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D. Gary Miller

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Linguistics. Please check back later for the full article. Apart from runic inscriptions, Gothic is the earliest attested language of the Germanic family, dating to the 4th century. Along with Crimean Gothic, it belongs to the branch known as East Germanic. The bulk of the extant Gothic corpus is a translation of the Bible, of which only a portion remains. The translation is traditionally ascribed to Wulfila, who is credited with inventing the Gothic alphabet. The many Greek conventions both help and hinder interpretation of the Gothic phonological system. As in Greek, letters of the alphabet functioned as numerals, but the late letter names were from runic. Gothic inflectional categories include nouns, adjectives, and verbs. Nouns are inflected for three genders, two numbers, and four cases. Various stem types inherited from Indo-European constitute different form classes in Gothic. Adjectives have the same properties and are also inflected according to so-called weak and strong forms, as are Gothic verbs. Verbs are inflected for three persons and numbers, an indicative and a nonindicative mood (here called “optative”), past and nonpast tense, and voice. The mediopassive survives in Gothic morphologically as a synthetic passive and syntactically in innovated periphrastic formations; middle and anticausative functions were taken over by reflexive-type structures. Nonfinite forms are the infinitive, the imperative, and two participles. In syntax, Gothic had null subjects as an option, mostly in the third person singular. Aspect was effected primarily by prefixes, which have many other functions, and aspect is not consistently indicated. Absolute constructions with a participle occurred in various cases with functional differences. Relativization was effected primarily by relative pronouns built on demonstratives plus a complementizer. Complementizers could be used with subordinate clause verbs in the indicative or optative. The switch to the optative was triggered by irrealis, matrix verbs that do not permit a full range of subordinate tenses, expression of a hope or wish, potentiality, and several other conditions. Many of these are also relevant to matrix clauses (independent optatives). Essentials of linearization include prepositional phrases, default postposed genitives and possessive adjectives, and preposed demonstratives. Verb-object order predominates, but there is much Greek influence. Verb-auxiliary order is native Gothic.


Nominal Inflectional Morphology in Germanic: Pronouns  

Stefan Rabanus

Pronouns are words that represent morphosyntactic features of nominal referents located somewhere else in the sentence or the context. They display the highest degree of morphosyntactic exponence in the nominal domain, including features of person, gender, number, case, animacy, and social relationship. The Germanic languages make use of a common set of pronoun roots in order to form the paradigms of demonstrative, personal, reflexive, interrogative, and indefinite pronouns. Selection and inflection are language specific: for example, the Germanic demonstrative pronoun root *þat developed to the uninflected distal demonstrative that in English, while in German it forms part of the inflectional paradigm of the proximal demonstrative der, die, das. Reciprocal, relative, and possessive pronouns do not have autonomous roots; their forms are derived from the previously mentioned classes; compare the English relative pronouns that (< demonstrative), what, who, whose, which (< interrogative). Suppletion occurs in many paradigms, especially with person features, for example, English first person I, second person you. The 13 Germanic standard languages, Icelandic, Faroese, German, Luxembourgish, Yiddish, Danish, Swedish, Bokmål, Nynorsk, Dutch, Frisian, English, and Afrikaans, form a continuum in which Icelandic is closest to the Germanic roots and has most distinctions while Afrikaans has the least. Often the paradigm structure mirrors the geographical subdivision in Scandinavian and West Germanic. However, in some aspects German (and Luxembourgish, Yiddish) cluster with Insular Scandinavian while Mainland Scandinavian is structurally closer to the rest of the West Germanic languages. Adnominal usage of pronouns and their usage as independent constituents is only in rare cases morphologically distinguished, for example, English adnominal possessive your versus independent pronouns yours.


Gothic and Other East Germanic Varieties  

Stefan Schaffner

Biblical Gothic is the earliest Germanic language preserved in a longer text. The main source is represented by the Bible translation of the Visigothic Arian Christian bishop Wulfila ( born ca. 311, deceased ca. 382–383). Another few short Gothic texts are extant. For the translation of the Bible (ca. 350–380), on the basis of a Greek text, Wulfila invented his own alphabet (called Wulfila’s alphabet), using the Greek alphabet as model, with the addition of Latin and runic characters. Several manuscripts (5th/6th century; the most famous is the Uppsala Codex argenteus) contain the greater part of the New Testament. In spite of its fragmentary documentation, Gothic represents without doubt an important basis for the reconstruction of Proto-Germanic, because it offers—due to its early attestation—very archaic features in all areas of its grammar in comparison with the other old Germanic languages, the documentation of which began some centuries later. Gothic also shows recent innovations (especially the almost complete elimination of the effects of Verner’s Law within the strong verbs). The position of Gothic within the other Germanic subgroups, North and West Germanic, is still a matter of controversial discussion. Whereas older research stressed the correspondences between Gothic and North Germanic and, therefore, favored a closer relationship between them, postulating a subgroup Goto-Nordic, currently, a subgrouping into Northwest Germanic on the one hand and East Germanic (with Gothic as the most important representative) one the other hand is preferred, although this model also leaves open a couple of questions, giving impetus to further research. Other varieties of East Germanic are runic epigraphic texts (less than 10, most of them probably Gothic) from the 1st half of the 3rd century until the end of the 6th century. One of them (on the Charnay fibula, 2nd half of the 6th century) is probably of Burgundian origin. The documentation of other EGrm (East Germanic). languages is very poor and consists almost only of a few names. Two short syntagmata can probably be attributed to Vandalic. Crimean Gothic, the latest attested EGrm. language, is documented in a list of several dozen words and three lines of a cantilena. Most attested forms seem to represent a late EGrm. dialect.


Verb Positions and Basic Clause Structure in Germanic  

Jan-Wouter Zwart

The syntax of the modern Germanic languages is characterized by a word order pattern whereby the finite verb appears to the immediate right of the first constituent (“verb second” or V2). In canonical verb-second languages (German, Dutch, Afrikaans, Frisian, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish), verb second is limited to main clauses, yielding a main-embedded clause asymmetry, characteristic of the syntax of many Germanic languages. In the standard generative analysis, dating from the 1970s, the derivation of the verb-second pattern involves two ordered steps: (a) verb movement to the complementizer position C and (b) phrasal movement of an arbitrary constituent to the specifier position of the complementizer phrase. While this analysis remains a popular starting point for generative treatments of Germanic verb second, later developments have posed serious problems for the approach. These developments include (a) the articulation of a more detailed structure of the functional domain of the clause, providing a range of possible landing sites for the finite verb in verb-second clauses; (b) higher standards of descriptive and explanatory adequacy, necessitating well-motivated triggers for each individual movement step; (c) the development of the minimalist program, involving a sharper definition of what counts as syntactic operations, allowing for the possibility that certain processes previously considered syntactic are now better regarded as post-syntactic linearization processes; and (d) the widening of the empirical scope of verb-second research, including a range of related phenomena (such as verb-first or verb-third orders) not easily accommodated within the traditional frame. These developments make the study of verb second an exciting field in current syntactic theory, in which the varied and well-studied phenomena of Germanic continue to provide a fertile ground for the advancement of theory and description.