Prof. Hans Boas on the Texas German Dialect

On Thursday, October 27, Bosch alumni Jenny Hoff and Renuka Rayasam (Bosch XXVII) gathered a group of about 20 Germanophiles at the Easy Tiger beer garden in Austin, Texas to learn about the history of Germans in the state. Attendees included the curator of the Elizabeth Ney museum, which shows the work of a German sculptor who settled in Austin in nineteenth century and documentary filmmaker who is putting together a film about Germans in Texas.

Over beers and bratwurst, University of Texas professor Hans Boas spoke about how and why Germans came to Texas and how their culture evolved through the generations. Professor Boas, a linguistics and German professor, stumbled on the topic when he was driving from Berkeley to Austin. He stopped in Fredericksburg, Texas and heard people speaking a dialect of German he had never heard before. He learned that the dialect had developed as generations of Germans from across the country settled in the Lone Star State.

Germans fell in love with Texas’ wide open plains. And Boas talked about how they became an important immigrant group, comparing their story with the story of immigrants in the United States today. In the civil war, for example, Boas said that most Germans opposed slavery. At one point there were hundreds of German language newspapers, dozens of German language churches across settlements in Texas, and even an entire literary genre of novels written by Germans about life in Texas. Professor Boas told the assembled group that in the early nineteenth century, the German language held the same place in Texas as Spanish does today.

But in the twentieth century, two World Wars pushed German out of favor. Locals changed their names and stopped teaching their children the language at home.

Professor Boas is currently trying to record the last remaining “Texasdeutsch” speakers in the state. You can learn more about his project here:

And read more about his work in this article:

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