Multilingualism in Nineteenth Century Pennsylvania
Historical language contact and multilingualism contribute both to sociolinguistic identities and to language ideologies. For the early Pennsylvania Dutch, the distance from their European homeland and the adoption of American regional identities created and resulted in a shift in linguistic hegemony. Knowledge of European German, which held literary and educational prestige, was largely receptive and, in time, a variety of European German called Pennsylvania High German emerged in the publications and schools of Pennsylvania. Because the emphasis was only on its comprehension, Pennsylvania High German was not held up to prescriptive control and is characterized by loanwords from English and Pennsylvania Dutch and structural features that diverge from standard German. Moreover, its sociolinguistic history is one of “dismantling” a European standard language. For Pennsylvanians, the period of Pennsylvania High German use represents both a tenacious yet precarious hold on their European roots and a bridge to their new sociocultural and linguistic identities in America.