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Counties in "Pennsylvania Dutch Country", one of several regions in which Pennsylvania German and "Pennsylvania Dutch English" have traditionally been spoken.

Pennsylvania Dutch English is a dialect of English that has been influenced by Pennsylvania German. It is largely spoken in the South Central area of Pennsylvania, both by people who are monolingual (in English) and bilingual (in Pennsylvania German and English). The dialect has been dying out, as non-Amish Generation X and Millennial Pennsylvania Germans tend to speak modern Middle Atlantic English. Very few non-Amish members of these two generations can speak the Pennsylvania Dutch language, although most know some words and phrases. The WWII Generation was the last generation in which Pennsylvania Dutch was widely spoken, outside of the Old Order Amish and Old Order Mennonite communities.

Features of Pennsylvania German Influence

Pennsylvania Dutch English differs from standard American English in various ways. Some of its hallmark features include the following:

  • Widespread devoicing of obstruents.
  • The use of certain vowel variants in specific phonological contexts.
  • The use of Pennsylvania German verb and noun stems in word construction.
  • Specific intonation patterns for questions.
  • Special placement of prepositional phrases in sentences (so that "Throw the horse some hay over the fence" might be rendered "Throw the horse over the fence some hay").
  • The use of "ain't" and "not" or "say" as question tags.
  • The use of "still" as a habitual verbal marker.
  • Use of the word "yet" to mean "still," such as "do you work at the store yet?" to mean "do you still work at the store?"
  • Use of terms such as "doncha know" and "so I do" or "so he does" at the end of declaratory sentences.
  • Use of the word "awhile" at the end of sentences proposing simultaneous actions (e.g. "Go get the tea out of the pantry; I'll start boiling the water awhile.").
  • The use of "tree" instead of "three" to describe the number "3".

Other calques and idioms include:

Pennsylvania Dutch English Standard English Modern German
Make wet? Is it going to rain?
Outen the lights. Turn off the lights.
The candy is all. There is no more candy. Die Süßigkeiten sind alle.
Don't eat yourself full. Don't fill yourself up.
There's cake back yet. There is leftover cake stored.
Red up the room. Clean the room.
It wonders me. It makes me wonder.
Hurrieder Faster
Spritzing Lightly raining spritzen
Rutsching Squirming auf dem Bauche rutschen
Schusslich Clumsy with things usually due to hurrying schusselig
Doplich Clumsy with self
Yah, well. Whatever, or It makes no difference.
Wutz Pig (when someone eats a lot) die Wutz
Kutz / kutzing Vomit / vomiting die Kotze / kotzen
Wonnernaus A polite way of saying "None of your business"
Schtriwwelich Uncombed or stringy strubbelig
Brutzing, Gretzing Whining/complaining
Wuntz for a second/real quick
Dippy ecks over easy, fried eggs
Mox nix irrelevant Das machts nicht.
Nix Nootz/Nix Nootzie Misbehaving(usually referring to a little kid) Nichtsnutz
Schnickelfritz troublemaker(usually referring to a little kid)
All None left/All gone alle / leer

References

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