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Gothic

 
The oldest Germanic language preserved is Gothic, belonging to the East-Germanic branch of Indo-European languages. It had been spoken by the people of the Goths, who probably settled southern Sweden in the first century AD, soon migrated to the Weichsel mouth area around Gdansk supposedly due to environmental catastrophes on Swedish coasts, and then arrived near the Black Sea in the third century.

The East Germanic branch of Indo-European languages

The Goths were a people always on the move, occupying Rome in 410 under King Alarich, and founding empires in Italy, southern France, and Spain thereafter. They called themselves `Gut
■iuda`, i.e. Gothic people (cf. Go. ■iuda with New High German deutsch).

Gothic texts appear around 400 years earlier than any other Germanic-language documents. Most of the Gothic language has been preserved in a Bible translation of Wulfila, a West Gothic Arian bishop living around 311 to 383 in today's eastern Bulgaria. Wulfila's Bible translation has survived in the Codex Argenteus, made in the 6th century in Italy with parts written in golden letters. Other important handwritings in Gothic language are the Codex Ambrosianus with Corinthians etc., and the Skeireins (`explanation`) on the Gospel of John.

Linguistically, the Wulfila Bible features a highly-standardized - some call it artificial - form of Gothic, and is a trove for researchers because Gothic is very archaic Germanic lacking many developments found in younger Germanic dialects.

The last Gothic text originated in the Alps in the 9th or 10th century
. A latecomer is a list of 86 Crimean Gothic words compiled in 1562 by Flemish Ogier Ghislain de Busbecq. de Busbecq was an ambassador to the Turkish sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, and when visiting the Crimea, interviewed two speakers of Crimean Gothic, a language which soon vanished thereafter.

The Gothic alphabet
The Gothic alphabet as designed by Wulfila. It had soon became the only
standard for Gothic-language documents and was used unchanged over centuries.



Main characteristics

Some of the features of the Gothic language are:
  • The only tenses are present and preterite.
  • Nouns appear in three genders (masculine, feminine, neuter) and have five cases (nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, vocative).
  • Germanic n preceding the fricatives f, ■, s is kept from Proto-Germanic, as in uns (cf. Old High German uns, but Old Saxon űs).
  • Germanic final [z] is preserved, as in weis (but Old English: ).
  • The inflected passive and the third-person imperative are retained from Proto-Germanic.
  • Dual forms known from other ancient Indo-European languages exist in the first and second person: wit witu (we both know), jut wituts (you both know).
  • Some forms of strong verbs keep reduplication in the preterite, e.g. present tense: ik haita Alex (I am called Alex), preterite: ik haÝhait Alex, (I was called Alex).
  • Gothic verbs have three distinct forms in the plural, whereas other languages emerging some centuries later only have one (e.g. Old Saxon, West Saxon).
  • Some infinitives have endings in -nan and -jan.

Pronunciation


Phoneme Pronunciation Equivalent in English
/e/ (short [e]), if followed by r, h, hv like /e/ in `egg`
ßi /ai/ like /ai/ in `to hide`
ai uncertain: /ai/, if not followed by r, h, hv; or /e:/ like /ai/ in `to hide`
air, aih /er/, /eh/ if followed by r, h, hv like /er/ in `hair`; no example yet
au /au/ if not followed by r or h like /au/ in `how`
a˙r /or/ like /or/ in `forth`
a˙h /o:/ no example yet
ei /i:/ like /i:/ in `to deem`
g when occuring finally or before final s or t: [x];
when not occuring before g, k, q: [g], i.e. a voiced [x].
(There seems to be no phoneme [g] like in New English `goose`.)
like /x/ in New High German `ach`;
like [g] in Low German /zachen/ for the German verb `sagen`.
gg /ng/ like /ng/ in `to hang`
gk, gq /nk/, /nkw/ like /nk/ in `to think`; no example yet
h in front of consonants and if final -h: /x/, else /h/ like /x/ in New High German `ach`
hw /hw/ like /hw/ in `what`
iu /iu/; unlikely: [oi] like /iu/ in `cute`
j /j/ like /j/ in `yes`
q /kw/ like /kw/ in `quantum`
s /s/ like /s/ like in `sun`
/th/ like /th/ in `thorn`
z /z/ like in `to zip`

Stress usually is on the first syllable.


Some prose

The characters in the `Pronunciation` lines in the following text have the following meaning:

character meaning
colon after a vowel indicates a long vowel
th is /th/ like in `thorn`
j is /j/ like in `you`
ai is /ai/ like in `fine`

Gothic In dagam Hŕr˘dis ■iudanis qŕmum I˘sŕf jah Maria in Bŕ■lahaÝm.
Pronunciation In dagam He:ro:dis thjudanis kwe:mum Jo:se:f ja: Maria in Be:thlahe:m
Translation In the days of King Herodis came Joseph and Maria to Bethlehem.



Gothic Jah jßinar gabar Maria Iŕsu.
Pronunciation Ja: jainar gabar Maria Ie:su
Translation And there Maria gave birth to Jesus.



Gothic Jah haÝrdjos wŕsun jßinar ana akra.
Pronunciation Ja: herdjos we:sun jainar ana akra
Translation And herdsmen were there upon the field.



Gothic Jah sßi aggilus qam us himina.
Pronunciation Ja: sai angilus kwam us himina
Translation And (the) angel came from (the) heavens.



Gothic Jah qa■ sa aggilus du ■ßim haÝrdjam ana ■ama akra:
Pronunciation Ja: kwath sa angilus du thaim herdjam ana thama akra
Translation And spoke the angel to the herdsman upon the field:



Gothic haÝrdjos sßi gaba˙rans ist himma daga Xristus in Bŕ■lahaÝm.
Pronunciation Herdjos sai gabo:rans ist himma daga Kristus in Be:thlahe:m
Translation Herdsmen ! Born is today Christ in Bethlehem.



Gothic Sßi sa ist ■iudans himinis jah ■iudans ■iudanŕ.
Pronunciation Sai sa ist thjudans himinis ja: thjudans thjudane:
Translation (..) He is the king of heavens and the king of kings.


Strong verb forms



wisan kunnan witan niman baÝran
Present tense
indicative
Pronouns sein
to be
kennen
`can`
wissen
to know
nehmen
to take
tragen
to carry,
to bear
1. Ps. Sg. ik im kann wait nima baÝra
2. Ps. Sg. ■u is kannt waist nimis baÝris
3. Ps. Sg. is/sa; si; ita ist kann nimi■ baÝri■
1. Ps. Pl. weis sijum kunnum witum nimam baÝram
2. Ps. Pl. jus siju■ kunnu■ witu■ nimi■ baÝri■
3. Ps. Pl. eis sind kunnun witun nimand baÝrand
1. Dual (`we both`) wit siju kunnu witu nimos baÝros
2. Dual (`you both`) jut *sijuts kunnuts wituts nimats baÝrats







Preterite indicative Pronouns





1. Ps. Sg. ik was kun■a wissa
bar
2. Ps. Sg. ■u wast kun■es wisses nim bart
3. Ps. Sg. is/sa; si; ita was kun■a wissa nimadau bar
1. Ps. Pl. weis wŕsum kun■edum wissedum nimam berum
2. Ps. Pl. jus wŕsu■ kun■edu■ wissedu■ nimi■ beru■
3. Ps. Pl. eis wűsun kun■edun wissedun nimandau berun
1. Dual (`we both`) wit wŕsu kun■edu wissedu
beru
2. Dual (`you both`) jut wŕsuts kun■eduts wisseduts
beruts


Weak verb forms



nasjan salbon haban fullnan
Present tens
indicative
Pronouns retten
to save
salben
to anoint
haben
to have
fŘllen
to fill
1. Ps. Sg. ik nasja salb˘ haba fullna
2. Ps. Sg. ■u nasjis salb˘s habais fullnis
3. Ps. Sg. is/sa; si; ita nasjÝ■ salb˘■ habai■ fullni■
1. Ps. Pl. weis nasjam salb˘m habam fullnam
2. Ps. Pl. jus nasji■ salbo■ habai■ fullni■
3. Ps. Pl. eis nasjand salb˘nd haband fullnand
1. Dual (`we both`) wit nasj˘s salb˘s hab˘s fulln˘s
2. Dual (`you both`) jut nasjats salb˘ts habats fullnats






Prńteritum Indikativ Pronouns



1. Ps. Sg. ik nasida salb˘da habaida fulln˘da
2. Ps. Sg. ■u nasidŕs salb˘dŕs habaidŕs fulln˘dŕs
3. Ps. Sg. is/sa; si; ita nasida salb˘da habaida fulln˘da
1. Ps. Pl. weis nasidedum salb˘dŕdum habaidŕdum fulln˘dŕdum
2. Ps. Pl. jus nasidedu■ salb˘dŕdu■ habaidŕdu■ fulln˘dŕdu■
3. Ps. Pl. eis nasidŕdun salb˘dŕdun habaidŕdun fulln˘dŕdun
1. Dual (`we both`) wit nasidŕdu salb˘dŕdu habaidŕdu fulln˘dŕdu
2. Dual (`you both`) jut nasidŕduts salb˘dŕduts habaidŕduts fulln˘dŕduts


269 words of Gothic

This list is also available in Excel 97 file format: gothicwordlist.xls. An asterisk in front of a word means that it has not been found in writings, but has been reconstructed with a high certainty to be the actual Gothic expression.

English New High German Gothic
age Alter aldr
allow erlauben uslaubjan
and und uh, i■, jah
apple Apfel apel
ask fragen fraÝhnan
ask bitten bidjan
axe Axt aqizi
barley Gerste baris
be sein wisan
be called hei▀en haitan
be happy, be glad freuen faginon, gifehan
be of use nŘtzen botjan, dugan
become werden waÝr■an
begin beginnen duginnan
big gro▀ aÝrmans, mikils, mera, mereis, mikilaba
birch Birke *bairka
bird Vogel fugls
black schwarz swarts
blue blau *blews
bread Brot hlaifs
bright hell baÝrhts, liuhts
bring bringen briggan, gataujan
brother Bruder bro■ar
brown braun bruns
but aber ak, auk, i■
buy kaufen kaupon, bugjan
can k÷nnen (magan)
carry tragen baÝran, dragan
choose wńhlen kiusan, waljan
cloud Wolke milhma
coal Kohle ha˙ri
cold kalt kalds
come kommen qiman
comfort Trost trausti
cook kochen *siudan
cow Kuh kalbo
dark dunkel riqizeins
daughter Tochter da˙htar
day Tag dags
deem dŘnken ■ugkjan
die, starve sterben gadau■nan, gaswiltan
do tun taujan
dog Hund hunds
door TŘr da˙ro
drink trinken drigkan
ear Ohr auso
earth Erde aÝr■a
east Osten austra, urruns
eat essen itan
edge Kante b˘ta
eight acht ahtau
eighty achtzig ahtautŕhund
eleven elf ainlif
empire Reich reiki
end Ende andeis
enemy Feind fijands
escape Flucht ■lauhs
every jeder ainshun, alls, harjizuh
evil Řbel ubils
eye Auge augo
faithful, loyal treu triggws
false falsch galiug
fame, glory Ruhm doms, hroms, hro■, hoftuli
family Familie gards
fare fahren faran
fast schnell adrs, snills, sniums, sprauto
father Vater fadar, atta
feel fŘhlen tekan, attekan
field Feld ful■, hai■i
fifteen fŘnfzehn fimftaÝhun
fifty fŘnfzig fimf tigjus
find finden fin■an
fire Feuer f˘n
fish Fisch fisks
five fŘnf fimf
flood Flut flodus, garunjo
flower Blume bl˘ma
fog Nebel *nibls
foot Fu▀ fotus
forty vierzig fidwor tigjus
four vier fidwor
fourteen vierzehn fidwortaÝhun
Friday Freitag pareinsdags
friend Freund frijonds
gift Gabe fragifts, giba
give geben giban
go gehen akan, faran, gaggan, galei■an
god Gott gu■
gold Gold gul■
golden golden gul■eins
good gut gods, go■s
grab ergreifen greipan, dissitan, gafahan
green grŘn groneis
grey grau grews, *greiseis
hair Haar (Kopfhaar) tagl
hand Hand handus
happy froh fagins, fahs, fraus, gails, glad, swegns, wizneigs
have haben haban
he er his, is
head Kopf hßubi■
head Haupt haubi■
hear h÷ren hausjan
heart Herz hairto
heat Hitze heito
heaven Himmel himins
help helfen hilpan
hit, strike schlagen slahan
hold halten haldan
holy heilig hailags
honor Ehre aiza, hauheins, swerei, sweri■a
hope Hoffnung lubains, wens
hope hoffen luban, wenjan
horse Pferd marhs
hundred hundert hund, taÝhuntŕhund
hunger Hunger huhrus
hurry Eile snium-?
I ich ik
if wenn (falls) jabai
iron Eisen eisarn
it es ita, hita
king K÷nig ■iudans
know kennen kunnan
know wissen witan
lamp, light Leuchte lukarn, skeima
land Land land
language Sprache razda
leather Leder fill
left links hleiduma
let lassen letan
let go (of) loslassen galausjan
lie liegen ligan
light Licht liuha■
light leuchten liuhtjan
lightning Blitz lauhmuni
little klein leitils, smals
live leben liban
load, burden Last ba˙r■ei, ka˙rei, kauri■a
love lieben frijon
make machen waurkjan, taujan
make schaffen gaskapjan, skapjan
man Mann manna, waÝr, guma
may dŘrfen ■a˙rban, gadaursan
milk Milch miluks
money Geld skatts
month Monat meno■s
moon Mond mena
mother Mutter ai■ei
mountain Berg faÝrgun, faÝrguni
name Name namo
need bedŘrfen ■a˙rban
neighbor Nachbar garazna
night Nacht nahts
nine neun niun
ninety neunzig niuntŕhund
no kein nih
north Norden naur-
old alt al■eis
one eins ains
or oder aÝ■■au
ore Erz aiz
own, have besitzen anahaban, haban
ox Ochse auhsa
pig Schwein swein
plough, plow Pflug plogs
rain Regen rign
ready bereit arus, funs, gamanwi■s, manwuba, skafts
red rot rau■s
remember sich erinnern gamunan, sik and■agkjan, gamaudjan
request Bitte bida
right rechts taihswa
river Flu▀ ahva, runs
rye Roggen rugi
salt Salz salt
Saturday Samstag sabbato
say sagen qi■an
sea See saiws
sea Meer marei
search suchen sokjan
secret geheim analaugniba, ana-lßugns, fulgins
see sehen saÝhvan
seven sieben sibun
seventy siebzig sibuntŕhund
shall sollen skal
she sie (Sg) si
sheep Schaf lamb
ship Schiff skip
shovel Schaufel ska˙ro
show zeigen teihan
silver Silber silubr
sin SŘnde ■lauhs
sister Schwester swistar
sit sitzen sitan
six sechs saÝhs
sixty sechszig saÝhs tigjus
sleep schlafen slepan
snow Schnee snaiws
son Sohn sunus
soul Seele saiwala
south SŘden sun■-
speak sprechen aikan, qi■an, rodjan
spear Speer asks, gails, gais
speech Rede ra■jo
spring Quelle brunna
stand stehen standan
star Stern staÝrn˘
stone Stein stains
street Stra▀e gatw˘, plabja
strong stark abrs, mahteigs, starks, mikils
such solch swaleiks
to be suited, be of use taugen dugan
summer Sommer asans
sun Sonne sunno, sßuil
Sunday Sonntag fraujins-dags
take nehmen niman
tell erzńhlen qi■an, gateihan
ten zehn taÝhun
thank danken ■agks
they sie (Pl) eis
think denken ■agkjan
thirst Durst ■a˙rstei
thirty drei▀ig *■reis tigjus
thousand tausend ■űsundi
three drei ■reis, ■rija (neuter)
through durch ■airh
thunder Donner ■eihvo
Thursday Donnerstag paintedags
time Zeit aiws, mel, ■eihs
today heute himma daga
token Zeichen taikn
tomorrow morgen du maurgina, gistradagis [!]
tree Baum bagms
true wahr wereis, sunjeins
Tuesday Dienstag areinsdags
twelve zw÷lf twalif
twenty zwanzig twai tigjus
two zwei twai
venture, risk, dare wagen nan■jan, ananan■jan, bal■jan, gada˙rsan
village Dorf haims, weihs
wait warten wenjan
want wollen wiljan
warm warm warms
water Wasser wato
we wir weis
weak schwach unmahteigs, gamßi■s
week Woche wiko
west Westen wist, wistr, saggqs
what was hvas
wheat Weizen hvaiteis
when wann hvan
white wei▀ hveits
who wer hvas
why warum duhve
wind Wind winds
window Fenster augadauro
wine Wein wein
winter Winter wintrus
with mit mi■
woman Frau qino, qens (ne. wife)
wood Wald waldus, widus
wood Holz triu, widus
wool Wolle wulla
word Wort wa˙rd
world Welt faÝrhvus
write schreiben gameljan
yellow gelb falws-
yesterday gestern faura-dagis
you ihr (Pl) jus
you du ■u
young jung juggs


Gothic and its sister languages

The close relationship of Gothic with other Indo-European languages can be shown nicely with the verb `baÝran` to carry, to bear.



Gothic Old English Old High German Sanskrit Vedic Latin
infinitive baÝran beran, beoran beran bhr- bhara- ferre
present tense ind.





1. Ps. Sg. baÝra bere, beore biru bharami bhßrÔmi fero
2. Ps. Sg. baÝris birest, birst birist bharasi bhßrasi fers
3. Ps. Sg. baÝri■ bire■, bir■ birit bharati bhßrati fert
1. Ps. Pl. baÝram bera■ berem, beremes bharamah bhßrÔmas(-i) ferimus
2. Ps. Pl. baÝri■ bera■ beret bharatha bhßratha fertis
3. Ps. Pl. baÝrand bera■ berent bharanti bhßranti ferunt
1. Dual (`we both`) baÝros

bharavah

2. Dual (`you both`) baÝrats

bharathah

preterite ind.
1. Ps. Sg. bar bŠr bar abharam ßbharam ferebam
2. Ps. Sg. bart bŠre bari abharah ßbharas ferebas
3. Ps. Sg. bar bŠr bam abharat ßbharat ferebat
1. Ps. Pl. berum bŠron bÔrum, barumŕs abharama ßbharÔma ferebamus
2. Ps. Pl. beru■ bŠron barut abharata ßbharata ferebatis
3. Ps. Pl. berun bŠron barun abharan ßbharan ferebant
1. Dual (`we both`) beru

abharava

2. Dual (`you both`) beruts

abharatam



Further reading
  • An introduction to the Gothic language, by William H. Bennett, 1980 The Modern Language Association of America, ISBN 0-87352-295-8
  • Gotisches Elementarbuch, by Wolfgang Binnig, 1999, 5th ed. de Gruyter, ISBN 3-11-014932 X
  • Gotisches etymologisches W÷rterbuch, by Ferdinand Holthausen, 1934, 2002 Universitńtsverlag C. Winter Heidelberg, ISBN 3-8253-1374-3
  • The Ancient Languages of Europe, by Roger D. Woodard (ed.), 2008 Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-521-68495-8
  • Nominale Wortbildung der gotischen Sprache, by Antje Casaretto, 2004 Universitńtsverlag C. Winter Heidelberg, ISBN 3-8253-1663-7
  • Gotische Syntax, by Wilhelm Streitberg, 1981 Universitńtsverlag C. Winter Heidelberg, ISBN 3-533-02984-0
  • Die Gotische Bibel, Band 2: Gotisch-Griechisch-Deutsches W÷rterbuch, by Wilhelm Streitberg, 6th. ed., 2000 Universitńtsverlag C. Winter Heidelberg, ISBN 3-8253-0746-8
  • Gotische Texte, by Richard von Kienle, 1948 Universitńtsverlag C. Winter Heidelberg, Lizenz USĚWĚ1007
  • Gotische Grammatik, by Wilhelm Braune / Frank Heidermanns, 2004 Max Niemeyer Verlag TŘbingen, ISBN 3-484-10850-9
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