The American group called the Pennsylvania Dutch has absolutely nothing to do with the Netherlands or the Dutch. It comes from the English pronunciation of the German word Deutsch, which in German can refer to the language or the people.
Pennsylvania Dutch refers to dialects of German that were spoken by immigrants to Pennsylvania during colonial times. Although German migration began in the 1600s, it was particularly sizable in the early to middle 1700s. Many were religious refugees, among them the ancestors of today’s Amish and Mennonites, and other refugee groups from the Rhineland, Switzerland and Austria. The various dialects fused in Pennsylvania and today the dialect is often called Pennsylvania German.
Both Mennonites and Amish still exist, are doing well and many of them still speak German. Estimates of the number of people who continue to speak Pennsylvania Dutch or similar dialects are as high as several hundred thousand in the U.S. and Canada. They are known for a conservative rural lifestyle, including using horse drawn plows and carriages rather than automobiles. Characteristically, men have beards but not moustaches. Women often wear long skirts and bonnets. Children often leave school after 8th grade. There are many variants.
The German immigrants into Pennsylvania came from several places in Germany, so many dialects were spoken in colonial times. Pennsylvania Dutch has largely died out except as spoken by Amish and Mennonite communities. There is some Pennsylvania Dutch cultural influence remaining, perhaps most notably the large and solidly built houses and barns they built. Amish baked goods and other products have become very popular.
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