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M.A. Theses in Linguistics
at the University of North Dakota
Aasen, Gayle H. 2005
The Use of Low German by the Mennonites of Manitoba and Dialect Differences Between the East and West Reserves
This study explored Low German usage among Mennonites in Manitoba, Canada. Mennonites, a Christian religious sect, first immigrated to Manitoba from Russia in the late 1870s and settled on two reservations (East and West Reserves). Other immigration waves followed.
Since the first Mennonites immigrated over 120 years ago and the children have been taught in English-speaking public schools since 1917, language decline was a possibility. The purpose of this study was to determine who spoke Low German, where they spoke it, and if there is a dialect difference between the East and West Reserves.
To gather subjects, an advertisement was placed in the Manitoba Mennonite Historical Society’s quarterly newsletter and letters to the editors were printed in the major newspapers on the Reserves. Subjects were mailed a questionnaire, a consent form, and an interview-volunteer page. The questionnaire determined the regular use of the language. In the interview, a 100-word Swadesh list was used to determine dialect difference.
The study found that many Manitobans still spoke Low German, although there was a decline in the number of younger people who spoke it and fewer children were being taught Low German. On the Reserves, there was a significantly higher proportion of Low German speakers who used Low German around town (outside their immediate group of friends and relatives) than those who lived off the Reserves.
Dialect differences between groups existed but did not correspond directly with reserve lines, rather correlating more closely with Russian colony origin and immigrant wave. Some of these distinctions were becoming lost in the younger generation.
This thesis is available from the University of North Dakota library.