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Teutonic Languages

gothic, der, century, idioms, tongues, german, ed, ad, 2d and indo-european

TEUTONIC LANGUAGES. • The Teu tonic, or Germanic, languages are unmistakably of a common origin. They comprise English, German, Frisian, Flemish, Dutch, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic and Gothic. The latter prevailed from the 4th to the 7th cen turies A.D. over a large portion of the south west and southeast of Europe, and in it we find the oldest written documents; however, both the Goths themselves and Gothic are now wholly extinct. German again includes both High and Low German, with their varying dia lects, often differing very materially in their structure frotn each other. All these tongues, though derivin* as they do from a common source, have differentiated greatly in historic times, so much so that most of them are quite unintelligible to the members of the other branches. Again, as far as written records are concerned, these date from very different pe riods. Thus, we know the Bihle translation of Bishop Ulfilas (Wolf) of the Ostrogoths, parts of which in a fair state of preservation are kept in the University Library of Upsala, Sweden, and dating from the 4th century. 'This trans lation. manifestly shows that Gothic even at that early time was a highly articulate language. Anglo-Saxon literature takes its rise in the 7th century, though some earlier fragments are probably incorporated in later works. The earliest German records date from the 8th and that of the Dutch•from the 9th century. Fri sian, a subdivision of certain very marked char acteristics, does not become known to us by as much as a line till the 12th century, and in that century, too, the Scandinavian tongues for the first time make an appearance in preserved records, though it is not till the 15th century really that much of this is visible. Not until the last-mentioned period, either, do Swedish, Danish and Norwegian begin to contrast sharply in their interior construction and pho netics. Icelandic went its own course, on the other hand, being little influenced, by reason of geographical remoteness, by the cognate tongues further south. However, these north ern idioms are at least rich in comparatively early inscriptions, in Runic characters, and afford much food to the philological searcher. Likewise both inscriptions and other early lit erary remnants discovered in the northern lands exhibit all the various stages of develop ment, back even to a few types (like Icelandic), more archaic and rude than Gothic and dating from as early as the 3d century A.D. More over, some deductions as to the general style of the various early Teutonic dialects spoken by those tribes with whom the Romans came into contact from ex.. 150 to about A.D. 350 may be drawn from the proper names of the chiefs and other men of prominence, as these names were usually emblematic and compounded of descriptive adjectives or nouns, and these would show that on the whole during these 500 years the Teutonic vernaculars were fairly con stant and not subject to rapid changes.

Certainly, the Germanic languages stand out clear and well-defined as a separate group of the Indo-European family, their nearest rela tionship being, in some respects, with the Italic and Celtic, in others with the Slavic tongues, and forming part of the western division. Most characteristic for the Teutonic idioms, from the philological point of view, is their manner of using the Indo-European explosive sounds. In some combinations consonants were lost or new consonants injected; n, for ex ample, was eliminated before the .2-; final ex plosives and nasals were thrown out; their vowel system was in a general way a close as similation to that of most other Aryan lan guages. The accent in the Teutonic tongues shifted, after remaining indeterminate for ages, to the first syllable. This must have been as early as about B.C. 100. Alliteration was em ployed a great deal, both in ordinary prose and in poetry, and this as far back as the time of the Cheruski, during the Augustean era of Rome. Alliteration also served to distinguish leading families or tribes from each other, the letter s, for instance, serving the Sigambri as a special mark of this nature. It was similar in the case of other Teutonic idioms. The

phonetic characteristics, too, seem to have be come fixed about the beginning of the Christian era. Dialectical differences existed even then, but were not nearly so pronounced as they have become since, a fact which the most ancient Runic inscriptions emphasize.. On the whole, the Teutonic languages in their most primitive forms with which we are acquainted were more melodious, certainly richer in full vowels and not so overburdened with conso nants as we find them now. Gothic, which at a very early stage became separated from the body of the language by reason of far wander ings and long-continued influences exercised on it by the adjoining and surrounding Latin and Greek populations, underwent a number of im portant euphonic changes. So much so indeed that after the lapse of some three or four cen turies of this influence Gothic, as spoken both by Ostrogoths and Visigoths, as also by the Vandals, Gepidw and other eastern Teutonic tribes, must have become scarcely intelligible to their kin who had remained on Germanic soil. This becomes reasonably certain by com paring the Bible translation of Ulfilas with con temporaneous specimens of German or Scandi navian. The latter two linguistic bodies, how ever, seem to have undergone their greatest in ternal alterations during the 6th and 7th centu ries A.D. The vernacular of the Vandals, Gepietze, etc., does not appear to have seriously differed from the Gothic. As for the chief parts of the early Germanic grammar, of the three numbers in vogue in Indo-European lan guages, the dual does not seem to have ever been used in the Teutonic idioms. Of the eight cases taken over from early Aryan, the voca tive, the instrumental and the locative were made use of sparingly. As to the conjugation of verbs, the Teutonic system was simpler than in most of the Indo-European languages. The old Middle Voice is absent. In the early forms of the verb the Teutonic languages employ but two tenses, the present and the preterite; in lieu of the future a periphrase, a preposition or a perfective verb had to do duty. On the whole, therefore, it is undeniable that the Teu tonic group of languages shows many peculi arities setting it apart from all others. Of course, side by side with those joint features set forth above, went on the process of individ ual development for each of the dialects and separate idioms, these growing at last into dis tinct languages. Most plainly this process of individualization may be observed in the com paratively rapid growth of the Scandinavian tongues. In the early Middle Ages the inhabit ants of Scandinavia all spoke nearly alike and understood each other without serious trouble. Within the space of two centuries complete differentiation had been effected. In a sense, the Flemish and Dutch idioms show in their grammar forms an arrested development, due in a measure to political separation from the neighboring parent stock; in phonetics both differ very materially from the German.

Bibliography.— Bulbring, K. 0., glisches Elementarhuch' (Heidelberg 1902); Braune, W., 'Gotische Grammatik' (4th ed., Halle 1895); (Hei delberg 1897); Verner, K., (Afhandlinger og Breve' (Copenhagen 1903).