49 responses to Mark Louden on Pennsylvania Dutch: The Story of an American Language (Interview & Book Giveaway) [Updated with Winner]
  • *
    Comment on Linguistics (March 14th, 2018 at 19:29)


    I studied Linguistics as a preface to my Teaching credential. I spent my time teaching English to Foreign Language Speakers and WE never studied The Amish at all. I find this fact quite unusual. The Book seems like one long time over due.

  • *
    Barb Zimmerman
    Comment on PA Dutch (March 14th, 2018 at 20:58)

    PA Dutch

    I found a +hundred-year old book on the History of American Religions on Kindle a few years ago. The chapter on the German migration to Pennsylvania I found especially interesting.

    When William Penn invited the Anabaptists to come, it recorded how the Germans came in 3 groups: Amish/Mennonite, Lutheran, and Moravian. The communities were so small at the beginning that all 3 German groups worshipped together, taking turns leading services in German. Then the Lutheran leaders in Germany wanted their people separated and sent my mother’s ancestors over to ordain and build churches. The Amish/Mennonite communities continued, as we know, and spread. The Moravians were kind of swallowed up/combined with others (Methodist, Baptist, etc). The history book ended before the mid-1800s, so latter immigration was not detailed.

    I had never thought of Amish/Mennonites as one group before. I had always known them as separate. It will be interesting to see if your book indicates how language illustrates this historical division.

  • *
    Comment on Interesting (March 14th, 2018 at 21:06)


    I always thought pa Dutch and pa German were 2 different languages because I’d see some books that say pa Dutch and some say pa German. Thanks for clearing that up!!

  • *
    Bob Comer
    Comment on Where did the word "Dutch" come from? (March 15th, 2018 at 02:28)

    Where did the word "Dutch" come from?


    I have been transporting Amish families for about 10 years and have taken them about 350,000 miles. I live in Carroll County, Ohio. Over the years, I have studied the Amish and I was told by an Amishman in PA that “Dutch” came from “Deutsch” and that “English” people in PA thought they heard “Dutch” when the Amish were actually saying “Deutsch.” We know that the Amish originated in Switzerland (Jakob Ammann), not the Netherlands. So, would you agree that “Dutch” came from “deutsch?” BTW, I spent about 500 hours transporting Sam Mullet and members of his cult in 2009. On the very first trip to his home, and taking him and 4 teen-aged girls to a chiropractor in Flushing, Ohio, I knew he was running a cult. On the way back to his home, one of the girls said, in PA German, “Who is going to see you tonight?” Then, they are giggled. Sam had a big smile on his face. He was about 63 years old at the time. Then, I found out that he was forcing all of the woman, including minor-aged girls, into his bed for sex. He told the members of his cult that the women had to have sex with him, “to purge them of the devil.” I helped a family pack up and leave Sam’s cult. I moved them back to their original community in PA. Also, I assisted law enforcement in getting evidence of crimes Sam Mullet and other cult members committed. I worked with Prof. Krabill on “Renegade Amish.” I think Johnny Mast’s book “Break-A-Way Amish” is a powerful story of how Sam operated the cult. Sam is scheduled to be released from the Elkton Federal prison on April 3, 2021. The 15 cult members convicted in Cleveland federal court are all out. Johnny Mast says that Sam has been running the Bergholz cult from prison by phone calls and letters. I don’t think Sam has learned anything while in prison. He is a very dangerous man with a demented mind and many Amish I talk to wish he would never get out of prison. If he gets released, I think he will immediately go back to his cult, east of Bergholz, and keep using and abusing the brain-washed people there. “Evil is as Evil does” and Samuel Mullet is a very Evil man, just like all cult leaders.

    • Hello Bob, “Dutch” is not derived from “deutsch”, the words are linguistic cousins, in the same way that English is not derived from German. All Germanic languages (including English, German, Dutch, Yiddish, Norwegian, Swedish, and more) are descended from a single ancestral language spoken about 2000 years ago that is called simply Germanic. In that language there was a word, “thiudisk”, which meant “people”. “Dutch” and “deutsch” are descended in parallel from this ancient word. Best wishes, Mark

      • *
        Bob Comer
        Comment on Dutch and deutsch (March 15th, 2018 at 20:00)

        Dutch and deutsch

        Mark, Interesting and thanks for the info. I was stationed in Bremerhaven, Germany, 1967-1969, and heard the high German. I thought the word ZENTRUM–meaning the city center, was interesting. It sure looks Latin. The first thing I learned there was EINE BIER BITTE. Bob –trinken zu viel.

  • *
    Tammy Richards
    Comment on Thank you (March 15th, 2018 at 05:35)

    Thank you

    Thank you for this informative interview! This sounds like a very interesting book.

  • *
    Gloria Urban
    Comment on Interesting (March 15th, 2018 at 07:06)


    Dear Friends:
    I visit the Lancaster area frequently. Once I took along my daughter who is fluent in German. She struggled to understand the Amish salespeople we met. Now I read that their language is similar to that of the Palatinate area in western Germany. My daughter was an exchange student to Thuringia not long after the Wall fell. She speaks German with a distinctly “East German” accent. I am wondering if that may be why she was stumped by the PA Dutch in Lancaster. Also, even written down, some of the vocabulary was unfamiliar to her.

    All in all — a very interesting article. I was especially amazed to learn that the language is growing significantly. I’m pleased yo hear that as I believe diversity makes us all richer and I’m sorry when unique cultures are lost.
    I read this blog regularly and appreciate your work in increasing my understanding of the Amish. Thank you!

    • Thank you so much for your comments, Gloria. Yes, German speakers regularly have a hard time understanding PA Dutch, which is due largely to the difference between Palatine German and the standard language. But two-plus centuries of separation have played a role, too. A few years ago I did a presentation in PA Dutch to a gathering of Palatine German speakers and even they had difficulties following what I was saying. In that case, the influences from English were a particular stumbling block. There are many expressions in PA Dutch translated directly from English that make no sense to German speakers. One example: Seller Kall gleicht sei Gwicht rumschmeisse ‘That guy likes to throw his weight around’. Every single word is derived from Palatine German, but the sentence is incomprehensible to someone who didn’t recognize this as a translation from English.

  • *
    David Yoder
    Comment on PA Dutch (March 15th, 2018 at 07:26)

    PA Dutch

    It was helpful to hear an explanation of the differences between Midwestern and Eastern PA German. I can understand most Midwestern dutch but struggle to understand PA Dutch from Lancaster PA. Mark’s explanation was very helpful.

  • *
    Susan Campbell
    Comment on Thank you (March 15th, 2018 at 07:27)

    Thank you

    Thank you for such an interesting interview. I learned a lot of new information that I didn’t know.

  • *
    Linda Umble
    Comment on Part of my heritage (March 15th, 2018 at 08:13)

    Part of my heritage

    I’m the first generation not to speak Pennsylvania Dutch in my family – on either side since both of my parents spoke it when they were young. I look forward to reading this book.

  • *
    Sue McKendry
    Comment on Interesting--local scholar (March 15th, 2018 at 08:56)

    Interesting--local scholar

    Thanks for the post of this book

  • *
    Pam Askey
    Comment on Thanks! (March 15th, 2018 at 09:17)


    I have always been interested in the Amish and now I see them quite often. This article was very informative about their language. This book should be a very interesting read.

  • *
    Comment on Contest (March 15th, 2018 at 09:47)


    Oops, am I supposed to explicitly say I want to enter the contest? Because I do, please. 🙂 thanks!

  • Looking forward to reading this!

  • *
    james fricks
    Comment on pa-dutch (March 15th, 2018 at 10:59)


    very interesting

  • *
    Comment on YOUR LAST NAME (March 15th, 2018 at 17:03)


    Hello Mark,
    just curious do you know where your last name originated? Is it a PA Dutch name?

    • My name is of Scottish origin and meant “fire hill.” There is a place in southern Scotland called Loudoun Hill, where my ancestors likely came from. The first Loudon (original spelling) to come to America was Samuel Loudon, a printer in colonial New York who became relatively famous during the Revolution. A few years ago, I found his name on a list of patrons of a tavern in northern New Jersey who died with an outstanding tab. George Washington’s name was on the same list. 🙂

  • Please do not notify me of any additional posts. Right now I am on deadline. I will go on the site again when I have time.

  • *
    Brother Jeremy
    Comment on Thank you (March 15th, 2018 at 19:17)

    Thank you

    Thank you, Mark Louden, for sharing the PA Dutch linguistic background
    information you have presented. Being not too far from Madison, I think it would be great to meet and speak with you, perhaps at UW.
    Sometimes I visit the state historical society library there on
    Brother Jeremy Dominic

  • *
    Brother Jeremy
    Comment on Thank you (March 15th, 2018 at 19:19)

    Thank you

    Thank you, Mark Louden, for sharing the PA Dutch linguistic background
    information you have presented. Being not too far from Madison, I think it would be great to meet and speak with you, perhaps at UW.
    Sometimes I visit the state historical society library there on
    Brother Jeremy Dominic

  • *
    Cynthia Bliss
    Comment on What you thought you knew. (March 16th, 2018 at 01:09)

    What you thought you knew.

    It’s amazing what you thought that you always knew as truth turns out to be false. Many thanks for the informative article.

  • I found this reading very interesting. I drive for the local Amish part time and dearly love these people. Would love to know more of their language but do not want to seem to invade their privacy.

    • *
      Comment on Learning PA (March 16th, 2018 at 11:30)

      Learning PA

      I think that you should learn PA Dutch, if that is what you want to do. It is a compliment to other groups when we show an interest in their language. I do not think that it is an invasion of their privacy & I do not think it would be construed as such.
      You would have a great & ideal opportunity to practice your language skills with them on a regular basis! It would be an enriching experience for all concerned! I think that the only way learning PA Dutch could be considered an invasion of their privacy would be if you were to hide your acquired comprehension & proficiency from them!

      • *
        Bob Comer
        Comment on My 10 year experience transporting the Amish (March 16th, 2018 at 12:19)

        My 10 year experience transporting the Amish

        In my 10 years of transporting Amish, now over 350,000 miles, I have found that they don’t want to talk PA German with “English” people. They use PA German as a private way of talking so the “English” don’t know what they are saying. That’s just my opinion.

  • *
    Comment on PA Dutch book (March 16th, 2018 at 11:22)

    PA Dutch book

    I’m looking forward to reading this. It’s so hard to find good information about the Pennsylvania Dutch. There seems to be so much confusion between Amish, Mennonite and PA Dutch. All information about the distinctions is welcome!

  • Thank you for this interesting interview. The book sounds interesting, too. Looking forward to reading it.

  • Such an interesting interview! It is so mice that PA Dutch is being preserved because so many other small languages have fallen to the wayside due to the younger generations resorting to English.
    I cannot wait to read the book!

  • Thank you for the interesting information. My son and I have read it together. He would LOVE this book.

  • *
    Kenneth C. Tibbetts
    Comment on Amish in Wisconsin (March 18th, 2018 at 09:52)

    Amish in Wisconsin

    My wife Claudia and I reside in Florida in the winter and Wisconsin in the summer. We live fairly close to one of the largest Amish Church communities there, and over the past five years have developed more than just a casual rapport with several Amish families. As a matter of fact, we feel as though we have we have become part of one family in particular and they feel the same way about us. We treat Bill and Rosetta as we do our own birth children, and their nine children as grandchildren. We spend time together at their house – and when we can rustle up transportation they all come to our house. As a matter of fact celebrating the 4th of July at our house has become a tradition with all of us getting together playing games, talking and eating. I’m in Florida at the moment but I’m looking forward to seeing our Amish family soon.

    I have a van and we as a close English/Amish family go all over together. We were able to get enough transportation to take two Amish families to the zoo in Milwaukee…none of the kids had never been to a zoo and hadn’t seen some of the animals they’d read and heard about. Things we English take for granted are awesome and wonderful to the Amish.

    We – Claudia and I – share in many of their traditions when at their homes, for dining or just visiting. We have learned many things from them: Claudia has picked up so many pointers doing canning with Rosetta that it’s unbelievable. And we teach them as much as we can about the English. We are not out of touch with our Amish family while we’re down here in Florida; Rosetta and the older girls correspond as regular as possible with Claudia. We know how busy all Amish are so that makes letters from them all the more precious to us.

    I’m writing this now, but I shall order a copy of Mark Louden’s book when I go up north.

  • *
    Comment on Linguistics (March 20th, 2018 at 11:05)


    I love linguistics… Although I’m an American Anglo, I spoke Spanish more fluently first than English, though because I’ve moved far from my hone, I’ve forgotten much Spanish, but I find many languages are somewhat similar to others. It helps.
    My grandmother was descended from PA Dutch (Moravian) and still used some PA Dutch words.. growing up I thought they were words everyone used, but I found out they don’t and if they did, they tended to be country folks.

    Looking forward to reading your book.

  • *
    Comment on PA Dutch vs. German (March 20th, 2018 at 16:21)

    PA Dutch vs. German

    I recently attended the Anabaptist Identity Conference and was lodged with an Amish family. We spoke in some form of German to each other, they in PA Dutch and I in Yiddish-influenced High German with a slight Swiss accent. I had trouble understanding them, but they could recognize I was speaking High German, although the grandfather said after visiting the first night, “He knows words I don’t know.” I guessed we were even, I told them, since they know words I don’t either! Any serious conversation was carried out in unmistakable English.

    It is of interest to me to note the Midwestern PA Dutch shifts the “ei” vowel in “Deitsch” to a long “a” as this is seen also in Austrian German and Polish Yiddish (Litvish, or Lithuanian Yiddish, stills rhymes the vowel with “eye”). I think Mark Louden might be onto something when he says PA Dutch is now its own language due to its separate development from mainstream German as this is similar to how Yiddish and Afrikaans became independent languages. Definitely a book I’m interested in getting! Thank you Prof. Louden for all you hard work and research on this language!
    Mach’s gut!
    Nicholas W.

  • It is interesting that all of the fastest growing languages are linked to religion and also to older dialect German, including Yiddish. And all of them are South German dialects, except for Plautdietsch.

  • Here are my reasons as to why the Amish have more chances and opportunities to preserve their language than ever before:

    1. Even in most of the RV factories in Indiana where the Amish work in a traditional English occupation, most of the workers are themselves Amish.

    2. When you look at demographics, Amish youth have many more opportunities to use their language in everyday settings than ever before (at least from a statistical point of view). Previous generations may have lived in rural isolated areas, but those areas were never exclusively Amish and therefore PA Dutch (except maybe Lancaster County, but you would have to go back to the first part of the 20th century to find a majority PA Dutch speak population inhabiting the same area as the Amish). Today, Amish youth are the majority in at least 2 traditional Amish settlements (counties). And even though the Amish are a minority in Lancaster County, they make up a majority in a number of townships within the county.

    3. There are more communities than ever before, and therefore when the Amish travel by bus or train, there is a very good chance that they will run into another Amish.

    If the Amish were to lose their language it would not be because of English, but because they no longer cared about passing it on. If the Orthodox Jews can preserve Yiddish and their traditions in the middle of cosmopolitan Brooklyn and NYC, so too can the Amish preserve PA Ducth…. But only if they want to.

  • *
    Comment on Interesting (March 21st, 2018 at 00:50)


    This was some interesting information. Thank you for sharing this interview with us. I love language and learning/teaching it too. It’s always a challenge. I wonder how teaching PA Dutch compares to English as far as grammar and spelling rules and such. Teaching my daughter the rules of English has been quite an adventure, to say the least 😉 I’d love to win a copy of this to read!

  • *
    Irene Hershberger
    Comment on Mark Louden Pennsylvania Dutch Book (March 21st, 2018 at 08:02)

    Mark Louden Pennsylvania Dutch Book

    I got to meet / know Mark Louden personally when he lived in Gonzales Texas. Am looking forward to this book! Good job Mark!!

  • *
    Comment on The Book Draw (March 21st, 2018 at 10:23)

    The Book Draw

    When is the book draw?? I am eager to order and read the book but I don’t want 2 copies! Ha, ha, ha!
    I have a passion for languages! They are so much fun!

    • *
      Comment on Book winner coming soon (March 21st, 2018 at 11:30)

      Book winner coming soon

      Hi Willem, glad you asked…it will be announced in the next post, which will be up either tomorrow or Friday at the latest. Thanks for staying tuned 🙂

  • *
    Comment on Pennsylvania Dutch Book Winner (March 23rd, 2018 at 09:55)

    Pennsylvania Dutch Book Winner

    I’ve just used random.org to draw a winner from your comments.

    That winner came up as comment #107, Freya Birkas-Dent.

    Congrats Freya! Email me your contact info at ewesner(at)gmail.com, and we’ll get your book sent to you courtesy of Johns Hopkins.

    If you didn’t win, you can still pick up Mark’s book at a great discount here:


    Thanks to everyone who commented, and to Mark for taking the time to do this interview and to reply to the comments. I found it all very interesting!

    • *
      Christine McMahon-Chase
      Comment on Mark Louden on Penn Dutch (March 23rd, 2018 at 10:01)

      Mark Louden on Penn Dutch

      Congrats Freya!

  • Congratulations Freya.

Leave a reply to Mark Louden on Pennsylvania Dutch: The Story of an American Language (Interview & Book Giveaway) [Updated with Winner]


Resource List
Reliable information from one of the largest Amish sites on the web.

Join over 15,000 email subscribers to get:
Amish Community Info | Book Giveaways | Amish Writers & non-Amish Experts | More

Get email updates

100% Free | No Spam | Unsubscribe Anytime