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  • The Gothic language (gutiska razda) is an extinct Germanic language that was spoken by the Goths and specifically by the Visigoths. It is known primarily through a translation of the Bible dating from the 4th century, and is the only East Germanic language with a sizeable corpus. All others, including Burgundian and Vandalic, are known, if at all, only from proper names that survived in historical accounts.

  • As a Germanic language, Gothic is a part of the Indo-European language family. It is the Germanic language with the earliest attestation, but it has no modern descendants. The oldest documents in Gothic date back to the 4th century. The language was in decline by the mid-6th century, due in part to the military defeat of the Goths at the hands of the Franks, the elimination of the Goths in Italy, massive conversion to primarily Latin-speaking Roman Catholicism, and geographic isolation. The language survived in the Iberian peninsula (modern Spain and Portugal) as late as the 8th century, and Frankish author Walafrid Strabo wrote that it was still spoken in the lower Danube area and in isolated mountain regions in Crimea in the early 9th century (see Crimean Gothic). Gothic-seeming terms found in later (post-9th century) manuscripts may not belong to the same language.The existence of such early attested corpora makes it a language of considerable interest in comparative linguistics.

  • The native name for the language is unattested, and the reconstruction gutiska razda is based on Jordanes' Gothiskandza, read as gutisk-andja, "gothic end (or border)". razda "speech" is attested, e. g. in Matthew 26:73

  • The largest body of surviving documentation consists of codices written and commissioned by the Arian bishop Ulfilas (also known as Wulfila, 311-382), who was the leader of a community of Visigoth Christians in the Roman province of Moesia (modern Bulgaria). He commissioned a translation of the Greek Septuagint into the Gothic language, of which roughly three-quarters of the New Testament and some fragments of the Old Testament have survived.

  • 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 circa 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 which 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.

  • There are very few references to the Gothic language in secondary sources after about 800 AD, so perhaps it was rarely used by that date. In evaluating medieval texts that mention the Goths, it must be noted that many writers used the word Goths to mean any Germanic people in eastern Europe, 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.

  • The relationship between the language of the Crimean Goths and Ulfilas' Gothic is less clear. The few fragments of their language from the 16th century show significant differences from the language of the Gothic Bible, although some of the glosses, such as ada for "egg", imply a common heritage.

  • 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.




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