York Town Square

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What is the Pennsylvania German (Pennsylfaanisch Deitsch) dialect all about?

Dale Moyer of Dover Township displays part of his toy collection during a show-and-tell at a Pennsylvania Dutch Heritage Group meeting in 2008. The group meets at Providence Place Retirement Community in Dover Township. Also of interest: Gift to York countian and Pennsylvania Dutchman Millard Gladfelter: ‘Gladdie, who wears wonderful good after 25 years’ and York County fraktur expert inventories local art: ‘I make house calls’ and Fasnachts are a York County delicacy. But how are Fasnachts different from donuts?.
Guder Mariye!
That is, good morning!
In Pennsylvania Dutch.
Here’s an amazing number.
In 2007, an estimated 250,000 Americans could still fluently speak Pennsylvania German, often called Pennsylvania Dutch.
And others beside the Amish are counted in that number… .

A handout from a York County Heritage Trust Second Saturday program earlier this year placed the number of Pennsylvania German speakers of “non-plain” background at 20,000. These folks are usually associated with Lutheran, United Church of Christ and German Methodist congregations.
“The majority of these ‘fancy Dutch’ live in small towns and rural area of Berks, Lehigh and Lebanon counties and neighbhoring area,” the fact sheet states.
Hey, don’t forget York County.
In fact, people celebrating their Pennsylvania German heritage meet regularly in York County, with Providence Place Retirement Community in Dover serving as headquarters.
“We are a small gathering of York County residents with a strong interest in the dialect and the old ways of our Grandparents,” a release from Providence Place’s group states, “We meet each month to share conversation and stories about Pennsylvania German.” (See more below.)
Here are a couple of other tidbits from the fact sheet, converted to Q & A format:
Q. What is the Pennsylvania German (Pennsylfaanisch Deitsch) dialect all about?
A. A unique dialect of German, influenced by English, still spoken by descendants of the 100,000 or so immigrants who arrived in Pennsylvania between 1683 and about 1800 from German-speaking lands. They came primarily from areas in southwestern Germany, and especially the Palatinate, now part of the German state of Rheinland-Pfaltz.
Q. What is the Pennsylvania Dutch language like?
A. Pennsylvania German most resembles the German Palatinate dialect varieties spoken in areas around the German cities of Mannheim and Heidelberg in Baden-Wuertemberg and Ludwigshafen, Speyer, Neustadt and Landau in the Rheinland-Pfalz.
Q. What are the best Pennsylvania Dutch contacts in York County?
– Pennsylvania Dutch Heritage Group, meets every third Saturday, 1-3 p.m., Providence Place Retirement Community, Dover. Also, Pennsylvania German Dialect Classes. Contact: Rachael Gromling, 717-266-2910.
– Pennsylvania German Dialect Classes, Spring Grove Community Center, Spring Grove. Contact: 717-225-9733.
Q. What are some of the most significant Pennsylvania German organizations in the state?
– Pennsylvania German Society, Kutztown, www.pgs.org.
– Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center, Kutztown University, www.kutztown.edu/community/pgchc.
– Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society, www.lmhs.org.
– Pennsylvania Dutch Language Project, www.geocities. com/tconrad2001/dutch_main.html.
Also of interest:
Upcoming Second Saturday program, York County Heritage Trust:
Event to be held at the: Historical Society Museum (Meeting Hall). Master Gardener Claire Johnston will show the “tricks of the trade” in making floral holiday decorations. Learn how to build your own wreath and other arrangements with common, low-cost plants. 10:30 a.m., Dec. 12. Free event.