Texas German

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Texas German
Native to Texas
Region Texas Hill Country
Native speakers
~3,000, declining  (date missing)[citation needed]
Language codes
ISO 639-3

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

History and documentation[edit]

Most German Texans continued to speak German in their homes and communities for several generations after settling in the state. During World War I 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 growth of these communities and cultural bias during both World War I and World War II, Texas German speakers drifted towards English and few passed the language to their descendants.[1]

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,[2] building on research originally performed by Dr. Glenn Gilbert of 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.’”[3]

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.[4]

Current distribution and population[edit]

Gillespie County

Some 1,035 people report speaking German at home in Fredericksburg,[5] the town with the largest community of Texas German speakers, representing 12.48% of the total population, 840 in New Braunfels,[6] 150 in Schulenburg,[6] 85 in Stonewall,[7] 70 in Boerne,[6] 65 in Harper,[8] 45 in Comfort[9] and 19 in Weimar,[6] 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,[6] including European German speakers.

Comparisons with German and English[edit]

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. For instance, the word Luftschiff (used for "airplane") means airship in Standard German.

The table below illustrates some examples of differences:

English Texas German Literal translation Standard German Literal translation
skunk Stinkkatze stink cat Stinktier stink animal
airplane Luftschiff airship Flugzeug flight gear
county County county Kreis district/circle
blanket Blanket blanket Decke blanket
gone all empty; gone leer; alle empty; used up

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  • Boas, Hans C (2009). The Life and Death of Texas German. Publication of the American Dialect Society. Duke University Press. ISBN 9780822367161. 


External links[edit]