Dr. William D Keel

Bill Keel
  • Professor Emeritus (ret. 2019)


William D. Keel's primary teaching and research interests are in German dialectology, Germanic philology, the structure of Modern German, and German-American studies. He is internationally recognized as an expert on German settlement dialects (Sprachinseln) in the American Midwest and has lectured on that subject at several German universities and the Institut für deutsche Sprache in Mannheim. His work on the Linguistic Atlas of Kansas German Dialects (LAKGD) is now archived as part of KU ScholarWorks.

He is the recipient of German-American collaborative research grants from the American Council of Learned Societies and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). Since 1981, he has served as editor of the Yearbook of German-American Studies and, since 1986, as a member of the executive committee of the Society for German-American Studies.

Publications include co-edited books German Emigration from Bukovina to the Americas (1996) with Kurt Rein (University of Munich) and German Language Varieties Worldwide: Internal and External Perspectives (2003) with Klaus Mattheier (University of Heidelberg) as well as and a number of articles treating Hannoverian Low German, German-Bohemian and Mennonite Low German dialects in Kansas and Missouri as well as the settlement history of Pennsylvania Germans in Kansas. His edited work on The Volga Germans of West Central Kansas was published in 2004.

He has been active in the Kansas Association of Teachers of German for a number of years, serving on the executive committee from 1994-97 and again from 2004-07. Since 1989, he has lectured in numerous communities in the region as a member of the Speakers' Bureau of the Kansas Humanities Council. Keel is the recipient of the Verdienstkreuz am Bande of the Federal Republic of Germany (1999) for his contributions to German-American educational and cultural exchanges. The KU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences honored him with the Steeples Award for Outstanding Service to Kansans in 2006. From 1990 to 2011 he chaired the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures.


Ph.D. in Germanic Linguistics, Indiana University, 1977


Professor Keel teaches courses on German settlements and dialects in Kansas with the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and collaborates with KU ScholarWorks on “German Dialect Recordings from Kansas and Missouri.” He edits the Yearbook of German-American Studies and chairs Sister Cities Lawrence.

Selected Publications

Keel, William D. “Deutsche Sprachinseln in Den USA.” Book Chapters. In Handbuch Der Deutschen Sprachminderheiten in Übersee, edited by Claudia Riehl and Albrecht Plewnia. Tübingen, Germany: Gunter Narr Verlag, 2018.

Keel, William, ed. Yearbook of German-American Studies. Books. Yearbook of German-American Studies. Vol. 51. Society for German-American Studies, 2017.

Keel, William D. “‘From Refugee of 1848 to American Superpatriot: “Colonel” Fred Buehrle--the Official Cannoneer of the State of Missouri.’” Journal Articles. Yearbook of German-American Studies 51 (2016) 51 (May 30, 2017): 109–34.

Keel, William. “‘Modelling the Dynamics of Intergenerational Assimilation to a Dominant Contact Language (American English) in  German Linguistic Enclaves on the Great Plains.’ .” Book Chapters. In Gegenwärtige Sprachkontakte Im Kontext Der Migration, edited by Stefaniya Ptashnyk. Heidelberg, Germany: Winter, 2016.

Keel, William D. “‘Noun Phrase Case Shift in Volga German Varieties on the Great Plains of Kansas.’” Book Chapters. In Heritage Languages in the Americas: Theoretical Perspectives and Empirical Findings, edited by Richard Page and Michael Putnam. The Netherlands/USA: Brill, 2015.

Keel, William D. “Deutsche Sprache--Deutsche Dialekte in Colorado: Siedlungsgeschichte Und Restsprachinseln.” Book Chapters. In Sprachminderheit, Identität Und Sprachbiographie, edited by Günther Koch, 27–44. Regensburg, Germany: Edition Vulpes, 2013.

Keel, William D. “Models of Linguistic Accommodation and Assimilation in German Dialect Enclaves in Kansas.” Book Chapters. In Kontaktvarietäten Des Deutschen Synchron Und Diachron, edited by Elisabeth Knipf-Komlósi and Claudia Riehl, 17–36. Vienna, Austria: Praesens Verlag, 2012.

Keel, William D. “Pesth Am Beaver Creek: Geschichte Der Ungarndeutschen Sprachinsel Im Nordwesten von Kansas/USA.” Book Chapters. In Deutsch Grenzenlos: Festschrift Für Elisabeth Knipf Zum 60. Geburtstag, edited by Rita Brdar-Szabó , 190–99. Budapest: ELTE Germanistisches Institut, 2012.

Keel, William D. “An 1857 Version of the Schnitzelbank-Song from Basel, Switzerland.” Book Chapters. In The Language and Culture of the Pennsylvania Germans: A Festschrift for Earl C. Haag, edited by C. Richard Beam and William D. Keel, 175–96. Lawrence, KS: The Society for German-American Studies, 2010.

Keel, William. “Comparing Intergenerational Assimilation to American English in Several German Varietal Enclaves from the Ozarks Mountains of Missouri to the High Plains of Kansas.” Book Chapters. In German Abroad 2, Accepted/In Press.

Keel, William. “The West Germanic Dialect Continuum.” Book Chapters. In The Cambridge Handbook of Germanic Linguistics, edited by Michael Putnam and Richard Page, Accepted/In Press.

Keel, William. “Victoria (Herzog) Variety of Volga German in Ellis County, Kansas.” Book Chapters. In Varieties of German World-Wide, edited by Mark Louden, Hans Boas, Peter Maitz, and Ana Deumert, Accepted/In Press.

Selected Presentations

Keel, W. (10/21/2017). "Hurrah, Frei Kansas!” Germans and the Struggle Against Slavery in Kansas Territory. German-American History Talk and Gallery Tour, Watkins History Museum. Lawrence, Kansas

Keel, W. (4/21/2017). Variations on a Schnitzelbank: 100 Years of Schnitzelbank Songs in German-American and American Popular Culture. 41st Annual Symposium of the Society for German-American Studies. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Keel, W. (2/18/2017). Deitsch, Däätsch, Düütsch and Dietsch: Varieties of German in Kansas. Bluestem Language Symposium. Kansas State University

Keel, W. (11/3/2016). "Comparing Intergenerational Assimilation to American English in Several German Varietal Enclaves from the Ozark Mountains of Missouri to the High Plains of Kansas". German Abroad 2. University of Texas Austin

Keel, W. (9/11/2015). The Upper Saxon Variety of German in the Lutheran Communities of East Perry County, Missouri: Survival of an Immigrant Language in the Rural Ozark Mountains. 5th Congress of the International Society for the Dialectology of German. University of Luxembourg

Keel, W. D. (3/1/2014). Deitsch, Däätsch, Düütsch, Dietsch: Transplanted Varieties of German on the Great Plains. 27th Annual Interdisciplinary German Studies Conference, Department of German, University of Californina-Berkeley. University of California-Berkeley

Keel, W. (5/10/2013). “Die Schnitzelbank oder Kunstmaler Klexel: From the Repertoire of the Deutsche Gesellschaft in New Orleans”. 37th Annual Symposium of the Society for German-American Studies. New Orleans, LA

Awards & Honors

Outstanding Achievement Award
Society for German-American Studies

Steeples Service to Kansans Award
University of Kansas

Duden Award in Recognition of Outstanding Effort and Achievement in German Instruction
American Association of Teachers of German and the Bibliographisches Institut, Mannheim, Germany

Verdienstkreuz am Bande der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany)

Excellence in Teaching
Center for Teaching Excellence, University of Kansas

Mortar Board Outstanding Educator
University of Kansas