religion; intersection; linguistic innovation; place and space; social commitment; dialectology; ideological commitment


In this article, I explore linguistic variation in Plautdietsch through the lens of social variation and the resulting redistribution of linguistic forms across the community. Language change requires variation in a population and a social pathway for the variation to be distributed (or redistributed) across a community. This article explores two systems of variation in the Plautdietsch language as it is used across North America: the so-called traditional dialect system (based on descriptions from Thiessen 1977, Epp 1993, and Rempel 1995, among others), and the vowel system (based on Nieuweboer 1998, Burns 2016a,b, among others). I propose that linguistic diversification in each system is socially driven by community members, signaling their commitment to both new and old social groups. I provide evidence that many of the social groups reflect heritable religious and spatial traits, which individuals may accept or reject. In this respect, the Plautdietsch language can reflect information not only related to an individual’s physical location (e.g. specific locations in North America) but also the different ideological spaces existing within a given physical location. [Abstract by author.]


I would like to thank all of the individuals and communities who helped make this work possible through either participation, mentorship, or even chatting. It is my hope that we can all learn something new together.