Lara Downing


Beachy Amish-Mennonite, Holmes County (Ohio), Pennsylvania Dutch, Pennsylvania German, triglossia, language contact


This article compares the English spoken by Beachy Amish-Mennonites just outside the Holmes County, OH, plain community with the English of non-plain neighbors. Although there is no previous linguistic research about the Beachys in this region, previous research on the dialects of English spoken by Amish communities suggests that differences from regional standards are influenced by deliberate border maintenance, primacy of language in expressing ethnic identity, and interference from Pennsylvania German, known to speakers as “Dutchified English.” However, little research has examined the English of the Beachys, who, compared to the Amish, occupy a less conservative position between separation from and engagement with broader society. The variables I focus on are initial th-stopping, final obstruent devoicing, and the low back vowel merger. The first two variables are documented for Amish English and various German bilingual communities. Th-stopping is also socially salient and is associated with the more religiously orthodox Amish churches in Holmes County. I collected production and perception data from ten speakers in the Beachy congregation and five non-Anabaptist speakers from the same region, and I present here my findings of the use of th-stopping and final consonant devoicing, both of which are attested, although neither are used categorically, and the low back merger, which is attested categorically in all non-Anabaptists but in only one Beachy speaker. The perceptual data has theoretical implications for the role of community identity and border maintenance between non-plain neighbors and the heavily Amish Holmes County community.


I wish to thank everyone in the Ohio State University linguistics department who shared advice and expertise through every stage of this project, particularly my advisor Brian Joseph, Don Winford, Kathryn Campbell-Kibler, everyone in the Phonies and Changlings discussion groups, the audiences at the American Dialect Society 2015 annual meeting, and the audience at the 2015 MLK symposium, all of whom gave invaluable feedback. Most of all, I would like to thank Cory Anderson, who introduced me to the community and without whom this project would not have been possible.



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