Manitoba German and German Manitobans: Questions of Language and Identity

Manitoba is home to many heritage speakers of German with origins in Europe, North America, and South America. Because the German-speaking communities in Manitoba are integral to the identity of this province, it is imperative to understand the role of German in Manitoba. With our project, we are primarily interested in the maintenance of Low German in the province. Therefore, we will explore the current use of the dialect and study some of the influences leading to language transfer between German and English.
In addition to these linguistic questions, we are also curious about identity and language. In Manitoba, religion and lifestyle often act as motivation for language preservation. While the Hutterite Colonies function themselves as a method of language preservation, there are no such systematic preservation systems for Mennonites. In our previous research, we found that while Low German is spoken in many Mennonite families, the knowledge of most of the younger generation is restricted to single vocabulary words, even though they strongly identify with the language. We have observed that Low German is still very much desired as a form of communication in Manitoba, and want to explore in our new research the use of German in the province and look at the extent of maintenance of the language.
With this project we hope to form a clearer picture of the German used in Manitoba today, from the changes in the language over time to the reasons for not systematically passing linguistic knowledge from one generation to the next.
Elisabeth Gsell-Dentsoras and Kristin Lovrien-Meuwese (