Alphabet and Transliteration
Ulfilas' Gothic, as well as that of the Skeireins and various other manuscripts, was written using an alphabet that was most likely invented by Ulfilas himself for his translation. Some scholars (e.g. Braune) claim that it was derived from the Greek alphabet only, while others maintain that there are some Gothic letters of Runic or Latin origin.
This Gothic alphabet has nothing to do with blackletter (also called Gothic script), which was used to write the Latin script from the 12th to 14th centuries and evolved into the Fraktur writing later used to write German.
A standardized system is used for transliterating Gothic words into the Latin script. The system mirrors the conventions of the native alphabet, for example writing long /iː/ as ei. There are two variant spelling systems: a raw one that directly transliterates the original Gothic script, and a normalized one that adds diacritics (macrons and acute accents) to certain vowels to clarify the pronunciation, or in certain cases to indicate the Proto-Germanic origin of the vowel in question. The normalized spelling system is usually used in the academic literature.
The following table shows the correspondence between spelling and sound for vowels:
|Raw spelling||Normalized spelling||Sound||Normal environment of occurrence (in native words)||Paradigmatically alternating sound, in other environments||Proto-Germanic origin|
|ā||/aː/||Before /h/, /hʷ/||Does not occur||/ãː/ (before /h/)|
|ai||aí||/ɛ/||Before /h/, /hʷ/, /r/||i /i/||/e/, /i/|
|ai||/ɛː/||Before vowels||ē /eː/||/eː/|
|ái||/ai/||Not before vowels||aj /aj/||/ai/|
|au||aú||/ɔ/||Before /h/, /hʷ/, /r/||u /u/||/u/|
|au||/ɔː/||Before vowels||ō /oː/||/oː/|
|áu||/au/||Not before vowels||aw /aw/||/au/|
|e||ē||/eː/||Not before vowels||ai /ɛː/||/eː/|
|ei||ei||/iː/||Everywhere||--||/iː/; /ĩː/ (before /h/)|
|i||i||/i/||Everywhere except before /h/, /hʷ/, /r/||aí /ɛ/||/e/, /i/|
|iu||iu||/iu/||Not before vowels||iw /iw/||/eu/, /iu/|
|o||ō||/oː/||Not before vowels||au /ɔː/||/oː/|
|u||u||/u/||Everywhere except before /h/, /hʷ/, /r/||aú /ɔ/||/u/|
|ū||/uː/||Everywhere||--||/uː/; /ũː/ (before /h/)|
- The "normal environment of occurrence" refers to native words. In foreign words, these environments are often greatly disturbed. For example, the short sounds /ɛ/ and /i/ alternate in native words in a nearly allophonic way, with /ɛ/ occurring in native words only before the consonants /h/, /hʷ/, /r/, while /i/ occurs everywhere else (nevertheless, there are a few exceptions, e.g. /i/ before /r/ in hiri, /ɛ/ consistently in the reduplicating syllable of certain past-tense verbs regardless of the following consonant, that indicate that these sounds had become phonemicized). In foreign borrowings, however, /ɛ/ and /i/ occur freely in all environments, reflecting the corresponding vowel quality in the source language.
- Paradigmatic alterations can occur either intra-paradigm (between two different forms within a specific paradigm) or cross-paradigm (between the same form in two different paradigms of the same class). Examples of intra-paradigm alternation are gawi /ga.wi/ "district (nom.)" vs. gáujis /gɔː.jis/ "district (gen.)"; mawi /ma.wi/ "maiden (nom.)" vs. máujōs /mɔː.joːs/ "maiden (gen.)"; þiwi /θi.wi/ "maiden (nom.)" vs. þiujōs /θiu.joːs/ "maiden (gen.)"; taui /tɔː.i/ "deed (nom.)" vs. tōjis /toː.jis/ "deed (gen.)"; náus /nɔːs/ "corpse (nom.)" vs. naweis /na.wiːs/ "corpses (nom.)"; triu /triu/?? "tree (nom.)" vs. triwis /tri.wis/ "tree (gen.)"; táujan /tɔː.jan/ "to do" vs. tawida /ta.wi.ða/ "I/he did"; stōjan /stoː.jan/ "to judge" vs. stauida /stɔː.i.ða/ "I/he judged". Examples of cross-paradigm alternation: Class IV verbs qiman /kʷiman/ "to come" vs. baíran /bɛran/ "to carry", qumans /kʷumans/ "(having) come" vs. baúrans /bɔrans/ "(having) carried"; Class VIIb verbs lētan /leː.tan/ "to let" vs. saian /sɛː.an/ "to sow" (note similar preterites laílōt /lɛ.loːt/ "I/he let", saísō /sɛ.soː/ "I/he sowed"). A combination of intra- and cross-paradigm alternation occurs in Class V sniwan /sni.wan/ "to hasten" vs. snáu /snɔː/ "I/he hastened" (expected *snaw, cf. qiman "to come", qam "I/he came").
- The carefully maintained alternations between iu and iw suggest that iu may have been something other than /iu/. Various possibilities have been suggested (e.g. high central or high back unrounded vowels, such as ); under these theories, the spelling of iu is derived from the fact that the sound alternates with iw before a vowel, modeled on the similar alternations au and aw. The most common theory, however, simply posits /iu/ as the pronunciation of iu.
- Macrons represent long ā and ū (however, long i appears as ei, following the representation used in the native alphabet). Macrons are often also used in the case of ē and ō; however, they are sometimes omitted, since these vowels are always long. Long ā occurs only before the consonants /h/, /hʷ/ and represents Proto-Germanic nasalized /ãː(h)/ < earlier /aŋ(h)/, still non-nasal /aː/ did not occur in Proto-Germanic. It is possible that the Gothic vowel still preserved the nasalization. Non-nasal /iː/ and /uː/ did occur in Proto-Germanic, however, and as a result long ei and ū occur in all contexts. Before /h/ and /hʷ/, long ei and ū could stem from either non-nasal or nasal long vowels in Proto-Germanic; it is possible that the nasalization was still preserved in Gothic, but not written.
- What appear as ai and au in the native alphabet are written in three different ways in transliteration, according to the origin:
- ái and áu, with an accent over the first vowel, represent original Germanic diphthongs /ai/ and /au/. These do not occur before a vowel, and are usually assumed to represent the pronunciation /ɛː/ and /ɔː/.
- aí and aú, with an accent over the second vowel, represent original short Germanic vowels /e/, /i/, and /u/. These occur mostly before h, ƕ and r, and were pronounced /ɛ/ and /ɔ/ (i.e. short vowels).
- ai and au, with no accent, represent original long Germanic vowels /eː/ and /oː/. These appear only before a vowel, and were pronounced /ɛː/ and /ɔː/.
The following table shows the correspondence between spelling and sound for consonants:
|Spelling||Sound (phoneme)||Sound (allophone)||Environment of occurrence||Paradigmatically alternating sound, in other environments||Proto-Germanic origin|
|b||/b/||Word-initially; after a consonant||--||/b/|
|After a vowel, before a voiced sound||/ɸ/ (after a vowel, not before a voiced sound)|
|d||/d/||Word-initially; after a consonant||--||/d/|
|After a vowel, before a voiced sound||/θ/ (after a vowel, not before a voiced sound)|
|f||/ɸ/||Everywhere except before a voiced consonant||/b/||/ɸ/; /b/|
|g||/ɡ/||Word-initially; after a consonant||--||/g/|
|After a vowel, before a voiced sound||/g/ (after a vowel, not before a voiced sound)|
|After a vowel, not before a voiced sound||/g/ (after a vowel, before a voiced sound)|
|/n/||Before k /k/, g /g/, gw /gʷ/
(such usage influenced by Greek, cf. gamma)
|gw||/ɡʷ/||After g /n/||--||/gʷ/|
|h||/h/||Everywhere except before a voiced consonant||/g/||/x/|
|ƕ||/hʷ/||Everywhere except before a voiced consonant||--||/xʷ/|
|k||/k/||Everywhere except before a voiced consonant||--||/k/|
|p||/p/||Everywhere except before a voiced consonant||--||/p/|
|q||/kʷ/||Everywhere except before a voiced consonant||--||/kʷ/|
|s||/s/||Everywhere except before a voiced consonant||/z/||/s/; /z/|
|t||/t/||Everywhere except before a voiced consonant||--||/t/|
|þ||/θ/||Everywhere except before a voiced consonant||/d/||/θ/; /d/|
|z||/z/||After a vowel, before a voiced sound||/s/||/z/|
- /hʷ/, which is written with a single character in the native alphabet, is transliterated using the symbol ƕ, which is used only in transliterating Gothic.
- /kʷ/ is similarly written with a single character in the native alphabet and is transliterated q (with no following u).
- /gʷ/, however, is written with two letters in the native alphabet and hence gw. The lack of a single letter to represent this sound may result from its restricted distribution (only after /n/) and its rarity.
- /θ/ is written þ, similarly to other Germanic languages.
- Although is the allophone of /n/ occurring before /ɡ/ and /k/, it is written g, following the native-alphabet convention (which in turn follows Greek usage). This leads to occasional ambiguities, e.g. saggws "song" but triggws "faithful" (cf. English "true").
Read more about this topic: Gothic Language
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