Dorf (village), rural settlement, characterised by a typical rural architectural, economic and social structure, formerly prevalent, today less distinct. In modern times the originally economic community (self-governed co-operative, partly independent administration of justice, a legal and economic unit under a landlord) developed into an administrative community.
Traditional rural settlements are defined by the types of houses and Farmhouse Types, the Farmland, Subdivision of and the Settlement, Forms of . A village is a group settlement (as opposed to an individual settlement) displaying typical elements of traditional groups and types of villages: scattered settlements and loose village types in contrast to closed villages. Among the closed villages the nucleated village displays an irregular form; linear villages and street villages display regular linear structures. A mixture of the closed and linear types are those villages where the houses are arranged around the village green or the village square (circular and rectangular forms, radial villages). Urban lifestyles and the industrial economy have changed the face of rural settlements (new residential streets and areas expanded the villages). Today, an increasing number of commuters and the rising number of second homes have resulted in the growth of villages, and in turn to the creation of purely residential village areas. The creation of new industrial sites has also contributed to the growth of villages.
In the past a village was an economic unit (a household formed the basis for the organisation of labour); agriculture constituted a major part of the income (supplemented by income from trade, crafts and services). The social structure of a rural community comprised the farmers (coloni), those who owned a small house, but no land (inquilini), those who rented (subinquilini, pauperes) and the farm labourers. As a result of socio-economic changes over the past 40 years the village population of today is dominated by people whose main occupation is not in agriculture; farming has come to be regarded as a source of supplementary income.
The characteristics of a traditional farming village community were strong social relations, particularly with neighbours (which acted as a kind of "social control"), rigid social structures, economic, social, cultural and religious standards (customs, festivals, interest groups, family life) and other phenomena of every-day culture (architecture and housing, clothing, food, etc.). Over the past few centuries the rural community and its characteristics (influenced by political, economic, social and cultural structures) have undergone several periods of change. The rise of tourism, which began as early as the 19th century and has rapidly developed over the past few decades, and the Heimatschutz protectionist movement have resulted in the revitalisation and commercialisation of customs, traditional costumes and folk art in the village (folklorism).
The rural character of a village is often seen in contrast to urban society; since the 19th century a certain degree of "overlapping" of rural and urban culture (e.g. in architecture, housing and clothing) has been noticeable. The industrialisation and urbanisation of rural areas, the increasing mobility of the population, the development of tourism, the increasing number of second homes of people from the cities in rural areas and the cultural integration of media and communication systems have blurred the distinction between urban and rural social structures.
These fundamental changes, which have contributed to a multitude of regional and local varieties, have made it difficult to find a uniform definition of the concept of the village. This is why in regional planning the expression "community displaying a rural structure" (rural community) is increasingly used. As there is no uniform definition, the number of people living in villages can only be estimated. In Austria 380,435 people live in communities of less than 1,000 inhabitants, 2,214,022 in communities of up to 2,500 inhabitants (census 1991). In contrast, the figures for 1961 showed 1,152,005 people living in communities of up to 1,000 inhabitants and 2,689,384 people in communities of up to 2,500 inhabitants.