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Austrian students are speaking more like Germans: study

When in Vienna, do as the Berliners? Youth in Austria are increasingly adopting words and grammar practices from their neighbors in Germany, according to a new study: "Servus" is slowly giving way to "Tschüss."

Don't dare confuse an Austrian with a German. The smaller central-eastern European country is known for being proud of its cultural and linguistic heritage. Historically, Austria developed separately from Germany, once part of the Habsburg Empire, and cherishes its distinction from its much larger neighbor.

Now, it seems, a young generation of Austrians may be getting more lax about preserving the local linguistic practices and is increasingly taking on both vocabulary and grammar rules used in Germany - a phenomenon known as "Deutschlandismen," or "Germany-isms."

While an older Austrian would bid farewell with "Servus" or "Pfiati," more youths (79 percent) are choosing the German "Tschüss," according to a study led by linguist Rudolf de Cillia from the University of Vienna. 32 percent opted for "Ciao," 22 percent for "Servus," and only 10 percent each for "Baba" and "Pfiati." Still a majority, but only 60% of their teachers chose "Tschüss" over the traditional Austrian good-byes.

The study, which involved curriculum reviews, surveys, and interviews, examined more than 1,250 secondary school pupils and 160 teachers, according to Austrian newspaper "Der Standard."

Horse and carriage at the Stephansdom in Vienna, Copyright: AP

Traditions are kept alive in Vienna - at least for tourists

Der, die, das?

One major grammatical difference between Germany and Austria is the use of the three gendered articles: der (masculine), die (feminine) and das (neutral). Instead of "das E-Mail," "das Cola" and "das SMS," more Austrian high schoolers are using "die" just like their peers in Germany.

Austrian words like "Bub" (boy) and "Wimmerl" (pimple) are yielding to the German "Junge" and "Pimpel," respectively. Overall on the survey, 61 percent of the teachers and only 46 percent of students elected Austrianisms.

However, in some cases Austrian vocabulary continues to prevail for both pupils and their teachers: "Jänner" and "Schweinsbraten" are still more common than "Januar" (January) and "Schweinebraten" (pork roast).

According to the study, the younger the participant was, the more likely they were to opt for the German rather than Austrian variant of a word. While a conclusive reason wasn't named, researchers largely attributed German television consumption to speech habits.

What's your favorite German word? Share on Twitter with @dw_culture or the author, @katemueser. For more on learning German, click on the links below.

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