Sunday, June 11, 2006

GGL Repost: Gothic

Gallery of Germanic Languages: A Look at Gothic

Gothic is the oldest attested Germanic language, the Gothic translation of parts of the Bible being dated to the 4th century, and the first instances of Old English, Old High German, Saxon, or Norse not coming until at least 4 centuries later. Because Gothic is relatively close to the original primitive Germanic language, it is of great interest to linguists.

Gothic differs from its Germanic cousins in many ways. It is the only Germanic language to retain (in some cases) the Indo-European –s ending for masculine nouns and adjectives: compare Gothic hunds ‘dog/hound’ with its cognates, Latin canis, and Greek kunos. (Notice how the Indo-European k got softened to an h in Germanic.) Gothic is also the only Germanic language that didn’t change any of its inherited s’s or z’s into r’s. Compare:

‘teach’: Gothic laísjan, Old High German lêren, Old English læren (‘lore/learn’).
‘hoard’: Gothic huzd, Old High German hort, Old English hord.

Here are three sound files for Gothic: The first is the Lord's Prayer, recorded by yours truly. I've recorded the same prayer in each of the old Germanic languages to make comparison easier.

The Lord's Prayer, in Gothic

Atta unsar, þu in himinam,
weihnai namo þein,
qimai þiudinassus þeins,
wairþai wilja þeins,
swe in himina jah ana airþai.
hlaif unsarana þana sinteinan gif uns himma daga,
jah aflet uns þatei skulans sijaima,
swaswe jah weis afletam þaim skulam unsaraim,
jah ni briggais uns in fraistubnjai,
ak lausei uns af þamma ubilin.

The second file is found here: it’s the first episode of my own occasional Bitter Scroll podcast, where I read and translate a poem composed in Gothic by Germanic scholar J.R.R. Tolkien. I think this poem in particular shows just how beautiful and melodic Gothic is.

The third sound file is from the Lowlands-L website, dedicated to preservation of languages and dialects related to the Lowlands (Low German, Dutch, and the like).

The Wren, in Gothic

The English version of this story is here. Samples of many other languages are here.

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