Texas German preservation

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Thu May 29 17:03:17 UTC 2003

>>From http://www.languagehat.com/archives/000620.php

   May 28, 2003


   Turns out there's a 150-year-old German community in Texas that is in
the final stages of assimilation; the Texas German Dialect Project is
trying to record as much as possible of the dialect before it disappears
for good. From a Daily Texan article by Lori   Slaughenhoupt:

       It all began when he was eating at a restaurant in Fredericksburg,
Texas.  During lunch, Hans Boas, an assistant professor of Germanic
Studies at the University, overheard a conversation that he quickly found
would impact his life.  "People were sitting next to me speaking German,
and I thought, 'Hey, what's going on?'" said Boas, who is from Gottingen,
Germany. "When I got back to Austin, I went to the library, and there was
all this stuff on Texas-German [dialect] from research done in the '50s
and '60s."

       After reading the research, Boas found that English, Spanish and
German were once the primary languages spoken in Texas. He decided to
research the dying Texas-German dialect before it was gone forever.
"What struck me about Texas-German was that after reading descriptions
from the '50s and '60s, I realized that all of the sudden, it's
different," Boas said. "In just 40 years, the sounds, grammar and word use
has changed."

       Although he knew funding for language-revival programs is often
hard to obtain, Boas applied for a grant from the University. In September
2001, after receiving one from the dean of liberal arts, Boas founded the
Texas German Dialect Project....  Germans settled in much of Central Texas
after the 1840s. It was then that the Adelsverein, the Society of Noblemen
was organized in what is now Germany and encouraged thousands to go to

       The American culture, which especially began to become incorporated
after World War I in the 1920s and 1930s, is the reason Texas-German has
not been passed to future generations, Boas said. The introduction of
English-only laws after the world wars made it even more difficult for the
German culture especially the language to be passed on....  "Texas has
this rich history of culture in terms of language and, up until World War
I, Texas was trilingual," Boas said.  "What makes Texas so unique is that
it is much more open toward cultures that are different. You don't see
that in other states."

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