Highs and Lows of the German Language Are Annual Meeting Topic
Dr. Mark L. Louden was the featured speaker at the January 17 New Holstein Historical Society Annual meeting. Approximately 60 people attended to hear Dr. Louden's presentation on the differences in various German dialects. A part of the presentation featured recordings made in the late 1960's of four New Holstein residents speaking the dialect they had learned from family members.
Dr, Louden is a faculty member of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of German. He is a fluent speaker of Pennsylvania Dutch and has been published on a number of topics in German-American linguistics, including Low German varieties in Wisconsin. He also co-directs the UW's Max Kade Institute for German-American studies.
The four New Holstein residents recorded in 1968, Albert Jochimsen, Gretchen Kletzien, Erna Libke, and Waldemar Vollstedt were all recorded speaking Low German.
One of the early facts brought fourth by Dr. Louden was that while the terms High German and Low German are often thought to be related to class stature, this is incorrect. "High" and "Low" refer to the dialects spoken in the higher (geographically) and lower areas of Germany. He also pointed out that in the time period around 1848, when many of the early settlers began to arrive in this area, Germany technically did not exist. Bohemia, Austria, and Prussia were some of the areas, or states, that comprised what we now consider to be Germany. Many other smaller states such as Schleswig and Holstein were also in the mix. The term "German" actually referred more to the language and the peoples who spoke it than it did to a particular country, state, or area.
In addition to discussing the German language and it's dialects, Dr. Louden also took a moment to comment on the supposed German custom of hiding a pickle (ornament) on the Christmas Tree. "i spend time in Germany each year and have tried to discover how that "tradition" started, but no one in Germany seems to know anything about it," related Dr. Louden, adding, "It seems to be more American than German although in the area of Pomerania (now part of Poland) people are reputed to have a passion for pickling various foods, so maybe there is a link there."
Prior to Dr. Louden's presentation, the business end of the Annual Meeting was conducted. 2014 Annual Meeting minutes were approved and Jerry Hallstrom (3 yr.); Dick Greim (3 yr.); Kay Nett (3 yr.); and Carol Wordell (3 yr.) were all re-elected to NHHS Board of Directors terms. Grace Flora was nominated for and subsequently elected to a two year Board term.