A special language project aims to preserve culture and history. ‘Courtesy Texas German Dialect Project
The Texas German dialect descended from a group of dialects spoken by the early German settlers combined with English, and some natural language change over time. It is spoken differently in different areas of Texas by those who grew up speaking German in their homes and descended from ancestors who came to Texas sometime between 1830 and 1900.
In 1907, there were approximately 90,000 Texas German speakers and that number increased to about 160,000 by 1940. Throughout the first half of the 20th century, however, several things led to people not passing German language onto their children. World War I and II led to anti-German sentiment, especially in areas that were not majority-German. English-only laws were passed, prohibiting the use of foreign languages in schools, and limiting it in newspapers. The construction of highways and improved roads made it easier for non-German speakers to move into German-speaking areas, and for German speakers to move away from home. Some Texas German speakers married non-German speakers and spoke only English in the home to their children. All of these things and more lead to a sharp decrease in Texas German speakers and by the 1960s, only about 70,000 Texas Germans remained. Today, there are estimated to be only about 5,000 speakers left, the vast majority of whom are in their 70s or older and the dialect is expected to die out by 2035.