Hutterite German

Hutterite German (German: Hutterisch) is an Upper German dialect of the Bavarian variety of the German language, which is spoken by Hutterite communities in Canada and the United States. Hutterite is also called Tirolean, but this is an anachronism.

Hutterite German
RegionAlberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, Canada; Washington, Montana, Minnesota, North and South Dakota, United States
Native speakers
40,000 (2007)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3geh

Distribution and literacy

Hutterite is spoken in the US states of Washington, Montana, North and South Dakota, Minnesota and Oregon; and in the Canadian provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. Its speakers belong to the Schmiedleit, Lehrerleit, and Dariusleit Hutterite groups, but there are also some few speakers among the older generations of Prairieleit (the descendants of those Hutterites who chose not to settle in colonies). Hutterite children who grow up in the colonies learn and speak first Hutterite German before learning English, the standard language of the surrounding areas.

As of 2003, there are about 34,000 speakers in the world, 85% of them living in 333 communities in Canada and the remaining 15% in 123 communities in the USA. Canadian adults are generally literate in Early New High German (also called "Biblical German", the predecessor to Standard German used by Martin Luther) that they employ as the written form for Scriptures while Standard German is used in the USA for religious activities. Children learn English at school; Canadian Hutterites have a functional knowledge of English. Hutterite is for the most part an unwritten language, though in August 2006 Hutterite author Linda Maendel released a children's story titled Lindas glücklicher Tag (Linda's Happy Day) in which all the dialogue is written in the dialect. Maendel is also working on a series of biblical stories with Wycliff Bible translators.

Hutterite German is a koiné language based on the Bavarian dialects spoken in Tyrol, home of Jacob Hutter, and Carinthia in the mid-18th century. It is only 50% intelligible to a speaker of Pennsylvania German,[3] as the latter variant is based on dialects spoken around the Electoral Palatinate. Hutterite German therefore belongs to the Southern Bavarian dialect group which is spoken in the southern parts of Bavaria and in Austria except for the westernmost part (Vorarlberg).

Although the Hutterites once spoke Tirolean German, they no longer do. The switch among Hutterites from Tirolean German to Carinthian German occurred during years of severe persecution in Europe when Hutterite communities were devastated and survival depended on the conversion of many Carinthian Landler refugees to Hutterite anabaptism.

The language has adopted a limited number of Russian and also many English loan words, which are the result of Hutterite migrations into Eastern Europe and now North America. The core vocabulary is still almost exclusively of German origin.

See also


  1. Hutterite German at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Hutterite German". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. The Ethnologue, 16th ed


  • Helga Lorenz-Andreasch: "Mir sein jå kolla Teitschverderber" - die Sprache der Schmiedeleut-Hutterer in Manitoba/Kanada, Wien 2004. (Contains a short description of Hutterisch)
  • Hoover, Walter B. (1997). Di Hutrisha Shproch, An Introduction to the Language of the Hutterites of North America with a Special Emphasis upon the Language and History of the Hutterian Prairie People at Langham, Saskatchewan, Canada : A Grammar and Lexicon. Saskatoon.
  • Herfried Scheer: Die deutsche Mundart der Hutterischen Brüder in Nordamerika, Wien 1987. (A Hutterisch - Standard German - English dictionary of about 1.0000 words on 321 pages)
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