|Deitsch, Pennsilfaanisch Deitsch|
|Native to||United States, Canada|
|147,000 (2012-2016 American Community Survey)|
to 350,000 (2012) (L2 speakers: about 3,000)
Blue: The counties with the highest proportion of Pennsylvania German speakers.
Red: The counties with the highest number of Pennsylvania German speakers.
Purple: The counties with both the highest proportion and highest number of Pennsylvania German speakers.
Pennsylvania German (Deitsch, Pennsilfaanisch-Deitsch listen (help·info), Pennsilfaanisch), usually referred to as Pennsylvania Dutch,[a] is a variety of West Central German spoken by the Old Order Amish, Old Order Mennonites and other descendants of German immigrants in the United States and Canada, closely related to the Palatine dialects. There are possibly more than 300,000 native speakers in the United States and Canada. In Pennsylvania, 29.9% of the population currently claim German ancestry.
It has traditionally been the dialect of the Pennsylvania Dutch, descendants of late 17th- and early to late 18th-century immigrants to Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina from southern Germany, eastern France (Alsace and Lorraine), and Switzerland. Although for many, the term "Pennsylvania Dutch" is often taken to refer to the Amish and related Old Order groups exclusively, the term should not imply a connection to any particular religious group.
Contrary to popular belief, the word "Dutch" in "Pennsylvania Dutch" is not a mistranslation, but rather a corruption of the Pennsylvania German endonym Deitsch, which means "Pennsylvania Dutch / German" or "German". Ultimately, the terms Deitsch, Dutch, Diets and Deutsch are all cognates of the Proto-Germanic word *þiudiskaz meaning "popular" or "of the people". The continued use of "Pennsylvania Dutch" was strengthened by the Pennsylvania Dutch in the 19th century as a way of distinguishing themselves from later (post 1830) waves of German immigrants to the United States, with the Pennsylvania Dutch referring to themselves as Deitsche and to Germans as Deitschlenner (literally "Germany-ers", compare Deutschland-er) whom they saw as a related but distinct group.
Speakers of the dialect today are primarily found in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and other Midwestern states of the United States, and in Ontario in Canada. Historically, the dialect was also spoken in several other regions where its use has either largely or entirely faded. The practice of Pennsylvania German as a street language in urban areas of Pennsylvania (such as Allentown, Reading, Lancaster, and York) was declining by the arrival of the 20th century, while in more rural areas it continued in widespread use through the World War II era. Since that time, its use has greatly declined. The exception to this decline is in the context of the Old Order Amish and Old Order Mennonite communities, and presently the members of these two groups make up the majority of Pennsylvania German speakers .
The ancestors of Pennsylvania German speakers came from various parts of the southwest corner of the German-speaking region of Europe, mainly the Palatinate, but also including the Electoral Palatinate (German: Kurpfalz), the Duchy of Baden, Hesse, Saxony, Swabia, Württemberg, Alsace (German Elsass), German Lorraine, and Switzerland. Most of them spoke Rhine Franconian, especially Palatinan and to a lesser degree Alemannic dialects, and it is believed that in the first generations after the settlers arrived these dialects merged. The result of that dialect levelling was a dialect very close to the eastern dialects of Palatinian, especially the rural dialects around Mannheim/Ludwigshafen.
"Pennsylvania German" is mainly derived from Palatinate German, spoken by 2,400,000 Germans in Rhine-Neckar Metropolitan Region (a region almost identical to the historical Palatinate). There are many similarities between the German dialect that is still spoken in this small part of southwestern Germany and Pennsylvania German. When individuals from the Palatinate (Pfalz) region of Germany today encounter Pennsylvania German speakers, conversation is often possible to a limited degree.
Pennsylvania German has primarily been a spoken dialect throughout its history, with very few of its speakers making much of an attempt to read or write it. Writing in Pennsylvania German can be a difficult task, and there is no spelling standard for the dialect. There are currently two primary, competing models which numerous orthographic (i.e., spelling) systems have been based upon by individuals attempting to write in the Pennsylvania German dialect. One 'school' tends to follow the rules of American English orthography, the other the rules of Standard German orthography (developed by Preston Barba and Buffington). The choice of writing system is not meant to imply any difference in pronunciation. For comparison, a translation into Pennsylvania German, using two different spelling systems, of the Lord's Prayer, as found in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, is presented below. The text in the second column illustrates a system based on American English orthography. The text in the third column uses, on the other hand, a system based on Standard German. The English original is found in the first column, and a Standard German version appears in the fifth column. (Note: The German version(s) of the Lord's Prayer most likely to have been used by Pennsylvania Germans would have been derived in most cases from Martin Luther's translation of the New Testament.)
|English (BCP)||Writing system 1
|Writing system 2
|Modern Palatinate German||Modern German
|Our Father who art in heaven,||Unsah Faddah im Himmel,||Unser Vadder im Himmel,||Unser Vadder im Himmel||Unser Vater im Himmel,||Vater Unser im Himmel,|
|Hallowed be thy name.||dei nohma loss heilich sei,||dei Naame loss heilich sei,||Dei Name sell heilich sei,||Deinen Namen lass heilig sein,||geheiligt werde dein Name,|
|Thy kingdom come.||Dei Reich loss kumma.||Dei Reich loss komme.||Dei Reich sell kumme,||Dein Reich lass kommen.||Dein Reich komme.|
|Thy will be done,||Dei villa loss gedu sei,||Dei Wille loss gedu sei,||Dei Wille sell gschehe||Deinen Willen lass getan sein,||Dein Wille geschehe,|
|on earth as it is in heaven.||uf di eaht vi im Himmel.||uff die Erd wie im Himmel.||uf de Erd wie im Himmel.||auf der Erde wie im Himmel.||wie im Himmel, so auf Erden.|
|Give us this day our daily bread.||Unsah tayklich broht gebb uns heit,||Unser deeglich Brot gebb uns heit,||Geb uns heit das Brot, was mer de Daach brauchen,||Unser täglich Brot gib uns heute,||Unser tägliches Brot gib uns heute,|
|And forgive us our trespasses;||Un fagebb unsah shulda,||Un vergebb unser Schulde,||Un vergeb uns unser Schuld||Und vergib unsere Schulden,||Und vergib uns unsere Schuld,|
|as we forgive those who trespass against us.||vi miah dee fagevva vo uns shuldich sinn.||wie mir die vergewwe wu uns schuldich sinn.||wie mir denne vergewwe, wo an uns schuldich worre sin.||wie wir denen vergeben, die uns schuldig sind.||wie auch wir vergeben unseren Schuldigern.|
|And lead us not into temptation||Un fiah uns naett in di fasuchung,||Un fiehr uns net in die Versuchung,||Un fiehr uns nit in Versuchung,||Und führe uns nicht in die Versuchung,||Und führe uns nicht in Versuchung,|
|but deliver us from evil.||avvah hald uns fu'm eevila.||awwer hald uns vum ewile.||awwer rett uns vum Beese.||aber halte uns vom Üblen [fern].||sondern erlöse uns von dem Bösen.|
|For thine is the kingdom, the power||Fa dei is es Reich, di graft,||Fer dei is es Reich, die Graft,||Dir gheert jo es Reich, die Kraft,||Denn Dein ist das Reich, die Kraft||Denn Dein ist das Reich, und die Kraft|
|and the glory, For ever and ever.||un di hallichkeit in ayvichkeit.||un die Hallichkeit in Ewichkeit.||un die Herrlichkeit in Ewichkeit.||und die Herrlichkeit in Ewigkeit.||und die Herrlichkeit in Ewigkeit.|
Since 1997, the Pennsylvania German newspaper Hiwwe wie Driwwe allows dialect authors (of whom there are still about 100) to publish Pennsylvania German poetry and prose. Hiwwe wie Driwwe was founded by Michael Werner. It is published twice a year (2,400 copies per issue)--since 2013 in cooperation with the Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center at Kutztown University. Since 2002, the newspaper is published both online and in print.
In 2006, the German publishing house "Edition Tintenfaß" started to print books in Pennsylvania German.
In 2014, Jehovah's Witnesses began to publish literature in Pennsylvania German.
Pennsylvania German for the most part does not reflect the diverse origins of the early speakers from different regions along the upper Rhine River (Rhineland, Württemberg, Baden, Saarland, Switzerland and the Elsass/Alsace) but almost exclusively the strong immigrant group from the Palatine.
Pennsylvania German is not a corrupted form of Standard German, since Standard German evolved as an archaic -- and for a long time artificial -- koiné language in a very long process that started in the time of classical Middle High German (1170-1250), see Standard German: Origins. Pennsylvania German instead reflects the independent development of Palatine German, especially from the region that is called Vorderpfalz in German.
Several vowel and consonant in Pennsylvania German represent older forms of the German language, e.g. "p" instead of "pf" or "v" instead of "b", while Standard German consonants shifted. They only appear as shifts if Standard German is erroneously seen as the basis from which Pennsylvania German evolved. The correspondence between Standard German and Pennsylvania German occur with a fair degree of regularity.
The American English influence is most significant on vocabulary and to a much lesser degree on pronunciation; the English influence on grammar is relatively small. The question of whether the large loss of the dative case -- the most significant difference compared with Palatine German -- is due to English influence or reflects an inner development, is disputed.
As in Standard German, Pennsylvania German uses three genders (masculine, feminine, and neuter). Pronouns are inflected in three or four cases, while in Standard German there are always four cases. Concerning the article, the nominative and accusative merged, and the dative is mostly lost. As in most other German dialects,[clarification needed] the genitive is lost and often replaced by a special construction using the dative and the possessive pronoun: "the man's dog" becomes em Mann sei Hund (literally: "to the man his dog"). In most regions, the dative has been gradually replaced by the accusative, so that em Mann sei Hund, for example, has frequently become der Mann sei Hund.
Adjectival endings exist, but appear simplified compared to Standard German. As in all other South German dialects, the past tense is generally expressed using the perfect: Ich bin ins Feld glaafe ("I have run into the field") and not the simple past (Ich lief ins Feld ["I ran into the field"]), which is only retained in the verb "to be", as war or ware, corresponding to English "was" and "were". The Subjunctive mood is only extant as Konjunktiv I (Konjunktiv II is totally lost)[clarification needed] in a limited number of verbs. In all other verbs it is expressed through the form of Konjunktiv I of the verbs "to do" (du) and "to have" (hawwe / have) combined with the infinitive or the past participle, e.g., ich daet esse ("I would eat"), ich hett gesse ("I would have eaten").
Several Pennsylvania German grammars have been published over the years. Two examples are A Simple Grammar of Pennsylvania Dutch by J. William Frey and A Pennsylvania German Reader and Grammar by Earl C. Haag.
The list below appears to use IPA symbols to represent sounds used in Standard German (to the left), with an arrow pointing to a sound found to be[clarification needed] at times its Pennsylvania German equivalent. Following each of these entries is an example of a related word from Standard German, once again with an arrow pointing to its modern Pennsylvania German counterpart.
In Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, there have been numerous other shifts that can make their Pennsylvania German particularly difficult for modern High German speakers to understand. A word beginning in ⟨gs⟩ generally becomes ⟨ts⟩ (which is more easily pronounced), so that German gesund > gsund > tsund and German gesagt > gsaat > tsaat. Likewise, German gescheid > gscheid > tscheid (as if it were English *chite). German zurück > zrick > tsrick (exactly as in American English trick but with an extra ⟨s⟩). This shift is rather common with German children learning to speak.
The softened ⟨w⟩ after guttural consonants has mixed with the guttural ⟨r⟩ of earlier generations and also turned into an American ⟨r⟩, so that German gewesen > gwest > grest and German geschwind > gschwind > tschrind (spoken as *trint would be in American English). These changes in pronunciation, combined with the general disappearance of declensions as described above, result in a form of the dialect that has evolved somewhat from its early Pennsylvania origins nearly 300 years ago, while still being rather easy to understand by German dialect speakers of the Rhineland-Palatinate area.
The people from southern Germany, eastern France and Switzerland, from whom the Pennsylvania German culture and dialect sprang, started to arrive in America in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, before the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. To a more limited extent, this is also true of a second wave of immigration in the mid-19th century, which came from the same regions, but settled more frequently in Ohio, Indiana and other parts of the Midwest. Thus, an entire industrial vocabulary relating to electricity, machinery and modern farming implements has naturally been borrowed from the English. For Pennsylvania German speakers who work in a modern trade or in an industrial environment, this could potentially increase the challenge of maintaining their mother tongue.
Numerous English words have been borrowed and adapted for use in Pennsylvania German since the first generations of Pennsylvania German habitation of southeastern Pennsylvania. Examples of English loan words that are relatively common are bet (Ich bet, du kannscht Deitsch schwetze = I bet you can speak Pennsylvania German), depend (Es dependt en wennig, waer du bischt = it depends somewhat on who you are); tschaepp for "chap" or "guy"; and tschumbe for "to jump". Today, many speakers will use Pennsylvania German words for the smaller numerals and English for larger and more complicated numbers, like $27,599.
Conversely, although many among the earlier generations of Pennsylvania Germans could speak English, they were known for speaking it with a strong and distinctive accent. Such Pennsylvania Dutch English can still sometimes be heard to this day. Although this more recently coined term is being used in the context of this and related articles to describe this Pennsylvania German-influenced English, it has traditionally been referred to as "Dutchy" or "Dutchified" English.
Pennsylvania German, which is now in its fourth century on North American soil, had more than 250,000 speakers in 2012. It has shifted its center to the West with approximately 160,000 speakers in Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa and other Midwest states. There is even a small but growing number of Pennsylvania German speakers in Upper Barton Creek and Springfield in Belize among Old Order Mennonites of the Noah Hoover group. The dialect is used vigorously by the horse and buggy Old Order Mennonites in the northern part of the Regional Municipality of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada.
While speakers without an Anabaptist background in general do not pass the dialect to their children today, the Old Order Amish and horse-and-buggy Old Order Mennonites do so in the current generation and there are no signs that this practice will end in the future. There are only two car driving Anabaptist groups who have preserved the dialect: The Old Beachy Amish and the Kauffman Amish Mennonites, also called Sleeping Preacher Churches. Even though Amish and Old Order Mennonites were originally a minority group within the Pennsylvania German-speaking population, today they form the vast majority. According to sociologist John A. Hostetler, less than 10 percent of the original Pennsylvania German population was Amish or Mennonite.
There have been efforts to advance the use of the dialect. Kutztown University offers a complete minor program in Pennsylvania German Studies. The program includes two full semesters of the Pennsylvania German dialect. In the 2007-2008 school year, the classes were being taught by Professor Edward Quinter. In 2008-2009, Professor Robert Lusch served as the instructor.
Since 2005, Pennsylvania Germans have been working on a Pennsylvania German version of Wikipedia.
According to one scholar, "today, almost all Amish are functionally bilingual in Pennsylvania Dutch and English; however, domains of usage are sharply separated. Pennsylvania Dutch dominates in most in-group settings, such as the dinner table and preaching in church services. In contrast, English is used for most reading and writing. English is also the medium of instruction in schools and is used in business transactions and often, out of politeness, in situations involving interactions with non-Amish. Finally, the Amish read prayers and sing in Standard, or High, German (Hoch Deitsch) at church services. The distinctive use of three different languages serves as a powerful conveyor of Amish identity." Although "the English language is being used in more and more situations," nonetheless Pennsylvania Dutch is "one of a handful of minority languages in the United States that is neither endangered nor supported by continual arrivals of immigrants."
Because it is an isolated dialect and almost all native speakers are bilingual in English, the biggest threat to the dialect is gradual decay of the traditional vocabulary, which is then replaced by English loan words or words corrupted from English.
|Old Order Wenger Mennonites||22,610|
|Old Order Mennonites of Ontario||6,500|
|Tampico Amish Mennonites||3,260|
|Old Order David Martin Mennonites||1,760|
|Old Order Reidenbach Mennonites||740|
|Amish Mennonites (Midwest Beachy)||705|
| * Includes all Amish horse and buggy groups|
except the speakers of Alemannic dialects
(Bernese German and Alsatian German).
In the United States, most Old Order Amish and all "horse and buggy" Old Order Mennonite groups speak Pennsylvania German, except the Old Order Mennonites of Virginia, where German was already mostly replaced at the end of the 19th century. There are several Old Order Amish communities (especially in Indiana) where Bernese German, a form of Swiss German and Low Alemannic Alsatian, not Pennsylvania German, are spoken. Additionally, English has mostly replaced Pennsylvania German among the car driving Old Order Horning and the Wisler Mennonites.
Other religious groups among whose members the Pennsylvania German dialect would have once been predominant, include: Lutheran and German Reformed congregations of Pennsylvania German background, Schwenkfelders, and Schwarzenau (German Baptist) Brethren. Until fairly recent times, the speaking of Pennsylvania German had absolutely no religious connotations.
In Ontario, Canada, the Old Order Amish, the members of the Ontario Old Order Mennonite Conference, the David Martin Old Order Mennonites, the Orthodox Mennonites and smaller pockets of others (regardless of religious affiliation) speak Pennsylvania German. The members of the car driving Old Order Markham-Waterloo Mennonite Conference have mostly switched to English. In 2017, there were about 10,000 speakers of Pennsylvania German in Canada, far fewer than in the United States.
There are also attempts being made in a few communities to teach the dialect in a classroom setting; however, as every year passes by, fewer and fewer in these particular communities speak the dialect. There is still a weekly radio program in the dialect whose audience is made up mostly of these diverse groups, and many Lutheran and Reformed congregations in Pennsylvania that formerly used German have a yearly service in Pennsylvania German. Other non-native speakers of the dialect include those persons that regularly do business with native speakers.
Among them, the Old Order Amish population was probably around 227,000 in 2008. Additionally, the Old Order Mennonite population, a sizable percentage of which is Pennsylvania German-speaking, numbers several tens of thousands. There are also thousands of other Mennonites who speak the dialect, as well as thousands more older Pennsylvania German speakers of non-Amish and non-Mennonite background. The Grundsau Lodge, which is an organization in southeastern Pennsylvania of Pennsylvania German speakers, is said to have 6,000 members. Therefore, a fair estimate of the speaker population in 2008 might be close to 300,000, although many, including some academic publications, may report much lower numbers, uninformed of those diverse speaker groups.
There are no formal statistics on the size of the Amish population, and most who speak Pennsylvania German on the Canadian and U.S. censuses would report that they speak German, since it is the closest option available. Pennsylvania German was reported under ethnicity in the 2000 census.
Pennsylvania German speakers live mostly in the United States and Canada, but there are also some speakers who belong to traditional Anabaptist groups in Latin America. Even though most Mennonite communities in Belize speak Plautdietsch, some few hundreds who came to Belize mostly around 1970 and who belong to the Noah Hoover Mennonites speak Pennsylvania German. There are also some recent New Order Amish immigrants in Bolivia, Argentina, and Belize who speak Pennsylvania German while the great majority of conservative Mennionites in these countries speak Plautdietsch.
In Mario Pei's book Language, a popular poem in the dialect (with significant English influence in the form of loanwords) is printed; the free-translation is, in the main, by J. Cooper.
Heut is 's xäctly zwanzig Johr
Today it's exactly twenty years
Following the links, there are two examples of spoken Pennsylvania German: Die mudder schprooch (The mother tongue) and Bisht du en Christ gebore? (Are you born as a Christian?). More example of spoken Pennsylvania German can be found at the page "American Languages - our nation's many languages online" of the University of Wisconsin.
The Office character Dwight Schrute and his family, including his cousin Mose, are known to be Pennsylvania Dutch. Nevertheless, in the series Dwight speaks High German rather than the Pennsylvania dialect.
Science-fiction writer Michael Flynn wrote the novella The Forest of Time, depicting an alternate history in which the United States was never established, but each of the Thirteen Colonies went its own way as an independent nation. In that history, Pennsylvania adopted the Pennsylvania German language as its national language and developed into a German-speaking nation, with its own specific culture, very distinct from both its English speaking neighbors and European Germany.