Introduction to the Gothic Language

Disclaimer: The information on this page is provided as an overview. The course outline, readings, and assignments may be subject to change in the final syllabus as determined by the lecturer and/or preceptors.

The Gothic language, rich in vocabulary and archaic in structure, has survived in the earliest substantial corpus of texts written in any Germanic language. The primary texts of Gothic were translations of the Greek New Testament, probably produced or overseen by the missionary Bishop Wulfila (or Ulfilas) in the mid-4th century A.D. The Gothic language provides an essential resource for exploring the historical development of all the Germanic languages from English to German to Icelandic and beyond. The focus of the course will be on learning to read and translate texts written in Gothic, while also covering in detail the background of the language, the language’s structure and vocabulary, the cultural achievements and history of the Goths, and the role that Gothic plays in our understanding of related Germanic languages through the lens of Germanic philology.

Prior familiarity with any language besides modern English is not expected or required. The coursework involves primarily reading secondary texts, preparing translation exercises and assignments, taking two written exams (a midterm and a final), and delivering one short oral presentation in the second half of the course on a linguistic or cultural topic; individual preceptors may vary this plan to reach learning outcomes. The overall aim of the course is to acquire a basic reading knowledge of the Gothic language and to begin to understand the full context of the Gothic language.

Course Schedule

There will be two 1-hour lectures and two 1-hour weekly discussion sessions per week.

Week 1

  • Introduction to Gothic
  • Historical Setting of Gothic

Week 2

  • Alphabet and Orthography
  • Texts and Manuscripts

Week 3

  • Overview of Gothic Grammar
  • Translation Basics

Week 4

  • Translation Practice
  • Pronouns

Week 5

  • Nouns
  • Adjectives

Week 6

  • Strong Verbs
  • Weak Verbs

Week 7

  • Basic and Irregular Verbs
  • Prepositions, Adverbs, and Conjunctions

Week 8

  • Word Formation
  • Introduction to Germanic Philology

Week 9

  • Gothic in Germanic Philology
  • Gothic Innovations

Week 10

  • Reconstructing Proto-Germanic
  • Reconstructing Proto-Indo-European

Week 11

  • The Art of Etymology
  • Gothic and Greek

Week 12

  • Goths in Literature
  • The Future of Gothic

Required Text

All required texts will be provided in class.

Optional Text

The Amazon links are provided for convenience only, and we encourage students to purchase texts wherever they wish.

Course History

This course has been offered in the following semesters.

Spring 2024Dr. Paul Peterson & Dr. Nelson Goering
Spring 2021Dr. Paul Peterson & Dr. Nelson Goering
Introduction to the Gothic Language

This course will introduce students to the basics of the Gothic language and grammar and set the language within its historical and literary context.

START: January 8, 2024

DURATION: 12 Weeks

ID: LNGC 5320