Getae as Goths

David L. White dlwhite at
Thu Mar 29 19:30:43 UTC 2001

        Here is a somewhat wild, and probably worthless (or at least wrong)
possibility:  could the name of the Getae be from umlaut of /got-thiuda/ or
something of the sort?  Probably not:  all Germanic umlaut is supposed to be
a lot more recent than that, and the original Getae were pretty clearly
Iranians, according to what I just read in "The Oxford Illustrated
Prehistroy of Europe".  But perhaps the process of umlaut cannot in fact be
so finely dated.  It has been suggested with considerable plausibility that
Saxon had umlaut that it did not mark in writing, and there must have been a
pre-phonemic stage, where fronted former back-round vowels existed as (for
lack of a better word) allophones, and thus would have been thought of by
Goths as /o/, etc.  Nonetheless, if sufficiently fronted, they might have
been heard as more like /e/ than /o/, though I suppose for Greek "/y/" would
have to be our best guess about how such a thing would have been heard.  But
there could have been an intermediary language or two.
        By the way, how did the umlaut in "Goeteborg" (or is that "-burg")
and "-goetland" get there?  Does it suggest an earlier form (at least in the
north) with following /i/?
        As for getting rid of ablaut variation in our explanations, that
would also involve getting rid of the Geats, which I would suggest is not
advisable.  If we have to use abluat to explain the Geats (as something
other than an extraordinary coincidence) we might as well use it generally.

Dr. David L. White

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