Pennsylvania Dutch

Pennsylvania Dutch is a term that refers both to the culture of Germanic Americans that immigrated to the U.S. in the 1800s and the language that they brought with them (at the time of this immigration, Germany did not yet exist as a nation, so these people came from areas we know as Germany, Poland, Holland and Austria). The term “Dutch” often causes some confusion—the term most likely comes from the German word “Deutsch,” and does not refer to the Dutch (Netherlands) people. The Pennsylvania Dutch culture encompasses the Amish and many Mennonite groups, as well as the Brethren, Lutherans and others. It is well known particularly for its contribution to the arts: its quilts, pottery, folk art, needlework, furniture and food has had a great influence on American culture.

Pennsylvania Dutch comes from a dialect spoken in a certain region of southern Germany, and is not to be confused with Plattdeutsch, which is a Low German spoken by certain Mennonites who now mostly reside in Mexico, South America, and Canada. Some consider Pennsylvania Dutch to be a dying language, but it is estimated that there are approximately 20,000 persons who speak the language—mostly Amish and Old Order Mennonites. And while the language is becoming more diluted by English as the Amish are forced to work outside their communities due to land constraints, the total population of Amish is actually growing, so many people still have hope that the language will continue to survive.

To learn more about Pennsylvania Dutch culture and the language, we recommend the following website:

Pennsylvania German Society (check their publications and links to other sites)