Gothic "au"

David L. White dlwhite at
Thu Mar 29 18:58:18 UTC 2001

> On Thu, 22 Mar 2001 12:47:45 EST Steve Long wrote:

>> This appears to miss the point.  There are loads of words in Wright's
>> where Gothic words contain an <o>.  The point is that practically every
>> time indicated where Gothic borrowed a word with a Greek <o> it is
>> transliterated as <au> (or rarely <u>).  This does not appear to be
>> random or occasional.

>> If I remember correctly, the rare exceptions are where the vowel begins
>> the word or is from the Hebrew.  The significance might be at minimum that
>> what could mistakenly be attributed to a Germanic ablaut would appear to
>> be actually the orthographic changes that happened in borrowing.

> Good idea!

[respondent snip, to put it mildly]

        I am not too sure this is such a good idea.  The Greek/Hebrew names
in Wright show that the basic rule is what I said it was (what a
coincidence!):  long /oo/ comes across as "o", short /o/  as "au".
        Anyway, I have a prospective article on the subject of Gothic "au"
and "ai", which would be much too long to post.  (And which is much too
unscholarly as is to be publishable.  Feel free to offer assistance, anyone.
I could use it.)  The conclusion is that "au" (mostly) represents (Gothic)
short /o/, and that "o" represents long /oo/.  (Likewise for "ai" and "e".)
The one exception is that "au" before vowels, as in "stauida" (if I am
remembering correctly:  if this does not exist, parallel words do)
represents long /oo/, in part because "oi" in such cases would have wrongly
seemed to represent a monosyllabic diphthong.  (From the Greek point of
view.   But then spelling what was apparently /ng/ as "gg" suggests that a
Greek point of view was there.).  For similar reasons "ei" would not have
been a good idea.  I also suggest that the "aw" of things like "tawida"
represents short /o/, because "au" would have meant long /oo/.  If this is
true, then one of the major alternations Gothic is supposed to have had,
/oo/ vs. /au/, and /o/ vs. /aw/, is only a spelling rule, and the vowel in
such forms did not vary.  I suppose I can dredge up the Damned Thing and
send to anyone who may be interested.
        For propriety's sake, it should be noted that some "au" (cases
before vowels) is actually from long /oo/.

Dr. David L. White

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