Turns out there’s a 150-year-old German community in Texas that is in the final stages of assimilation; the Texas German Dialect Project is trying to record as much as possible of the dialect before it disappears for good. From a Daily Texan article by Lori Slaughenhoupt:
It all began when he was eating at a restaurant in Fredericksburg, Texas.
During lunch, Hans Boas, an assistant professor of Germanic Studies at the University, overheard a conversation that he quickly found would impact his life.
“People were sitting next to me speaking German, and I thought, ‘Hey, what’s going on?'” said Boas, who is from Gottingen, Germany. “When I got back to Austin, I went to the library, and there was all this stuff on Texas-German [dialect] from research done in the ’50s and ’60s.”
After reading the research, Boas found that English, Spanish and German were once the primary languages spoken in Texas. He decided to research the dying Texas-German dialect before it was gone forever.
“What struck me about Texas-German was that after reading descriptions from the ’50s and ’60s, I realized that all of the sudden, it’s different,” Boas said. “In just 40 years, the sounds, grammar and word use has changed.”
Although he knew funding for language-revival programs is often hard to obtain, Boas applied for a grant from the University. In September 2001, after receiving one from the dean of liberal arts, Boas founded the Texas German Dialect Project….
Germans settled in much of Central Texas after the 1840s. It was then that the Adelsverein, the Society of Noblemen — was organized in what is now Germany and encouraged thousands to go to Texas….
The American culture, which especially began to become incorporated after World War I in the 1920s and 1930s, is the reason Texas-German has not been passed to future generations, Boas said. The introduction of English-only laws after the world wars made it even more difficult for the German culture — especially the language — to be passed on….
“Texas has this rich history of culture in terms of language and, up until World War I, Texas was trilingual,” Boas said. “What makes Texas so unique is that it is much more open toward cultures that are different. You don’t see that in other states.”
Thanks to Andrew Krug for the links!