Pennsylvania German

A project funded by Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) grant no R000 237820

  • Grant holder: Kersti Börjars
  • Project researcher: Sue Spence

The final report of the project

Aims of the project

This project was undertaken with a number of aims in mind, some which could be completed within the life time of the ESRC funded project, and some long term goals for which the work specific to this project formed an important foundation.

Empirically, the aim was to transcribe previously collected data which was only available in the form of tape recordings, to make new recordings with native speakers at different intervals and to transcribe these recordings. The particular data of direct interest to this study relates to non-finite complementation and some of our recordings take the form of translation and elicitation exercises formulated with this construction in mind. However, we have also transcribed and recorded in the database both structured picture stories and free story telling. Since Pennsylvania German can be described as an endangered language, it is of long term interest that general data be recorded.

The historical aims of the project were to study the formal marking of non-finite clauses and the changes which have taken place to it over the time that we have studied the language. In order to get further historical depth, we have also used earlier texts and descriptions for data, but these are not always reliable and consistent. A draft manuscript for the historical descriptive aspects of our study will be available here soon.

Our aim was also to locate the specifics of the change attested in our data in the wider context of a typology of other similar changes that have occurred both within and outside the Germanic family. We reported on this work at the Workshop on infinitivals in Germanic held at the Annual Meeting of the German Linguistic Society in Marburg, March 2000. 

There were also theoretical aims to our study. We wanted to investigate the theoretical implications of the properties of different types of non-finite clauses with fer in Pennsylvania German, particularly with respect to the functional categories associated with the clause and to consider how these categories and the changes that have taken place can be modelled within a restrictive theoretical framework.

The Pennsylvania German language

The variety of Pennsylvania German (PG) which we study is spoken in Waterloo County, Canada. This is an area southwest of Toronto, in particular, south of Kitchener/Waterloo. However, the language is also spoken in other parts of Canada and in many areas in the US.

Hutterite German is another variety descended from German which is spoken by religious groups in mainly Western Canada. This variety is sufficiently close to PG for there to be some mutual intelligibility. There are also Mennonites in Canada who speak a descendant of Low German referred to as Plautdietsch. Varieties of this language are also spoken in the US, South America and in Kazakhstan and Siberia ( Neufeld 2000, Nieuweboer 2000). The exact relations between these varieties is not always clear.

Pennsylvania German is a descendent of the variety of German which was spoken by the people who emigrated from Europe to the United States from the 17th century onwards. The people we record came to the the US from Germany, but there are also Pennsylvania German speakers in Canada who arrived at a later stage via Russia. The estimated number of speakers on the American continent is about 2-300 000 ( van Ness 1994). In Canada, there are roughly 15, 000 PG speakers and most of these live in Waterloo County (Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL)).

The Plain PG speakers themselves themselves think of it as an (inferior) dialect of German, but for many reasons it is now more appropriate to refer to it as a language. The Waterloo County Pennsylvania German shows only minor differences from the variety spoken in Pennsylvania, USA. The name the native speakers in Waterloo County use for their language is "Daetsch", in parts of the US, the name "Pennsylvansch" is more often used.

The language as it is has grown out of a blend of the many different dialects which came into Pennsylvania during the first wave of immigration during the 17th century. These dialects came from the Palatinate and surrounding areas; Bavaria, Hessen, Swabia and Würtemberg. The result is a dialect which most closely resembles the modern dialect of the eastern Palatinate, but there is only very low level of mutual intelligibility.

The community and its history

The variety of Pennsylvania German (PG) that we study is spoken in Waterloo County, Canada. This is an area southwest of Toronto, in particular, south of Kitchener/Waterloo.

The speakers are descendants of people who emigrated from Europe to the United States during the 17th century in order to escape religious intolerance. Originally, these people settled in the US, in Pennsylvania in particular, but for a number of reasons, life became difficult there for them during the War of Independence and large groups moved north into Canada. Some of the PG speaking Mennonites in Canada came at a later stage, via Russia, but we do not have contacts with anyone from this community.

We have worked exclusively with so-called Plain Mennonites, i.e. Mennonites who are still close to the original traditions. For our purposes, they can be divided into three groups; Old Order Mennonites, Markham Mennonites and Dave Martin Mennonites. The Old Orders and the Markhams are the two biggest groups. Even though they are both "Plain", the Markham Mennonites can be seen as less conservative since they for instance permit cars (though only black ones).

Linguistically, one striking difference is that Markhams have parts of their church service performed in English, whereas in an Old Order service, the language is Pennsylvania German apart from the Bible reading, which is in High German. The Dave Martins form a closed community with little interaction with the outside world. Even though there is much interaction between Markhams and Old Orders, Dave Martins interact minimally with other Plain Mennonites.

We have recordings of Old Order and Markham Mennonites and one recording of a member of the Dave Martins. According to the speakers, there is little difference between the Old Orders and the Markhams. We have not been able to define any variation that follows this group division, except possibly a higher use of words borrowed from English amongst the younger Markhams, but we have not performed any systematic study of the use of borrowed words. The language of the Dave Martins does, however, show some characteristic properties.

All the speakers we have recorded are bilingual in English and Pennsylvania German. Only one speaker is knowledgeable about Standard German. All these speakers would have been monolingual in Pennsylvania German until school age (6-7 years of age), but English is the language used in schools even though these two groups have their own (joint) schools.

At school, children would also be taught some very basic Standard German since the bible is read in a Lutheran translation. This is, however, a question of learning a few words and also Standard German pronunciation. The Dave Martins send their children to state schools, so that they also have their schooling in English.

The community does not have television or radio, something which reduces the amount of English input, especially for the younger generation, compared to other minority language groups in North America. Social interaction between Plain Mennonites is entirely done in Pennsylvania German.


A bibliography of books and articles on Pennsylvania German compiled as part of the project 'Modelling syntactic change: a case study in Pennsylvania German' funded by the ESRC grant no R000 237820.

For some entries, we do not have full details and some of the entries may be difficult to get hold of even with the full details. Still we have included them here to give some idea of what has been written on the topic.

If you know of a publication on PG which is not listed here, or if you have some of the details which are missing here, we would be grateful if you would let us know:


Publications A-D

  • Adams, M. 2000. Lexical Doppelgangers. Journal of English Linguistics 28(3): 295-310.
  • Bausch, K.-H. (1997, ). "In other words-was gschwind in English ded's mena?" Beobachtungen zum Pennsylvaniadeutsch heute. Sprachreport, 4, 1-6.
  • Benjamin, S. 0000a. A bibliography of works published in the Yearbooks of the Pennsylvania German Folklore Society. Morgantown: Department of Foreign Languages.
  • Benjamin, S. 0000b. Select bibliography on the Pennsylvania German dialect. Morgantown: Department of Foreign Languages.
  • Brumbaugh, T.B. 1972. A Pennsylvania-German diary (1847-1868). Journal of German American Studies 10: 2-11.
  • Buehler, A.M. 1977. The Pennsylvania German dialect and the life of an Old Order Mennonite. Cambridge, Ontario: Privately printed.
  • Buffington, A.F. 1968. The influence of the Pennsylvania German dialect on the English spoken in the Pennsylvania German area. In S.Z. Buehne, J.L. Hodge & L.B. Pinto (Eds.), Helen Adolf Festschrift . New York: Ungar. 30-41.
  • Buffington, A.F. 1980. Lack hazhafdich: a collection of 'earthy' Pennsylvania German 'schtories'. In ??? (Ed.), Ebbes fer alle - ebber ebbes fer dich: Essays in Memoriam, Albert Franklin Buffington . Breinigsville: Pennsylvania German Society. 37-59.
  • Buffington, A.F. & P.A. Barba. 1965. A Pennsylvania German grammar. Allentown, Pa: Schlechters.
  • Burridge, K. 1989. A localized study of P.G. dialect in Waterloo County, Ontario: The Pennsylvania German Folklore Society.
  • Burridge, K. 1992. Creating grammar: examples from Pennsylvania German, Ontario. In K. Burridge & W. Enninger (Eds.),Diachronic studies on the languages of the Anabaptists . Bochum: Brockmeyer. 199-241.
  • Burridge, K. 1995. Evidence of grammaticalization in Pennsylvania German. In H. Andersen (Ed.), Historical Linguistics 1993Amsterdam: Benjamins. 59-75.
  • Burridge, K. 1997. On the trail of the Conestoga modal: recent movements of modal auxiliaries in Pennsylvania German. In J.R. Dow & M. Wolff (Eds.), Languages and lives. Essays in honor of Werner Enninger . New York: Peter Lang. 7-28.
  • Burridge, K. 1998a. From Modal Auxiliary to Lexical Verb: The Curious Case of Pennsylvania German Wotte. In R. Hogg & L. van Bergen (Eds.), Historical Linguistics 1995. Vol II: Germanic Linguistics . Amsterdam: Benjamins. 19-33.
  • Burridge, K. 1998b. Throw the baby from the window a cookie: English and Pennsylvania German in contact. In A. Siewierska & J.J. Song (Eds.), Case, typology and grammar: in honor of Barry J. Blake . Amsterdam: Benjamins. 71-93.
  • Burridge, K. & W. Enninger (Eds.). 1992. Diachronic studies on the languages of the Anabaptists. Bochum: Brockmeyer.
  • Coley, R.E., M. Markoff & S. Miller. 0000. A select bibliography of Pennsylvania German dialect materials in the Ganser Library, Millersville State College. In S.M. Benjamin (Ed.), Papers from the Conference on German-Americana in the Eastern United States . Morgantown: Dept of Foreign Languages, West Virginia University. 78-81.
  • Costello, J.R. 0000. Pennsylvania German, Standard German, and the reconstruction of meaning. In S.M. Benjamin (Ed.),Papers from the Conference on German-Americana in the Eastern United States . Morgantown: Dept of Foreign Languages, West Virginia University. 131-42.
  • Costello, J.R. 1974a. Choosing an orthography for a patois language, or: how should one spell Pennsylvania German?Historic Schaefferstown Record 8: 42-8.
  • Costello, J.R. 1974b. A glottochronological study of Pennsylvania German. 8: 2-13.
  • Costello, J.R. 1978. Syntactic change and second language acquisition: the case for Pennsylvania German. Linguistics 213: 29-50.
  • Costello, J.R. 1979. A lexical comparison of two sister languages: Pennsylvania German and Yiddish. Pennsylvania Folklife29: 138-42.
  • Costello, J.R. 1983. Pennsylvania German brauche 'to charm' and Hebrew berakhah 'benediction': a new etymology. Pennsylvania Folklife 32(3): 123-7.
  • Costello, J.R. 1989. Innovations increasing syntactic complexity in the native language of bilingual children from 5 to 10: the case for Pennsylvania. Zeitschrift für Dialektologie und Linguistik 64(Supp): 3-16.
  • Costello, J.R. 1992. The periphrastic duh construction in Anabaptist and Nonsectarian Pennsylvania German: synchronic and diachronic perspectives. In K. Burridge & W. Enninger (Eds.), Diachronic studies on the languages of the Anabaptists Bochum: Brockmeyer. 242-63.
  • Costello, J.R. 1997. Remarks on linguistic convergence, lexical syncretism, and cognition: the merger of bitte and fraage in the Pennsylvania German of Anabaptists in Lancaster County. In J.R. Dow & M. Wolff (Eds.), Languages and lives. essays in honor of Werner Enninger . New York: Peter Lang. 29-38.
  • Dorian, N. 1989. The nature and scope of changes in the Pennsylvania German of two multi-generational kin networks: the noun phrase. Zeitschrift für Dialektologie und Linguistik 64(Supp): 41-70.
  • Dorian, N.C. 1997. Males and merger: dative third-person pronouns among secular Berks County Pennsylvania German speakers. In J.R. Dow & M. Wolff (Eds.), Languages and lives. essays in honor of Werner Enninger . New York: Peter Lang. 39-52.
  • Dow, J.R. 1988. Toward an understanding of some subtle stresses on language maintenance among the Old Order Amish of Iowa. International Journal of the Sociology of Language 69: 19-31.

Publications E-F

  • Enninger, W. 1985. Pennsylvania German: a pidgin(ized) variety? In N. Boretzk, W. Enninger & T. Stolz (Eds.), Akten des 2. Essener Kolloquiums uber "Kreolsprachen und Sprachkontakte" (pp. 41-82). Bochum: Brockmeyer. 41-82.
  • Enninger, W. 1987. Notes on the receding contact-influences of (Pennsylvania-)German on English. In N. Boretzky, W. Enninger & T. Stolz (Eds.), Beiträge zum 3. Essener Kolloquium über Sprachwandel und seine bestimmenden Faktore (pp. 99-125). Bochum: Brockmeyer. 99-125.
  • Enninger, W., J. Raith & K.H. Wandt. 1989. Studies on the languages and the verbal behavior of the Pennsylvania Germans, II. Zeitschrift für Dialektologie und Linguistik, 64(Supp), 00-.
  • Ferre, C.B.M. 1991. Stability and change in the Pennsylvania German dialect of an Old Order Amish community in Lancaster County . Unpublished PhD, University of Georgia.
  • Fretz, J.W. 1992. The Pennsylvania German dialect in Southern Ontario, Canada. In K. Burridge & W. Enninger (Eds.),Diachronic studies on the languages of the Anabaptists (pp. 43-63). Bochum: Brockmeyer. 43-63.
  • Frey, J.W. 1981. A simple grammar of Pennsylvania Dutch. Lancaster, Pa: John Baers and Son.
  • Fuller, J.M. 1996. When cultural maintenance means linguistic convergence: Pennsylvania German evidence for the Matrix Language Turnover Hypothesis. Language in Society, 25(4), 493-514.
  • Fuller, J.M. 1997. 'Pennsylvania Dutch with a Southern touch': a theoretical model of language contact and change .Unpublished PhD, University of South Carolina.
  • Fuller, J.M. 1999. The role of English in Pennsylvania German development: best supporting actress? American Speech,74(1), 38-55.
  • Fuller, J.M. 2000. Morpheme types in a Matrix Language Turnover: the introduction of system morphemes from English into Pennsylvania German. International Journal of Bilingualism, 4(1), 45-58.

Publications H

  • Haag, E.C. 1982. A Pennsylvania German reader and grammar. Schuylkill Haven, Pa: Keystone Books, The Pennsylvania State University Press.
  • Halderman, S.S. 1872. Pennsylvania Dutch: a dialect of South German with an infusion of English. London: Trübner.
  • Horne, A.R. 1905. Horne's Pennsylvania German manual. Allentown, Pa: T.K. Horne Publisher.
  • Hosch, H.L. 0000. Pennsylvania Dutch or Pennsylvania German? A historical assessment. In S.M. Benjamin (Ed.), Papers from the Conference on German-Americana in the Eastern United States (pp. 117-23). Morgantown: Dept of Foreign Languages, West Virginia University. 117-23.
  • Huffines, M.L. 1980a. English in contact with Pennsylvania German. German Quarterly, 53, 352-66.
  • Huffines, M.L. 1980b. English in contact with Pennsylvania German. German Quarterly, 54, 352-66.
  • Huffines, M.L. 1980c. Pennsylvania German: maintenance and shift. International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 25, 43-57.
  • Huffines, M.L. 1984. Pennsylvania German stereotype: particles, prepositions, and adverbs. Yearbook of German-American Studies, 19, 23-32.
  • Huffines, M.L. 1986a. The function of aspect in Pennsylvania German and the impact of English. Yearbook of German-American Studies, 21, 137-54.
  • Huffines, M.L. 1986b. Strategies for language maintenance and ethnic marking among Pennsylvania Germans. Language Sciences, 8, 1-16.
  • Huffines, M.L. 1986c. Verbal aspect in Pennsylvania German: the progressive among sectarians and nonsectarians. In W. Enninger, J. Raith & K.-H. Wandt (Eds.), Internal and external perspectives on Amish and Mennonite life, II (pp. 1-17). Essen: Unipress. 1-17.
  • Huffines, M.L. 1987. The dative case in Pennsylvania German: diverging norms in language maintenance and loss. Yearbook of German-American Studies, 22, 173-81.
  • Huffines, M.L. 1988a. Building progressives: evidence from cognate structures. Journal of English Linguistics, 21(2), 137-48.
  • Huffines, M.L. 1988b. Case merger and case loss in Pennsylvania German. In F.G. Gentry (Ed.), Semper Idem et Novus. Festschrift for Frank Banta (pp. 391-402). Göppingen: Kummerle. 391-402.
  • Huffines, M.L. 1988c. Lexical borrowing and linguistic convergence in Pennsylvania German. Yearbook of German-American Studies, 23, 59-71.
  • Huffines, M.L. 1988d. Pennsylvania German among the plain groups : convergence as a strategy of language maintenance [bibliog]. Brethren life and thought, 33, 242-9.
  • Huffines, M.L. 1989a. Case usage among the Pennsylvania German sectarians and nonsectarians. In N.C. Dorian (Ed.),Investigating obsolescence: studies in language contraction and death (pp. 211-26). Cambridge: CUP. 211-26.
  • Huffines, M.L. 1989b. Convergence and language death: the case of Pennsylvania German. Zeitschrift für Dialektologie und Linguistik, 64(Supp), 17-28.
  • Huffines, M.L. 1989c. Pennsylvania German: convergence and change as strategies of discourse. In H.W. Seliger & R.M. Vago (Eds.), First language attrition (pp. 125-37). Cambridge: CUP. 125-37.
  • Huffines, M.L. 1990a. Contact phenomena in language maintenance and shift: the Pennsylvania German infinitive construction. American Journal of Germanic Linguistics and Literatures, 2(3), 95-108.
  • Huffines, M.L. 1990b. Pennsylvania German in public life. Pennsylvania Folklife, 39(3), 117-25.
  • Huffines, M.L. 1991b. Acquisition strategies in language death. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 13(1), 43-55.
  • Huffines, M.L. 1991a. Acquisition strategies in language death (pp. 43-55). Cambridge: CUP. 43-55.
  • Huffines, M.L. 1991c. Pennsylvania German: 'Do they love it in their hearts?'. In J.R. Dow (Ed.), Language and ethnicity: Focusschrift in honor of Joshua A. Fishman on the occasion of his 65th birthday, II (pp. 9-22). Amsterdam: Benjamins. 9-22.
  • Huffines, M.L. 1991d. Pennsylvania German: convergence and change as strategies of discourse. In H.W. Seliger & R.M. Vago (Eds.), First language attrition (pp. 125-37). Cambridge: CUP. 125-37.
  • Huffines, M.L. 1991e. Translation: a vehicle for change? Evidence from Pennsylvania German. American Journal of Germanic Linguistics and Literatures, 3(2), 175-93.
  • Huffines, M.L. 1992. Language change and enabling strategies of Pennsylvania Anabaptists. In K. Burridge & W. Enninger (Eds.), Diachronic studies on the languages of the Anabaptists (pp. 166-81). Bochum: Brockmeyer. 166-81.
  • Huffines, M.L. 1994a. Amish languages. In J.R. Dow, W. Enninger & J. Raith (Eds.), Old and New World Anabaptists; studies on the language, culture, society and health of the Amish and Mennonites (pp. 21-32). Essen: Department of English, University of Essen. 21-32.
  • Huffines, M.L. 1994b. Directionality of language influence: the case of Pennsylvania German and English. In N. Berend & K.J. Mattheier (Eds.), Sprachinselforschung: Eine Gedenkschrift für Hugo Jedig (pp. 47-58). Frankfurt: Peter Lang. 47-58.
  • Huffines, M.L. 1997. Language contact and the Amish. In J.R. Dow & M. Wolff (Eds.), Languages and lives. Essays in honor of Werner Enninger (pp. 53-66). New York: Peter lang. 53-66.

Publications J-M

  • Johnson-Weiner, K.M. 1989. Keeping Dutch: linguistic heterogeneity and the maintenance of Pennsylvania German in two Old Order Amish communities. Zeitschrift für Dialektologie und Linguistik, 64(Supp), 95-101.
  • Johnson-Weiner, K.M. 1992. Group identity and language maintenance: the survival of Pennsylvania German in Old Order communities. In K. Burridge & W. Enninger (Eds.), Diachronic studies on the languages of the Anabaptists (pp. 26-42). Bochum: Brockmeyer. 26-42.
  • Kehr, K. 1988. Lebenszeichen für morgen - Bemerkungen zur gegenwartigen pennsylvaniendeutschen Dialektliteratur. Jahrbuch für Internationale Germanistik, 20(1), 126-36.
  • Keiser, S.H. 1999. Plain difference: variation in case-marking in a Pennsylvania German speaking community. Ohio State University Working Papers in Linguistics, 52, 249-88.
  • Kelz, H. 1971. Phonologische Analyse des Pennsylvaniadeutschen Hamburg: Buske
  • Kloss, H. 1989. Sociolinguistic parallels between the Mennonite speakers of Pennsylvania German (or Pennsylfaanisch) and of Plautdietsch. Zeitschrift für Dialektologie und Linguistik, 64(Supp), 117-24.
  • Kopp, A. 1997. Die Phonologie des Englischen der Pennsylvaniadeutschen als Indikator für Spracherhalt und Sprachverlagerung. Zeitschrift für Dialektologie und Linguistik, 64(1), 1-36.
  • Kunselman, A. (1985, ). Eighteenth century emigrants from German-speaking lands to North America, II: The Western Palatinate.
  • Lambert, M.B. 1977. Pennsylvania-German dictionary. Exton PA: Schiffer.
  • Learned, M.D. 1988/9. The Pennsylvania German dialect. In American Journal of Philology 9, 1988: 64-83, 178-97, 326-39, 425-45; 10, 1989: 288-315.
  • Louden, M. 1990. Verb raising and the position of the finite verb in Pennsylvania German. Linguistics Inquiry, 21(3), 470-7.
  • Louden, M.L. 1987. Bilingualism and diglossia: the case of Pennsylvania German. Leuvense Bijdragen: contributions in linguistics and philology, 76(1), 17-36.
  • Louden, M.L. 1989a. Bilingualism and syntactic change in Pennsylvania German . Unpublished Dissertation, Cornell University.
  • Louden, M.L. 1989b. Pennsylvania German in West Virginia: language variation and language attrition . Unpublished PhD, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor MI.
  • Louden, M.L. 1989c. Syntactic variation and change in Pennsylvania German. Zeitschrift für Dialektologie und Linguistik,64(Supp), 29-40.
  • Louden, M.L. 1992a. German as an object-verb language: a unification of typological and generative approaches. In I. Rauch, G.F. Carr & R.L. Kyes (Eds.), On Germanic linguistics: issues and methods (pp. 000-). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. 000-.
  • Louden, M.L. 1992b. Language contact and the relationship of form and meaning in English and German. In R. Lippi-Green (Ed.), Recent developments in Germanic linguistics (pp. 115-25). Amsterdam: Benjamins. 115-25.
  • Louden, M.L. 1992c. Old Order Amish verbal behavior as a reflection of cultural convergence. In K. Burridge & W. Enninger (Eds.), Diachronic studies on the languages of the Anabaptists (pp. 264-78). Bochum: Brockmeyer. 264-78.
  • Louden, M.L. 1993a. Variation in Pennsylvania German syntax: a diachronic perspective. In W. Viereck (Ed.), Proceedings of the International Congress of Dialectologists (Verhandlungen des Internat. Dialektologenkongresses) (Vol. 2, pp. 169-79). Stuttgart: Steiner. 169-79.
  • Louden, M.L. 1993b. Variation in Pennsylvania German syntax: a diachronic perspective. Paper presented at the International Congress of Dialectologists Vol II Historical dialectology and linguistic change, Bamberg, .
  • Louden, M.L. 1994. Syntactic change in multilingual speech islands. In N. Berend & K.J. Mattheier (Eds.),Sprachinselforschung: Eine Gedenkschrift für Hugo Jedig (pp. 73-91). Frankfurt: Peter Lang. 73-91.
  • Louden, M.L. 1997. Linguistic structure and sociolinguistic identity in Pennsylvania German society. In J.R. Dow & M. Wolff (Eds.), Languages and lives. essays in honor of Werner Enninger (pp. 79-91). New York: Peter Lang. 79-91.
  • McCulloh, M. 1996. Stability and change in the Pennsylvania German dialect of an old order Amish community in Lancaster County (book review). The German Quarterly, 69, 345-6.
  • Moelleken, W.W. 1983. Language maintenance and language shift in Pennsylvania German: a comparative investigation. Monatshefte für Deutschen Unterricht, Deutsche Sprache und Literatur, 75(2), 172-86.
  • Moelleken, W.W. 1988. New linguistic atlas of Pennsylvania German. Monatshefte für Deutschen Unterricht, Deutsche Sprache und Literatur, 80(1), 105-14.
  • Moelleken, W.W. & W.H. Veith. 1989. Ein neuer Sprachatlas des Pennsylvania-Deutschen. In W.H. Veith & W. Putschke (Eds.), Sprachatlanten des Deutschen: Laufende Projekte (pp. 399-413). Tübingen: Niemeyer. 399-413.

Publications N-Z

  • Neufeld, Eldo 2000. Plautdietsch grammar. An aid to speaking, reading, and writing Netherlandic-Mennonite Plautdietsch. München: Lincom Europa.
  • Neufeld, Eldo 2001. Plautdietsch verb conjugation. München: Lincom Europa.
  • Nieuwenboer, Rogier 2000. The Altai dialect of Plautdiitsch: West-Siberian Mennonite Low German. München: Lincom Europa.
  • Post, R. 1989. The lexicography of Palatinate German: its relevance for Pennsylvania German research. Zeitschrift für Dialektologie und Linguistik, 64(Supp), 71-9.
  • Raith, J. 1992. Dialect mixing and/or code convergence: Pennsylvania German? In K. Burridge & W. Enninger (Eds.),Diachronic studies on the languages of the Anabaptists (pp. 152-65). Bochum: Brockmeyer. 152-65.
  • Raith, J. 1994. Is Pennsylvania German still a Palatinate-based dialect of German? In J.R. Dow, W. Enninger & J. Raith (Eds.), Old and New World Anabaptists; studies on the language, culture, society and health of the Amish and Mennonites(pp. 33-49). Essen: Department of English, University of Essen. 33-49.
  • Raith, J. , et al. 1977. Pennsylvania German-American English bilingualism: a case study. In C. Molony, H. Zohl & W. Stolting (Eds.), Deutsch im Kontact mit anderen Sprachen (pp. 104-28). Kronberg. 104-28.
  • Reed, C.E. 1948. The adaption of English to Pennsylvania German morphology. American Speech, 23, 239-44.
  • Reed, C.E. 1967. Loan-word stratification in Pennsylvania German. German Quarterly, 40, 83-6.
  • Reed, C.E. 1972. A phonological history of Pennsylvania German. In E.S. Firchow, K. Grimstad, N. Hasselmo & W.A. O'Neil (Eds.), Studies for Einar Haugen presented by friends and colleagues (pp. 469-81). The Hague: Mouton. 469-81.
  • Reed, C.E. 1979. The syntax of Pennsylvania German. Orbis, 28(2), 242-56.
  • Reed, C.E. and Seifert L.W. 1954. A linguistic atlas of Pennsylvania GermanMarburg/Lahn: Elwert.
  • Richardson, B. 1993. Transactions of a nineteenth-century Pennsylvania-German minister with his community: the 1828-1861 ledger of Isaac Faust Stiehly (1800-1869). The Folklore Historian, 10, 75-98.
  • Richter, M.M. 1971. The phonemic system of the Pennsylvania German dialect in Waterloo County . Unpublished PhD
  • Schah, P. 1951. Semantic borrowing in Pennsylvania German. American Speech 26:257-67
  • Seel, H. 1988. Lexikologische Studien zum Pennsylvaniadeutschen: Wortbildung des Pennsylvaniadeutschen; Sprachkontakterscheinungen im Wortschatz des Pennsylvaniadeutschen. Zeitschrift für Dialektologie und Linguistik,61(Supp), 00-.
  • Seifert, L.W.J. 1947. The diminutives of Pennsylvania German. Monatshefte39: 285-93.
  • Seifert, L.W. 1967. A contrastive description of Pennsylvania German and Standard German stops and fricatives. In I. Rauch & C.T. Scott (Eds.), Approaches in linguistic methodology (pp. 81-8). Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. 81-8.
  • Seifert, L.W.J. 1971. The word geography of Pennsylvania German: extent and causes. In G.G. Gilbert (Ed.), The German language in America: a symposium (pp. 14-42). Austin TE: University of Texas. 14-42.
  • van Ness, S. 1985. The pressure of English on the Pennsylvania German spoken in two West Virginia communities. American Speech, 67(1), 71-82.
  • van Ness, S. 1989. Pennsylvania German in West Virginia: language variation and language attrition . Unpublished PhD, ???, ???
  • van Ness, S. 1992a. The New Order Amish in Ohio: A grammatical change in progress. In K. Burridge & W. Enninger (Eds.),Diachronic studies on the languages of the Anabaptists (pp. 182-98). Bochum: Brockmeyer. 182-98.
  • van Ness, S. 1992b. The pressure of English on the Pennsylvania German spoken in two West Virginia communities. American Speech 67, 71-82.
  • van Ness, S. 1993. Advances toward a new pronominal grammar in an Ohio Amish community. Word, 44(2), 193-204.
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Summary report on the results of the project

Modelling syntactic change: a case study in Pennsylvania German

ESRC grant number R000237820


The background for the research funded by this grant was the realisation that two related changes had taken place recently in Pennsylvania German (PG) as spoken in Waterloo County, Canada and that these changes had conspired to create a major change to the non-finite complementation system. The details of this change were badly documented. The change is particularly fascinating since no other variety of Continental West Germanic appears to have undergone a similar change, but at the same time, there is no obvious way in which the change can be shown to have resulted from contact with English. One dimension of the change involves the spread of a purposive construction, the fer...zu construction, from its original, adverbial, function to complement clauses. At the same time, there has been a loss of the infinitival marker, zu, so that many non-finite clauses now contain only one overt functional element associated with (the extended projection of) the clause.

The data

On the basis of the data recorded, we have been able to establish that the fer...(zu) construction is still standardly used in purposive constructions, as it is in a number of non-standard varieties of German. At the same time, our initial impression that fer...(zu) has spread widely through the complementation system has been confirmed. We have found the construction in complement clauses with a wide variety of matrix verbs, as complements or modifiers to adjectives and nouns and in subject position.

The database also gives clear evidence that the loss of zu which was evident in earlier material has progressed. This loss of zu is evident in all age groups and with both denominations. Younger speakers will not use zu at all in translation sentences or story telling; the oldest speaker who did not use zu in any environment was in her early thirties. All of these speakers will, however, accept sentences with zu where they would themselves never use it. Similarly, the older speakers with a higher frequency of zu will not describe as ungrammatical the equivalent sentences with fer as used by younger speakers. In environments where zu previously occurred in conjunction with fer, we now get fer as the only functional element. A few examples are given in (1).


a. Er hot des gduh fer sei dankbarheit weise.
he this do.part FER his gratitude show. inf
'He did this in order to show his gratitude.'
b. Es is gebreichlich fer de huut ab duh.
it be.3sg customary FER the hat off do.inf
'It is customary to take the hat off.'
c. Ich hab versproche fer iem helfe.
I have.1sg promised FER he.dat help
'I have promised to help him.'
d. Ich bin ready fer gee.
I be.3sg ready FER go.inf
'I am ready to go.'

A striking fact is, however, that fer is now also used in constructions which appear never to have had fer&zu, but only zu. In these environments then, fer has actually replaced zu. One example of such an environment is so-called wh-infinitivals.


a. Er hot nett gwisst was fer duh.
he have.3sg not know.part what FER do
'He didn't know what to do.'
b. Ich wees nett wu fer gee.
I know.1sg not where FER go
'I don't know where to go.'

In recordings from ten years ago, such constructions obligatorily contained zu and never fer. Interestingly, this environment is the last stronghold of zu, so that many speakers who would not otherwise use zu still have this as the only option for wh-infinitivals. The speakers who do not use zu at all, however, now use fer in this construction.

A further indication that the role of fer within the complementation system has changed is the fact that it now occurs in environments in which a bare infinitive was previously the only option.


a. Ich wees er gee wil fer schwimme.
I know.1sg he go.inf want FER swim.inf
'I know that he wants to go swimming.'
b. Ich hab ien gsehne fer die daer reikumme.
I have.1sg he.acc see.part FER the door come.through.inf
'I saw him coming through the door.'

Amongst the older speakers, who make a distinction between fer-infinitivals and zu-infinitivals, we have been able to establish a subtle but consistent contrast between the use of the two types. With zu infinitivals, there is an implication of immediate future, whereas fer-infinitivals imply potentiality. Hence for these speakers, the example in (4a) implies that the speaker is on his way to milk his cows, whereas (4b) is a statement about the type of farm that he has.


a. Ich hab fufzich kien zu melge.
I have.1sg fifty cows ZU milk.inf
'I have fifty cows to milk.'
b. Ich hab fufzich kien fer melge.
I have.1sg fifty cows FER milk.inf
'I have fifty milking cows.'

This distinction can be related to the original prepositional source of the two elements, zu as a preposition still is directional and direction in time can be seen as a metaphorical extension of this. The origin of fer is the benefactive, from where it has been extended to the purposive and a remnant of this meaning leads to the preferred reading of (4b). It is indeed possible that some similarities between the use of to-infinitivals and the -ing form in PG which have been put down to contact with English, are in fact due to similarities in the grammaticalisation path of the elements rather than contact (cf Louden 1988:209-212).

Comparison with other Germanic languages

Within the Germanic language family, there are a number of other varieties which have fer...zu rather than um...zu in purposive constructions, e.g. Pfälzisch (Henn 1980) and Luxemburgish (Bruch 1973 [1968]). As far as we are aware, apart from PG, it is only Luxembourgish (L) that has undergone a spread of fer...zu clauses from the purposive into complement clauses. We have done some initial work with native speakers and written texts in Luxembourgish, and the spread of fer...zu seems to be quite far-reaching in this variety too. There is, however, a major difference between the two varieties and that is that in L, fer is optional. In a few environments, zu is optional as long as fer has been deleted, hence giving rise to a bare infinitive as an alternative to fer...zu or zu. In L then, even though a purposive element has spread to a general complementiser position, it shows no signs at the moment of developing further into an infinitival marker. Hence the L development is not parallel to the PG in this respect.

Even though these changes in PG appear to be unique in current varieties of CWG, in a general historical and typological perspective they are not. The historical development from a purposive marker to an infinitival marker is a common one typologically; Haspelmath (1989) gives examples of this change from a wide variety of language families; Turkic, Finno-Ugric, Semitic, Bantu, Nakho-Daghestanian and Dravidian. The development from a purposive marker to an infinitival marker can then be described as a common path of grammaticalisation. In fact, as Haspelmath (1989) demonstrates, the same change has already happened in Standard German, in that zu also originated as a purposive marker.

Grammaticalisation of fer

In the literature on grammaticalisation, it is standardly assumed that the process of grammaticalisation can affect all aspects of a linguistic element's properties: phonological, morphological, syntactic (structural) and semantic (functional). In the case of fer in WCPG, we cannot discern any phonological or morphological changes. The preposition fer, the purposive fer and the fer in complement clauses all have the same phonology, and none of the elements has morphological complexity. In order to study the grammaticalisation path of fer we need then to focus on structural and functional aspects of its use.

Since purposive fer is already a functional element, this is a case of grammaticalisation from a grammatical element into a more grammatical element (Heine et al 1991: ch6). This in turn means that we shall have to involve in our account features not of lexical semantics but also relating to functional properties of clausal structure. At the same time the changes documented here can be used as a tool to diagnose what that clausal structure must be. In this way, we can contribute to refining the models of syntactic description used within grammaticalization studies (Vincent 1999; 2001). [See section 6 below for the development of this argument.] We follow Lehmann (1982, 1995) and Haspelmath (1989) and view the changes in terms of semantic generalisation. In the case of fer, the origin is the benefactive preposition which takes on the use of a purposive marker. Purposive can be viewed as an abstract form of benefactive meaning and hence this is a first step in the direction of semantic generalisation. We have then followed Haspelmaths definitions of increased generality of clause type, which is paired with a decreased concreteness in meaning:

irrealis directive > irrealis potential > realis non-factive > realis factive.

Haspelmath shows that the German zu has progressed along this line and that it now occurs in all environments. In the extreme factive use zu is therefore almost entirely desemanticised (though it can retain some modality in the less general uses).

Considering the WCPG now in the same light, we find a very similar development to that of German zu. We find fer used in all clause types, including the realis factive:


a. Ich glaab er deet gleiche fer danse.
I think.3sg he subj like FER dance.inf
'I think he would like to dance.' [Irrealis-directive]
b. Ich bin ready fer gee.
I be.1sg ready FER go
'I am ready to go.' [Irrealis-potential]
c. Sie ecschpect dich fer kumme frie.
she expect.3sg you.acc FER come early
'She expects you to come early.' [Realis-non-factive]
d. Ich bin verschtaunt fer dich sene do
I be.1sg astonished FER you.acc see.inf here
'I am astonished to see you here.' [Realis-factive]

When the grammaticalisation of a purposive element has progressed sufficiently far for the originally purposive element no longer to be associated with a specific meaning, it is common for a language to introduce a new purposive marker. This has indeed happened in Standard German, where um...zu replaced the original zu once this had become a general infinitival marker. WCPG does not, however, show any signs of replacing fer...(zu) in purposives. We can say then that PG has undergone grammaticalisation of a purposive element to an infinitival marker twice; the original development of zu common to all varieties of German and the more recent one of fer. The latter is still in progress, whereas the former of these has been fully completed---in fact if we follow Givòn and view disappearance as the logical extreme of grammaticalisation, then zu has been more fully grammaticalised in WCPG than in Standard German.

The change as a contact phenomenon

It has been suggested in the literature that the changes that have taken place to the non-finite complementation system of PG are due to language contact (e.g. van Ness 1994). However, we are not aware of any author who has actually provided arguments to support the case for contact induced change. To the contrary, Louden (1988:205-212) argues against this conclusion on the basis that the fer...zu construction in its purposive origin clearly is native to the varieties of German from which PG originated as well as the fact that the variety of American English spoken around the original PG speakers in Pennsylvania is unlikely to have been a so-called variety. As mentioned in section 3 above, the type of change that has taken place in PG is a common one typologically and there is no reason to assume that it cannot be a case of language internal change. The fer...zu construction of PG is also different in detail from both the Old English construction and the use of the construction in modern varieties of English. Furthermore, even though there are dialects in Canada (Carroll 1983), there is no evidence that contact with these have played any role for the WCPG speakers. A comparison of our data with those of Louden shows that the details of the changes in the use of fer...(zu) are very similar across varieties of PG and hence a contact explanation that relies on any local variety of English is implausible. As part of the work on this project, we have considered two different theoretical accounts of modern English varieties and their implications for the WCPG data, and found that there is little to suggest that the accounts can be carried over to WCPG.

The theoretical modelling of change

In terms of the widely adopted Principles & Parameters account of clause structure, the changes we have identified concern the C(omplementizer) and I(inflection) positions in a hierarchically defined "spine" of extended projections. However, if we followed the strict logic of that model, any functional shift of an item such as fer would have to be accompanied by a positional shift since the material that was formerly associated with the C head now marks categories that belong to the I head. Indeed in that framework it is generally assumed that items like English for or German um are in C whereas to/zu are in I. If PG fer assumes the function of zu it ought therefore to shift to I, and this change ought to be discernible in its linear position relative to other items in the clause. We have applied a number of the criteria used in the literature to our data in an attempt to establish whether the syntactic scope of fer has been narrowed, i.e whether there has been structural lowering of fer. Thus, the expected order when both for/fer and to/zu are present would be

(6) for/fer subject negation to/zu

In an approach within which functional and structural changes are assumed to be parallel, refunctionalisation of fer ought to mean that speakers accept constructions in which it is preceded rather than followed by the subject and/or the negative particle. We were able to force acceptance of such an order by some speakers by direct elicitation. Many speakers were however still reluctant to accept them, and for all speakers the preferred pattern in naturally occurring discourse is with fer in clause-initial position.

Positional change, then, to the extent that it has happened, lags considerably behind functional change. This has led us to formulate an account in terms of an approach that can express functional and structural properties in separate dimensions, namely Lexical Functional Grammar (LFG, Bresnan 2000). In this approach, complementizing and inflectional functions can be represented without identifying them with specific structural positions. A clause in which fer and zu have their older functions in a purposive clause without zu -deletion can be represented schematically as in (7).

Here fer combines with a subjectless clause (XCOMP) to form a constituent that has purposive meaning and belongs to the set of adjuncts that its mother has. This ensures an adjunct interpretation, but allows for further adjuncts to be associated with the mother. The infinitival zu, on the other hand, is a particle which does not add meaning itself. This is a similar interpretation of the function of zu to that adopted in earlier versions of Head-driven Phrase Structure Grammar of English to as a raising verb (Pollard and Sag 1995, but compare Sag and Wasow 2000).

By contrast, the more recently evolved fully desemanticised general function, fer would have the same f-structure as zu in (7b), as in (8). Since it is also used as a purposive, it would retain an alternative f-structure as in (7a).

(8) fer ­ = ¯

In terms of c-structure, the original use of fer with zu can be represented as in (9a) (cf example like (1a), but previous to zu loss), and the more recently evolved general use as in (9b) (cf example (5d)). The C node in (9a) would be annotated with the f-structure from (7a) and the C node in (9b) with that of (8).


a. C''
C I''/ S
fer sei dankbarheit zu weise
b. C''
C I'' / S
fer dich sene do

In the context of this report, these representations are necessarily simplified, but they serve to indicate the general form of the analysis we have been developing. In particular, they show clearly how it is possible to provide a formal analysis in which function and structure are expressed on different planes.

A more radical, but in some ways more promising, alternative that we have begun to experiment with abandons the requirement that these functional elements need to be identified with a c-structure position. This leads to an analysis in the spirit of work by Anderson (1993, 1996) and following work on functional information associated with noun phrases by Payne and Börjars (2000). In this approach, the functional category can, but need not, be represented under a separate node in the tree. Whether it is or is not an independent category, its position is accounted for through alignment constraints. On this view items are assigned to a position in a linear string not by insertion into hierarchically defined tree but as a function of a special class of constraints --- so-called alignment constraints --- which determine an item's position relative to the right or left edge of the relevant domain, in the present instance the left edge of the clause. The attraction of this Optimality Theory view is that such constraints are "soft": i.e. they may either override or be overridden by competing constraints, such as those determining the scope of negation or the position of the subject. Marked situations then arise historically when the constraint governing a given item's alignment outranks other constraints that might have affected its distribution. This approach in turn requires adopting the model of OT/LFG developed for instance in Bresnan (1998) and applied in the historical domain in Vincent (1999, 2001).

A related issue

As a result of work done on this project, we have made an interesting discovery with respect to one further issue related to non-finite complementation, which we did not set out to study. In Continental West Germanic languages (CWG) such as German, subordinate clauses are verb final. If this verb selects as its complement another clause, then this clause occurs to the left of its matrix verb (this is obligatory in non-finite clauses, whereas in finite clauses such heavy constituents may be shifted to the right). Given that all the clauses involved are verb final, we would in principle expect to find a verb cluster at the right edge of the subordinate clause in which the matrix verb is the rightmost one, immediately preceded by the second highest verb etc, until on the left we get the non-verbal complements (if any) of the lowest verb. This is illustrated in (10).

(10) & [ [ [ (NP) (AP) V3non-fin ]compl of V2 V2non-fin ]compl of V1 V1fin ]

Even though this order does occur in varieties of CWG, it is by no means the only attested order; the verb cluster can be "scrambled". Many different accounts for such data have been proposed, making different prediction as to the limitation to the variation. One of the influential theoretical articles on the subject, Haegeman and van Riemsdijk (1983), for instance, predicts that V2 V1 V3 should not be possible, still this order is commonly found in the WCPG data recorded for the purposes of this project. An example is given in (11).


... das sie mich gheert hot kumme.
that she I.acc hear.part have.past come.inf
'...that she heard me coming.'

Louden (1990) claims for the PG material that he has recorded this is indeed the standard order. However, our data shows that for the variety of PG that we have studied other orders also frequently occur. Even though we have not studied the variation in WCPG and its limitation in detail, it is clear that our data forms an interesting basis for a detailed study of the factors which influence what orders are possible.


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