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Low German: Platt in America

As of spring 2004, a surprising new book by Stuart Gorman and Joachim Reppmann is available, titled Low German: Platt in America. It features 42 illustrations on 98 pages and a dedication from Hollywood star Eric Braeden. The text offers readers a lively romp through many aspects of the Low German language, focusing on its present state in America today.

Prominently featured in the book is the history of a heroic Low German figure, Jürnjakob Swehn, the main character from a 1917 novel by Johannes Gillhoff, who was later discovered to have been based on a real-life Low German immigrant, Carl Wiedow. This aspect caught the eye of the Johannes Gillhoff Society, which was so pleased that its chairpersons decided to grant the book their 2005 literature prize.

Low German: Platt in America flows easily from one chapter to the next. It is very informative yet highly accessible and entertaining, discussing topics such as historical linguistics and immigration without getting bogged down in technical terms or unreadable “scientific language.”

A striking aspect covered in the book is the so-called Low German renaissance that started in America during the 1990s. Along with a general upswing in genealogical activities, Low German heritage was reevaluated and found great appreciation among the descendents of the 1.5 million Low German speakers who came to America in the 1800s. The book lauds Low German preservation efforts and even provides suggestions for its readers on how to take part in them.

Perhaps most astounding is the fact that the book is written in not one, but three languages, English, German and Low German. Each two-page spread features all three languages, Low German and various illustrations on the left and English and German on the right. Low German: Platt in America not only describes the history of Low German, the book ultimately takes part in it, showing through its very existence that Low German is still alive today, atleast in the printed word!

Finally, the book also contains topical information including an index of Low German organizations active in the U.S. today for those readers who would like to get in touch with their local Low German community. There is also a most revealing chronology of events comprising the Low German renaissance from Low German theater to Midwestern conferences.

All in all, the authors have put together a fascinating analysis of the language, its speakers, history and future. A most recommendable read, and a pure delight for anyone interested in Low German, northern Germany, or American immigration. Write to or go to to order your own copy today!

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