Symposium-- People of Faith, Languages of Tradition: Germanic Heritage Languages among Christians and Jews

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Location: UW-Madison, University Club and Pyle Center

Date: March 30 - April 1, 2017


Of the approximately 7,000 languages spoken around the world today, more than half are likely to no longer be spoken actively by the turn of the next century. In almost every case, these languages are spoken by groups of people, often indigenous, who are minorities in the larger societies in which they live. There are, however, a small group of minority languages that are not endangered and which in fact are enjoying robust vitality. In North America there are four such languages, which are spoken in conservative Christian and Jewish religious communities: Pennsylvania Dutch (Amish and Old Order Mennonites); Mennonite Low German (Old Colony Mennonites); Hutterite German (Hutterites); and Yiddish (Haredi Jews). The growth of these groups is exponential due to the twin factors of high birth rates and low attrition, thereby ensuring the sociolinguistic health of the languages they speak.

This symposium will bring together an international group of researchers specializing in these languages with Amish, Mennonite, Hutterite, and Haredi community members to explore sociolinguistic aspects of the social-spiritual identities of these faith groups.

  • On Thursday evening, March 30, the symposium will open with a panel discussion of community members moderated by MKI Director Mark Louden, followed by a reception. (University Club)
  • Friday morning and afternoon and Saturday morning will feature 45-minute presentations by the invited speakers. (Pyle Center)
  • On Friday evening, we will have a reading of literary works in the four languages that evoke the themes of the symposium. English translations will be projected onto a screen for the benefit of the attendees. (Pyle Center)

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