Texas Alsatian : Henri Castro's legacy
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This study constitutes the first in-depth description and analysis of Texas Alsatian as spoken in Medina County, Texas, in the twenty-first century. The Alsatian dialect was transported to Texas in 1842, when the entrepreneur Henri Castro recruited colonists from the Alsace to fulfill the Texas Republic’s stipulations for populating his land grant located to the west of San Antonio. Texas Alsatian (TxAls)is a dialect distinct from other varieties of Texas German (Gilbert 1972: 1, Salmons 1983: 191) and is mainly spoken in Eastern Medina County in and around the city of Castroville. With a small and aging speaker population, it has not been transmitted to the next generation and will likely survive for only another two to three decades. Despite this endangered status, TxAls is a language undergoing death with minimal change. This study provides both a descriptive account of TxAls and discussions on extralinguistic factors linked to ethnic identity and language loyalty, which have enabled the maintenance of this distinctive Texas German dialect for 150 years. To investigate the extent of the maintenance of lexical, phonological, and morphological features, this study identifies the main donor dialect(s), Upper Rhine Alsatian, and compares its linguistic features to those presently maintained in the community, based on current data collected between 2007 and 2009 and Gilbert’s (1972) data collected in the 1960s. This discussion of TxAls is three-fold: (1) an analysis of social, historical, political, and economic factors affecting the maintenance and decline of TxAls, (2) a detailed structural analysis of the grammatical features of TxAls, supported by a description of its European donor dialect and substantiated by Gilbert’s (1972) data, and (3) a discussion of the participants’ attitudes toward their ancestral language, which have either contributed to the maintenance of TxAls, or are now accelerating its decline, based on responses to a survey developed for the TxAls community, the Alsatian Questionnaire.