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Hutterite German
Spoken in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, Canada; Washington, Montana, North and South Dakota.
Total speakers 34,000 (2003 estimate)
Language family Indo-European
Language codes
ISO 639-1 None
ISO 639-2
ISO 639-3 geh

Hutterite German (Hutterisch) is an Upper German dialect of the Austro-Bavarian variety of the German language, which is spoken by Hutterite communities in Canada and the United States. Hutterite is also called Tirolean or Low German, but these are anachronisms.


Distribution and literacy

Hutterite is spoken in the US states of Washington, Montana, North and South Dakota, and Minnesota; and in the Canadian provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. Its speakers belong to the Schmiedleit, Lehrerleit, and Dariusleit Hutterite groups, but there are also speakers among the older generations of Prairieleit (the descendants of those Hutterites who chose not to settle in colonies). Hutterite children who grow up in the colonies learn and speak first Hutterite German before learning English, the standard language of the surrounding areas.

As of 2003, there are about 34,000 speakers in the world, 85% of them living in 333 colonies in Canada and the remaining 15% in 123 colonies in the USA. Canadian adults are generally literate in Biblical German (Martin Luther's predecessor to Standard German) that they employ as the written form for Scriptures while Standard German is used in the USA for religious activities. Children learn English at school; Canadian Hutterites have a functional knowledge of English. Hutterisch, is for the most part an unwritten language, though in August 2006 Hutterite author, Linda Maendel released a children's story titled, "Lindas Glücklicher Tag" in which all the dialogue is written in the dialect. Maendel is also working on a series of bible stories with Wycliff Bible translators.

History and related languages

Hutterite German is descended from the German which was spoken in Carinthia, in Austria, in the mid-18th century, a Bavarian-Austrian language. Since dialects spoken in Palatinate and in Alsace are mostly Alemannic languages, Hutterite German is only 50% intelligible to a speaker of Pennsylvania German (source : The Ethnologue, 15th ed.). It is more closely related to Austro-Bavarian (Bavaria and Austria), Cimbrian and Mócheno (both spoken in Italy).

It should be noted that, although at one time the Hutterites spoke Tirolean German, they no longer do. The switch among Hutterites from Tirolean German to Carinthian German occurred during years of severe persecution in Europe when Hutterite communities were devastated and survival depended on the conversion of many Austrian Protestant refugees to Hutterite anabaptism.

The language has since adopted some Slavic as well as English loan words, which are the result of Hutterite migrations into eastern Europe and now North America.

See also

External links



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