Texas German

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Texas German
The flag of Texas.
Native toTexas
RegionTexas Hill Country
EthnicityTexas Germans
Native speakers
4,000–6,000, declining (2013)[1][2]
Language codes
ISO 639-3

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

History and documentation[edit]

A Texas German map, Karte des Staates Texas

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 Texan education rules were established mandating English-only instruction, requiring children to learn English in school regardless of what was spoken at home. 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.[3]

The dialects are near extinction, as they are 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,[6] 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.'[7]

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.[8]

A short documentary project named "All Güt Things" was produced about Texas German in 2016.[3]

An episode with the title "Texas German" was published on the podcast Yellow of the Egg in 2022, where Dr. Hans C. Boas (Director of the Texas German Dialect Project) was a guest.

Current distribution and population[edit]

As of the U.S. 2000 Census, some 1,035 people report speaking German at home in Fredericksburg,[9] the town with the largest community of Texas German speakers, representing 12.48% of the total population, 840 in New Braunfels,[10] 150 in Schulenburg,[10] 85 in Stonewall,[11] 70 in Boerne,[10] 65 in Harper,[12] 45 in Comfort[13] and 19 in Weimar,[10] 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,[10] including European German speakers.

Comparisons with German and English[edit]

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.[14] 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 German Literal translation Standard German Literal translation
skunk Stinkkatze stink cat Stinktier stink animal
airplane Luftschiff airship Flugzeug flight thing
blanket Blanket blanket (borrowing) Decke blanket, cover
gone all empty; gone leer; alle empty; used up

See also[edit]


  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. ^ a b c "Documentarians fight to preserve dying Texas-German dialect". The Daily Texan. October 5, 2016. Retrieved October 10, 2016.
  4. ^ "The Laws of Texas, 1822-1897". 1898.
  5. ^ O'Connor, Kyrie (March 10, 2013). "Texas German dying out: language of settlers aging with its users". San Antonio Express-News. Retrieved June 2, 2013.
  6. ^ "German dialect in Texas is one of a kind, and dying out". BBC News. May 14, 2013. Retrieved June 2, 2013.
  7. ^ "Vanishing Voices: Linguists work with remaining speakers of dying languages to preserve cultural memories". University of Texas at Austin. May 10, 2010. Retrieved June 30, 2019.
  8. ^ 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 July 12, 2010, retrieved June 2, 2013
  9. ^ MLA Language Map Data Center results, Fredericksburg, Texas, all languages
  10. ^ a b c d e "MLA Language Map Data Center results, Fredericksburg, Texas". Archived from the original on August 15, 2013.
  11. ^ "MLA Language Map Data Center results, Stonewall, Texas".
  12. ^ "MLA Language Map Data Center results, Harper, Texas".
  13. ^ MLA Language Map Data Center results, Comfort, Texas
  14. ^ "Texas German Dialect Project – Dedicated to the Preservation of Texas German". tgdp.org. Retrieved April 29, 2019.


  • 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]