Languages Spoken at Home in Wisconsin

Language Matters for Wisconsin
A Community Based Initiative

WISCONSIN’S REMARKABLE LINGUISTIC DIVERSITY
Many different languages and variations of regional English are spoken in Wisconsin, and discussions about language and society can be heard around the state. However, little information is available about even the most pressing local and regional language issues. "Language Matters for Wisconsin" strives to engage Wisconsinites in an informed debate about language first by focusing on four communities (Rhinelander, Wausau, Mineral Point, and Milwaukee). We are working closely with various groups and individuals to highlight language questions that are specific to each region, and to address them in formats that are useful to each community. Topics are as varied as immigrant languages past and present, language maintenance and language death, American regional English, rural and urban English, etc.

"Language Matters" focuses upon unique topics in each community:

WAUSAU

  • Wausau’s position near important boundaries in American English dialects;
  • the strong presence of heritage communities, such as Polish, German-Pomeranian, Norwegian, Czech, and others, some still actively used in the area;
  • and the growth of more recent immigrant communities, such as Hmong and Spanish;
  • the possible influence of all these languages on present-day English in the area.

MINERAL POINT

  • The influence on present-day language use of historically used languages (Cornish, but also Italian and to some extent German and Welsh);
  • the integration of geography, history, and the English language;
  • the salient speech differences found in Mineral Point English (for example: wash vs. warsh).

    "Hearing the Cornish in Mineral Point": 2010 Presentation (PDF)

RHINELANDER

  • The distinct forms of Wisconsin English spoken in the Northwoods, and issues of contact between "Northwoods English" and "tourist English";
  • the possible influence of older immigrant languages (for example Finnish) on "Northwoods English";
  • the strong presence of "Rez English" and issues of contact between "Rez English" speakers and speakers of other regional forms of English;
  • the presence of American Indian languages and issues of language revitalization and heritage preservation.

MILWAUKEE

  • A city with complex community language issues that include issues of language and immigration and  language and race relations;
  • the strong presence of a Spanish-speaking immigrant community that includes varieties of Spanish and is diverse within itself;
  • a prominent African-American community and a strong presence of African-American English.