PRELIMINARY NOTES ON THE NUMEROUS ANCIENT GERMANIC RUIN LANGUAGES – A PROJECT

These notes by Ulf Berigsen are intended to offer an outline of existing Germanic languages. No effort to do this has so far been made.

Introduction

The core of the Germanic original home seems to be the Danish Archipelago. It also takes in the various littoral zones in South Norway and Sweden, as well as present day coasts of the Netherlands and Germany as far as Zeeland in the west and Ruegen in the east. 1)

Unfortunately there are no academic studies of a more extensive nature of Germanic ruin languages (the term has been used by German researchers beginning in the late 1980s, see for instance Germanische Rest- und Truemmersprachen, Hrsg Heinrich Beck, Berlin – New York, 1989) except for Gothic. This short list is a preliminary attempt to present a list of Germanic ruin languages. Most of the languages on this list are in the East Germanic group (as different from the West Germanic and North Germanic). The Proto-Germanic trunk branched out into these three branches in ancient times. The model was clearly inspired by the geographical locations of the earliest attested Germanic dialects.

Juergen Untermann, a contributor to the above mentioned collection of essays, is using the term ’Klein-Corpus-Sprache’ when referring to Gothic or Old Saxonian:

“Sie (die Sprachen, note) koennen so spaerlich sein, dass wir sie als ’Truemmer’ bezeichnen muessen, und damit die Sprache, die wir durch sie kennelernen, als “T r u e m m e r s p r a c h e”: das Oskisch-Umbrische oder das Venetische im antiken Italien…die Sprache der Runeninschriften Norddeutschlands und Juetlands… Worin die Truemmer bestehen, ist fuer die Definition einer Sprache als ’Truemmersprche’ znaechst belanglos: Es koennen Inschriften auf Bodenfunden sein, es koennen Namen von Personen, Orten und Voelkern sein, die uns durch die Vermittlung von in anderen Sprachen geschriebenen Kontexten zugaenglich werden. Belangvoll wird die Art der Ueberlieferung erstens, wenn wir nach der Identitaet und damit nach dem ’Namen’ einer Sprache fragen, und zweitens wenn wir sie qua Sprache beschreiben wollen…die archaelogischen Umstaende koennen es z.B. mit sich bringen, dass wir eine bestimmte Sprache nur durch Grabdenkmaeler bezeugt finden: Wurde diese Sprache nur als Sondersprache fuer diesen einen Bereich, nur als ’Grabsteinsprache’ gebraucht, oder ist sie uns (zufaellig) nur durch Grabsteine bekannt?”

GROUP I

Gothic (Goths, Ostrogoths, Visigoths)

Through MS such as the Codex Argenteus (Uppsala University Library) Gothic is reasonably well documented. Also Crimean Gothic is represented with a list of words by diplomat Busbecq in the sixteenth century.

Burgundic (Burgundians)

Documented. Not only personal names. Mentioned in Pliny’s Natural History 4.99. Possible origin the Danish island of Bornholm.

Vandalic (Vandals)

Documented. Not only personal names. Mentioned in Tacitus’ Germania 43.6. Possible origin in Vendsyssel in northernmost present Denmark.

Langobardic (Langobards)

Documented. Not only personal names. According to Langobard historian Paulus Diaconus. His source material seems to have indicated that the Langobards originally emigrated from the island of Scandinavia (Scadan, Scadanan).

GROUP II

Bastarnic (Bastarnians, ‘the impure or mixed ones‘). Mentioned in Pliny’s Natural History 4.100 and Tacitus’ Germania 46.1. Emigrated to the Carpathians, a mountain range sometimes referred to as Alpes Bastarnicae in classical literature.

Sciric (Scirians, ‘the pure ones‘). The Scirians reached the Black Sea area around 230 BC. Mentioned in Pliny’s Natural History 97. Possible connection to the Olbia inscription in present day Ukraine.

Erulic (Eruls, Heruls)

Documented. Only personal names. Mentioned in Jordanes’ Getica 23. For a reading of an Eruli personal name see the article by Dr. Norbert Wagner in the journal Beitraege zur Namenforschung, Heidelberg : Universitaetsverlag C. Winter pages 379 – 384 (2000).

Gepidic (Gepids, ‘the tardy ones‘)

Documented. Only personal names.

Rugic (Rugians)

Documented. Only personal names.

GROUP III (South Scandinavia and northern Germany)

Cimbric (Cimbrians). Possible origin region Himmerland in Jutland.

Documented. Only personal names.

Jutic (Jutes, Iutae)

Documented. Only personal names (?). For more details on Jutic personal names see Herrscherchronologien der Antiken Welt: Namen, Daten, Dynastien, Stuttgart: J.B. Metzler, 2004, around 400 pages. Possible origin Jutland. The Jutes settled in Kent, the Isle of Wight and southern Hampshire, the county opposite the island on the English mainland. The book mentioned here provides the names of the Burgundian, Gedpidian, Rugian, Vandal, Visigothic, Langobardian (including the Dukes of Benevent), Ostrogothic, Jutian, and Anglian ancient rulers.

Anglic (Angles)

Documented. Only personal names (?). See Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People, chapter 1.5 and in Tacitus’ Germania 40.1. Possible origin Angel in eastern Slesvig/Schleswig.

GROUP IV (southern Scandinavian peninsula and Gotland)

Gutnic (Gutnians)

Gautic (Goetar)

Geatic (Geates)

Note (Group IV)

Sweden has preserved on its own territory up to the present day the remembrance of the tribal name Gauts (classical Greek gautoi, Ptolemy‘s goutai). The ablaut alterations of the Germanic strong verb *geutan ‘pour’, *geut, *gaut, *gut include a form which is phonologically identical with Gaut-. The *au form is preserved only in place-names. It can hardly be denied that a relationship exists between Geatas, Goetaland, Vaestergoetland, Oestergoetland and the ancient Goths, but to explain it is difficult.

The Importance of Personal Names

Only Gothic is the only reasonably well documented Germanic language. The other languages are to a great degree preserved in personal names. Onomastic research is therefore very important to the study of Germanic ruin languages. Several European countries have research projects for the study of those names.

Germany

Here should be noted Forschungsgruppe Nomen et gens (Name und Gesellschaft, Name and Society). Two projects in this group participate in IEMEN (Institut zur Interdisciplinaeren Erforschung des Mittelalters und seines Nachwirkens), which is supported by UNESCO.

Teilprojekt Langobarden

This project is headed by Prof. Dr. Joerg Jarnut of University of Paderborn (in this context Jarnut’s Prosopographische und sozialgeschichtliche Studien zum Langobardenreich in Italien (568 – 774) ought to be noted). Another source of interest is W.Bruckner, Die Sprache der Langobarden (1895), new edition 1969.

Teilprojekt Ostgermanische Voelker

This project is headed by Prof. Dr. Helmut Castritius, Tecnicl University Carolo-Wilhlmina at Braunschweig. Other participants are Dr. Gerd Kampers, University of Bonn and Claudia Weskamp, Paderborn.

Personal names can be regarded as indicators of the belonging to a group in a linguistical, ethnical, social and cultural belonging of those who carry those names. Thus Nomen et gens can be regarded both as a linguistic and an historical project for the evaluating a corpus of personal names of ancient Germanic peoples and kingdoms from the third century to the eighth century. Nomen et gens was started in 1990. A databank has been created for the treatment and recording of the names of the project.

Nomen et gens has been represented as a section at the International Congresses of Onomastic Sciences since Trier (1993) and the following congresses in Aberdeen (1996), Santiago (1999) and Uppsala (2002).

United Kingdom

There is a smilar project in the United Kingdom (Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England, PASE). In this project the names until AD 800 have been documented (2005). An older list of names should be noted in this Contest (Onomasticon Anglo-Saxonicum. A List of Anglo-Saxon Proper Names from the Time of Beda to that of King John, Cambridge 1897. New edition 1969).

Austria

The Austrian goes back to the register (volume II) of the Lexikon der altgermanischen Namen (volume I-II, 1987 – 1990 of H. Reichert and R. Nedoma, Oesterreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften. Schriftenreihe der Kommission fuer Algermanistik.Thesaurus Paleogermanicus. In the introduction the continuation in the form of a lexikon was promised as Kommentierte Bibliographie zur altgermanischen Namenkunde. Seven volumes are planned and the first of these was published in 2004 (Robert Nedoma, Personennamen in suedgermanischen Runeninschriften. Studien zur algermanischen Namenkunde I, 1, 1. Indogermanische Bibliothek. Begruendet von H.Hirt und W. Streitberg. Fortgefuehrt von H. Krahe, Heidelberg: Universitaetsverlag Winter, 450 pages). The program of the Austrian project was presented in 2002 (R.Nedoma, Altgermanische Anthroponyme in runenepigraphischen (und anderen) Quellen. Ein Projektbericht, in Person und Name. Methodische Probleme bei der Erstellung eines Personennamenbuches des Fruehmittelalters, ed. D.Geuenich et al.).

ENDNOTE

1) There is an excellent high quality book on the runic language in this area: Professor Hans Frede Nielsen, The Early Runic Language of Scandinavia – Studies in Germanic Dialect Geography, Heidelberg: Universitaetsverlag C.Winter (2000). Nielsen is professor at the South Danish University, Odnse, Denmark.

Ulf Berigsen participates in the Germanic Ruin Languages (GRL) Project, a private initiative. He has published on the history of ancient Germanic peoples or tribes.

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