The ancestors of modern-day speakers of Amish Shwitzer came from various parts in the canton of Berne, Switzerland, and settled in the surrounding areas of Berne, Indiana. Amish Shwitzer has preserved features that can directly be traced back to Swiss dialects spoken in the 18th and 19th century, the time of the migration to the US. Amish Shwitzer is not simply a time capsule, though! Already before migrating from Europe, the speaker of what has become Amish Shwitzer had been in contact with speakers of another German dialect, the one spoken in Alsace, France. In the US, the contact situation has been complexified. Amish Shwitzer speakers have been in ongoing contact with speakers of American English and speakers of Pennsylviana Dutch, the most common mothertongue of Amish people. The contact situation of Amish Shwitzer has finally lead to innovations not found in any other Swiss German dialect. This linking of archaisms and innovations that both originate in closely related Germanic varieties makes Amish Shwitzer to a perfect test laboratory for studies on dialect contact.
The field of contact linguistics spans from studies on completely unrelated languages to closely related varieties of a single language. To which extent the mechanisms and outcomes differ in various contact situations is still undetermined. In the project "Amish Shwitzer as a mixed language with closely related parents", we describe a contact situation in which five Germanic varieties have been in contact: four German based varieties (Amish Shwitzer, Amish Alsatian, Pennsylvania German, and Standard German), as well as American English. The contact between Shwitzer and any of the other varieties is highly shaped by the communicative situations in which the various varieties are used.
In our project, we describe the (morpho-)syntactical system of Amish Shwitzer. Our focus lies on the questions which archaisms and which innovations exist in Amish Shwitzer and which are the sources for them.
M: Nei, er hät pfragt, ob mier Tiere hei, Geil.
E: Ah, okay.
G: Ja, ja, Chie, oder...
E: Nime jez. Mi hei koa. Mi hei koa.
G: Händer? Ja.
M: Ja, ja, mier hei koa.
E: Säle Hinkelschtal wa vol Hinkel.
E: Und när dehinde isch de isch de Seischtal zi, säl woar ebe... zeischt Sei koa.
M: Weisch was mi meine wen mi säge Seischtal?
G: Ääh, äh, the hog house.
E: Hog house.
G: Yeah, that's, ääh Söischtal in my dialect.
M: So, Söi? Söi?
G: Söischtal, ja.
M: Söischtal. Und i ha, i ha, ge-, puret mit Geil.
M: Wi, wie dädet ier säge? Rose?
G: Äh, Ross
G: Mie säget Ross.
M: Abe no hani si, i ha si eino verchouft und ha mi ne Tractor gi.
M: No, he has asked whether we have any animals, horses.
E: Ah, okay.
G: Yes, yes, cattle, or...
E: Not anymore. We had [them]. We had [them].
G: You had? Yes.
M: Yes, yes, we had.
E: This chicken coop was full of chicken.
E: And then over there, that was, that was the hog house, that was actually... first [we had] pigs.
M: Do you what we mean when we say seischtal?
G: Eeh, eh, the hog house.
E: Hog house.
G: Yeah, that's, ääh söischtal in my dialect.
M: So, söi? Söi?
G: Söischtal, yes.
M: Söischtal. And I have, I have, ge-, I farmed with horses.
M: What would you say? Rose?
G: Eh, Ross.
G: We say Ross.
M: But then I have, I sold one after the other and got me a tractor.