Intangible Cultural Heritage in Austria

The Dialect of Montafon

Applicant: MMag. Michael Kasper
Province: Vorarlberg
Domain: Oral Traditions
Year of inclusion: 2017

Muntafunerisch represents a special case among Austrian’s German dialects. Embedded in Vorarlberg’s landscape of Alemannic-Swabian dialects, it is distinguished by its retention of so-called relic words. The presence of such words can be explained by the Montafon Valley’s settlement history: around 1300 CE, the Rhaeto-Romanic language was superseded here due to the immigration of the Walser people, but today there still remain at least 200 relic words, figures of speech, and grammatical peculiarities as well as an enormously broad inventory of phonemes that are almost entirely devoid of diphthongs. The Montafon dialect remains a central element of local identity and is used in everyday life. It is spoken in family settings, in school, at work, and at public functions, in the process being upheld and passed on from generation to generation.

The Montafon dialect (Muntafunerisch) is spoken and understood from Lorüns to Partenen, as well as in the Silbertal and Gargellen side valleys. This dialect joins Rhaeto-Romanic words as well as articulations of Walser origin with the dominant Lower Alemannic elements to form a single whole that has developed over centuries. These peculiarities have been utilised by linguistics scholars as exemplary cases both of how specific phonemes develop and of the effects of linguistic contact. The dialect of Montafon is rooted most deeply in the activities that strongly characterize past and present everyday life in the region (such as agriculture, woodworking, householding, etc.). Some terms have—unavoidably—disappeared by now, since there is no present-day need for them. But in conversational settings and at afternoon storytelling sessions, readings, and other events, Muntafunerisch is consciously upheld and passed on. The ability to speak or at least understand the dialect is an important prerequisite for participation in local life, since it is strongly anchored in everyday activities.