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6 French and German Dialects That Are 100 Percent American (And What They Sound Like)

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The history of the United States is multilingual, and many non-English speaking communities have managed to maintain their languages, sometimes for hundreds of years. Here are six dialects of French and German that go back a long way.

1. LOUISIANA FRENCH

French has been spoken in Louisiana since long before the Pilgrims arrived. Here, in a clip from YouTube travel channel Where's Andrew, Louisiana native Elgin Thibodeaux explains how his whole family still speaks French.

2. PENNSYLVANIA DUTCH

What we call Pennsylvania Dutch is actually an old dialect (or collection of dialects) of German that has been here since colonial times. It's still spoken in many parts of Pennsylvania and a few areas of Ohio and Indiana. You can hear its difference from standard German in this collection of examples of people counting from one to 10.

3. NEW ENGLAND FRENCH

Less well known than Louisiana French is New England French. It was brought through French Canada to an area running from Maine to Connecticut, and survives in very small numbers of speakers these days. Some young people are trying to keep it alive. Here 17-year-old Christian, from Berlin, New Hampshire, contributes an example of the dialect to Wikitongues, a non-profit organization that aims to create a public archive of the world's languages.

4. TEXAS GERMAN

The U.S. received a huge influx of German immigrants in the 19th century. Some of the communities they established maintained a nearly completely German-speaking way of life for a few generations. Here is Vernell, from Fredericksburg, Texas, talking about her Texas German upbringing.

5. MISSOURI FRENCH

Also known as paw-paw French, this language spoken by settlers in Ozark mining communities for centuries is nearly extinct. Here is a recording of Missouri French folk tales collected by scholar Joseph-Médard Carrière, read by Chris Valdivieso.

6. WISCONSIN SWISS GERMAN

Many German-speaking immigrant communities maintained their language for generations in Wisconsin. The settlers of New Glarus, Wisconsin came from Switzerland, and the German of their descendants is specifically Swiss. You can hear an example of it from the University of Wisconsin's Max Kade Institute for German-American Studies here.

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Words
How New Words Become Mainstream
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If you used the words jeggings, muggle, or binge-watch in a sentence 30 years ago, you would have likely been met with stares of confusion. But today these words are common enough to hold spots in the Oxford English Dictionary. Such lingo is a sign that English, as well as any other modern language, is constantly evolving. But the path a word takes to enter the general lexicon isn’t always a straightforward one.

In the video below, TED-Ed lays out how some new words become part of our everyday speech while others fade into obscurity. Some words used by English speakers are borrowed from other languages, like mosquito (Spanish), avatar (Sanskrit), and prairie (French). Other “new” words are actually old ones that have developed different meanings over time. Nice, for example, used to only mean silly, foolish, or ignorant, and meat was used as blanket term to describe any solid food given to livestock.

The internet alone is responsible for a whole new section of our vocabulary, but even the words most exclusive to the web aren’t always original. For instance, the word meme was first used by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene.

To learn more about the true origins of the words we use on a regular basis, check out the full story from TED-Ed below.

[h/t TED-Ed]

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language
The Evolution of "Two" in the Indo-European Language Family
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The Indo-European language family includes most of the languages of Europe as well as many languages in Asia. There is a long research tradition that has shown, though careful historical comparison, that languages spanning a huge linguistic and geographical range, from French to Greek to Russian to Hindi to Persian, are all related to each other and sprung from a common source, Proto-Indo-European. One of the techniques for studying the relationship of the different languages to each other is to look at the similarities between individual words and work out the sound changes that led from one language to the next.

This diagram, submitted to Reddit by user IronChestplate1, shows the word for two in various Indo-European languages. (The “proto” versions, marked with an asterisk, are hypothesized forms, built by working backward from historical evidence.) The languages cluster around certain common features, but the words are all strikingly similar, especially when you consider the words for two in languages outside the Indo-European family: iki (Turkish), èjì (Yoruba), ni (Japanese), kaksi (Finnish), etc. There are many possible forms two could take, but in this particular group of languages it is extremely limited. What are the chances of that happening by accident? Once you see it laid out like this, it doesn’t take much to put *dwóh and *dwóh together.

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