The Amish are a small, socially isolated community of religious believers who all hold to the same belief that they should reject the modern world and stick to their simple traditions.
But before we can fully understand the Amish way of life, we need to know what languages they speak.
Knowing this is crucial because it pertains to more than just what the Amish believe Instead, it focuses on their communication patterns, which set the stage for how they perceive the outside world.
But, as with most inquiries about the Amish, the lengthy response is much more compelling than the brief one.
This blog will examine the three languages that Amish typically use and explain why they are crucial to the Amish way of life.
We’ll begin with Pennsylvania Dutch, a tongue that is practically exclusive to the Amish themselves.
A nearly exclusive pseudo-language of the Amish is called Pennsylvania Dutch. It’s also one of the least well-known languages, with fewer than 150,000 native speakers in the US.
Despite its name, Pennsylvania Dutch is a language used by Amish people worldwide. This covers the aforementioned state of Pennsylvania as well as Amish settlements in Indiana, Illinois, New York, and even Ontario.
In each of these communities, there will inevitably be regional variations of Pennsylvania Dutch, just as there are regional variations of English across the United States.
Pennsylvania Dutch is a misleading name for this language because it’s not Dutch, which is a second reason.
Pennsylvania Dutch is derived from German. Pennsylvania Dutch actually has a word for “Pennsylvania Dutch” called “Dietsch.” ”.
This is almost identical to the word “Deutsch,” which is the German word for “German,” and will be recognized by German speakers as such. ”.
This is because Pennsylvania Dutch is derived directly from German. The mainline Swiss Brethren sect split from the Anabaptist denomination that gave rise to the Amish.
After that, the Amish made a determined effort to leave Europe and travel to the New World. Pennsylvania Dutch was able to evolve into its own regional pseudo-language due to its geographic separation from the parent language.
In fact, if you were to follow the Pennsylvania Dutch language lineage back to its most ancient roots, it would resemble something like this:
For information, High German is the dialect used in contemporary Germany and other German-speaking nations.
Accordingly, Pennsylvania Dutch is not simply a dialect of German; it is also an offshoot language of another offshoot language of another offshoot language, etc.
This is a major factor in why Pennsylvania Dutch sounds different despite having a similar sound and sentence structure to modern German. Despite the clear German ancestry of words like “rutsching,” Pennsylvania Dutch is the only language that uses them.
All of this indicates, however, that Pennsylvania Dutch retains connections to its parent languages, such as regional varieties of German.
Switzerland and the surrounding region speak a regional dialect of German known as Swiss-derived German, or more formally Palatine German.
Because it was in Alsace that the Amish separated from the Swiss Brethren, it has a significant bearing on their history.
The Amish first settled in Alsace, where they enjoyed a degree of freedom and isolation from the rest of mainland Europe while practicing their religion.
We must comprehend this because, at the time, both Catholics and Protestants were eager to put any adherents of an Anabaptist denomination, including Mennonites, to death.
They had no choice but to refrain from using violence due to these denominations’ shared commitment to non-violence.
The Amish found the peace and comfort they required in Alsace to carry on their religious practices, and it also enabled them to resume speaking the original German that was their mother tongue.
The Amish later emigrated to North America, as we already established, and the language continued to change into Pennsylvania Dutch.
However, some Amish still retain a written and oral knowledge of Swiss German today, especially those with connections to those who study and speak the language.
Although distinct, it is startlingly similar to High German, the dialect taught in the majority of American schools.
As a result, taking German in high school enables one to interact with the Amish in one of their native tongues.
You don’t need to do this, though. Instead, you can speak the third language of the Amish.
In almost every aspect of life, including social gatherings and religious ceremonies, the Amish prefer English.
It explains how the Amish conduct their business, interact with one another, raise their children, and more.
Pennsylvania Dutch and Swiss German speakers have decreased as a result of the prevalence of English among Amish people, especially in denserly populated areas like Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
(We say “densely” as a relative term. Lancaster is a bustling metropolis in contrast to the isolated white topper communities in Central Pennsylvania. ).
The only grammatical differences in “Amish English” that you might hear are It can be difficult to follow Amish sentences at times because it sounds like they mix up their verbs and nouns.
The Amish who don’t live close to English-speaking communities—again, like those in Central Pennsylvania—find this to be especially true.
English is the opposite. As a subject-verb-object (SVO) language, English sentences should always follow this structure.
Because German nouns and verbs vary depending on how they are used in a sentence, the phrase “Beatrice cake ate” makes sense.
(There are other factors, but I’m not smart enough or knowledgeable enough about linguistics to comprehend or explain them. ).
The Amish do speak English, so you may notice that it’s difficult to follow instructions in the same way as someone who speaks English as their first language.
While most Amish and Old Order Mennonites are of Swiss ancestry, nearly all speak Pennsylvania Dutch, an American language that developed in rural areas of southeastern and central Pennsylvania during the 18th century. Most German-speaking emigrants to colonial Pennsylvania were from the cultural region of Central Europe known as the Palatinate (Pfalz), thus Pennsylvania Dutch resembles most strongly the German dialects of this area.
The majority of Pennsylvania Dutch speakers during the 19th century were Lutheran or German Reformed and resided in rural areas of Pennsylvania. As opposed to the “Plain people,” the term for traditional Anabaptist sectarians, they are referred to as “church people,” the “Fancy Dutch,” or nonsectarians. Pennsylvania Dutch preservation fell off dramatically as a result of the profound demographic changes of the 20th century, which resulted in increased mobility and a loss of rural isolation.
Only members of the most conservative Anabaptist groups—primarily the Amish and Old Order Mennonites—now actively use the language and pass it on to their offspring. Around 3,000 Amish who had remained in Switzerland immigrated to the U.S. during the 19th century. S. , many settling in Ohio, Indiana, and other states. The so-called “Swiss Amish,” also known as Shwitzer, are a minority of Amish who speak two dialects of German: Alsatian and a variant of Bernese Swiss German. Today, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana have the densest populations of Amish, but Wisconsin comes in second with over 21,000 Amish and several thousand more Old Order Mennonites.
Some nonsectarian Pennsylvania Dutch virtually all of whom live in rural southeastern and central Pennsylvania, have attempted to counteract the shift to English monolingualism by creating institutions to promote the language. The most prominent of these are the Grundsow (Groundhog) Lodges, the first of which was founded in Allentown, PA, in 1933. Annual lodge meetings coincide with Groundhog Day (February 2), a New World expression of the traditional European mid-winter holiday of Candlemas. The program cover pictured here reads: “The Third Annual Meeting of the Groundhog Lodge Number One on the Lehigh (River). Monday evening after Groundhog Day, at 6:30 p.m., the 3rd of February, 1936.”Most speakers of Pennsylvania Dutch have been literate in English only. Amish children, for example, learn to read and write in English in their parochial schools, though they also develop passive knowledge of High German for use in religious worship.
Approximately 15% to 20% of Pennsylvania Dutch vocabulary is English-derived. The term “Dutch” used here is not a (mis)translation of “Deutsch” or “Deitsch,” despite the preference of academics and some language proponents for “Pennsylvania German.” In the past, people with both German and Netherlandic ancestry were referred to as “Dutch” in English, frequently with a “folksy” connotation.
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Plautdietsch is the name of the written language used by the Old Order Amish. Plautdietsch was created in Germany in the 1800s and developed over a long period of time. Unlike German’s 26 and English’s 26 letters, the spelling system only uses 24 letters. This explains why some Old Order groups pronounce some words differently from their neighbors who are not Amish.
Only a few elderly people still use Plautdietsch as a language today. These days, sermons are translated into English for churchgoers to read later, along with poetry, personal diaries, nonfiction books about Lancaster County life (that may be shared with other Plain members).
Amish 101: Pennsylvania Dutch | Breaking Amish
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Pennsylvania Dutch is the language used by the Amish population here in Lancaster County. It is considered to be their first and native language. The Amish learn to read, write and speak in English, allowing them to communicate with the 'outside world'.What 3 languages do the Amish speak? ›
In addition to Pennsylvania Dutch, the Amish also speak English. Some Amish communities also use a third language, High German, for religious purposes. The Pennsylvania Dutch language is the primary language spoken by the Amish.Why do Amish speak Pennsylvania Dutch? ›
When they arrived in America, escaping religious persecution in their native countries, most of the Amish settled in Pennsylvania. In time, this group of people with their unique customs and language became known to many as the Pennsylvania Dutch.Are Pennsylvania Amish Dutch or German? ›
While most Amish and Old Order Mennonites are of Swiss ancestry, nearly all speak Pennsylvania Dutch, an American language that developed in rural areas of southeastern and central Pennsylvania during the 18th century.Do the Amish have Social Security numbers? ›
While the Amish are governed by the law, they don't want to have social security numbers. However, they do get one when they join the church as an adult. Because the Amish come from the Anabaptist tradition, they believe that you should be baptized as an adult when you're fully able to consent.Can Amish drink alcohol? ›
There's no prohibition on alcohol in most communities, but certain strict Old Order communities aren't in favor of it. You'll never see Amish men going outside of the community to bars and other such establishments. If they do drink, they do so at home or in the community, at a social gathering.Do Amish talk to non Amish? ›
Most Amish people enjoy talking with outsiders, if they don't feel like they are regarded as animals in the zoo. In some Amish communities shops and attractions may not be open on Sundays, so be sure to call ahead and plan accordingly.What religion do Amish follow? ›
The Amish are a Christian group in North America. The term refers primarily to the Old Order Amish Mennonite Church. The church originated in the late 17th century among followers of Jakob Ammann.Do Amish celebrate Christmas? ›
Do the Amish celebrate Christmas? Yes, they do, although their customs are much simpler than our “English” customs. They are oriented toward the family and the religious meaning of the holiday.Why can't Amish use electricity? ›
The main reason Amish don't use electricity from the grid is that they believe this reliance ties one to the world at the expense of God. Because the Amish can use alternative power sources, they are connected to the modern world in some ways. Many use Amish phones to keep in touch with friends and family.
- DO NOT stare or point or otherwise be disrespectful of the Amish. ...
- DO keep an eye out for slow-moving Amish buggies, (especially at night) while driving, and give them plenty of room when following or passing. ...
- DO feel free to stop at an Amish home if you see a sign in the yard inviting you to stop.
We have all been curious about what do Amish think of outsiders. But, get ready to be surprised because it turns out that "English" is the special term for those not in their community.What are Amish surnames in Pennsylvania? ›
Other Amish surnames, in order of their frequency are Glick, Riehl, Smucker, Petersheim, Smoker, Blank, Kauffman, Lantz, Ebersole, Huyard, Allgyer, Dienner, Yoder, Miller, Swarey, Hertz- ler, Bontrager, Renno, Speicher, Schrock, Peachy and Flaud.Do Amish use electricity? ›
Do the Amish use electricity? It is acceptable within Amish communities to use some limited forms of electricity (such as battery power for the lights on their buggies), and some machinery (such as tractors without rubber tires).Why is Pennsylvania so Amish? ›
More than 300 years ago, the Amish community fled religious persecution, and, embracing William Penn's promise that Pennsylvania offered religious freedom, they settled in Pennsylvania. Lancaster County is the oldest and potentially the largest Amish community with over 31,000 Amish individuals living in the area.What are Amish bedroom rules? ›
The Amish practice a form of bedroom ritual called "bundling." In bundling, a young man and woman spend time together in the same room, usually fully clothed and often with a board or blanket between them. This allows them to get to know each other without the distraction of physical contact.How often do Amish bathe? ›
In summer, conservative Amish tend to bathe at least twice weekly to eliminate dirt and sweat. The women may bathe more frequently and keep the home clean as well. New Order Amish may bathe more frequently than the Swatzentruber order, taking advantage of running water for showers or baths.What happens if an Amish husband dies? ›
In addition, members of the Amish community are allowed to remarry after their spouse passes. Widows sometimes garner financial assistance from their families or the church and may even find work outside of the home, according to Amish America.Do Amish people use condoms? ›
Do Amish people use condoms? the Amish. Not only are all forms of artificial birth control banned in Old Order Amish communities, but any form of natural family planning, such as calendar-based methods, is also prohibited. , was also condemned.
Instead of flushing toilets, outhouses are commonly used. This is true of the most conservative Amish, the Swartzentruber Amish. Interestingly, even communities that have indoor plumbing, sometimes still use outhouses. Farming communities use waste as fertilizer for their fields.What is forbidden for Amish? ›
As part of their Ordnung, Old Order Amish forbid owning automobiles; tapping electricity from public utility lines; owning televisions, radios, or personal computers; attending high school or college; joining the military; and initiating divorce. All Amish groups expect men and women to wear prescribed clothing.Do Amish watch TV? ›
The Amish are known for using horse & buggy for transportation, being off the public (electrical) power grid, they have no TV, computers, Wifi, and the phone is usually outside in a “shanty” or barn. These lodgings tend to be more “authentic”, but they are quite simple and without many frills.Can a non-Amish man marry an Amish woman? ›
To get married in the Amish community, members must be baptized in the church. Outsiders, non-Amish, or 'English', as they call the rest of the world, are not permitted to marry within the Amish community.Can you befriend Amish? ›
There's no rule against friendships between Amish and non-Amish people. The Amish love meeting other people and conversing about life. But always respect their devout laws and views on modern living, which will almost certainly differ from yours. You don't have to have the same beliefs to befriend an Amish person.What are the Amish hair rules? ›
In conclusion, the Amish have strict hair rules that are deeply rooted in their belief system. Amish women keep their hair long and never cut or style it, while men are allowed to keep their hair shorter but still must wear hats when outdoors.Do Amish believe in born again? ›
The Amish people speak of a living hope of salvation. Their version of being born again is referred to as die neugeburt, and it points to a distinctive understanding of Christian salvation. The Amish view the new birth process as a metaphor for joining the community in a church.What do the Amish believe happens after death? ›
The Dead Go on to the Afterlife
Naturally, the Amish grieve the loss of a loved one, as anyone does, but this grief is tempered by their belief that the deceased leave the physical world to be with God in the spiritual afterlife.
For example, considering the three states with the largest Amish populations, in Pennsylvania, the most common Amish surnames are Stoltzfus, King, Fisher, Beiler, and Lapp; in Ohio, they are Miller, Yoder, Troyer, Raber, and Hershberger; and in Indiana, the names are Miller, Yoder, Bontrager, Hochstetler, and Mast ( ...Do Amish have Thanksgiving? ›
Do Amish Celebrate Thanksgiving? Occasionally, visitors ask if the Amish celebrate Thanksgiving. Yes, they celebrate Thanksgiving Day with turkey dinners and family gatherings in perhaps a more subdued manner, centered around religious customs and without football on TV.
Though Thanksgiving is a secular holiday, the Amish have adopted it as one of their celebrations. The Amish work 6 days a week, so Thanksgiving allows them a day of rest to spend with their family.What are Amish grandparents called? ›
bruder—brother. The Budget—a weekly newspaper serving Amish and Mennonite. communities everywhere. daadi—grandfather.Why don't the Amish show affection? ›
Because of there simple, rudiment, and even austere approach to life, many have assumed that Amish people are not very passionate, emotional, or even affectionate. The Amish can give the impression at times that life and worship is more about duty than delight.What do Amish pray to? ›
“Both Mennonites and Amish believe in one God eternally existing as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Romans 8:1-17). We believe that Jesus Christ, God's only Son, died on the cross for the sins of the world. We believe that the Holy Spirit convicts of sin, and also empowers believers for service and holy living.Do Amish use refrigerators? ›
So, the Amish can use power sources such as solar, propane, and diesel. These rules allow many modern appliances to be used, such as refrigerators. In addition, generators or batteries are allowed by the Amish. Phones are not permitted in the home but are commonly used for business purposes.Why can't Amish use cars? ›
Amish use these various ways of travel in large part because they reject owning automobiles. As we discuss in the section on technology, they do this in order to preserve their close-knit communities, as the automobile is a technology that can weaken communal ties, in their view.Why do Amish men have beards? ›
#2: Amish wear their beards in adherence to God's word
From the book of Leviticus 19:27, the Bible says, “Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard” and the Amish interpret this literally. They believe they have been commanded to wear a beard in manhood by God.
Amish bonnets serve as an identifier of civil status for women. Unmarried Amish girls wear black bonnets while married women wear white ones. So, people can easily distinguish their relationship status by the color of their bonnets.What do the Amish call other Americans? ›
Amish church groups seek to maintain a degree of separation from the non-Amish world. Non-Amish people are generally referred to as "English" by the Amish, and outside influences are often described as "worldly".How do the Amish treat their wives? ›
Amish rituals and traditions, coupled with bibilical teachings, place a high value on submission. In the Amish community, women are expected to be submissive to their husbands. This means that they must defer to their husband's wishes and opinions.
I think the level of integration with the modern world varies community to community (some Amish communities are more insular than others) but the most conservative of them will probably use the same methods women used for hundreds of years — wrapping themselves with strips of material, or wrapping their shift/ ...Do Amish accept outsiders? ›
Q: May outsiders join the Amish? A: Yes. Although the Amish do not actively evangelize, several dozen outside people have joined the Amish. Potential members must be willing to learn the dialect and accept the rules of the church in order to be baptized and become members of the church.Can outsiders attend Amish church? ›
Amish Church is held every other week and rotates between family locations. Non-Amish may be invited as guests for weddings, funerals, and gatherings of family and friends. It would be unusual for someone non-Amish to attend a typical Sunday church service.Do the Amish circumcise? ›
Amish who do not practice circumcision have a low rate of autism. Somali immigrants in Sweden practice circumcision and have a high rate of autism compared to Swedish children.Do the Amish use antibiotics? ›
The Amish are an insular religious community that originated in Europe and migrated to North America in the 17th century. They live in closed communities and avoid modern medical treatments such as immunizations and antibiotics. Despite that, they've often survived diseases that ravage the common populations.Are the Amish Pennsylvania Dutch? ›
The Pennsylvania Dutch are a group of English-speaking people who descended from German immigrants. The Amish are a subset of the Pennsylvania Dutch that live in rural areas and practice a simple lifestyle.Do the Amish in PA speak German? ›
You may know that Pennsylvania German, also known as Pennsylvania Dutch (PD), is the primary language of most Amish and conservative Mennonite communities living in the United States today. What you may not know is that most PD speakers are ethnically Swiss.Is Pennsylvania Dutch and German the same? ›
The Pennsylvania Dutch (or German) language
Pennsilfaanisch Deitsch or Deitsch for short, is, as we know, a unique German dialect. Like most languages that historically underwent an immigration, it developed its own unique inflections, sounds and pronunciations that made it different from its language of origin.
The Amish are a Christian group in North America. The term refers primarily to the Old Order Amish Mennonite Church. The church originated in the late 17th century among followers of Jakob Ammann.What part of Pennsylvania is most German? ›
Most residents are of German origin and much of the town has the carefully preserved feel of the Old Country. Kutztown is home to a group of 160 Old Order Mennonite families. They live simple life refusing modern amenities. Do not be surprised to see them riding the horse and buggy through town.
The most common designation of “Black Dutch” refers to Dutch immigrants to New York who had swarthier complexions than most other Dutch. The darker complexions were usually due to intermarriage or out of wedlock births with Spanish soldiers during the Spanish occupation of the Netherlands.What language is closest to Pennsylvania Dutch? ›
Pennsylvania Dutch is actually a misnomer: the language is not a form of Dutch, and it's spoken in many places beyond Pennsylvania's borders. Pennsylvania Dutch is related to dialects of German, and it's spoken in a number of places in both the United States and Canada.