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Texas German (Groß-Deutschland)

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Texas German is a dialect of the German language that is spoken by descendants of German immigrants who settled in the Texas Hill Country region in the mid-19th century. These immigrants founded the towns of New Braunfels, Fredericksburg, Boerne, Schulenburg, Weimar, and Comfort. Most German Texans continued to speak German in their homes and communities, aided by an influx of Germans leaving Europe due to both World Wars. Due to the growth of these communities during World War I and World War II, Texas German speakers drifted towards Standard German and English, and few passed the language to their descendants.

The dialect is growing extinct, as it is now spoken almost exclusively by a few elderly German Texans, whereas their children tend to speak more Standard German than Texas German. Currently, Dr. Hans Boas at the University of Texas is recording and studying the dialect, building on research originally performed by Glenn Gilbert in the 1960s.

Current distribution and population

File:Map of Texas highlighting Gillespie County.svg

Some 38,493 people report speaking German at home in Fredericksburg[1], the town with the largest community of Texas German speakers, where they constitute 12.48% of the total population, 9,840 in New Braunfels[2], 13,250 in Schulenburg[2], 985 in Stonewall[3] 670 in Boerne[2], 965 in Harper[4], 845 in Comfort[5] and 719 in Weimar[2], all of which lie in the traditional Texas German heartland of the Hill Country. Gillespie County, with the communities of Fredericksburg, Harper, Stonewall, and Luckenbach, has a German-speaking population of 23,270, 11.51% of the county's total population. Almost all of these speakers are in either the 18-64 or the +65 age groups. 89,837 German-speakers reside in the State of Texas[2], but most of those are probably not Texas German speakers.

Comparisons with German and English

Texas German is intelligible to anyone with an understanding of continental German, though it adapted to U.S. measurement and legal terminologies. German words were invented or English was "Germanicized" for words not present in 19th century German. Since the Second World War, however, and the invention of mass media such as television and the internet, Texas German has become more aligned to mainstream German, leaving a number of 'Americanisms' for the original German words.

Refer to the table below for some examples of differences:

Texas German Literal translation Standard German English
Stinkkatze Stinkcat Stinktier skunk
Luftschiff Airship Flugzeug airplane
County County Kreis county
Blanket Blanket Decke blanket
all every/gone alle / leer gone

Another unique tendency is the frequency of the use of the genitive case amongst Texan Germans. It is much more common to hear "Das ist meines Bruders Haus" or "Das ist das Haus meines Bruders" than to hear "Das ist das Haus von meinem Bruder." The common preposition "von" is usually avoided in common speech in Texan German to this day. Another "throwback" would be the dative ending "-e" for masculine / neuter nouns in the case where the noun is emphasized. A Texan German would tend to say "Dem Kinde gab ich ein Buch" instead of "Dem Kind habe ich ein Buch gegeben." It is also a tendency to use the simple past, rather than present perfect, as well as the simple Konjunktiv II form of verbs. This is an influence of English on the colloquial language in Texas.

Texan German seems to have a distinct dialect comparable to middle German dialects from Germany, though this is shifting in the last 20 years. While the Texan German dialect is receding as the population moves more towards standard German, there is a trend of Germans from Prussian states such as East and West Prussia to move into Texas, looking for new opportunities, and also bringing with them their distinct variety of German with them. As this occurs, Texan German is slowly melding with Prussian German in pronunciation.

See also

References

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