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Pennsylvania Dutch

The Story of an American Language

While most world languages spoken by minority populations are in serious danger of becoming extinct, Pennsylvania Dutch is thriving. In fact, the number of Pennsylvania Dutch speakers is growing exponentially, although it is spoken by less than one-tenth of one percent of the United States population and has remained for the most part an oral vernacular without official recognition or support. A true sociolinguistic wonder, Pennsylvania Dutch has been spoken continuously since the late eighteenth century despite having never been "refreshed" by later waves of immigration from abroad.

In this probing study, Mark L. Louden, himself a fluent speaker of Pennsylvania Dutch, provides readers with a close look at the place of the language in the life and culture of two major subgroups of speakers: the "Fancy Dutch," whose ancestors were affiliated mainly with Lutheran and German Reformed churches, and traditional Anabaptist sectarians known as the "Plain people"—the Old Order Amish and Mennonites.

Drawing on scholarly literature, three decades of fieldwork, and ample historical documents—most of which have never before been made accessible to English-speaking readers—this is the first book to offer a comprehensive look at this unlikely linguistic success story.

About the Author

Mark L. Louden is the Alfred L. Shoemaker, J. William Frey, and Don Yoder Professor of Germanic Linguistics and director of the Max Kade Institute for German-American Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Reviewss

"[Pennsylvania Dutch] is written in a very accessible style and provides good information about the Pennsylvania Dutch language."

- Canadian Mennonite

"Louden captures the spirit of the folk-cultural narrative and remains engaging, accessible, and entertaining to a wide range of audiences."

- Pennsylvania Heritage

"The definitive guide to the subject."

- Lancaster Online

"Indeed, this is a one-of-a-kind, exceptionally valuable book... So, scrape your pennies together, and go buy this book—before it's sold out!"

- Pennsylvania Mennonite Heritage

"Louden’s interdisciplinary work, sweeping as it does through centuries of history and across a vast continent, draws on three decades of study into the language’s evolution and social history."

- Mennonite World Review

"Louden successfully weaves a complex tapestry that provides an exhaustive historical account of this language and its speakers and is easily accessible to multiple audiences. Upon finishing this work the scholar is left curious as to what the future holds for Pennsylvania Dutch and its legacy."

- H-Net Reviews

"This book is the first attempt at researching and synthesizing the historical, cultural, and linguistic development of Pennsylvania Dutch across all the communities that speak it. It is a bold and broad goal. I'm happy to say that Louden has set the highest standard for any subsequent attempts... It is a wonderful story to follow from 1683 to the present."

- Journal of Amish and Plain Anabaptist Studies

"A splendid addition to the discipline of linguistics and, more specifically, to the field of Pennsylvania Dutch language and culture. A language this remarkable—thanks to its Old Order speakers, it is one of only a few heritage languages in America that is not endangered—deserves a firstrate book, and this is it. It will likely be unsurpassed for years to come."

- Communal Societies

"Compiling the most in-depth treatment of Pennsylvania Dutch is no small task, yet Louden achieves this feat. The book is accessible to academics within and outside of Pennsylvania Dutch studies, as well as to speakers of the language who want to know more about it."

- Journal of Germanic Linguistics

"Uses a wealth of sources, pamphlets, letters, poems, and newspaper articles... a great resource."

- The Mennonite Quarterly

"This book abounds in marvelous historical and cultural details, together with language examples and linguistic curiosities that are sure to delight."

- The Journal of American History

"Pennsylvania Dutch is an enlightening, educational and enjoyable read, mostly due to the skill of the author."

- Journal of Mennonite Studies

"A wash of fresh knowledge through an implicit fusing of linguistics and sociology... Its attention to details in linguistic data and linguistic history coupled with the undertones of a comparative analysis of one assimilation variable—minority language—makes it a compelling study... The book itself is a product of the same dynamic fusion of interdisciplinary influences that symbolizes the dynamic evolution of Pennsylvania Dutch and the languages of others coming to America."

- Rural Sociology

"The comprehensive handbook for which many scholars in this area have been waiting for decades... It is likely to be the standard work on Pennsylvania German for some time to come."

- Yearbook of German-American Studies

Endorsements

"Mark L. Louden is the foremost scholar of Pennsylvania Dutch. A significant contribution to linguistic, sociolinguistic, historical, and anthropological scholarship, his book is extensively researched, accessible, and filled with a wealth of language examples that will appeal to a wide audience."

- Karen Johnson-Weiner, SUNY Potsdam, coauthor of The Amish
Johns Hopkins University Press
Young Center Books in Anabaptist and Pietist Studies
2015
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