[lg policy] dissertation: Texas Alsatian: Henri Castro's legacy

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Fri Jan 15 17:03:44 UTC 2010

Texas Alsatian: Henri Castro's legacy

Institution: University of Texas at Austin
Program: Department of Germanic Studies
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2009

Author: Karen Roesch

Dissertation Title: Texas Alsatian: Henri Castro's legacy

Linguistic Field(s): Anthropological Linguistics
                            Language Documentation

Dissertation Director:
Hans C. Boas
Robert D. King
Patience L. Epps
Marc Pierce

Dissertation Abstract:

This study constitutes the first in-depth description and analysis of Texas
Alsatian as spoken in Medina County, Texas, in the twenty-first century.
The Alsatian dialect was transported to Texas in 1842, when the
entrepreneur Henri Castro recruited colonists from the Alsace to fulfill
the Texas Republic's stipulations for populating his land grant located to
the west of San Antonio.

Texas Alsatian (TxAls) is a dialect distinct from other varieties of Texas
German (Gilbert 1972: 1, Salmons 1983: 191) and is mainly spoken in Eastern
Medina County in and around the city of Castroville. With a small and
aging speaker population, it has not been transmitted to the next
generation and will likely survive for only another two to three decades.
Despite this endangered status, TxAls is a language undergoing death with
minimal change.

This study provides both a descriptive account of TxAls and discussions on
extra-linguistic factors linked to ethnic identity and language loyalty,
which have enabled the maintenance of this distinctive Texas German dialect
for 150 years. To investigate the extent of the maintenance of lexical,
phonological, and morphological features, this study identifies the main
donor dialect(s), Upper Rhine Alsatian, and compares its linguistic
features to those presently maintained in the community, based on current
data collected between 2007 and 2009 and Gilbert's (1972) data collected in
the 1960s.

The discussion of TxAls is three-fold: (1) an analysis of social,
historical, political, and economic factors affecting the maintenance and
decline of TxAls, (2) a detailed structural analysis of the grammatical
features of TxAls, supported by a description of its European donor dialect
and substantiated by Gilbert's (1972) data, and (3) a discussion of the
participants' attitudes toward their ancestral language, which have either
contributed to the maintenance of TxAls, or are now accelerating its
decline, based on responses to a survey developed for the TxAls community,
the Alsatian Questionnaire.


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