Is Gothic Useful?

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Widukind
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Is Gothic Useful?

Postby Widukind » 2018-10-03, 22:26

I’m wondering about this. If one wants to understand later Germanic languages better, would it help to learn? I understand that syntax is a problem, but it seems we know enough about the language.

Any insight?

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Re: Is Gothic Useful?

Postby linguoboy » 2018-10-04, 15:04

Widukind wrote:I’m wondering about this. If one wants to understand later Germanic languages better, would it help to learn?

Not particularly. As you say, you can't learn much about Germanic syntax from studying it and it's very conservative phonetically, so it doesn't help you to understand later Germanic sound changes. That leaves vocabulary, which is also peculiar from the POV of the surviving branches (although it is a source of loans into Romance and some Balkan languages).
"Richmond is a real scholar; Owen just learns languages because he can't bear not to know what other people are saying."--Margaret Lattimore on her two sons

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Widukind
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Re: Is Gothic Useful?

Postby Widukind » 2018-10-07, 15:50

Thank you, Linguoboy. I figured that maybe the language was a bit too off, in several ways, to be a good tool.

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Re: Is Gothic Useful?

Postby William Cassell » 2018-12-18, 19:15

Dear Widukind and colleagues,
I am an absolute beginner with Gothic, but I think it is very useful. As Gothic is by miles the earliest recorded of the Germanic languages, you can get an idea of how they might have developed from Indo-European. Gothic tends to indicate that Proto-Germanic was a pidginised version of I.E.. This can be seen from various aspects of the language :-
1] There are only two tenses, past and future, i.e. a simplification of I.E.. Further tenses had to be constructed in Germanic languages in the form of resolved or built-up tenses [ a string of auxiliary verbs ], e.g. ich werde gehen, I will go, Ich habe gemacht, I have done -- Ich werde gemacht haben, I will have done. These verbal forms make verbs easier to learn in Germanic languages, than Romance ones.
2] Gothic has both weak and strong verbs - I live, Iived [ ich lebe, ich lebte ] as well as strong verbs [ ich singe , ich sang, ich habe gesungen ], using ablaut or vowel-gradation. Weak verbs were a new invention in Germanic, much simpler and easy to learn and all new verbs added to English are weak.
3] Re-duplication of sounds.
The most widespread of the Germanic languages, English, was further pidginised through contact with old Norse. These simplifications have helped make English the world's major language.

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Re: Is Gothic Useful?

Postby linguoboy » 2018-12-18, 20:11

Proto-Indo-European is believed to have lacked grammatical tense. Thus the tense system of any Indo-European language represents an innovation.

I don't think you're using "pidginise" according to its accepted meaning in linguistics. A certain amount of koineïsation seems to have taken place between Old English and Old Norse in the Danelaw, but it fell well short of pidginisation. The same holds true of Proto-Germanic. It may have preserved less of Proto-Indo-European morphology than some other varieties, but it hardly did away with it completely.

Although it's true that new verbs added to English belong to the weak class, it's also worth noting that over time a number of originally weak verbs have gone over to the strong class, e.g. dive, stick, dig, string, ring, wear, etc. Analogy is a powerful force driving language change.
"Richmond is a real scholar; Owen just learns languages because he can't bear not to know what other people are saying."--Margaret Lattimore on her two sons

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Re: Is Gothic Useful?

Postby William Cassell » 2018-12-19, 17:11

Dear Linguoboy,
I accept that I was a little too categorical when I said '' all new verbs added to English are weak ''. I should have said '' most ''. Analogy is very powerful. When I was younger than I am now, the past tense of '' sneak '' was '' sneaked '', but a popular new form '' snuck '' has arisen - I suspect it sounds more forceful as it rhymes with '' f*** ''. That being said, of course, analogy works in the opposite direction to turn strong verbs into weak e,g. climb/clomb became climb/climbed except in standard usage [ but survives in dialect in both Britain and the U.S ]. I rather think that this process might be the more significant, thus re-enforcing my point. When I was young, the past tense of '' wreak '' was
'' wrought '' [ as in '' wrought havoc '' ], but now, to my intense irritation, seems to be '' wreaked ''. You may say this particular change is unusual, because historically '' wrought '' was the past tense of '' work '', and I am not sure of the precise relationship between '' wreak '' and '' work '' [ variation through metathesis ? ]. However, I do not think my general point is invalidated.
If I get time I will try to return to your other points.

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Re: Is Gothic Useful?

Postby linguoboy » 2018-12-19, 17:25

William Cassell wrote:When I was young, the past tense of '' wreak '' was ''wrought '' [ as in '' wrought havoc '' ], but now, to my intense irritation, seems to be '' wreaked ''.

This is a form of regularisation involving the replacement of one weak form with another. ("Strong" is not a synonym for "irregular" when applied to verbs.) Historically, wreak was a strong verb with past tense wroke, but this was already archaic by Scott's time.

I do think it's worth noting that, regardless of the overall trend, strong verbs do not represent a completely closed class in contemporary English.
"Richmond is a real scholar; Owen just learns languages because he can't bear not to know what other people are saying."--Margaret Lattimore on her two sons


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