Episode 26: Imperial Crisis and the Goths

Rome is racked by ‘Imperial Crisis’ while strong Germanic tribes gather along the Rhine and Danube. The Alamanni, Franks, Vandals and Goths rise to power and provide us with many words in modern English. The Goths translate the Bible into their Germanic language.  We then compare the Gothic language to Old English.

Map Prepared by Louis Henwood (Click Map for Larger Image)

Map Prepared by Louis Henwood (Click Map for Larger Image)

21 thoughts on “Episode 26: Imperial Crisis and the Goths

  1. Was this the episode with the “you”s? I’m not sure but I think so.

    I was surprised to hear you say third person for you/yous/ya’ll/you all. I was always taught that you was second person and he/him/her/they was third person.

    • Hi Kris,

      Yes, this was the episode in which I mistakenly referred to ‘you’ as a third person pronoun. It was a misstatement on my part, and I have plans to correct it. I am re-recording some of the old episodes, but I haven’t gotten to this one yet.

  2. “yinz” should also be in that list!

    Love these maps, by the way. They add so much by illustrating the broad movements you’re discussing.

  3. Thank you Kevin!
    your podcast is fascinating and enriching and i’m learning so much. i keep coming back to it and repeat episodes to understand the vast array of topics covered here.
    i’m grateful for having discovered your podcast, especially as i was very baffled by the English language, and you helped me understand it much better.

  4. What about the old swedish word Allmoge, rarely used today, but with, I guess, the same meaning. Do the words have any connection to each other, or did they just appear at two different places at the same time?

    • Hi Anna,

      I don’t have a Swedish etymology dictionary, so I can’t really answer that question. If the word means “German” or “Germanic” in Swedish, then I would strongly suspect that it comes from the name of the Alemanni tribe.

        • Got it. In that case, I suspect that the Swedish word comes from the same Germanic construction that was used for the name of the Alemanni. As I noted in the episode, the name of the German tribe also meant “all men.” So if there is a common root, it is probably within Proto-Germanic.

          • Forgive my awkward translation (my Swedish is not the best), but according to the Svenska Akademiens ordbok you are correct:

            name of farmers and stateless people; Swedish peasantry
            Etymology: Of Old Swedish almoghe, almughe, or almogher (“all people”); composition of Old Swedish al- (“whole, full, all”) and moghe, mogher (“people, congregation”, more at “bunch, heap”). Generally, from the outset, an entire group or “bunch” of people. Later there was a slurry of significance, where it was mainly used for all the men of the kingdom who had property rights. As some people began to divorce themselves from the great mass of the population in Sweden, the word (especially in the construction of the commonwealth) came to denote the parts of the people that did not break out from the whole. These were thus the lower classes, the taxable social classes as opposed to the more privileged classes. The original meaning of “nation,” and “the people” were gradually forced away. By the end of the Middle Ages, a distinction was made between the power of the cities and the power of the country. Compositions: Allmogans, Allmogräkt, Allmogekultur, Allmogemøbel, Allmogelöjd, Allmoge, Allmogestil, Allmogestuga

  5. As somebody who’s interested in languages and history, and who also identifies as a goth (in the modern-day sense), it tickled me pink to hear you discuss goth at the end of the episode! Thank you — I really enjoy your podcast.

  6. Hi Kevin! Though I’m a huge language nut and have always been interested in etymology and European history, it was actually this quick video with animation from Ted ED that recently got me interested in the Goths. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=STOJftffOqs It’s been so great hearing more details on them, which is often left out. It sounds like Ted either used you as a source, or used the same one(s) you did!

    • The short answer is that historical linguists have studied cognates within the various Germanic languages, as well as surviving documents in the various Germanic languages, and they have determined that the Proto-Germanic language did not have a ‘v’ sound. The proto language had a ‘w’ sound which later evolved into a ‘v’ sound within German and several other languages. (This also happened within late Latin, thereby converting “wino” into “vino.” English has “wine” as an early borrowing from the original Latin root and “vine” as a later borrowing from the French version of the word.) I’m not a linguist, so I can’t really explain the research process in detail. In cases like this, I am simply reporting what the professionals have concluded through years of research.

        • Though it’s not a mystery; in either the case of Old High or Old Low German, the “w” sound began to shift toward the “v” sound but would not have fully occurred until Middle High and Middle Low German.

  7. Hi Kevin,

    First of all: thanks for this great and accessible work. It is real pleasure to listen to.

    I have the following remark. In this episode 26, and a previous one too, you mention the absence of the dual pronoun in old English (starting at around 44:30). This seem to be an error. P.S. Baker’s “Introduction to Old English” (3rd edition) mentions on p. 45 the dual pronouns in OE: wit (we two) and git (you two) and their respective declensions. He also gives an OE riddle making use of this pronoun: “Gif wit unc gedeaelath, me bith death witod” (sorry for the absence of OE text-coding).

    I have not listened to all episodes (yet), so my apologies if the dual pronoun is treated somewhere else.

    Kind regards,
    Willem-Jan de Wit

    • Yes, it was a misstatement to say that there was no dual pronoun form. Another listener made the same observation in the comments to Episode 22. As I noted in my reply there, the dual form is attested in early Old English documents, but it had apparently disappeared by around the 10th century before most of the surviving Old English documents were composed. So most surviving Old English documents don’t have that dual form. But ultimately, you are correct, there was once a dual pronoun. I briefly discuss that dual form in Episode 54: Pronouns Pros and Cons.

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