A Plain Difference: Variation in Case-Marking in a Pennsylvania German Speaking Community
Creators:Keiser, Steve Hartman
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Publisher:Ohio State University. Department of Linguistics
Citation:Working Papers in Linguistics, no. 52 (1999), 249-288.
Previous studies (e.g., Huffines 1989, Louden 1987) have demonstrated that Pennsylvania German (PG) is undergoing processes of convergence to English but that these processes differ between plain communities (i.e., Old Order Amish and Old Order Mennonite) and non-plain communities. I investigate a question that these studies have not addressed: what is the degree of variation within plain and nonplain communities? Data collected from 70 PG speakers from one traditional plain community (Old Order Amish) and two historically plain communities (Conservative Mennonite, and Mennonite) in Kalona, Iowa are analyzed for variation in dative case-marking. A comparison with Huffines's study shows that there are considerable differences in usage between these plain communities and those that she studied. In addition, quantitative analyses reveal that in Kalona, patterns of usage correlate most strongly with the speaker's age, reflecting an earlier period of relative social and linguistic homogeneity in the local religious communities. Quantitative analyses also provide an indication of which functions of dative case-marking are undergoing the most rapid attrition. I discuss the implications that these findings have for the past and continuing development of PG varieties in the U.S.