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  #1  
Old 12-19-2007, 06:26 PM
Spectre of Pithecanthropus Spectre of Pithecanthropus is offline
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Pennsylvania Dutch--are there any non-Amish/Mennonites/Hutterites?

Is there, or was there, a Pennsylvania Dutch subculture apart from the religious communities? John Updike, in the Rabbit novels, mentions PA Dutch people and language once in a while, and it does not seem that he is referring to Plain People, but just people who speak German, or whose ancestors did.

In the novels, he's referring to a time, probably before 1950. Was there such a subculture then, and does it still exist? Does anyone still speak German in PA, except for the Amish and similar groups?

[aside]
The well-known Pennsylvaniaism, "needs washed/cut/fixed/etc." is actually reminiscent of old fashioned German in which the auxiliary verb before a participle was sometimes omitted.[/aside]
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  #2  
Old 12-19-2007, 06:36 PM
Tamerlane Tamerlane is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spectre of Pithecanthropus
Is there, or was there, a Pennsylvania Dutch subculture apart from the religious communities?

Only Amish and Old Order Mennonites, i.e., the plain people, are passing the language along to their children in the current generation, although they were originally minority groups within the Pennsylvania German speaking population. According to sociologist John A. Hostetler, fewer than 10 percent of the original Pennsylvania German population was Amish or Mennonite.

From the wikipedia topic on the subject.

German in general at one time was the largest minority language spoken in the U.S., with quite a few bilingual school districts. A fact frequently ignored by the occasional more extreme modern day crusaders for monolingual instruction, who argue that bilingual education prevents assimilation .

Last edited by Tamerlane; 12-19-2007 at 06:37 PM..
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  #3  
Old 12-19-2007, 06:38 PM
John Mace John Mace is online now
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Wikipedia has the answer. Link. Historically it included non-Amish/Mennonite, but these days it tends to be reserved for them (although not by everyone).

Last edited by John Mace; 12-19-2007 at 06:38 PM..
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  #4  
Old 12-20-2007, 04:24 AM
Carson O'Genic Carson O'Genic is offline
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Was,certainly.There are regions of Pa. that were dominated by Germanic peoples and sometimes currently,their descendants.Think Germantown,in the past.
The culture still exists,but largely dilute.There are a few "Dutchy" speakers,but a number of expressions and descriptors are still used.Food seems a more persistant trait.Less affected areas will be found in those counties that were slower in giving up agriculture,like Lancaster/Lebanon and northwards;Berks to a lesser extent.Northwestern Pa. seems to have had Teutons but there were other ethnic groups either there first or in sufficient numbers to prevent hegemony.
Amish/Anabaptist are but a subset of Pennsylvania Dutch but are now the assumed token.
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Old 12-20-2007, 10:01 AM
BJMoose BJMoose is offline
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I suspect what has happened is that virtually all of the old Lutheran or Reformed "Pennsylvania Dutch" (like some of my ancestors) have been absorbed into the general culture. The only distinctively German groups left are those, like the Amish, who have resisted assimilation.
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Old 12-20-2007, 10:11 AM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is online now
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Certainly the term has been used to include non-Amish/Mennonite/etc. grouos. Pepper Mill says she's part Pennsylvania Dutch, but that didn't (to her) mean an association with one of those religious groups. But it did include German-speaking.
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  #7  
Old 12-20-2007, 12:25 PM
Pandora Pandora is offline
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I am 1/2 Pennsylvania Dutch, and no, we aren't all anabaptists.
(Historically, that side of my family is Lutheren.) It's more of a cultural identity that is certainly more pronouced in the rural areas of central and eastern PA, (ans some parts of Maryland, Delaware and Ohio) but it really isn't tied to a religion.

The Pennsylvania Dutch are decended from early german settlers (William Penn went to the region that is now Germany looking for settlers for his new colony, and since he was offering religious freedom to people living in an area where religion was a huge issue, he got a lot of takers. And once there was a significant german-speaking population in place, new immigrents found the area very appealing as well including Hessian soldiers remaining after the Revolutionary War. )
The original german-speaking colonists represented every imaginable religion from the relatively mainstream (Catholic, Lutheren), to the less common Anabaptists (Mennonites, Amish Schwankfelders etc.), to strange cult-like groups (The Epherta cloister community is one example). Reading PA even had a fairly significant german speaking Jewish population in the 18th century.


I grew up in Berks county and did speak both the PA dutch dialect, and "High" German - for some reason this is what we call proper German (the type that is taught in school).
I haven't actually conversed with anyone in the dialect in several years... but I could probably still do a passable job if I came across anyone to talk to. I do still routinely cuss in german, mostly out of habit. (when I was a kid it was common for parents to swear in PA dutch, on the theory that their kids wouldn't understand what they were saying). I learned the dialect passively as a child because my grandfather spoke it as his first language, and was never entirely comfortable speaking english.
It is rapidly dying out though, a situation that I think was worsened by the Anti-german sentiments during WWII. Most adults I knew as kid consider english to be their first language, but could speak or understand the PA dutch if they needed to. Most kids of my generation weren't taught any at all - unless like me they had relatives that had trouble in english. That being said, our local universty does teach courses in PA dutch, and it is becoming increasinging popular to "reconnect" to one's family history.

Today, I think the PA dutch dialect is only spoken as a daily language in communities such as the Amish, where the use of the dialect as first language serves as an additional layer of separation between their community and the surrounding modern world.
Those PA dutch who don't mind the modern world speak english, and blend in fairly well in a crowd, but we still have some odd traditions and superstitions, and a long tradition of cooking huge meals and baking for 14 hours a day.

Last edited by Pandora; 12-20-2007 at 12:26 PM..
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  #8  
Old 12-20-2007, 12:52 PM
Napier Napier is offline
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My ancestors were Pennsylvania Dutch who were not Amish or Mennonite or Hutterite. But they were a religious group. The "Brethren" are a category of Pennsylvania Dutch comprising various subgroups such as River Brethren (mine), Lemonites, Shoemakerites, Christian Brethren, Brethren in Christ, and more. The Brethren kept splitting into more and smaller groups, generally on the basis of disputes over interpretation of specific bits of Scripture. All of them emphasized a spirit of togetherness and willingness to unite, with other groups of Brethren, as soon as the other groups would see the light of day and correct their ways. At least, this is what I gather from reading about them. I understand that Brethren are the largest group, if counted collectively, after Amish and Mennonite. My grandmother was the last to be raised as River Brethren, and her family did not remain in the group.
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  #9  
Old 12-20-2007, 01:44 PM
jayjay jayjay is online now
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supervenusfreak's family is PA Dutch. Some are still Mennonites, from what I recall. Most are pretty assimilated.

I've always seen membership as Pennsylvania Dutch as being more of an ethnic thing, like my mother's family being what I consider to be Italian(-American), than a language thing. And if we go by that criterion, there are A LOT of them still around.
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  #10  
Old 12-20-2007, 01:47 PM
Pandora Pandora is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jayjay

I've always seen membership as Pennsylvania Dutch as being more of an ethnic thing, like my mother's family being what I consider to be Italian(-American), than a language thing. And if we go by that criterion, there are A LOT of them still around.

I think it's very much an ethnic thing rather then a religous thing
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  #11  
Old 12-20-2007, 02:34 PM
missred missred is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BJMoose
I suspect what has happened is that virtually all of the old Lutheran or Reformed "Pennsylvania Dutch" (like some of my ancestors) have been absorbed into the general culture. The only distinctively German groups left are those, like the Amish, who have resisted assimilation.

My grandmother was Pennsylvania Dutch but Lutheran. None of her five sons spoke the language, but understood some words and phrases. Although I never heard her use vulgar language in English, she did occasionally let loose with some choice Dutch language that I later found out the translation for. None of us grandchildren speak the language either, although the ones who have studied German don't have much of a problem in Amish country. We have assimilated to the common culture.
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  #12  
Old 12-20-2007, 03:56 PM
Fuzzy Dunlop Fuzzy Dunlop is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pandora
I think it's very much an ethnic thing rather then a religous thing
I always considered myself Pennsylvania Dutch growing up, and so were most of the people around me. If you were of German descent and were a many-generation resident of Pennsylvania, you self reported as PA Dutch. If you didn`t speak PA Dutch, your parents or grandparents probably did. We really liked potatoes and ate a lot of food I now consider very bland. We probably had more quilts than your average American but I don't think I knew a single person who actually made them. I was aware of religious people in buggies living in Pennsylvania, but I never associated them myself in anyway. Not until I was much older and realized *other* people thought of those people as Pennsylvania Dutch. I really never considered being Pennsylvania Dutch any different than being Italian or Irish.
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  #13  
Old 12-22-2007, 01:26 AM
guest1217 guest1217 is offline
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I agree with most of the previous posters.

It always kind of felt like an ethnic thing, mostly Lutheran and inclusive of but certainly not primarily Mennonite and Amish.

I know my Grandmother (who was Lutheran) felt very self conscious of being laughed at when we began to see things she would normally say put on cute wall hangings for the tourists. So she stopped saying them.

As a Quaker I can tell you its very irritating to be lumped in with the Amish for no apparent reason.
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