THE ALSATIAN LANGUAGE
First of all, the Alsatian language refers to all the traditional Alemannic and Franconian dialects of Alsace. Alsace is a French department and the country ranks its main dialects as a regional language. However, The dialect used can vary from one village to another. The main dialect is the Alemannic, spoken over most of the region. Next comes Rhenish Franconian, in the north of Alsace.
In order to transcribe it, we use German. This is due to the fact that its roots are much more Germanic than Latin. Also, next to Germany, this region was for a long time the object of rivalry between the two countries. Although it is French, it became German on many times. This, when the Germans conquered France during the world wars but also before that.
In terms of number of speakers, Alsatian is the second native language in France, just after French. Far too little known, the region counted nearly 800,000 Alsatian speakers in 2014. And that still represents 43% of the regional population. Nevertheless, this figure takes into account all the Germanic languages gathered under this name. In fact, 33% of speakers say they can speak or understand Alsatian to some extent. Finally, 25% of the population declare that they neither master nor understand the Alsatian dialect.
Of course, the use of Alsatian dialects varies according to the age. While nearly 75% of the over 60s spoke it in 2017, only 24% of the 30-44 year olds spoke it. Worse, the 18-29 year olds were only 12% and the 3-17 year olds, only 3%. And every new year confirms that trend. Yet, France, very focused on history, considers regional dialects as a cultural heritage. Thus, there is a paradox between imposing French on everyone while protecting Alsatian. That is why any student can choose to pass the national diploma in any regional language.
Elsewhere, there are some traces of Alsatian, practised marginally by a minority in Castroville, Texas. Indeed, it was people from the Mulhouse area who founded this town. But also in several Amish communities, mostly in Indiana.
All these Alsatian dialects have an earlier linguistic origin dating back to the 4th century. By the way, they are common to the German language, which only appeared in the 15th century.
Until the 4th century, the people of the Rhine Valley mainly used Celtic, related to Gallic and Gallo Romanic. However, the Alamans came there as early as the 4th century, later followed by the Franks. The latter brought with them their Frankish and Alemannic dialects. All of these dialects came from Common Germanic (attested around 500 BC). The latter gave rise to a very large number of dialects grouped into different branches.
Thus, the usual dialects of Alsace, gathered in Alsatian, include Germanic dialects. These derived from Middle German, for Franconian (North Alsace and Moselle), and from High German (the rest of the region). Also, the region itself divides into two sub groups. On the one hand, Low Germanic (central Alsace and South Alsace). On the other hand, High Germanic (extreme South Alsace and Sundgau region).
Germanic dialects tend to stress the first syllables of a word. Except for words of foreign origin. Also, Alsatian tends to link words to form new longer words. In this case, we place the accent on the first syllable of each compound word. Also, when an unstressed prefix precedes a word or verb, we stress the first syllable of the stem.
Like German, Alsatian dialects have three genders: masculine, feminine and neuter. As well as a plural for all of them. Also, it gets three declensions: nominative, accusative and dative. Where the Alsatian language differs from German is that it does not have a genitive. So, we replace it by a form using the dative.
About the tenses, it gets only three including the present tense. The other two are compound tenses. First, the past tense, which includes a compound past tense and a plus perfect tense. Second, the future tense. Plus, there are few modes: indicative and subjunctive. We also use the latter to form the conditional. And we do not forget the active voice, the processual passive (action in progress) and the balance passive (action completed).
Like all other Alemannic dialects, it can use three types of present tense. First, the present progressive. Second, the traditional present tense. Finally, the periphrastic present tense with the auxiliary "düen" by conjugating it in the present tense and adding the verb in the infinitive.
Of course, the fact that Alsace became French from the 17th century onwards has affected the lexical. Thus, it has preserved a large number of words and expressions, now disappeared in the German speaking world. Also, it borrowed from French. An that is not all as it also shares link with Yiddish from the Jewish people from Poland and East Europe.