Lesson 2

Strong Neuter a-stems:

These have a Nominative Singular ending in zero.
The Nominative Plural ends in -a
The Accusative Singular ends in zero
The Accusative Plural ends in -a

In other words, the nominative and accusative forms of the neuter are exactly the same. This is a rule which is broadly true throughout Gothic, for nouns, pronouns, and adjectives of all types. (It’s also true of most other Indo-European languages which preserve the accusative case and neuter gender.)

akran fruit (cf. English “acorn”)
barn child (cf. Scots “bairn”, Old English “bearn”)
bloth blood
dius beast, wild animal (cf. English “deer”, German “Tier”) The plural of dius is diuza; z becomes s when final.
daur door (au = short o)
eisarn iron (cf. German “Eisen”)
gras grass
gulth gold (lth > ld, as in falthan “to fold”)
haubith head (pl. haubida) (cf. Old English heafod, where f=v)
haurn horn (au = short o)
huzd treasure (cf. English “hoard”; z sometimes = r in English)
jer year
kaurn grain (cf. “corn”, but kaurn is only corn in the British sense—it isn’t maize or Indian corn!)
leik body, flesh (cf. “lich”, a corpse; from secondary uses of this word we also get our words “like, alike”, Gothic galeiks, literally “same-bodied”; and the suffix -ly (Old English -lic, German -lich))
liuhath light; plural liuhada
maurthr murder (au = short o. Even in the English of two or three centuries ago, it was still spelled and pronounced “murther”!)
skip ship
tagr tear (-ag- > -au- > -ea-; cf. bagms > baum > beam)
waurd word (au = short o)

In general, au before r, h, or hw is likely to be pronounced as a short o: daur, haurn, kaurn, maurthr, waurd; but au elsewhere (except borrowings from Greek) is long or a diphthong, and usually corresponds to English ea: haubith “head”, laufs “leaf”.

Neuter Article:

Nominative and Accusative Singular: thata
Nominative and Accusative Plural: tho (The -o in tho is in origin the same as the final -a in the neuter plurals of nouns, e.g. tho skipa “the ships” comes from *tho skipo).

The Preterite

The past tense, or Preterite, of the strong verb is formed by changing the vowel of the stem according to regular patterns called Ablaut. For instance, in the strong verb of the 1st class dreiban “to drive”,

the Preterite 3rd person singular is draif (b > f when final) “he/she/it drove”
the Preterite 3rd person plural is dribun “they drove”

e.g. Sa skalks draif thans gaitans “the servant drove the goats”

Thai skalkos dribun thans gaitans “the servants drove the goats”

Draif is exactly cognate to English “drove”; the ablaut pattern ei:ai:i corresponds to that seen in English drive/drove/driven, ride/rode/ridden, write/wrote/written, etc. (this is actually the clearest remaining ablaut pattern in English).

This pattern is true of all those Class I strong verbs we saw last time:

beitan to bite
bait it bit
bitun they bit
skeinan to shine
skain it shone
skinun they shone and so on.

In class two, the pattern is iu:au:u

biugan to bend
baug it bent
bugun they bent
siukan to be sick
sauk it was sick
sukun they were sick

In class three, the pattern is i:a:u

drigkan to drink
dragk it drank
drugkun they drank
hilpan to help
halp it helped
hulpun they helped
wairpan to throw
warp “it threw”
waurpun they threw”

Cf. English patterns like drink:drank:drunk, begin:began:begun.

All three of these ablaut patterns have a common underlying structure, i:a:zero. Class I. shows this pattern followed by another i:
(long i, spelled ei) ai (zero+)i

Class II shows this pattern followed by a u, very clearly:
iu au (zero+)u

Class III shows the pattern followed by another consonant:
in an (u)n
il al (u)l
air ar (au)r

i becomes ai before a following r, as in wairpan “to throw”; in the third column, the consonant was vocalized with the help of a preceding “u”, which became au before r, as in waurpun “they threw”.

The other four classes are, unfortunately, not so transparent!

Class IV: i:a:e
brikan to break brak it broke brekun they broke
qiman to come qam it came qemun they came
bairan to bear bar it bore berun they bore
trudan* to tread trath it trod tredun they trod
*this one is exceptional

Class V: i:a:e, just like Class IV (the only difference is in the past participle)
diwan to die daw it died dewun they died
giban to give gaf it gave gebun they gave
sitan to sit sat it sat setun they sat
saihwan to see sahw it saw sehwun they saw
itan* to eat et it ate etun they ate

English verbs corresponding to these classes usually have a in the past tense, e.g. gave, sat, saw, came, but sometimes o: broke (archaic English “brake”), bore (archaic English “bare”).

Class VI: a:o:o
faran to go for it went forun they went
wakan to wake wok it woke wokun they woke
standan* to stand stoth it stood stothun they stood
*exceptional, but the parallel to English stand:stood is exact

This type is rare in English, the clearest example being shake:shook (which in Gothic would have been *skakan:*skok).

Class VII is a mixed bag, which uses reduplication (repetition of part of the sound of the first syllable), with only sometimes a change of vowel. English has no parallels.
falthan to fold faifalth it folded faifalthun they folded
In the reduplicated syllable, the vowel is always ai = short e.
haldan to hold haihald it held haihaldun they held
hahan to hang haihah it hung haihahun they hung
slepan to sleep saislep it slept saislepun they slept
(saizlep- also occurs, a secondary voicing s > z between other voiced sounds)

When there is a change of vowel, it is always e > o
letan to let lailot it let lailotun they let
tekan to touch taitok it touched taitokun they touched

e before a vowel appears as ai:
saian to sow saiso it sowed saisoun they sowed

Some sentences:

Sa thiudans qath tho waurda.
Tho barna saisoun thata kaurn.
Thata liuhath skeinith.
Tho liuhada ni skinun.
Thai thiudanos gebun silubr jah gulth.
Thata dius et thans fuglans
Thai skalkos sukun.

(Answers to this exercise.)

Try these:

The child gave the gifts.
The king seized the treasure.
The servant took the gold.
The children held the goat and the dogs.
The beasts ate fruit and grass
The king was sick, and (he) died.
The dogs did not bite the beast.

(Answers to this exercise.)

On to Lesson 3.
Back to Introduction.