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Dutchified English (Pennsylvania Dutch English)

In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, many native speakers of Pennsylvania Dutch spoke a variety of English that was strongly influenced by their native language, what is known as Dutchified English (or Pennsylvania Dutch English). Below are two excerpts from an interview made in 1984 with a nonsectarian speaker of Pennsylvania Dutch from Northampton County, PA, who was born in 1897 and whose English was quite Dutchified. The interview was made by Karl-Heinz Wandt as part of a larger project led by Prof. Wolfgang W. Moelleken (now retired from the University at Albany) and is part of the Moelleken Collection in the North American German Dialect Archive at the Max Kade Institute for German-American Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison (consultant number MOE 092). Most contemporary speakers of Pennsylvania Dutch no longer speak English in such a Dutchified way as this woman did.

To hear this speaker interviewed in her native Pennsylvania Dutch, go to this page. To read a poem printed in 1868 devoted to the topic of “Pensilwan’yah Inglish,” go here.


Now, which language do you feel most comfortable speaking? Pennsylvania Dutch goes the best yet. And which language do you use most frequently in daily life? The English language. The English language. Yes, they … when somebody comes, they just talk English, well, you gotta talk back, you know. Especially the younger generation, they don’t … they can’t even talk German, uh, Pennsylvania Dutch. Even my grandchildren, they don’t understand it. Now, the one that just called, that was a great-great grandchild, she don’t even … she can’t … they wanna say some words but it comes out hind-foremost.



I have a cousin, my mom’s brother’s daughter, and so my sister called her up once, she said how she was, and this and that, and she said, “Can you speak Dutch yet?” Or “German” or whatever she called it. “Oh, no,” she said, “I don’t hear it around here,” she said, “everything is English,” she said. “I don’t even know what you’d be talking about.” Well, that was the lowest thing I ever heard of a person. Oh, I said, if you don’t know where she came from.