O#1: O admirabile commercium

O admirabile commercium creator generis humani animatum corpus sumens de virgine nasci dignatus est et procedens homo sine semine largitus est nobis suam deitatem.

O wonderful exchange: the creator of humankind took on a living body, merited to be born of a virgin, and, being born as a man without seed, gave us his deity.


One of the O Antiphons is suited equally to the Annunciation (the March 25 commemoration of the conception of Jesus Christ inside of his mother Mary) as to singing during the time just after Christmas. It is the first O Antiphon alphabetically in its Latin text, and so reading it at it the beginning of Advent makes a logical sense.

We have begun a season of exchanges, a kind of directional action that is common enough in our normal lives. Foreign exchange of money for other money when we travel for work or go on vacation to another country. The gift exchanges of social obligation, workplace fellowship, friendly sincerity. Exchanges of one place for another when we travel to visit family during the longue durée of the extended holiday period. And all of us reading this live in the permanent shadow of the Columbian Exchange that brought horses and bees and measles to Mexico in return for coffee, gold, slaves, chocolate, potatoes, and slaves to Europe.

O admirabile commercium is a capsule of three words that contain some of the potent truths about the incarnation as an exchange of another kind. The incarnation is the teaching that in the person of Jesus Christ the fulness of the eternal world-creating God became joined permanently, unbreakably, inexplicably, with the fulness of humanity: God exchanging incorporeality for a specific body that was born like every other human baby from a particular woman in a given place. The exchange went reciprocally but not transactionally in the other direction, too: largitus est nobis suam deitatem: “God gave us his deity.”

The Wonderful Exchange confers on every human person a permanent dignity that nothing can take away—age, actions, station, illness, immigration status, “gloomy doubts and faithless fear”—none can change God’s chosen identity with us and all whom we meet by choice or chance.

If this principle confers on each of us duties of respect and reverence toward those around us—the same respect and reverence that we would give to God—it does so along the lines Frank Weston of Zanzibar explained in a famous 1923 sermon: “if God leapt a gulf for you, I suppose that you can leap gulfs for God.”

Advent emerges then as a season of jumps: from God to us, from us to God, from me to you, and from each of us in sincerity toward anyone who differs from us.

If you’d like to listen to O admirabile commercium in music that has nourished souls before us for half a thousand years, Handl, Josquin Desprez, William Byrd, and Hans Leo Hassler are all free and brief.

For background on this Advent reflection, see Slouching toward Bethlehem in 2019.
A Pennsylvanian in Connecticut (and often other places), Richard Mammana is a father, author, reviewer, archivist, web developer and ecumenist. He is the founder of anglicanhistory.org.

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Slouching toward Bethlehem in 2019

O-Antiphons-adventChristian daily prayer has fixed poles in its main western expressions: the Venite (O come, let us sing unto the Lord) in the morning; the Magnificat (My soul doth magnify the Lord) and the Nunc dimittis (Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace) in the evening. All three of the canticles are unvarying parts of what the intentional Christian community says in unison every day of the year. This makes them by their very nature “monotonous” in a neutral meaning of the term. Over centuries, medieval tradition added short texts to be said before and after the fixed canticles as a way of relieving this monotony, and also amplifying the hymns’ meanings during the course of the Christian year. They are called antiphons. Not exactly decorations for the set texts that assert the Christian worshipers’ continuity with the worship of Israel and Jesus’ understood fulfillment of the Jewish messianic vision, the antiphons nevertheless give a special character to every day when they return in the Prayer Book during the year.

The most famous antiphons in European Christianity are the O Antiphons from the final days of Advent, digested and popularized in the beloved hymn O come, O come, Emmanuel:

December 16. O Sapientia (O Wisdom)
December 17. O Adonai (O Lord)
December 18. O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse)
December 19. O Clavis David (O Key of David)
December 20. O Oriens (O Dayspring)
December 21. O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations)
December 22. O Emmanuel (O Emmanuel)
December 23. O Virgo Virginum (O Virgin of Virgins)

It has been generally forgotten that there are an abundance of other O-beginning antiphons in local Christian traditions. Fittingly, there are 31, enough to make a full December of additions to the Venite and the Mag and Nunc.

Visit here each day in Advent and beyond to read and mark with holy scripture the mighty acts that find their expression in the mouth forming itself around a gesture of openness and wonder: O come, let us sing unto the Lord. O come, O come, Emmanuel.

Beginning tomorrow, we will look in sincerity and occasional good humor at the full list of 31 (here given alphabetically, because that is how nineteenth century liturgical scholars sorted them):

1. O admirabile commercium (O wondrous exchange)
2. O Adonai (O Lord)
3. O beata Infantia (O blessed infancy)
4. O beate Thoma (O blessed Thomas)
5. O Bethlehem
6. O Bone pastor qui animam (O good shepherd who laid down thy life)
7. O Bone Pastor visite (O good shepherd, visit)
8. O Clavis David (O Key of David)
9. O coelebs pudica (O righteous bachelor)
10. O coelorum Domine (O Lord of the heavens)
11. O coelorum Rex (O king of the heavens)
12. O decus apostolicum (O ornament of the apostles)
13. O Domine fac (O Lord, make)
14. O Eloi gyrum qui contines (O hosts of Elohim who contain)
15. O Emmanuel
16. O Gabriel
17. O gloriose tactor (O glorious one who touched)
18. O Hierusalem (O Jerusalem)
19. O Oriens (O Dayspring)
20. Orietur sicut sol salvator mundi (As the sun rises like the savior of the world)
21. O Pastor Israel (O Shepherd of Israel)
22. O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse)
23. O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations)
24. O rex Israel (O King of Israel)
25. O rex pacifice (O King of Peace)
26. O Sancte Sanctorum (O holy of holies)
27. O Sapientia (O Wisdom)
28. O speculum (O Mirror)
29. O summe artifex (O Highest Architect)
30. O Thoma Didyme (O Thomas the Twin)
31. O Virgo Virginum (O Virgin of Virgins)

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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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Meeting Frère Jacques again for the First Time (2014)

This evening, as I drove my two and a half year-old daughter home from her Quaker-sponsored daycare, she asked-told me in unmistakable chirp-tones from behind me: “Sing Dormez-vous, papa?”

I hadn’t taught it to her, and I was a little astonished at the request. But never one to lose a chance to sing in the car, I trusted her question. And so I started

Frè-re Jac-ques

and she piped along from her car-seat perfectly for the whole thing:

Frère Jacques, frère Jacques,
Dormez-vous? Dormez-vous?
Sonnez les matines! Sonnez les matines!
Ding, daing, dong. Ding, daing, dong.

We sang the song in unison for most of the rest of the ride home, with tears of delight forming in the corners of my eyes. (It being 14ºF outside the car, I dared not let the tears stream down my cheeks as they would have liked to. Driving without face-icicles is important in Connecticut in January.)

My Emilia gave special energy to

Dooor-mez-vooooooous? Dooor-mez-vooooooous?

And I look forward to asking her the same question at the end of naptimes from now on, like Roger Sterling to Don Draper in the wake of Megan’s Zou Bisou Bisou.

I marvel to myself as I get ready for bed tonight that my daughter is the inheritor of a song whose expanded-with-context English translation could go something like this:

Brother John, are you still sleeping? You are responsible for waking the other monks for Matins, the final nighttime office of common prayer in the monastery church! If you are still asleep, they will not be roused by your campanology in time to begin the prayers in order for them to finish by dawn. You are being lazy! This is the sin of sloth! Go ring the bells! Come on, ring the bells! […] Ding, ding, dong. Ding, ding, dong.

The simple children’s song is obscure in its origins and meanings—and we weren’t singing it in a round, as it is meant to be sung. But its roots are in a particularly French and jocular attitude about lazy clergy. There are dozens of nineteenth-century photographs and engravings of someone dressed as a priest who is feasting on hams or truffles, with subtitles like “Good Friday,” or “A Fast Day.”

It is as much a marvel to me that my own toddling daughter knows this song, as that this little song is (with all its assumed monastic knowledge and religious-contextual background) one of the most common children’s songs in the English-speaking world.

My Emi will never be a monk in a French monastery where the time is told only by bells, and not by digital clocks, or where an anticlericalist intelligentsia wait outside the windows to see what she is eating on fast days, and how late she is sleeping during the daily Liturgy of the Hours. My Emi may well, if her life and Lord should lead her there, join a community devoted to singing the daily office throughout the day—including throughout the night and the pre-dawn hours.

But I feel confident that her early formation as a person will include few other indications of the possibility of monastic Christian life. And it feels strange to me that, even with the Franco-English linguistic barrier, this first clear exposure of a “Brother John” is a mocking one that gains its power from the brother’s failure to keep the monastic regimen.

My rediscovery of Frère Jacques tonight has a rich mixture of delight and sorrow about it. “As sorrowful yet alway rejoicing,” I just plain love that she is singing a nursery song I liked very much, even if that song has as its background a monastic failing. I will keep singing it with her, but I will also keeping sharing with her the good life of communities in which wakefulness takes place, in which responsibility takes place, in which sacrifice takes place.

I want her to have the joy of singing a silly song as often as ever she likes, and I will always sing it with her. I want her, too, to have the experience of good monastics to counter it by balance, as they ring the morning bells, and ring the morning bells again the next day.

Originally published in Hartford Faith and Values on February 2, 2014.

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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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The Present Status of Research in the Pennsylvania German Dialect, by Herbert Penzl (1937)

The first group of German settlers in Pennsylvania landed in Philadelphia in 1683. In the year 1775 their number was already about 110,000. They belonged for the most part to the lower social stratum of the population. Among themselves they therefore spoke their native dialects, although they had High German services in their churches, High German instruction in their parochial schools and High German newspapers.

Such a continuous intercourse of speakers in various dialects resulted in a sort of compromise, although the dialect of the majority of the speakers Rheinpfaelzisch (the dialect of the Rhenish Palatinate) was victorious. It seems that the dialectical differences have in various places been smoothed out and melted finally into a unit that appears quite homogeneous. Very early many loan-words were already taken over from the English. In Christopher Saur’s newspaper Der Hochdeutsche Pennsylvanische Geschicht-schreiber (founded in 1739) we find: fens, store, schapkiper, packet-buch, etc. Die Philadelphische Korrespondenz (1784) makes fun of the number of borrowings in the spoken dialect. The criticisms of outsiders were even more severe. Joh. Schoepf, in his book Reise durch einige der mittleren und suedlichen vereinigten Nordamerikanschen Staaten in den Jahren 1783 und 1784 (Erlangen 1788), deplores the formation of “Pennsylvania Dutch” or “Pennsylfawnisch Deitsch” for patriotic reasons.

The numerous borrowings are responsible for the absurd question which was seriously asked by a writer in the Pennsylvania German dialect, whether the latter was a dialect of German or a dialect of English. E. M. Fogel complains in 1925: “The Nichtwissser still maintain that Pennsylvania German is only a mixture of bad English and worse German.”

The exclusively English instruction in the public schools makes the number of speakers of the dialect decrease from year to year. It is significant that a large percentage of those that only spoke the dialect in their childhood retain merely a passive knowledge of it later on. A. R. Horne mentions “six to eight hundred thousand inhabitants of eastern Pennsylvania, to whom English is as much a dead language as Latin or Greek” in the preface to the second edition of his Pennsylvania German Manual (1895). In 1902 Lee I. Grumbine calls the dialect “the fact declining dialect of a foreign tongue.” Some rather optimistic estimates put the number of active dialect speakers as high as several hundred thousand for the present time. But Knauss is no doubt right in saying in 1922: “The time seems not far distant when the last vestige of the remarkable Pennsylvania German dialect will have vanished. The dialect seems to have died out in some of the western Pennsylvania counties now. It is rapidly disappearing in Lancaster County, one of the former centers of the dialect, and in the various secondary settlements in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Maryland, and elsewhere. The collapse of the instruction of German after the World War, the lack of prestige of the dialect among most of the educated people of Pennsylvania German descent, all help to speed up this process of gradual disappearance. But in spite of this continuous, steady decrease in the number of speakers, it is still very large and probably still the largest original linguistic minority in the United States.

Dialect literature becomes especially important for all those who have not the opportunity of being in immediate constant contact with the speakers of a dialect. The Pennsylvania German dialect literature is a product of the nineteenth century. The first lines that were printed in the dialect are to be found in the newspaper Der Deutsche in Amerika in 1841, and in Der Friedensbote in 1846. The first poem in the dialect appeared in 1849 in Der Kirchenfreund. Since then the literature has increased considerably. Harry H. Reichard was able to mention a large number of dialect writers in his comprehensive bibliography. Heinz Kloss published in 1931 a long article on Pennsylvania German literature.

To what extent has this dialect, which is almost unique as to origin and history, been investigated? The vocabulary of the dialect has been dealt with rather fully by several Pennsylvania Germans for practical reasons. A. R. Horne states it frankly in the preface to his Pennsylvania German Manual: “to render such assistance to those who speak Pennsylvania German only, as will enable them the more readily to acquire the English, has induced us to prepare this manual.” Horne’s next book, the Pennsylvanisch-Deitsch Buch, contained 5522 German (in English spelling) and 176 English words. E. R. Rauch published in 1879 his Pennsylvania Dutch Handbook, which contained 5000 German and 1000 English words. J. C. Lins published a dictionary in 1887 “to aid such Pennsylvania Germans as are anxious to acquire a knowledge of the English language.” W. J. Hoffman used for his word-list in 1888 the phonetic spelling applied by the Bureau of American Ethnology in recording Indian languages. The last and most complete presentation of German words of the dialect is M. B. Lambert’s Dictionary of the Non-English Words of the Pennsylvania German Dialect (1924) which contains 16,438 words.

Besides these dictionaries, which owe their existence to pedagogical rather than scientific interest, there are two studies which treat all the aspects of the dialect, and not only the vocabulary. One is today merely of historical interest, i.e. Prof. S. S. Halderman’s book Pennsylvania Dutch: A Dialect of South German with an Infusion of English (Philadelphia 1872). Haldeman succeeded in getting a scholar like Alexander Ellis interested in Pennsylvania German. He writes in Early English Pronunciation, pp. 652-663: “perceiving at once the analogy between the debased German with English intermixture and Chaucer’s debased Anglo-Saxon with Norman intermixture, I requested and obtained as much further information as enabled me to give an account of the singular modern reproduction of the manner in which our English language itself was built up, and inserted it in the introduction to my chapter on Chaucer’s pronunciation.”

The only scientifically valuable treatment that is in existence, a study that deals with phonology, morphology and syntax, is the one by Marion Dexter Learned, The Pennsylvania German Dialect (American Journal of Philology, 1889). Learned presents a complete morphology of the dialect, and tries to give a syntax. He takes up the problem of the mixture of German and English, and studies the type of borrowing. He never fails to give the historical equivalents (e.g. Penn German ei represents Gothic i, Old German iu, etc.) but unfortunately no phonetical and localized variants of pronunciation are mentioned, because his time knew of no dialect geography. At the present time Albert J. Buffington (Harvard) is working on a doctor’s dissertation A Grammatical and Linguistic Study of Pennsylvania German, based on his own pronunciation of the dialect.

The status of research in the Pennsylvania German dialect is at present therefore as follows: almost the entire native and part of the borrowed vocabulary have been recorded, some principles of borrowing, the morphology and some syntactical phases have been established, but there is at this writing no phonetical treatment, to say nothing of one that might be called in the modern sense phonemical. The most considerable gap is this: there is no phonetical field-record of the Pennsylvania German dialect, not even a single sample.

Field-work would provide the foundation for attacking a number of extremely interesting problems. I shall now call attention to an extensive, and practically untouched, field for study. The following questions present themselves:

I.—The question whether the dialect is really so uniform and homogenous as the authors of the dictionaries seem to assume. The large expansion of the territory where the Pennsylvania German is, or at least used to be, spoken, and the different extraction of the settlers would seem to make a development of various local types more likely. There can be no doubt, even according to our present sketchy knowledge of the dialect, that there are different local variations in it. Learned mentioned the vacillation between kleid and kleed, reye and rege, the pronunciation guot for gut (good) in certain parts of Pennsylvania. Cyrus H. Eshleman, who sent a questionnaire to fifteen places in Lancaster County, found that the pronunciations Apfel and Pfund still existed beside the prevalent Appel and Pund. The dialectical variations of the vocabulary are even more pronounced than the phonological ones: Maedeli in Lancaster CO. corresponds to Maedche in Lehigh Co. In Plantnames and Plantlore among the Pennsylvania Germans, Liek and Brendle show that Prunus Virginiana in Lebanon Co. is called Fogelkarsche, but Maulzieher in Montgomery Co., and elsewhere Wildkarsche. Also the number of borrowings from English varies in different localities. Learned noticed a greater number among writers from the Northeast than from the Southwest.

II.—The question which German dialect of the present time more nearly resembles the Pennsylvania German is closely connected with the one concerning various types of the dialect. The result of Emil Boehmer’s study Sprach und Gruendungsgeschichte der pfaelzischen Colonie am Niederrehein (Marburg 1909) indicates that, although the dialect of the colony is very similar to that of Kusel, the settlers really came from Simmern and Kreuznach. Lambert assumed a similarity with the Westrich type of the Palatinate dialects. Eshleman proved that not the dialect of the western part of the Palatinate, but that of the eastern, or rather the northeastern part, was not similar to Pennsylvania German. Boehmer’s result teaches us, therefore, not to draw any inferences as to the homes of the settlers from a compromise dialect. Eshleman had the advice of the well-known scholar of the Palatinate dialects, Ernst Christman. We hope that his researches mark only the beginnings of more specialized investigations.

III.—A detailed investigation of vocabulary, syntactical schemes, and above all, of the phonology of the English of the earlier speakers of the dialect, would be extremely valuable. The intermediate stages in the change of language of individual speakers are still unknown. It is doubtful whether the transformation of the phonemic system is gradually achieved or with a jump. The loan words in the Pennsylvania German dialect show substitutions of sounds: Welvet from velvet, schmaert from smart, badder from bother. Is this only a transition stage, leading to a truly English phonemic system, or is that “Pennsylvania English?” The existence of such a Pennsylvania English, as the dialect of a territory, where formerly Pennsylvania German-speaking people had the majority, would be important evidence for substrata theories in general. R. Whitney Tucker notices only very few substitutions in the dialect, and is therefore very skeptical as to the existence of a “Pennsylvania English.” He mentions, however, the very striking intonation in the English of some Pennsylvania Germans.

IV.—The lack of generally recognized standards for spelling, which is usually a mixture of the German and English ones, makes a phonemic interpretation of dialect literature very difficult, especially because there are no field-records in existence. It would be easier to write a study of the vocabulary and syntax of the material in papers like the Reading Adler (1796-1931), the Bucks County Express, etc., or in the works of one of the dialect writers. Professor W. L. Werner of Pennsylvania State College informs the writer that Miss Mildred Runyon wrote a master’s thesis on “Pennsylvania German in the Reading Adler, 1837-1857.”

V.—I should like to call attention to the influences that can be drawn from English loan-words in the Pennsylvania German dialect on American English at the time of borrowing.

The words Grick and Bossum in Pennsylvania German show that the dialectal forms crick and possum (opossum) were most frequently heard by the immigrants. The form boi presupposes a similar rustic pronunciation for the English pie.

Just as loan-words in Finnish have thrown light on features of Primitive Germanic, so too it seems to be possible to draw important inferences by way of the Pennsylvania German loan-words from American English. The ae-type for Middle English a short before r is proved by the evidence of grammarians of England in the eighteenth century, for America until the middle of the nineteenth century. The pronunciations kaer, haerd, paerti for car, hard and party, are indicated by B. Franklin (1768). D. Mackintosh (1797), etc., and rhymes and spellings furnish further evidence. 

Not one of the field-records of the Linguistic Atlas of the United States and Canada or any other sources show any traces of this ae-type for Middle English a short before r. It seems to have died out completely in modern American English. The loan-words in Pennsylvania German were largely taken over in the eighteenth century, i.e. at a time when the ae-type was prevalent. The palatal sound, that was also used for rendering Middle English a long (e.g. Laedy) occurs generally in them: schmaert, paerty, gemaertscht, kaerpet, for smart, party, marched, and carpet. The explanation of the spelling of immigrant names Barger, Warfel, Garver, for Berger, Werfel, and Gerber must very likely be sought in the rendering of the dialectical pronunciation. But the frequency and consistency of this change in spelling makes one wonder whether the “official” High German pronunciation of such proper names should not even once have asserted itself in this connection. The explanation offers itself that the spelling “ar” was pronounced aer and not ar in American English at that time. We see that loan-words in Pennsylvania German throw light on an important feature of the historical grammar of American English.

To summarize briefly: the investigation of the Pennsylvania German dialect is in all its important aspects still in its beginning. Everything can still be done, if it is done early enough, before the corruption and destruction has made further progress, before the number of speakers has dwindled down, and further characteristics have been lost. Phonetical recording in the field would provide a basis for studies that are most important from the linguistic point of view, as e.g. (1) on the local types of the dialect; (2) on their relationship to German dialects of the present time; (3) on change of language, disappearance of language and the substrata problem; (4) on phonology, vocabulary, and syntax of the written sources; and (5) on American English through important inferences to be drawn from the dialect.

The Morning Call, February 13, 1937.

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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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