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July 06, 2007

Pennsylvania Dutch versus Amish

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Here in the heavily touristed areas of Lancaster County you see 'Dutch' or 'Amish' attached to just about anything with something to sell--'Jakey's Amish BBQ', 'Amish Paradise Homestays', 'Dutch Delights', etc.

Pennsylvania Dutch and Amish are often taken as synonyms, but they aren't exactly one and the same.

Pennsylvania Dutch refers to both the people that settled in William Penn's 'holy experiment' as well as the dialect they spoke and which some continue to speak today.  The people and the dialect are also known as Pennsylvania German.

Among the Pennsylvania Dutch were Lutheran, Reformed, and Catholic faithful as well as Anabaptists.  The dialect had gone into decline by the start of the 20th century.

red:  20 counties with highest number of speakers
blue:  20 counties with highest proportion of speakers
purple:  counts as both red and blue

Gnu free documentation license

Today, few outside the Old Order Amish and Mennonite community speak the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect.  In some communities, there is a fear that even the Amish may be vulnerable to losing it, as English words intrude and younger generations rely increasingly on English.

Click to hear Amish and Mennonites speaking Pennsylvania Dutch!


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Great photo and interesting reading! I wonder if english will eventualy take over as the primary language? I think that would be a real shame!

Thanks Natalya! Due to my job's long hours it's hard for me to answer as often as I'd like but I appreciate your comments. While the Amish change and adapt I doubt English will ever take over as the Amish seem to be pretty vigilant on a few key points such as the buggy and work-free Sundays--and language is another thing that is just so crucial to their identity as a people that I wouldn't really see it going away any time soon.

Thats good to read! Traditions are a good thing and especially with something as important as language!

Please, don't apologise for being busy! I am very grateful that you take the time to answer my questions even though you have a lot going on!

{HUGS} Hope you have a good week

Keep up the great work AA! I love reading about your experiences. You are right in my neck of the woods too!

One thing - isn't that picture of the black topped horse and buggie Old Order Mennonite vise Amish? I think most of the Amish in Lancaster County drive the grey topped buggies - but mayber there are one or two with the black topped. Sometimes it gets confusing!

Thanks Natalya and Dave!

Dave you're exactly right--I included it here since the post concerned Mennonites as well. It's actually not my own shot--it's from wikipedia, I usually put a link/credit thing on the bottom of those that aren't mine. Some of the Mennonite buggies I noticed today also seem to have the kick-plate sides, at least on the lower part of the buggy.

Just read an article on Amish homebuilders. Of course they can do jobs cheaper. They don't follow labor laws, or osha laws. If someone stops to inspect they speal "Dutch" and are closed when someone returns. If they were held to the same standards at least we'd be on a level playing field. They use their religion as an excuse, and are constantly in the state capital to influence their "right" to free religion. I speak from first hand knowledge as I have lived and worked with the Amish all my life. Don't let them sucker you.

anything and everything about the amish , interest me. thanks for all the info.

Hello, my girlfriend is a former mennonite, her family is still mennonite. I think they hope she will come back and join the community. They speak Pennsylvania Dutch her and her family. I love her so much and will respeat her wishes. I was wondering is there any way that you have that I can learn how to speak, pronounce, write in Pennsylvania Dutch. This would mean so much to me thank you very much.

AA I just found your site. Very impressive and of interest to me. However one observation; I seriously doubt that Crawford County in Pennsylvania has more "Dutch" speakers than Mercer and/or Lawrence Counties have. From personal experience as I live and associate with some Amish. BTW you should interview Jacob Mast a young 30ish carpenter/contractor from Mercer County.
Jim Barcaskey whose maternal grandmother spoke Pa Dutch

My husband had Amish parents but grew up Mennonite. We have an Amish guest room and want to have the word peace put above the door. I need to know the Pennsylvania Dutch word for peace.

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