A Grammar of Proto-Germanic

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Winfred P. Lehmann

Jonathan Slocum, ed.


7.1. Gothic

The oldest Germanic text, except for a few runes some of which have been included in the body of this grammar, is Wulfila's translation of the Bible into Gothic. Little is known about him; his tentative dates are 311-383. When he was about twenty-one he went to Constantinople to study, and at the age of thirty was consecrated first bishop of the Goths north of the Danube. During his work in what is now Bulgaria, in the fourth century A.D., he carried out the translation, presumably with the help of others. The chief parts of the text that have survived were written in northern Italy in the early sixth century on purple parchment with silver ink. The manuscript, now in the University of Uppsala library, is referred to as the Codex Argenteus.

The selection presented here is Luke 2:1-7, chosen because it is a narrative and also because there are analogues in the other dialects. It is taken from the standard edition of Die gotische Bibel (Streitberg, 1971). The text is so similar to the King James version that analysis of each word seems unnecessary. Only less identifiable words are glossed, as also in the other texts included. To illustrate the closeness to the original, the first verse of the Greek text is given here; as chief difference, there are no articles in the Gothic text.

Egéneto dè en taîs hēmérais ekeínais eksêlthen dógma parà kaísaros Augoústou apográphesthai pâsan tḕn oikouménēn.

1. Warþ þan in dagans jainans, urrann gagrefts from kaisara Agustau, gameljan allana midjungard. 2. soh þan gilstrameleins frumista warþ at [wisandin kindina Swriais] raginondin Saurim Kwreinaiau. 3. jah iddjedun allai, ei melidai weseina, hʷarjizuh in seinai baurg. 4. Urrann þan jah Iosef us Galeilaia, us baurg Nazaraiþ, in Iudaian, in baurg Daweidis sei haitada Beþla<i>haim, duþe ei was us garda fadreinais Daweidis, 5. anameljan miþ Mariin sei in fragiftim was imma qeins, wisandein inkilþon. 6. warþ þan, miþþanei þo wesun jainar, usfullnodedun dagos du bairan izai. 7. Jah gabar sunu seinana þana frumabaur jah biwand ina jah galagida ina in uzetin, unte ni was im rumis in stada þamma.

Glosses: 1. gagrefts 'decree', gameljan 'write down, enroll', midjungards 'middle-house/family, world'; 2. gilstrameleins 'enrollment', kindina 'governor', raginon 'govern'; 3. iddja, pret. of gangan 'go', hwarjizuh 'everyone', baurg 'city, town'; 4. haitan 'call, be called', duþe 'because', fadrein 'descent, race'; 5. fragifts 'gift, betrothal', qeins 'woman', inkilþo 'pregnant'; 6. miþþanei 'while, as', jainar 'there', usfulljan 'fulfill', bairan 'bear, give birth'; 7. frumabaur 'first born', biwindan 'wrapped', uzeta 'manger', staþs 'place'.

7.2. Old English

The Old English translation was produced several centuries later by unknown scholars. The text here is based on Liuzza (1994, pp. 101-102).

1. Sōþlīce on þām dagum wæs geworden gebod fram þām Cāsere Augusto, þæt eall ymbehwyrft wǣre tōmearcod; 2. þēos tōmeardones wæs ǣrest geworden from þām dēman Syrige Cirino, 3. and ealle hig ēodon and syndrie ferdon en hyre ceastre. 4. Ðā ferde Iosep fram Galilea of þǣre ceastre Nazareth on Iudēisce ceastre Davides, sēo is genemned Bethleem forþam þe he wæs of Dauides hūse and hirede. 5. þæt he ferde mid Marian þē him bewedded wæs and wæs geēacnod. 6. Sōðlīce wæs geworden þā hī þar wǣron hire dagas wǣron gefyllede þæt hēo cende. 7. and hēo cende hyre frumcennedan sunu and hine mid cildeclāþun bewand and hine on binne alede forþam þe hig nǣfdon rūm on cumena hūse.

Glosses: 1. sōþlīce 'truly, verily' (the adverb commonly used to correspond to introductory phrases in the Greek, such as egéneto dè 'it happened'; here the King James version used 'and it came to pass'; in verse 6 it used 'and so it was'; in verse 16 the pattern of 1 was used again), gebod 'command', ymbehwyrft 'about + circuit, world', tōmearcian 'mark out, count'. 2. dēma 'judge'; 3. ēodon, cf. Gothic iddja; past of gān 'go', syndrie 'individuals'; feran 'go, travel', ceaster 'fort, town, city'. 4. nemnan 'name', forþam þe 'because', hired 'family, household'. 5. ēacnian 'increase, be pregnant'. 6. ge-fyllan 'fill, fulfil', cennan 'bring forth, give birth'. 7. frumcenned 'first born', cildclāþ 'child-clothing', bewindan 'surround, wrap', binn 'manger', nǣfdon (negative ne- + habban) 'not have', rūm 'space, room', cumen 'traveler'.

7.3. Old Saxon

Rather than a translation of Luke 2:1-7, the corresponding part of a long poem, the Heliand, is given here. The author is unknown. The poem is assumed to have been written between 814 and 840 by a poet who knew the Old English Bible translations. As is readily evident, the alliterative verse is loose, though observed in its essentials. In view of the expansive presentation, selected lines of the poem rather than a continuous passage are included here.

339-42 Thô warð fon Rûmuburg rîkes mannes
  obar alla thesa irminthiod Octauiânas
  ban endi bodskepi obar thea is brêdon giuuald
  cumin fon themu kêsure cuningo gihuilicun,
  hêmsitteandiun, sô uuîdo sô is heritogon
  obar al that landskepi liudio giuueldun,
345 Hiet man that alla thes elilendiun man iro ôðil sôhton,
356b-61a Thô giuuêt im ôc mid is hîuuisca
  Ioseph the gôdo, sô it god mahtig,
  uualdand uuelda; sôhta im thiu uuânamon hêm,
  thea burg an Bethleem, thar iro beiðero uuas,
  thes heliðes handmahal endi ôc thea hêlagun thiornun,
  Marian thera gôðun. ...
369-70 that iru an them sîða sunu ōðan warð,
  giboran an Bethleem barno strangost,
378b-82a Thô ina thiu môðar nam,
  biuuand ina mid uuâdiu uuîbo scôniost,
  fagaron fratahun, endi ina mid iro folmon tuêem
  legda lioflîco luttilna man,
  that kind an êna cribbiun.

Glosses: 339 rîki 'mighty'; 340 irmin-thiod 'human-folk, people'; 341 ban 'command', bodskepi 'message', giuuald '(power), empire'; 342 gihuilik '(to) each'; 343 hêm-sittiand 'prince', heritogo 'ruler'; 344 landskepi 'empire', giuualdan 'rule'; 345 hêtan 'command', elilendi 'foreign, away from home', ôðil 'homeland', sôkian 'seek'; 356 gi-wîtan 'set out', hîwiski 'family'; 358 willian 'wish'; sôkian 'seek', wânam 'beautiful', hêm 'homeland'; 359 bêðie 'both'; 360 helið 'man, hero', hand-mahal 'homeland', thiorna 'virgin, maiden'; 369 sîð 'journey', ôðan 'granted, bestowed'; 370 strang 'powerful, mighty'; 378 niman 'take, accept'; 379 bi-windan 'wrap', wâd 'clothes', wîf 'woman, wife', skôni 'beautiful'; 380 fagar 'beautiful, charming', frataha 'adornment, attire', folmos 'arms', twêne 'two'; 381 leggian 'lay', lioflîco 'lovely'; 382 ên 'a', kribbia 'crib'.

7.4. Old High German

The Old High German passage is from a gospel harmony ascribed to Tatian, a Syrian scholar of the second century A.D. The Latin was found and revised by Bishop Victor of Capua in the sixth century. The German translator is unknown. There are several manuscripts, the most reliable of which is dated to the second half of the ninth century and is in the library at St. Gall. The second chapter of Luke is located after the first chapter of Matthew, and followed in turn by the second chapter of Matthew.

To illustrate the closeness of the Old High German text to the original, the first three verses of the Latin text are given here. The Latin uses the phrase factum est for introducing episodes, as the Old English does sôþlîce and the Greek egéneto, often followed by . The King James translators reproduced the Greek with 'and it came to pass' or with an expression more like the Latin 'and so it was'.

Factum est autem in diebus illis, exit edictum a Cesare Augusto, ut decriberetur universus orbis. Hæc descriptio prima facta est a praeside Syriæ Cyrino, et ibant omnes ut profiterentur singuli in suam civitatem.

1. Uuard thô gitân in then tagun, framquam gibot fon ðemo aluualten keisure, thaz gibrieuit vvurdi al these umbiuuerft. 2. Thaz giscrib zi êristen uuard gitan in Syriu fon ðemo grauen Cyrine, 3. inti fuorun alle, thaz biiâhin thionost iogiuuelih in sinero burgi. 4. Fuor thô Ioseph fon Galileu fon thero burgi thiu hiez Nazareth in Iudeno lant inti in Dauides burg, thiu uuas ginemnit Bethleem, bithiu uuanta her uuas fon huse inti fon hiuuiske Dauides, 5. thaz her giiahi saman mit Mariun imo gimahaltero gimahhun sô scaffaneru. 6. Thô sie thar uuarun, vvurðun taga gifulte, thaz siu bari, 7. enti gibar ira sun êrist-giboranon inti biuuant inan mit tuochum inti gilegita inan in crippea, bithiu uuanta im ni uuas ander stat in themu gasthuse.

Glosses: 1. tuon 'do' (it was done/carried out), fram-queman 'come from', gibot 'command', aluualtan 'govern all', gebrieven 'record', umbiuuerft 'orb, world'; 2. giscrib 'recording'; 3. bi-jehan 'state, assert', thionost 'service'; 4. faran 'travel, go', hîuuiski 'family'; 5. gi-jehan 'profess', gi-mahalen 'espouse', gimahha 'spouse', scephen 'create, pregnant'; 6. beran 'bear, give birth'; 7. tuoh 'cloth', bithiu uuanta 'because', stat 'place'.

Luther's translation

1. Es begab sich aber zu der Zeit, daβ ein Gebot von Kaiser Augustus ausging, daβ alle Welt geschätzt würde. 2. Und diese Schatzung war die allererste und geschah zu der Zeit, da Cyrenius Landpfleger in Syrien war. 3. Und jedermann ging, daβ er sich schätzen lieβe, ein jeglicher in seine Stadt. 4. Da machte sich auch auf Joseph aus Galiläa, aus der Stadt Nazareth, in das jüdische Land, zur Stadt Davids, die da heiβt Bethlehem, darum, daβ er von dem Hause und Geschlechte Davids war. 5. Auf daβ er sich schätzen lieβe mit Maria, seinem vertrauten Weibe, die war schwanger. 6. Und als sie daselbst waren, kam die Zeit daβ sie gebären sollte. 7. Und sie gebar ihren ersten Sohn und wickelte ihn in Windeln und legte ihn in eine Krippe; denn sie hatten sonst keinen Raum in der Herberge.

7.5. Old Norse / Icelandic

Ari's little work on the settlement of Iceland, Libellus Islandorum, is among the earliest prose documents in Old Norse; it was written between 1120 and 1133.

Ingólf hét maðr Norrœnn, er sannliga er sagt at fœri first þaðan til İslands, þá er Haraldr inn Hárfagri var xvj vetra gamall, en í annat sinn fám vetrum síðar. Hann bygði suðr í Reykjarvík. Þar er Ingólfhǫfði kallaðr, fyr austan Minþakseyri, sem hann kom first á land; en þar Ingólfsfell fyr vestan Ǫlfossá, er hann lagði sína eigu á síðan. İ þann tíð var İsland viði vaxit í miðli fjalls ok fjǫru.

Þá váru hér menn Kristnir þeir er Norðmenn kalla papa. En þeir fóru síðan á braut, af því at þeir vildu eigi vera hér við heiðna menn, ok létu eptir bœkr İrskar ok bjǫllur ok bagla; af því mátti skilja at þeir váru menn İrskar.

Glosses: heita 'be named', maðr 'man', sannliga 'truly', fara 'go, travel', þaðan 'from there', þá er 'when', Hárfagri 'Fair-haired', vetr 'winter, year', gamall 'old', annar 'another, second', sinn 'time, occasion', fám 'five', byggja 'settle, build', suðr 'south', kalla 'call, name', fyr austan 'east of', sem 'where, as, while', leggja eigu á 'take possession of', síðan 'later', tíð 'time', viðr 'forest, wood', vaxa 'grow', í miðli 'between', fjall 'mountain', fjara 'beach', á braut 'away', af því at 'because', eigi 'not', heiðinn 'heathen', láta eptir 'leave behind', bók 'book', bjalla 'bell', bagall 'crozier', skilja 'determine', İrskr 'Irish'.

Old Icelandic poems provide an indication of Germanic poetry and may have been sung on festive occasions, for which we have an example in Egils saga, when Egil recites a poem honoring his captor, who then releases him. Sections in two stanza types are given here, representing two types of poetry.

The first verse form, the fornyrðislag, is made up of lines comparable to those in epic poems, like Beowulf, but in stanzas consisting of four lines. One of the most prominent poems in this form is the Vǫluspá or Song of the Prophetess on cosmogony, represented here with stanzas 1 and 3:

Hljóðs biðk allar helgar kinder, I ask for attention of all hallowed children,
meiri ok minni mögu Heimdallar; the high and the low Heimdall's children;
vildu at, Valföðr, vel fyr teljak you, Valfather, want that I relate
forn spjöll fira, þaus fremst of man. the fates of mankind, that best I recall.
Ár vas alda þars Ymir byggði, It was an ancient time when Ymir lived,
vasa sandr né sær né svalar unnir; there was no land nor sea nor cool waves,
jörð fansk æva né upphiminn; no earth to be found, nor heaven above;
gap vas Ginnunga, en gras hvergi it was a formless void, no grass anywhere.

The second form is the ljóðaháttr, in which the alternate lines contain only three lifts. It is used especially in didactic verse, such as the Hávamál, or sayings of the High One, Odin. Its most frequently cited stanzas may be verses 76 and 77:

Deyr fé, deyja frændr, Kine dies, kinfolk die,
deyr sjalfr hit sama; dies just so the soul;
en orðstirr deyr aldrigi but glory never dies
hveims sér góðan getr. for him who gets good account.
Deyr fé, deyja frændr, Kine dies, kinfolk die,
deyr sjalfr hit sama; dies just so the soul;
ek veit einn at aldri deyr: I know something that never dies,
dómr of dauðan hvern. the judgment on all who are dead.

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