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Extinct Germanic languages

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 Message 1 of 6
15 January 2010 at 8:46am | IP Logged 
I am looking at doing something in Germanic history, which has always been a passion of mine. I am curious as to know if anyone on this board has any extensive knowledge of these particular languages-- Gothic Germanic, Burgundian, and Vandalic. Any insight would be greatly appreciated. Also, coming from a background in High German, would this be better trying to study extinct Germanic languages, or would it be better to come from a northern Germanic languages like icelandic of norwegian.
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 Message 2 of 6
15 January 2010 at 9:55am | IP Logged 
Professor Arguelles is the person you'd want to talk to.
His YouTube videos are very helpful and insightful.
This is his reading and speaking many Germanic languages, both living and extinct. In each video he recommends meterials for learning the specific language that he introduces, which is particularly helpful for languages like Gothic. At the end of this playlist is a ~1 hour, five-part chronicle of the history of the Germanic languages.
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 Message 3 of 6
15 January 2010 at 10:22am | IP Logged 
The only problem with that answer is that professor Arguelles is busy building something like an institute for polyglotism in Singapore, so you can't reach him through this forum for the time being.

But coming from a High German background the obvious choice for you would be first to learn Old High German, which actually has a rich literature (including the wellknown Niebelungenlied). The same applies to Old English (Anglosaxon) and Old Norse, while the only one of the languages you mention that has anything like a decent corpus is Gothic. The kind of Gothic you find in the extant part of Wulfilas bible (apart from a few fragments the only surviving text from that language group) is well documented, but I still think it would be better for you to learn Old High German first, which should be a manageable task, and then proceed to Gothic, Anglosaxon or Old Norse afterwards.

From the Vandal and the (Germanic) Burgundian languages you have little more than some names to study, which must be fairly frustrating.

Edited by Iversen on 15 January 2010 at 10:38am

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 Message 4 of 6
15 January 2010 at 8:44pm | IP Logged 
If you're interested in having a look at the languages, go to and look up Joseph Wright. He did primers (basically, a grammar, reader and glossary combined) for Old High German, Middle High German, Gothic and Anglo-Saxon, among other things. They're free for download there.

I think Iversen's right about starting with Old High German. If you already speak German, a lot will look familiar and you can get a basis for other early Germanic languages like Gothic.

If you're really eager to get going with Gothic, though, check out Gothic for Goths: r-goths
(remove any spaces from the link)

It's a collection of youtube videos and support materials for "Goths who want to speak Gothic". While much of it is silly (with phrases like "Am I wearing too much eyeliner?") the underlying language info, including an intro to the phonemes and graphemes, seems to be sound.
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 Message 5 of 6
17 January 2010 at 11:39pm | IP Logged 
I've always found the period around the fall of the Roman Empire a very interesting one. The Visigoths ruled Spain until the time of the Muslim invasion so its remarkable that so little of their language is recorded.
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 Message 6 of 6
24 January 2010 at 5:35pm | IP Logged 
The entire east Germanic branch has very limited texts to use, just some biblical stuff and place names. But to make up for that, all of the North and West branches have tons of reasorces to both learn and read. Good luck in your studies!

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