Visit home: Pennsylvania Dutch, anyone?

by Jay October. 11, 2014 3676 views

I'll bet most of you (if not none of you) have ever seen Pennsylvania Dutch actually written, let alone ever heard it spoken.

Well, here it is. My eldest brother and his clan are Amish-Mennonite and he and my sister-in-law are members of a “Deitsch”-speaking community. Pennsylvania Dutch (Deitsch) is not just spoken in Pennsylvania. It mostly started out there, I guess, over the past 150-200 hundred years or so when the Swiss Amish and Mennonites (and Dutch, and German, and from wherever else) began trickling into America through Pennsylvania, so I think that is most likely how it acquired the label to the German dialect that it actually is.

For those of you who might be interested, Pennsylvania Deitsch is very similar to Swiss German or Allemanisch, which is one of the many German dialects. This is found in southern and southwestern Germany as well as Switzerland and the Alsace region of France. Many of my older colleagues here in Southern Germany can get the gist of it when they look at it long enough. The pronunciation seems to have dictated the manner of writing it, as it does sound like a kind of German spoken with a “typical” American accent, although it can be a tad “sing-songy” when spoken. Similar to Swiss German in a way.

But, as you see in the two photos, there is obviously published material (in this case the Bible) in the language (dialect, actually) and in my own family's case, they speak it in Kentucky. It is also found throughout some communities in Ohio, Indiana, etc.

“The New Testament” Pennsylvania Dutch and English with the Psalms and Proverbs"

The Psalms

The 23rd Psalm, “The Lord is my Shepherd…”

I hesitated putting this photo up. I did not ask their permission. But, they are my nephews and nieces and sister-in-law on my parents' front porch in Virginia. I thought perhaps I should put some faces with this story. Yes, Amish-Mennonite (For those of you who may be somewhat perplexed, there are several different groups of Amish and Mennonites. It can be confusing. “Amish-Mennonite” is one of the groups. My family does drive cars and have electricity, although their cars are always black.)

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There are 8 comments , add yours!
Roxanne 6 years, 1 month ago

beautiful photos and really interesting! I have always wondered about the differences and or similarities in Amish and Mennonite cultures.

6 years, 1 month ago Edited
Gillian Parsons 6 years, 1 month ago

So informative thank you.

6 years, 1 month ago Edited
Antonio Gil 6 years, 1 month ago

Very interesting facts that I didn't know about. Thanks for sharing them

6 years, 1 month ago Edited
Moira 6 years, 1 month ago

Thank you for sharing this vital piece of your family's interesting history and glad you sneaked in a photo they look very content.

6 years, 1 month ago Edited
Brenda Nelson 6 years, 1 month ago

We found their culture and lands very warm and welcoming as we travelled through their area recently. This is a lovely tribute to a loving religion. We have Mennonites near us and Amish just to the north of us. Thank you for the sweet post - and I'm glad you chose Psalm 23. Although I couldn't read a word, I knew the content by heart! :)

6 years, 1 month ago Edited
Jacki 6 years, 1 month ago

Interesting. Having been raised in Pennsylvania, I grew up in an area with many Amish families & communities... they are not Mennonites and thus they drive horses and buggies and have no electricity in their homes or work places. It was always interesting when you needed a new belt to go to the Amish leather man, pick the piece of hide, pick your buckle and watch him make your belt... it never wore out! They also made beautiful quilts. And of course they would never allow pictures of themselves or have dolls with faces.

6 years, 1 month ago Edited
Marilyn Grimble 6 years, 1 month ago

If I remember correctly don't the women make fabulous patchwork quilts?
I attended a lecture on the Amish - Mennonite culture when I lived in Switzerland and was a member of the American Women's Club. My friend actually won one of their quilts.
However my memory might be playing tricks!

6 years, 1 month ago Edited
Kenny H 6 years, 1 month ago

Very interesting....I actually shop at a mennonite thrift store here in a part of Pennsylvania called Souderton. learned a lot about the culture from them.
Great candid shot of your relatives.

6 years, 1 month ago Edited