Dialects: As a consequence of the historical stability of the Austrian lands the dialects in Austria are largely congruent with the provinces and thus also bear their names (Viennese, Styrian, Tirolean, etc.; the Burgenland dialect was formerly sometimes referred to as "Heanzen" dialect). They merge into each other without any clear-cut language boundaries and have always been in close mutual contact; in fact, they are similar enough to have generated common Austrian colloquial and standard languages ( Austrian German). Only the Alemannic dialect of Vorarlberg differs to a great extent from the other Austrian dialects, which are of Bavarian origin, and is closer to the languages spoken in Switzerland and Swabia.
The Austrian dialects developed out of Middle High German. As early as in the High Middle Ages there were distinct individual dialects in Austria Vernacular Literature), whose emergence was closely linked to the territories of the temporal and spiritual lords that remained unaltered for long periods of time.
The dialects of Vienna, Lower Austria, Burgenland, Upper Austria, a large part of Salzburg and a small part of Styria evolved out of Middle Bavarian. The salient characteristics of these dialects, spoken in the regions along the River Danube, are: consonants are weakened (p to b; t to d; k to g in front of l, n, r); l and r are vocalised in certain positions; vowels with secondary stress are omitted, as in the prefix ge- and the -e at the end of a word; ancient parasitic sounds from Old High German are preserved, particularly in the conservative "ui" dialect of Lower Austria and Burgenland.
The Austrian dialects belonging to Southern Bavarian are spoken in the mountainous regions, in Carinthia, Tirol, most parts of Styria, parts of Salzburg and the extreme south of Burgenland. They are somewhat closer to the standard language, mainly because they keep the fortis sounds (k, p, t) and the vowels with secondary stress (ge-).
The Burgenland dialects are considered relatively antiquated and have a lilting accent. Carinthian is also an old dialect that sounds particularly melodic and soft, a fact that is not least due to the linguistic interaction with the Slovenians, which has lasted for centuries. Its most salient feature is the "Carinthian lengthening" of the vowels. The inhabitants of each valley have their own variant forms. Distinctive characteristics of Carinthian are the diminutive suffix "-le" and the much-used expletive "lai", meaning "only" (instead of High German "nur"). Lower Austrian is a somewhat more modern dialect, particularly in the plains surrounding Vienna, where usage is strongly influenced by the Viennese language standards. The areas in which the "ui" dialect is spoken have maintained their traditional character. Upper Austrian dialects are traditional rural dialects, with the exception of the eastern part, where usage has adopted modern characteristics. Pronunciation shows considerable differences in the various parts of Upper Austria. The Salzburg dialect ("Pinzgauerisch-Pongauerisch") is a "mountain dialect" with peculiar features in the Flachgau region. Styrian is divided into Upper Styrian and Middle Styrian. The former is also spoken in parts of Lower Austria; the Heanzen dialect extends into parts of eastern Styria on the border to Burgenland. The most conservative dialect in Austria is Tirolean; its most distinctive features are the sh-pronunciation of the s (as in -sp, -st, -rs, etc.) and the affricative k. Even more conservative are the numerous dialects of Austrian origin spoken in various Speech Enclaves, which go back as far as the Middle Ages. Old Viennese, still in use during the times of Maria Theresia (1717-1780), has considerably changed since and its use has much decreased over time. Its place has been taken by "New Viennese" after 1918 and "Young Viennese" after 1945. Interaction between the old dialects and High German gave birth to colloquial language standards, which have spread from Vienna to large parts of Austria, in particular to provincial capitals and larger towns; hence, the rural dialects are increasingly assimilated into Viennese language usage. The Vorarlberg dialect is also spoken in parts of the Lech Valley in Tirol. Again, there is a wide variety of individual forms and developments.
The introduction of compulsory education and military service, and especially the influence of the mass media, have resulted in a growing erosion of dialects in favour of the standard language. Dialect Dictionaries.
Literature#M. Hornung and F. Roitinger, Unsere Mundarten, 1950; E. Kranzmayer, Historische Lautgeographie des gesamtbairischen Dialektraumes, 1956; M. Hornung, Mundartkunde Osttirols, 1964; idem, Woerterbuch der Wr. Mundart, 1998.