Gothic language

Region Oium, Dacia, Pannonia, Dalmatia, Italy, Gallia Narbonensis, Gallia Aquitania, Hispania, Crimea.
Extinct mostly extinct by the 8th or 9th century, remnants may have lingered into the 18th century
Gothic alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-2 got
ISO 639-3 got
Glottolog goth1244[1]
Linguasphere 52-ADA
The expansion of the Germanic tribes 750 BC – AD 1 (after the Penguin Atlas of World History 1988):
   Settlements before 750 BC
   New settlements by 500 BC
   New settlements by 250 BC
   New settlements by AD 1

Gothic is an extinct Germanic language that was spoken by the Goths. It is known primarily from the Codex Argenteus, a 6th-century copy of a 4th-century Bible translation, and is the only East Germanic language with a sizable text corpus. All others, including Burgundian and Vandalic, are known, if at all, only from proper names that survived in historical accounts, and from loanwords in other languages such as Portuguese, Spanish and French.

As a Germanic language, Gothic is a part of the Indo-European language family. It is the earliest Germanic language that is attested in any sizable texts, but it 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, partly because of the military defeat of the Goths at the hands of the Franks, 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).[2] The language survived as a domestic language in the Iberian peninsula (modern Spain and Portugal) as late as the 8th century and, in the lower Danube area and in isolated mountain regions in Crimea, apparently as late as the early 9th century. Gothic-seeming terms found in later (post-9th century) manuscripts may or may not belong to the same language.

The existence of such early attested texts makes it a language of considerable interest in comparative linguistics.

History and evidence

leaf of the Codex Ambrosianus B

Only a few documents in Gothic survive, not enough for completely reconstructing the language. That is especially true considering that most Gothic corpora are translations or glosses of other languages (namely, Greek), so foreign linguistic elements most certainly influenced the texts. These are the primary sources:

The best-preserved Gothic manuscript. Dating from the 6th century, it was preserved and transmitted by northern Ostrogoths in modern Italy. It contains a large part of the four Gospels. 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.
It contains scattered passages from the New Testament (including parts of the Gospels and the Epistles), of the Old Testament (Nehemiah), and some commentaries known as Skeireins. It is, therefore, likely that the text had been somewhat modified by copyists.
  • Codex Gissensis (Gießen): 1 leaf, fragments of Luke 23–24. It was found in Egypt in 1907 and was destroyed by water damage in 1945.
  • Codex Carolinus (Wolfenbüttel): 4 leaves, fragments of Romans 11–15.
  • Codex Vaticanus Latinus 5750: 3 leaves, pages 57/58, 59/60 and 61/62 of the Skeireins.

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 containing parts of the Gospel of Matthew. The claim was never substantiated.

Only fragments of the Gothic translation of the Bible have been preserved. The translation was apparently done in the Balkans region by people in close contact with Greek Christian culture. It appears that the Gothic Bible was used by the Visigoths in Iberia until about 700 AD, and perhaps for a time in Italy, the Balkans and what is now Ukraine. In exterminating Arianism, many texts in Gothic were probably expunged and overwritten as palimpsests or collected and burned. Apart from Biblical texts, the only substantial Gothic document that still exists and the only lengthy text known to have been composed originally in the Gothic language, is the Skeireins, a few pages of commentary on the Gospel of John.

Very few secondary sources make reference to the Gothic language after about 800. In De incrementis ecclesiae Christianae (840/2), Walafrid Strabo, a Frankish monk who lived in Swabia, speaks of a group of monks, who reported that "even now certain peoples in Scythia (Dobrudja), especially around Tomis spoke a sermo Theotiscus ('Germanic language'), the language of the Gothic translation of the Bible, and they used such a liturgy.[5]

In evaluating medieval texts that mention the Goths, many writers used the word Goths to mean any Germanic people in eastern Europe (such as the Varangians), many of whom certainly did not use the Gothic language as known from the Gothic Bible. Some writers even referred to Slavic-speaking people as Goths. However, it is clear from Ulfilas' translation that despite some puzzles the language belongs with the Germanic language group, not with Slavonic.

The relationship between the language of the Crimean Goths and Ulfilas's Gothic is less clear. The few fragments of Crimean Gothic from the 16th century show significant differences from the language of the Gothic Bible although some of the glosses, such as ada for "egg", could indicate a common heritage, and Gothic mena ("moon"), compared to Crimean Gothic mine, can suggest an East Germanic connection.

Generally, the Gothic language refers to the language of Ulfilas, 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

Main article: Gothic alphabet

Ulfilas's 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 (such as Braune) claim that it was derived from the Greek alphabet only while others maintain that there are some Gothic letters of Runic or Latin origin.

This Gothic alphabet has nothing to do either with blackletter (also called Gothic script), which was used to write the Latin script from the 12th to 14th centuries and evolved into the Fraktur writing later used to write German or with the sans-serif type fonts sometimes called "Gothic".

A standardized system is used for transliterating Gothic words into the Latin script. The system mirrors the conventions of the native alphabet, such as writing long /iː/ as ei. There are two variant spelling systems: a "raw" one that directly transliterates the original Gothic script and a "normalized" one that adds diacritics (macrons and acute accents) to certain vowels to clarify the pronunciation or, in certain cases, to indicate the Proto-Germanic origin of the vowel in question. The latter system is usually used in the academic literature.

The following table shows the correspondence between spelling and sound for vowels:

Gothic letter
or digraph
Sound Normal environment of occurrence
(in native words)
Paradigmatically alternating sound
in other environments
Proto-Germanic origin
𐌰 a a /a/ Everywhere /ɑ/
ā /aː/ Before /h/, /hʷ/ Does not occur /ãː/ (before /h/)
𐌰𐌹 ai /ɛ/ Before /h/, /hʷ/, /r/ i /i/ /e/, /i/
ai /ɛː/ Before vowels ē /eː/ /ɛː/, /eː/
ái /ɛː/ Not before vowels aj /aj/ /ɑi/
𐌰𐌿 au /ɔ/ Before /h/, /hʷ/, /r/ u /u/ /u/
au /ɔː/ Before vowels ō /oː/ /ɔː/
áu /ɔː/ Not before vowels aw /aw/ /ɑu/
𐌴 e ē /eː/ Not before vowels ai /ɛː/ /ɛː/, /eː/
𐌴𐌹 ei ei /iː/ Everywhere /iː/; /ĩː/ (before /h/)
𐌹 i i /i/ Everywhere except before /h/, /hʷ/, /r/ /ɛ/ /e/, /i/
𐌹𐌿 iu iu /iu/ Not before vowels iw /iw/ /eu/ (and its allophone [iu])
𐍉 o ō /oː/ Not before vowels au /ɔː/ /ɔː/
𐌿 u u /u/ Everywhere except before /h/, /hʷ/, /r/ /ɔ/ /u/
ū /uː/ Everywhere /uː/; /iː/ (before /h/)


The following table shows the correspondence between spelling and sound for consonants:

Gothic Letter Roman Sound (phoneme) Sound (allophone) Environment of occurrence Paradigmatically alternating sound, in other environments Proto-Germanic origin
𐌱 b /b/ [b] Word-initially; after a consonant /b/
[β] After a vowel, before a voiced sound /ɸ/ (after a vowel, before an unvoiced sound)
𐌳d /d/ [d] Word-initially; after a consonant /d/
[ð] After a vowel, before a voiced sound /θ/ (after a vowel, before an uvoiced sound)
𐍆 f /ɸ/ [ɸ] Everywhere except before a voiced consonant /b/ [β] /ɸ/; /b/
𐌲 g /ɡ/ [ɡ] Word-initially; after a consonant /g/
[ɣ] After a vowel, before a voiced sound /g/ [x] (after a vowel, not before a voiced sound)
[ɸ] After a vowel, not before a voiced sound /g/ [ɣ] (after a vowel, before a voiced sound)
/n/ [ŋ] Before k /k/, g /ɡ/ [ɡ], gw /ɡʷ/
(such usage influenced by Greek, cf. gamma)
gw /ɡʷ/ [ɡʷ] After g /n/ [ŋ] /ɡʷ/
𐌷 h /h/ [h] Everywhere except before a voiced consonant /g/ [ɣ] /x/
𐍈 ƕ // [] Everywhere except before a voiced consonant /xʷ/
𐌾 j /j/ [j] Everywhere /j/
𐌺 k /k/ [k] Everywhere except before a voiced consonant /k/
𐌻 l /l/ [l] Everywhere /l/
𐌼 m /m/ [m] Everywhere /m/
𐌽 n /n/ [n] Everywhere /n/
𐍀 p /p/ [p] Everywhere except before a voiced consonant /p/
𐌵 q // [] Everywhere except before a voiced consonant /kʷ/
𐍂 r /r/ [r] Everywhere /r/
𐍃 s /s/ [s] Everywhere except before a voiced consonant /z/ /s/; /z/
𐍄 t /t/ [t] Everywhere except before a voiced consonant /t/
𐌸 þ /θ/ [θ] Everywhere except before a voiced consonant /d/ [ð] /θ/; /d/
𐍅 w /w/ [w] Everywhere /w/
𐌶 z /z/ [z] After a vowel, before a voiced sound /s/ /z/


It is possible to determine more or less exactly how the Gothic of Ulfilas was pronounced, primarily through comparative phonetic reconstruction. Furthermore, because Ulfilas tried to follow the original Greek text as much as possible in his translation, it is known 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's Bible is very informative.


Short vowels
Front Back
Close i (y) u
Open-mid ɛ ɔ
Open a
Long vowels
Front Back
Open-mid ɛː ɔː


  Labial Dental Alveolar Palatal Velar Labiovelar Glottal
Nasal m /m/   n /n/   g, n [ŋ]    
Stop p /p/ b /b/   t /t/ d /d/   ?ddj /ɟː/ k /k/ g /a/ q /kʷ/ gw /ɡʷ/  
Fricative f /ɸ/ b [β] þ /θ/ d [ð] s /s/ z /z/   g, h [x] g [ɣ] ƕ /ʍ/   h /h/
Approximant     l /l/ j /j/   w /w/
Trill     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 and Verner's law and characteristic of Germanic languages. 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 consonants: atta [atːa] "dad", kunnan [kunːan] "to know" (Dutch kennen, German kennen "to know", Icelandic kunna).




Gothic has three nasal consonants, one of which is an allophone of the others, all found only in complementary distribution with them. Nasals in Gothic, like most other languages, are pronounced at the same point of articulation as either the consonant that follows them (assimilation). Therefore, clusters like [md] and [nb] are not possible.

Accentuation and intonation

Accentuation in Gothic can be reconstructed through phonetic comparison, Grimm's law and Verner's law. Gothic used a stress accent rather than the pitch accent of Proto-Indo-European. 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 final syllables.

Just as in other Germanic languages, the free moving Indo-European accent was fixed on the first syllable of simple words. 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:



Nouns and adjectives

Main article: Gothic declension

Gothic preserves many archaic Indo-European features that are not always present in modern Germanic languages, in particular the rich Indo-European declension system. Gothic had nominative, accusative, genitive and dative cases, as well as vestiges of a vocative case that was sometimes identical to the nominative and sometimes to the accusative. The three genders of Indo-European were all present. Nouns and adjectives were inflected according to one of two grammatical numbers: the singular and the plural.

Nouns can be divided into numerous declensions according to the form of the stem: a, ō, i, u, an, ōn, ein, r, etc. Adjectives have two variants, indefinite and definite (sometimes indeterminate and determinate), with definite adjectives normally used in combination with the definite determiners (such as the definite article sa/þata/) while indefinite adjectives are used in other circumstances. Indefinite adjectives generally use a combination of a-stem and ō-stem endings, and definite adjectives use a combination of an-stem and ōn-stem endings. The concept of "strong" and "weak" declensions that is prevalent in the grammar of many other Germanic languages is less significant in Gothic because of its conservative nature: the so-called "weak" declensions (those ending in n) are, in fact, no weaker in Gothic (in terms of having fewer endings) than the "strong" declensions (those ending in a vowel), and the "strong" declensions do not form a coherent class that can be clearly distinguished from the "weak" declensions.

Although descriptive adjectives in Gothic (as well as superlatives ending in -ist and -ost) and the past participle may take both definite and indefinite forms, some adjectival words are restricted to one variant. Some pronouns take only definite forms: for example, sama (English "same"), adjectives like unƕeila ("constantly", from the root ƕeila, "time"; compare to the English "while"), comparative adjective and present participles. Others, such as áins ("some"), take only the indefinite forms.

The table below displays the declension of the Gothic adjective blind (English: "blind"), compared with the an-stem noun guma "man" and the a-stem noun dags "day":

Number Case Definite/an-stem Indefinite/a-stem
Noun Adjective Noun Adjective
root M. N. F. root M. N. F.
Singular 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 of various sorts not described here.) An exhaustive table of only the types of endings that Gothic took is presented below.

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


Gothic inherited the full set of Indo-European pronouns: personal pronouns (including reflexive pronouns for each of the three grammatical persons), possessive pronouns, both simple and compound demonstratives, relative pronouns, interrogatives and indefinite pronouns. 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; the plural was used only 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 used the dual for all grammatical categories that took a number (as did Classical Greek and Sanskrit), most Old Germanic languages are unusual in that they preserved it only 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 article ὁ, ἡ, τό and the Latin 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. That is cognate with the wh- at the beginning of many English interrogative, which, as in Gothic, are pronounced with [ʍ] in some dialects. The same etymology is present in the interrogatives of many other Indo-European languages": w- [v] in German, hv- in Danish, the Latin qu- (which persists in modern Romance languages), the Greek τ or π, the Slavic and Indic k- as well as many others.


Main article: Gothic verbs

The bulk of Gothic verbs follow the type of Indo-European conjugation called 'thematic' because they insert a vowel derived from the reconstructed proto-Indo-European phonemes *e or *o between roots and inflexional suffixes. The pattern is also present in Greek and Latin:

The other conjugation, called 'athematic', in which suffixes are added directly to roots, exists only in unproductive vestigial forms in Gothic, just like in Greek and Latin. The most important such instance is the verb "to be", 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 preterites formed by appending the suffixes -da or -ta, parallel to past participles formed with / -t. Strong verbs form preterites by ablaut (the alternating of vowels in their root forms) or by reduplication (prefixing the root with the first consonant in the root plus ) but without adding a suffix in either case. That parallels the Greek and Sanskrit perfects. The dichotomy is still present in modern Germanic languages:

Verbal conjugation 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 moods: indicative, subjunctive (from an old optative form) and imperative as well as three kinds of nominal forms: a present infinitive, a present participle, and a past passive. Not all tenses and persons are represented in all moods and voices, as some conjugations use auxiliary forms.

Finally, there are forms called 'preterite-present': the old Indo-European perfect was 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.


Word order

The syntax of Gothic is similar to that of other old Germanic languages such as Old English and Old Norse. 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.

Some words that consisted of one word in Greek were rendered in more words in Gothic because they were otherwise untranslatable. Some of these instances give us clues of a possible native word order:

2 Timothy 3:12 (they will suffer persecution) was translated as wrakos wrikkand (persecutions, object - they suffer, verb).

1 Corinthians 1:20: Dwala gatawida (foolish - made)

John 6:63: Liban taujiþ (life, object - makes, verb)

The object is put in front of the verb, which happened in other verses that are not similar to the Greek.

When the object was a personal pronoun, the verb came first:

Matthew 27:5 was translated as Ushaihah sik (hanged, verb - himself, object).

It is very likely that the verb preceded the object in Gothic since that order can be seen in other Old Germanic languages:

Hildebrandslied, Old High German: garutun sê iro guðhamun (readied, verb - they, personal pronoun - their, possessive pronoun - battle-coverings, object)[12]


An important and archaic feature of Gothic, missing from all other Germanic languages, is the presence of various clitic particles placed in the second position in a sentence, in accordance with Wackernagel's Law; for example, ab-u þus silbin "of thyself?" has -u as a clitic indicating that a yes/no question is being asked, and the clitic is attached to the first word of the clause like -ne in Latin. It should be noted that the prepositional phrase without the clitic appears as af þus silbin: the clitic causes the reversion of originally voiced fricatives, unvoiced at the end of a word, 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 attached, the clitic actually splits the preverb from the verb: 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". More than one such clitics can occur: 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, which 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.

Distinctive features

Gothic fails to display a number of innovations shared by all Germanic languages attested later:

The language has also preserved many features that have been lost mostly in other early Germanic languages:

Lack of umlaut

Most conspicuously, Gothic shows no sign of morphological umlaut. 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.

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 Proto-Germanic *haitaną "to call, command". (It should be noted that the related verbs heißen in modern German and heten in Dutch are both derived from the active voice of this verb but have the passive meaning "to be called".)

The morphological passive in North Germanic languages (Swedish gör "does", görs "is done") originates from the Old Norse 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: Gothic/Old English/Old Norse wit "we two" (thought to have been in fact derived from *wi-du literally "we two").


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 third person singular preterite indicative:


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, Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic, and Faroese) and West Germanic (all others, including Old English, Old High German, Old Saxon, Old Low Franconian, Old Frisian and the numerous modern languages derived from these, including English, German, and Dutch). Sometimes, a further grouping, that of the Northwest Germanic languages, is posited as containing the North Germanic and West Germanic languages, reflecting the hypothesis 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. It is based partly on historical claims: for example, Jordanes, writing in the 6th century, ascribes to the Goths a Scandinavian origin. There are a few linguistically significant areas in which Gothic and Old Norse agree against the West Germanic languages.

Perhaps the most obvious is the evolution of the Proto-Germanic *-jj- and *-ww- into Gothic ddj (from Pre-Gothic ggj?) and ggw, and Old Norse ggj and ggv ("Holtzmann's Law"), 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.[13] A number of other posited similarities exist (for example, 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 *kunją > 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 but A and B do not change, A and B will appear to agree against C. That shared retention in A and B is not necessarily indicative of any special relationship between the two.

Similar claims of similarities between Old Gutnish (Gutniska) and Old Icelandic are also based on shared retentions rather than shared innovations.

Another commonly-given example involves Gothic and Old Norse verbs with the ending -t in the 2nd person singular preterite indicative, and the West Germanic languages have -i. The ending -t can regularly descend from the Proto-Indo-European perfect ending *-th₂e, while the origin of the West Germanic ending -i (which, unlike the -t-ending, unexpectedly combines with the zero-grade of the root as in the plural) is unclear, suggesting that it is an innovation of some kind, possibly an import from the optative. Another possibility is 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 or perhaps depending on dialects within Proto-Germanic or 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 ended up with the same ending.

Other isoglosses have led scholars to propose an early split between East and Northwest Germanic. Furthermore, features shared by any two branches of Germanic do not necessarily require the postulation of a proto-language excluding the third, as the early Germanic languages were all part of a dialect continuum in the early stages of their development, and contact between the three branches of Germanic was extensive.

Polish linguist Witold Mańczak had argued that Gothic is closer German than to Scandinavian and suggests that their ancestral homeland was located southernmost part of the Germanic territories, close to present day Austria rather than in Scandinavia. Frederik Kortlandt has agreed with Mańczak's hypothesis, stating: "I think that his argument is correct and that it is time to abandon Iordanes' classic view that the Goths came from Scandinavia."[14]


The reconstructed Proto-Slavic language features several apparent borrowed words from East Germanic (presumably Gothic), such as xlěbъ, "bread", vs. Gothic hlaifs.[15]

Use of Gothic in Romanticism and the Modern Age

Several linguists have made use of Gothic as a creative language. The most famous example is Bagme Bloma (Flower of the trees) by J.R.R. Tolkien, part of Songs of the Philologists. It was published privately in 1936 for Tolkien and his colleague E. V. Gordon. [16]
Tolkien's use of Gothic is also known from a letter from 1965 to Zillah Sherring. When she bought a copy of Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War in Salisbury, she found strange inscriptions in it; after she found his name in it, she wrote him a letter and asked him if the inscriptions were his, including the longest one on the back, which was in Gothic. In his reply to her he corrected some of the mistakes in the text; he wrote for example that hundai should be hunda and þizo boko (of those books), which he suggested should be þizos bokos (of this book). A semantic inaccuracy of the text which he mentioned himself is the use of lisan for read, while this was ussiggwan. Tolkien also made a calque of his own name in Gothic in the letter, which according to him should be Ruginwaldus Dwalakoneis.[17]

The Thorvaldsen museum also has an alliterative poem, Thunravalds Sunau, from 1841 by Massmann, the first publisher of the Skeireins, written in the Gothic language. It was read at a great feast dedicated to Thorvaldsen in the Gesellschaft der Zwanglosen in Munich on July 15th, 1841. This event is mentioned by Ludwig Schorn in the magazine Kunstblatt from the 19th of July, 1841. [18] Massmann also translated the academic commercium song "Gaudeamus" into Gothic in 1837. [19]

In 2012 professor Bjarne Simmelkjær Hansen of the University of Copenhague published a translation into Gothic of Adeste Fideles for the Roots of Europe. [20]

In Fleurs du Mal, an online magazine for art and literature, the poem "Overvloed" of Dutch poet Bert Bevers appeared in a Gothic translation. [21]


The Lord's Prayer in Gothic
Gothic Transliteration Literal translation IPA Transcription
𐌰𐍄𐍄𐌰 𐌿𐌽𐍃𐌰𐍂 𐌸𐌿 𐌹𐌽 𐌷𐌹𐌼𐌹𐌽𐌰𐌼, 1. Atta unsar þu in himinam 1. Father our, thou in heaven 1. ˈatːa ˈunsar θuː in ˈhiminam
𐍅𐌴𐌹𐌷𐌽𐌰𐌹 𐌽𐌰𐌼𐍉 𐌸𐌴𐌹𐌽 2. weihnai namo þein 2. be holy name thy. 2. ˈwiːhnɛː ˈnamoː θiːn
𐌵𐌹𐌼𐌰𐌹 𐌸𐌹𐌿𐌳𐌹𐌽𐌰𐍃𐍃𐌿𐍃 𐌸𐌴𐌹𐌽𐍃 3. qimai þiudinassus þeins 3. Come kingdom thy, 3. ˈkʷimɛː ˈθiu̯ðinasːus θiːns
𐍅𐌰𐌹𐍂𐌸𐌰𐌹 𐍅𐌹𐌻𐌾𐌰 𐌸𐌴𐌹𐌽𐍃 4. wairþai wilja þeins 4. happen will thy, 4. ˈwɛrθɛː ˈwilja θiːns
𐍃𐍅𐌴 𐌹𐌽 𐌷𐌹𐌼𐌹𐌽𐌰 𐌾𐌰𐌷 𐌰𐌽𐌰 𐌰𐌹𐍂𐌸𐌰𐌹 5. swe in himina jah ana airþai. 5. as in heaven also on earth. 5. sweː in ˈhimina jah ana ˈɛrθɛː
𐌷𐌻𐌰𐌹𐍆 𐌿𐌽𐍃𐌰𐍂𐌰𐌽𐌰 𐌸𐌰𐌽𐌰 𐍃𐌹𐌽𐍄𐌴𐌹𐌽𐌰𐌽 𐌲𐌹𐍆 𐌿𐌽𐍃 𐌷𐌹𐌼𐌼𐌰 𐌳𐌰𐌲𐌰 6. hlaif unsarana þana sinteinan gif uns himma daga 6. Bread (loaf) our, the everyday, give us this day, 6. hlɛːɸ ˈunsarana ˈθana ˈsinˌtiːnan ɡiɸ uns ˈhimːa ˈdaɣa
𐌾𐌰𐌷 𐌰𐍆𐌻𐌴𐍄 𐌿𐌽𐍃 𐌸𐌰𐍄𐌴𐌹 𐍃𐌺𐌿𐌻𐌰𐌽𐍃 𐍃𐌹𐌾𐌰𐌹𐌼𐌰 7. jah aflet uns þatei skulans sijaima 7. and forgive us, who debtors be, 7. jah aɸˈleːt uns ˈθatiː ˈskulans ˈsijɛːma
𐍃𐍅𐌰𐍃𐍅𐌴 𐌾𐌰𐌷 𐍅𐌴𐌹𐍃 𐌰𐍆𐌻𐌴𐍄𐌰𐌼 𐌸𐌰𐌹𐌼 𐍃𐌺𐌿𐌻𐌰𐌼 𐌿𐌽𐍃𐌰𐍂𐌰𐌹𐌼 8. swaswe jah weis afletam þaim skulam unsaraim 8. just as also we forgive those debtors our. 8. ˈswasweː jah ˈwiːs aɸˈleːtam θɛːm ˈskulam ˈunsarɛːm
𐌾𐌰𐌷 𐌽𐌹 𐌱𐍂𐌹𐌲𐌲𐌰𐌹𐍃 𐌿𐌽𐍃 𐌹𐌽 𐍆𐍂𐌰𐌹𐍃𐍄𐌿𐌱𐌽𐌾𐌰𐌹 9. jah ni briggais uns in fraistubnjai 9. And [do] not bring us in[to] temptation, 9. jah ni ˈbriŋɡɛːs uns in ˈɸrɛːstuβnijɛː
𐌰𐌺 𐌻𐌰𐌿𐍃𐌴𐌹 𐌿𐌽𐍃 𐌰𐍆 𐌸𐌰𐌼𐌼𐌰 𐌿𐌱𐌹𐌻𐌹𐌽 10. ak lausei uns af þamma ubilin 10. but free (loose) us from the evil [one]. 10. ak ˈlɔːsiː uns aɸ ˈθamːa ˈuβilin
𐌿𐌽𐍄𐌴 𐌸𐌴𐌹𐌽𐌰 𐌹𐍃𐍄 𐌸𐌹𐌿𐌳𐌰𐌽𐌲𐌰𐍂𐌳𐌹 𐌾𐌰𐌷 𐌼𐌰𐌷𐍄𐍃 11. unte þeina ist þiudangardi jah mahts 11. For thine is [the] kingdom and [the] might 11. ˈunteː ˈθiːna ist ˈθiu̯ðanˌɡardi jah mahts
𐌾𐌰𐌷 𐍅𐌿𐌻𐌸𐌿𐍃 𐌹𐌽 𐌰𐌹𐍅𐌹𐌽𐍃 12. jah wulþus in aiwins. 12. and glory in eternity. 12. jah ˈwulθus in ˈɛːwins

See also


  1. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Gothic". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. Strategies of Distinction: Construction of Ethnic Communities, 300–800 (Transformation of the Roman World, vol. 2) by Walter Pohl, ISBN 90-04-10846-7 (pp. 119–121)
  3. Braune/Ebbinghaus, Gotische Grammatik, Tübingen 1981
  4. Krause, Wolfgang. Handbuch des Gotischen. Niemeyer.
  5. Alice L. Harting-Correa, "Walahfrid Strabo's libellus de exordiis et incrementis quarundam in observationibus ecclesiasticis rerum. A translation and liturgical commentary", Leiden-New York-Köln: Brill, 1996 (ISBN 90 04 09669 8), pp. 72–73. Discussion between W. Haubrichs and S. Barnish in D. H. Green (2007), "Linguistic and Literary Traces of the Ostrogoths", The Ostrogoths from the Migration Period to the Sixth Century: An Ethnographic Perspective, Sam J. Barnish and Federico Marazzi, eds., part of Studies in Historical Archaeoethnology, Volume 7, Giorgio Ausenda, series ed. (Oxford: Boydell Press, ISBN 978-1-84383-074-0.), p. 409 and n1.
  6. 1 2 Prokosch p. 105
  7. 1 2 Wright (1910 edition) p. 362
  8. See also Cercignani, Fausto (1986). "The Development of the Gothic Vocalic System". In Brogyanyi, Bela; Krömmelbein, Thomas. Germanic Dialects: Linguistic and Philological Investigations. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: Benjamins. pp. 121–151. ISBN 90-272-3526-0.
  9. For the Gothic short vowels see also Cercignani, Fausto (1979). "The Development of the Gothic Short/Lax Subsystem". Zeitschrift für vergleichende Sprachforschung. 93 (2): 272–278.
  10. But see Cercignani, Fausto (1984). "The Enfants Terribles of Gothic "Breaking": hiri, aiþþau, etc.". The Journal of Indo-European Studies. 12 (3-4): 315–344.
  11. See also Cercignani, Fausto (1979). "The Reduplicating Syllable and Internal Open Juncture in Gothic". Zeitschrift für vergleichende Sprachforschung. 93 (1): 126–132.
  12. Roger, D. Woodward (2008). The ancient languages of Europe. Cambridge University Press. p. 213. ISBN 0521684951.
  13. Voyles, J. B. (1992). Early Germanic Grammar. San Diego: Academic Press. pp. 25–26. ISBN 0-12-728270-X.
  14. Kortlandt, "The origin of the Goths"
  15. Holzer, Georg (1990). "Germanische Lehnwörter im Urslavischen: Methodologisches zu ihrer Identifizierung" [Germanic word-borrowings in proto-slavic: towards a methodology of their identiification]. Croatica, Slavica, Indoeuropaea (in German). Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften. 8 (Ergänzungsband): 59–67. ISBN 9783700117742. Retrieved 2014-01-07.
  16. Shippey, Tom. The road to Middle-earth: Revised and Expanded edition. Houghton Mifflin Company. p. 26. ISBN 0-618-25760-8.
  17. Bellet, Bertrand; Babut, Benjamin. "Apostil to Thucydides". Glæmscrafu.
  18. Massmann, Hans Ferdinand. "Thunravalds Sunau". Thorvaldsen museum.
  20. Simmelkjær Hansen, Bjarne. "qimandau triggwai" (PDF). Roots of Europe.


External links

Gothic edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
For a list of words relating to Gothic language, see the Gothic language category of words in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Wikibooks has a book on the topic of: Gothic
Latin Wikisource has original text related to this article:
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