Texas German vs. Pennsylvania Dutch

Is there really such a language as Texas German?

The answer is yes.

So why is it—according to my informal (and totally unscientific) poll—that everyone has heard of Pennsylvania German (usually, however, called by the misnomer Pennsylvania Dutch, where “Dutch” is from “Deutsch”), but no one has heard of Texas German?

OK, that’s an exaggeration. Most Americans haven’t heard of Texas German.

Full disclosure: until last week I too hadn’t heard of Texas German! So let’s unwrap the five mysteries implicit in the first three sentences of this post. The mysteries are:

  1. Does Texas German exist?
  2. If so, is it a language in its own right, or is it a dialect of German?
  3. Why has (almost) no New Englander heard of Texas German?
  4. Is Pennsylvania Dutch/German a language in its own right, or is it a dialect of German?
  5. In any case, how is it related to Texas German?

Brief answers:

  1. Yes.
  2. That depends. The difference between a language and a dialect is fuzzy. This was brought home to me yesterday when people where discussing the unusual words in Auld Lang Syne, which most Americans think is due to Scottish intrusions into English rather than the fact that the song/poem is not written in English at all! It is written in Scots, which, as I have discussed earlier, is a separate (but of course related) language, not a dialect of English.
  3. Because Texas is a foreign country.
  4. A language.
  5. They both are spoken by some German immigrants to the U.S.—and some of their American descendants.

So, I came across Texas German serendipitously, and I discovered that there are quite a few videos on the subject. Joel and Lia have a good one that I recommend; it contains clips from some other videos that you can watch as well.

Categories: Linguistics