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Austro-Bavarian or Bavarian (German: Bairisch, autonym Boarisch) is a major group of Upper German varieties spoken in the south east of the German language area.


History and origin

The Austro-Bavarian regiolect has its origins in the Germanic tribe known as the Bavarii, who established a tribal duchy, which covered much of what is today Bavaria and some of Austria in the early Middle Ages and was eventually subdued by Charlemagne. However, they gradually migrated down the Danube and into the Alps to all those areas where Austro-Bavarian dialects are spoken. German linguists refer to this speech variety, a group of three East Upper German dialects, simply as "Bairisch" (Bavarian, without "Austro"). They are divided into "Oberpfälzisch" (Upper Palatinian, i.e. North[ern] Bavarian), "Donaubairisch" (Danube or Danubian Bavarian, i.e. Central Bavarian) and "Alpenbairisch" (Alpine Bavarian, i.e. South[ern] Bavarian).

These areas had been provinces of the Roman Empire, and the languages of the population were based on Latin, but this language was replaced by the Germanic dialects of the immigrants as the previous inhabitants were assimilated or forced out. This development contrasts with that in the provinces of Gallia and Hispania, where the Germanic languages of the conquerors of those territories were able to exert only a limited influence on the Romance dialects of the local populations.

In German, the very old word "Bairisch", referring to the language, is typically differentiated from the 19th-century term "Bayerisch", which refers to the state of Bavaria. Because of King Ludwig I's passion for all things Hellenic, the German name for Bavaria today is spelled "Bayern", using the Greek 'y', it also reflects the growth of Bavaria after the Vienna Congress into culturally non-Bavarian areas, e.g. Franconia and Swabia, and the attempts to integrate them into the newly formed kingdom. The language spoken there has retained its original Germanic spelling "Bairisch", using the Roman 'i'.

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