Gothic Online

Selected Annotated Bibliography

Todd B. Krause


There are few available editions of the Gothic corpus as a whole, the most accessible sources being the reading excerpts contained in the grammars listed in the next section. There are, however, two outstanding editions of Gothic texts listed below. The first is unforunately long out of print, and the second is reprinted periodically.

  • Gerhard H. Balg, The First Germanic Bible. Milwaukee: self-published, 1891. This work contains the Gothic text of the Bible, as well as the other main remains of the Gothic language. One of the few editions in English, particularly amusing for employing a reformed spelling of Modern English (e.g. tho for though). It contains a complete dictionary of the language. An even more striking feature is a remarkably extensive treatment of syntax, though more along the lines of standard grammars of Latin and Greek (e.g. focusing on clauses of various types such as result clauses and purpose clauses), rather than in step with modern notions of syntax. In short an amazingly useful reference.
  • Wilhelm Streitberg, Die gotische Bibel. Heidelberg: Carl Winter Universitaetsbuchhandlung, 1960. Two volumes. Simply put, this is the standard edition of the Gothic Bible by which all others are judged. Streitberg put considerable effort into reconstructing the form of the Greek Bible on which the Gothic translation was based, and the result is set on pages facing the accompanying Gothic. The second volume is a complete dictionary of the Gothic language, particularly interesting for its labelling of verbs as perfective or imperfective as per Streitberg's description of such terms in his Elementarbuch.


There are a number of grammars of the Gothic language. Most of them are reference grammars and therefore not a user-friendly introduction to the language, Bennett's book being a notable exception. In addition, few of the grammars are in English.

  • Wilhelm Braune, Gotische Grammatik: mit Lesestuecken und Worterverzeichnis. Tuebingen: Niemeyer, 1973. One of the standard references in German. Includes readings and a glossary.
  • Wilhelm Streitberg, Gotisches Elementarbuch. Heidelberg: Carl Winter Universitaetsbuchhandlung, 1910. Perhaps the single most useful reference grammar on Gothic. It stands out among all others by virtue of its lengthy treatment of syntax, given short shrift elsewhere. Includes reading passages and a glossary. In German.
  • Joseph Wright, Grammar of the Gothic Language. London: Oxford University Press, 1954. A nice, clear reference grammar, with a number of readings and glossaries. A thorough treatment of morphology, though some of the analysis is a little dated. A few pages of syntax are added as an afterthought. One of the few reference works available in English.
  • Wolfgang Krause, Handbuch des Gotischen. Munich: Beck, 1968. A reference grammar, with little attention given to matters of syntax. In German.
  • William H. Bennett, An Introduction to the Gothic Language. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1980. This is an extremely useful introduction and a welcome departure from all other books this author has seen, they being mainly reference grammars with readings added as an afterthought. Bennett's book is a pedagogical introduction, though at times a little more terse than one would like. As nice feature is that at the final sections of most of the chapters, taken together, form a concise introduction to Germanic historical linguistics in general. Includes readings for each chapter and a self-contained glossary. In English.


The text editions listed above, namely Balg's and Streitberg's, contain full dictionaries of the corpus (Balg's into English, Streitberg's into German). From the perspective of historical linguistics, the following work stands out.

  • Winfred P. Lehmann, A Gothic Etymological Dictionary. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1986. As noted in the work, this is based on the third edition of the Vergleichendes Woerterbuch der Gotischen Sprache by Sigmund Feist. In short, this is perhaps the single most useful work on the Gothic language besides the texts themselves. In a sense a topical dictionary, in that words etymologically related are generally listed under the same head word. It can, however, be used as a companion dictionary to the texts by employing the Gothic index near the back. Each head word is given a short discussion citing scholarly literature which is collected in the bibliography. Examples of etymologically related words from other languages are cited, and the index contains lists of all words referenced from languages Indo-European and not, grouped by language and family or subfamily. In English.

Linguistic History

The first source listed below is a book giving a general survey of the older Germanic languages and is a suitable introduction for the non-specialist. The articles that follow are scholarly works treating specific matters of Gothic, Germanic, and Indo-European historical linguistics.

  • Orrin W. Robinson, Old English and its Closest Relatives. London: Routledge, 1992. A truly fun and entertaining book to read, while at the same time scholarly and informative. A rare gem. Each of the major archaic Germanic languages is treated in a separate chapter, highlighting the way in which each differs from basic common Germanic characteristics as outlined in an early chapter. A short reading and accompanying glossary (with translations into English at the end of the book) are given in each chapter; when possible these are parallel versions of the Parable of the Sower and the Seed, to afford easy comparison between languages. The chapter on Gothic, as is to be expected in a work of this nature, is more superficial than these lessons. It is nevertheless informative for gaining perspective on how Gothic fits into the Germanic family. In English.
  • Winfred P. Lehmann, "The Indo-European dh-Determinative in Germanic," Language Vol. 18, No. 2, Apr-Jun 1942, 125-132.
  • Winfred P. Lehmann, "The Indo-European dh-Determinative as Germanic Preterite Formant," Language Vol. 19, No. 1, Jan-Mar 1943, 19-26.
  • Vyacheslav V. Ivanov, "Indo-European Syntactic Rules and Gothic Morphology," Indo-European Studies Vol. 1, 1999. The article is available for download on the University of California Press website.
  • Frederick Kortlandt, The Origin of the Goths, 2000. Available for download on the author's web page.


The works listed below treat the history of the Gothic people. Two of the works give broad overviews and interpretation of a vast amount of primary and secondary literature treating more or less the entire course of documented Gothic history. The work by Heather and Matthews, by contrast, is more limited in timespan and unique in providing primary source material in translation.

  • Peter Heather, The Goths. Cambridge, Mass: Blackwell, 1996. A well-written study of the Goths, particularly useful for its attempt to distinguish between different Gothic tribes in the period leading up to the advent of the Visigoths and Ostrogoths. Contains enlightening dicussions of the relation between archaeology and ethnicity. In English.
  • Peter Heather and John Matthews, The Goths in the Fourth Century. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1991. A singularly useful text, being a rare resource for actual primary texts concerning the Goths in English translation. Short and to the point, though with a broad range of coverage from archaeology, history, and language.
  • Herwig Wolfram, History of the Goths, translated from German by Thomas J. Dunlap. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988. The English version of this German text is actually a wonderful read. The author keeps the narrative flowing at a brisk pace, though pausing at times for interesting asides and analyses. Though a history text, this generally reads more like a novel, albeit with less character development. Unfortunately the asides, which look both forward and backward in time, can make following the sequence of events a little difficult at times. This makes the book's use as a reference a little more limited.

Crimean Gothic

The following work has become a standard on the topic of Crimean Gothic, both providing the primary material and a useful summary of scholarship up to the point of publication.

  • MacDonald Stearns, Jr., Crimean Gothic: analysis and etymology of the corpus. Saratoga, Calif: Anma Libri, 1978. A particularly thorough study of Crimean Gothic. At times going against previous scholarly opinion, a generally well-reasoned and solid account of the language and problems with its interpretation. Extremely informative, containing Busbecq's letter in facsimile, transcription, and translation, as well as a discussion of pertinent ancilliary materials. In English.

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