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Westphalian language

Native to Germany,[1] Netherlands
Region Westphalia[1]
Native speakers
(no estimate available)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 wep
Glottolog west2356[2]
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Westphalian or Westfalish (Westfäölsk) is one of the major dialect groups of West Low German. Its most salient feature is its diphthongization (rising diphthongs). For example, speakers say ieten ([ɪɛtn̩]) instead of eten for "to eat". (There is also a difference in the use of consonants within the Westphalian dialects: North of the Wiehengebirge, people tend to speak unvoiced consonants, south of the Wiehengebirge they voiced their consonants, e.g. Foite > Foide.)

The Westphalian dialect region includes the north-eastern part of North Rhine-Westphalia, i.e. the former Prussian province of Westphalia, without Siegerland and Wittgenstein, but including the southern part of former government district Weser-Ems (e.g. the region around Osnabrück and the landscape of Emsland).

Varieties and similarities

Among the Westphalian language there are different subgroups of dialects:

Westphalian has many lexical similarities and other proximities with Eastphalian, extending to the East and a bit to the North of the area where Westphalian is spoken.


True Westphalian is currently only spoken by mostly elderly people. The majority of the Westphalian population speak instead a local variety of standard German with a Westphalian accent. This accent, however, does not stand out as much as for example Bavarian, due to the fact that Westphalia is closer to the Hanover region, whose speech variety is generally considered to be standard modern German.

One of the reasons for the diminishing use of Westphalian is the rigorous enforcement of German-only policies in traditionally Low German-speaking areas during the 18th century. Westphalian, and Low German in general, unlike many of the Middle German dialects, were too distant from standard German to be considered dialects and were therefore not tolerated and efforts were made to stamp it out. In an extreme case, Hanover and its hinterland were forced to adopt rather unnaturally a form of German based on the written standard.

Nevertheless, the Westphalian dialect of German includes some words that originate from the dying Westphalian language, which are otherwise unintelligible for other German speakers from outside Westphalia. Examples include Pölter [pœltɐ], "pajamas", Plörre [plœʁə] "dirty liquid", and Mötke [mœtkə] "mud, dirt".


  1. ^ a b c d Westphalian at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Westphalien". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.