German settlement varieties in Kansas

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After discussing the unique opportunity for linguistic investigation afforded by so-called “speech-islands,” speech communities embedded in a linguistic/cultural context far removed from the parent linguistic/cultural situation, we examine the appropriateness of the theoretical concept “speech-island,” determining that a vaguer concept of “speech settlement” allows for a more accurate depiction of the linguistic interaction with the surrounding dominant culture. After a sketch of German settlements in Kansas, we conclude that the current status of these settlements is rapidly approaching language death. In this context, a number of unusual developments in the phonology (e.g., velarization of [f]), morphology (emergence of a prepositional case) and lexicon (semantic transfer of English ‘to like’) in Kansas German varieties present linguists with explanatory challenges.


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