Joshua Brown


Beachy Amish-Mennonites, Central Pennsylvania, sociolinguistics, identity, Pennsylvania Dutch


The study of Beachy Amish-Mennonite identities is a complex endeavor. As a loosely-organized fellowship, the Beachys have no overarching governing body that dictates symbols of their Anabaptist commitment to nonconformity. Often Beachys are described as existing on a religious continuum between the Old Order Amish and Mennonites, yet defining Beachys as what they are not does not adequately establish the religious identities that Beachys negotiate for themselves. This article addresses the negotiation of sociolinguistic identities—where language and religious identities intersect—alongside cultural change for two Beachy congregations in Central Pennsylvania. The analysis, based on a theoretical framework of the negotiation of multilingual identities, shows that the interaction of language and religion within and between congregations is varied and dynamic. The Beachys—without guidelines for how to be “Beachy”—engage in a constant negotiation of religious identity, in part informed by their multilingual past and present.


This research was supported by the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Faculty Sabbatical Leave Program and the Kreider Fellowship through the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College. I am thankful for the helpful comments from the anonymous review process; all errors that remain are my own.



Included in

Linguistics Commons