LINGUIST List 2.267

Sunday, 2 June 1991

Disc: Sociolinguistic Issues: Survival and Bilingualism

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  1. mark l louden, Re: The Survival of Immigrant Langugaes
  2. , The Survival of Immigrant Langugaes
  3. "ELISE EMERSON MORSE-GAGNE", non-bilingual police and judiciary
  4. Karen Christie, Re: FYI

Message 1: Re: The Survival of Immigrant Langugaes

Date: Thu, 30 May 91 12:27:52 -0500
From: mark l louden <>
Subject: Re: The Survival of Immigrant Langugaes
In response to Elise M-G's question about restrictive legislation and Penn.
German, the story is kind of interesting and somewhat complex. First point
that is relevant is that the Penn. Germans, both sectarians (Old Order Amish,
Mennonites) and non-sectarians (everybody else) alike, a) have not considered
themselves German-Americans as other groups have, e.g. Ger-Ams such as the
groups Herb Stahlke refers to in the Midwest, in particular urban Ger-Americans;
b) have not been regarded by other Ger-Americans as really Ger-American. This
is ude in large part to the fact that the Penn. Germans came over so much
 earlier (1683-1775) than other sizable groups (mainly 19th c), among whom there
a greater number of middle class and educated people. Penn Germans of both type
(sectarian and non-sectarian) who have maintained the dialect are almost
without exception rurally based and with limited formal education; those who
historically moved to cities and towns and pursued higher levels of education
and became middle class generally have given up the dialect in favor of English.
The PG dialect has always had the stigma of country-bumpkin speech, even by
its own speakers (mainly non-sectarian) who will readily agree with their
outside critics that it is 'not a real language' bec. it is effectively (for
most speakers) a non-literate lg. and bec. it differs from Std. German. It
is no accident that the term Pennsylvania Dutch is almost unversally preferred
by speakers over Penn. German since they'll say they're 'not really German, but
a mixture of German and American, Dutch'.
In the early 1830's, a school law was passed in Pa. allowing lgs. other than
English to be used as media of instruction, but ironically it was intere[redte
(typo, sorry) widely interpreted as mandating English only; in any case, the
low prestige of PG was reinforced by the fact that English remained the
exclusive medium of instruction for dialect-speaking children. Many of these
children suffered serious discrimination at the hands of teachers, who were
by and large not dialect speakers, and although there was never any specific
legislation targeting use of PG, kids felt the impact of their mother tongue
being stigmatized.
Some observers have included Penn Germans in the list of Ger-Amer groups
persecuted during WWI (and WWII), but as Kloss has pointed out, this is
incorrect. Bec. of the view of Penn 'Dutch' as not being really German, they
were largely unaffected by anti-German sentiment felt in other places like here
in Texas (during WWI it was illegal to speak/teach German in the state and our
dept. was closed down). The accelerated decline of PG among non-sectarians in
this century is thus not due to anti-German feelings, but rather the decreasing
social and geographic isolation of the speakers (characterized of course by
increasing educational achievement and major population shifts); the decline of
French and Spanish in Lousiana can be attributed to similar circumstances.
The maintenance situation among PG-speaking sectarians is of course just the
opposite since the dialect, along with distinctive dress and transportation,
is an important marker of in-group status. But when people leave the Old
Order groups and become more socially assimilated, PG is generally given up
quickly. In some families who leave, they literally go from speaking PG at home
to English from one day to the next.
Best, Mark Louden
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Message 2: The Survival of Immigrant Langugaes

Date: Thu, 30 May 91 23:55:28 EDT
From: <>
Subject: The Survival of Immigrant Langugaes
(1) African languages survived quite well in parts of Brazil.
(2) It is my impression that in India various communities maintain
their native languages for generations, and that the whole idea
that we should expect immigrant communities to assimilate
linguistically to their environment is a feature of American
(and European?) culture, not a cultural universal.
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Message 3: non-bilingual police and judiciary

Date: 31 May 91 11:05:00 EST
From: "ELISE EMERSON MORSE-GAGNE" <morsegag%ucs.indiana.eduRICEVM1.RICE.EDU>
Subject: non-bilingual police and judiciary
With reference to the Miami instance, readers may be interested in a series
of articles in the Philadelphia Inquirer last week describing the problem
encountered by Spanish-speaking mushroom harvesters in Chester Cty near
Philadelphia. It appears that virtually no one on the police force speaks
Spanish, and interpreters are amateur and sometimes entirely lacking for
every stage of a court case, starting with the arrest and going through
sentencing. This results in situations like someone named Angel Jose Lopez
getting arrested for something Antonio Juan Lopez actually did--and going to
jail for it. The articles are informative and shocking.
Elise Morse-Gagne
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Message 4: Re: FYI

Date: Thu, 30 May 1991 18:05 EST
From: Karen Christie <>
Subject: Re: FYI
The comment about bilingual jurors and 'translation problems' reminds me of the
situation for Deaf jurors also. A Deaf friend of mine was called to jury duty
and at that time the judge told the interpreter he must "sign exactly what I
say WORD for WORD."

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