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Rural word-rarities

Six almost forgotten dialect words

The ancient dialect has remained alive in Ötztal. Nevertheless, fairly old words are disappearing from everyday use. We bring six terms from the rural environment back into the spotlight.

Listen to what the locals really say and mean

The Ötztal dialect is a 900 year old, quite independent language. It has preserved numerous antiquities - due to the earlier seclusion of the Alpine valley. In 2010, the Ötztal dialect was awarded by UNESCO as an “intangible cultural heritage”. The dialect expert Josef Öfner has been watching - or rather listening to - the locals carefully for many decades. An outstanding feature: “The word 'mouth' doesn't exist in the Ötztal dialect,” smiles Josef. "No matter whether cow, horse or human: everyone has a muzzle."

Dialect 2.0: Ötztal dialect goes social media

Audio samples of the onomatopoeic singsong are not only available in the museum or via audio files on the Internet. But also on the street, in the shops, at school, on the farm. Everywhere in the valley, of course, the typical Ötztal dialect is spoken in everyday life. "I am absolutely not worried that the Ötztal dialect will soon disappear," Josef Öfner states. “On the contrary: especially among young people in their twenties, the dialect is totally hip. They even use it for messages on social media or on the answering machine."

Local heritage museum

Alive and endangered at the same time

Precisely because the dialect is so sparkling, it also changes constantly. Because language is a coming and going: new terms are integrated, old things are cleared out. For example, everyday rural objects that are rarely used will disappear. Or manual work that hardly anyone does any more. Here are six terms that have almost been forgotten:


Pikto Radio Go to the soundclip

Kind of a wheelbarrow. The single-wheel item is almost entirely made of wood: the wheel, the handles as well as the entire surface for the load.


Piktogramm Radio Go to the soundclip

“Bread gate”: a wooden frame in whose compartments (four to six rows on top of each other) the freshly baked Breätlen - an Ötztal type of bread - are stored. In some households you will still find it. In others, it may soon be celebrating a comeback boosted by the trend of baking bread at home.


Radio Symbol Go to the soundclip

A metal container for heating water. In other regions it is also called "water ship". Old kitchen stoves, fired with wood or coal, usually contained a tin container filled with water. Heating up the stove there was hot water at the same time.

Kiible treibm

Pikto Radio Go to the soundclip

The pounding of homemade butter in a butter churn, a wooden vat. A wooden stick was stamped up and down in it, with a wheel at the bottom. As a result, the cream has solidified into butter. Even today, the term is still used although making butter is now done by machine.


Pikto Radio Go to the soundclip

A stiff, padded ring that is put around the neck of draft animals. It distributes the pulling force – for example on the chest and shoulders. With horses this is the only way to use the full pulling power.


Pikto Radio Go to the soundclip

A historical “crushing mill” for breaking flax: two large wooden beams powered by water alternately stamp on granite blocks on which the dried flax lies. It detaches the woody parts of the flax stem from the fiber. In ancient times, the cultivation of flax was an important source of income for Ötztal’s farming families. Varied flax processing equipment can be admired in the Ötztal Local Heritage & Outdoor Museum in Längenfeld.

Ötztal dialect dictionary: 5500 local words from A to Z

The regional vocabulary has now been documented in Ötztal. Systematically and scientifically well-founded: The Ötztal museums have created an “Ötztal dialect dictionary” in collaboration with the Tirolean Dialect Archive of Innsbruck’s University. This digital dictionary has recently been available online - for reading and listening to (via audio files that were recorded in the “Memory archives” of Längenfeld). The Ötztal dialect dictionary currently includes around 5500 terms, from A for “Åacharle” (squirrel) to Z for “zwui” (why). And there are more and more words. All Ötztal locals are invited to continue making “word donations”. Not to preserve the Ötztal dialect under the cheese dome, but to promote its lively character.

Ötztal dialect at a glance:

The Ötztal dialect ...

• has been spoken for at least 900 years;

• has been UNESCO's “intangible cultural heritage” since 2010;

• is still alive and constantly changing;

• Not spoken in the same way within the entire valley: different villages or valley areas sometimes have different terms for the same things. Pronunciation and grammar also vary from village to village. In the municipality of Umhausen, for example, the German dative and accusative are reversed.

Josef Öfner

Dialect expert Josef Öfner

Josef Öfner lives in Längenfeld - Ötztal and has been dealing with the local dialect already for many decades.

That is why he carries around a very valuable treasure trove of words that he has made available in the Ötztal dialect dictionary.

Uwe Grinzinger

Author: Uwe Grinzinger

The passionate mountain photographer, journalist and hiking guide instructor loves to be out and about in the quiet spots of the Alps. Therefore, he has enough to discover within Ötztal and surroundings. www.agentur-bergwerk.at


Uwe Grinzinger learns interesting facts about the Ötztal dialect from dialect expert Josef Öfner in the ÖTZTAL MAGAZINE - Summer 2021. The print magazine with the latest and most interesting stories about Ötztal’s spring, summer and autumn seasons is available free of charge in DE/EN from all Ötztal Tourismus Information Offices. You can order it at HERE and have it delivered for free to your home or view it as a flip-through brochure.