Gothic language
Overview
 
Words in Gothic written in this article are transliterated
Transliteration
Transliteration is a subset of the science of hermeneutics. It is a form of translation, and is the practice of converting a text from one script into another...

 into the Roman alphabet using the system described on the Gothic alphabet
Gothic alphabet
The Gothic alphabet is an alphabet for writing the Gothic language, created in the 4th century by Ulfilas for the purpose of translating the Christian Bible....

 page.


Gothic is an extinct
Extinct language
An extinct language is a language that no longer has any speakers., or that is no longer in current use. Extinct languages are sometimes contrasted with dead languages, which are still known and used in special contexts in written form, but not as ordinary spoken languages for everyday communication...

 Germanic language that was spoken by the Goths
Goths
The Goths were an East Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin whose two branches, the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths, played an important role in the fall of the Roman Empire and the emergence of Medieval Europe....

. It is known primarily from the Codex Argenteus
Codex Argenteus
The Codex Argenteus, "Silver Book", is a 6th century manuscript, originally containing bishop Ulfilas's 4th century translation of the Bible into the Gothic language. Of the original 336 folios, 188—including the Speyer fragment discovered in 1970—have been preserved, containing the...

, a 6th-century copy of a 4th-century Bible translation, and is the only East Germanic language
East Germanic languages
The East Germanic languages are a group of extinct Indo-European languages in the Germanic family. The only East Germanic language of which texts are known is Gothic; other languages that are assumed to be East Germanic include Vandalic, Burgundian, and Crimean Gothic...

 with a sizable Text corpus
Text corpus
In linguistics, a corpus or text corpus is a large and structured set of texts...

. All others, including Burgundian
Burgundian language (Germanic)
The Burgundian language is an extinct East Germanic language, spoken by the Burgundians in the 4th and 5th centuries.Little is known of the language...

 and Vandalic
Vandalic language
Vandalic was a Germanic language probably closely related to Gothic. The Vandals, Hasdingi and Silingi established themselves in Gallaecia and in Southern Spain, following other Germanic and non-Germanic peoples , before moving to North Africa in AD 429.Very little is known about the Vandalic...

, are known, if at all, only from proper names that survived in historical accounts, and from loan-words in other languages such as Portuguese
Portuguese language
Portuguese is a Romance language that arose in the medieval Kingdom of Galicia, nowadays Galicia and Northern Portugal. The southern part of the Kingdom of Galicia became independent as the County of Portugal in 1095...

, Spanish
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

 and French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

.

As a Germanic language, Gothic is a part of the Indo-European language
Indo-European languages
The Indo-European languages are a family of several hundred related languages and dialects, including most major current languages of Europe, the Iranian plateau, and South Asia and also historically predominant in Anatolia...

 family.
Encyclopedia
Words in Gothic written in this article are transliterated
Transliteration
Transliteration is a subset of the science of hermeneutics. It is a form of translation, and is the practice of converting a text from one script into another...

 into the Roman alphabet using the system described on the Gothic alphabet
Gothic alphabet
The Gothic alphabet is an alphabet for writing the Gothic language, created in the 4th century by Ulfilas for the purpose of translating the Christian Bible....

 page.


Gothic is an extinct
Extinct language
An extinct language is a language that no longer has any speakers., or that is no longer in current use. Extinct languages are sometimes contrasted with dead languages, which are still known and used in special contexts in written form, but not as ordinary spoken languages for everyday communication...

 Germanic language that was spoken by the Goths
Goths
The Goths were an East Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin whose two branches, the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths, played an important role in the fall of the Roman Empire and the emergence of Medieval Europe....

. It is known primarily from the Codex Argenteus
Codex Argenteus
The Codex Argenteus, "Silver Book", is a 6th century manuscript, originally containing bishop Ulfilas's 4th century translation of the Bible into the Gothic language. Of the original 336 folios, 188—including the Speyer fragment discovered in 1970—have been preserved, containing the...

, a 6th-century copy of a 4th-century Bible translation, and is the only East Germanic language
East Germanic languages
The East Germanic languages are a group of extinct Indo-European languages in the Germanic family. The only East Germanic language of which texts are known is Gothic; other languages that are assumed to be East Germanic include Vandalic, Burgundian, and Crimean Gothic...

 with a sizable Text corpus
Text corpus
In linguistics, a corpus or text corpus is a large and structured set of texts...

. All others, including Burgundian
Burgundian language (Germanic)
The Burgundian language is an extinct East Germanic language, spoken by the Burgundians in the 4th and 5th centuries.Little is known of the language...

 and Vandalic
Vandalic language
Vandalic was a Germanic language probably closely related to Gothic. The Vandals, Hasdingi and Silingi established themselves in Gallaecia and in Southern Spain, following other Germanic and non-Germanic peoples , before moving to North Africa in AD 429.Very little is known about the Vandalic...

, are known, if at all, only from proper names that survived in historical accounts, and from loan-words in other languages such as Portuguese
Portuguese language
Portuguese is a Romance language that arose in the medieval Kingdom of Galicia, nowadays Galicia and Northern Portugal. The southern part of the Kingdom of Galicia became independent as the County of Portugal in 1095...

, Spanish
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

 and French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

.

As a Germanic language, Gothic is a part of the Indo-European language
Indo-European languages
The Indo-European languages are a family of several hundred related languages and dialects, including most major current languages of Europe, the Iranian plateau, and South Asia and also historically predominant in Anatolia...

 family. It is the earliest Germanic language that is attested in any sizable texts, but lacks any modern descendants. The oldest documents in Gothic date back to the 4th century. The language was in decline by the mid-6th century, due, in part, to the military defeat of the Goths at the hands of the Franks
Franks
The Franks were a confederation of Germanic tribes first attested in the third century AD as living north and east of the Lower Rhine River. From the third to fifth centuries some Franks raided Roman territory while other Franks joined the Roman troops in Gaul. Only the Salian Franks formed a...

, the elimination of the Goths in Italy, and geographic isolation (in Spain the Gothic language lost its last and probably already declining function as a church language when the Visigoths converted to Catholicism in 589). The language survived as a domestic language in the Iberian peninsula
Iberian Peninsula
The Iberian Peninsula , sometimes called Iberia, is located in the extreme southwest of Europe and includes the modern-day sovereign states of Spain, Portugal and Andorra, as well as the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar...

 (modern Spain and Portugal) as late as the 8th century, and Frankish
Franks
The Franks were a confederation of Germanic tribes first attested in the third century AD as living north and east of the Lower Rhine River. From the third to fifth centuries some Franks raided Roman territory while other Franks joined the Roman troops in Gaul. Only the Salian Franks formed a...

 author Walafrid Strabo
Walafrid Strabo
Walafrid, alternatively spelt Walahfrid, surnamed Strabo , was a Frankish monk and theological writer.-Theological works:...

 wrote that it was still spoken in the lower Danube
Danube
The Danube is a river in the Central Europe and the Europe's second longest river after the Volga. It is classified as an international waterway....

 area and in isolated mountain regions in Crimea
Crimea
Crimea , or the Autonomous Republic of Crimea , is a sub-national unit, an autonomous republic, of Ukraine. It is located on the northern coast of the Black Sea, occupying a peninsula of the same name...

 in the early 9th century (see Crimean Gothic). Gothic-seeming terms found in later (post-9th century) manuscripts may not belong to the same language.

The existence of such early attested corpora makes it a language of considerable interest in comparative linguistics
Comparative linguistics
Comparative linguistics is a branch of historical linguistics that is concerned with comparing languages to establish their historical relatedness....

.

History and evidence

There are only a few surviving documents in Gothic, not enough to completely reconstruct the language. This is especially true considering that most Gothic corpora are translations or glosses of other languages (namely, Greek), so that foreign linguistic elements most certainly influenced the texts.
  • The largest body of surviving documentation consists of codices written and commissioned by the Arian
    Arianism
    Arianism is the theological teaching attributed to Arius , a Christian presbyter from Alexandria, Egypt, concerning the relationship of the entities of the Trinity and the precise nature of the Son of God as being a subordinate entity to God the Father...

     bishop Ulfilas
    Ulfilas
    Ulfilas, or Gothic Wulfila , bishop, missionary, and Bible translator, was a Goth or half-Goth and half-Greek from Cappadocia who had spent time inside the Roman Empire at the peak of the Arian controversy. Ulfilas was ordained a bishop by Eusebius of Nicomedia and returned to his people to work...

     (also known as Wulfila, 311-382), who was the leader of a community of Visigothic Christian
    Christianity
    Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

    s in the Roman
    Roman Empire
    The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

     province of Moesia
    Moesia
    Moesia was an ancient region and later Roman province situated in the Balkans, along the south bank of the Danube River. It included territories of modern-day Southern Serbia , Northern Republic of Macedonia, Northern Bulgaria, Romanian Dobrudja, Southern Moldova, and Budjak .-History:In ancient...

     (modern Bulgaria
    Bulgaria
    Bulgaria , officially the Republic of Bulgaria , is a parliamentary democracy within a unitary constitutional republic in Southeast Europe. The country borders Romania to the north, Serbia and Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south, as well as the Black Sea to the east...

    /Romania
    Romania
    Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

    ). He commissioned a translation of the Greek Bible
    Greek Vulgate
    The Greek Vulgate is a version of the Bible written in Biblical Greek. It consists primarily of the Septuagint for most of the Old Testament with the version of Theodotion used for the book of Daniel. For the New Testament it consists of the Greek text, typically the Majority or Byzantine Text...

     into the Gothic language, of which roughly three-quarters of the New Testament
    New Testament
    The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

     and some fragments of the Old Testament
    Old Testament
    The Old Testament, of which Christians hold different views, is a Christian term for the religious writings of ancient Israel held sacred and inspired by Christians which overlaps with the 24-book canon of the Masoretic Text of Judaism...

     have survived.
  • Codex Argenteus
    Codex Argenteus
    The Codex Argenteus, "Silver Book", is a 6th century manuscript, originally containing bishop Ulfilas's 4th century translation of the Bible into the Gothic language. Of the original 336 folios, 188—including the Speyer fragment discovered in 1970—have been preserved, containing the...

     (Uppsala
    Uppsala
    - Economy :Today Uppsala is well established in medical research and recognized for its leading position in biotechnology.*Abbott Medical Optics *GE Healthcare*Pfizer *Phadia, an offshoot of Pharmacia*Fresenius*Q-Med...

    ) (and the Speyer fragment): 188 leaves.
The best preserved Gothic manuscript, the Codex Argenteus
Codex Argenteus
The Codex Argenteus, "Silver Book", is a 6th century manuscript, originally containing bishop Ulfilas's 4th century translation of the Bible into the Gothic language. Of the original 336 folios, 188—including the Speyer fragment discovered in 1970—have been preserved, containing the...

, dates from the 6th century and was preserved and transmitted by northern Ostrogoths in modern Italy. It contains a large part of the four Gospel
Gospel
A gospel is an account, often written, that describes the life of Jesus of Nazareth. In a more general sense the term "gospel" may refer to the good news message of the New Testament. It is primarily used in reference to the four canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John...

s. Since it is a translation from Greek, the language of the Codex Argenteus is replete with borrowed Greek words and Greek usages. The syntax in particular is often copied directly from the Greek.
  • Codex Ambrosianus
    Codex Ambrosianus
    The Codex Ambrosianus refers to five manuscripts, c. 6th-11th century CE, written by different hands and in different alphabets. The codices contain scattered passages from the Old Testament and the New Testament , as well as some commentaries known as Skeireins...

     (Milan
    Milan
    Milan is the second-largest city in Italy and the capital city of the region of Lombardy and of the province of Milan. The city proper has a population of about 1.3 million, while its urban area, roughly coinciding with its administrative province and the bordering Province of Monza and Brianza ,...

    ) (and the Codex Taurinensis): Five parts, totaling 193 leaves.
The Codex Ambrosianus contains scattered passages from the New Testament (including parts of the Gospel
Gospel
A gospel is an account, often written, that describes the life of Jesus of Nazareth. In a more general sense the term "gospel" may refer to the good news message of the New Testament. It is primarily used in reference to the four canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John...

s and the Epistle
Epistle
An epistle is a writing directed or sent to a person or group of people, usually an elegant and formal didactic letter. The epistle genre of letter-writing was common in ancient Egypt as part of the scribal-school writing curriculum. The letters in the New Testament from Apostles to Christians...

s), of the Old Testament
Old Testament
The Old Testament, of which Christians hold different views, is a Christian term for the religious writings of ancient Israel held sacred and inspired by Christians which overlaps with the 24-book canon of the Masoretic Text of Judaism...

 (Nehemiah
Book of Nehemiah
The Book of Nehemiah is a book of the Hebrew Bible. Told largely in the form of a first-person memoir, it concerns the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem by Nehemiah, a Jew who is a high official at the Persian court, and the dedication of the city and its people to God's laws...

), and some commentaries known as Skeireins
Skeireins
The Skeireins is the longest and most important monument of the Gothic language after Ulfilas' version of the Bible. It is notable for being the only preserved Gothic text of substantial length that has not been translated from another language, but was written directly in Gothic by a native speaker...

. It is therefore likely that the text had been somewhat modified by copyists.
  • Codex Gissensis (Gießen
    Gießen
    Gießen, also spelt Giessen is a town in the German federal state of Hesse, capital of both the district of Gießen and the administrative region of Gießen...

    ): 1 leaf, fragments of Luke 23-24. It was found in Egypt in 1907, but destroyed by water damage in 1945.
  • Codex Carolinus
    Codex Carolinus
    Codex Carolinus is a Gothic-Latin diglot uncial manuscript of the New Testament on parchment, dated to the 6th or 7th century. The Gothic text is designated by siglum Car, the Latin text is designated by siglum gue or by 79 , it represents the Old Latin translation of the New Testament...

    : (Wolfenbüttel
    Wolfenbüttel
    Wolfenbüttel is a town in Lower Saxony, Germany, located on the Oker river about 13 kilometres south of Brunswick. It is the seat of the District of Wolfenbüttel and of the bishop of the Protestant Lutheran State Church of Brunswick...

    ): 4 leaves, fragments of Romans 11-15.
  • Codex Vaticanus Latinus 5750: 3 leaves, pages 57/58, 59/60 and 61/62 of the Skeireins
    Skeireins
    The Skeireins is the longest and most important monument of the Gothic language after Ulfilas' version of the Bible. It is notable for being the only preserved Gothic text of substantial length that has not been translated from another language, but was written directly in Gothic by a native speaker...

    .
  • A scattering of old documents: alphabets, calendars, glosses found in a number of manuscripts and a few runic inscriptions
    Gothic runic inscriptions
    Very few Elder Futhark inscriptions in the Gothic language have been found in the territory historically settled by the Goths...

     (between 3 and 13) that are known to be or suspected to be Gothic. Some scholars believe that these inscriptions are not at all Gothic (see Braune/Ebbinghaus "Gotische Grammatik" Tübingen 1981)
  • A small dictionary of more than eighty words, and a song without translation, compiled by the Fleming Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq
    Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq
    Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq was a 16th century Flemish writer, herbalist and diplomat in the employ of three generations of Austrian monarchs...

    , the Habsburg
    Habsburg
    The House of Habsburg , also found as Hapsburg, and also known as House of Austria is one of the most important royal houses of Europe and is best known for being an origin of all of the formally elected Holy Roman Emperors between 1438 and 1740, as well as rulers of the Austrian Empire and...

     ambassador to the court of the Ottoman Empire
    Ottoman Empire
    The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

     in Istanbul
    Istanbul
    Istanbul , historically known as Byzantium and Constantinople , is the largest city of Turkey. Istanbul metropolitan province had 13.26 million people living in it as of December, 2010, which is 18% of Turkey's population and the 3rd largest metropolitan area in Europe after London and...

     from 1555 to 1562, who was curious to find out about the language and by arrangement met two speakers of Crimean Gothic
    Crimean Gothic
    Crimean Gothic was a Gothic dialect spoken by the Crimean Goths in some isolated locations in Crimea until the late 18th century....

     and listed the terms in his compilation Turkish Letters. These terms are from nearly a millennium later and are therefore not representative of the language of Ulfilas. See Crimean Gothic
    Crimean Gothic
    Crimean Gothic was a Gothic dialect spoken by the Crimean Goths in some isolated locations in Crimea until the late 18th century....

    .


There have been unsubstantiated reports of the discovery of other parts of Ulfilas' bible. Heinrich May in 1968 claimed to have found in England 12 leaves of a palimpsest
Palimpsest
A palimpsest is a manuscript page from a scroll or book from which the text has been scraped off and which can be used again. The word "palimpsest" comes through Latin palimpsēstus from Ancient Greek παλίμψηστος originally compounded from πάλιν and ψάω literally meaning “scraped...

 containing parts of the Gospel of Matthew
Gospel of Matthew
The Gospel According to Matthew is one of the four canonical gospels, one of the three synoptic gospels, and the first book of the New Testament. It tells of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth...

. The claim was never substantiated.

Only fragments of the Gothic translation of the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 have been preserved. The translation was apparently done in the Balkans
Balkans
The Balkans is a geopolitical and cultural region of southeastern Europe...

 region by people in close contact with Greek Christian
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 culture. It appears that the Gothic Bible was used by the Visigoths in Iberia
Iberian Peninsula
The Iberian Peninsula , sometimes called Iberia, is located in the extreme southwest of Europe and includes the modern-day sovereign states of Spain, Portugal and Andorra, as well as the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar...

 until circa 700 AD, and perhaps for a time in Italy, the Balkans and what is now Ukraine. In exterminating Arianism
Arianism
Arianism is the theological teaching attributed to Arius , a Christian presbyter from Alexandria, Egypt, concerning the relationship of the entities of the Trinity and the precise nature of the Son of God as being a subordinate entity to God the Father...

, many texts in Gothic were probably expunged and overwritten as palimpsest
Palimpsest
A palimpsest is a manuscript page from a scroll or book from which the text has been scraped off and which can be used again. The word "palimpsest" comes through Latin palimpsēstus from Ancient Greek παλίμψηστος originally compounded from πάλιν and ψάω literally meaning “scraped...

s, or collected and burned. Apart from Biblical texts, the only substantial Gothic document which still exists, and the only lengthy text known to have been composed originally in the Gothic language, is the "Skeireins
Skeireins
The Skeireins is the longest and most important monument of the Gothic language after Ulfilas' version of the Bible. It is notable for being the only preserved Gothic text of substantial length that has not been translated from another language, but was written directly in Gothic by a native speaker...

", a few pages of commentary on the Gospel of John
Gospel of John
The Gospel According to John , commonly referred to as the Gospel of John or simply John, and often referred to in New Testament scholarship as the Fourth Gospel, is an account of the public ministry of Jesus...

.

There are very few references to the Gothic language in secondary sources after about 800. In De incrementis ecclesiae Christianae (840/2), Walafrid Strabo
Walafrid Strabo
Walafrid, alternatively spelt Walahfrid, surnamed Strabo , was a Frankish monk and theological writer.-Theological works:...

, who lived in Swabia
Swabia
Swabia is a cultural, historic and linguistic region in southwestern Germany.-Geography:Like many cultural regions of Europe, Swabia's borders are not clearly defined...

, speaks of a group of monks, who reported that "even now certain peoples in Scythia
Scythia
In antiquity, Scythian or Scyths were terms used by the Greeks to refer to certain Iranian groups of horse-riding nomadic pastoralists who dwelt on the Pontic-Caspian steppe...

 (Dobrudja), especially around Tomis" spoke a sermo Theotiscus (Germanic language), which was the language of the Gothic translation of the Bible, and used such a liturgy. He also refers to the use of Ulfilas' bible in a region probably around Lake Constance
Lake Constance
Lake Constance is a lake on the Rhine at the northern foot of the Alps, and consists of three bodies of water: the Obersee , the Untersee , and a connecting stretch of the Rhine, called the Seerhein.The lake is situated in Germany, Switzerland and Austria near the Alps...

. In the former case, the language spoken by the monks was probably an incipient Crimean Gothic.

In evaluating medieval texts that mention the Goths
Goths
The Goths were an East Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin whose two branches, the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths, played an important role in the fall of the Roman Empire and the emergence of Medieval Europe....

, it must be noted that many writers used the word Goths to mean any Germanic people in eastern Europe (such as the Varangians
Varangians
The Varangians or Varyags , sometimes referred to as Variagians, were people from the Baltic region, most often associated with Vikings, who from the 9th to 11th centuries ventured eastwards and southwards along the rivers of Eastern Europe, through what is now Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.According...

), many of whom certainly did not use the Gothic language as known from the Gothic Bible. Some writers even referred to some Slavic
Slavic languages
The Slavic languages , a group of closely related languages of the Slavic peoples and a subgroup of Indo-European languages, have speakers in most of Eastern Europe, in much of the Balkans, in parts of Central Europe, and in the northern part of Asia.-Branches:Scholars traditionally divide Slavic...

-speaking people,like Croats
Croats
Croats are a South Slavic ethnic group mostly living in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and nearby countries. There are around 4 million Croats living inside Croatia and up to 4.5 million throughout the rest of the world. Responding to political, social and economic pressure, many Croats have...

, as Goths.

The relationship between the language of the Crimean Goths
Crimean Gothic
Crimean Gothic was a Gothic dialect spoken by the Crimean Goths in some isolated locations in Crimea until the late 18th century....

 and Ulfilas' Gothic is less clear. The few fragments of their language from the 16th century show significant differences from the language of the Gothic Bible, although some of the glosses, such as ada for "egg", imply a common heritage, and Gothic mena ("moon"), compared to Crimean Gothic mine, clearly indicates that Crimean Gothic was East Germanic.

Generally, the Gothic language refers to the language of Ulfilas
Ulfilas
Ulfilas, or Gothic Wulfila , bishop, missionary, and Bible translator, was a Goth or half-Goth and half-Greek from Cappadocia who had spent time inside the Roman Empire at the peak of the Arian controversy. Ulfilas was ordained a bishop by Eusebius of Nicomedia and returned to his people to work...

, but the attestations themselves are largely from the 6th century - long after Ulfilas had died. The above list is not exhaustive, and a more extensive list is available on the website of the Wulfila Project.

Alphabet and transliteration

Ulfilas' Gothic, as well as that of the Skeireins and various other manuscripts, was written using an alphabet that was most likely invented by Ulfilas himself for his translation. Some scholars (e.g. Braune) claim that it was derived from the Greek alphabet
Greek alphabet
The Greek alphabet is the script that has been used to write the Greek language since at least 730 BC . The alphabet in its classical and modern form consists of 24 letters ordered in sequence from alpha to omega...

 only, while others maintain that there are some Gothic letters of Runic or Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 origin.

This Gothic alphabet
Gothic alphabet
The Gothic alphabet is an alphabet for writing the Gothic language, created in the 4th century by Ulfilas for the purpose of translating the Christian Bible....

 has nothing to do with blackletter
Blackletter
Blackletter, also known as Gothic script, Gothic minuscule, or Textura, was a script used throughout Western Europe from approximately 1150 to well into the 17th century. It continued to be used for the German language until the 20th century. Fraktur is a notable script of this type, and sometimes...

 (also called Gothic script), which was used to write the Roman alphabet from the 12th to 14th centuries and evolved into the Fraktur writing later used to write German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

.

A standardized system is used for transliterating Gothic words into the Roman alphabet. The system mirrors the conventions of the native alphabet, for example writing long /iː/ as ei. The most notable conventions are:
  • Macrons represent long ā and ū (however, long i appears as ei, following the representation used in the native alphabet). Macrons are often also used in the case of ē and ō; however, they are sometimes omitted, since these vowels are always long.
  • What appear as ai and au in the native alphabet are written in three different ways in transliteration, according to the origin:
    • ái and áu, with an accent over the first vowel, represent original Germanic diphthongs /ai/ and /au/. These do not occur before a vowel.
    • aí and aú, with an accent over the second vowel, represent original short Germanic vowels /e/, /i/, and /u/. These occur mostly before h, ƕ and r.
    • ai and au, with no accent, represent original long Germanic vowels /eː/ and /oː/. These appear only before a vowel., which is written with a single character in the native alphabet, is transliterated using the symbol ƕ
      Hwair
      Hwair is the name of , the Gothic letter expressing the or sound . Hwair is also the name of the Latin ligature .-Name:...

      , which is used only in transliterating Gothic. is written þ, similarly to other Germanic languages.
  • Although [ŋ] is the allophone
    Allophone
    In phonology, an allophone is one of a set of multiple possible spoken sounds used to pronounce a single phoneme. For example, and are allophones for the phoneme in the English language...

     of /n/ occurring before /ɡ/ and /k/, it is written g, following the native-alphabet convention (which in turn follows Greek usage). This leads to occasional ambiguities, e.g. saggws [saŋɡʷs] "song" but triggws [triɡɡʷs] "faithful" (cf. English "true").

Sounds

It is possible to determine more or less exactly how the Gothic of Ulfilas
Ulfilas
Ulfilas, or Gothic Wulfila , bishop, missionary, and Bible translator, was a Goth or half-Goth and half-Greek from Cappadocia who had spent time inside the Roman Empire at the peak of the Arian controversy. Ulfilas was ordained a bishop by Eusebius of Nicomedia and returned to his people to work...

 was pronounced, primarily through comparative phonetic reconstruction. Furthermore, because Ulfilas tried to follow the original Greek text as much as possible in his translation, we know that he used the same writing conventions as those of contemporary Greek. Since the Greek of that period is well documented, it is possible to reconstruct much of Gothic pronunciation from translated texts. In addition, the way in which non-Greek names are transcribed in the Greek Bible and in Ulfilas' Bible is very informative.

Vowels

Monophthongs
Diphthongs

, /i/ and /u/ can be either long or short. Gothic writing distinguishes between long and short vowels only for /i/ - writing i for the short form and ei for the long (a digraph
Digraph (orthography)
A digraph or digram is a pair of characters used to write one phoneme or a sequence of phonemes that does not correspond to the normal values of the two characters combined...

 or false diphthong), in imitation of Greek usage (ει = /iː/). Single vowels are sometimes long where a historically present nasal consonant
Nasal consonant
A nasal consonant is a type of consonant produced with a lowered velum in the mouth, allowing air to escape freely through the nose. Examples of nasal consonants in English are and , in words such as nose and mouth.- Definition :...

 has been dropped in front of an /h/ (a case of compensatory lengthening
Compensatory lengthening
Compensatory lengthening in phonology and historical linguistics is the lengthening of a vowel sound that happens upon the loss of a following consonant, usually in the syllable coda...

). Thus, the preterite of the verb briggan [briŋɡan] "to bring" (English bring, Dutch brengen, German bringen) becomes brahta [braːxta] (English brought, Dutch bracht, German brachte), from the proto-Germanic *braŋk-dē. In detailed transliteration
Transliteration
Transliteration is a subset of the science of hermeneutics. It is a form of translation, and is the practice of converting a text from one script into another...

, where the intent is more phonetic transcription
Phonetic transcription
Phonetic transcription is the visual representation of speech sounds . The most common type of phonetic transcription uses a phonetic alphabet, e.g., the International Phonetic Alphabet....

, length is noted by a macron
Macron
A macron, from the Greek , meaning "long", is a diacritic placed above a vowel . It was originally used to mark a long or heavy syllable in Greco-Roman metrics, but now marks a long vowel...

 (or failing that, often a circumflex
Circumflex
The circumflex is a diacritic used in the written forms of many languages, and is also commonly used in various romanization and transcription schemes. It received its English name from Latin circumflexus —a translation of the Greek περισπωμένη...

): brāhta, brâhta. /uː/ is found often enough in other contexts: brūks "useful" (Dutch gebruik, German Gebrauch, Icelandic brúk "use"). and /oː/ are long close-mid vowel
Close-mid vowel
A close-mid vowel is a type of vowel sound used in some spoken languages. The defining characteristic of a close-mid vowel is that the tongue is positioned two-thirds of the way from a close vowel to a mid vowel...

s. They are written as e and o: [neːʍ] "near" (English nigh, Dutch nader, German nah); fodjan [foːdjan] "to feed". and /ɔ/ are short open-mid vowel
Open-mid vowel
An open-mid vowel is a type of vowel sound used in some spoken languages. The defining characteristic of an open-mid vowel is that the tongue is positioned two-thirds of the way from an open vowel to a mid vowel...

s. They are noted using the digraphs ai and au: taihun [tɛhun] "ten" (Dutch tien, German zehn, Icelandic tíu), dauhtar [dɔxtar] "daughter" (Dutch dochter, German Tochter, Icelandic dóttir). In transliterating Gothic, accents are placed on the second vowel of these digraphs aí and aú to distinguish them from the original diphthongs ái and áu: taíhun, daúhtar. In most cases short [ɛ] and [ɔ] are allophones of /i, u/ before /r, h, ʍ/. Furthermore, the reduplication syllable of the reduplicating preterites has ai as well, which is probably pronounced as a short [ɛ]. Finally, short [ɛ] and [ɔ] occur in loan words from Greek and Latin (aípiskaúpus [ɛpiskɔpus] = "bishop", laíktjo [lɛktjoː] = lectio "lection", Paúntius [pɔntius] = Pontius).
  • The Germanic diphthong
    Diphthong
    A diphthong , also known as a gliding vowel, refers to two adjacent vowel sounds occurring within the same syllable. Technically, a diphthong is a vowel with two different targets: That is, the tongue moves during the pronunciation of the vowel...

    s ai and au appear as ai and au in Gothic (normally written with an accent on the first vowel to distinguish them from ai, au < Germanic i/e, u). Some researchers suppose that they were still pronounced as diphthongs in Gothic, i.e. /ai/ and /au/, whereas others think that they have become long open-mid vowel
    Open-mid vowel
    An open-mid vowel is a type of vowel sound used in some spoken languages. The defining characteristic of an open-mid vowel is that the tongue is positioned two-thirds of the way from an open vowel to a mid vowel...

    s, i.e. /ɛː/ and /ɔː/: ains [ains] / [ɛːns] "one" (German eins, Icelandic einn), augo [auɣoː] / [ɔːɣoː] "eye" (German Auge, Icelandic auga). In Latin sources Gothic names with Germanic au are rendered with au until the 4th century and o later on (Austrogoti > Ostrogoti).
  • Long [ɛː] and [ɔː] also occur as allophones of /eː/ and /uː, oː/ respectively before a following vowel: waian [wɛːan] "to blow" (Dutch waaien, German wehen), bauan [bɔːan] "to build" (Dutch bouwen, German "bauen", Icelandic búa "live"), also in Greek words Trauada "Troad" (Gk. ). is a Greek sound used only in borrowed words. It is transliterated as w in vowel positions: azwmus [azymus] "unleavened bread" (< Gk. ). It represents an υ (y) or the diphthong οι (oi) in Greek, both of which were pronounced [y] in period Greek. Since the sound was foreign to Gothic, it was most perhaps pronounced [i]. is a descending diphthong
    Diphthong
    A diphthong , also known as a gliding vowel, refers to two adjacent vowel sounds occurring within the same syllable. Technically, a diphthong is a vowel with two different targets: That is, the tongue moves during the pronunciation of the vowel...

    , i.e. [iu̯] and not [i̯u]: diups [diu̯ps] "deep" (Dutch diep, German tief, Icelandic djúpur).
  • Greek diphthongs: In Ulfilas
    Ulfilas
    Ulfilas, or Gothic Wulfila , bishop, missionary, and Bible translator, was a Goth or half-Goth and half-Greek from Cappadocia who had spent time inside the Roman Empire at the peak of the Arian controversy. Ulfilas was ordained a bishop by Eusebius of Nicomedia and returned to his people to work...

    ' era, all the diphthongs of classical Greek had become simple vowels in speech (monophthong
    Monophthong
    A monophthong is a pure vowel sound, one whose articulation at both beginning and end is relatively fixed, and which does not glide up or down towards a new position of articulation....

    ization), except for αυ (au) and ευ (eu), which were probably still pronounced [aβ] and [ɛβ]. (They evolved into [av/af] and [ev/ef] in modern Greek.) Ulfilas notes them, in words borrowed from Greek, as aw and aiw, probably pronounced [au, ɛu]: Pawlus [paulus] "Paul" (Gk. ), aíwaggelista [ɛwaŋɡeːlista] "evangelist" (Gk. , via the Latin evangelista).
  • Simple vowels and diphthongs (original and spurious ones) can be followed by a [w], which was likely pronounced as the second element of a diphthong with roughly the sound of [u]. It seems likely that this is more of an instance of phonetic coalescence than of phonological diphthongs (such as, for example, the sound /aj/ in the French word paille ("straw"), which is not the diphthong /ai/ but rather a vowel followed by an approximant): alew [aleːw] "olive oil" (< Latin oleum), snáiws [snɛːws] ("snow"), lasiws [lasiws] "tired" (English lazy).

Consonants

  Labials
Labial consonant
Labial consonants are consonants in which one or both lips are the active articulator. This precludes linguolabials, in which the tip of the tongue reaches for the posterior side of the upper lip and which are considered coronals...

Dentals Alveolars
Alveolar consonant
Alveolar consonants are articulated with the tongue against or close to the superior alveolar ridge, which is called that because it contains the alveoli of the superior teeth...

Palatals
Palatal consonant
Palatal consonants are consonants articulated with the body of the tongue raised against the hard palate...

Velars
Velar consonant
Velars are consonants articulated with the back part of the tongue against the soft palate, the back part of the roof of the mouth, known also as the velum)....

Labiovelars Laryngeals
Laryngeal consonant
A laryngeal consonant is generally synonymous with a glottal consonant; that is, with , , and .Besides the glottis , the larynx includes the epiglottis and aryepiglottic folds, though epiglottal and aryepiglottal consonants are usually counted as radical rather than as laryngeal...

Plosives p /p/ b /b/   t /t/ d /d/   ?ddj /ɟː/ k /k/ g /ɡ/ q /kʷ/ gw /ɡʷ/  
Fricatives f /ɸ, f/ b [β] þ /θ/ d [ð] s /s/ z /z/   g, h [x] g [ɣ] /ʍ/   h /h/
Approximants         j /j/     w /w/  
Nasal
Nasal consonant
A nasal consonant is a type of consonant produced with a lowered velum in the mouth, allowing air to escape freely through the nose. Examples of nasal consonants in English are and , in words such as nose and mouth.- Definition :...

s
  m /m/     n /n/     g, n [ŋ]    
Laterals       l /l/        
Trill
Trill consonant
In phonetics, a trill is a consonantal sound produced by vibrations between the articulator and the place of articulation. Standard Spanish <rr> as in perro is an alveolar trill, while in Parisian French it is almost always uvular....

s
      r /r/        


In general, Gothic consonants are devoiced at the ends of words. Gothic is rich in fricative consonants (although many of them may have been approximants, it is hard to separate the two) derived by the processes described in Grimm's law
Grimm's law
Grimm's law , named for Jacob Grimm, is a set of statements describing the inherited Proto-Indo-European stops as they developed in Proto-Germanic in the 1st millennium BC...

 and Verner's law
Verner's law
Verner's law, stated by Karl Verner in 1875, describes a historical sound change in the Proto-Germanic language whereby voiceless fricatives *f, *þ, *s, *h, *hʷ, when immediately following an unstressed syllable in the same word, underwent voicing and became respectively the fricatives *b, *d, *z,...

 and characteristic of Germanic languages
Germanic languages
The Germanic languages constitute a sub-branch of the Indo-European language family. The common ancestor of all of the languages in this branch is called Proto-Germanic , which was spoken in approximately the mid-1st millennium BC in Iron Age northern Europe...

. Gothic is unusual among Germanic languages in having a /z/ phoneme which has not become /r/ through rhotacization. Furthermore, the doubling of written consonants between vowels suggests that Gothic made distinctions between long and short, or geminated
Gemination
In phonetics, gemination happens when a spoken consonant is pronounced for an audibly longer period of time than a short consonant. Gemination is distinct from stress and may appear independently of it....

 consonants: atta [atːa] "dad", kunnan [kunːan] "to know" (Dutch kennen, German kennen "to know", Icelandic kunna).

Stops

  • The voiceless stops /p/, /t/ and /k/ are regularly noted by p, t and k respectively: paska [paska] ("Easter", from the Greek ), tuggo [tuŋɡoː] ("tongue"), kalbo [kalboː] ("calf"). The stops probably had (non-phonemic) aspiration like in most modern Germanic languages: [pʰ, tʰ, kʰ].
  • The letter q is probably a voiceless labiovelar stop
    Labialized voiceless velar plosive
    The labialized voiceless velar plosive is a type of consonantal sound used in many spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is , and it is a common sound cross-linguistically. It is effectively a and a sound pronounced simultaneously...

    , /kʷ/ ([kʷʰ]), comparable to the Latin qu: qiman [kʷiman] "to come". In the later Germanic languages this phoneme has become either a consonant cluster
    Consonant cluster
    In linguistics, a consonant cluster is a group of consonants which have no intervening vowel. In English, for example, the groups and are consonant clusters in the word splits....

     /kw/ of a voiceless velar stop + a labio-velar approximant (English qu) or a simple voiceless velar stop /k/ (English c, k)
  • The voiced stops /b/, /d/ and /ɡ/ are noted by the letters b, d and g. Like the other Germanic languages, they occurred in word-initial position, when doubled and after a nasal. In addition, they apparently occurred after other consonants, e.g. arbi [arbi] "inheritance", huzd [huzd] "treasure". (This conclusion is based on their behavior at the end of a word, where they do not change into voiceless fricatives, unlike when occurring after a vowel.)
  • There was probably also a voiced labiovelar stop
    Voiced velar plosive
    The voiced velar plosive is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is , and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is g. Strictly, the IPA symbol is the so-called "opentail G" , though the "looptail G" is...

    , /ɡʷ/, which was written with the digraph gw. It occurred after a nasal, e.g. saggws [saŋɡʷs] "song", or long as a regular outcome of Germanic *ww, e.g. triggws [triɡʷːs] "faithful" (English true, German treu, Icelandic tryggur).
  • Similarly the letters ddj, which is the regular outcome of Germanic *jj, may represent a voiced palatal stop, /ɟː/: waddjus [waɟːus] "wall" (Icelandic veggur), twaddje [twaɟːeː] " two (genitive)" (Icelandic tveggja).

Fricatives

and /z/ are usually written s and z. The latter corresponds to Germanic *z (which has become r or silent in the other Germanic languages); at the end of a word, it is regularly devoiced to s. E.g. saíhs [sɛhs] "six", máiza [mɛːza] "greater" (English more, Dutch meer, German mehr, Icelandic meira) ~ máis [mɛːs] "more, rather". and /θ/, written f and þ, are voiceless bilabial and voiceless dental fricatives respectively. It is likely that the relatively unstable sound /ɸ/ became /f/. f and þ are also derived from b and d at the ends of words, when they are devoiced and become approximants: gif [ɡiɸ] "give (imperative)" (infinitive giban: German geben), miþ [miθ] "with" (Old English
Old English language
Old English or Anglo-Saxon is an early form of the English language that was spoken and written by the Anglo-Saxons and their descendants in parts of what are now England and southeastern Scotland between at least the mid-5th century and the mid-12th century...

 mid, Old Norse
Old Norse
Old Norse is a North Germanic language that was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and inhabitants of their overseas settlements during the Viking Age, until about 1300....

 með, Dutch met, German mit). is written as h: haban "to have". It was probably pronounced [h] in word-final position and before a consonant as well (not [x], since /ɡ/ > [x] is written g, not h): jah [jah] "and" (Dutch, German, Scandinavian ja "yes").
is an allophone of /ɡ/ at the end of a word or before a voiceless consonant; it is always written g: dags [daxs] "day" (German Tag). In some borrowed Greek words, we find the special letter x, which represents the Greek letter χ (ch): Xristus [xristus] "Christ" (Gk. ). It may also have signified a /k/., [ð] and [ɣ] are voiced fricatives only found between vowels. They are allophones of /b/, /d/ and /ɡ/ and are not distinguished from them in writing. [β] may have become /v/, a more stable labiodental form (a case of fortition
Fortition
Fortition is a consonantal change from a 'weak' sound to a 'strong' one, the opposite of the more common lenition. For example, a fricative or an approximant may become a plosive...

). In the study of Germanic languages, these phonemes are usually transcribed as , and respectively: haban [haβan] "to have", þiuda [θiu̯ða] "people" (Old Norse þióð/þiúð, Dutch Diets, German Deutsch > English Dutch), áugo [auɣoː] "eye" (English eye, Dutch oog, German Auge). When occurring after a vowel at the end of a word or before a voiceless consonant, these sounds become unvoiced /ɸ/, /θ/ and [x], e.g. hláifs /hlɛːɸs/ "loaf" but genitive hláibis /hlɛːβis/ "of a loaf", plural hláibōs /hlɛːβoːs/ "loaves".
  • (also transcribed hw) is a labiovelar variant of /x/ (derived from the proto-Indo-European ). It probably was pronounced /ʍ/ (a voiceless /w/) as it is in certain dialects of English and is predominant in Scots, where it is always written as wh: /ʍan/ "when", /ʍar/ "where", [ʍiːts] "white".

Sonorants

Gothic has three nasal consonants, of which one is an allophone of the others, found only in complementary distribution
Complementary distribution
Complementary distribution in linguistics is the relationship between two different elements, where one element is found in a particular environment and the other element is found in the opposite environment...

 with them. Nasals in Gothic, like most languages, are pronounced at the same point of articulation as either the consonant that follows them (assimilation
Assimilation (linguistics)
Assimilation is a common phonological process by which the sound of the ending of one word blends into the sound of the beginning of the following word. This occurs when the parts of the mouth and vocal cords start to form the beginning sounds of the next word before the last sound has been...

). Therefore, clusters like [md] and [nb] are not possible. and /m/ are freely distributed - they can be found in any position in a syllable and form minimal pair
Minimal pair
In phonology, minimal pairs are pairs of words or phrases in a particular language, which differ in only one phonological element, such as a phone, phoneme, toneme or chroneme and have distinct meanings...

s except in certain contexts where they are neutralized: /n/ before a bilabial consonant
Bilabial consonant
In phonetics, a bilabial consonant is a consonant articulated with both lips. The bilabial consonants identified by the International Phonetic Alphabet are:...

 becomes [m], while /m/ preceding a dental stop becomes [n], as per the principle of assimilation described in the previous paragraph. In front of a velar stop
Velar consonant
Velars are consonants articulated with the back part of the tongue against the soft palate, the back part of the roof of the mouth, known also as the velum)....

, they both become [ŋ]. /n/ and /m/ are transcribed as n and m, and in writing neutralisation is marked: sniumundo /sniu̯mundoː/ ("quickly"). is not a phoneme and cannot appear freely in Gothic. It is present where a nasal consonant is neutralised before a velar stop
Velar consonant
Velars are consonants articulated with the back part of the tongue against the soft palate, the back part of the roof of the mouth, known also as the velum)....

 and is in a complementary distribution with /n/ and /m/. Following Greek conventions, it is normally written as g (sometimes n): þagkjan [θaŋkjan] "to think", sigqan [siŋkʷan] "to sink" ~ þankeiþ [θaŋkiːθ] "thinks". The cluster ggw sometimes denotes [ŋɡʷ], but sometimes [ɡʷː] (see above). is transliterated as w before a vowel: weis [wiːs] ("we"), twái [twai] "two" (German zwei). is written as j: jer [jeːr] "year", sakjo [sakjoː] "strife". is used much as in English and other European languages: laggs [laŋks] "long", mel [meːl] "hour" (English meal,Dutch maal, German Mahl, Icelandic mál). is a trilled
Trill consonant
In phonetics, a trill is a consonantal sound produced by vibrations between the articulator and the place of articulation. Standard Spanish <rr> as in perro is an alveolar trill, while in Parisian French it is almost always uvular....

 /r/ (or possibly a flap
Flap consonant
In phonetics, a flap or tap is a type of consonantal sound, which is produced with a single contraction of the muscles so that one articulator is thrown against another.-Contrast with stops and trills:...

 /ɾ/): raíhts [rɛxts] "right", afar [afar] "after"., /m/, /n/ and /r/ act as the nucleus of a syllable
Syllable
A syllable is a unit of organization for a sequence of speech sounds. For example, the word water is composed of two syllables: wa and ter. A syllable is typically made up of a syllable nucleus with optional initial and final margins .Syllables are often considered the phonological "building...

 ("vowels") after the final consonant of a word or between two consonants. This is also the case in modern English: for example, "bottle" is pronounced [bɒtl̩] in many dialects. Some Gothic examples: tagl [taɣl̩] "hair" (English tail, Icelandic tagl), máiþms [mɛːθm̩s] "gift", táikns [tɛːkn̩s] "sign" (English token, Dutch teken, German Zeichen, Icelandic tákn) and tagr [taɣr̩] "tear (as in crying)".

Accentuation and intonation

Accentuation in Gothic can be reconstructed through phonetic comparison, Grimm's law
Grimm's law
Grimm's law , named for Jacob Grimm, is a set of statements describing the inherited Proto-Indo-European stops as they developed in Proto-Germanic in the 1st millennium BC...

 and Verner's law
Verner's law
Verner's law, stated by Karl Verner in 1875, describes a historical sound change in the Proto-Germanic language whereby voiceless fricatives *f, *þ, *s, *h, *hʷ, when immediately following an unstressed syllable in the same word, underwent voicing and became respectively the fricatives *b, *d, *z,...

. Gothic used a stress accent rather than the pitch accent
Pitch accent
Pitch accent is a linguistic term of convenience for a variety of restricted tone systems that use variations in pitch to give prominence to a syllable or mora within a word. The placement of this tone or the way it is realized can give different meanings to otherwise similar words...

 of proto-Indo-European
Proto-Indo-European language
The Proto-Indo-European language is the reconstructed common ancestor of the Indo-European languages, spoken by the Proto-Indo-Europeans...

. It is indicated by the fact that long vowels [eː] and [oː] were shortened and the short vowels [a] and [i] were lost in unstressed syllables.

Just as in other Germanic languages
Germanic languages
The Germanic languages constitute a sub-branch of the Indo-European language family. The common ancestor of all of the languages in this branch is called Proto-Germanic , which was spoken in approximately the mid-1st millennium BC in Iron Age northern Europe...

, the free moving Indo-European accent was fixed on the first syllable of simple words. (For example, in modern English, nearly all words that do not have accents on the first syllable—except when they have unaccented prefixes as in "beget" or "forgive"--are borrowed from other languages.) Accents do not shift when words are inflected. In most compound words, the location of the stress depends on its placement in the second part:
  • In compounds where the second word is a noun, the accent is on the first syllable of the first word of the compound.
  • In compounds where the second word is a verb, the accent falls on the first syllable of the verbal component. Elements prefixed to verbs are otherwise unstressed, except in the context of separable words (words that can be broken in two parts and separated in regular usage, for example, separable verb
    Separable verb
    A separable verb is a verb that is composed of a lexical verb root and a separable second root . In some verb forms, the verb and the particle appear in one word, whilst in others the verb stem and the particle are separated. Note that the particle cannot be accurately referred to as a prefix...

    s in German and Dutch) - in those cases, the prefix is stressed.

Examples: (with comparable words from modern Germanic languages)
  • Non-compound words: marka [ˈmarka] "border, borderlands" (English "march" as in the Spanish Marches
    Marches
    A march or mark refers to a border region similar to a frontier, such as the Welsh Marches, the borderland between England and Wales. During the Frankish Carolingian Dynasty, the word spread throughout Europe....

    ); aftra [ˈaftra] "after"; bidjan [ˈbidjan] "pray" (Dutch, bidden, German bitten, Icelandic biðja, English bid).
  • Compound words:
    • Noun second element: guda-láus [ˈɡuðalaus] "godless".
    • Verb second element: ga-láubjan [ɡaˈlauβjan] "believe" (Dutch geloven, German glauben < Old High German
      Old High German
      The term Old High German refers to the earliest stage of the German language and it conventionally covers the period from around 500 to 1050. Coherent written texts do not appear until the second half of the 8th century, and some treat the period before 750 as 'prehistoric' and date the start of...

       g(i)louben by syncope of the unaccented i).

Nouns and adjectives

Gothic preserves many archaic Indo-European features that are not always present in modern Germanic languages, in particular the rich Indo-European declension
Declension
In linguistics, declension is the inflection of nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and articles to indicate number , case , and gender...

 system. Gothic had nominative, accusative, genitive and dative case
Dative case
The dative case is a grammatical case generally used to indicate the noun to whom something is given, as in "George gave Jamie a drink"....

s, as well as vestiges of a vocative case
Vocative case
The vocative case is the case used for a noun identifying the person being addressed and/or occasionally the determiners of that noun. A vocative expression is an expression of direct address, wherein the identity of the party being spoken to is set forth expressly within a sentence...

 that was sometimes identical to the nominative and sometimes to the accusative. The three genders
Grammatical gender
Grammatical gender is defined linguistically as a system of classes of nouns which trigger specific types of inflections in associated words, such as adjectives, verbs and others. For a system of noun classes to be a gender system, every noun must belong to one of the classes and there should be...

 of Indo-European were all present, including the neuter gender of modern German and Icelandic and to some extent modern Dutch, Danish, Norwegian and Swedish - in opposition to the "common gender" (genus commune) which those languages apply to both masculine and feminine nouns. Nouns and adjectives were inflected according to one of two grammatical number
Grammatical number
In linguistics, grammatical number is a grammatical category of nouns, pronouns, and adjective and verb agreement that expresses count distinctions ....

s: the singular and the plural.

One of the most striking characteristics of the Germanic languages
Germanic languages
The Germanic languages constitute a sub-branch of the Indo-European language family. The common ancestor of all of the languages in this branch is called Proto-Germanic , which was spoken in approximately the mid-1st millennium BC in Iron Age northern Europe...

 is the division of nouns between those with weak declensions (generally those where the root word
Root (linguistics)
The root word is the primary lexical unit of a word, and of a word family , which carries the most significant aspects of semantic content and cannot be reduced into smaller constituents....

 ends in an n) and those with strong declensions (those whose roots end in a vowel or an inflexional suffix indicative of a pronoun). This separation is particularly important in Gothic. While a noun can only belong to one class of declensions, depending on the end of the root word, some adjectives can be either strongly or weakly declined, depending on their meaning. An adjective employed with a particular meaning and accompanied by a deictic
Deixis
In linguistics, deixis refers to the phenomenon wherein understanding the meaning of certain words and phrases in an utterance requires contextual information. Words are deictic if their semantic meaning is fixed but their denotational meaning varies depending on time and/or place...

 article, like the demonstrative pronouns sa, þata, or so which act as definite articles, took a weak declension, while adjectives used with indefinite articles had a strong declension.

This process is found in, e.g., German and Swedish, where adjectives are declined not only according to gender and number, but also according to indeterminate/determinate form:
German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

Swedish
Swedish language
Swedish is a North Germanic language, spoken by approximately 10 million people, predominantly in Sweden and parts of Finland, especially along its coast and on the Åland islands. It is largely mutually intelligible with Norwegian and Danish...

English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

Gothic
weak declension der lange Mann den långe mannen the long man sa lagga manna
strong declension (ein) langer Mann (en) lång man (a) long man ains laggs manna


Descriptive adjectives in Gothic (as well as superlatives ending in -ist and -ost) and the past participle may take either declension. Some pronouns only take the weak declension; for example: sama (English "same"), adjectives like ("constantly", from the root , "time"; compare to the English "while"), comparative adjectives, and present participles. Others, such as áins ("some"), take only the strong declension.

The table below displays the declension of the Gothic adjective blind (English: "blind") with a weak noun (guma - "man") and a strong one (dags - "day"):
Case Weak declension Strong declension
Singular Noun Adjective Noun Adjective
root M. N. F. root M. N. F.
Nom. guma blind- -a -o -o dags blind- -s -a
Acc. guman -an -o -on dag -ana -a
Gen. gumins -ins -ons dagis -is -áizos
Dat. gumin -in -on daga -amma ái
Plural    
Nom. gumans blind- -ans -ona -ons dagos blind- -ái -a -os
Acc. gumans -ans -ona -ons dagans -ans -a -os
Gen. gumane -ane -ono dage -áize -áizo
Dat. gumam -am -om dagam -áim


This table is, of course, not exhaustive. (There are secondary inflexions, particularly for the strong neuter singular and irregular nouns among other contexts, which are not described here.) An exhaustive table of only the types of endings Gothic took is presented below.
  • strong declension :
    • roots ending in -a, -ja, -wa (masculine and neuter): equivalent to the Greek and Latin second declension in ‑us / ‑i and ‑ος / ‑ου;
    • roots ending in -o, -jo and -wo (feminine): equivalent to the Greek and Latin first declension in ‑a / ‑æ and ‑α / ‑ας (‑η / ‑ης);
    • roots ending in -i (masculine and feminine): equivalent to the Greek and Latin third declension in ‑is (acc. ‑im) and ‑ις / ‑εως;
    • roots ending in -u (all three genders) : equivalent to the Latin fourth declension in ‑us / ‑us and the Greek third declension in ‑υς / ‑εως;
  • weak declension (all roots ending in -n), equivalent to the Greek and Latin third declension in ‑o / ‑onis and ‑ων / ‑ονος or ‑ην / ‑ενος:
    • roots ending in -an, -jan, -wan (masculine);
    • roots ending in -on and -ein (feminine);
    • roots ending in -n (neuter): equivalent to the Greek and Latin third declension in ‑men / ‑minis and ‑μα / ‑ματος;
  • minor declensions : roots ending in -r, en -nd and vestigial endings in other consonants, equivalent to other third declensions in Greek and Latin.


Gothic adjectives follow noun declensions closely - they take same types of inflexion.

Pronouns

Gothic inherited the full set of Indo-European pronouns: personal pronoun
Personal pronoun
Personal pronouns are pronouns used as substitutes for proper or common nouns. All known languages contain personal pronouns.- English personal pronouns :English in common use today has seven personal pronouns:*first-person singular...

s (including reflexive pronoun
Reflexive pronoun
A reflexive pronoun is a pronoun that is preceded by the noun, adjective, adverb or pronoun to which it refers within the same clause. In generative grammar, a reflexive pronoun is an anaphor that must be bound by its antecedent...

s for each of the three grammatical person
Grammatical person
Grammatical person, in linguistics, is deictic reference to a participant in an event; such as the speaker, the addressee, or others. Grammatical person typically defines a language's set of personal pronouns...

s), possessive pronoun
Possessive pronoun
A possessive pronoun is a part of speech that substitutes for a noun phrase that begins with a possessive determiner . For example, in the sentence These glasses are mine, not yours, the words mine and yours are possessive pronouns and stand for my glasses and your glasses, respectively...

s, both simple and compound demonstratives, relative pronoun
Relative pronoun
A relative pronoun is a pronoun that marks a relative clause within a larger sentence. It is called a relative pronoun because it relates the relative clause to the noun that it modifies. In English, the relative pronouns are: who, whom, whose, whosever, whosesoever, which, and, in some...

s, interrogatives and indefinite pronoun
Indefinite pronoun
An indefinite pronoun is a pronoun that refers to one or more unspecified beings, objects, or places.-List of English indefinite pronouns:Note that many of these words can function as other parts of speech too, depending on context...

s. Each follows a particular pattern of inflexion (partially mirroring the noun declension), much like other Indo-European languages. One particularly noteworthy characteristic is the preservation of the dual number, referring to two people or things while the plural was only used for quantities greater than two. Thus, "the two of us" and "we" for numbers greater than two were expressed as wit and weis respectively. While proto-Indo-European
Proto-Indo-European language
The Proto-Indo-European language is the reconstructed common ancestor of the Indo-European languages, spoken by the Proto-Indo-Europeans...

 used the dual for all grammatical categories that took a number (as did classical Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 and Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

), most Old Germanic languages are unusual in that they only preserved it for pronouns. Gothic preserves an older system with dual marking on both pronouns and verbs (but not nouns or adjectives).

The simple demonstrative pronoun sa (neuter: þata, feminine: so, from the Indo-European root *so, *seh2, *tod; cognate to the Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 article ὁ, ἡ, τό and the Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 istud) can be used as an article, allowing constructions of the type definite article + weak adjective + noun.

The interrogative pronouns begin with ƕ-, which derives from the proto-Indo-European consonant *kw that was present at the beginning of all interrogratives in proto-Indo-European. This is cognate with the wh- at the beginning of many English interrogatives which, as in Gothic, are pronounced with [ʍ] in some dialects. This same etymology is present in the interrogatives of many other Indo-European languages": w- [v] in German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

, hv- in Danish
Danish language
Danish is a North Germanic language spoken by around six million people, principally in the country of Denmark. It is also spoken by 50,000 Germans of Danish ethnicity in the northern parts of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, where it holds the status of minority language...

, the Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 qu- (which persists in modern Romance languages
Romance languages
The Romance languages are a branch of the Indo-European language family, more precisely of the Italic languages subfamily, comprising all the languages that descend from Vulgar Latin, the language of ancient Rome...

), the Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 τ or π, and the Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

 k- as well as many others.

Verbs

The bulk of Gothic verbs follow the type of Indo-European conjugation called "thematic"
Athematic
In the Indo-European languages, thematic stems are stems ending in a theme vowel, a vowel sound that is always present between the stem of the word and the attached ending...

 because they insert a vowel derived from the reconstructed proto-Indo-European phonemes *e or *o between roots and inflexional suffixes. This pattern is also present in Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 and Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

:
  • Latin - leg-i-mus ("we read"): root leg- + thematic vowel -i- (from *e) + suffix -mus.
  • Greek - λύ-ο-μεν ("we untie"): root λυ- + thematic vowel -ο- + suffix -μεν.
  • Gothic - nim-a-m ("we take"): root nim- + thematic vowel -a- (from *o) + suffix -m.


The other conjugation, called "athematic"
Athematic
In the Indo-European languages, thematic stems are stems ending in a theme vowel, a vowel sound that is always present between the stem of the word and the attached ending...

, where suffixes are added directly to roots, exists only in unproductive vestigial forms in Gothic, just as it does in Greek and Latin. The most important such instance is the verb "to be"
Indo-European copula
A feature common to all Indo-European languages is the presence of a verb corresponding to the English verb to be. Though in some languages, such as Russian, it is vestigial, it is present nonetheless in atrophied forms or derivatives.-General features:...

, which is athematic in Greek, Latin, Sanskrit and many other Indo-European languages.

Gothic verbs are, like nouns and adjectives, divided into strong verbs and weak verbs. Weak verbs are characterised by preterite
Preterite
The preterite is the grammatical tense expressing actions that took place or were completed in the past...

s formed by appending the suffixes -da or -ta, parallel to past participles formed with -þ / -t. Strong verbs form preterites by ablaut
Indo-European ablaut
In linguistics, ablaut is a system of apophony in Proto-Indo-European and its far-reaching consequences in all of the modern Indo-European languages...

 (the alternating of vowels in their root forms), or by reduplication
Reduplication
Reduplication in linguistics is a morphological process in which the root or stem of a word is repeated exactly or with a slight change....

 (prefixing the root with the first consonant in the root plus aí), but without adding a suffix in either case. This parallels the Greek and Sanskrit perfects. This dichotomy is still present in modern Germanic languages:
  • weak verbs ("to have") :
    • Gothic: haban, preterite habáida, past participle habáiþs ;
    • English: (to) have, preterite had, past participle had ;
    • German: haben, preterite hatte, past participle gehabt ;
    • Icelandic: hafa, preterite hafði, past participle haft ;
    • Dutch: hebben, preterite had, past participle gehad ;
    • Swedish: ha(va), preterite hade, supine haft ;

  • strong verbs ("to give") :
    • Gothic: infinitive giban, preterite gaf ;
    • English: infinitive (to) give, preterite gave ;
    • German: infinitive geben, preterite gab ;
    • Icelandic: infinitive gefa, preterite gaf.
    • Dutch: infinitive geven, preterite gaf ;
    • Swedish: infinitive giva (ge), preterite gav ;


Verbal inflexions in Gothic have two grammatical voices: the active and the medial; three numbers: singular, dual (except in the third person), and plural; two tenses: present and preterite (derived from a former perfect); three grammatical mood
Grammatical mood
In linguistics, grammatical mood is a grammatical feature of verbs, used to signal modality. That is, it is the use of verbal inflections that allow speakers to express their attitude toward what they are saying...

s: indicative, subjunctive
Subjunctive mood
In grammar, the subjunctive mood is a verb mood typically used in subordinate clauses to express various states of irreality such as wish, emotion, possibility, judgment, opinion, necessity, or action that has not yet occurred....

 (from an old optative
Optative mood
The optative mood is a grammatical mood that indicates a wish or hope. It is similar to the cohortative mood, and closely related to the subjunctive mood....

 form) and imperative
Imperative mood
The imperative mood expresses commands or requests as a grammatical mood. These commands or requests urge the audience to act a certain way. It also may signal a prohibition, permission, or any other kind of exhortation.- Morphology :...

; as well as three kinds of nominal forms: a present infinitive
Infinitive
In grammar, infinitive is the name for certain verb forms that exist in many languages. In the usual description of English, the infinitive of a verb is its basic form with or without the particle to: therefore, do and to do, be and to be, and so on are infinitives...

, a present participle
Participle
In linguistics, a participle is a word that shares some characteristics of both verbs and adjectives. It can be used in compound verb tenses or voices , or as a modifier...

, and a past passive
Passive voice
Passive voice is a grammatical voice common in many of the world's languages. Passive is used in a clause whose subject expresses the theme or patient of the main verb. That is, the subject undergoes an action or has its state changed. A sentence whose theme is marked as grammatical subject is...

. Not all tenses and persons are represented in all moods and voices - some conjugations use auxiliary forms
Auxiliary verb
In linguistics, an auxiliary verb is a verb that gives further semantic or syntactic information about a main or full verb. In English, the extra meaning provided by an auxiliary verb alters the basic meaning of the main verb to make it have one or more of the following functions: passive voice,...

.

Finally, there are forms called "preterite-present" - old Indo-European perfect - that were reinterpreted as present tense. The Gothic word wáit, from the proto-Indo-European *woid-h2e ("to see" in the perfect), corresponds exactly to its Sanskrit cognate véda and in Greek to ϝοἶδα. Both etymologically should mean "I have seen" (in the perfect sense) but mean "I know" (in the preterite-present meaning). Latin follows the same rule with nōuī ("I have learned" and "I know"). The preterite-present verbs include áigan ("to possess") and kunnan ("to know") among others.

Syntax

The syntax of Gothic is similar to that of other old Germanic languages, such as Old English and Old Norse
Old Norse
Old Norse is a North Germanic language that was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and inhabitants of their overseas settlements during the Viking Age, until about 1300....

. The word order of Gothic is fairly free, like that of other heavily inflected languages with several noun cases. The natural word order of Gothic is assumed to have been like that of the other old Germanic languages (essentially similar to Modern German word order); however, nearly all extant Gothic texts are translations of Greek originals and have been heavily influenced by Greek syntax.

Clitics

An important and archaic feature of Gothic that is missing from all other Germanic languages is the presence of various clitic
Clitic
In morphology and syntax, a clitic is a morpheme that is grammatically independent, but phonologically dependent on another word or phrase. It is pronounced like an affix, but works at the phrase level...

 particles that are placed in second position in a sentence, in accordance with Wackernagel's Law, for example ab-u þus silbin "of thyself?" where -u is a clitic indicating that a yes/no question is being asked and is attached to the first word of the clause, similar to -ne in Latin. Note that the prepositional phrase without the clitic appears as af þus silbin -- the clitic causes originally voiced fricatives, unvoiced at the end of a word, to revert to their voiced form; another such example is wileid-u "do you (pl.) want" from wileiþ "you (pl.) want". If the first word has a preverb
Preverb
Although not widely accepted in linguistics, the term preverb is used in Caucasian , Caddoan, Athabaskan, and Algonquian linguistics to describe certain elements prefixed to verbs.Theoretically, any prefix could be called a preverbal element...

 attached, the clitic actually splits the preverb from the verb, e.g. ga-u-láubjats "do you both believe ...?" from galáubjats "you both believe". Another such clitic is -uh "and", appearing as -h after a vowel: ga-h-mēlida "and he wrote" from gamēlida "he wrote", urreis nim-uh "arise and take!" from the imperative form nim "take". Multiple such clitics can occur, e.g. diz-uh-þan-sat ijōs "and then he seized them (fem.)" from dissat "he seized" (notice again the voicing of diz-), ga-u-ƕa-sēƕi "whether he saw anything" from gasēƕi "he saw".

Comparison to other Germanic languages

For the most part, Gothic is known to be significantly closer to Proto-Germanic than any other Germanic language, except for that of the (scantily attested) early Norse runic inscriptions. This has made it invaluable in the reconstruction of Proto-Germanic. In fact, Gothic tends to serve as the primary foundation for reconstructing Proto-Germanic. The reconstructed Proto-Germanic conflicts with Gothic only when there is clearly identifiable evidence from other branches that the Gothic form is a secondary development.

Features

Gothic fails to display a number of innovations shared by all later-attested Germanic languages:
  • Lack of Germanic umlaut
    Germanic umlaut
    In linguistics, umlaut is a process whereby a vowel is pronounced more like a following vowel or semivowel. The term umlaut was originally coined and is used principally in connection with the study of the Germanic languages...

  • Lack of rhotacism
    Rhotacism
    Rhotacism refers to several phenomena related to the usage of the consonant r :*the excessive or idiosyncratic use of the r;...



The language has also preserved many features that have mostly been lost in other early Germanic languages:
  • Dual inflections on verbs
  • A morphological passive voice for verbs
  • Reduplication in the past tense of Class VII strong verbs
  • Clitic conjunctions that appear in second position of a sentence in accordance with Wackernagel's Law, splitting verbs from preverbs


The following sections describe some of these features in more detail.

Lack of umlaut

Most conspicuously, Gothic shows no sign of morphological umlaut
Germanic umlaut
In linguistics, umlaut is a process whereby a vowel is pronounced more like a following vowel or semivowel. The term umlaut was originally coined and is used principally in connection with the study of the Germanic languages...

. Gothic fotus, pl. fotjus, can be contrasted with English foot : feet, German Fuß : Füße, Old Icelandic fótr : fœtr, Danish fod : fødder. These forms contain the characteristic change /o:/ > /ø:/ (> Eng. /i:/, Germ. /y:/) due to i-umlaut; the Gothic form shows no such change.

Lack of rhotacism

Proto-Germanic *z remains in Gothic as z or is devoiced to s. In North and West Germanic, *z changes to r by rhotacism.
  • Gothic dius, gen.
    Genitive case
    In grammar, genitive is the grammatical case that marks a noun as modifying another noun...

     sg. diuzis
  • Old English dēor, gen. sg. dēores "wild animal" (Modern English deer)

Passive voice

Gothic retains a morphological passive voice inherited from Indo-European, but unattested in all other Germanic languages, except for the single fossilised form preserved in, for example, Old English hātte or Runic Norse (AD 400) haitē "am called", derived from the verb *haitanaN "to call, command". (Note that the related verb heißen in modern German is derived from the active voice of this verb but has the passive meaning "to be called".)

The morphological passive in North Germanic languages (Swedish gör "do", görs "is done") originates from the Old Norse
Old Norse
Old Norse is a North Germanic language that was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and inhabitants of their overseas settlements during the Viking Age, until about 1300....

 middle voice rather than from Indo-European.

Dual number

Unlike other Germanic languages, which retained dual number marking only in some pronoun forms, Gothic has dual forms both in pronouns and in verbs. Dual verb forms exist in the first and second person only, and only in the active voice; in all other cases, the corresponding plural forms are used. In pronouns, Gothic has first and second person dual pronouns, e.g. Gothic/Old English/Old Norse wit "we two" (thought to have been in fact derived from *wi-du literally "we two").

Reduplication

Gothic possesses a number of verbs which form their preterite by reduplication, another archaic feature inherited from Indo-European. While traces of this category survived elsewhere in Germanic, the phenomenon is largely obscured in these other languages by later sound changes and analogy. In the following examples the infinitive is compared to the 3rd person singular preterite indicative:
  • Gothic saian "to sow" : saiso
  • Old Norse sá : seri < Proto-Germanic *sezō

  • Gothic laikan "to play" : lailaik
  • Old English lācan : leolc, lēc

Classification

The standard theory of the origin of the Germanic languages divides the languages into three groups: East Germanic (Gothic and a few other very scantily attested languages), North Germanic (Old Norse and its derivatives, such as Swedish
Swedish language
Swedish is a North Germanic language, spoken by approximately 10 million people, predominantly in Sweden and parts of Finland, especially along its coast and on the Åland islands. It is largely mutually intelligible with Norwegian and Danish...

, Danish
Danish language
Danish is a North Germanic language spoken by around six million people, principally in the country of Denmark. It is also spoken by 50,000 Germans of Danish ethnicity in the northern parts of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, where it holds the status of minority language...

, Norwegian
Norwegian language
Norwegian is a North Germanic language spoken primarily in Norway, where it is the official language. Together with Swedish and Danish, Norwegian forms a continuum of more or less mutually intelligible local and regional variants .These Scandinavian languages together with the Faroese language...

, Icelandic
Icelandic language
Icelandic is a North Germanic language, the main language of Iceland. Its closest relative is Faroese.Icelandic is an Indo-European language belonging to the North Germanic or Nordic branch of the Germanic languages. Historically, it was the westernmost of the Indo-European languages prior to the...

 and Faroese
Faroese language
Faroese , is an Insular Nordic language spoken by 48,000 people in the Faroe Islands and about 25,000 Faroese people in Denmark and elsewhere...

) and West Germanic (all others, including Old English, Old High German
Old High German
The term Old High German refers to the earliest stage of the German language and it conventionally covers the period from around 500 to 1050. Coherent written texts do not appear until the second half of the 8th century, and some treat the period before 750 as 'prehistoric' and date the start of...

, Old Saxon
Old Saxon
Old Saxon, also known as Old Low German, is the earliest recorded form of Low German, documented from the 8th century until the 12th century, when it evolved into Middle Low German. It was spoken on the north-west coast of Germany and in the Netherlands by Saxon peoples...

, Old Low Franconian, Old Frisian
Old Frisian
Old Frisian is a West Germanic language spoken between the 8th and 16th centuries in the area between the Rhine and Weser on the European North Sea coast. The Frisian settlers on the coast of South Jutland also spoke Old Frisian but no medieval texts of this area are known...

 and numerous modern languages derived from these). The North Germanic and West Germanic languages are further grouped into the Northwest Germanic
Northwest Germanic
Northwest Germanic is a proposed grouping of the Germanic dialects, representing the current consensus among Germanic historical linguists. It does not challenge the late 19th-century tri-partite division of the Germanic dialects into North Germanic, West Germanic and East Germanic, but proposes...

 languages, indicating that Gothic was the first attested language to branch off.

A minority opinion (the so-called Gotho-Nordic Hypothesis) instead groups North Germanic and East Germanic together. This is partly based on historical claims: For example, Jordanes
Jordanes
Jordanes, also written Jordanis or Jornandes, was a 6th century Roman bureaucrat, who turned his hand to history later in life....

, writing in the 6th century, ascribes to the Goths a Scandinavian origin. There are a few linguistically significant areas where Gothic and Old Norse agree against the West Germanic languages. Perhaps the most obvious is the evolution of the Proto-Germanic
Proto-Germanic language
Proto-Germanic , or Common Germanic, as it is sometimes known, is the unattested, reconstructed proto-language of all the Germanic languages, such as modern English, Frisian, Dutch, Afrikaans, German, Luxembourgish, Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic, Faroese, and Swedish.The Proto-Germanic language is...

 *-jj- and *-ww- into Gothic ddj (from Pre-Gothic ggj?) and ggw, and Old Norse ggj and ggv ("Holtzmann's Law
Holtzmann's Law
Holtzmann's law is a Proto-Germanic sound law originally noted by Adolf Holtzmann in 1838.The law involves the gemination, or doubling, of PIE semivowels and in strong prosodic positions into Proto-Germanic and , which had two outcomes:* hardening into occlusive onsets:** / in North Germanic;**...

"), in contrast to West Germanic where they remained as semivowels. Compare Modern English true, German treu, with Gothic triggws, Old Norse tryggr. However, it has been suggested that these are in fact two separate and unrelated changes. There are a number of other posited similarities (e.g. the existence of numerous inchoative verbs ending in -na, such as Gothic ga-waknan, Old Norse vakna; and the absence of gemination before j, or (in the case of old Norse) only g geminated before j, e.g. Proto-Germanic *kunjam > Gothic kuni (kin), Old Norse kyn, but Old English cynn, Old High German kunni). However, for the most part these represent shared retentions, which are not valid means of grouping languages. That is, if a parent language splits into three daughters A, B and C, and C innovates in a particular area while A and B don't change, then A and B will appear to agree against C. However, this example of a shared retention in A and B is not necessarily indicative of any special relationship among the two. Similar claims of similarities between Old Gutnish
Old Gutnish
Old Gutnish was the dialect of Old Norse that was spoken on the Baltic island of Gotland. It shows sufficient differences from the Old East Norse dialect that it is considered to be a separate branch...

 (Gutniska) and Old Icelandic are also based on shared retentions rather than shared innovations.

Another commonly given example is that Gothic and Old Norse verbs have the ending -t in the 2nd person singular preterite indicative, while the West Germanic languages have -i. In this case, neither ending is clearly a retention or innovation. Mainstream linguists would tend to say that this is an example of independent choices made from a doublet existing in the proto-language. That is, Proto-Germanic may have allowed either -t or -i to be used as the ending, either in free variation
Free variation
Free variation in linguistics is the phenomenon of two sounds or forms appearing in the same environment without a change in meaning and without being considered incorrect by native speakers...

 or perhaps depending on dialects within Proto-Germanic or on the particular verb in question. Each of the three daughters independently standardized on one of the two endings, and by chance Gothic and Old Norse chose the same ending.

It must in any case be borne in mind that other isogloss
Isogloss
An isogloss—also called a heterogloss —is the geographical boundary of a certain linguistic feature, such as the pronunciation of a vowel, the meaning of a word, or use of some syntactic feature...

es have led scholars to propose an early split between East and Northwest Germanic
Northwest Germanic
Northwest Germanic is a proposed grouping of the Germanic dialects, representing the current consensus among Germanic historical linguists. It does not challenge the late 19th-century tri-partite division of the Germanic dialects into North Germanic, West Germanic and East Germanic, but proposes...

. Furthermore, features shared by any two branches of Germanic do not necessarily require the postulation of a proto-language
Proto-language
A proto-language in the tree model of historical linguistics is the common ancestor of the languages that form a language family. Occasionally, the German term Ursprache is used instead.Often the proto-language is not known directly...

 excluding the third, as the early Germanic languages
Germanic languages
The Germanic languages constitute a sub-branch of the Indo-European language family. The common ancestor of all of the languages in this branch is called Proto-Germanic , which was spoken in approximately the mid-1st millennium BC in Iron Age northern Europe...

 were all part of a dialect continuum
Dialect continuum
A dialect continuum, or dialect area, was defined by Leonard Bloomfield as a range of dialects spoken across some geographical area that differ only slightly between neighboring areas, but as one travels in any direction, these differences accumulate such that speakers from opposite ends of the...

 in the early stages of their development and contact
Language contact
Language contact occurs when two or more languages or varieties interact. The study of language contact is called contact linguistics.Multilingualism has likely been common throughout much of human history, and today most people in the world are multilingual...

 between the three branches of Germanic was extensive.

Examples

The Lord's Prayer
Lord's Prayer
The Lord's Prayer is a central prayer in Christianity. In the New Testament of the Christian Bible, it appears in two forms: in the Gospel of Matthew as part of the discourse on ostentation in the Sermon on the Mount, and in the Gospel of Luke, which records Jesus being approached by "one of his...

 in Gothic:
GothicEnglish
(literal translation)
Atta unsar þu in himinam Our father, thou in heaven,
weihnai namo þein holy be thy name.
qimai þiudinassus þeins Thy kingdom come,
wairþai wilja þeins thy will be done,
swe in himina jah ana airþai. as in heaven also on earth.
hlaif unsarana þana sinteinan gif uns himma daga Our bread (loaf), the everyday, give us this day,
jah aflet uns þatei skulans sijaima And forgive us, who are in debt,
swaswe jah weis afletam þaim skulam unsaraim As we also forgive our debtors.
jah ni briggais uns in fraistubnjai And do not bring us into temptation,
ak lausei uns af þamma ubilin But free us from the evil (one).
unte þeina ist þiudangardi jah mahts For thine is the kingdom and the might
jah wulþus in aiwins. And glory in eternity.

See also

  • List of Germanic languages
  • Vocabulary comparison of the Germanic languages for a chart comparing Gothic words to those of other Germanic languages
  • Geats
  • Gutes
  • Old Gutnish
    Old Gutnish
    Old Gutnish was the dialect of Old Norse that was spoken on the Baltic island of Gotland. It shows sufficient differences from the Old East Norse dialect that it is considered to be a separate branch...

  • Grimm's law
    Grimm's law
    Grimm's law , named for Jacob Grimm, is a set of statements describing the inherited Proto-Indo-European stops as they developed in Proto-Germanic in the 1st millennium BC...

  • Verner's law
    Verner's law
    Verner's law, stated by Karl Verner in 1875, describes a historical sound change in the Proto-Germanic language whereby voiceless fricatives *f, *þ, *s, *h, *hʷ, when immediately following an unstressed syllable in the same word, underwent voicing and became respectively the fricatives *b, *d, *z,...

  • Grammar of the Gothic Language
    Grammar of the Gothic Language
    Grammar of the Gothic Language is a book by Joseph Wright describing the extinct Gothic language, first published in 1910. It includes the language's development from Proto-Indo-European and Proto-Germanic , and part of Ulfilas's bible translation...

     (book)
  • Gothic alphabet
    Gothic alphabet
    The Gothic alphabet is an alphabet for writing the Gothic language, created in the 4th century by Ulfilas for the purpose of translating the Christian Bible....


External links

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