|Region||Texas Hill Country|
|Native speakers||~3,000, declining (date missing)|
Texas German (German: Texasdeutsch) is a dialect of the German language that is spoken by descendants of German immigrants who settled in the Texas Hill Country region in the mid-19th century. These immigrants founded the towns of New Braunfels, Fredericksburg, Boerne, Schulenburg, Weimar, Walburg, and Comfort.
History and documentation
Most German Texans continued to speak German in their homes and communities, but were required to learn English when Texas education rules mandated English-only instruction during and after World War I. Due to the growth of these communities and cultural bias during World War I and World War II, Texas German speakers drifted towards English, and few passed the language to their descendants.
The dialect is 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, building on research originally performed by Dr. Glenn Gilbert, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, in the 1960s.
“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 hamburger’ or ‘der cowboy.’”
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.
Current distribution and population
Some 1,035 people report speaking German at home in Fredericksburg, the town with the largest community of Texas German speakers, where they constitute 12.48% of the total population, 840 in New Braunfels, 150 in Schulenburg, 85 in Stonewall, 70 in Boerne, 65 in Harper, 45 in Comfort and 19 in Weimar, 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 population. 82,100 German-speakers reside in the state of Texas, but that number also includes European German speakers.
Comparisons with German and English
Texas German is intelligible to anyone with an understanding of continental German, though it adapted to U.S. measurement and legal terminologies. German words were invented or English was "Germanicized" for words not present in 19th century German. In some cases, these new words also exist in modern Standard German, but with a different meaning. The word Luftschiff (see below), for instance, means airship in Standard German.
Refer to the table below for some examples of differences:
|Texas German||Literal translation||Standard German||Literal translation||English|
|Stinkkatze||stink cat||Stinktier||stink animal||skunk|
|all||empty; gone||leer; alle||empty; used up||gone|
- 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.
- "German dialect in Texas is one of a kind, and dying out". BBC News. 2013-05-14. Retrieved 2013-06-02.
- "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.
- Microsoft Word - Life and Death of Texas German review - Review of Life and Death of Texas German.pdf, retrieved 2013-06-02
- MLA Language Map Data Center results, Fredricksburg, Texas, all languages
- MLA Language Map Data Center results, Fredericksburg, Texas
- MLA Language Map Data Center results, Stonewall, Texas
- MLA Language Map Data Center results, Harper, Texas
- MLA Language Map Data Center results, Comfort, Texas
- Boas, Hans C (2009). The Life and Death of Texas German. Publication of the American Dialect Society. Duke University Press. ISBN 9780822367161.
- Texas German Dialect Project
- Article about Texas German – Spiegel Online (German)
- "German dialect in Texas is one of a kind, and dying out". BBC News. 14 May 2013.