Another from the e-mail archives, Plautdietsch:

Welcome to this Plautdietsch Web Site. This site is intended to help preserve and promote the use of Plautdietsch as a spoken language. Most text in this web page will be in English but the audio/video resources available through this web site are primarily in the Plautdietsch language. It is hoped that people will be able to use these audio resources to listen to, and enjoy the sound of this ancient language being spoken.

There is much confusion between the meaning of Mennonite as a religion, and the association of the European origin Mennonites with the Plautdietsch language they evolved from the local Low Saxon language of the Vistula Valley in what was then Prussia, and the Pennsylvania Dutch that evolved in Switzerland and the closely surrounding areas of Germany. Many people are not aware that there are currently more non-European origin religious Mennonites around the world than there are the historical Mennonites that at one time or currently speak either Plautdietsch or Pennsylvania Dutch.

“Plautdietsch, or Mennonite Low German, was originally a Low Prussian variety of East Low Saxon (German), with Dutch influence, that developed in the 16th and 17th Century in the Vistula delta area of Royal Prussia, today Polish territory. The word is etymologically cognate with Plattdeutsch, or Low German. Plaut is the same word as German platt or Dutch plat, meaning ‘Low’, but the name Dietsch = Dutch Diets, meaning ‘ordinary language, language of the people’; whereas Deitsch can only refer to German Deutsch.

The language (or groups of dialects of Low German) is spoken in Canada, the United States, Mexico, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Honduras, Belize, and Argentina by over 300,000 Mennonites. They are members of a religious group that originally fled from Holland and Belgium in the 1500s to escape persecution, and who eventually resettled in these areas. They introduced and developed their particular East Low German dialect, the so-called Weichselplatt, while they came to and lived in the Vistula delta area, beginning in the early-to-mid 1500s. These colonists from the Low Countries were especially welcome there because of their experience with and knowledge of land reclaiming and making polders. As Mennonites they kept their own (primarily Dutch and Low-German) identity, using their Dutch/Low German language. Their East Low German dialect is still to be classified as Low Prussian, or simply Prussian.

Again, the fact that it’s a seven-year-old link is regrettable in terms of my ability to keep up with correspondence, but that the site has lasted so long is a recommendation. Thanks, Al!


  1. David Marjanović says

    the Pennsylvania Dutch that evolved in Switzerland and the closely surrounding areas of Germany

    Originally it’s from much farther north, though; e.g., it lacks the p > pf shift. Reportedly it’s from the Palatinate.

    meaning ‘Low’

    Meaning “flat” (French plat), referring to the great plain south of the North and Baltic seas, but also metaphorically to plain speech.


    Weichsel = Vistula.

    (And “sour cherry”, but only much farther south. Feminine in both meanings.)

  2. There’s still plenty of Plautdietsch speakers in Russia as well, especially in Siberia. A friend of mine speaks fluent West Siberian Plautdietsch.
    In this video a speaker of Oldenburg Plattdeutsch talks to speakers of Siberian Plautdietsch:

  3. Charming, thanks!

  4. Yared Terfa Dibaba (* 8. April 1969 in Aira, Region Oromia, Äthiopien, als Yared Terfa) ist ein deutscher Schauspieler, Fernsehmoderator, Entertainer, Autor und Sänger.

  5. Wikipedia has 75,000 articles in Plattdüütschööftsietüütsch

    and an incubator site of Mennonite Plattdüütsch

  6. The New Testament has also been translated into Plautdietsch, but the speakers don’t like it at all, as the only ‘proper’ liturgical language is of course High German.

  7. Some Mennonites settled along the Bug river, named themselves Bug Dutch and picked up a local dialect. Some families from this group migrated even further east, ending up near Irkutsk in Siberia. A Dutch journalist wrote an interesting book about these Bug Golendry some time ago, which won an award for the best travel book in that year. See Russian Wikipedia and Youtube for more information:

  8. Growing up, I always heard that my grandpa’s native language was ‘Swiss German’, and took it for granted that this was, well, the German of Switzerland. At some point I figured out that it’s in fact much more closely related to ‘Pennsylvania Dutch’, and is essentially a Central German dialect. This branch of ‘Swiss Mennonites’ do trace their roots back to Switzerland, but this is a pretty classic example of a discrepancy between ‘identity’ (self origin story and appellation) and linguistic categories. I often think about this when people try and make too much hay out of terms like Jutes or Angles in late prehistory.

  9. David Marjanović says:

    “Weichsel = Vistula.
    (And “sour cherry”, but only much farther south. Feminine in both meanings.)”

    Bulgarian вишна (sour cherry, Prunus cerasus), also feminine. Any ideas as to etymology?

  10. Weichsel: From Middle High German wīhsel, from Old High German wīhsila, from Proto-Germanic *wīhsilō, from Proto-Indo-European *weyḱs- (“mistletoe”). Cognate with Russian ви́шня (víšnja, “sour cherry”), Ancient Greek ἰξός (ixós, “mistletoe, birdline”), and Latin viscum (“birdlime”).

    вишна: From Proto-Slavic *višьňa, from Proto-Balto-Slavic *weiśinjāˀ, from Proto-Indo-European *weyḱs- (“mistletoe”). Cognate with Proto-Germanic *wīhsilō (“type of cherry”), Ancient Greek ἰξός (ixós, “mistletoe, birdlime”), and Latin viscum (“birdlime”).

  11. About the “Bug Dutch/Bug Golendry” Bertil mentions: Among the Youtube comments at the video he links to there seems to be some disagreement as to what their language/dialect in fact is (Polish with a Russian accent? Ukrainian? Belorussian? I find it telling that the three languages mentioned by those Youtubers just happen to be the three languages spoken by the Bug river): Could a Hatter with some knowledge of Slavic linguistics/dialectology enlighten matters? I doubt I am the only one who is very intrigued by this group.

    About Fred’s comment above about there being plenty of Plautdietsch speakers in Russia, especially Siberia: alas, Plautdietsch, even in Siberia, is now an endangered language, at least if this scholar is to be believed (see especially pages 386-388):

  12. Etienne: of course, with ‘plenty’ I meant hundreds, and it’s definitely endangered. There used to be thousands, but most of them have now moved to Germany; many of them live in Lower Saxony, especially in and around Delmenhorst (I think); their religion (they’re Anabaptist Mennonites) keeps from assimilating very rapidly.
    There’s an excellent description of West Siberian Plautdietsch by R. Nieuweboer (‘The Altai dialect of Plautdiitsh (West-Siberian Mennonite Low German)’, Munich 1999).

  13. @Etienne: The language spoken by everyone in the interviews in the video is standard Russian. The song seems to be (Eastern) Polish (the “hard l” is an “l” and not [w]) with a Russian accent or rather Russian interference, e.g. ona “she” is pronounced [‘ana] with akanye, even though the [o] is stressed and shouldn’t be reduced, probably due to influence by Russian [a’na]. At 1:12, the underskirt is titled with Ukrainian spidnicya, but the woman clearly says [spud’nitsa] = Polish spódnica. So the historical languages seems to be an Eastern variety of Polish, and the Russian interference makes me suspect that it isn’t the everyday language anymore, but a language mostly used in folklore.

  14. Hans: Thanks for answering my question. Hmm. I wonder what their actual daily in-group language is: More-or-less Standard Russian? Russian-influenced Polish? Polish-influenced Russian? Could all three answers be true, depending on which generation we are talking about? I suspect a specialist in language contact would find this community interesting indeed. I also wonder: are there any traces left in their speech of the Prussian dialect and/or other Germanic varieties spoken by their ancestors?

  15. The Bug Golendry migrated to Siberia during Stolypin’s agrarian reforms, around 1908 according to this site: So, I assume that they spoke what was spoken around that time in the rural communities in Volhynia. I don’t remember it exactly from the book, which I read some time ago when I had borrowed it from the library.

  16. Bertil: if the summary of this (2017) article is to be believed (, at the time they migrated to Siberia they spoke (Western) Ukrainian and Polish, with the latter being dominant in writing and the former in speaking. Today, they still use many Polonisms in their dialect (presumably basically Russian today, I assume). So: to answer my own question, Polish-influenced Russian is their in-group language, Russian-influenced Polish the language they sing in, and Russian minus Polonisms their out-group language.

    So: a (now Russophone) Protestant ethnic group in Siberia, ultimately of Frisian, Dutch and German origin, for whom Polish was the written, prestigious H language. Well. What can I say, except: Whodda thunk it?

    Considering how small the group is, I doubt any attempt has been made locally to write their Polish-influenced Russian dialect. A pity: in these times of mass linguistic uniformization, another Slavic written micro-language (I assume most hatters have at least heard of Aleksandr Dulichenko’s research on the topic?) would be nice.

Speak Your Mind