Archiver > PENNA-DUTCH > 1996-11 > 0847824385

From: Cathy Krall <>
Subject: Pennsylvania Dutch Dialect
Date: Tue, 12 Nov 1996 13:46:25 -0500

Great thread about talking Dutch.

My paternal grandmother born in 1890 spoke the dialect with her friends and
with doctors, shopkeepers etc in Dauphin County. My father born in 1922
does not speak it, nor do I (b. 1954). However, I have always wanted to
learn the dialect and started attending classes at the Lancaster Mennonite
Historical Society in Lancaster PA.

Last year I attended a lecture at Elizabethtown College, Elizabethtown PA
on the question of whether the Pennsylvania Dutch (german) dialect was a
dying language or not. The professor (from Kutztown State College - sorry
but I don't remember her name) drew a distinction between three types of
1. Those for whom the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect is their primary
language. (e.g. the Amish who use it daily)
2. Those who can speak the dialect but not use it for daily
3. Those who use/understand some words from the dialect.

Her research indicated that as far as numbers are concerned:
Group 1 - is growing rapidly among the Amish
(the Amish have a high birth rate)
there are no longer any native non-Amish Pennsylvania German
speakers under the age of 40
Group 2 - small and shrinking
Group 3 - large but not increasing

As far as the question of whether the language is remaining true to its
origins or changing into something different:
Group 1 - The language used by the Amish is rapidly adapting and
adopting many English words and grammar structures, so the
language itself is changing.
Group 2 - Language remains pure, it is not being adapted. Persons in
this group switch to English when expressing things which
cannot be said well in the dialect, rather than modifying the
Group 3 - not applicable

The lecture ended with a survey of the audience to identify group 3
speakers as those who could understand the meaning of some common
dutch or dutchified English words or expressions. (very few of the
respondents under 40 could do so - most of the local audience members
over 40 could)

Here is my own questionnaire based on expressions I use frequently.
(translations at the end for you English)
1 Gesundheit
2 Shuschlick - as in "Ai, Ai, Ai, I am so schusslich today"
3 Doppick - ditto
4 All - as in "The mashed potatoes are all".
5 Grex - as in "stop your grexing"
6 Rutsch - as in "The little child kept rutsching during the sermon."
7 "bump the bell don't make"

1. Health. Something you say when someone sneezes.
2. No equivalent word in English. A type of behavior epitomized in the
PA Dutch phrase "The hurrier I go the behinder I get." - behavior in
which one rushes around to do something rapidly and makes mistakes because
of trying to go so fast.
3. No eqivalent word in English. To behave in a clumsy or slow-witted way.
4. All gone, all used up, no more remaining
5. Complain
6. No equivalent word in English. To be restless and unable to sit
completely still, shifting in one's seat, etc.
7. "Knock, the door bell is not functioning"

Eb du kennst diese worts, du sind auch bischli deitsch.
Gut nammidag.


Cathy A. Krall

This thread: