Texas German

Last updated
Texas German
Native to Texas
Region Texas Hill Country
Native speakers
4,000–6,000, declining (2013) [1] [2]
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Glottolog None

Texas German (German : Texasdeutsch) is a group of German language dialects spoken by descendants of German immigrants who settled in Texas in the mid-19th century. These "German Texans" founded the towns of Bulverde, New Braunfels, Fredericksburg, Boerne, Walburg, and Comfort in Texas Hill Country, Muenster in North Central Texas, and Schulenburg, Brenham and Weimar to the east.

German language West Germanic language

German is a West Germanic language that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol (Italy), the German-speaking Community of Belgium, and Liechtenstein. It is also one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. The languages which are most similar to German are the other members of the West Germanic language branch: Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German/Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish. There are also strong similarities in vocabulary with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, although those belong to the North Germanic group. German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language, after English.

Germany Federal parliamentary republic in central-western Europe

Germany, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central and Western Europe, lying between the Baltic and North Seas to the north, and the Alps, Lake Constance and the High Rhine to the south. It borders Denmark to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria and Switzerland to the south, France to the southwest, and Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands to the west.

Texas State of the United States of America

Texas is the second largest state in the United States by both area and population. Geographically located in the South Central region of the country, Texas shares borders with the U.S. states of Louisiana to the east, Arkansas to the northeast, Oklahoma to the north, New Mexico to the west, and the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas to the southwest, and has a coastline with the Gulf of Mexico to the southeast.


History and documentation

While most heritage languages in the United States die out by the third generation, Texas German is unusual in that most German Texans continued to speak German in their homes and communities for several generations after settling in the state [3] , the State of Texas recognized German as having equal status to Spanish from 1846 [4] up until World War I, when Texas education rules were established mandating English-only instruction, requiring children to learn English in school regardless of what was spoken outside it. Due to the assimilation of these communities and public hostility towards the German language during both World War I and World War II, Texas German speakers drifted towards English and few passed the language to their descendants. [5] By 1950, the number of new speakers of the language was virtually zero. [6]

World War I 1914–1918 global war originating in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

The dialects are near extinction, as it is now spoken almost exclusively by a few elderly German Texans. Currently, Dr. Hans Boas at the University of Texas is recording and studying the dialect, [7] building on research originally performed by Dr. Glenn Gilbert of Southern Illinois University Carbondale in the 1960s.

Endangered language language that is at risk of falling out of use as its speakers die out or shift to speaking another language

An endangered language, or moribund language, is a language that is at risk of falling out of use as its speakers die out or shift to speaking another language. Language loss occurs when the language has no more native speakers and becomes a "dead language". If no one can speak the language at all, it becomes an "extinct language". A dead language may still be studied through recordings or writings, but it is still dead or extinct unless there are fluent speakers. Although languages have always become extinct throughout human history, they are currently dying at an accelerated rate because of globalization, neocolonialism and linguicide.

University of Texas at Austin public research university in Austin, Texas, United States

The University of Texas at Austin is a public research university in Austin, Texas. It was founded in 1883 and is the flagship institution of the University of Texas System. The University of Texas was inducted into the Association of American Universities in 1929, becoming only the third university in the American South to be elected. The institution has the nation's eighth-largest single-campus enrollment, with over 50,000 undergraduate and graduate students and over 24,000 faculty and staff.

Southern Illinois University Carbondale Public university in Carbondale, Illinois, USA; flagship of the SIU system

Southern Illinois University is a public research university in Carbondale, Illinois, United States. Founded in 1869, SIU is the oldest campus of the Southern Illinois University system. The university enrolls students from all 50 states as well as more than 100 countries. SIU offers 3 associate's, 100 bachelor's, 73 master's, and 36 Ph.D programs in addition to professional degrees in architecture, law and medicine.

It's an odd mixture of English and 19th-century German," says Boas ... "Hardly any of the Texas Germans speak alike. There's a lot of variation in the dialect. Texas German borrows about 5 to 6 percent of its vocabulary from English, creating words like 'der cowboy.' [8]

Boas' book on the language, The Life and Death of Texas German, describes the German dialects which may have been the source of the language spoken in Texas. [9]

A feature-length documentary project named "All Güt Things" is currently being developed about the language and will be completed by April 2017. [10] [ needs update ]

Current distribution and population

Gillespie County Map of Texas highlighting Gillespie County.svg
Gillespie County

As of the U.S. 2000 Census, some 1,035 people report speaking German at home in Fredericksburg, [11] the town with the largest community of Texas German speakers, representing 12.48% of the total population, 840 in New Braunfels, [12] 150 in Schulenburg, [12] 85 in Stonewall, [13] 70 in Boerne, [12] 65 in Harper, [14] 45 in Comfort [15] and 19 in Weimar, [12] all of which except for Schulenburg and Weimar, lie in the traditional Texas German heartland of the Hill Country. Gillespie County, with the communities of Fredericksburg, Harper, Stonewall, and Luckenbach, has a German-speaking population of 2,270, 11.51% of the county's total. In all, 82,100 German-speakers reside in the state of Texas, [12] including European German speakers.

Comparisons with German and English

Texas German is adapted to U.S. measurement and legal terminologies. Standard American German words typically were invented, introduced from other German dialects of the region, or English loanwords were introduced for words not present in 19th-century German. Dialect leveling is also found throughout many of the American German dialects including Texas German [16] In some cases, these new words also exist in modern Standard German, but with a different meaning. For instance, the word Luftschiff (used for "airplane") means airship in Standard German.

The table below illustrates some examples of differences:

American English Texas GermanLiteral translation Standard German Literal translation
skunkStinkkatzestink catStinktierstink animal
airplaneLuftschiffairshipFlugzeugflying stuff
blanketBlanketblanket (borrowing)Deckeblanket, cover
goneAllempty; goneLeer; Alleempty; used up

See also

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  1. Vince, Katy (July 2013). "Auf Wiedersehen to a Dialect". Texas Monthly. Retrieved April 7, 2015.
  2. Adam, Thomas (2005). Germany and the Americas. ABC-CLIO. p. 1031. ISBN   9781851096282.
  3. "Documentarians fight to preserve dying Texas-German dialect". The Daily Texan. 2016-10-05. Retrieved 2016-10-26.
  4. https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth6726/
  5. O'Connor, Kyrie (2013-03-10). "Texas German dying out: language of settlers aging with its users". San Antonio Express-News. Retrieved 2013-06-02.
  6. "Documentarians fight to preserve dying Texas-German dialect". The Daily Texan. 2016-10-05. Retrieved 2016-10-26.
  7. "German dialect in Texas is one of a kind, and dying out". BBC News. 2013-05-14. Retrieved 2013-06-02.
  8. "Vanshing Voices: Linguists work with remaining speakers of dying languages to preserve cultural memories". University of Texas at Austin. 2010-01-11. Retrieved 2013-06-02.
  9. Microsoft Word - Life and Death of Texas German review - Review of Life and Death of Texas German.pdf (PDF), archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-07-12, retrieved 2013-06-02
  10. "Documentarians fight to preserve dying Texas-German dialect". The Daily Texan. 2016-10-05. Retrieved 2016-10-26.
  11. MLA Language Map Data Center results, Fredricksburg, Texas, all languages
  12. 1 2 3 4 5 MLA Language Map Data Center results, Fredericksburg, Texas Archived 2013-08-15 at the Wayback Machine
  13. MLA Language Map Data Center results, Stonewall, Texas
  14. MLA Language Map Data Center results, Harper, Texas
  15. MLA Language Map Data Center results, Comfort, Texas
  16. "Texas German Dialect Project – Dedicated to the Preservation of Texas German". tgdp.org. Retrieved 2019-04-29.