Dead Language: GOTHIC

Indo-European > Germanic > East Germanic > Gothic

The Goths who swept through Europe during the decay of the Roman Empire bear no relation to the architectural term 'gothic', nor to the fashion of wearing too much black and make-up. The Gothic language, which has no modern descendants, is preserved in a few antique manuscripts, but offers philologists the best source for charting the development of the Germanic languages from their hypothetical common source, Proto-Germanic.

Gothic is the only known member of the now extinct East Germanic branch. It is thought that the Goths migrated from southern Sweden (where places such as Gotland and Västergötland still exist) to the banks of the Vistula, with many more migrating further south to the Black Sea, where they came into contact with the Greeks. The two main tribes were called Ostrogoths and Visigoths; the latter eventually spread across Europe to Spain where they governed for many years until the Moors arrived. Through wars and assimilation, however, by about the 8th C the Goths and their language ultimately ceased to be (Robinson, 1992: p47).

The major linguistic evidence for Gothic comes from the Codex Argenteus, which contains the work of Bishop Wulfila (or Ulfilas)(c300-383), who translated the Bible from Greek into Gothic. Wulfila invented a new alphabet for the Visigothic language, and his vocabulary and orthography bears strong hellenic influence. Being by far the oldest text written in any Germanic language, the importance of Wulfila's work to the field og Germanic Philology cannot be underestimated.

The linguistic influence of the Goths upon today's languages is debatable. Almost nothing bar personal names remains of Visigothic in Spanish, and the influence of the Gothic missions in Germany had little long-term effect, except upon Bavarian and Alemannic in the south: local names for the days of the week show echoes of Greek, which was transmitted via Gothic: eg, Bavarian phinztag (Thursday) from Greek pémpte via Gothic *pintēdags.

examples of gothic

1. Jah galáiþ aftra in Kafarnaum afar dagans, jah gafrēhun þatei in garda ist.

2. Jah suns gaqēmun managái, swaswē juþan ni gamōstēdun nih at daúra, jah rōdida im waúrd
3. Jah qēmun at imma usliþan baírandans, hafanana fram fidwōrim.
4. Jah ni magandans nēhwa qiman imma faúra manageim, andhulidēdun hrōt þarei was Iēsus, jah usgrabandans insáilidēdun þata badi, jah fralaílōtun ana þammei lag sa usliþa.
5. Gasaíhwands þan Iēsus galáubein izē qaþ du þamma usliþin: barnilō, aflētanda þus frawaúrhteis þeinōs.
6. Wēsunuh þan sumái þizē bōkarjē jáinar sitandans jah þagkjandans sis in haírtam seináim:
7. hwa sa swa rōdeiþ náiteinins? hwas mag aflētan frawaúrhtins, niba áins guþ?
8. Jah suns ufkannands Iēsus ahmin seinamma þatei swa þái mitōdēdun sis, qaþ du im: duhwē mitōþ þata in haírtam izwaráim?
9. hwaþar ist azētizō du qiþan þamma usliþin: aflētanda þus frawaúrhteis þeinōs, þáu qiþan: urreis jah nim þata badi þeinata jah gagg?
10. Aþþan ei witeiþ þatei waldufni habáiþ sunus mans ana aírþái aflētan frawaúrhtins, qaþ du þamma usliþin:

11. þus qiþa: urreis nimuh þata badi þein jah gagg du garda þeinamma.
12. Jah urráis suns jah ushafjands badi usiddja faúra andwaírþja alláizē, swaswē usgeisnōdēdun allái jah háuhidēdun mikiljandans guþ, qiþandans þatei áiw swa ni gasēhwun.
Wulfila's Bible translation, 'Mark Ch.II',c.4th C. (Translation:
1. And after some days he went again into Capernaum, and they found out that he was in the house.
2. And immediately many people came, so that they could no longer find room at the door, and so he preached the word to them.
3. And they came to him bearing a palsied man, carried by four people.
4. And not being able to come near to him due to the crowd, they opened up the roof where Jesus was, and breaking through they tied up the bed with cords and let it down to where the palsied man lay.
5. Then Jesus, seeing their faith, said to the palsied man: son (little child?), may your sins be forgiven you.
6. But there were some of the scribes sitting there and reasoning in their hearts:
7. Who is this who speaks such blasphemies? Who may forgive sins, save God alone?
8. And immediately Jesus, recognizing in his spirit that they reasoned themselves thus, said to them: why do you reason this in your hearts?
9. What is easier to say to the palsied man: be forgiven of your sins, or to say: Arise and take up your bed, and go?
10. However that you know that the Son of Man has the power on earth to forgive sins, he said to the palsied man:
11. To you I say: Arise and take up your bed and go to your house.
12. And immediately he arose and, lifting up the bed, went forth before all of those present so that they were all amazed, and they glorified the exalted God, saying they never saw such a thing.)

orthography note: while originally written in Wulfila's Gothic alphabet, this version was transcribed by Jospeh Wright. I have however replaced the letter with the letters hw (in italics), which roughly correspond with the letter's sound Another version can be found at, but their English translation does not always match the Gothic.

a short gothic bibliography
  • Joseph Wright, Grammar of the Gothic Language (Oxford: 1910)
  • Orrin W. Robinson, Old English and its Closest Relatives (Routledge, London: 1992)
  • D.H. Green, Language and History in the Early Germanic World (Cambridge: 1998)
  • Winfred P. Lehmann, Gothic and the Reconstruction of Proto-Germanic: in E. Konig & J. Van Der Auwera, The Germanic Languages, pp349-387 (Routledge, London: 1994)

some gothic links


At 15:18, Blogger Harris said...

Two new children's books in Gothic. Both books are available in print and ebook formats. Here are the links:


Harris Tobias


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