Category Archives: Pennsylvania German

A Pennsylvania German Sprachinsel near Arthur, Illinois, by H. Penzl (1938)

The settlements of the Amish and Mennonites with their numerous subdivisions have gradually spread all over the United States. Not only their religious, folkloristic and sociological aspects are important, but also their linguistic ones. Originally in all these settlements the Pennsylvania German dialect was spoken. It is now being given up in the Mennonite settlement, as I could see in Sterling, Illinois. Only the Amish Old Order still use it almost exclusively among themselves.

The Amish sect is named after its founder Jakob Amman, minister of the Swiss Mennonite Church, who thought it too liberal, especially in the matter of “shunning.” Amish people, principally from the Palatinate and Switzerland, arrived in the United States around 1730. By the time of the Revolutionary War, the immigration had ceased. Amish family names of this period are Hostetler, Peachey (Pitsche), Stutzman, Zug (Zook), Mast. No foreign addition to the American Amish settlements was made until near the middle of the 19th century. Between 1820 and 1850 Amish immigrants from Alsace-Lorraine, Bavaria, Hesse-Darmstadt arrived. Family names characteristic for this period are Naffziger, Schrock, Guengerich, Stuckl, etc. The earliest Amish congregation in the United States was established in Berks Co., Pa, along North Kill Creek in 1735.

The Amish Old Order is the sect that is most conservative, and strictest in its restraints upon the personal lives of its members. The wearing of “plain” clothes, i.e. black coats and broad-trimmed hats, hooks and eyes (“hafte”) instead of buttons, is required for the men. The wearing of simple dresses with aprons and a white “devotional covering” on their heads is required for women. No automobiles, telephones and radios must be owned. Typewriters and tractors are not forbidden though. The Amish Old order do not even worship in churches, but meet in farm-houses. Horse and buggy days are still in existence for them. Much from the pioneer era seems still to be prevalent in their way of living. I mention only their pioneer hospitality towards strangers, their independent actions in many matters, e.g. inquests without the local sheriff, the custom of “bundling” among the young people (discussed in their own church paper). It is the sincere desire of the Amish to be able to live peacefully, conforming to their religious beliefs, which also forbid them to bear arms.

Not the least important means of staying apart from the world is their use of a dialect the “world” does not understand. If it were not for this unique purpose, the dialect would be dying out among the Amish as it is among the Mennonites, and the German character of the sect and its settlements abolished within a few decades. The Pennsylvania German dialect has been spoken among the Amish for more than 200 years. Wherever an Amish settlement is in existence, it forms a linguistic unit of its own, a Sprachinsel, a language island, which is surrounded by English speaking communities. We have Amish Sprachinseln of this type in many states: in Ohio in Holmes (about a thousand families), Stark, Geauga, Madison, Defiance counties; in Delaware at Dover; in Virginia at Lynnhaven, Portsmouth, in Maryland at Oakland; in Indiana at Lagrange, Middlebury, Goshen, in Marshal, Howard, Newton, Adams, Allen, Davis, Oscoda counties; in Iowa in Buchanan and Johnson counties; in Wisconsin in Taylor Co.; in Kansas at Sumner, Anderson, Reno counties; in Oklahoma at Thomas, Weatherford, in Mayes Co.; in North Dakota at Wolford and Lumberton; in Ontario, Canada, in Perth and Waterloo counties. Some of these communities in the western states have been founded in recent years, the poorer members of the old settlements are always on the look-out for cheaper lands farther West. The United States census does not recognize the fact that a large number of native-born have a mother-tongue different from English. This makes an accurate estimate of the number of those speakers impossible. The Amish people whose native language is the Pennsylvania German dialect would belong to this group, of course.

The Amish appeared in Illinois in 1829 first near Peoria and Bloomington. Their only settlement at the present time, and so the only Pennsylvania German Sprachinsel in Illinois, is near Arthur, about 30 miles from Decatur. It covers a large stretch of territory extending into three different counties, beyond Moultrie and Douglas County even into Coles County. The Amish own there some of the best farming country that is to be found in central Illinois. For many miles their big red-painted barns, close to nice-looking white houses with high windmill-pumps, are the only view in sight. The settlement was founded in 1865 by Mose Yoder, Daniel Miller, and Daniel Otto, who came with their families from Summit Mills in Somerset County, Pa. The town of Arthur, which has a population of 1800 now and is right in the center of the Amish settlement, did not exist then. They were the first Amish settlers, who came to Arthur. Others came from Holmes County, Ohio, (e.g. Daniel Schrock and family in 1870), from Indiana, Iowa (e.g. Mose Kauffman in 1868). The place had been selected in June 1864 by Bishop Fred Beachy of Grantsville, Md., and by Mose Yoder. The settlement grew continuously, as evidenced by the increase in the number of church districts: 2 in 1888 (Moultrie County part, Douglas county part), 3 in 1902, 4 in 1906, 5 in 1922, 6 in 1926, 7 in 1930, 9 at the present time (Schlabach West, East, North, South, Plank, Schrock; Mast West, East). There is continuous intercourse between Arthur and the Amish settlements in Indiana and Ohio: exchange of preachers, visiting of friends, intermarrying. H. F. Weber’s estimate of 3000 as the number of the total population is probably too high. 2000 would seem to be more correct.

Outlanders near Arthur learn the dialect very rarely. An English farmer living among the Amish, who, incidentally, called them “the world’s best neighbors,” picked up some Pennsylvania German, and so did one drug-store clerk in Arthur. The Amish in Arthur all speak English, too: they have the rare and valuable experience of being bilingual. Their English does not show any sound-substitutions; it is not “broken.” Not even any accent is noticed by the people in Arthur. When their little children are sent to the small one-room country school-houses, they understand hardly any English. In some cases they learned a little English from older children in the family, or the parents taught them a few words, not to make it too “unhendig” (unhandy) for the teacher, as I was told. But, as a rule, the children hear nothing but Pennsylvania German in their homes, before they go to school. This is the only practicable method of making them bilingual. Any foreigner living in this country, who wants his children to be bilingual, can only get a similar result by imitating the Amish. Very few have had the energy and consistency to go through with the method.

But the linguistic situation in Arthur is even more complicated. Not only the Pennsylvania German dialect and English must be considered, but also High German. This is the language of the bibles that are used in the Amish services and of their song-books, and the language of many of their prayers. Formerly German was the language of the church as Pennsylvania German was the language of everyday conversation in all the Mennonite settlements, but it has been gradually replaced by English there. The remarkable success of the “uneducated” Amish in teaching their children the dialect and preserving it thus, is even surpassed by the significance of the fact that the Amish give their children enough instruction in High German to enable them to read and write in and to understand the Bible and song-books. As other German groups elsewhere gave up the instruction of their language entirely, in many cases they did not even try to bring it back into the public high schools, where it had been dropped because of the War. The Amish who have the reputation of being opposed to education built with their own money near Arthur three white one room schoolhouses, each for about 25 children. Some tutoring in High German is done in the four summer months, when there is a vacation in the English school. Each winter in January and February for four to six weeks, German is taught there in Pennsylvania German to those who have finished the eighth grade of the English school. The age of the pupils is usually from 16 to 20. In the winter of 1937 in two of the three school-houses school was taught. The teacher is a farmer, who is paid by the parents of his pupils. After German school is over, each pupil receives a “souvenir” instead of a diploma or grade record. The pupils can read the German Bible now, and write in German script. They can follow an Amish service without difficulty.

Every Amish service, which lasts at least four hours, starts with the old “Lobgesang,” a hymn of praise. Then there is praying, preaching, and more singing. The text of the Bible is read in High German, often with a distinctly dialectal pronunciation. One of the preachers criticized in conversation another’s pronunciation. I heard myself ihnen read as “ihne,” Machen as “mache.” Herr as “Harr,” Vater as “Vatter” (with a very short a), etc. Afterwards in the sermon, the Bible text is explained in the native dialect: e.g. the answer given Judas after he had tried in vain to get rid of the money: “Du sieh du zu,” was explained. “Sell is dei Business. Sell is dei Look-out.” But the number of English loan-words in the sermon was, on the whole, very small. I did not hear more than a dozen in half an hour. The emphatic tone and the sublime subjects seem to have resulted in the avoiding of English terms that usually have more of a colloquial flabor. Many High German quotations from the Bible were used. High German was consistently used for certain religious terms. They always said heiliger Geist, for heelig would only be said of a wound, that is as good as cured; Fleisch was used as the antonym of “spirit,” Fleesch in the literal sense when the effects of the plague were described; they say Glaube, Taufe, Gemeinde, the last word emphatically instead of the more informal Gmee (church district). Some High German expressions found their way into the speech of every day life. An Amish minister asked his boy for a Wurfshaufel (which is mentioned in Matthew), but he understood only the word “Shkoop” (scoop). This shows also how certain German (dialectal or High German) expressions in the dialect are crowded out by English ones, and only used by the older generation.

High German is also the language of the first half of their church paper, “Der Herold der Wahrheit.” The editor of the German part, L. A. Miller, lives near Arthur. He is a farmer, but operates a thriving book store, in which principally bibles of all prices are sold (up to 12 dollars). It is interesting to study the High German used in “Der Herold der Wahrheit.” It shows (1) the influence of English; (2) the influence of the dialect and, (3) some archaic traits peculiar to the german of the times of Luther’s Bible translation. The punctuation is partly English, the capitalization of nouns is not very consistent. If we take two issues of the paper, the one of January 15, and the other of March 15, 1937, we find the following traces of the influence of English: loan-words and parenthetic translations, typical for a bilingual state as e.g. Pneumonia, Flu, Indigestion, Editor, Pet (in parentheses with Liebling), Neglect (Vernachlaessigung), Salvation(Seligkeit), Revival (Erquickung). Furthermore we find translations of English idioms “die Mrs. John M. Yoder ist nicht gar so gut die letzen Tagen (“is not so well;” English word order!), eine etlige Tags Reise (English syntax!) was will noch werden? (English idiom; will instead of wird), bei des Aaron Gingerich’s Leichenreden waren gehalten (waren instead of wurden), das meint Verfolgung (meint instead of bedeutet).

The influence of the dialect is shown in passages like dem Jonathan Fischer sein Buch, der Preis wissen wir nicht genau; es hat noch mehr Kranke (instead of es gibt etc.); Otto Begraebnis (instead of Friedhof, cemetery); Shnee un Dreck; von dem Saemann, wo Samen aussaete; die kleine Gemeine.

We find archaic traits in the social column: Maria, Weib von A. Schrock; elsewhere der so er lebt (archaic relative).

The dialect in the Sprachinsel shows no sign of decline. The number of speakers is identical with the total number of persons in the settlement. English is only used in their dealings with the “World.” It cannot be doubted that the Pennsylvania German dialect will continue to be spoken by the Amish as long as they adhere to their old customs and beliefs, because they realize its closeness to the language of their holy books, and they find it useful to have a language of their own that makes them also linguistically different from the “World.” The extremely conservative attitude of the Amish in every respect, is the most effective guarantee of a survival of the dialect, not only in this German Sprachinsel in central Illinois, but also in all the other settlements of the Amish Old Order.

The Morning Call (Allentown), March 12, 1938

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An All Pennsylvania-German Church Service, by Russell Wieder Gilbert (1956)

ONLY in recent years have efforts been made to conduct an all Pennsylvania-German service, where hymns, prayers, the sermon, Bible readings, and liturgy followed the dialect instead of high German. The service at Grubb’s or Botschaft Church near Port Trevorton in Snyder County was undoubtedly the first one based completely on the dialect according to the Barba-Buffington orthography. It all happened in 1954 when the Reverend Benjamin Lotz, assistant professor of religion at Susquehanna University and supply pastor of the Botschaft Church at the time, received a request for financial aid from a sister congregation in Zierenberg near Cassel in Hesse. The plea gave a practical turn to the idea of a religious service in the beautiful grove of the church and a definite purpose for the offering. Why not Pennsylvania German, the dialect of many rural residents in Snyder County?

The Reverend Mr. Lotz then asked the writer whether he would be willing to prepare materials for a service since the church council (Kaerricheratt) expressed the desire to pay for a printed bulletin. The problem was a difficult one, for I had to be careful that dialectal connotations and nuances would not interfere with the dignity of worship. Here, then, were the beginnings of the Pennsylvania-German service at Grubb’s Church. On September 5, 1954 the Reverend Eugene Steigerwalt (First Lutheran Church, Selinsgrove) used as his sermon theme, “Was Mer Unsre Deitsche Brieder Schuldich Sin” (What We Owe Our German Brothers). On September 4, 1955 the Reverend Dr. Warren C. Heinly (Grace Lutheran Church, Lancaster) preached on “Schwitze, Net Schwetze” (Work, not Talk).

Good translations into the dialect were essential. Scriptural readings from the Gospels in modern Pennsylfaanisch Deitsch could be obtained from Ralph Charles Wood, then professor of German at Muhlenberg College, and now executive director of the Carl Schurz Memorial Foundation. From German or English versions the writer translated hymns, prayers, and opening versicles. It was necessary also to coin dialect words for such terms as opening versicles (Aafangswadde) and offering (Es Kaerrichegeltgewwe). And so the Goddesdienscht in the grove of the Botschaft Church came into being.

The thought of God’s presence in all seasons throughout the year is encouraging and challenging. The thought became an original poem, which is to be sung to the tune of “O Master, Let Me Walk with Thee.” It was used “am zwette Goddesdienscht:”

Gott Iss Mei Freind im Ganse Yaahr

Gott iss mei Freind im ganse Yaahr,
Er hcbt Sei Hand mir ewich vor;
Die Yaahreszeit macht gaar nix aus,
Er iss daheem bei mir im Haus.

Im Winder blost en kalder Wind,
En weisser Schnee schtost runner gschwind,
Eiszeppche hengke an de Beem,
Gott iss doch noch bei uns daheem.

Im Friehyaahr ziegt en waarmi Luft,
Mer riecht yo glei en frischer Duft,
En grieni Saft schteigt in der Schtamm,
In Beem un Bledder, Busch un Schwamm.

Regge, Blitz, Dunner, Summerzeit,
Gricksel, Fresch, Ieme, Blumme weit,
Die Veggel zwitschre hallich froh,
Sie sehne scheene Sache do.

Es Schpotyaahr kummt, es ennert viel,
Was grie waar, watt so’n Farrweschpiel;
Es Laab losst geh vun all de Beem,
Ich bleib mit Gott bei uns daheem.

Mer lowe Gott, ’s maag sei wie’s will:
Witt du Gott heere, dann sei schtill;
Witt du Gott sehne, kumm zu mir
Un glopp en bissli an der Dier.

The American-German Review, August-September, 1956, page 15

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Pennsylvania German in Ontario German Newspapers 1835-1918, by Herbert Karl Kalbfleisch (1956)

THE PROVINCE of Ontario, known earlier as Upper Canada, was not favored by any large influx of German people until after the end of the American Revolution. Indeed, most of the German settlers who came at that time as a segment of the wider loyalist migration to British territory were soon absorbed into the predominantly English pattern of the province and lost command of the German tongue. They required neither German books nor newspapers for their edification or enjoyment.

The descendants of these German loyalists, who settled primarily in the eastern counties of Ontario, on the Bay of Quinte and in the Niagara Peninsula, are still recognizable by the German surnames they bear, but beyond that there is little distinctively German about them. A somewhat later settlement, but still made before 1800, in York County, north of Toronto, had a similar history, although here an intermixture of Mennonites in the German group served to perpetuate the German language to some extent. In southwestern Ontario, particularly in the counties of Waterloo, Perth, Huron, Grey and Bruce, a somewhat different situation prevailed. There was a sufficient concentration of German people to assure the perpetuation of the language—at least for a few generations. In many of these areas the Pennsylvania German dialect is still understood, and often spoken, even by the youngest members of the group.

The pioneer Germans in Waterloo County originated almost exclusively in Pennsylvania. Their history in Canada dates approximately from the year 1800. Before long, however, they were joined by immigrants directly from the Fatherland, who were attracted to this area by reason of the German speaking settlers already there, as well as by the opportunities for artisans and craftsmen to establish themselves successfully in the many rapidly growing villages of this prosperous agricultural community. It is striking to observe how quickly the immigrants directly from Germany adjusted their spoken language to that of the Pennsylvania German settlers who had preceded them. This adjustment may have been facilitated by the fact that both groups were heavily represented by people from approximately the same original area, the German southwest.

The first German newspaper in Berlin (now Kitchener), later the county town of Waterloo County and focal point of German settlement and activity in the province of Ontario, was established in 1835. Its editor and publisher, Heinrich Wilhelm (later Henry William) Peterson, was born in the Duchy of Oldenburg, Germany, in 1793. He went to the United States with his parents as a child of two, and spent his early years in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware. As he grew up he learned the printing trade, published newspapers and operated printing shops at several places with indifferent success. In 1832 he decided to migrate to Canada, where his parents had preceded him in 1819. His father, a Lutheran clergyman, served several parishes in York County. Heinrich Wilhelm, however, chose to settle in Berlin. To publish a newspaper for the Germans in Canada became his goal. Support for this venture was forthcoming from the German community; one of the most ardent supporters was Bishop Benjamin Eby of the Mennonite Church in the area. Bishop Eby, who was born in Warwick Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, in 1785, had settled permanently in Waterloo County in 1807, and by the time Peterson began publishing the Canada Museum und Allgemeine Zeitung, he was well known in the Waterloo community.

It is noteworthy that Peterson maintained a fairly good standard of language in his Museum, although some English words for which easily accessible German equivalents were lacking, insinuated themselves into his vocabulary. Examples such as “Trosties” (trustees), “machte eine Spietsch,” “Kamp-Mieting,” “Settlementer,” and “Häfner-Schap” (shop) fall into this category. Nevertheless, Pennsylvania German matter was almost completely lacking in the Museum, a fact which is highly significant, since in the period up to 1840 the German speaking settlers of the immediate area were still predominantly of Pennsylvania German origin.

The successors to the Museum, more than twenty-five weeklies, which flourished for various lengths of time until German newspapers were prohibited toward the end of World War I, featured Pennsylvania German material in varying quantities. The immigrants from Germany who did most of the editing and publishing, seemed to enjoy the dialect, and felt that certain effects, particularly humorous ones, could be better achieved through it than through the standard language. This feeling has persisted until the present time in the former German speaking areas of Ontario. The descendants of the German pioneers who migrated directly from the Fatherland have lost command of the standard language, but have retained many humorous and pithy expressions from the Pennsylvania German. The urge to preserve fragments of the dialect is receiving some impetus, even now, as a measure of pride is becoming attached to having Pennsylvania German blood in one’s veins.

The flourishing period of the Ontario German press, between 1850 and 1900, and the period of amalgamation, decline and eventual disappearance which followed, witnessed also an increased publication of Pennsylvania German material. Much of it was provided in the form of letters and articles written over a bizarre assortment of noms de plume, but in many instances the correspondents or authors preferred to remain entirely anonymous. Some of the dialect material was acquired from German American newspapers, along with manifold items of news, scientific and academic articles, humor, and poetry.

An examination of some of the major weeklies whose files are available yields rather surprising results when compared with what must have been the distribution of clientele with respect to origin in Pennsylvania or directly from Germany. That the Berliner Journal, which ran from 1859 to 1918, should have provided a large bulk of Pennsylvania German material is not surprising. A great many of its subscribers were either from Pennsylvania, or descendants of Pennsylvania Germans. The quantity and variety of its offerings are revealed in such titles and authors as the following: “Wunnerliches,” by Wunnernahs; “Brief vum Däv;” “Eppes letz-Ueberall,” signed by Eisick Schnitzelbank; “Ich will heiern,” by Säm Beisszang; anonymously “All for nix,” “En ackommedeedinger Riegelweg,” “Net zu Bieten,” “En Ehn Cent Stohry;” then “Die Sällie hot die Gripp” and “dorich die Luft,” by Sälly Besemstiel; “Gedanke über Fenzweissle,” by Hansjörk; “Guter Roth,” by Solomon der Dumme; “Der Pit hot Wieder G’heiert,” by Säm; “Die Mad und Beisickels,” by Der Klehn Krämer; “Lokal-Nuhs,” by De Lumpa-Pete; “Johnny Kitzler über den Krieg,” by Johnny Kitzler; “Pennsylvanisch-Deutscher Brief,” by Eiseha Stoppelkopp; many letters over the name of Jonathan and John Ritsch, the latter from the New Yorker Staatszeitung; a whole series of correspondence by Pit Berastiehl, pseudonym of John P. Becker, an agent of the Berliner Journal; from 1905 until 1915 the letters of Joe Klotzkopp by the then editor of the Journal. John A. Rittinger. Of all the Pennsylvania German material in the Journal, the letters of Joe Klotzkopp were most popular. Approximately one hundred are extant from this ten-year period.

The quantity of Pennsylvania German material in relation to the total space in the Journal that was provided for matter other than news is, perhaps, not so significant as the unfailing regularity with which material in the dialect appeared. Public demand provided the incentive which dictated its inclusion and, to judge from the evidence, the voice of the public must have been very insistent. Even the carriers’ New Year’s greetings were not immune from the encroachments of the dialect, as is evident in the carriers’ poem of 1888.

However, the demand for dialect matter was not uniform over the whole German speaking area. Some newspapers, such as the Canadisches Volksblatt of New Hamburg, provided very little.

This aversion to Pennsylvania German was not shared by the weeklies of Berlin, where there was a large proportion of Pennsylvania Germans. Besides the Berliner Journal, Der Deutsche Canadier, which was published in Berlin from January, 1841, to January, 1865, also carried the dialect. While it did not publish a large amount there was always some in each issue. A greater quantity might have been expected since the Canadier was published by the sons of Bishop Benjamin Eby from its inception until 1857. On the other hand, the Deutsche Zeitung of Berlin which, during its eight years of existence between 1891 and 1899, constantly laid an almost frantic emphasis on its pure German character, soon succumbed to the desires of part of its clientele, and, perhaps in response to competition from the Berliner Journal and the Ontario Glocke of Walkerton, featured Der klehn Krämer in “Eine Sauschwanz-Kehs vor’m Schmärte Squeier” before the end of its first year of publication. Later contributors to the Pennsylvania German column in the Deutsche Zeitung were Jackson P. Hoffnakle and Piet Kickmüller, Bätschler. In 1897 a relatively lengthy missive from this gentleman appeared almost every week. In the previous year a two-column article entitled “Mei Hunting Exkurschen” over the name of Schan Schorsch Zintfade, Grocerie- und Saluhnkieper seems to have been the experiences of a local Nimrod.

The Ontario Glocke, published at Walkerton, in an area settled chiefly by Germans directly from the Fatherland, was, however, the weekly that catered most consistently to the desire for Pennsylvania German material. Articles and correspondence in the dialect appeared over the names of Pid Schnitzmacher, Missgawels Hanjerk, Hickory Jackson, Sam Quetschekern, Nochemol, Schwift Eisick, John Ritsch, D’r Hansjorg, Joe Klotzkopp and Sarah Klotzkopp, Joe’s supposed Irish wife. Of these, the letters of Joe Klotzkopp became an exceedingly popular feature of the Glocke and, after amalgamation with the Berliner Journal, in 1904, of the combined weeklies. The first Joe Klotzkopp letter appeared in the Glocke on January 22, 1890. It attracted much attention and there was an immediate demand for more. In fact, the subscribers of the Glocke looked upon Joe Klotzkopp as an indispensable adjunct to their reading. They went so far as to memorize and quote humorous passages from him, or ones containing kernels of good, homespun philosophy.

Between 1890 and 1897 approximately twenty-five Joe Klotzkopp letters, in addition to a considerable quantity of other Pennsylvania German material, were printed in the Glocke.

The quantity of dialect writing provided by the Ontario German newspapers stood in striking contrast to the active campaign they constantly waged in favor of good, standard German. The editors of the German weeklies did not deliberately desire to cater to pedestrian tastes, but the keen competition which prevailed among the fairly large number of German weeklies in an area which never contained an abundance of German speaking people frequently made a compromise necessary. It was, in short, a matter of survival. The whole province of Ontario had, according to the census of 1901, only about two hundred thousand people of German origin, and the potential subscribers to the German newspapers amounted to only a fraction of this number. Fusion and assimilation began early to exact their toll of the publications in the German settlements, particularly on the periphery. The intermixture of English words, as well as the intimate and, sometimes, trivial tone in the Pennsylvania German matter, held many wavering subscribers for a few more years.

It was evident to the publishers, however, that their newspapers dare not degenerate completely into dialect organs. For this reason hundreds of articles and many poems were dedicated to the subject of good German. The motivation was both sentimental and practical. The nostalgic longings of even second and third generations of German Canadians for the old Fatherland were aroused by the events of 1866, by German unification in 1871 following the Franco-Prussian War, and by the advances made by a united Germany, particularly in economic and scientific fields. German language study began to flourish after 1900 in the schools of the German areas in Ontario. Through this study the German newspapers felt that their future was assured. But World War I dealt these dreams a major blow, and the prohibition of German language newspapers in Canada in October, 1918 ended temporarily the story of German journalism in Ontario.

The American-German Review, 23 (1), pp. 30-32.

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Pennsylvania German: A Dialect without a True Name, by Heinz Kloss (1938)

A living tongue deserves, nay, needs a living name, concise and precise, convenient and full of meaning. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania German has never enjoyed this privilege.

The every words “Pennsylvania German” form a circumstantial clumsy definition rather than a real name. The matter is even worse, by the way, in German. We have side by side the terms “Pennsylvaniadeutsch,” “Pennsylvaniendeutsch” and “Pennsylvanisch-Deutsch,” furthermore “Deutsch-Pennsylvanish,” the latter term being, however, applied merely to the people themselves and not to the dialect.

In the dialect, we hear sometimes “Pennsylfawnish-Deitsch,” sometimes “Pennsilvani-Deitsch,” or “Pennsylfawni-Deitsch.” Three significations, all of them equally clumsy!

Pennsylvania German in its present form, while most closely akin to the speech of the Palatinate, is at the same time a new tongue, born and shaped amidst the hills and mountains of the Keystone State. As a new tongue it did not bring over from Germany an inherited name. Being the speech form taken on by the German language in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, it was defined by the words “Pennsylvania German,” i.e. the German language as made over in Pennsylvania. But again, this is a circumlocution, no true name.

We have a close parallel in the fate of the Dialects of the Boers. Originally a dialect of Holland Dutch, it underwent certain changes in the new surroundings of South Africa. Representing a new tongue, it was called, at first and for many years, by the contemptuous name of “Hottentotten-Hollandisch,” (Dutch of the Hottenots). Upon being acknowledged as a legitimate dialect of literary Dutch it was defined by the name of “Cape-Dutch” (Kaap-Hollandisch, Dutch of the Cape-Province) which still lingers on among the less educated abroad. Gradually, however, the Boers gained a new spirit of self-assurance, a consciousness of kind and tongue and no longer content to define it by the circumlocution “Cape Dutch,” they christened it after the continent which they inhabit, and today thee recognised name of the dialect of the Boers is Afrikaans, to wit: thee tongue of Africa. They do not care a bit whether this bold application is correct in a historical sense, whether there are otheer tongues living on and being used by other tribes or nations in Africa.

What, now, is the conclusion we might arrive at? The Boers inhabit only the southernmost corner of the African mainland. It is a gross exaggeration to maintain that they have been, in the past, or are, in the present, the dominant factor in African life, moulding the surface of the continent. Still, they went through with their new name. Conversely, the Pennsylvania Germans are the recognized keystone of the Keystone State. Though the dialect has lost its foothold in perhaps the greater part of the coherent German territory in Eastern, and the whole diaspora in Western Pennsylvania, yet Pennsylvania s a whole breathes the spirit of the Pennsylvania Dutch. Just as the Yankee is looked upon as the representative figure of New England, so the popular figure of the Pennsylvania Dutchman represents, all over America, the commonwealth which is permeated by his sweat and toil, by his tilling of soil and filling of barns, by his artcraft and by his orderliness.

The Pennsylvania Germans are fully entitled to name their ancestral tongue after the commonwealth they have made great and prosperous. Thus, the future name of the Pennsylvania German language might fittingly be “Pennsylfawnish” in the dialect and “Pennsylvanisch” in High German. But how are we to call it in English? Why, “Pennsylvanish” of course. At first sound, that may seem odd and outlandish. Yet this is a legitimate way of forming adjectives in English. We speak of the Spanish, Polish, Swedish, Turkish, Irish, Finnish, and even of the English languages—why not Pennsylvanish.

It may seem hard to derive “Pennsylvanish” a noun in order to denote dialect speakers, “Pennsylvanians” being customarily employed to denote the populace of the commonwealth. But we have Englishmen, Irishmen, Scotchmen—why should we not say ‘He is a Pennsylvanishman” if we want it understood that a man speaks Pennsylvania German. In the dialect it is even more easy to say “er is en Pennsylfawnisher,” while “er is en Pennsylvanier” would continue to express the fact of the man being just an inhabitant of the State. Don’t carry modesty and deference too far. What fits the Anglo-Saxon tongue is within the reach of its Pennsylvania Germans too. Come on, boys. Mir saage: Pennsylfawnish.

The Morning Call, May 7, 1938

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The Pennsylvania German Dialect in Maryland, by Cyrus H. Eshleman (1938)

The endeavor will here be made to set forth the history and the outstanding peculiarities of the Pennsylvania German dialect as it was spoken in Washington County, Maryland. I say “was” spoken, for at present it is spoken only by a few of the older persons and is not even understood by most of the younger element. Its use a half-century ago when I was a child was confined, so far as I know, to the Mennonites, of whom there were four congregations not far south of the Pennsylvania line, to the north of Hagerstown, and in the vicinity, respectively, of the villages of Maugansville, Clear Spring, Leitersburg and Ringgold.

My people were all of this denomination, and I was taught the dialect before I learned English, the reason being that unless we learned it first we would not, so it was believed, learn it at all. The language was ridiculed and despised by most of the more numerous other elements around there, and we children were thoroughly ashamed of it ourselves, not knowing it was anything else but a vulgar nonsensical mixture of German and English.

And yet most of these other elements, largely of Lutheran and Reformed affiliations, were likewise of Pennsylvania German descent and their own ancestors a half-century or more farther back must have spoken the dialect. The birthplace of Henry Harbaugh, the famous dialect poet, is just across the Pennsylvania line only a few miles away, and this was the language in his home in his childhood from, let us say 1817, the year of his birth, to about 1830. But by 1880 the Lutheran and Reformed adherents and their children had completely discarded the dialect and had apparently forgotten its ancestral existence. And it is probable that the dialect as their ancestors spoke it was somewhat different from that among the Mennonites, for they came from various localities in eastern Pennsylvania, whereas the Mennonites came almost exclusively from Lancaster County and, like the people there, were of Swiss descent.

These Mennonites moved over into Washington County mainly from about 1790 to 1840. Occasional families have moved over later, there have been a good many intermarriages, and there has been much exchange of visiting.

Their dialect was nearly identical with that of the Lancaster County element, who discontinued their Swiss dialect, probably about the same time they immigrated, and adopted that of the more numerous Palatine settlers in the counties farther north, though retaining a number of Swiss words and forms. But there were noticeable differences in Washington County, even as compared with those of Lancaster County, with which, however, I shall not be concerned here.

I have been away from Washington County about 35 years and must rely partly on memory. But I have revisited the people a number of times, and by correspondence I have secured detailed answers to questionnaires. My list of differences will not be exhaustive, nor will it be technical. It will merely give the important differences that are noticeable to one who hears or reads the two varieties of expressions. As compared with the more distinctively Palatiine dialect that has been appearing for years in the Allentown (Pa.) Morning Call, and more recently in the “Pennsylfawnisch Deitsch Eck,” or section, in the Saturday issue of that newspaper, the outstanding peculiarities of the Washington County dialect are these: we always said wella, never wollemer wella essa (we want to eat). We said alsfert, never immer for always. We said dihr for second person plural, not ehr, as for example in Dihr sinn jung (you are young), Dihr Kinner sinn jung (Your children are young). We said yah, never yar, for yes; velleicht (v’leicht) not verleicht for perhaps; wege, not waeich for about; zwische, not zwischich for between; Kiwwel, not Eemer, for bucket or pail. We used the Swiss diminutive li sometimes, meaning something small, and rarely the Palatine el. We used the adjective klee or glee a good deal, klee Boppeli (little baby), Hammeli, or Hammi, or glee Hammi (calf).

Other peculiarities could be given. Altogether they make the vernacular noticeably different. Several correspondents at Allentown have insisted to me that nearly all these words and forms are used there too as alternatives. This may be true, but in Washington County they were used exclusively. Several of these usages are Swiss, li, dihr, and wella, at least. The others are met with in the Palatinate. How yar for yah (yes) originated, I can not say. Practically all the Washington County forms obtain also in Lancaster County, I am in a position to state positively from questionnaires.

I have sometimes hoped the several hundred persons in Washington County, Maryland, who still know the dialect, or could learn it from their parents, would start a movement to revive interest in it. A decided revival is undoubtedly under way in some sections of Pennsylvania, especially in and around Allentown. Should any in Washington County read this article I urge them to learn it if they have the opportunity before it is too late, and not to forget it if they know it. It is a real variety of German and is not, nor ever has been, a mere mixture of German and English. It is the dialect of the Palatinate in Germany, comprising the Rhenish plain west of Mannheim, Heidelberg, and Speyer and the mountain areas of the Haardt and the Westrich, all of which are now incorporated in the new province Saarpfalz. It is a High German dialect and a knowledge of it makes easy the acquirement of High German.

While all of us treasure our knowledge of English as our chief vehicle of expression, our lives will only be enriched and not narrowed if we also study the dialect of our ancestors and of German in general.

The Morning Call, February 26, 1938, p. 7; The Morning Herald (Hagerstown), March 15, 1938, p. 2.

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The Pennsylvania German Dialect in Sterling, Illinois (1937)

Sterling, an attractive manufacturing city of about 10,000 inhabitants on the beautiful Rock River in northern Illinois, was founded by Hezekiah Brink in 1834. It is named after Col. Sterling of Pennsylvania. The first Pennsylvania Germans who came to Whiteside County arrived in 1847. Some of them, namely the Landises, belonged to the Reformed Mennonites, a conservative branch, which is absolutely exclusive in its religious relations and was founded in 1812 in Lancaster County, Pa., by J. Herr. Others formed the Mennonite congregation on Science Ridge near Sterling. Henry S. Landis arrived in 1851; Benjamin Stauffer in 1852; A. Detweiler, J. Moyer, J. Heckler, J. Millhouse, B. Hershey, J. Allebaugh and others, mostly form Lancaster and Bucks Counties, came before 1860; the Snavelys came from Lebanon County; 55 people, among them J. Rutt, J. Ebersole and J. Reitzel, arrived from Chambersburg, Pa., in 1865.

The Pennsylvania Germans who were particularly successful were by no means the only German element in the city. The number of German churches shows the various German influences in Sterling. German Catholics built the Church of the Sacred Heart in 1884; there are two German Lutheran Churches in Sterling and one German Baptist Brethren Church. German societies such as the Germania Maennerchor, which was organized in 1869, and the Sterling Turnverein Society, organized June, 1873, used to belong to the largest and most active organizations in Sterling. A German paper, the Sterling Beobachter, which was started by Carl Strack in 1877 and bought by Louis Oltmanns in 1882, continued its publication for more than 25 years.

Now only the two Lutheran churches still have some German preaching. The German societies have ceased to exist. Not even the Public Library has one copy of the Beobachter. The local public high school, where German was dropped in 1919, offers instruction in one foreign language, namely French! The other high school, a private Catholic institution, offers Spanish because some Mexicans in the congregation have insisted upon that language. The Germans have never made any attempt to re-introduce the German language in the public high school. H. Weber states as to the preaching in the Reformed Mennonite Church “There seems to have been no disturbance in the transition from the Pennsylvania Dutch to the English.” The Science Ridge congregation, which abandoned German preaching many decades ago, had accorded to him in 1882 four Sunday school classes “all conducted in German or Pennsylvania Dutch.” It is obvious from other passages in his book that H. Weber had no clear understanding of the big differences between High German and the Pennsylvania German dialect and no interest in linguistic aspects.

The deplorable state of High Church in Sterling presupposes a similar situation for Pennsylvania German. The dialect will have entirely disappeared in at best ten years. The number of speakers is extremely small. They use English almost exclusively now. Some of them (Mrs. G., Miss E.) remember the Pennsylvania German expressions only by hearkening back. Some only occasionally use the dialect: “when we feel funny” (Mrs. K., Miss R., living in the same house); “when we don’t want the kid to understand us” (Mrs. S. and her daughter-in-law). Others can tell the exact date when they stopped to use the dialect regularly: “after my mother had died” (wife of one Reformed Mennonite minister); “after my husband had died” (Mrs. S.). Only old people have even a passive knowledge of the dialect. Nobody ever made any effort to speak Pennsylvania German to the children, so none in the younger generation knows the dialect at all. One family (Mr. M. 78, Mrs. M. 77, grandmother 96) still use exclusively the dialect among themselves. Mrs. M.’s parents came from Lebanon County. She was born and “ufgebrawcht” (as she put it) seven miles outside of Sterling.

With pencil and notebook I invaded various homes, fortunately also the one of that family. I recorded samples of their dialect by asking for Pennsylvania German expressions and for the English ones. This made them quite conscious of the difference of the two languages. Whenever my informants hesitated and declared not to know the Pennsylvania German word, they used the English expressions without any sound substitutions, e.g. porch, library, squirrel. The form “schkwoerl” was sometimes given though. The informants did not hesitate, because they were conscious of the phonetic difference, when they gave krick for creek, rewer for river, poscht offis for post-office.

The bilingual state of the informants makes borrowings from English very easy. When some words were taken over, they were, by substitution of certain sounds, made to conform with the Pennsylvania German phonemic system. In some cases not only sounds were changed, but whole German endings and words were used for parts of an English word or compound. In other cases the English word was taken over with its regular English sounds and no substitutions occurred at all. Examples for type 1 are wetterboard or wetterboarding (Mrs. G.) for weatherboards; molassich (Mrs. M.) molasses, schul-ma’m for school-ma’m, bleckbere (Mrs. S., blekbire) for blackberries, rigiwegschtehschn railway-station, ’n car treive for drive a car. Examples for type 2 are: bath, in the phrase “nehmscht du dei Bath heit;” furthermore, porch, library, etc.

It is interesting to observe into which parts of the vocabulary English words intruded. Nobody in the community seemed to have ever used anything else but “aunt” (sometimes “ent”); only one elderly lady (Miss R.) said that one of her nephews “made fun of her” by calling her “Tante.” For father the expressions, “pep, ded, dawdi” were given; for uncle “onkel” with apologies. Obviously the phonetic difference between the sound for English and the German was not noticed and the word was considered to be entirely English. Mrs. M. uses “grenpep,” “grenmem,” “mem” but for “nephew,” “cousins,” “gschwisterkinner.” In her speech all expressions concerning local and national government, public affairs, also all expressions concerning parts of an automobile, the names of the flowers in her garden, most of the vegetables and spices are English. She considers “rhubarb” to be the “Dutch expression” for “pie-plant.” The trees have largely German names; plawwebawmbirebawm, keschte (chestnut). She uses English expressions for most of the kinds of fish: salmon, trout, pike, etc. She says hameliflesch (veal), seiflesch (pork), but beef; she says both “goose” and “gans,” and “turkey,” but a “turkey gobbler” is a “welshhawne” in her speech. She gave the names of the months in English, also she would use English numerals right in the midst of a German conversation. When asked for Pennsylvania German numerals, she knew them, but added she “got them at home, having learned only to count in English in school.”

According to the religious denomination of the informants some would render church by “karich,” others by “gmehaus.” One informant called the latter “more German than karich.” Some informants called the bedroom “kammer,” the sitting-room “schtub” (or Anglicized “sitz-schtub”). One informant stated that a “kammer” is a bedroom downstairs, and a “bettschtub” is upstairs. Another says “klederbrush,” and explains that “bascht” is not for clothes, only for scrubbing. But Mrs. S. speaks both of a klederbascht” and a “scrubbascht.”

Influence of instruction in High German or of the preaching was occasionally noticeable. An informant offered beside the natural grumbere for potatoes, the form kartoffels (with an English plural ending!). Mrs. S., who claims not to have had any German in school, says: “Mir hawe a gawrde.” She thinks “hawe” is superior to “hen,” which I suggested. She also says “die ander” instead of “die anner.”

Of interest are the following phonological features. Mrs. G. thinks the form “sigehr” is better than “sigar,” but she says “karpet” not “kerpet,” which she has heard. Mrs. S. says “karpet” but corrects herself and changes it to “kerpet,” and “car” is “kehr” in her speech. This interesting vacillation between er and ar is to be found in native words also. The expression for strawberries is (beside the Anglicized form “strawbere,” given by one informant “e(r)ble” according to some “a(r)ble,” according to others; 6:45 is either “fetl bis siwe” or “fatl bis siwe.” Mrs. G. says kasche for cherries, Mrs. S. kesche. Mrs. G. says schtarem, but “es schtamt” (r silent). This type of pronunciation is also found in the expression for earth-worm, “fischwarem,” sometimes “fischworem.”

The number of active speakers of the dialect in Sterling is six now, but about 40-45, or maybe a few more, retain a passive knowledge of it. Even three of the “active speakers” use English much more, the other three are bilingual. Pennsylvania German has developed into a private means of communication between certain members of families, but is never used to outsiders or friends, even if they are superficially familiar with the dialect. About 20 years ago local store-owners, even clerks in banks, etc., had to use Pennsylvania German every day. Mrs. M.’s brother found his knowledge of the dialect a great help in business. From the moment the dialect speakers ceased to talk Pennsylvania German to their children before they went to school, it was doomed to die out. The unnecessarily large number of loans from English show the difficult status of the dialect in a place, where it will only exist a few years longer.

Sterling is by no means the only Pennsylvania German “Sprachinsel” (speech-island) in Illinois. There are others near Freeport, in Morrison, Cullom, Tiskilwa, Shelbyville, near Bloomington and Peoria. The biggest “Sprachinsel” is probably the Amish settlement in Douglas, Moultrie and Coles counties, near Arthur, Illinois. It would be an interesting problem to ascertain the actual total number of speakers of the dialect at the present time. Unfortunately, the official census of the United States gives only the mother tongue of the “foreign-born white population,” because it obviously takes it for granted that the mother tongue of American-born citizens is always English.

—Herbert Penzl, “The Pennsylvania German Dialect in Sterling, Illinois,” The Morning Call, April 10, 1937, p. 7.

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Causes of the Dialect Differences between and within Western Berks and Western Lehigh Counties, Pa. (1941)

IN the March 15th, 22nd, and 29th issues of this column I presented an article under the title Dialect Differences between and within Western Berks and Western Lehigh Counties, Pa. The materials in that article were taken from the records made by Mr. Carroll E. Reed in western Berks County and by myself in western Lehigh County during the Summer of 1940. The readers of this column will recall that items were there presented in which the people of different parts of the two regions investigated use different words in speaking of the same thing.

At the time, I was chiefly interested in showing the different types of geographic distribution occurring between western Berks and western Lehigh and also within each of them. On the whole, no attempt was made to show the factors which caused the different types of geographic distribution. Since then, I have investigated this matter as thoroughly as it is possible at present and have found a striking correlation between the different types of geographic distribution and the early settlement history of western Berks and western Lehigh. Much work must still be done in the population history and the cultural history of these areas before anything like a final explanation can be given, but it is possible to sketch the broad outlines of this problem at present.

Before going into this matter, I shall briefly outline the different types of geographic distribution in order to refresh our memories. Only one example of each type will be presented.


In this type of distribution the people of western Berks use one term and the people of western Lehigh use another in speaking of the same thing. Thus the dog barks in western Berks is der Hund gauzt, while in western Lehigh it is der Hund blafft.


In this type NW Berks has the same terms as western Lehigh, while SW Berks has other terms. The size of the NW Berks area agreeing with western Lehigh varies from word to word. The barn-floor is called es Scheier-denn in SW Berks but es Dresch-dennin NW Berks and western Lehigh.


In this type western Berks and NW Lehigh have the same terms, while SW Lehigh has other terms. The size of the NW Lehigh area agreeing with western Berk varies from word to word. To deny in western Berks and NW Lehigh is ferlegle; in SW Lehigh it is legle.


In this type western Berks and SW Lehigh have the same terms, while NW Lehigh has other terms. The size of the SW Lehigh area agreeing with western Berks varies from word to word. The cradle in western Berks and SW Lehigh is die Wieg; in NW Lehigh it is die Schockel.


In this type NE Lebanon and a strip of SW Berks along the Lebanon County line (varying in size from word to word) use terms different from those used in a large NW Berks area and in western Lehigh. The pail is called der Kiwwel in NE Lebanon and SW Berks, while it is called der Eemer in NW Berks and in western Lehigh.


The different forms of the diminutive suffixes both singular and plural fall into this type in NE Lebanon and W. Berks: the baby is es Bobbli, the cup is es Kobbli, the village is es Schdedtli, and the little bird is es Feggli; in NW Berks and western Lehigh the baby is es Bobbel, the cup is es Kobbche, the village is sometimes es Schdedtelche, and the little bird is sometimes es Feggliche. In NE Lebanon and SW Berks babies, cupsvillages and little birds are Bobblin, Kobblin, Schdedtlin, and Fegglin respectively; in NW Berks they are Bobblicher, KobbcherSchdedtelcher(or Schdedtlicher) and Feggelcher.


In this type the people of SW Berks (this area corresponds to that in V) and of western Lehigh use the same terms, while the people of NW Berks use others. In SW Berks and western Lehigh die Schaufelrefers to a broad, blunt shovel and die Schipprefers to a narrow, pointed shovel. In NW Berks both words are used, but either one can refer to any type of shovel.


Certain words are used only in Womelsdorf and the area round about it in SW Berks while other words are used in the rest of western Berks. Some words have spread farther out of Womelsdorf than others. The people of western Lehigh sometimes use the word occurring in the rest of western Berks, and at other times use a word occurring in neither the Womelsdorf area nor in the rest of western Berks. Thus grouchy in the Womelsdorf area is grimmelich or grummelich, in the rest of western Berks and in NW Lehigh it is griddelich, and in SW Lehigh it is gredzich (in the former article, under Section III, Example 2, by some mistake or other the distribution of griddelich and gredzich is given as exactly opposite to what it should be).


The examples in III and IV show that the usage of western Lehigh is not entirely level out. In addition, there are examples showing how western Lehigh is split up in other ways. Thus the stone-house is es Schdeene-haus in a large north-central area of western Lehigh and in a smaller SW Lehigh area; round about these areas it is called es Schdee-haus. In western Berks it is commonly called es Schdeenich-haus.

This example (and others) shows how western Lehigh is split roughly into a northern area, a southern area, and a central area. Other words show how western Lehigh is split into a far-western area (a strip along the Berks County line varying in width from word to word) and a mid-western area. To cultivate corn is es Welsch-karn koldiweedere in the midwestern area, while in a broad far-western area it is es Welsch-karn schaufle. In western Berks es Welsch-karn schaufle and es Welsh-karn schaffe are most common, but in the Womelsdorf area it is es Welsch-karn koldiweede (not mentioned in the former article).

We are now ready to investigate the causes of these different types of distribution.

The Tulpehocken Settlement of western Berks dates from 1723. It was begun by a group of Wurttembergers who had originally been brought to the banks of the Hudson River for the purpose of making ship stores for the British navy. When this project failed because of incompetent management, many of the Germans moved westward into the Schoharie Valley of New York and took up land there. But trouble soon arose between the Germans on the one hand and the English and the Dutch on the other hand. In order to settle the dispute, the Germans were told that they must either buy the land again or move out. Many of the Germans refused to do the former and were thus forced to do the latter.

In the meantime these Germans had heard of the fairness and tolerance of the Pennsylvania authorities and therefore decided to migrate to Pennsylvania. They came down the Susquehanna River, followed Swatara Creek, and finally located on the banks of the Tulpehocken Creek in western Berks. In 1729 this settlement was augmented, when the Weiser family came with another group of Germans who then settled around the present borough of Womelsdorf. From then on internal growth and new settlers from elsewhere forced this settlement to spread out in all directions.

Shortly after 1723 settlers from northern Montgomery and northern Chester Counties began to move up the Schuylkill Valley into central Berks County and by 1748 Reading was on its way toward becoming a city. From the Schuylkill Valley north of the South Mountains the settlers spread out into the fertile side-valleys, especially into those lying to the east. They moved farther and farther eastward, even as far as into western Lehigh County.

The majority of the early settlers of Berks came either directly or indirectly from the Palatinate and from the areas adjacent to the Palatinate, namely northern Alsace, the Saar, Rhine-Hesse, and northwestern Baden (formerly a part of the Palatinate). There was, however, a very large number of settlers who came directly or indirectly from Wuerttemberg. More than a mere sprinkling came from the other southwestern German areas of Hesse-Darmstadt, northeastern Baden, Lorraine, southern Alsace, the Rhine-Province, and Nassau. There were also some Swiss.

In the late 1730s but especially in the 1740s and early 1750s, large numbers of settlers poured into present Lehigh County. Many of them moved up from the Counties of Montgomery and Bucks which were by that time quite thickly populated. Large numbers also came directly from Germany. Emmaus was established by the Moravians in 1742 and Allentown was laid out by Judge William Allen sometime before 1752. The exact sequence in which the different parts of Lehigh were settled will be discussed later on in this article.

When unoccupied land became scarce in Lehigh, the increase in population flowed in two directions: (1) to the north and northwest into present Carbon and Schuylkill Counties, (2) to the west and southwest into Berks County.

The large majority of the early settlers of Lehigh came either directly or ultimately from the Palatinate, and smaller numbers came from the areas adjacent to the Palatinate. In addition there as a very large number of settlers from Wuerttemberg. The number of settlers from other southwestern German areas mentioned above seems to have been much smaller in Lehigh than in Berks. There were also some Swiss.

From the foregoing it is evident that the early population of Lehigh on the one hand and of Berks on the other was not composed of the same German elements in the same proportions. Therefore the dialect leveling which took place led to somewhat different results in the two areas. (As a matter of fact, the survival of certain features in the speech of each area gives us valuable clues in regard to the different German elements in each area and also in regard to the relative importance of each of these elements, but I shall not go into this matter in this article.)

As a result the people concerned in the eastward movement from the Schuylkill Valley did not always use the same terms as those taking part in the westward movement from Lehigh County in speaking of the same things. As far as the eastward movement extended to the east so far were the Berks words carried, and the same holds for the westward movement from Lehigh. Where the two streams of population movement met, a dialect boundary arose. This is the reason why people in western Berks say gauzt, die Ladarn, and der Habbich for barks, lantern, and hawk, while people in western Lehigh say blafft, die Ludzer, and der Wei (distribution Type I).

In the westward movement from Lehigh a good many settlers pushed far to the west along the southern base of the Blue Mountains, even beyond the Schuylkill River into northwestern Berks. At the same time the old Tulpehocken Settlement was spreading out into northwestern Berks and settlers were also moving farther and farther up the Schuylkill Valley and its side-valleys lying to the west.

Thus the early population of northwestern Berks was composed of a mixture of settlers from Berks and Lehigh to which others directly from Germany were added. The number of settlers coming directly from Germany was small, for this area was still quite thinly settled at the time of the Revolutionary War, and by that time the German migration to Pennsylvania had passed its peak. The Berks element was by far the most important.

In the dialect which arose in this area the Berks characteristics therefore predominated, but some Lehigh characteristics were incorporated into the dialect and survive to this day. The westward movement from Lehigh became weaker and weaker the farther west it got so that there are fewer Lehigh dialect characteristics in extreme north-western Berks than in the area just west of the Schuylkill River. This is why people in northwestern Berks agree with people in western Lehigh in saying der Schwamm, der Scheeb, and es Dreschdennfor meadow, bundle, and barn-floor, while people in southwestern Berks say die Wiesor Wiss, dieor der Garreb, and es Scheier-denn(Distribution Type II).

The eastward movement from Berks became progressively weaker the farther it was removed from the Schuylkill Valley. The Allemaengel Settlement in present Albany Township, Berks County and in Lynn and Weisenberg Townships, Lehigh County represents the limits of the movement towards the northeast. After leaving the Schuylkill Valley, these settlers came up along the valley of Ontalaunee (or Maiden) Creek and in northwestern Lehigh County they took up land in the valley between the Blue Mountain and the Schoharie, in Kistler’s Valley (lying south of the Schoharie), and in the valleys of northwestern Weisenberg Township. This first settlement occurred sometime in the 1730s. Very shortly thereafter the Welsh and Scotch-Irish occupied the northern part of Lynn Township. From 1740 on, large numbers of Germans from Bucks and Montgomery Counties (as well as directly from Germany) came into northwestern Lehigh County.

In time the Berks settlement of Allemaengel was absorbed by the Lehigh settlement, but some traces of the Berks settlers can still be found in the dialect of northwestern Lehigh. This is why people in northwestern Lehigh agree with the people in western Berks in saying ferlegle and der Hiwell for to deny and the hill, while the people of southwestern Lehigh say legle and der Barrick or Baerrick (distribution Type III).


The settlement of southwestern Lehigh had begun already in the 1730s, but it was in the 1740s that great numbers of settlers came into the region lying north of the Lehigh (or South) Mountains. Many of these settlers came up from northern Montgomery County, but many also came directly from Germany. In addition, there was a considerable number of settlers who came from Berks for in the course of the eastward movement from the Schuylkill Valley some people came as far east as southwestern Lehigh. This part of the eastward movement followed the course of Ontalaunee (or Maiden) Creek, branched off into the fertile Maxatawny Valley, and then spilled over into southwestern Lehigh.

In time, the settlers from Berks were absorbed by the population of Lehigh, but certain features of the Berks dialect, brought in by these early settlers, are still to be found in the dialect of southwestern Lehigh. This is the reason why people in southwestern Lehigh agree with people in western Berks in saying die Wieg and der Baam-gohrde or Bohm-gaarde for cradle and orchard, while the people in northwestern Lehigh say die Schockel and der Bungert or Bummert (distribution Type IV).

The settlement of southwestern Lehigh has been much less thoroughly investigated than that of northwestern Lehigh. Local historians would do well to busy themselves with this matter, while information is still available.

The beginnings of the settlement of Lancaster County date from 1708-1709. The first settlers came from Switzerland, and the Swiss who came to Pennsylvania in the following years also showed a preference for settling in Lancaster. Ties of blood and friendship are undoubtedly the reasons why the Swiss tended to settle in this one area. In addition, large numbers of settlers from southwestern Germany soon came to Lancaster also.

Thus the early population of Lancaster County contained an important element, the Swiss, which was quite unimportant in the population of Berks and Lehigh, although not entirely lacking in these two counties. As a result, the dialect which developed in Lancaster differs somewhat from the dialects which developed in Berks and Lehigh.

From Lancaster County settlers crossed the South Mountains into present Lebanon County and in time occupied almost the entire county. From Lebanon settlers moved into a fringe of southwestern Berks along the present Lebanon County line. Here the movement from Lebanon met the outskirts of the Tulpehocken Settlement and expansion in this direction was stopped thereby. Since the dialects of these two settlements differed somewhat from each other, a dialect boundary arose where the two settlements met. This is why the people in northeastern Lebanon and southwestern Berks said der Kiwwel and blos-kebbich for the pail and bare-headed, while the people in northwestern Berks and western Lehigh say der Eemer and blott-kebbich (distribution Type V).

The distribution of singular forms of the diminutive suffixes is also due to the meeting of these two settlements. The importance of the Swiss element and of the other Alemannic elements in the population of Lancaster and in the population of the regions settled from Lancaster is proved by the suffix -li, used in the dialects of Switzerland, southern Baden, and southeastern Alsace. The importance of the Palatine element and of the other Franconian elements in the population of Berks and Lehigh is attested by the suffix -che, used in the Franconian dialects of southwestern Germany. –elche is also restricted to the Franconian dialects, but -el is used in some Franconian and some Alemannic dialects. –liche occurs in no dialect in Germany and is a Pennsylvania German creation resulting from adding both -li and -che to one and the same word.

The distribution of the plural forms of the diminutive suffixes is partly due to the factors causing distribution Type V and partly due to the factors causing distribution Type I. The -linof northeastern Lebanon and southwestern Berks is again proof of the strong Alemannic element in the population of this area. The -cherof northwestern Berks and western Lehigh again shows the importance of the Franconian element in the population of these areas. The –licherof northwestern Berks is a plural formed to go with the singular suffix –liche, which in turn is a Pennsylvania German creation. The –elcherof western Lehigh is excellent proof of the importance of the eastern Palatine element in the population of Lehigh, for in southwestern Germany this suffix is restricted almost entirely to the eastern Palatinate.

So far no way has been found of explaining the somewhat rare type of distribution presented in VII.

The cause of distribution Type VIII, in which the Womelsdorf area differs from the rest of western Berks, was briefly discussed in the former article, but it may be well to bring all the material together in this place. This type is due not so much to settlement history as to influences wielded by a cultural center.

Womelsdorf was part of the old Tulpehocken Settlement. In 1729 the famous Weiser family located near the edge of the present borough. Very early it developed into the economic and cultural center for all the surrounding countryside, a position it has maintained to this day. The presence of the Weiser family very likely gave the village an importance which would otherwise have been lacking. From such a center features of language as well as customs and manner spread out into the more rural sections. Although there has always been a certain tension between country people and city dwellers, yet the country people have always to some extent imitated the “more refined” culture of the city dwellers.

The way in which western Lehigh was split up is again the result of its settlement history, certain aspects of which have already been presented.

Northwestern Lehigh was settled from the 1730s on, earlier than any other part of Lehigh. As was shown above, part of the settlers came from Berks, but the majority came up from Berks and Montgomery or directly from southwestern Germany. The other racial elements (Welsh, Scots-Irish, and French Huguenots) were either crowded out or absorbed by the Germans.

The early settlers crossed the rolling central part of Lehigh, now considered one of the best agricultural regions of Pennsylvania, because it was covered with scrub oak instead of open forests and therefore considered less fertile than the hills and valleys in the northwestern part of the county. When the northern part of the county became quite thickly settled, people began to move southward into the more level sections of Lehigh.

The southern part of Lehigh began to be settled in the late 1730s, but the main settlement occurred in the 1740s. It was settled largely by people coming up from Montgomery County or coming directly from Germany, although there were considerable numbers from Berks, as we have already seen. In southern Lehigh they again first took up the lands lying on the hills and in the valleys leading up to the Lehigh Mountains and only gradually expanded into the more level sections of Lehigh lying towards the north.

In time, the expansion from the northern settlements and from the southern settlements met and this “seam” gave rise to the word boundaries in western Lehigh which run roughly from east to west and divide western Lehigh into a northern area, a central area, and a southern area.

The eastward expansion from Berks was not entirely limited to northwestern and southwestern Lehigh, although the main currents of this movement seem to have been deflected in these two directions. Some Berks settlers also took up land in the western part of central Lehigh. These Berks settlers have again left a few traces in the dialect of western Lehigh. This accounts for the word boundaries in western Lehigh which run roughly from north to south and divide western Lehigh into a far-western area (a strip of western Lehigh along the Berks County line, varying inn width from word to word) and a midwestern area. The lines dividing the far-western area from the midwestern area indicate the limits of the eastward movement from the Schuylkill Valley.

The population movements have been summarized on the accompanying map. This map shows the four main types of population movement (1) There is first of all a movement northward from the southern counties. (2) There is an eastward movement from the Schuylkill Valley, from the Tulpehocken Settlement, and from Lebanon County. (3) There is a westward movement from Lehigh County, from the Schuylkill Valley, and from the Tulpehocken Settlement. (4) there is a southward movement from the northern Lehigh settlements and from the Tulpehocken Settlement. All of these movements have produced word boundaries in the Pennsylvania German spoken in western Lehigh and western Berks Counties. It is interesting to note that only in the language has any trace survived of these early population movements which came to an end between a century and a half and two centuries ago.

The Morning Call, ’s Pennsylfawnish Deitsch Eck, August 2, 1941.

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Is Pennsylvania German a Language? An Old Dispute (1873, 1939)

Quite an animated discussion had taken place at the Lehigh County Institute on the Pennsylvania German question. In the EDUCATOR for January 1873 we read: “The editor of the EDUCATOR maintained that Pennsylvania German is a language, and his standpoint was violently assaulted by Prof. Braulick of Allentown. This debate like most other institute discussions would have attracted no further notice had not some Allentown papers taken up the subject and tried to excite prejudice against our position.”

The following extract from the ALLENTOWN DAILY NEWS will explain the subject. “Horne next appeared upon the floor (during the Friday afternoon’s proceedings). He said that the wants of the Pennsylvania German element should occupy the attention of all educators. He said they were often spoken of as the “dumb Dutch.” This was not so. He spoke of the intelligence of the German nation. He said our Pennsylvania Germans were characterized by the same spirit as those of the mother country. Our forefathers settled here, they felled the forests, they settled the country, but had to a certain extent neglected the education of their children. But that day is past. The Pennsylvania Germans are aroused to the great interest of education. German Pennsylvania has done more for education than any other section within the last ten years. As evidence of this he called the attention of the Institute to the fact of salaries, school houses, etc. as an illustration of this fact. The Pennsylvania Germans are the bone and sinew of this part of the country. They have a right to their language. He denied that Pennsylvania was not a language.

Prof. Braulik denied that the Pennsylvania German was a language. He said it was only a dialect, and it had no grammar. The question was asked what composed the Pennsylvania German language. He said it was only German with a change of termination. (Mr. Lyttle asked whether the Pennsylvania tongue was a language or a dialect. Horne said it was a language. Prof. Braulik rose and emphatically denied the same (Applause) . . . He said to Horne “You have no grammar, no literature for yourself.” Horne asked the Professor, “What is grammar?” Prof. Braulik said: “A grammar is a systematical solidity of rules for a language, and the language the means of communicating the thoughts correctly according to that system.” Mr. Lyttle inquired of Mr. Horne whether he would teach the Pennsylvania German as a language in his school. He replied, “Yes, I would.” (Great Applause.)

Prof. N. C. Schaeffer took up the subject. He said: “It has been said that Pennsylvania German is no language, because it has no grammar. This argument is false. The Greek language is the most perfect in existence . . . The most elegant writers of the tongue, such as Plato and Homer, knew nothing of grammar, because the science of grammar originated many years afterwards, when the natives of Athens began to instruct the young Romans in foreign languages. Hence it cannot be said that the “dutch” is no language, because it has no grammar. Pennsylvania German is much older than the classic German. This is shown by the fact that we use many words in their original sense, whereas in classic German these words have undergone a change of meaning.”

The Allentown Daily News continues the argument editorially: “Professor Horne of the Keystone State Normal School succeeded in creating a sensation and eliciting applause from some of the teachers at the Institute yesterday, by maintaining that the dialect commonly known as “Pennsylvania Dutch” is a language, and, in reply to a question, emphatically asserting that he would teach it as a language in the school-room. It is difficult to understand how the learned Professor can maintain such a position as this in face of the fact that there are no text books in existence for the use of scholars, and that without them the utmost that can be expected of pupils is to pick up the “language” just as children do now, from hearing it spoken. The enthusiasm of some of the defenders of the dialect has ere now carried them to the length of proposing that this little defect should be remedied, and the construction of a Pennsylvania Dutch Grammar be set about immediately. We have no desire to ridicule enthusiasm that is engendered of a very real feeling for the “good old language of our fathers” and associated with sentimental recollections of the early words lisped at a mother’s knee. Nevertheless, it appears to us that a gentleman in Prof. Horne’s position should be practical rather than sentimental, and advocate that which would be for the benefit of the rising generation, even though it run counter to the prejudices of the generation that is passing away. The old things that are passing away have held back the people of Pennsylvania for many years, and among them, it is admitted, none has been a more serious bar to their progress in moral and scientific culture than this same Pennsylvania German. Either the German or the Pennsylvania Dutch must give way in this locality, and it is not difficult to see which it will be, in spite of Prof. Horne and others. To set up the claims of a dialect with nothing to recommend it except that it was spoken (it could not be written) by the early settlers here, against a language so rich in literature, so admirable in construction and so beautifully adapted to the expression of lofty thought as the German is ridiculous, though it be done by twenty Professors. Whatever tender recollections of childhood may cluster round the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect (and we do not for one moment make light of them), they must not be, and they will not be, permitted to interfere with the progress of the youthful Pennsylvanians in our public schools. Pure English, or pure German, or better still, both of them, should and will be taught. It does not seem to us to require much consideration to d etermine that it is the wiser source to teach the rising generation to read German books and understand German preaching, sintead of turning backward so that the dialect shall be elevated into a language that can be taught in our schools, and in which a Bible can be printed, whereform ministers may take their texts.”

The above editorial is followed by the following remarks by the editor of the EDUCATOR, the Reverend A. M. Horne:

“It would be entirely out of place without a previous agreement on the terms e mployed, to enter into a discussion with the “Allentown Daily News” upon the subject of whether Pennsylvania German is a language or a dialect, inasmuch as the whole matter hinges upon the definition of the terms. Here lay the cause of a disagreement among the debaters of this question at the Allentown Institute. If we accept their definition of language and dialect, then undoubtedly Prof. Braulik and the “News” are correct. But what business have they to make their own definitions. Have not we as good a right to use our authorities, as they have to accommodated their definitions to their assertions? We asked Prof. Braulick on the floor of the Lehigh County Institute: “What is your definition of a language?” To this he replied, “a language must have a grammar.” We then asked him, “Were the Greek, Latin and German no languages before they had a grammar?” To this he replied: “I can’t express myself.”

Dr. Blair, a standard authority, says: “Language signifies the expression of our ideas by certain articulate sounds, which are used as the signs of those ideas.”

Webster, another good authority, defines language to consist in the oral utterance of sounds, which usage has made the representative of ideas.

Heyse, who should certainly be regarded as an authority by our German friends, says: “Sprache—die Gedankenaeuszersung durch Worte” (language is the expression of thought by means of words). It is useless to quote any more authorities on this subject. Who are right in their definition of what constitutes language, Prof. Braulik and the “Allentown News,” or Blair, Webster and Heyse?

The Pennsylvania Germans either use a language or they do not. What difference does it make whether we call Pennsylvania German a language or a dialect? We are not particular about the word. We prefer to say language, Prof. Braulik and the “Allentown News” may say dialect. It does not always matter by what name we call a thing. “A rose by any other name,” etc. The principle remains the same under either name. Yes, we would teach Pennsylvania German in school, we would make use of it, wherever necessary to explain a point to a Pennsylvania German pupil, if he cannot understand an English or a purely German expression. Yes, we would be practical rather than sentimental, and use every lawful means for illustration in the school room though it be Pennsylvania German, and if we can find a more expressive term in that language than in German or English, even at the risk of being pitched into, “iwwer die Kohle genumme zu warre,” by a hypercritical professor or editor, we will do it.

We argue by no means that the Hochdeutsch should be superseded or displaced by the Pennsylvania German, per contra, we would have it taught in every school to the fullest possible extent. Yes, the Pennsylvania German is a fact, a reality, it is spoken by two thirds of our population east of the Susquehanna, and spoken by 500,000 persons in Pennsylvania who have no other medium by which to express themselves. It has a literature in papers and books, and claims equal, if not greater antiquity, in a number of its words than the “Hochdeutsch”—these are facts, which we as educators dare not ignore, and, if we do, we commit the same mistake, which European Germans, and Americans have persistently made during the last one hundred years—from which we have suffered irretrievably.

It is high time that we should awake to realize our position, and the Pennsylvania German who proves recreant to his trust in this particular, denying his parentage, and is ashamed of his mother-tongue should be condemned as a traitor, who is fitted for stratagem and spoil.

We are all co-laborers in the one same great cause, there is no time to fight on the way, we have no energies to waste in bickering—let us no longer waste our resources but unite in laboring for the common good, and though we may differ in the definitions of terms, may we for once, at least, whether European or Pennsylvania German, or English American, lay aside our prejudices, selfishness, and personal feelings, and make common cause in the great work of developing the talents of our Pennsylvania Germans. This can be done, not by casting flings at them as the “dumb Dutch,” but acceding to them their rights and recognizing in them that talent, energy, industry, honesty and high-toned religious sentiment, that love of country, family, home and God, for which they are proverbial, wherever their character is rightly understood.

(Sixty-six years have passed since the above dispute took place and those who had participated in it have long since departed this life. Similar disputes have taken place and no doubt others will follow. In the meantime the Pennsylvania German continues to be spoken by hundreds of thousands. Speech is more tenacious and enduring than those whose lips pronounce it. Today we are satisfied to agree with scholars in general that Pennsylvania German is a dialect, one of some two hundred German dialects. Of course dialects also have their grammar, whether written or waiting to be written, for the grammar of any tongue is only the behavior of that tongue with relation to its parts of speech. Dialects also have their literature, and German dialect literature is today looked upon as a vital part of German literature. Only recently a history of our own Pennsylvania German literature appeared in Leipzig.)

The Morning Call (Allentown), July 15, 1939, page 7

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A New Garment for Our Dialect (1939)

All students and lovers of our dialect and its literature will welcome the movement to standardize the orthography of the Pennsylvania German. Nothing has so impeded the progress and the spread of our lore and literature as the arbitrary and inconsistent spelling which, since the days of Henry Harbaugh, our writers have employed in recording the dialect.
To bring order out of this chaos is no small task. It must therefore be gratifying news to our readers that a number of disinterested persons assembled in the Community House at Hershey, Pa., on last Saturday, January 28, for the purpose of discussing such standardization. That a group of some forty people of the most varied interests, lawyers, teachers, clergymen, poets, columnists, newspaper men, and members of both the Pennsylvania German Society and the Pennsylvania German Folklore Society could assemble and amicably discuss the intricate problems which the subject implies, is in itself a most hopeful sign and presages a successful solution.
Among those present were the following:
Dr. P. C. Croll, Womelsdorf, Pa., the well known founder of the Pennsylvania German Magazine, with Mrs. Croll and their daughter Mrs. Amie Croll Dodson; Mr. Bryant Wiest, Elizabethville, theater owner, who frequently presents dialect programs; Mr. A L. Lehman, Elizabethville, Pa., who is organizing a Deitsche Versammling for Dauphin County; Dr. E. M. Hartman, President of Franklin and Marshall Academy, Lancaster, Pa.; Dr. John Baer Stoudt, well known historian and genealogist; Dr. A. G. Breitenstein, Hershey, Pa., Dean of Hershey Junior College; Mr. and Mrs. Munroe Aurand, of Aurand’s Book Store, Harrisburg, Pa.; Dr. Clyde S. Stine, Lebanon Valley College, Annville, Pa.; the Rev. Pierce Swope, Lebanon, Pa., humorist and popular speaker at dialect meetings; John Birmelin, the Poet Laureate of our dialect; Lloyd Moll, prose writer and columnist of the Chronicle and News, Allentown, Pa.; Dr. Preston A. Barba, Muhlenberg College, Allentown, Pa.; Harry Weyrick, Esq., of the Lebanon County Historical Society; Mr. Harry Hummel, Lebanon, Pa.; Dr. Alvin Stonecypher, Lebanon Valley College, Annville, Pa.; Mr. G. Gilbert Snyder, Robesonia, Pa., “Die Wunnernaus” dialect newscaster, station WEEU, Reading; Mr. Roy G. Dundore, Lebanon, Pa., who conducts dialect programs at family reunions; Dr. and Mrs. Gerrit Memming, Albright College, Reading, Pa.; Mr. Paul Wieand, Allentown, Pa., author of numerous dialect plays; Mr. Victor Dieffenbach, contributor to Lebanon papers under the pen name “Der Oldt Bauer;” Dr. Arthur D. Graeff, “Der Dichter vun de Dolpehock,” and contributor to Reading papers; Mrs. Arthur D. Graeff and Mrs. G. G. Snyder, “Die Maed,” who sing dialect songs; Mr. George Reinert, leader of the quartette known as “Die Friedliche Viere;” Mr. C. Kaler Hackman, Womelsdorf, Pa.; Mr. Edgar Messerschmidt, Myerstown, Pa.
Others who wrote letters, manifesting their interest in this movement, were: the Rev. William H. Erb, Norristown, Pa., well known dialect poet “Der Gus;” Dr. George Korson, Bucknell University, Lewistown, Pa., Mr. Harry Miller, “Der Deitsch” of the Lititz Express; Mr. W. R. Dundore, “Der Beloit Deitscher,” Beloit, Wisc.; Mr. E. R. Haag, Wyomissing High School; Dr. Alfred Gerberich, Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pa.,; Dr. Frederick G. Livingood, Washington College, Georgetown, Md.; Mr. Herbert C. Kohler of the Reading Times; Mr. Daniel K. Koch of the Reading Eagle; Mr. Harvey Miller “Solly Hulsbuck,” Elizabethville, Pa.; Prof. A. F. Kemp, County Supt. of the Berks County Schools; the Rev. Thomas Brendle, Egypt, Pa.; Col. Henry Shoemaker, State Librarian; Prof. Donald Klopp, Red Bank, N. J. and Dr. William L. Werner, of Penn State College; Mr. Henry L. Landis, “Der Gross Henner” of the Lancaster-New Era; Mr. Henry S. Borneman, Secretary of the Pennsylvania German Society; Dr. J. L. Hertz, one of the original organizers of the P. G. Society; Mr. Michael A. Gruber, dialect poet and genealogist, Washington, D.C.
Prof. Clyde Stine acted as Chairman at this conference, and Dr. Arthur Graeff as Secretary. Dr. Preston Barba presented for discussion the outlines of a system of orthography based on German phonetics which was generally accepted as a working basis. A committee was appointed to perfect the system and to report at the annual meeting of the Pennsylvania German Folklore Society, to be held at Muhlenberg College, April 22, 1939.—Ed.

The Morning Call (Allentown), February 4, 1939, page 7

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Ninety-one Ways to Spell a Word (1952)

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Ninety-one Ways to Spell a Word
By Albert F. Buffington
The Morning Call (Allentown, Pennsylvania) 12 April 1952, page 10.

According to the system used by Dr. Barba in the ECK and also by Buffington and Barba in their new Pennsylvania German Grammar (now in press and being published by Schlechter’s of Allentown) the radio name of the Pennsylvania German broadcaster who presents a broadcast every Sunday over WKOK, Sunbury, should be spelled N-i-x-n-u-t-z. A recent survey of the Nixnutz’s fan mail, however, has revealed that there are ninety other ways to spell this Pennsylvania German word.

“Nixnutz” is a word which these Pennsylvania German people had used and heard many times. If they were born and brought up in a Pennsylvania German family, they had probably at some time or other been called “du gleener(ri) Nixnutz.” But apparently, most of them had never seen the word in print; nor had they ever attempted to spell it.

Obviously one of the first problems confronting many of the ninety-one people who wrote these “fan” letters was whether “Nixnutz” should be written as one or two words. Thus we find some making two words out of “Nixnutz” and others writing it as one word, e.g. Nix Noots and Nixnoots, Nix Nutz and Nixnuts, Nicks Nooks and Nicksnooks, Nicks Noots and Nicksnoots, Nicks-Nuts and Nicks-nuts, Nicks Nutz and Nicksnutz, Nits Noots and Nits-noots, Nicks Nucks and Nixnucks, Nix-Nuds and Nix-nuds, Nix Nuts and Nixnuts, Nix Snoots and Nix-snoots, Nix Snuts and Nixsnuts, Nix Noods and Nixnoods, Nix Nooks and Nixnooks, etc.

Apparently another problem which many had to ponder was how to spell the first half of the word. The majority spelled it “nix,” but many wrote “Nicks,” e.h. Nicksnutz, Nicksnoots, Nicks-Nuts, Nicks Nouts, Nicksnooks, etc. To some, probably to this ewho were not too familiar with the dialect, this initial syllable sounded like “Mix,” and thus, on some of the letters “Nixnutz” was written Mix mud, Mix Nus, Mix mutz, Mixnoots, Mixnuts, Mix nutz, Mixnux, and Mix Nux. Others thought this first syllable ought to be spelled “Snicks,” e.g. “Snicks Snoks, Snicks Snooks, Snicks Snuks,” etc. Other spellings of the initial syllable occurring less frequently were Snick, Nicht, Nights, Nick, Knix, Nex, Nits, Nitz, Niz, and Nux.

In the spelling of the second half of “Nixnutz” there were even greater variation, as the following list will reveal:

Nix moots
Nix Newits
Nix Nods
Nix Noods
Nix Nook
Nix Nocks
Nix Nootks
Nix Noot’s
Nix Nooks
Nix Notts
Nix Notts
Nix Nootz
Nix Notz
Nix Noux
Nix Newites
Nix Noutze
Nix Nutes
Nix Nutses
Snick Snoks
Snick Snoots
Snicks Snooks
Snicks Snuks
Nick Notz
Nicks Neuick’s
Nicks Nooks
Nicks Noots
Nicks Nouts
Nicks nutz
Knix Knut’s
Nits Noots
Nitz nuetz
Nix Nucks
Nix Nucks
Nix Nut
Nix Nutch
Nix Nuts
Nix Nutz
Nix Nux
Nix Nuz
Nix Snooks
Nix Snoots
Nix Snuts
Mix mud
Mix Nus
Mix mutz
Mix nutz
Mix Nux

These ninety-one different spellings of the same word illustrate what happens when a bilingual person who knows how to write in one language attempts to use that alphabet for his other language. It also illustrates the defects of our English system of orthography
Presumably, all of the ninety-one people who addressed these “fan” letters to the Nixnutz were bilingual, speaking both English and Pennsylvania German. A few of them may also have been familiar with standard German. These people had learned to write English in school but had never been taught how to write Pennsylvania German.

Thus, in attempting to write “der Nixnutz” most of the above “fans” tried to use the non-phonetic English alphabet in transcribing the sounds of the dialect. In so doing, they retained the defects of our English system of orthography.

In conclusion, I should like to emphasize once again, as I have done in previous articles, that Pennsylvania German is a German dialect and that, therefore, the spelling of Pennsylvania German should be based upon German rather than on English orthography. We see in the above spellings of “Nixnutz” what happens when one tries to represent the Pennsylvania German sounds by using English equivalents.

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