Friday, June 29, 2018
Do Amish speak Pennsylvania Dutch?
The term Pennsylvania Dutch refers to two things: people and their language.
Some of the early founders of European region that emigrated in the 18th century primarily rural Pennsylvania became known as the Pennsylvania Dutch. These early settlers were from an area known as Palatinate of the German Rhine, which consisted of territory primarily located within modern-day Germany and Switzerland. This area was the subject of wars.
There was persecution for those in noncompliance with the official religion. Seeking religious freedom, many Pennsylvania Dutch are direct descendants of refugees from the Palatinate.
The Amish and Mennonites first came to the Palatinate and surrounding areas from the German-speaking part of Switzerland, whereas Anabaptists, they were persecuted because of their religious beliefs.
Their stay in the Palatinate was limited before they decided to move to the new British Colony in America. Although the first major emigration of Germans to America resulted in the founding of the Borough of Germantown in northwest Philadelphia, mass emigration of Palatines began in the early 18th century.
These Germans, from the Deutschland, began settling closer to the Susquehanna River. They served as a buffer on the then Pennsylvania frontier, separating the French and Native Americans from the English colonies. These people brought their customs, beliefs, and language with them.
Many of these immigrants did not speak English. They spoke their own dialect of German. Often called Deutsch, or more commonly Dutch, it became an expression to say, “It sounds like Dutch to me” when someone said anything that was not understandable.
The language they were speaking had nothing to do with the Dutch or Holland, but rather a regional dialect of German referred to as “Deitsch” or “Deutsch.” It is this word, “Deutsch” (German) – pronounced -- that has led to the general misconception about the origin of the term “Pennsylvania Dutch.”
One popular explanation as to why the Pennsylvania Germans are often incorrectly called Pennsylvania Dutch is that English-speaking Pennsylvanians simply confused the word “Deutsch” for “Dutch.”
Today, the residents of this region of Pennsylvania with the German ancestry – and not just Amish persons -- call themselves Dutchmen or Pennsylvania Dutch. This is why Pennsylvania Dutch refers to both people and a language.
Their dialect was used in their religious worship service. That tradition survives to this day. Amish still speak this language within their homes and it is a large part of their worship. They often revert to what is today known as Pennsylvania Dutch as they speak about different sections of Bible passages, what Christ said, and their interpretation of the gospel.
Today, the Amish use three languages, a modified German dialect called Pennsylvania Dutch at home, High German for worship, and English with the non-Amish outsiders.
The term Pennsylvania Dutch is kept alive today by the marketing efforts of tourism bureaus. Used in advertising and promotional campaigns, the bureaus use Pennsylvania Dutch as a quick way to describe their regions, offering invitations to visit the quaint and simple lifestyle of the Amish.