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Codex Abrosianus


Introduction to the Gothic Language[edit | edit source]

The Gothic Language was an East Germanic language spoken by the Goths, a Germanic people who played a major role in the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the emergence of Medieval Europe. It is the earliest Germanic language attested with a sizable corpus, dating back to the 4th century. Gothic, being a Germanic language, is part of the Indo-European language family: the same family as German, Dutch and English. The language was in decline by the mid-sixth century and lacks any modern descendants.

Gothic retains many archaic features from Proto-Indo-European that are absent in many modern Germanic languages such as; a rich declension system, dual number, reduplication in the past tense of certain verbs, morphological passive voice for verbs, and clitic conjunctions. Two distinct features of Gothic are the lack of umlaut and lack of rhotacism, both shared by later attested Germanic languages.

Prior to the translation of the Bible, Gothic survived chiefly as a spoken language. Few Gothic runic inscriptions were found across Europe, but due to early Christianization of the Goths, the Runic writing was quickly replaced by the newly invented Gothic alphabet. The Gothic alphabet is credited to the Gothic bishop Ulfilas, or Wulfila, who based the alphabet on the Greek alphabet, with some letters modified from the Elder Futhark alphabet, and possibly the Latin alphabet. It was once believed that Ulfilas himself translated the Bible into Gothic, but it is now believed that the translations were performed by several scholars commissioned by Ufilas. Gothic survives today in various codices containing Ulfilas' translation, a fragmentary commentary on the Gospel of John, fragments of a calendar, and signatures. Slightly more than half of the New Testament is extant. With the exception of the second epistle to the Corinthians, every book has gaps, ranging from a few verses to several chapters. As for the Old Testament, only a small fragment of Nehemiah, Psalms, and Genesis survive. The surviving pages of this Bible translation make up most of the extant Gothic texts we know today.

Crimean Gothic[edit | edit source]

The Gothic language of the Bible translation died out sometime in the 6th century. However, there survived a small number of Gothic speakers in isolated locations in the Crimean peninsula until the late 18th century. Not much is known about this Crimean Gothic language, but it is unlikely to be a lineal descendant of Bible Gothic. Only a single source provides any details of the language itself: a letter by the Flemish ambassador Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq, dated 1562 and first published in 1589. The letter gives a list of some eighty words and a song supposedly in the language still untranslated to this day.

Purposes of Learning Gothic[edit | edit source]

Gothic is an ancient language which will give you insight into the evolution of Germanic languages throughout history. It is a unique language, being the only well-documented East Germanic language. Gothic may also be used as a stepping-stone to learning Latin or Greek, which have many principles which are shared with Gothic. If you are interested in biblical translations, Gothic may be of great interest to you. Furthermore, if you are interested in history, and particularly the history of the Goths and other German tribes, it might be of use for you to learn Gothic.

An Introduction to this Book[edit | edit source]

This book will teach you the grammar of Gothic, starting with the alphabet and pronunciation of words, followed by an introduction to the basic grammar, followed by progressively more difficult grammar. In later chapters, the concept of the neologism will be introduced, and finally a number of advanced exercises testing everything taught - with excerpts from Wulfilas's own translation of the bible.

The basic format of each chapter is an introduction to the vocabulary, followed by lessons with exercises, and overall exercises at the end of the chapter. In later chapters, you may be asked to create some of the words that you require to translate.