Other Languages

As noted on the ‘welcome’ page, this project started out as the Wisconsin Englishes Project with a focus on, you guessed it, English, but we quickly realized that we had powerful connections to work happening on campus involving a wide range of languages spoken in Wisconsin. This change is reflected in our name change to Wisconsin Languages. WIL collaborators and others are involved in a wide range of projects, from assisting Native communities with language revitalization to documenting immigrant languages and working to understand how and why those communities have shifted or are shifting to English. A lot of our featured articles on the Wisconsin Languages website introduce you to particular languages and projects we are involved in.

When groups of people move, this often leads to language contact and bilingualism. In such settings, new generations often speak what we now call “heritage languages,” a notion that Rothman (2009: 159) defines this way: “A language qualifies as a heritage language if it is a language spoken at home or otherwise readily available to young children, and crucially this language is not a dominant language of the larger (national) society.” Heritage bilinguals are a tremendous resource for our society and a body of research points to concrete advantages for bilingual individuals, not just economically and socially, but also cognitively (see work by Bialystok and colleagues). An excellent introduction to heritage languages, broadly speaking, is Maria Polinsky’s 2018 book.

This kind of work is often driven by community members who want to have their heritage languages documented, like with Dutch and Finnish, and a lot of the fieldwork is being done by undergraduate and graduate students. There is a lot to be done and a lot of the work is relatively accessible to newcomers to linguistics.

Below, in addition to sections on Wisconsin’s Indigenous languages and older and more recent immigrant and refugee languages, you can find out a little about how these languages are changing in Wisconsin and about how and why we think people switch from other languages to English.

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1. Native Languages

Wisconsin is rich in Indigenous languages, and three language families are represented: Algonquian, Iroquoian and Siouan. Potawatomi, Menominee, the original languages of the Stockbridge-Munsee, and Ojibwe (spoken by the Red Cliff, St. Croix, Bad River, Lac Courte Oreilles, Lac du Flambeau, and Sokaogan bands of the Lake Superior Chippewa) are all part of the Algonquian family. Oneida is an Iroquoian language, along with languages like Mohawk and Cherokee, and the Ho-Chunk language is Siouan, a family that also includes the Lakota, Dakota, and Assiniboine languages.

Kemāēnikanenaw Mōnahekan
‘Our town farm’ = community garden
[Photo and translation, Monica Macaulay, 2015]
The following map shows the federally recognized tribes of Wisconsin, and you’ll see that these different Native languages of Wisconsin are spoken in different areas of the state. (Boundaries have been generalized from geographic data available as 2010 Tiger/Line shape files from the U.S. Census Bureau.)

Federally recognized tribes of Wisconsin (Purnell, 2013b)

All of Wisconsin’s Native languages are seriously endangered, yet every tribe has language preservation/revitalization projects in progress. Since Wisconsin Talk was written, in fact, one of the most dramatic changes in the linguistic scene in Wisconsin has been the growth of powerful revitalization projects in many Native communities, including the Waadookadaading immersion school for Ojibwe and a Menominee immersion daycare. These efforts are led by people known as ‘language warriors,’ and they are beginning t0 reverse the tide and bring back languages in many communities with the goal of renormalizing them, returning them to being community languages used in daily life by larger numbers of community members.

Number of Native Americans in 2010, by county (Purnell, 2013b)

Why are these languages in danger of being not spoken?

The colonization of North America, especially by the Spanish, French, and British, set in motion cultural and social changes that eventually caused shift to English and other colonial languages by Native American populations who survived the violence and diseases that came with colonization. Later, government policies actively forced a shift away from Native American languages to English in the U.S. Boarding schools where Native American children were sent played a huge role in the repression of languages and cultures. These schools caused great harm to individuals and communities, but their impact on the survival of Native American languages is incalculable. Children who attended these schools missed out on an entire childhood of community language and culture, with many deciding, when it was time to raise their own children, to speak English rather than their native languages. Wisconsin had its share of government boarding schools for Native American children, as shown in the following map:

Enrollments at Indian Schools in 1899 (Purnell, 2013b)

Currently, various Native American languages of Wisconsin are taught in day care, schools, colleges, and special programs. Most tribes have tribal bodies that oversee revitalization efforts. And there is a growing public presence of Wisconsin’s native languages, as exemplified by the sign below in English, Spanish, Hmong, and Ho-Chunk (from the resale shop at St. Vincent de Paul’s in Madison):

Photo courtesy of Mateja Schuck








For more information, consult:

And see Chapter 1 in Wisconsin Talk.

2. Older Immigrant and Refugee Languages

Immigrants and refugees have brought many different languages and dialects to Wisconsin. Vast numbers of Wisconsinites have lived and still live their lives in languages other than English. Today, most of the older immigrant languages (such as Polish, German, Dutch, Czech) are less frequently spoken, while Native languages of Wisconsin (such as Ho-Chunk and Ojibwe) are the focus of intense revitalization efforts (see above), and new languages have only more recently arrived (such as Hmong, Spanish, Somali).

Consider the changes to Wisconsin’s “ethnic landscape” by comparing the famous Hill Map (and note that it’s problematic – the map doesn’t give the distribution of Wisconsin’s Native communities at the time), created by University of Wisconsin-Madison sociologist George W. Hill in 1941:

Courtesy of the Wisconsin Historical Society Image ID WHi-62099

When Hill made that map, many of those community languages were widely known and used. Now consider the percentage of people who reported in 2000 to the census that they spoke some language other than English at home:

Percentage Speaking Other than English at Home;
Data from the ACS Five-Year Estimates (Purnell, 2013b)

Different languages are spoken in different parts of the state, as seen on the following maps which show reported home language use of German or Norwegian (“Other Indo-European Languages”); Spanish; Hmong, Japanese or Thai (“Asian and Pacific Islander Languages”); and a Native American language or Finnish (“Other Languages”), as of the 2000 census.

Other Indo-European Languages and Spanish (left); Asian & Pacific Islander Languages and Other Languages (right);
Data from the ACS Five-Year Estimates (Purnell, 2013b)

Let’s zoom in to just the southeastern corner of the state and look at the size of the non-English-speaking population as well as the distribution of which languages are represented within that population.

Speakers of Other than English at Home in Southeast Wisconsin;
Data from the ACS Five-Year Estimates (Purnell, 2013b)

Spanish speakers are heavily represented in these mostly urban counties, while “other Indo-European” languages and some newer ones make up a considerable part of the total, especially in suburban Waukesha County. Speakers of Asian and Pacific Islander languages are often associated with western and central Wisconsin, but you can see here that many speakers of these languages live in the southeast as well.

Older Immigrant Languages

It’s not just other languages but even immigrant varieties of English we find in Wisconsin, such as the Cornish English dialects from Cornwall, England, that were spoken early on in southwest Wisconsin. This corner of Wisconsin saw a wave of Cornish immigrants between 1830 and 1850, mostly miners interested in the lead deposits to be found there. The following map shows the two towns most of the immigrants came from, Redruth and Camborne, as well as three features of speech characteristic of the Cornish English dialect: thee (or ’ee or ye) for you, loss of initial h- resulting in ’ouse instead of house, and the past tense form catched instead of the irregular form caught.

Origins of Mineral Point settlers, relative to regional features in Cornwall and southwest England;
Following discussions in Upton and Widdowson (1996), (Purnell, 2013b)

Cornish dialect speakers were not the first English speakers in southwest Wisconsin – there were earlier settlers from other parts of Britain and from elsewhere in the United States, all bringing various dialects of English with them. However, the Cornish were the first English-speaking group to live in this area permanently in relatively large numbers, and the Cornish dialect was thus more influential on the speech of the area than less well-represented dialects, though Cornish features have largely disappeared from daily use, as far as we can tell.

The Cornish immigrants were part of the first big population boom that Wisconsin experienced, with the population of Wisconsin growing by 2,514% between 1836 and 1850. As of 1850, approximately one-third of Wisconsin’s population was foreign born, with immigrants coming primarily from German speaking countries, Scandinavian countries and Great Britain and Ireland (Nesbit 1989, Ostergren 1997).

Members of these ‘older immigrant’ groups were still arriving to the state in 1880, when a wave of ‘new immigrants’ began, drawing more on immigrants from southern and eastern Europe, including Italians, Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, and Russians. As shown in the following map, the majority of the state had a foreign-born population of over 15% as of 1900:

Percentage of Foreign Born in 1900;
Data from the 1900 U.S. census and Purnell (2013b)

On this map and others that use county data from 1900, Rusk and Menominee counties had not been established. Rusk was founded in 1901. Menominee, established in 1959, appears in many early maps as the Menominee Reservation.

Many Norwegians who came to Wisconsin took up residence in the western part of the state, as shown by the map below of the distribution of Norwegian immigrants in Wisconsin in 1900:

Percentage Born in Norway, 1900, by county;
Data from the 1900 U.S. census and Purnell (2013b)

German-speaking immigrants settled mainly in the eastern and north-central portions of the state, as shown by this map:

Percentage Born in Germany, 1900, by county;
Data from the 1900 U.S. census and Purnell (2013b)

Religious institutions often played a role in maintaining older immigrant languages within the community beyond just holding services in those languages. Education was often provided by these institutions, with many parochial schools offering instruction in the immigrant language. Immigrant populations also established their own press in their own languages, which allowed them to keep up with events in the US and at home in their native tongues.

Foreign-Language Newspapers in 1900;
Data from Guide to Wisconsin Newspapers, 1833-1957;
Compiled by Donald E. Oehlerts (Purnell, 2013b)

Locations of select foreign-language weekly newspapers in 1900. The data include only newspapers extant in 1900.

In the early 1900s, these older immigrant languages were still being spoken by immigrants and their descendants, with communities showing a mixture of households that were monolingual in an immigrant language, monolingual in English, or bilingual in English and an immigrant language, as shown by the following map based on a 1910 plat map of Hustisford Township (Dodge County, Wisconsin) from the Wisconsin Historical Society:

Data collected by Miranda Wilkerson. Map produced by Mark Livengood.

In the mid-1900s, many families continued speaking German at home, even as schools, churches and businesses conducted day-to-day operations more frequently in English. Parochial schools in rural Wisconsin continued to teach at least part of their curriculum, summer schools or Sunday schools in German, in some cases until the 1940s. And the Lutheran churches of Lebanon, Wisconsin continued German-language services up until the 1960s and 1970s (Lucht 2007).

Today we still find these older immigrant communities playing an active role in certain community events – there are still some special religious services conducted in whole or in part in the original immigrant language. For example, as of 2011, there were three German-language Christmas services in eastern Wisconsin (one at Trinity Lutheran Church in the city of Sheboygan, one at Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kiel, and one at St. Mark’s Evangelical Church in Watertown). There are even a few immigrant language newspapers still in circulation today, such as the Gwiazda Polarna (Northern Star), a Polish-language biweekly published in Stevens Point.

The future of these languages is, however, uncertain at best, as children have stopped learning these languages as home languages and begin learning them instead as “foreign languages” as adults. Consider the case of German, where as of 2000, 42.6% of Wisconsinites claimed “German” as their primary ancestry, but less than 1% reported speaking German at home.

Number of select older immigrant languages in Wisconsin, 2006-8;
Data from the 2006-8 ACS and Purnell (2013b)

Related Websites

Check out the National Folklore Archiving Initiative, which has information about recordings and artifacts of speakers of older immigrant languages in Wisconsin (e.g., German, Norwegian, Swedish).

The NorDiaSyn database and corpus for Norwegian dialect syntax includes recordings of European AND Upper Midwestern Norwegian varieties

The website of the Max Kade Institute for German American Studies features essays on language and recordings of English and German dialects from the Upper Midwest and elsewhere in the USA.

Refer to Chapters 2, 3 and 4 in Wisconsin Talk for more information about this topic.

3. Newer Immigrant and Refugee Languages

This section focuses on Hmong and Spanish in Wisconsin, but in recent years, there has also been an influx of speakers of Indigenous Central American languages (like Mixtec and Yucatec) who learned Spanish as a second or third language, Somali, and speakers of Pennsylvania Dutch in Old Order Amish and Old Order Mennonite communities.

Hmong Speakers in Wisconsin

Hmong immigrants came to the United States via refugee camps in Thailand in the aftermath of war in Southeast Asia. The language the refugees brought with them is called Hmong and has several varieties (e.g., White Hmong and Green Hmong). Speakers of Hmong live in various areas of Wisconsin, often in large, multi-generational households.

Percentage Speaking Hmong at Home in 2000, by county;
Percentages are for speakers aged five years and older;
Data from the 2000 U.S. census (Purnell, 2013b)

The Hmong population in the United States as a whole is a young population, with a median age of 19.1 years, compared with a much older median age of 36.4 years for the general population. The map below displays the age distribution of Hmong speakers in various counties in Wisconsin, with darker shading in the circles suggesting the percentage of Hmong speakers eighteen and older, and lighter shading indicating the percentage of speakers aged five to seventeen.

Number of Hmong Speakers at Home in 2000, by county;
No symbol in a county indicates no Hmong speakers reported;
Data from the 2000 U.S. census (Purnell, 2013b)

Researchers have examined reports from elderly and younger Hmong speakers on their knowledge of English and Hmong, with results suggesting that younger Hmong speakers are more likely than elders to know and use English, and less likely to consider themselves as native speakers of Hmong (Burt 2010). Evidence also suggests that the more bilingual lifestyle of younger Hmong speakers may be influencing how they use English and Hmong, with potential consequences for the maintenance of the language as young speakers may feel more comfortable conversing in English or as if their Hmong is disapproved of by elderly Hmong speakers.

While education in Hmong is hard to come by for younger children, there are several public universities in Wisconsin that have developed courses to support Hmong language and culture, including the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Spanish Speakers

Similar to the Hmong population in Wisconsin, the median age of Wisconsin Hispanics is young (25 years of age) compared to the national average. The Hispanic population has been growing in every county in Wisconsin, with some counties experiencing an over 1,000% increase in Hispanics between 1990-2010:

Percentage change in Hispanic population, 1990-2010;
Data computed from the 1990 and 2000 U.S. censuses;
Data include Hispanics of “any race” (Purnell, 2013b)

Despite the size and steady growth of these communities, Hispanics still represent a vulnerable sector of the state’s population, with 23% of Hispanics seventeen and younger living in poverty and 18% of those between eighteen and sixty-four living in poverty. Hispanic children tend also to be at an educational disadvantage, particularly relative to their non-Hispanic white peers.

Individuals who identify as being “Hispanic” include monolingual English speakers, monolingual Spanish speakers, and bilingual/multilingual individuals whose relative proficiency in Spanish, English and, in some cases, Latin American indigenous languages varies widely. In 2000, 33% of Hispanics reported speaking only English at home, while 66% reported speaking Spanish and 1% reported speaking a language other than English or Spanish. While the percentage of Hispanics who speak Spanish at home is high, there is a tendency for almost or over half of the Hispanics in a county to report the ability to speak English “very well.”

The graph below displays this, with lighter shading suggesting the percentage of Spanish speakers who reported speaking English “very well” and darker shading suggesting the percentage of Spanish speakers who reported speaking English less than “very well” as a percentage of the total number of Spanish speakers of that particular county.

Number of Spanish Speakers in Wisconsin, by county;
Data from the 2006-7 ACS Five-Year Estimates (Purnell, 2013b)

Census estimates from 2008 indicate that 66% of Wisconsin’s Hispanics were U.S.-born descendants of first-generation immigrants. There has also been a decrease in the number of immigrants that make up the state’s Hispanic population, indicating that it’s up to the U.S.-born Hispanics to continue using Spanish with their children so that younger generations can take advantage of the cultural, economic, linguistic, and cognitive advantages of bilingualism; family, community, and institutional support, as well as advocacy for additive bilingualism and bilingual education programs would also help ensure that Hispanic youth can reach their potential as highly proficient users of both Spanish and English.

Refer to Chapters 8 and 9 of Wisconsin Talk for more on this topic.

4. Change in Wisconsin Heritage Languages

All languages change, they change all the time, and we cannot stop change, though plenty of people try. Languages spoken by highly bilingual populations seem to be prone to change more and faster. And speakers are generally sensitive to change — whether we see that in objections to innovative forms invented by young people or awareness of borrowing from other languages. Heritage speakers, people who’ve grown up here speaking languages other than English, speak somewhat differently from monolingual speakers of their languages. If you’re bothered by this, don’t be. First, the differences are natural and ultimately inevitable, though schooling and training can cover up those differences. Second, the language you’re reading now has been shaped by bilingualism and language contact vastly more than any current Wisconsin heritage language.

Just think about ‘English’ words: most of the nouns and a bunch of the adjectives in the paragraph above were borrowed from Romance languages, for example. Borrowed words are salient to speakers (at least initially) and people often see them as evidence that they are speaking a ‘mixed up’ language; speakers have names for these ways of speaking, like Spanglish, kitchen Polish or Scandihoovian. Norwegian Americans may say korn in the meaning ‘corn, maize’, where for European Norwegians it means ‘grain’. Spanish-English bilinguals might parquear a car, where estacionar would be one usual form for Spanish monolinguals. Germans in Wisconsin often have Fenzen (fences) on their farms where in Germany they would be Zäune. The Menominee word for ‘coffee’ is kahpēh and Ojibwe boozhoo ‘hello’ is probably from French bonjour. But some estimates place the percentage of borrowed words in English dictionaries up around 70-80%, including lots of scientific and technical terms from Latin and other languages, and it would be all but impossible to write these paragraphs using only Germanic-sourced words. (In that sentence, lots and words are Germanic but the other nouns are borrowed, as are things like technical, impossible, sourced.)

We usually and automatically adjust words when we borrow them. Wisconsin English has borrowed Gemütlichkeit from German, but most Americans cannot pronounce the umlaut ü ([y:] in the International Phonetic Alphabet) or the ch ([ç]). (Some suggestions for pronunciation include ‘moot’ for the second syllable and ‘lick’ for the third.)

Likewise, Menominee doesn’t have an f sound, like many languages of the world, so p gets substituted in coffee. Forms more or less have to get integrated into the grammar of the borrowing language, so that park gets the ending that marks an infinitive verb in Spanish, –ear, and Fenz has a gender in German (feminine, almost always) and a German plural form, -en.

Bilinguals don’t just use words from one language in another language, they switch back and forth even within a sentence, something called codeswitching (and there’s now a related term, ‘translanguaging’). As the title of a classic article about Spanish-English codeswitching goes, “Sometimes I’ll start a sentence in Spanish y termino en español” (‘and I finish in Spanish’). Wisconsin German speakers switch between German and English but some also switch between German and Low German (a language closely related to both German and English). In this example, where the speaker is talking about maintaining German, the clearly Low German words are in bold: “Ich will dat so lang behohle, dat es möglich ist. Darum früüt mich dat ziemlich dat ich fründ in Dütschland hat.” (I want to hold on to it as long as possible. So it makes me pretty happy that I have friends in Germany.) Codeswitchers themselves will sometimes say that this isn’t proper use or even that they do this because they have trouble sticking to one language. Don’t be too fast to believe that. There’s a lot of evidence that real codeswitching requires not only strong control of both (or all!) languages plus a set of rules for how and when to switch.

Grammar changes in these bilingual communities as well, but a surprising amount of that has to with the fact that education here is overwhelmingly in English. As discussed on the English page, most of us learn formal standard language in school. Without that training (and admonitions from teachers and parents), in a generation or two we’d likely be speaking much less standard-looking English, probably without th sounds, with lots of double negatives and probably verb forms like I seen that. When American German speakers don’t use standard genitive case forms and when U.S. raised Spanish speakers don’t always use subjunctive in the ways that grammar books prescribe, this is part of what’s happening.

Heritage grammars are, in short, utterly normal human grammars … their speakers borrow and the languages change, just like all other languages. People learn particular styles and forms of language and not others. We argue that you should not be bothered by the differences from monolingual speech patterns, but that you need to be seriously bothered that we as a society fail to value this rich kind of bilingualism and help speakers develop their heritage languages, including in formal settings. In the introduction to this page, we mentioned research pointing to cognitive advantages that bilinguals enjoy. Some of these advantages may surprise you. According to a report called The State of the Languages prepared by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, students in bilingual schools move far ahead of their English monolingual peers in terms of reading ENGLISH:

That’s just one more reason to support bilingualism.

5. The Shift to English in Wisconsin

We don’t have precise figures, but it’s safe to say that most of the world’s population is bilingual or multilingual and people used to living with more than one language are often puzzled by how monolingual much of the United States seems. That monolingualism is no accident, even aside from the overt and violent suppression of Indigenous languages. Immigrant communities have experienced and are experiencing shift to speaking only English without such direct coercion and very quickly today. Around the turn of the 20th century, a good third of the population of Wisconsin spoke some kind of German as a native language. Even in urban areas, German was often the usual language: “even in 1870, indeed even 10 years later, there were wards in the still not large city of Milwaukee in which one hardly heard an English word on the street and stores almost without exception had a German sign in addition to an English one. No small number of important businesses used German in a large part of their correspondence. These characteristics of ‘Little Germany’ have almost entirely disappeared” (Hense-Jensen & Bruncken 1900–1902, II:254, our translation).

In less than a century, those communities shifted almost entirely to become English monolingual, like almost all other immigrant communities. Part of our work involves understanding how and why this has happened.

People have given lots of reasons for this, often simply appealing to ongoing processes of acculturation or adaptation. Wisconsin’s Progressive era Norwegian-American politician Nils Haugen simply wrote that “Time takes care of the question of language.” And some sources basically punt on the question, like the History of Wisconsin (VI:33): “There was no one consistent pattern to explain why foreign languages remained vibrantly alive among some peoples but not among others.” Specifically with regard to German-speaking communities, one story inevitably comes up: anti-German sentiment in the World War I period. The writer Carl Wittke called it “a thunderclap from a cloudless sky” that killed the German language. And specifically in Wisconsin, people talk about the role of the Bennett Law, An Act Concerning the Education & Employment of Children (1889). It mandated that:

“… No school shall be regarded as a school under this act unless there shall be taught therein, as part of the elementary education of children, reading, writing, arithmetic and U.S. history in the English language.”

Christian Koerner wrote a pamphlet about the Bennett Law and German-language education, arguing vociferously for keeping German (again, our translation):

We are by no means enemies of the English language. But we don’t concede that our German language is a foreign language here. It’s been spoken here for centuries; millions of inhabitants of this country use it today — so it is surely no more a foreign language than English, which is spoken and understood just as little as German by the Indigenous peoples of this land; rather it was likewise imported from foreign lands.

The law was repealed fairly quickly but did some damage to the extensive system of parochial and even public schools that taught in languages other than English.

A group of people, many associated with Wisconsin Languages, are working on a new way of understanding language shift and testing it with data from a number of Wisconsin communities. (The key publication will be a book now in preparation, edited by Josh Brown and called Verticalization: A model of language shift.) This analysis starts from a classic in the field of community studies, The Community in America by Roland Warren. He sees the history of community structure in America in terms of “two rather distinct types of systemic ties: The relationships through which they are oriented to the larger society beyond the community constitute the community’s vertical pattern, and those that local units share with each other on the local level constitute the community’s horizontal pattern.” An example of horizontal ties is how local schools are connected to the local economy and local religious practice … Do schools schedule around harvest time? Do they close for particular religious holidays and observances? Vertical ties would be, in contrast, how schools connect to state government (the Department of Public Instruction in Wisconsin) and the federal government or how local businesses are owned or managed by regional and national corporations.

Warren argues for a historical ‘Great Change’, a shift from fundamentally horizontal ties to fundamentally vertical ones. We simply extend this idea to what it means for what languages are or can be used in what settings. What happened in local schools in the 1870s was much more under local control than what happens in them today. The History of Wisconsin describes the characteristics of Wisconsin education in the 19th century this way (II: 162-65):

• a “highly localized system of common schools”;
• a state superintendent who had “little power except that of persuasion”;
• an “imported tradition” of church schooling from Europe.

In fact, even where it was forbidden, local schools often used local languages as a medium of instruction rather than English. In his important Four Wisconsin Counties (1927), Joseph Schafer described one example with a practical reason that English was not used:

An old settler … in Fredonia … testifies that “the years that he and his wife attended the school … up to the year 1875 the school was conducted in the German language, the teacher could not [speak] the English language well enough to teach others.

Louise Kellogg saw this as a broader problem in a paper she published in 1918 in the Wisconsin Magazine of History:

Case after case came to light … of children born and reared in Wisconsin who were unable to speak a word of English. From Manitowoc came the statement that not one in ten of the parochial schools in that county taught a word of English. It was asserted that even public schools in the thickly settled German districts were conducted wholly in German.

“Unable to speak a word of English” might be an exaggeration, but Wilkerson & Salmons and many others have now shown that Wisconsin-born German speakers often remained monolingual, that is, never learned English.

Small local newspapers were common in the earlier period, many of them printed in languages other than English, while today few cities have more than one print paper. Similar examples can be developed in terms of religious institutions, basic economic activity like the shift from family farming to larger operations and industrial work. For example, in religion, Glen Proechel’s 1973 master’s thesis from Mankato State shows how many German services were being broadcast from one Northfield, Minnesota, station in 1972:

These structures and institutions and systems all allowed and even supported the use of local languages. As verticalization progressed, the domains for learning and using languages other than English diminished, in many communities meaning the rapid loss of literacy and access to the standard language.

The communities that continue to transmit their languages to children on a widespread basis have worked hard to retain control over key parts of community structure, like Old Order Amish communities that use Pennsylvania Dutch and Hasidic communities that use Yiddish. Beyond such groups, shift to English today is extremely rapid. The American Academy report on the State of the Languages shows this for southern California, an area that has seen many immigrants and refugees in recent decades:

A vast body of research by scholars in different fields, in fact, shows that recent arrivals are learning English extremely quickly and often abandon their heritage languages almost as quickly.

6. References and Related Publications

Bialystok, Ellen. 2007. “Cognitive Effects of Bilingualism: How Linguistic Experience Leads to Cognitive Change.” International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism 10 (3): 210–23.

Bialystok, Ellen, Fergus I. M. Craik, Raymond Klein, and Mythili Viswanathan. 2004. “Bilingualism, Aging, and Cognitive Control: Evidence from the Simon Task.” Psychology and Aging 19 (2): 290–303.

Bialystok, Ellen, Fergus I. M. Craik, and A. C. Ruocco. 2006. “Dual-Modality Monitoring in a Classification Task: The Effects of Bilingualism and Ageing.” Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 59 (11): 1968–83.

Burt, Susan Meredith. 2009. “Contact Pragmatics: Requests in Wisconsin Hmong.” Journal of the Southeast Asian Linguistics Society 1:63–76.

Burt, Susan Meredith. 2010. The Hmong Language in Wisconsin: Language Shift and Pragmatic Change. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen.

Burt, Susan Meredith. 2013. Hmong in Wisconsin. In Wisconsin Talk: Linguistic Diversity in the Badger State, eds. Thomas Purnell, Eric Raimy and Joseph Salmons, pp. 111-122. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press.

Burt, Susan Meredith, and Hua Yang. 2005. “Growing Up Shifting: Immigrant Children, Their Families, and the Schools.” In Language in the Schools: Integrating Linguistic Knowledge into K-12 Teaching, edited by Kristin Denham and Anne Lobeck, 29–40. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Brown, Joshua. 2018. ‘Language maintenance among the Hutterites’. Yearbook of German-American Studies. 52.1-18.

Brown, Joshua R., and Benjamin Carpenter. 2018, ‘Heritage Somali and Identity in Barron, Wisconsin’. Journal of Language Contact 11 (2). 348-371.

Brown, Joshua R., ed. In preparation. Verticalization: A model for language shift.

Caldwell, Alan and Monica Macaulay. 2000. The Current Status of the Menominee Language. Proceedings of the 31st Conference on Algonquian Languages 31: 18–29.

Cummins, James. 2001. “Linguistic Interdependence and the Educational Development of Bilingual Children.” In The New Immigrant and Language, vol. 6 of Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the New Immigration, edited by Marcelo M. Suárez-Orozco, Carola Suárez-Orozco, and Desirée Qin-Hilliard, 72–101. New York: Routledge.

Cummins, James, and Metro Gulustan. 1974. “Some Effects of Bilingualism on Cognitive Functioning.” In Bilingualism, Biculturalism and Education, edited by Stephen T. Carey, 129–36. Edmonton: University of Alberta Press.

Fishman, Joshua A. 1991. Reversing Language Shift. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.

Fishman, Joshua, ed. 2001. Can Threatened Languages Be Saved? Buffalo, NY: Multilingual Matters.

Fishman, Joshua. 2006. “Three Hundred-Plus Years of Heritage Language Education in the United States.” In Developing Minority Language Resources: The Case of Spanish in California, edited by Guadalupe Valdés, Joshua A. Fishman, Rebecca Chávez, and William Pérez, 12–23. Buffalo, NY: Multilingual Matters.

Frey, Benjamin E. 2013. Toward a general theory of language shift: A case study in Wisconsin German and North Carolina Cherokee. PhD thesis: University of Wisconsin – Madison.

Grosjean, François. 1998. “Studying Bilinguals: Methodological and Conceptual Issues.” Bilingualism: Language and Cognition 1 (2): 131–49.

Haugen, Einar. 1953. The Norwegian language in America. 2 vols. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Hein, Jeremy. 2006. Ethnic Origins: The Adaptation of Cambodian and Hmong Refugees in Four American Cities. New York: American Sociological Association.

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