Pennsylvania Dutch Essay

2462 words - 10 pages

Pennsylvania Dutch is one of the hardest dialects to study, and yet has an extremely interesting history as well as a significant impact on the English language of the Pennsylvania area. Study of Pennsylvania Dutch is difficult for researchers because of the scarcity of books printed in it. The language had been preserved largely by word of mouth and lacks a traceable history through written works, making it difficult to trace its development (Follin, 1929, p. 455). However, what there has been much research on is how it differs from modern German, also called High German, and also how Pennsylvania Dutch and English have mutually affected each other. Researchers can even tell which dialects Pennsylvania Dutch evolved from and whence in Europe they came. Also, researchers have also been successful in finding information relating how the language has been impacted by the culture of its native speakers, who in the majority are the Amish and Mennonites.
The ancestors of today’s speakers of Pennsylvania Dutch likely immigrated to Pennsylvania in the early 1700s. In 1709 especially, as well as afterward, there was a great rush of Swiss and German immigrants to the Pennsylvania area (Tolles, F.B., 1957, p. 130). The main reason for this sudden surge of immigrants is the want for both religious and personal freedom (Springer, O., 1943, p. 31). Because the pre-United States area was not under as strict rule, they thought of it as an opportunity to be able to display their faith somewhere without discrimination and persecution. The speakers of Pennsylvania Dutch are not even Dutch. Rather, it is a soft South German from Bavaria, also known as the Palatinate. The name “Pennsylvania Dutch” is derived from the German word meaning “Dutchman”. This merely refers to any foreigner from a large central European area (Follin, M., 1929, p. 455). The majority of these Dutchmen came the Palatinate, but there were also others who came from Switzerland, Württemberg, Hesse, Alsace, Saxony, and Silesia (Buffington, A.F., 1939, p. 276). These early settlers were for the majority bilingual. They used their particular dialect in everyday discourse with others from the same area, and they also knew High German so that they could interact with each other as well as in schools and churches. Soon after immigrating to Pennsylvania, many of these settlers had to become trilingual due to the transition from German to English in schools. Due to the prominence of both the English and High German languages, the minor dialects evolved into one dialect, one that was very similar to the Palatinate dialect because most settlers were from that area, and this formed what we now call the dialect of Pennsylvania Dutch, which has not changed much at all over the past hundred years (Buffington, A.F., 1956, p. 317).
Not only is Pennsylvania Dutch a conglomeration of cultures with roots in many different geographical areas, it is part of a culture is also rich in religious...

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