Goths, Naming and Ablaut

Hans-Werner Hatting hwhatting at
Mon Mar 5 09:36:41 UTC 2001

On Sun, 25 Feb 2001 02:26:26 EST Steve Long wrote:

>Actually, I believe these late inscriptions are from the Visigoths in Spain
>and are cited by Peter Heather as examples of Goths referring to themselves
>because the inscriptions also contain other Germanic names and words and were
>apparently authored or "voiced" by Visigothic leaders.  I will find out and
>let you know.

Thank you, this will be very interesting. What I wanted to say is that, if
these are Latin inscriptions, the (Visi)goths might have used the name used
for them in Latin, regardless of whether they themselves use this name for
BTW, what about the attestation of the names Visigoths and Ostrogoths? They
certainly contain the same element -goth-, and maybe their attestation might
shed some light on the question discussed?

>Yes, my copy of Wright's (O. L. Sayce, ed., OUP 1954) says that Gothic
><giutan> is a "class 5" strong verb but plainly it is an -iu- form, whatever
>class 5 might mean.  It seems as you say pp <gutans> would be expected from

Yes, exactly.

>With regard to OE, you write, "_gutans_ , which would correspond to the OE
>form."  I have for OE, <ge:otan (inf), ge:at (p sing), guton (p plu), goten
>(pp)>.  (And for OHG, <gioz:an>.)  If we have the ablaut set PIE *eu-ou-u >
>Gothic iu-au-u, then it is at least possible that the name Goth never took the
>form <Gutan>.  Perhaps it was a name given by other Germanic speakers and
>therefore had the -o- from the start -- e.g., OE, <Gotan> 'Goth', <goten> pp

But see my recent posting and David White's comments to it for another
source of the /o/ in _Gothi_. And we have /u/ attested, as shown by the
quotes in your "timeline" post (to which I'll answer separately).

>Once again we have no good reason to be sure Goth was first a
>self-name (cf., "Germans", "Apaches", "Basques").  And I believe we have no
>record of the Goths ever using the form "Gut-".   (With the possible
>exception of <gudekunds> which apparently meant high-born and could have
>originally referred to Gothic aristocracy.)

Where is that form attested? The stem vowel /e/ in _gude-_ looks very
strange to me, I would expect /a/, /i/, or /u/.

>That points I think to another question.  If "Goth" had an original meaning in
>an IE language, why would that word be used exclusively to refer to the Goths?
>Weren't there other places where water, river or people "poured" forth, where
>toponym or fecundity could lend its name to other people or places?  And even
>if 'Goth' did not derive from something like the name of a river or such, why
>would we expect that its occurrence would only refer to a particular people
>and nothing else?  And even if "Goth" represents some form of non-IE Germanic,
>wouldn't we expect that its use would not be limited to one particular sense
>and that being a particular tribe of people?

Normally, names are given to *distinguish* people (or, for that matter,
ethnic groups). So one would not expect various ethnic groups to be given
the same name, except if
(1) they are indistiguishable to the name-giver (as, e.g., the Romans used
to mix up the Germanic people with the Celts for quite a long time);
(2) they inherit the area where the other group earlier lived (as in German
the term "Welsch", which comes from the Celtic ethnonym "Volcae", became
later to denote the Romance people which replaced the Celts as the western
and southern neighbours of the Germans);
(3) They are adopted by another group for various reasons (as the Byzantine
Greeks used to refer to themselves as "Rhomaioi = Romans";
(4) Coincidence, as with the various people called "Iberi" in antiquity (no,
no discussion please on that one! :-) ).

As the Geats were living in the area where the Goths are supposed to come
from, they might be descendants of those Goths who did not cross the Baltic,
or they might be (case 2) Northern Germanic tribes having inherited the name
together with the area, or (if this is an other-name) they might be another
Gmc. tribe having lived alongside the Goths who received the same name (1).
In any case, the names must be connected - I don't see coincidence as an
option here.

>Miguel Carrasquer Vidal wrote earlier I think that the Goths should be
>distinguished from the Scandinavian Gauts and the Getae of the Classic
>Greeks.  But can the name itself be separated from any and all words that
>have a similar form?  Isn't there something or someone else that derived a
>name from the same original source word?

>The examples I gave in past posts from Greek of very similar words (all of
>them seemingly coming from the same "pour" or "poured" concept) might suggest
>that various forms of "Goth" might have been a common thing for various
>peoples back then to call themselves or be called by others.  At least some
>(e.g., <chuton>) might suggest that "Goth" could even have started as a Greek

I think the only connection is that some of the Greek words cited by you go
back to the same PIE root. But as long as we don't have a good etymology for
"Goth", all bets are on.

Best regards,
Hans-Werner Hatting

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