gradually changes. Sometimes an isogloss conforms to a natural boundary, such as a river or mountain range. Sometimes it conforms to a current or former national border. Sometimes there is no obvious reason for a pronunciation isogloss to fall where it does.
Rural regions can have their own dialects, as can cities. Dialects are also often identified by differences in vocabulary that may or may not cross over pronunciation isoglosses.

The isoglosses displayed above indicate the following pronunciation differences:
Where Low German has ik "I", Middle German has ich.
Where Low German has maken "to make", Middle German has machen.
West Low German speakers say mähet "they mow", while East Low German speakers say mähen.
Where (Low and) Middle German has appel "apple", Upper German has apfel.
Where (Low and) Middle German has pund "pound", Upper German has pfund.
West Middle German pund is pronounced fund in the East Middle German region.
West Upper German and North Upper German pronounce the 2nd person plural object pronoun "you (all)" as euch while the East Upper German speakers say enk.
West Upper German speakers say mähet "they mow", while North Upper German speakers say mähe.

Regional dialects found in the prominent dialect sub-regions:

West Low German:    Eastphalian, Westphalian, North Low Saxon, East Frisian
East Low German:    Mecklenburgish, Vorpommersch, Brandenburgish, East Pomeranian, Low Prussian, Plautdietsch

West Middle German:    Ripuarian, Mosel-Franconian, Rhein-Franconian, Hessian
East Middle German:     Thuringian, Upper Saxon, Silesian, High Prussian

West Upper German:    Alemanic, Swabian, Alsatian
North Upper German:     East Franconian, South Franconian
East Upper German:     Bavarian-Austrian, North Bavarian, South Bavarian

Last updated August 26, 2009