Date of Defense


Date of Graduation




First Advisor

Sharon Carlson, History

Second Advisor

Lisa Minnick

Third Advisor

Larry ten Harmsel


Dutch language, English language, West Michigan


When two cultures collide there is inevitably language contact and change, and in West Michigan the interaction of Dutch and English is an excellent example of this. This thesis traces the history and nature of that interaction over the course of a century and several waves of Dutch immigration. The first wave, beginning in the 1840s, saw a strong reliance on the Dutch language and limited contact with English. The American Civil War changed the Dutch communities, forcing them to interact with English speakers and identify themselves as Americans, as opposed to Dutch. The second wave of immigration followed the Civil War, and was characterized by the steady growth of English usage, especially in schools and publishing. The immigrants of the final wave after World War II switched completely to English, and Dutch has consequentially declined almost to the point of disappearing today. The thesis then transitions from the history of the languages to suggesting ways in which Dutch has lingered in West Michigan, such as the names of people or food. The thesis also suggests that the Dutch language brought by immigrants could have influenced what linguists call the Northern Cities Shift, which is a shift in the pronunciation of vowels in the upper Midwest. To make its arguments the thesis draws heavily on both primary and secondary sources, utilizing personal writings, interviews, and histories. The thesis concludes with a brief tribute to the Dutch immigrants who have made West Michigan what it is today.


Citation and abstract only

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Restricted