Amish Attitudes and Identity in Relation to Pennsylvania Dutch


  • Rose Fisher Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures, The Pennsylvania State University



Amish, Pennsylvania Dutch, language, identity, attitudes


Pennsylvania Dutch is the language of hearth and home for most Amish. As such, it serves the communication purposes of the in-group and is tightly interwoven with Amish identity. In this paper, I analyze data from a sociolinguistic survey that poses questions about language use, attitudes, identity, and religion. Current and former members of various Amish groups participated in this survey along with nonaffiliated descendants of the Amish. This study finds that each group—current, former, and descended—tends to have a different relationship with the language. Current members of the Amish and/or more proficient speakers unsurprisingly identify more strongly with the Pennsylvania Dutch language and their Amish background. Individual and region-based differences also emerge, demonstrating the complexity of the issues at hand and the diversity of Amish community practices and expectations surrounding language use. How current, former, and descended Amish view and engage with the language that sets them ethnically, religiously, and culturally apart from mainstream society has much to reveal about the interplay between minority languages and perceptions of ethnoreligious identity.