Amish Language Research: A Review

Handbook of the Changing World Language Map
Edited by Stanley D. Brunn and Roland Kehrein. Cham: Springer International Publishing.

Anderson, Cory. 2019.

Pp. 939-61

Research Points
  • All Amish and two Amish-Mennonite denominations (Tampico and Midwest) employ English and two German variants: Pennsylvania Dutch/German (PG), which is primarily spoken, and an archaic High German (HG) sourced from written religious texts.

  • PG is the main spoken language and is unstandardized. HG is used for sacred texts. English is the language of education, writing, and some work.

  • Most Amish language research focuses on structure/stability and advance one of two main theoretical orientations:
Domain-Isolation Theory

John A. Hostetler, et al.

Insider/outsider dichotomy, Amish vs. outside world

Amish as subgroup within broader society
English mixed with PG indicates assimilation

Increased switching to English suggests PG
language loss due to greater dependence on outside
world

Geo-social isolation key to language retention

Functionalist-Role Theory

Werner Enninger, Marion Lois Huffines, Mark, Louden

Amish as subgroup within broader society

English mixed with PG suggests functional adaption to new linguistic demands

PG language loss when language disassociates
from identity or functionality decreases


Functionality / sectarian identity key to language retention

  • A small Amish language research area addressing naming practices including nicknames and surnames.

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