Austrian German has its beginning in the mid-18th century, when empress Maria Theresa and her son Joseph II introduced compulsory schooling (in 1774) and several reforms of administration in their multilingual Empire. At the time the written standard was Oberdeutsche Schreibsprache, which was highly influenced by the Bavarian and Alemannic dialects of Austria. Another option was to create a new standard based on the Southern German dialects, as proposed by the linguist Janez Žiga Popovič (=Johann Siegmund Popowitsch). Instead they decided for pragmatic reasons to adopt the already standardized Chancellery language of Saxony (Sächsische Kanzleisprache or Meißner Kanzleideutsch), which was based on the standard language used for administrative purposes in the area of the cities of Meißen and Dresden, which were not part of the Austrian lands. Thus Austrian German is based on the same historical standard as the Federal German High German (Bundesdeutsches Hochdeutsch or nowadays also called Deutschländisches Deutsch, the Standard German of Germany) and Swiss High German (Schweizer Hochdeutsch, not to be confused with Swiss German, a group of Alemannic dialects spoken in Switzerland). The process of introducing the new written Standard was led by Joseph von Sonnenfels.
Since 1951 the standardized form of Austrian German for official texts and schools is defined by the Austrian Dictionary (German: Österreichisches Wörterbuch), published under the authority of the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture.