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 The Origin and Structure of the Gothic Alphabet

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Whitedemon

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PostSubject: The Origin and Structure of the Gothic Alphabet   Fri Oct 05, 2012 6:20 am

The Goths spoke a Germanic language, unique not only in that it is the earliest documented Germanic language, but also in that it is the only language in a completely separate branch of the Germanic family unrelated to any other surviving Germanic languages.

The letter names are recorded in a 9th century manuscript of Alcuin (Codex Vindobonensis 795). Most of them seem to be Gothic forms of names also appearing in the rune poems. The names are given in the reconstructed form of the Gothic words, followed by the spelling of their actual attestation.

Note that there are two letters that don't stand for any sounds. This is because they were originally adopted from Greek only for their numeric value. Later, these letters came to represent sounds like the th in thin and a breathy wh respectively. While most of the letters are taken from the Greek alphabet directly, a few are innovated to accurately express Gothic phonology. Regarding the letters' numeric values, most correspond to that of the Greek numerals. The Classical Greek alphabet doubled as a number system, and each letter had a number associated with it. The Gothic alphabet continued this tradition, and so in the case of Gothic, the first row of letters have numeric values of 1 to 9, the second row from 10 to 90, and the third row from 100 to 900.

In most of Europe, the Gothic alphabet and language slowly faded into obscurity by the 9th century CE. The Gothic language survived in the Crimea but it too became extinct around the 17th century CE.
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