Wednesday, September 14, 2005

A Little Gothic for your Thursday

(Wed. evening edition)

No, not this, or this, or even this. It occured to me that I could periodically post little snippets of the various languages I'm in love with. I mean, why should you be deprived of the little daily delights that come from my linguistic labor? Maybe you'll be interested and want to learn more. If so, future posts may (may) follow popular demand. If not, you probably found this blog by mistake anyway.

The Goths spoke the only East Germanic language that has survived, thanks mostly to Bishop Wulfila. It's the oldest Germanic language, and exhibits the most similarities to what scholars have reconstructed of the original pre-Germanic language, which itself was a tendril of the many-headed Serpentus Indo-Europeanus. One of the things I have enjoyed in studying all the various Germanic languages is finding the many similarities that exist among them, usually in vocabulary, but also in grammar. Here are some (somewhat) randomly selected Gothic words to give you an idea.

drigkan: to drink
qithan: to speak (cf. "quoth")
maúrþr: murder
waúrd: word
þiudans: king (= OE þéoden > JRRT "Theoden")
bindan: bind
kiusan: choose
fram: from, by
frijondi: friend
sáiwala: soul
daúr: entrance

[Note: In Gothic gg is pronounced, as in Greek, like English "ng"; gk is pronounced like "nk"; q is pronounced "kw"; is like the o in bore; and ái is pronounced like English "eye".]

Gothic, like English, has two basic ways of changing verb tense: umlaut or a dental suffix (-d, -ed). So you shouldn't feel too out of sorts when I tell you the principle parts of the verb for "to drink" are drigkan, dragk, drugk-, drugkans; and those of "to bring" are briggan, brahta, brahts.

When the Huns swept into Europe, many Goths entered the service of the Hunnish leader, whom they called "little Father" in Gothic (Attila, from Go. atta, 'father'); possibly this was because their king Ermanaric was so bad. When the Huns were finally stopped at the Battle of the Catalaunian Fields, there were Goths fighting on both sides.

Joining the Goths in the East Germanic Language Club were the Lombards, Vandals, and Burgundians. How many of their descendants are speaking Romance languages today?


Derek the Ænglican said...

This is a great idea!

I'm I correct in remembering that the only remaining literary bits in Gothic are an edition of the Gospels and a fragmentary commentary on John?

It looks terribly similar to OE--what's your analysis of that?

King Alfred said...

Yes, there are little scraps like Gothic marginal notes in Latin homiletic texts and perhaps a stray runic inscription or two, but the only substantial extant Gothic texts are much Wulfila's translation of the Bible, and the commentary known as the Skeireins. Both of these exhibit a good deal of Hellenic syntax, so while Gothic is great for studying early Germanic word forms and grammar, we don't really know as much about early Germanic syntax as we would if we had an original Gothic-composed text.

King Alfred said...

oh, and I'll post soon on a bit of comparitive Germanics. In my opinion, all the old Germanic languages looked a lot alike. At least it's easy (and fun) to read one in context of knowing the others. OE differs from Gothic (and from ON, OHG, OS, etc.) in for the most part predictable ways. More to come.

King Alfred said...

Sigh. That is: "much OF Wulfila's translation" and "comparAtive Germanics"