The Old Order Amish community, one of the two big branches used when defining the Amish society, the other one is the Amish Mennonites. The Old Order is thought to be the the most conservative, while the Amish Mennonites are is more modern group. (Kraybill, 2013, p.13). What makes the Amish community’s language Pennsylvania Dutch so interesting, is that it unlike other immigrant languages in The United States, has been able to maintain until today. Spolsky describes this phenomenon, how immigrants’ languages in the United States disintegrated as new generations started using English, but which wasn’t the case for the Old Order Amish (talking of the immigration before the 20th century) (Spolsky, 1998, p.55). ‘’The greatest resistance to language shift was found in groups that chose to isolate themselves both linguistically and culturally from the mainstream.’’ (Spolsky, 1998, p.55). The Old Order Amish has made a conscious decision to isolate themselves from the rest of society which can tell us something about why Pennsylvania Dutch has been maintained. To explain this conscious isolation, there are a couple of points that can discuss this phenomenon. First, the strong Amish community, or more so; what makes the Amish community, what is the foundation and what does it say about the isolation and how it affects the language? Secondly, their view of the rest of the society that’s not part of their Amish community.

Religion, the faith and the church is a very fundamental, if not the fundamental base for the Old Order Amish community. If you’re Amish, you’re naturally a part of the church which is the community. ‘’The Amish seek to create church-communities that will help members attain eternal life.’’ (Kraybill, 2013, p.116) and (Nolt, 2016, p.31). Doing this, means separating oneself from the outside world, have a set of guidelines so that none of the members fall away from this path. (Kraybill p.116). Thus, the Amish make a statement for keeping themselves away from the rest of the outside world.

The idea of how the Amish community shouldn’t involve themselves with the world is very much stresses. The importance of not be a part of the rest of the world, which the Amish believes are the values and way of living by the mass culture (Kraybill, 2013, p.73) is often proclaimed through Bible passages like (James 4:4); ‘ ‘’Whoever...will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God’ ‘’ (Kraybill, 2013, p.73). The Bible is by all means a very important source to their commitment to the community and separation from the rest of society. Their faith, which can seem strict for an outsider also influences directly their view of language. ‘’English is the language of the world, the currency of an evil society.’’ (Kraybill,1989, p.18). In this context talking of language use in religious contexts, but still describes a great deal of the attitude toward English.

Taking this back to the question to the maintenance of the language, the importance and power the church and the religion beholds in the Amish community is essential. They do point out strongly that the church, the will of God, is what is the most important  thing in life which is the fundamental base for the Amish community. At the same time it separates them from the rest of society but keeps them very close to each other. This is one of the very uniting forces that keeps them isolated from the rest of society.

(Language also has a great value when thinking of the community and it’s heritage and ethnicity. They are very conscious of the choise of separating themselves from the world with the language. It’s a matter of preserving the Amish identity and also as a reminder of their history before the Amish came to the United States. The importance of heritage have made the Amish wanting to separate them from the rest of society  )

Their faith could be described as the source, from which the rest of their ways of living is determined and this naturally brings us to the discussion of their values and how they affect their ability to keep the language. There are a couple of examples of the Amish values that could say some what affect they have on their isolation, there are the every day life, moral and choises of living to mention a few.

As previous mentioned. The Amish’s values in every day life, moral and choises of living are based on what the Scripture says, for example ‘‘ ’Love not the world, neither things that are in the world’ (1 John 2:15)’’ (Kraybill, 2013, p.72-73) and the Amish don’t take lightly on this.

There are things the Amish consider as forbidden, which usually are considered as normal things for the society outside from the Amish, things like divorce, higher education and ownership of a computer. They believe these things can get in the way of their view of their society. (Kraybill, 2013, p.116). This distinguishes the Amish from the rest of the American society because these thing are seen as basic rights, norms and parts of society today.

There are a lot of values that describe why the Amish community is separated from the rest of the modern American society, but there are a some that could explain why the language is kept intact instead. For instance, the lack of using modern technology. For the average American citizen, the access to a computer, a cell phone and a car can be seen as basic needs of the everyday life. The Amish consider these things as something that can lead to immorality, that they also can put the community at risk and in that turn lead to disintegration Putting the community at risk refers to the fear of what will happen if they start using any of these, what it pontentially could lead to if young people started using these (Kraybill, 2013, p.314-315). When not using these, being a part of the society that uses these to a large extent, can be made very difficult. These elements carry a great value for communication and maintaining relations, so if not using these, one is easily left out from the rest of the group. The Amish that don’t use these ways of communication, will be left with a much more narrow group to communicate with, which is the Amish community where the language spoken is, Pennsylvania Dutch, while the language spoken by the great majority who uses these is English.

Since the middle of the 20th century, the Amish children have been enrolled in their own Amish schools (with a small number of exceptions). This because the public schools didn’t make up with the Amish values in classes like science and health, for example the teaching of evolution and sex education (Nolt, 2016, p.75). By separating the Amish children from a context like school, also separate the children from an early age from the rest of the children outside their community. This means, that from an early age, the children aren’t exposed to any form of public schooling where a lot of the first contact with the rest of society is made. Also worth mentioning is that a great number of Amish children aren’t involved with the English language before they reach the school age (Kraybill, 2013, p.122). These are good examples of how Spolsky described how immigrant languages diluted over time as younger generations learned English (Spolsky, 1998, p.55). An important note to make is that Amish children do learn English, but they are primarily taught Pennsylvania Dutch, the language spoken at home. (Kraybill, 1989, p.47)

(The attitude to the rest of the outside society and language can also tell something about their decision to keep their language.)


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