Category Archives: Early Middle Ages

Peter Alexander Kerkhof, MA

In 2008 when I started this weblog I was still working on my BA in History at Leiden University specializing in the Early Middle Ages and their vernacular literatures. At the Leiden institute of Comparative Indo-European Linguistics I had the opportunity and privilege to follow introductory and advanced courses in many of the medieval vernaculars. Ancient cultures, Ancient languages, Ancient history. I am very passionate about all of them.

I named the weblog “wanana sculun Frankon” after the famous Old High German exhortation of Otfrid of Weissenburg in his 9th c. versified Liber Evangeliorum (Liber I, Cap. I 33-34): wánana sculun Fránkon, éinon thaz biwánkon, ni sie in frénkisgon bigínnen, sie gotes lób singen (Vollmann-Profe 1987: 36-37). We could translate this in Modern English as: Why should the Franks be the only ones to hesitate to begin to sing the praises of god in the Frankish language.

I chose this Old High German verse as the title for my blog because I wanted to write about the interdisciplinary field between Medieval studies and historical linguistics. In Early Medieval studies the vernaculars are grossly undervalued at the moment. This is due to severe revisionism of the twentieth century paradigm of Barbarian peoples and states on the part of the historians, while most historical linguists working with Early Medieval languages and cultures still succesfully use the paradigm in their inquiries into Early Medieval culture. This is why the title wanana sculun Frankon seemed strangely appropriate for voicing my concerns regarding the divide between the disciplines.

After my BA in History I chose to do a MA in Comparative Indo-European Linguistics, because there were so many cool old languages to be learned. I specialized in Indo-European word formation and the historical phonology of the western Indo-European languages. This summer I finished my MA in Comparative Linguistics Cum Laude with a MA-thesis entitled Suffix variation in the PGmc. l-suffixes and the ablaut of the PIE l-stems which was graded with a 9/10 mark. My supervisors suggested expanding this research into a PhD-thesis encompassing the PIE l-formations by and large, work on which I can hopefully start next year. When I have integrated the main critiques of my supervisors in my thesis, I will put it on for those of you who might want to read it.You can find me at:

What will I be doing now? This year I will mainly be preparing my PhD-research for the PhD-position next year, hopefully publish some of my research in academic journals and start writing a non-academic book about the languages in the Early Middle Ages.

This is also a good moment to think about what I want with this blog. In the past years I have posted articles on various subjects, from translations of Ossetic Nart sagas, North-East-Caucasian etymologies to musings on Romance sound laws and the usual Early Medieval stuff. I want to continue doing this, making this blog an academic outlet for my ideas on Comparative Linguistics, Old Germanistics and Medieval studies. Right now I am getting some introductory notes into Proto-Semitic from a friend who is now doing a PhD in comparative Semititic linguistics and I am being taught about the history of the Berber languages by a friend who is doing a Phd in comparative Berber linguistics (visit his weblog at I might also try to expand my knowledge of Japanese, so my linguistics articles may more often cross the boundaries of the Indo-European language family than my readers might be used to. Because I write these posts in my spare time and the articles are not always carefully proofread, typo’s may slip in. If you find them, be so kind to point out these typo’s so I can correct the article. If you have questions, remarks or just feel the urge to respond to my articles, please do so. Everybody loves a good discussion.

Kind regards,

Peter Alexander Kerkhof

PS. Because weblog.leidenuniv has changed the weblog editor from B2evolution to WordPress the layout of my old articles has been ruined. I will try to repair them in the coming months. Hang on!

A 7th century Rap Battle between Bishops

The correspondence of Frodebert and Importun as a Merovingian verbal duel


 Since the information age has permeated all aspects of Western society and everyone of us may be startled anytime by a text message arriving on our mobile phones,  it may be hard for us, 21st century scholars, to imagine a world where the written word was solely used as a complement to the spoken word. Despite recent scholarship focusing mainly on the traces of literacy the Merovingian Age has left us, no one shall contest that the Early Middle Ages were a place where the spoken word held prominence and society was predominantly illiterate.

Government in Merovingian Gaul depended on Frankish warlords ruling ruthless war bands who dominated a  countryside littered with late antique latifundiae and towns. In the towns the Merovingian church upheld the ruined vestiges of Roman bureaucracy, a bureaucracy the warlords gladly used to affirm their power. While the Roman Empire had perished these warlords still minted Roman-style coins and levied Roman taxes. The model of government these Early Medieval princes aspired to was a conflation of the ideal of Germanic martial nobility with models of authority indebted to Late Antiquity. Nevertheless, the true heir of Classical Rome was the Roman Church who inherited the administrative infrastructure and literacy of the Late Principate. Since the use of the written word was the prerogative and the profession of the clergy most of the documents that have reached us from the Merovingian age are deeply religious in wording and outlook. This may be why Bruno Krusch (1905), the famous editor of the Monumenta Germaniae Historica, called the curious correspondence between the bishops Frodebertus and Importunus “das wahrste Denkmal der ganzen Merowingerzeit”.

The text

Surviving in an early ninth-century manuscript (BN lat. 4627) together with multiple Merovingian formulae (epistolary models) the correspondence is one of the more peculiar monuments of Merovingian literacy. The antagonists are Frodebert (Old Frankish personal name *Hrōþiberχt) who was bishop of Tours from 653 to 674 CE and bishop Importun who was bishop of Paris from 664 to 666 CE. Judging on the episcopacies of the two bishops the correspondence can be dated to the period between 664 CE to 666 CE. The most conspicuous feature of the correspondence is its ludicrous content. What initially may be taken as a serious written complaint from one bishop to another about a faulty grain delivery quickly escalates into a fierce polemic where vulgarities aren’t shunned. Alternately the two bishops make accusations to eachother and denounce the accusations of the other party. In this regard we should note that the text has come down to us in an orthography that is significantly influenced by Romance vernacular features and uses an idiom which draws amply from colloquial registers. Modern editions were drafted by Zeumer (1886) and Walstra (1962) but recently Danuta Shanzer (2010) reedited the text in her article “The tale of Frodebert’s tail” (2010).

The content

For convenience purposes I will use Walstra´s numbering of the fragments and Shanzer´s allotment of authors to the fragments. Shanzer summarizes the contents of which I wil give an abridged version.

1 Frod. Frodebert complains about the quality of a grain shipment that Importun send to a convent of nuns that fall under the jurisdiction of Tours. No good bread can be made from it and Importun is invited to try it. Sarcasm abounds in the first letter.
2 Import. Importun repudiates the accusation and starts accusing Frodebert of abducting and seducing the wife of Grimoald, the Neustrian maiordomus. There they did not read scripture but…(lacuna). Frodebert was born in a monastery.
3 Import. Importun asserts that Frodebert is unworthy of his rang as bishop and does the devil’s work. Furthermore he accuses Frodebert of being unjustly manumitted,                fornication with all kinds of women and extortion of his nuns. By his long tail (penis), -is it long enough?-, Frodebert is encouraged to castrate himself.
4 Frod. Old Testament allusion to Proverbs by repeating Solomon that no one should be                 foolish enough to respond to a fool. Frodebert calls Importun a falsator, a susurro and a murro. Importun forgets that Frodebert helped and raised him. Frodebert swears that Importun is a liar and a bracco (Old Frankish *brakkō “dog”) in the manger, unbefitting of a baro (Old Frankish *barō “free man, warrior”).
5 Import. This part adresses domnae sanctae (nuns?) who are urged not to believe the lies. Liars resemble fures, murones and susurrones. The fox is more cowardly than a dog since he shows his tails, but hides his face, unable to face a dog. He grabs the hoopoe but not the swallow. He eats excrement and lies like an irishman. The domnae should not believe Frodebert.

Genre and function of the text

Shanzer subjects the text, its contents and its background to a thorough investigation highlighting the carnivalesque nature of the argumentation and the rhyme. She concludes her article by speculating that the correspondence might have been part of a public perfomance conducted at “some seventh-century Feast of Fools” (Shanzer 2010: 395). To my mind she hits the nail on the head and the dialogue should be intepreted as constituting a verbal duel meant for public display in the urbanity of some Merovingian town. In this regard comparison with similar verbal duels in other cultures might illucidate the dynamic of the dialogue. Shanzer herself remarks in a footnote (2010: 393, ftn. 63) that a connection to the Germanic flyting might be considered, but deems it to speculative. Instead she looks for ties with the Patristic writings of Jerome which are just as speculative but connect better to her field of research as a Latinist.

The Germanic flyting

The flyting is a Germanic verbal duel that was part of the interaction between warriors in the mead hall. This practice is reflected in Old Germanic literature, most notably in the Old Icelandic saga’s and the Old English Beowulf poem which was shown by Clover in her article “the Unferþ episode” (Clover 1980). A flyting consists of boast and insults in wich threats, curses and vows can also be used. Favourite insults pertained to acts of cowardice, dishonouring relatives and sexual irregularities, the latter catergory constituting a field of sexual defamation called níðr in Old Icelandic. These contests of wit can be seen as the verbal equivalent of a martial duel and are also characterized as such (Old Icelandic bregdask með orðum) but are not to be understood as a prelude to actual violence. Rather they constitute a battlefield on their own. We might see these verbal duels as form of performative anger or cathartic expressions of agression that strengthens and protects the community by containing and redirecting anger, fear and conflict (Brown 2002: 166).

The dynamic of a flyting consists of a claim from the one part, a concession from the accused party and a subsequent counterclaim. Interesting here is that the facts are not discussed since they are presumed to be known to the audience. Rather the interpretation of the facts is subject of discussion. The outcome was expected to be peacefull with the victorious party accruing honour and reknown from the occasion and the losing party defamed and supposedly holding his or her tongue. That this was not always the case is clear from the Old Icelandic saga material in which the losing party may seek immediate redress for the defeat and resort to actual violence. Unfortunately the role of the audience during the verbal duel is unknown to us from the Old Germanic material, eventhough at times it may have been crucial to the dynamic of the flyting and a verbal duel cannot be properly evaluated without it.

The parallels with the correspondence between Frodebert and Importun are clear. Sexual defamation and cowardice are central themes in the repertory of insults and serious accusations are made to either party. Interesting is that the accusations aren’t conceded as in the Germanic flyting but rather the credibility of the accusing party is called in question by adducing further defamatory anecdotes. There are further deviations from the Germanic flyting model, namely the use of formal (ecclesiastical) epithets and formula’s, the allusion to scripture and the invocation of God, which may be attributed to the urban christian culture of the Gallo-Frankish towns. On the other hand, cursing with the devil and eternal damnation is also to be found in the Old Icelandic saga material.  Furthermore, the audience seems to hold an important place in the verbal duel between Frodebert and Importun since they are adressed directly in Import. 5, where in the Old Icelandic saga’s they are largely left out of the debate. Although this Gallo-Frankish verbal duel may originally be indebted to native Frankish flyting practice, it is clear that it evolved into a more christianized form adapted to the urban culture of its public. We should also note that the content of the Gallo-Frankish verbal duel is less serious than its Germanic counterpart. We know that the insulsts used are punishable by law and the sarcasm points to a mocking battle of wits rather than to a dead serious verbal equivalent of actual sword play.

Verbal duels in general

The rhyming prose in which the fragments are written point to oral poetic delivery comparable to the modern Afro-American “dozen” or even a “rap-battle”. This is also corroborated by the text itself in which Frodebert accuses Importun to “sing” (psallat) like a fox in a snare (trappa < Old Frankish *trappō). Verbal duels are to be found all over the globe. We may cite Valentina Pagliai’s definition of a verbal duel in her 2009 article on the subject: “[verbal duels are] a genre of argumentative language that entails exchanges between two persons, parties or chracters that challenge each other to a perfomative display of verbal skillfulness in front of an audience. […] In verbal dueling there is a stress on the performance, the display and the search for a public witnessing. At the same time, in verbal duels there is also a heightening of the poetic dimension.” (Pagliai 2009: 63). In her article she cites parallels from modern societies, i.e. modern day Tuscany, Ghana, Yemen, Nigeria, Guyana, Indonesia and Turkey. It is very well conceibable that Merovingian society also knew a form the “verbal duel”, to be performed at public occasions, an example of which by chance has made its way into written form. We may wonder whether the antagonists of the dialogue are also the performers of the verbal duel. The Merovingian episcopacy was a religo-political office with great religious and military authority and the exchange of such severe insults in an ordinary context would generally have been reason for feud and open warfare. Nevertheless, since the Old Icelandic evidence shows us that also kings could engage in flytings we should hold the possibility open that the in royal aula such a performative duel could be condoned and was actually part of court life. This would better explain why the verbal duel was written down in epistolary form than assuming it was part of satirical reenactment by commoners at a Merovingian carnival. It would explain the strange admixture of colloquial phrasings and learned formulas. To my mind scholars of Merovingian society focus too much on the christian context and thereby do not escape the tone of the discourse used by the writers of the sources.

Literary background

Shanzer’s fixation on the literary background is, to my mind, way off target when we are approaching a text reflecting oral perfomance. Interestingly enough she does acknowledge the colloquiality of the text when considering the specific insults that are used, since they are to be found in the Pactus Legis Salicae in the chapter that stipulates the compensation tariffs for dishonouring insults (de convitiis). When it comes to the animal metaphors however she does favour parallels in Patristic writings. Although her presumed models for these animal metaphors may be vaguely discerned in Jerome’s homelitic works the whole point of using animal metaphors is that they are based on the physical and behavioural traits of the animals in question and are therefore necessarily universal. The fragment in question is numbered “5 indiculus” and likenes Frodebert to a fox and its characteristics; he barks, moves by way of frivolous jumps, is shy, runs away from humans, and eats hoopoes instead of swallows. Shanzer argues that there is a Patristic model for the use of the hoopoe in the text since the Classical traditions that surround the hoopoe depict it as a unclean and dirty bird. She specifically points to Jerome’s work Adversus Iovinianum where the bird refers to unchaste nuns. This, according to Shanzer, would connect to the allegations of promiscuity uttered earlier in the text. However, arguing for such a connection may just as well be overanalysis. The hoopoe is also associated with excrement and filthiness (cp. ModDu. (dial.) schijtlijster) in northern European folk tradition and the use of the animal in the metaphor depicts the hoopoe as the prey of the fox while the swallow remains out of reach. Since the hoopoe forages on the ground while the swallow is air bound the metaphor may just refer to the fox opportunistic hunting habits and therefore lack of strength and bravery.

Romance features

Furthermore Shanzer fails to appreciate the orality of the text itself, namely the vernacular traits of the text that she attributes to the manuscript tradition. Haadsma and Nuchelmans (1963) in their “précis de latin vulgaire” show that the orthography, idiom and syntax are severely “romanized”. The Romance features include lenition of medial stops, loss of distinctive vowel length, reorganization of the verbal system, confusion of unstressed vowels, confusion of cases and adoption of Frankish lexic into Romance colloquial registers. To illustrate the rhyme, the tone of the duel and the Romance syntax I will cite several parts.


Latin Translation
1. frodebert (4-5)  
estimasti nos iam vicina You thought that we, while near
morte de fame perire was death, would die from hunger
quando talem annona such grain
voluisti largire[1] you wanted to offer from largesse
nec ad pretium Nor at a price
nec ad donum Nor as a gift
non cupimus tale anona Do we want such grain
3. Importun (1-2)  
Domno meo frodeberto To my lord Frodebert
Sine deo nec sancto Without god, neither holy
Nec episcopo nec seculare clerico Nor a bishop, nor a secular cleric
Ubi regnat antiquus hominum inimicus Who is possessed by the devil
4. Frodebert (26-29)  
non simulas tuo patre You don’t resemble your father
vere nec tua matre Nor your mother
non gaudeas de dentes Don’t rejoice in your teeth
deformas tuos parentes you dishonour your parents
ad tua falsatura Such falsehood
talis decet corona Befits such a crown

For a glimpse of how Romanized the grammar and phonology is I refer to Haadsma and Nuchelmans who have annotated a fair part of the text (Haadsma and Nuchelmans 1963: 118-122).


In short, what we have reflected in the atrabilious correspondence between the bishops Frodebert and Importun was in all likelihood a verbal duel between two bishops, premeditated and stylized in epistolary form, meant for oral perfomance at a mid 7th c. Merovingian monastery with a female convent as public. Such a poetic verbal duel does not only has parallels in the Old Germanic flyting but also in contemporary verbal duels in cultures accros the globe. ɔ


Clover, Carol J.

1980            “The Germanic Context of the Unferþ episode” Speculum 55. 444-468.

Shanzer, Danuta

2010        “The tale of Frodebert’s tail” in: Coloquial and Literary Latin, Eleanor Dickey et Anna Chahoud eds. 376-405.

Paliai, Valentina

2009      “The art of dueling with words: toward a new understanding of verbal duels across the world” Oral Tradition 24/1. 61-88.

[1] Largire instead of largiri

meeting the Goths

Gothic society and Greek hagiography

The late-antique Germanic tribe known as the Goths is of particular interest to Indo-Europeanists, since their language is attested in a fourth century bible translation that forms the first substantial attestation of an early Germanic language. Every student of Comparative Indo-European Linguistics in Leiden probably took the course “historical grammar of Gothic” or will do so at one time or another during his studies. Unfortunately only a really short introduction to Gothic culture is provided for the first year students. Therefore I want to discuss a major source for the culture of the fourth century Goths, the Goths in the time of Wulfila’s bible translation. This specific text is a hagiography, in this case a passio or μαρτύριον (this genre records the martyring of a saint or blessed person) written about a Goth called Saba, who was martyred during a persecution of the christian faith under the reign of Athanaricus (Gothic: Aþnareiks). However, before continuing with discussing this text I will provide the general linguists reading this article with a short introduction to who these Goths were and why they are awesome.

                Tacitus in his Germania  is one of the first classical writers to inform us of a tribe called the Gotones (Germ. 44: Trans Lugios Gotones regnantur), who lived on the Baltic shores and belonged to the Germanic sphere of influence. In the third century, people confederations, who probably in one way or another were related to the Gutones of the first century, had migrated south to central Europe were they laid waste to whatever part of the Roman limes that was ill defended, their first recorded incursion dating back to 278 CE. Living on the edge of the Roman Empire a substantial romanization of the Gothic military took place and in the course of the fourth century Arian Christianity reached the Gothic realms. In the second half of the fourth century, however, Altaic armies dominated by a people called “the Huns” poured into in East and Central Europe, pushing the Gothic confederations into Roman territory. In 370 CE the blue Danube river must have been filled with the white sails of thousands of ships when the Goths crossed the border. Maltreatment by Roman officials however, led to a Gothic revolt and the Goths went to war with the Romans once again. In 374 CE at Adrianople an Alano-Gothic army led by the warlords Fritigern (Gothic: Friþareiks), Alatheus (Gothic: Alaþewaz) and Saphrac (Alanic *saw-rag “black back”) brought about the utter destruction of the Roman army led by the Roman emperor Valens.

After the Roman defeat the Gothic peoples were on the move and wanted better lands and better guarantees that their people would be safe within Rome’s borders. A period of alternating between open warfare with Rome and fighting as Roman foederati, i.e. allies of Rome, ensued, eventually leading to the epic sack of Rome by king Alaric I in 410 AD, a story which would make a great Hollywood movie. A Gothic federation known as the Visigoths eventually moved to the south of France and Spain and founded a Visigothic kingdom there. Another Gothic federation known as the Ostrogoths conquered Italy in the late fifth century and established an Ostrogothic kingdom. The Ostrogothic king Theodericus (Gothic: Þiudareiks) became a figure of legend in the Early and High Middle Ages, being mentioned in Old English, Old High German, Middle High German, Middle Dutch and Old Icelandic literature. It is probably also at the court of Theoderic that the Codex Argenteus, the main manuscript containing the Gothic bible translations, was produced.

The text I want to discuss is called Μαρτύριον τοῦ ἁγίου Σάβα τοῦ Γότθου “the passion of St. Saba the Goth,” written in the late 4th c. CE. This text was written as letter by the Church in Gothia to Basil, the bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia, when the Christian Goths sended the body of Saba to that province. They wanted to inform the Church of Cappadocia why this man was to be considered holy and how he died. The text is written in a literary and liturgical form, with numerous references to the Passion of st. Polycarp and the Greek New Testament. Saba was killed on a thursday, 12th of april, 372 CE, during the persecution of christians started by king Athanaric in 369 CE.

Why did Athanaric persecute the christians?  Probably because he wanted to strengthen the tribal religion and therewith the sacral bonds between the clans. We should note that allegiance and loyalty in Germanic society was dependent on sacral oaths, which were considered holy and had a religious dimension. Correct religion was therefore crucial to the adhesion of the confederation. Furthermore, Germanic kings played a crucial role in delegating the “grace” of the gods to their peoples, so guaranteeing proper worship was guaranteeing the prosperity of the people. Athanaric also wanted to get rid of Roman influence in Gothic society. We should not forget that the Christian church of the 4th c. CE was heavily entrenched in Roman society and Roman church leaders were important political agents. Since christian communities in Gothia were in direct contact with Roman church leaders, Athanaric and other Gothic leaders feared that the loyalty of these christians was to be suspected and that the christians might be more sympathetic to the Roman empire than to the Gothic authorities.

The Passion  is especially instructive as to how Gothic villages interacted with the Gothic supratribal authorities and how the persecutions were enacted on the microlevel. The passion distinguishes different phases of the persecution. Gothic nobles (μεγιστᾶνες) who visited the village of Saba went looking for christians and the villagers decided that the best way to prove there were no christians in their village was to let everyone eat sacrificial meat consecrated to the pagan gods. Saba’s fellow villagers are not too keen to have Saba get executed and go to considerable lengths to protect him, first in substituting the sacrificial meat with unconsecrated meat, later in swearing that there were no christians in the village (this is significant for perjury (*mainaiþaz) was a religious sin). But Saba, being the stubborn devote christian that he was, of course revealed himself in all occasions and insisted that they should persecute him. Too bad for Saba, even the Gothic nobles did not want to execute him and merely banished him from the village. But Saba’s obstinancy knew no bounds and, one way or another, he had to get martyred. So he returned to his village in order to celebrate Easter with a priest called Sansalas (Alanic name?) when a tribal leader called Atharidus (*Aþalrīdaz?), the son of king Rothesteus (*hrōþisþewaz?), was visiting. Saba got arrested and got tortured. Torturing plays a very important role in Passions so the hagiographer is very specific about it. Atharidus and his warrriors drive Saba naked through a thicket of burned bushes, beated him with flogs and scourges,  tied him to the axles of a wagon and broke his bones and to finish it up, they flogged him once again. At several moments Saba gets the change to eat from the sacrificial meat and end his plight, but of course he refuses. Eventually Atharidus’ warriors took him to the river Musaios (possibly the Buzaǔ) to drown him. But even these warriors do not want to kill him and decide to let him go. Saba refuses to be released and insist the warriors do their duty: “τί ματαιολογεῖτε καὶ οὐ ποιεῖτε τὸ προστεταγμένον ὑμῖν” (“why do you talk idlely and not do what you are told to!”) After a lot of begging, the warriors do their duty and drown him in the river, Saba finally having achieved the martyrdom he so desparately craved.

 Why is this text monument important? Because it is the only contemporary description of Gothic society before it got Romanized, for later descriptions of Gothic society come from 6th and 7th c.  Latinate texts, which are aimed at the elite. Detrimental to the historian’s wish to be informed about paganism in Gothic society, Early Medieval Latinate hagiographies often have no interest whatsoever in describing heathen rituals. The Passion of Saba, fortunately does describe the dinner ritual, although not in too much detail. It also indicates that Athanaric’s persecution does not only stem from political fears but may also come from genuine royal concern for the religion of the people. We hear one of the Gothic officials say to Saba when he refuses the meat: “ταῦτα Ἀθάριδος ἐκέλευσεν ὑμῖν κομισθῆναι, ἵνα φάγητε καὶ ῥύσησθε ἐκ θάνατου τὰς ψυχάς ὑμῶν” (“Atharidus ordered these things to be brought for you, so that you may eat and save your souls from death”) Another thing we should be grateful for is that the Passion clearly shows the hierarchy in Gothic society; the war leader Athanaric at the top has ordered the persecution and tribal chiefs like Atharidus and Rothesteus are responsable for enacting the persecution. They would send nobles (μεγιστᾶνες) to oversee the heathen ceremonies in the villages. To sum it up, the Passion of st. Saba the Goth is the most important source for Germanic society in late antiquity for it describes in considerable detail the persecution of christians in Gothic society at the microlevel of an agrarian village. These were the people who actually listened to Wulfila’s bible translation and spoke the Gothic that has come down to us.



Michael Kulikowski, Rome’s Gothic wars (Cambridge 2007)

E. A., Thompson, The visigoths in the time of Ulfila (Oxford 1966).

Peter J. Heather and John Matthews, The Goths of the fourth century (Liverpool 1991).

Delehaye, H., “Passio S. Sabae Gothi, in: Saints de Thrace et de Mésie, an. bol. 31 (1912)

Waiting for the Barbarians

On the divide between history and historical linguistics concerning the Migration Age with the Scandinavian origin of the Goths as case study.

Sometimes neighbouring academic disciplines do not speak in the same idiom. Nowhere is this more clear than in the controversial subject of the “transformation of the Roman world”, a line of inquiry into the dynamics of the transition periode between late antiquity and the early Middle Ages favoured by leading historians such as Walter Goffart, Ian Wood and Peter Heather. It’s argument is summarized by Robert Anderson, director of the British Museum:

The period of transition between the world of late antiquity and the Middle Ages has […] traditonally been seen as one of chaos and obscurity, the “Dark Ages”. Yet modern scholarship is increasingly revealing how profoundly dynamic and influential were the cultural and intellectual shifts which mark the period. Far from initiating an age of barbarism, the successor states saw themselves as part of a Roman continuum, and readily exploited the institutions and intellectual traditions of late antiquity, adapting and reinventing them to suit their own changing circumstances and cultural traditions. (Anderson 1997; 8 )

Revisionism of this pivotal periode in Western History was not new. Since the end of the second world war scholars became mighty uncomfortable discussing the period in terms of “Germanic expansion”, the nazi discourse of “Germanic fraternity” freshly in mind. The “transformation of the Roman world” movement could be seen as an exponent of this postwar “uncomfort” and has become increasingly influential in “correcting” popular views of late antiquity and the early Middle Ages. A challenge to modern revisionism came from Bryan Ward-Perkins in 2005. Whereas the revisionists may sometimes suggest an easy and peaceful integration of Germanic peoples into a continuing and evolving Roman world, Ward-Perkins takes fault with this line of interpretation and says he is “conviced that the coming of the Germanic peoples was very unpleasant for the Roman population, and that the long-term effects of the dissolution of the empire were dramatic” (Ward-Perkins 2005: 10). His book “The fall of the Roman empire and the end of civilization” is an impressive polemic for rehabilitation of those late antique sources that speak of catastrophe, massive invasion and crumbling city walls. This is in sharp contrast to historians who dispute that potent barbarians groups marched into the Roman empire (e.g. Noble 2006; xvi) and those that argue hardly any migrations at all had taken place (Bowersock 2000:187-97).

                How does this relate to scholars working in the field of Germanic studies, who used to draw information from a wide interdisciplinary spectrum of philology, historical linguistics and folklore? For one, the divide between the disciplines has widened. Han Nijdam (2001) characterizes the revisionism of historians and folklorists after the second world war in the following way:

“suddenly there were no relics of Germanic customs or ideas anymore, neither in the Middle Ages nor in the Early Modern Period, but everything was Christian from the moment missionaries build churches and monasteries. Literary sources were often written by them and for every costum or idea a fitting bible passage could be found.” (Nijdam 2001; 60)

This assertion holds even more true for the revisionism by contemporary scholars. Whereas scholars in Germanic studies assume that along with the survival of the Old Germanic languages also other cultural products survived that could be named Germanic, scholars who work in the “transformation of the Roman world” paradigm reject such an assertion[1]. For them Germanic identity arose anew in the margins of the limes (i.e. the Roman border) and was barely inherited from prehistoric times. For them Germanic identity arose from the cultural dialectic between Roman rural society and small groups of barbarian immigrants.

For every comparative Indo-European linguist the inadequacies of such a paradigm are evident. The parallels in literary motives, metre and even specific formulas between Celtic, Greek, Vedic, Slavic and Germanic cosmogenic writings are astonishing. They are hardly explicable by any other means than assuming heritage from a common prehistoric literary reservoir, a reservoir justly called Indo-European (e.g. see Puhvel Comparative Mythology 1989). The comparative linguist may draw the same conclusions for the non-christian / non-Roman parallels in Old Germanic literary monuments e.g. the vestiges of a Common-Germanic pantheon (such as in the case of the worship of Wodan and Thunar). Common heritage from a cultural tradition which, in analogy to our linguistic terminology, may be called Proto- or Common-Germanic, seems likely. Rejections of such a theoretical construct by Noble and Goffart (2006: 12) are unjustified for they ignore empirical data mined from the field of comparative mythology and comparative law arguing in favour of it.

But to indicate the divide between historians and comparative linguists in the area of migration history I’d like to discuss the case of the Gothic migration, which is basically the case of the Scandinavian origin myth. This myth is to be found in Jordanes[2]Getica, an abridgment of an earlier work, historia gothorum, by the Gothic historian Cassiodorus recounting the history of the Goths. Jordanes wrote it at the Byzantine court when the Ostrogothic kingdom of Italy had fallen under renewed Byzantine attempts of reconquest. According to this myth, Scandinavia was the womb of peoples from which the Goths set out in three ships. From the Baltic they made their way to the Black Sea when they arrive in the scope of Roman historians. The veracity of this myth stands at the center of the problem.

The main historical polemic on this topic is between Herwig Wolfram and Walter Goffart. Herwig Wolfram is a student of Reinhard Wenskus on whose work on ethnogenesis he largely draws. Wolfram formulated a thesis later known as the Wenskus-Wolfram thesis that focusses on the leading role in ethnogenesis for so called “nuclei of tradtion” (Traditionskerne). These are ancient families whose connections to the past gave a common focus for the myriad ethnic groups within a multi-ethnic confederation. The multiethnic groups would associate and identify themselves with these ancient families and accept their tribal name (Wolfram 2006: 52-54). His argument is that although Gothic identity has been reinterpreted and adapted multiple times throughout Gothic history, Jordanes is basically right in recounting the Scandinavian origin myth. This is how the tribal name of the 2nd century Gutones in Tacitus’ Germania survived in the late antique Γότθοι of Procopius. Goffart rejects Wolfram’s arguments as reading truth in mere fiction and argues for a strict 6th century Byzantine creation ex nihilo. That this cannot be true is argued by Svennung (1967: 235) who deemed the ethnonyms cited by Jordanes to be authentic correspondances to Scandinavian tribal names.

In the field of comparative Indo-European linguistics a Scandinavian origin for the late antique Goths is widely accepted. Augustin Speyer (2007) states:

“[Das Ostgermanische ist] Ursprünglich im südlichen und südöstlichen Skandinavien beheimatet; die Inselnamen Gotland and Bornholm (< Borgundarholmr) weisen auf Bezeihung dieser Plätze zu ostgermanischen Stämmen hin.”

Jasanoff (2008) is more carefull in placing the original home of the Goths in Scandinavia, but the connection the Baltic Gutones is not in doubt. He states this view as follows:

“Like other East Germanic tribes such as the Vandals, Burgundians, Gepids and Heruls, the Goths originally lived in the area of present-day Poland and eastern Germany; their own traditions place their earliest homes in southern Sweden.”

An interesting but very late source contiguous to this Scandinavian origin myth is known to most Old Germanicists but remains undiscussed by most historians (Wenskus on the other hand treats it in some detail). This is the Gutasaga, composed around 1220 but preserved in a fourteenth century manuscript, which recounts that a third of the people left Gotland in ships and traveled to the Baltic coasts, from whence they traveled through Eastern Europe to arive in the land of the Greeks.

Sīþan af þissum þrim aucaþis fulc ī Gutlandi sō mikit um langam tīma, at land elpfti þaim ai alla fyþa. Þā lutaþu þair bort af landi huert þriþia þiauþ, sō alt sculdu þair aiga oc miþ sīr bort hafa, sum þair ufan iorþar āttu.

From these three the people on Gotland multiplied throughout such a long time that the land could not feed them all. Then they drew lots so that a third of the people left the land, so that they would have and take with them everything which they possessed above the earth.

The Gutnish myth runs parallel to Jordanes account in some respects and deviates from it in others. Historical scepticism towards a continuity of an oral traditional preserving the migration of the Goths from Gotland is however justified.  From a linguistic perspective there is also some evidence to substantiate Jordanes’ claim of a Scandinavian origin. The following parallels between North-Germanic and Gothic have led some scholars to argue for Gotonordic prestage (Eckhardt Meinecke 1953: 83-84).

  1. PGmc. –i̯̯i̯-> Goth –ddj- and PGmc. –i̯̯i̯-> OIce. -ggj-

PGmc. –ṷṷ– > Goth –ggw– and PGmc. –ṷṷ– > OIc. -ggv-

  1. retainment of PGmc. *-z# as Gothic -s# and OIc. -r#
  2. retainment of the fourth inchoative class of weak verbs in PGmc. *-nanã
  3. lexical parallels
  4. Loss of the verbs preserved in WGmc. dōn, gān and stān.
  5. retainment of ending of the strong verbs in *-t, e.g. Goth and OIce. gaft against OHG gabi


However striking the parallels, they could also be explained in terms of retaining archaic features than in terms of common innovation. West-Germanic and North-Germanic share more features than an alleged Gothonordic. The inconclusiveness of the linguistic evidence does not give us an argument in favour of the Scandinavian origin myth of Jordanes. Nonetheless,  a linguistic continuity from the 2nd century tribal name Gutones to the fourth and fifth century Gothi and Γότθοι seems probable. Also to be mentioned is the archaism of the Gothic language itself. As a Germanic language attested in fourth century writings it predates the literary monuments of most other Old Germanic languages in atleast three and a half hundred years, so some archaism is to be expected. Most “transformation of the Roman world” historians on the other hand would have the fourth century Goths live in a highly Romanized ethnically diverse cultural realm and considering this historical background the lack of cultural loans from Latin and Greek is perplexing (not counting eclessiatical terminology). This might point to a strong Germanic core to Gothic identity (contra Goffart), an assumption strengthened by the fact that Gothic supplied the neigbouring Alans with quite some lexical material which eventually made it’s way into modern Ossetic, while the other way around the loans seem to be quite limited. Abaev (Moscow 1958) mentions, amongst others, these words:

CGmc. Ossetic Meaning
*aggwus (Goth.) > wyngæg narrow, oppressed, surpressed
*qairnus (Goth.) > koyroj mill
*lǣswaka > læsk pasturage against payment
*nakwina > lægoyn[3] hairless, bald, naked
*gahwi > qæw village, settlement
*rapaina > rævæjnæ long, thick hemp-rope
*wīsa > wis patch with mowed grass
*strab- > sævn width of clothes
*spīra- > fsīr ear of corn
*kurdra- > k’ord group, much, bundle[4]
*spelda- > syvældæg layer

The same assertion holds true for language contact with Slavic. While quite some Germanic words have entered Slavic through (presumably) the Gothic language, the other way around no such borrowing has been active. Consider for example these loans:

OCS PSL Gothic
duma *daumā < dōms
gotoviti *gataṷītēi < gatauiþs < gataujan
kupiti *kaupītēi < *kaupiþs < *kaupjan <  kaupōn
kusiti *kausītēi < kausjan
lěkъ *lēkъ < *lēka < lēkeis
lixva *leixva < leihwa < *leiχa-

An interesting article by Kortlandt (2001)  titled “The origin of the Goths” argues for a Central European urheimat for the ancestors of the Gothic speaking people. He convincingly argues that the Proto-Goths must have been situated more to the west than has often been assumed. The borrowing of the –āreis suffix from Latin –ārius pleads for this, along with the fact that Gothic borrowed the  Latin form of most Greek ecclesiastical terminology. Supposed loans from Celtic also point to a more western origin. Kortlandt does however hold open the assumption that the Gothic identity came from the Baltic Gutones via one of Wolfram’s Traditionskerne. Unfortunately, Kortlandt does not treat the aforementioned loans from Gothic into Alanic and Slavic, but they are easily explained from late fourth century contact when the Goths reached the mouth of the Danube. Especially the Alans remained bound to the Goths for most of the following century, fighting along them at Hadrianople (478), Rome (409) and at the epic battle at Châlons (451) where the romans and their Alanic-Gothic allies went into battle with the Huns of Attila.

This case shows how important an interdisciplary approach is to tackling migration history. One could ask therefore why historians do not make use of linguistic arguments. One reason is probably to be found in the technical nature of the linguistic discipline. Another concerns the scepticism of historians who work in a hermeneutic science in the positivistic approach of the comparative method of linguistics. As historical linguists we should help span the divide between old Germanic philology and medieval studies by making our arguments more accesible to the interested historian; Kortlandt’s article is a good example of this, focussing on cultural loans instead of purely linguistic argumentation.

A thing we could blame the historians for is ignoring the linguistic diversity of late antique and early medieval Europe, restricting themselves to Latinate sources. One need but to remember that Latin was not the only written language in the early medieval west. From the period of 400 – 900 AD we find literary monuments written in Celtic, Germanic and Slavic vernaculars. Considering only a small percentage of the population that lived outside the Romance speaking territory knew Latin, we have to assume that the generational transfer of culture in the Early Middle Ages was mainly done in the vernacular. When one considers the fact that early medieval vernacular sources often deviated immensely from the genres of rigid and devote Latinity, the comparative Indo-Europeanist could only sigh and shake one’s head at how many. Historians should better heed the word of Jordanes himself to “follow the writings of their ancestors and cull from their broad meadows a few flowers to weave a chaplet for those who care to know these things”.


Jay, H. Jasanoff, “Gothic”, in: the ancient languages of Europe, Roger D. Woodward ed. (Cambridge 2008) 189-214.

Augustin Speyer, Germanische Sprachen; ein vergleichender Überblick (Göttingen 2007).

Eckhard Meineke et Judith Schwerdt, Einführung in das Althochdeutsche (Paderborn 2000)

Thomas F.X. Noble, “Introduction; Romans, barbarians and the transformation of the Roman empire”, in: From Roman provinces to medieval kingdoms, Thomas F.X. Noble ed., (New York 2006) 1-28.

Herwig Wolfram, “Gothic history as historical ethnography” in: From Roman provinces to medieval kingdoms, Thomas F.X. Noble ed., (New York 2006) 43-69.

Walter Goffart, “Doest the distant past impinge on the invasion age Germans” in: From Roman provinces to medieval kingdoms, Thomas F.X. Noble ed., (New York 2006) 1-28.

Bryan Ward-Perkins, The fall of Rome and the end of civilization (Oxford 2005).

J. Svennung, Jordanes und Scandia; kritisch-exegetische studien (Uppsala 1967).

“Gutasaga”, in: Altschwedisches Lesebuch, Adolf Noreen ed., (Upsala 1892-94) 37-39.

F. H.H. Kortlandt, “The origin of the Goths”, in: Amsterdamer Beiträge zur älteren Germanistik 55 (Amsterdam 2001) pp. 21-25.

Robert Anderson, “Foreword”, in: The transformation of the Roman World, Leslie Webster et Michelle Brown eds., (London 1997).

Han Nijdam, “Twee aardewerken schaaltjes. Collectief geheugen, (dis)continuïteit in de Friese cultuur, met het fenomeen ‘magie’ als case study”, in: Speculum Frisicum; stúdzjes oanbean oan Philippus H. Breuker, Rolf H. Bremmer Jr. e.a. eds., (Leeuwarden 2001) 59-78.

Vasily Abaev, Istoriko-jatymologičeskij osetinskogo jazyka (Moscow 1968).

[1] My former professor in Utrecht, Mayke de Jong, confessed that she’d rather speak of “Sub-Roman” traditions than of “Germanic” traditions.

[2] [2] Jordanes names is interpretated as *Iƀurnanþs by Grimm who draws for this interpretation on the spelling <iornandes> in some existing manuscripts. He argues that sixteenth century editions always read <iornandes> and may reflect additional old manuscripts that are lost. It is interesting to note that his father is called Alanoviamuth, in which the first element undoubtedly refers to the ethnonym Alani. Maybe the name should be read as *Alano-Weihamōþs “der Kampfmutige der Alanen”. Alanic descent for Jordanes is also suggested by the name of his grandfather, who was named kandag, which could go back to Old-Ossetic *kæn-dag “he who wears sack-cloth”.

[3] Regular dissimmilation of *n…n > l…n as seen in lamaz “Islamic prayer” (< Pers. namāz)

[4] Glossed by Abaev as “группа, множество, стая” in Russian

Crossing the language border

a connection between Old English and Old French?

Every student of Germanic philology and historical linguistics will be familiar with the fenomenon of breaking. This means I don’t have to go in too much detail. To make it short; a select group of Old Germanic languages has the tendency to diphtongize short front vowels to falling diphtongs under influence of following consonant clusters or non-front vowels in the next syllable. The languages in question who show this phenomenon are Old Norse, Old English and Old Frisian. Although all these language may do this as a meance of distance assimilation, the conditions which are needed for breaking to take effect differ among the languages.  The kind of breaking which concerns us here is found in Old English and concerns the breaking of Pre-OE */æ/ > /ea/ under the influence of an immediately following consonant cluster consisting of a liquid and another consonant. Because the resulting diphtongs partook in the Pre-OE phenomenon of i-umlaut we know that OE breaking must predate i-umlaut alltogether. Another thing that is quite clear is that the degree in which the Old English dialects underwent breaking differs significantly. In the case of breaking of */æ/ when followed by a liquid and another consonant the difference mainly comes down to an opposition between the Anglian dialects and the Saxon dialects, the latter one joined by the Kentish dialect. The northern dialects show retraction of Pre-OE */ælC/ > /alC/ in contrast to the West-Saxon development Pre-OE */ælC/ > /ealC/.

Pgmc *haldanan > Proto-West-Germanic *haldan > Pre-OE *hældan > Anglian haldan

Pgmc *haldanan > Proto-West-Germanic *haldan > Pre-OE *hældan > West-Saxon healdan

On the whole, the southern dialects of Old English seem to like breaking better than their northern relatives[1] and West-Saxon and Kentish exhibit the most instances of breaking. Phonetically we may assume that the breaking of the vowel first yielded a diphtong /æa/ and subsequently stressed the contrast by turning it into /ɛa/, orthograpically represented by <ea>. This becomes relevant when we consider a similar phenomenon in old French.

What’s the deal with Old French, you might ask. Well, Old French is amongst the Romance languages quite the odd man out, which is probably due to the heavy influence of second language acquisition by Germanic speakers. This influence was the largest on the lexicon but also greatly affected the morphoponology and syntax of the pre-French Romance language. This is not very surprising if one takes the high degree of diglossia and bilinguality in the Gaulish realm into account.[2] This created a situation in which isoglosses and linguistic tendencies easily moved between the languages spoken by the specific bilingual and diglossal community. For example, the Old High German diphtongization of /ō/ > /uo/ probably originated in the continuum of Romance dialects who all diphtongated Vulgar Latin /ɔ/ to /uo/ or /ue/. Subsequently  this diphtongization wave reached the Germanic speaking realm via Pre-French.

The Old French phenomenon I’d like to discuss with you concerns the Vulgar Latin vowel */ɛ/ which is the reflex of Classical Latin /ě/, this in contrast to Vulgar Latin */e/ which continues Classical latin /ĭ/ and /ē/. In Old French Vulgar Latin /ɛ/ is one of the vowels that are seemingly affected by the vocalization of the Romance velar /l/. The effects of this velar /l/ are visible in the orthography of modern French, because it has remained notoriously conservative.

Vulgar Latin ALBA “white, dawn” > Pre-French /albə/ > Old French (XII century) /awbə/ > Modern French /obə/ <aube>

Vulgar Latin SOLIDARE “solder” > Old French /solder/ > Early Modern French (XVI century) /suder/ <souder>

If one takes Pre-French syncope into account, we can see the development to consist of Pre-French */alC/ > Old French /awC/ and pre-French */olC/ to early modern French /owC/. However, one of the the purported effects of velar /l/ on a preceding vowel which stand out amongst the other effects concerns Vulgar latin */ɛ/. What seems to have happened is that somehow the velar /l/ in combination with the preceding */ɛ/ yielded an Old French triphtong /ɛaw/ or /eaw/ with a dialectal variant in /jaw/ as evidenced by the Modern French spelling <eau> and the Old French spelling <iau>. Modern French has some words continuing the triphtong <iau> which are mainly from Picardian origin, fabiau < *faběllus and depiauter < piau < *pellis. But the usual Old French triphtong is <eau>:

Vulgar Latin BELLITATE > modern French beauté

Vulgar Latin BELLUS > modern French beau

Frankish *helma > Vulgar latin HELMU[3] > modern French heaume

The question which should be asked, if this development is to be equated with the other effects of velar /l/ on vowels, is why only the development of Vulgar Latin */ɛ/ is so aberrant. Why was it the only one to yield a triphtong? If it was indeed, as insinuated by Ti Alkire and Carol Rosen (2010) and explicitly stated by Gaston Zink (1986), a bridging vowel between the front element and the back element of a former diphtong, why did pre-French /iwC/ and /ewC/ not triphtongize to /ɛaw/ or /jaw/? Following Edouard Bourciez, I deem it more likely that /ɛlC/ first broke to /ɛalC/ and only after the breaking the liquid vocalized to /w/. So the development of the example given above could be imagined as follows:

Vulgar Latin BELLITATE > [Late Vulgar Latin] /bɛltate/ > */bɛltat/ > [OldFrench] /bɛlte/ > */bɛalte/ >  /bɛawte/ > [modern French] /bote/ <beauté>

Empirical proof for this the /ɛalC/ stage in exactly the form hypothesized is attested in the Bisclavret by Marie de France.

beals chevaliers e bons esteit                       a handsome and good knight he was                       

e noblement se cunteneit                            and he conducted himself in a noble way

The attestation of the precise form <ealC> continuing Vulgar Latin */ɛlC/ strengthens my hypothesis. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to embark on a quest for further nice orthographic representations of this pre-stage, but the example of /beals/ cited above makes it clear that the analysis of the phenomenon by Gaston Zink has become highly tenuous for it doesn’t seem to represent the empirical data.

We can conclude from the text fragment cited above that the development of */ɛlC/ to eventually the triphtong <ɛaw> takes place fairly late. Some other early Old French texts from the late eleventh and early twelfth century still spell <el>, as evidenced by the “chancun de Guillelme”. In in its title it still spells /Guillelme/ instead of later Old French /Guillaume/ (the glide in the diphtong merged with the palatality of /ʎ/ spelled <l> ). In the case of the development of BELLITATE to beauté, we also find a nice example of <el> spelling in this poem:

Il at perdu sun noble barné                             he has lost his noble knighthood

De dulce france la flur e la belté                    the flower and the beauty of sweet Francia

Gaston Zink explains the occurence of the Old French form belté as indicative of the fact that only stressed Vulgar Latin */ɛ/ yielded a diphtong and considers Modern French beauté as a derivate from the adjective beau. However, the protagonist of the poem itself is called guillelme, a perfect continuation of the Germanic name *wilhelm. When we assume that the Germanic word retained its original stress on the first syllable we have another instance of atonal */ɛlC/ which eventually triphtongizes to / ɛawC/. The proper name also shows that the vocalization of velar /l/ probably wasn’t the first step in the triphtongization of */ɛ/, otherwise we would expect to find guilleume in a text from this period.

What strikes me is the fact that these phenomena in Old French and Old English seem to have developed in a parallel fashion, both showing a breaking of a low front vowel to /ɛa/ before a following cluster consisting of an /l/ and another consonant. I think it may be possible that these phenomena aren’t only typologically related but that the one phenomenon might have caused the other due to language contact. It should be remarked that the fact that only Vulgar Latin */ɛ/ breaks in front of a liquid and another consonant neatly lines up with the fact that the Saxon dialects of Old English only consistently break Pre-OE */æ/[4] to /ea/ under the same condition. The difference between /æ/ and /ɛ/ on the vowel triangle is minimal and the allomorphy in the different realms of Anglosaxon morphology may have driven bilingual Anglo-Normans to transfer the Anglosaxon sound change to Old French.  In that the regard, the date at which this development took place in Old French seems suspicious to me, immediately following the onset of Anglo-Norman relations. The English channel,which nowadays separates the Anglophone nation from the Francophone nation, constituted in the early Middle Ages a vital maritime bridge between the two speech communities, for they were ruled by the same elite.

This, however, brings us in the realm of historical sociolinguistics and in that respect the hypothesis seems moribund. The Anglo-Norman ruling elite almost certainly favoured the use of Old French and it isn’t very likely that they acquired such a good command of Anglosaxon to allow synchronig sound changes to jump the language border. Finally, the similarity of the phenomena between Old English and Old French is rarely (to my knowledge) noted and is indicative of the necessity for the historical linguist to look beyond the linguistic borders of one’s own specialization. The fact that for most Old Germanicists the publications in French, Spanish and Italian aren’t readily accesible without an academic translation doesn’t improve the situation. And unfortunately, most Indo-Europeanists, who do tend to read a lot of modern languages, aren’t that interested in Romance linguistics, because not much information concerning the Indo-European proto-language can be mined from its historical development. I want to end this article with the contention that the development of the triphtong /ɛau/ in Old French is preceded by a stage of breaking and we therefore may very well speak of Old French breaking, independent of the fact what caused it.  


Ti Alkire and Carol Rosen, Romance languages; a historical introduction (Cambridge, 2010).

A. J. Greimas, Dictionnaire de l’ancien français; jusqu’au milieu du XIVe siècle (Larousse, 1989).

Gaston Zink, phonétique historique du français (Paris, 1986).

Kr. Nyrop, Grammaire historique de la langue française, tome deuxième (Copenhagen, 1960).

E. Einhorn, Old French ; a concise handbook (Cambridge, 1974).

R. Girvan, Angelsaksisch handboek, Oudgermaanse handboeken IV (Haarlem 1931).

Bourciez, Edouard, précis historique de phonetique française,  nouvelle collection a l’usage

des classes III (Lille 1921).

Augustin Speyer, Germanische Sprachen ; ein vergleichender Überblick (Göttingen 2007).

Joseph Wright and Elizabeth M. Wright, Old English Grammar, the sudent’s series of historical and comparative grammars (Oxford 1914).

A. Campbell, Old English Grammar (Oxford, 1959).

Gerhard Rolfs, Vom Vulgärlatein zum Altfranzösischen; Einführung in das studium der altfranzösischen Sprache (Tübingen 1968).

[1] The usual caveat concerning Old English dialectology is in place here, pointing at the fact that OE dialectology is mainly dependent on codological and palaeographical clues to the provenance of specific manuscripts and therefore many assumptions on the phonological representation of graphemes are clouded by different copyists and manuscript traditions.

[2] Although many Oldgermanicists and even Indo-Europeanists tend to shun the Romance languages, the developments in these languages are vital to understanding the linguistic tendencies which were common in the linguistic area of western Europe during the early middle ages. The early middle ages are linguistically characterized by a high degree of diglossia concerning Latin and the vernacular and a high degree of multilinguality concerning the different vernaculars spoken in the different areas of western Europe. Especially in the later days of the migration age, when many nations roamed the former provinces of the Roman empire, not only variants of Germanic, but also of Slavic, Avar and Alan could be heard in the encampments of the barbarian armies.

[3] The fact that Romance probably first latinized the Germanic word for “helmet” before accepting it into their lexicon is evidenced by Old Spanish yelmo.

[4] I am aware of the fact that West-Saxon and Kentish also seem to break /e/ > /eo/ before /lh/, but this breaking isn’t consistently attested in our sources and the conditions for this breaking would scarcely be noted by speakers of Old French because the fricative h /x/ wasnt part of their phonology. Also, if some attempt by Old French speakers was made to break their native /e/ to /eo/ this would be clouded by the subsequent vocalization of the /l/ >/w/ because the two back elements would certainly have coalesced.

Theotisca Lingua and the Frankish connection to Gothic

In the course of the eighth century, three hundred years after the fall of Rome in 410 AD, the Frankish king Charlemaigne considered his people to be the rightful heirs to the late antique Roman Empire. At the end of the eighth century Frankish hegemony prevailed over most of western Europe. The Carolingians had extended the borders of Christendom to the edges of the known world; from the dark forests of the land of the Saxons to the vast plains of Pannonia, from the scorched slopes of Iberia to the once so proud Rome itself. To govern this West-European empire an extensive written administration was vital and the only institution which could provide such a written administration was the Latin church. Therefore Charlemaigne followed the example of his father Pippin in enlarging the prestige and the power of the Church and its hierarchy and at the same time pressed for a better latinity so as to maintain the ideological connection to the knowledge of antiquity. The multi-ethnic state that the Carolingians created and was legitimated by the papal see also needed an ideological foundation which would appeal to the Franks themselves.

In that regard the question wasn’t an easy one, for Frankish culture was ideologically torn in two. In the mainly written culture, which was primarily aimed at the church and the Gallo-Roman elites of southern Gaul, the continuity with the christian Roman Empire of late antiquity was stressed, whilst in the mainly oral culture the ties to the Germanic speaking neighbours were deemed important as well. Although oral and litterate do not stand in an absolute dialectic to eachother, to my mind we can safely assume that the greater part of Frankish society was more concerned by the secular values of farmlife and warfare than the elevated morals of the church. As historians ofcourse we find nowadays more vestiges of the ideological discourse which had a place inside the framework of Christian-Latin litteracy than vestiges which were aimed at the more secular realms of Frankish society. Nevertheless we still find glimpses of what constituted the more secular minded ideology of Frankish identity. This discourse was centered around the age of migrations and its heroes to whom the Franks felt a deep connection. It was propably because of this connection that Charlemaigne brought an equestrian statue of Theoderic the Great from norterhn Italy to the land of the Franks and it may very well be that the Old High German Hildebrandslied was also preserved because of this connection.

But also in the latin writings of Carolingian scholars we find traces of this Frankish antiquarian interest in the autochtonous and non-Roman elements in their culture. In a eighth century manuscript, which in modern scholarship acquired the name the Alkuiner handschrift, we have some Gothic glosses together with an Anglo-Saxon and Gothic futhark list preserved. We also know that the Frankish king Louis the German, a grandson of Charlemaigne, had a profound interest in Gothic history. This may very well be because of the Gothic texts they found in the north Italian archives. These texts were written in a language which the Germanic speaking Franks recognized as a language similar to their own. This similarity propably enforced the Frankish feeling of kinship to the Goths of late antiquity. A glimpse of how this sentiment was felt we find in a work written by Walafrid Strabo (the crosse-eyed) that was written around 842 AD. My translation[1] of this chapter from Walafrid’s book called “De exordiis et incrementis quarandum in observationiubus rerum ecclesiarum” I’d like to share with you because it provides an interesting view on early medieval “etymological science” and a very valuable insight to how the Franks looked upon their own language.

Dicam tamen etiam secundum nostram barbariem, quae est Theotisca, quo nomine eadem domus Dei appelletur, ridiculo futurus Latinis, si qui forte haec legerint, qui velim simiarum informes natos inter augustorum liberos computare. Scimus tamen et Salomoni, qui in multis typum gessit Domini salvatoris, inter  pavones simias fuisse delatas; et Dominus, qui pascit columbas, dat escampullis corvorum invocantibus eum. Legant ergo nostri et sicut religione, sic quoque rationabili locutione nos in multis veram imitari Grecorum et Romanorum intellegant philosophiam.

Nonetheless I’d like to relate to you with what word that same house of God is called in our barbarian language, the Germanic vernacular. I know very well that in doing so I will make myself ridiculous to all those who are versed in Latin if they read some of these things, because I want to relate the deformities of monkeys to those who are born amongst the children of emperors. After all we know that amongst the peacocks which were brought to Salomon, who in many things revealed the image of our lord saviour, there were also monkeys; and the lord that herds the doves feeds the young birds that appeal to him. Therefore may our own people read and understand that concerning our religion and our learned writings we imitate the true knowledge of the Greeks and the Romans in many things. 

Multae res sunt apud singulas gentes, quarum nomina ante cognitionem ipsarum rerum apud alias incognita sunt; sicque fit saepissime, ut rerum   intellectus alii ab aliis addiscentes nomina quoque et appellationes earum vel integre vel corrupte cum nova intellegentia in suam proprietatem trahant. Ut ab Hebreis   Greci, Latini et barbari amen, alleluia et osanna mutuati sunt, a Grecis Latini et omnes, qui libris Latinorum et lingua utuntur, ecclesiam, baptismum, chrisma et omnium paene radices dictorum acceperunt;

There are may things amongst some nations, for which the names arent known to other nations before they learned these things. And thats why it happens quite often that some nations in order to understand those things adopt from other nations the words and the pronunciation of these words with a new meaning, whether this meaning is correct or incorrect. That is why the Greeks, Romans and barbarians borrowed the words amen, alleluia and hosanna from the Hebrews and why the Romans and all who make use of Latin writings and the Latin language have received the words ecclesiam, baptismum, chrisma and the roots of almost all words from the Greeks.

a Latinis autem Theotisci multa et in communi locutione, ut scamel, fenestra, lectar, in rebus autem divino servitio adiacentibus paene omnia; item a Grecis sequentes Latinos, ut chelih a calice, phater a patre, moter a matre, genez a genetio, quae Grece dicuntur cylixf, pater, meter et genetion, cum in quibusdam horum non solum Latini, ut genitor et genitrix, sed etiam Theotisci proprias habeant voces, ut atto et amma, todo et toda. Ab ipsis autem Grecis kyrica a kyrios et papo a papa, quod cuiusdam paternitatis nomen   est et clericorum congruit dignitati, et heroro ab eo, quod est heres, et mano et manoth a mene et alia multa accepimus. 

From the Romans we, speakers of the Germanic vernacular, received many words which are used in every day situations such as scamel, fenestra and lectar, but when it concerns things which have to do with the divine service almost all the words are borrowed from Latin. We also borrowed from the Greeks via the Latin words like chelich from calix, phater from pater, moter from mater, genēz from genetio, which are called in Greek cylix, pater, meter and genetion. Nonetheless in some cases not only the Romans have their own words, like in the case of genitor and genitrix, but also the Germanic speaking nations have their own words, such as atto and amma, todo and toda. Also borrowed from Greek are words such as kyrica from kyrios and papo from papa, which is the word for a specific kind of paternity which fits the dignity of the clergy. Also we received heroro from heros and mano and manoth from mene and many things more.

Sicut itaque domus Dei basilica, id est regia, a rege, sic etiam kyrica, id est dominica, a Domino nuncupatur, quia Domino dominantium et regi regum in illa servitur. Si autem quaeritur, qua occasione ad nos vestigia haec Grecitatis advenerint, dicendum et barbaros in Romana republica militasse et multos praedicatorum Grecae et Latinae locutionis peritos inter has bestias cum erroribus pugnaturos venisse et eis pro causis multa nostros, quae prius non noverant, utilia didicisse,

Likewise is the house of god called basilica, which means royal, from the Greek word for king, and kyrica, which means lordly, from the greek word for lord, because in these building the Lord of lords and the King of kings is worshipped. If one asks howthese vestiges of Greek culture made their way to use I will have to point at the fact that barbarians used to serve in the Roman state and many preachers who were skilled in Greek and in Latin came to fight the errors amongst these beasts. That is why the people of our nation learned many useful things which they didnt know before.

praecipueque a Gothis, qui et Getae, cum eo tempore, quo ad fidem Christi, licet non recto itinere, perducti sunt, in Grecorum provinciis commorantes nostrum, id est Theotiscum, sermonem habuerint et, ut historiae testantur, postmodum studiosi illius gentis divinos libros in suae locutionis proprietatem   transtulerint, quorum adhuc monimenta apud nonnullos habentur; et fidelium fratrum relationer didicimus apud quasdam Scytharum gentes, maxime Thomitanos, eadem locutione divina hactenus celebrari officia. 

We especially learned much from the Goths, who are also called Getae, because in that time they were led to the faith of Christ, albeit not via the right way. They used whilst they dwelt in the Greek provinces our language, namely the Germanic vernacular and very soon, as we can read in the history books the scholars of this people translated the divine books in their own language, of which we still have quite some documents. I heard from some reliable monks that amongst some Scythian nations, especially amongst the Thomitanos, they still celebrate the divine
rites in the Gothic language.

Hae autem permixtiones et translationes verborum in omnibus linguis tammultiplices sunt, ut propria singularum iam non sint paenet plura, quam cum aliis communiau vel ab aliis translata.

However, these mixtures and translations of words are so many in all the languages that the own vocabulary of certain languages isnt as big as the words that they have in common with other languages or the words that they translated from other languages.

Finally I’d like to point out some interesting things in this text. First consider the ideological schizofrenia of our learned Walafrid Strabo; although the Franks and the Goths are barbarians and are likened to monkeys and beasts, he doesnt make an effort of conceiling his admiration for the Gothic bible translation and the Gothic culture. Also it is fascinating that Walafrid recognizes some clear cognates between Greek, Latin and Frankish. Walafrid’s observation that there are also Frankish words which are only to be found in Frankish is especially interesting, although he finds them less important than the words which were build on “Greek” roots. A last thing which is worth pointing out is the fact that Walafrid Strabo during the reign of Louis the Pious considers the barbaries lingua, i.e. Frankish, as the language of the Frankish empire, therewith still ignoring the rustica lingua romana as a vernacular used by the Franks. Although texts like the 9th c.  “sequence of Eulalia” attest to the existence of a highly developped Early Old French vernacular, it is clearly not his language.

Peter Alexander Kerkhof,

MA student
Comparative Indo-European linguistics

MPhil student
Medieval studies

Source of the text:

Walafridus Strabo, “De exordiis et incrementis rer. eccl.”, eds. Alfredus Boretius et Victor Krause,  in: Monumenta Germaniae historica, Capitularia Regum Francorum II, (Hannover 1897) 841-8142.



[1] My translation at some points departs from the Latin texts where Walafrid’s latinity doesn’t permit a smooth translation to English. Where I deemed it necessary I split sentences in two and chose my own words. You will also find additions in my translation where I thought that such additions would benefit the understanding of the text. I am aware that my translation doesnt follow Allice L. Harting-Correa’s translation in her edition of the “libellus de exordiis et incrementis quarandum in observationibus rerum ecclesiarum” but I hope that makes the translation more valuable because it
presents an alternate view on the latin.

From Wu to Gu

A West-Germanic tendency

Although the title may suggest a blogpost about Chinese dialects, the subject remains in the sphere of Proto-Germanic and its illustrious ancestor. For those of you who were hoping for a whole article on Chinese tonogenesis; tough luck. But let’s get to it, shall we? In the West-Germanic languages we find an interesting tendency to alternate the sequence /-wu-/ with the sequence /-gu-/. This wugu-rule[1] has intrigued scholars for over a century now and no one has been able to formulate a strict soundlaw to explain the data. Consider these examples:

Goth *junda : OE geóguþ “youth”

Goth sauil : OE sugil “sun”

OIcel. sýr : OE sugu “sow”

Goth niun : OE nigon “nine”

Explanations have been sought in the vocalization of the syllabic resonant to *uR, whereafter either an already existing /ṷ/ or a secondarily arisen /ṷ/ intensified to /g/. The rise of the secondary /ṷ/ can be explained as a hiatus filling consonant bridging the two /u/’s. However, considering that in almost all the cases a laryngeal is present before the relevant resonant we may suspect influence of a laryngeal causing a doubling of the morae to /ṷu/, i.e. *uHR > *uṷuR (Müller 2007). It may be that only this sequence was originally eligible for the subsequent wugu-rule. Therefore we could formulate the rule as follows:

Late PIE *uHR > Pgmc *uṷuR > Proto-Westgermanic *uguR

 In this way it wouldn’t be so puzzling that OHG doesn’t participate in the case of “nine” with its reflex niun. In the case of “nine” the Ingvaeonic dialects may have had an own independent transition of /ṷ/ to /g/. This becomes even more plausible when we take the words into account that  Kluge (1913) added to our list of wugu-alternations. He listed the different reflexes of the words for “eyebrow/bridge” (OE bruggia : ON brú) and “mosquito” (OE muggia : ON < *muwi) as portraying a similar phenomenon. The word for “eyebrow” has a reasonable IE etymology[2], the word for “mosquito” however, is problematic from an IE point of view. The different supposed cognates, both the Germanic and the IE cognates, show alternations in the root-extensions and suffixes ánd seem to be build on an onomatopaeic root which defies a proper PIE root structure. Before continuing a caveat is needed. As the few and badly accepted “supposed” instances of Cowgill’s law indicate, for a real soundlaw one needs a lot more examples. In this case we don’t have them, so that makes this essay a fun excursion but no more than that. Let’s go through the list of the examples which seem to fit this explanation.

PIE *(h1)neṷn[3] > Early Pgmc *neṷun > Late Pgmc *niṷun

Germanic cognates:

Goth.      niun                                       Ofris       nigun, niugun                    

OIcel.     níu                                         OHG       niun

OE         nigon                                   

Interesting in this example is that it may provide a clue to the dating of the phenomenon. The fact that in al the reflexes Proto-Germanic *eu had already changed into *iu after u,i,j,w, indicates that the transition of /ṷu/ to /gu/ must postdate this soundlaw. Therefore the change has taken place relatively late in the chronology of Germanic soundlaws.

PIE *h2iuHn-ti[4]> Pgmc juṷunþi

Germanic cognates:

Goth       *junda ( .jundai)      OLG        juguð

OE          geóguþ                           OHG       jugund

Gothic *junda, only attested in the dative singular jundai points to a simplification of the sequence /uṷu/ to /ū/. A problem in this reconstruction is the place of the PIE accent. The effect of Verner’s law indicates that the accent must have preceded the nt-suffix and therefore would have lain on a zerograde. Müller (2007)  and others consider an early Proto-Germanic movement of the accent to the right before the shift to the first syllable. This would put this accentshift really early in the Germanic chronology because the communis opinio is that the Germanic auslautgesetze came to be because of the weakening of the unstressed syllables. Also it requires some sort of vocalization vowel already before the syllabic resonant, for the zerograde to be able to bear stress. I choose to remain agnostic on the subject, but without corroboration with more data it remains an ad-hoc solution.

PIE (heteroclitic[5]) nom. *seh2u(e)l, obl. *suh2n-/ *suh2l- > Pgmc *saṷel, *sūn/*suṷul

Germanic cognates:

Goth       sauil                                      OE          sygil,[6] sigil

Goth       sugil                                      OE          sunne

Goth       sunno                                    OS          sunno

OIcel.     sól                                          OHG       sunna

OIcel.     sunna

The PIE word for “sun” shows the only heteroclitic paradigm alternating with l/n, the subsequent paradigm splits accounting for the difference between the roots of the daughter languages ending in /-l/ and roots ending in /–n/.  The word shows different ablaut pattern (both acrostatic and holokinetic?) in the different daughter languages, but laryngeal metathesis that placed the laryngeal after the /u/ may have happened even in the PIE stage (Sanskrit sūryas < *suh2lios)[7]. In Old English the reflexes showing umlaut may be due to a reinterpretation of the suffix as ressembling the diminutive –ila. Interesting for our story is the supposed Gothic attestation of sugil, showing wugu-alternation where we don’t expect it. However, we must take the philological context in which the attestation is found into account. In the socalled Alcuiner Handschrift (cod. Salisb. 140) , the manuscript tradition of which goes back to the sixth century, we find a few Gothic glosses and after an excerpt of Alcuin’s de ortographia an Anglosaxon and Gothic list of runes with their corresponding names. It is very plausible that somewhere in the manuscript tradition an Anglosaxon scribe couldn’t fathom that the Gothic name for the S-rune was so different from the Anglosaxon name and changed the Gothic word to a form more similar to the Anglosaxon word. A misreading is also possible. Therefore I believe that the Gothic attestation isn’t genuine.

PIE nom. *suHs, acc. *suHm[8] > Pgmc sūz, suṷum

Germanic cognates:

OIcel.     sýr                                          OS      

OE         sugu                                      OHG      

OS         suga

PIE *suHs is possibly the only non-cryptonymic word for “pig” we have attested that can be reconstructed for the ancestral language. It is possible that in the North-West IE languages the word shifted its meaning to “female pig” (maybe because the non-IE substrate language had an own word for male pig that they adapted), because in Latin, sūs also means “female pig.” The Icelandic word shows umlaut because of a phenomenon called z/R-fronting. It is clear that the variants continuing the oblique root are responsible for the subsequent wugu-rule. 



Beekes, Etymological dictionary of Greek, 2 vols (Leiden 2009).

Beekes, Comparative Indo-European Linguistics; an introduction (Leiden 1995).

Benjamin W. Fortson IV, Indo-European Language and Culture; an introduction (second edition: 2010).

H. Frisk, Griechisches Etymologisches Wörterbuch, 2 vols (Heidelberg 1960-1970).

A. Kloekhorst, Etymological dictionary of the Hittite inherited lexicon (Leiden 2008).

Friedrich Kluge, Nominale Stammbildungslehre der altgermanischen Dialecte (1886).

Friedrich Kluge, Urgermanisch; Vorgeschichte der altgermanischen Dialekte (1913).

Stefan Müller, Zum Germanischen aus larungaltheoretischer Sicht; mit einer Einführung in die Grundlagen der Laryngaltheorie (2007).

E. Prokosch, A Comparative Germanic Grammar (Philadelphia 1939).

Wilhelm Streitberg, Urgermanische Grammatik (Heidelberg 1943).

M. de Vaan, An etymological dictionary of Latin (Leiden 2008).

[1] During a course at the Leiden University Summerschool for Linguistics 2009 the subject of the wugu alternation was brought to the fore, whereafter the present students perpetuated the phrase “wugu-rule”, because it sounds awesome.

[2] The PIE ablaut allows the same uRC > uṷu

[3] I included bracketed *h1 in this reconstruction, because it seems to be the only explanation for Greek ἐννέα which must be a blend of Proto-Greek *ἐνϝα, which led to the Homeric ordinal ἔννατος, and Proto-Greek*νεϝα.

[4] Initial  *h2 is often reconstructed to connect it to *h2ei “vital lifeforece”. The socalled posessive “Hoffman suffix” should, according to Hamp be reconstructed as *-h3n-/*-h3en-.

[5] Apart from the obvious –l/-n paradigm split, also the Avestan declination gives an argument for an original heteroclitic declination; consider Old Avestan huuarɘ, gen. xyɘng-.

[6] In Anglo-Saxon dialectal spelling variation one also finds segel, sægl.

[7] A cognate to the Proto-Indo-Iranian form is also to be found in the modern Iranian dialects such as Sogdian xwyr and Ossetic хур.

[8] If Kloekhorst is right in connecting the word to PIE *suh1/3– “to fill”, you can fill in two candidates for possible laryngeals; do so at your own discretion!

Swearing an Oath in Old Germanic Society

Swearing an Oath in Old Germanic society[1]

The reconstructed lexicon of the prehistoric language called Proto-Indo-European provides the linguist with a limited window on Indo-European concepts of law. From the Proto-Indo-European judicial lexicon Protogermanic preserved some interesting words. The one which concerns us in this essay is the word *aiþaz, the ancestor of modern English oath and the verb which is connected to this noun, namely PGmc. *swarijan-. The Protogermanic form *aiþaz has cognates in Old Irish oeth, Greek οἶτοϛ and Tocharian B aittaṅka but it only has the lexical specialisation “oath” in the western languages, e.g. Germanic and Celtic. In the early twentieth century scholars assumed that the Germanic word was loaned from Celtic, because they thought that the Celts had a higher level of civilization than the Germanic peoples in the early northern European iron age. Nowadays it is acknowledged that both the Celtic and the Germanic word can go back to Proto-Indo-European and there is no need to assume borrowing from one language into the other. The mentioned cognates ultimately go back to Proto-Indo-European *h1óitos which is derived from the root “to go” *h1ei (cfr. Latin ire and Greek εἶμι and Gothic iddja), which points to a meaning “a ritual walking”. Cultural attestations of Indo-European oath-taking by walking between slaughtered animals perhaps colour the etymology somewhat more and is reasonably plausible because of the Old Swedish attestation ed-gång meaning “oath-walking” . The earliest Germanic attestation is Gothic aiþs (glossing Greek ὅρκος) from Wulfila’s fourth century bible translation:

Lukas I, 73
jah gamunan (…)aiþis þanei swor
wiþra Abraham attan unsarana
(and to remember (…) the oath
that he swore to Abraham, our father)

Matteüs XXVI 72
jah aftra afaiaik (laugnida) miþ aiþa
swarands þatei ni kann þana mannan
(and again he denied with an oath
that he didn’t know the man)

Matteüs V 33
aftra haisdeduþ þatei qiþan ist þaim airizam:
ni ufarswarais, iþ usgibais fraujin aiþans þeinans
(again ye heard it said from the elders: don’t
break your oath, but give your oaths to the lord)

Marcus VI 26
jah gaurs warþans sa þiudans in þize aiþe jah
in þize miþanakumbjandane ni wilda izai ufbrikan
(and becoming sorrowfull the king didn’t want to
reject her considering the oaths and the sake of
those who were attending)

In Gothic the word aiþs is in all the four attestations accompanied by the verb swaran[2] in its proximity (cfr. ModE to swear; cognate to Sanskrit svárati, Old Church Slavonic svarŭ, going back to Proto-Indo-European *sṷer meaning “to say, to speak) and is also found with the modal prefixes bi- and ufar- with biswaran meaning “to implore” and ufarswaran meaning “to swear falsely”. The fact that bishop Wulfila used the term in rendering the greek ὅρκος suggest that “swearing an oath” was not purely a pagan religious phenomenon amongst the Goths, otherwise Wulfila would surely have invented a calque. The information we can gleam from the philological context of the Gothic bible translation learns us that in the Germanic languages “swearing an oath” was something that one did against someone (considering Luke I 73 wiþra Abraham). An possible cognate to Gothic aiþs may be Gothic aiþei “mother” (glossing Greek μήτηρ) which is also found in Old High German fōtar-eidi “nurse”, Old Icelandic eiða “morther” and Middle High German eide “mother”. This would mean that this word for mother literally meant “the one with the oath” which probably distinguished the lawful wife from the concubines. The phenomenon that oathtaking across kinshipgroups connected by marriage was common in Germanic society, we will also encounter in an Old English compound furter on.

In the Beowulf epic the combination “to swear an oath” is also used, suggesting that the word was part of the poetic register of the Anglosaxons.

Beowulf (470-473)

Siððán þa fæhðe fēo þingode
Sende ic Wulfingum ofer wæteres hrycg
Ealde mādmas; hē mē āþas swōr
afterwards the feud I settled with wealth
I send to the Wulfings over the back of the water
ancient treasures: he swore oaths to me


Ic on earde bād
Mælgesceafta   heold mīn tela,
Ne sōhte searonīðas ne mē swōr fela
āða on unriht
I awaited on earth
destined events I held my property well
nor did I seek battle-hostilities nor did I swear
many oaths unjustly


Fin Hengeste
Elne unflitme āðum benemde
Finn to Hengest
with undisputed valour proclaimed with oaths

In the third example from the Beowulf an other verb is used, namely benemnan which means to proclaim. The verb is used one other time in the Beowulf and than in reference to the proclaiming of justice by princes whilst facing the last judgment.


Swá hit oð dómes dæg      díope benemdon
þéodnas maére
thus this till doomsday     they proclaimed deeply
the famous kings.

In the Beowulf also the nouns āðsweord  “oath-swearing” and āðumsweoras “father-in-law and son-in-law” are attested. The first is also found in OHG eidswart and biswart seems to continue *swardiz. The second compound, like Gothic aiþei, also refers to oath-taking that accompanied the marriage-bonds between kinshipgroups. Apparantly the bond and the obligations to abandon feuding that a marriage brought along for two kinshipgroups had to be confirmed by oath-taking.  In Old High German another term is found, eidum meaning “son in law”

In the Old Saxon bible epic Heliand, a vernacular retelling of the life of Christ, the word ēð is also used, as is the verb swerian. As we will see this is also the verb used in West Frankish, one of the vernaculars of the Carolingian Franks. The start of fitte 18 in the Heliand begins with a whole sermon against the breaking of oaths and also names the term for a perjurous oath, namely mēnēð < *main-aiþaz, preserved in modern Dutch as meineed. Because it is contemporanous with Carolingian society the passage is worth quoting in full. A connection with the Carolingian programme aimed at reducing the oath-taking in society to swearing oaths of allegiance to the king may be present alongside with the objective of getting rid of the possible pagan religious context that the taking of oaths may still have had in the newly conquered Saxon areas.

Old Saxon Heliand

Ōc is an them ēo gescriban
Uuārun uuordum so gi uuitun alle,
that mīðe mēnēðos mancunnies gihuuilic
ni forsuuerie ina selbon huuand that is sundie te mikil
farlēdid liudi an lēðan uueg
than uuiliu ic iu eft secgan that sān ne suuerie neoman
ēnigan ēdstaf eldibarno
ne bi himile themu hōhon huuand that is thes hērron stōl
ne bi erðu thar undar huuand that is thes alouualdon,
fagar fōtscamel nec ēnig firiho barno
ni suuerea bi is selbes hōbde huuand he ni mag thar ne suuart ne huuīt
ēnig hār giwerkean būtan sō it the hēlago god
germarcode mahtig; bethiu sculun mīðan filu
ērlos ēðworðo. Sō huue sō it ofto dōt
sō wirðid is simbla wirsa huuand he imu giuuardon ni mag
Bithiu scal ic iu nu te uuârun uuordun gibeodan
that gi neo ne suerien suuîðoron êðos,                              

Also is in those books always written
with true words so ye all knoweth
that may avoid perjuries each of mankind
may he not forswear himself for that is a sin too great
it tempts the people to the hateful road
then I want to tell you again that no one may swear
any oathmark of mankind[4]
nor by the high heaven for that is the seat of the lord
nor by the earth beneath it for that is the allmighty’s
beautiful footstool and may any of mankind
swear on his own head for he can not make
any hair black or white except for when the holy god
mightily makes it so: therefore many should avoid
honourless oath-words. Whoever does it thus often
so it will worsen him always because he cannot hold it
Therefore I shall truly order with words
that ye shalt not swear stronger oaths

In connection to Carolingian decrees on oath-taking it may also be interesting to look at the Old High German Mainzer Beicht, a confession list preserved in a tenth century manuscript (dated around 950) but which may go back to a ninth century example.

Mainzer Beicht

Ih gihun gode almahdigen unde allen godes
engilon unde allen godes heilegon unde dir
godes boden allero minero sundino (…) meinero

I confess to god allmighty and to all the angels of
god and to all god’s saints and to you, god’s messenger
all my sins (…) (and) my oaths

Another famous example is the Old High German Priestereid, containing an oath in a religious context.

Priest oath

De sacramentis episcopis qui ordinandi sunt ab eis

Daz ih dir hold pin .N. demo piscophe.
So mino chrephti enti mino chunsti sint.
Si minan uuillun. Fruma frūmenti enti scadun
uuententi kahorich enti kahengig enti statig
in sinemo piscophtuome. So ih mit rehto aphter

That I am loyal to you, the bishop; according to my
strenghts and my wisdom, may I be with my will,
whilst promoting benefit and avoiding damage,
obedient and consistent and steady. Thus I will do
rightly according to the canon
canone scal.

In western Francia it is harder to turn towards the vernacular in search for Germanic terms connected to the swearing of oaths. The Germanic dialects that may have survived into the eighth century in northern Gaul beyond the current language border between French and Dutch were under constant pressure from Galloromance, the vernacular language of the Romance speaking Franks. However, when the Franks settled in northern Gaul in the fifth and sixth century the prestige of their language was still well recognized. A recent lexical study of the Frankish loanwords in Old French makes it plausible that a lot of the idiosyncracies of Old and Modern French are caused by (a considerable amount of) Romance speakers learning Frankish, not the other way around. The Franks ofcourse also brought their legal terminology along. The first and most important testimony to the language and laws of the Franks has been preserved in the Legis Pactus Salicae, an early sixth century law code drawn up by the Salian Franks. In the lawcode vernacular glosses are preserved and because they are introduced by Mallobergo (which you can translate as “on the mountain of the law court”) they are called the Malbergische Glossen. One of these glosses is uuedredo, which doesn’t look Old Frankish but may be a Carolingian (West Frankish?) interpolation of a vernacular law term. The gloss  uuedredo doesnt’t have a satisfactory explanation but one explanation might be that it represents a Frankish nominative plural of the compound *wiþra-aiþa, meaning “counter-oath”, which doesn’t look that weird if one recalls the Gothic expression swaran aiþans wiþra “swearing oaths against one”. In the Langobardic Laws we do have the word aido preserved, connected with a lawarticle on compurgation. In Frankish legal sources we also find the term leudosamium being connected to the taking of oaths. However, considering the meaing of the word *leudi-samjō being something like “people’s peace”, the word clearly had more to do with the desired effect of the oath than the actual oath itself and must have acquired a degree of metanymia in elitist discourse.

The Gallo-Romance language itself preserved the latin word jurare and passed it on to Old French as jurer which doesn’t make clear whether the word endured in the lower strata of the Romance speach community during the entire Proto-French period or that the word was inserted into Gallo-Romance from judicial speech. However, in the Strassburger Eide the verb jurare is used, which does make a continued existence of the verb in the early medieval Romance plausible.

Strassbourg Oaths

Si Lodhuuigs sagrament quę
son fradre Karlo iurat, conservat
et Karlus meos sendra de suo part
non los tanit si io returnar non
l’int pois…

If Ludwigs oath that
his brother karl swore, holds
and karl, my lord, on his part
does not hold it, when I may not
dissuade him from it.

Oba Karl then eid, then er
sīnemo bruodher Ludhuuīge
gisuor, gileistit indi Ludhuuig
mīn herro then er imo gisuor
forbrichit, ob ih inan es
iruuenden ne mag…

If Karl holds the oaths which he
swore to his brother Louis and
Louis, my lord, who swore it to
him, breaks it, when I may not
dissuade him from it…

The vernacular Romance equivalent of Frankish *aiþ is Latin sacramentum which yielded Old French sairement leading to Modern French serment. The verb which accompanies the noun sacramentum  in Old French, however, was loaned from Germanic; Old French escharir goes back to Old Frankish *swarjan via a romanized form *scuarire (the soundchange /sw-/ > /skw-/ is to be expected), possibly with influence from Old Frankish *skarjan. That the noun *aiþ “oath” was in some stage also loaned into Romance is clear from a fourteenth century attestation from Liège; the noun afforat must go back to Old Frankisch for-aiþ, cognate with East Franconian fraaidhi and Middle High German freidi . The fact that for these terms concerning oath-taking an Old Frankish word became current in the whole Proto-French speaking area (Old Provence escharida)  , in my opinion, points to the non-Roman characteristics of oath-taking.


Bourciez, Edouard, précis historique de phonetique française nouvelle collection a l’usage des classes III (Lille 1921).

Braune, Wilhelm, Althochdeutsches Lesebuch (17th edition 1994 Tübbingen; 1875).

Bruckner, Wilhelm, Die Sprache der Langobarden Quellen und Forschungen zur Sprach- und Literaturgeschichte der germanischen Völker 75 (Strassbourg 1895).

Eckhardt, Karl August ed., Pactus Legis Salicae (MGH LNG IV I) (Hannover 1962).

Eckhardt, Karl August ed., Lex Salica  (MGH LNG IV II) (Hannover 1967).

Gamillscheg, Ernst, Romania germanica. (Berlin:1970).

Holthausen, F., Altenglisches Etymologisches Wörterbuch (Heidelberg 1934).

Julia H. Smith, Europe after Rome; a new cultural history 500-1000 (Oxford 2005).

Lehmann, Winfred P., A Gothic etymological dictionary (Leiden 1986).

Mitchell, Bruce and Fred C. Robinson eds., Beowulf; an edition (1998).

Sievers, Eduard, Heliand Germanistische Handbibliothek IV (Halle 1878).

Schützeichel, R., Althochdeutsches Wörterbuch (6th edition; Tübbingen 2006).

Streitberg, Wilhelm ed., Die Gotische bibel (Heidelberg 1950).

Uhlenbeck, C.C., kurzgefasstes etymologisches Wörterbuch der gotischen Sprache (Amsterdam 1900).

Voretsch, Karl, Altfranzöschises Lesebuch zur Erläuterung der altfranzösischen Literaturgeschichte (1921).

[1] All the translations from the Old Germanic languages to modern English are my own, mostly because of a lack of faithfull translations. I prefer to keep my translation of poetry (just as I did with Otfrid’s praise of Louis) as close to the original language as possible.

[2] Gothic swaran is probably secondary to earlier *swarjan < *swarijan- as suggested by OS and OE swerian, OHG swerren, OIc. sverja. This PGmc. *swarijan- is a secondary causative/iterative formation in *-e̯ie- to the root *su̯or- that was adopted into the VI class of strong verbs, which is unusual because class VI mainly has primary *-̯ie-/*-e̯ie-formations.

[3] Litterally: “the business of the assembly” but apparantly it could also be used in a metaphorical sense

[4] the genitival construction depends on neoman

[5] note the stabreim, the original Germanic alliteration model, which strongly suggest that the oath leans on older vernacular formulas.

Altniederländisches Schrifttum

Ich möchte deutschsprachliche Leser die zufällig auf meinem Blog geraten sind und etwas lesen wollen über meiner Beschäftigung mit der Altgermanistik und dem ältesten belegten Stadium des Niederländischen gerne versorgen mit dieser Übersetzung meines Artikels, der nächster Monat in TWISTER, dem Mitteilungenblatt der Leidenen Studienassoziation der algemeinen und vergleichenden Sprachwissenschaft erscheinen wird.


Wissenschaftler, die sich beschäftigen mit dem ältesten Stadium von dem direkten Vorfahr des heutigen Niederländisches, haben dafür drei frühmittelalterliche Quellen zu ihrer Verfügung: die „Wachtendonckse Psalmen“, der “Egmondse Williram” und die mittelfränkische Reimbibel. Von keinen dieser kann man sagen dass es wirklich altniederländische Texte betrifft. Oft hat ein vermutlich altniederländisch-sprechender Abschreiber die althochdeutsche Lautform dem eigenen Dialekt angepasst. Das ist nicht ziemlich erstaunenswert weil die meisten Schreibcentra in dieser Zeit im Westen der Niederländen lagen. Nur das Kloster Egmond hat im Westen des Landes ein Scriptorium, sondern das wurde nur ab dem zwölften Jahrhundert wirklich aktiv.

            Wir vermuten dass ein im althochdeutschen geschriebener Kommentar auf dem Hohelied Salomos dort seine altniederländischen Züge bekommen hatte, bevor das Manuskript in Leidener Universitätsbibliothek geraten war. Die Anpassungen die der Abschreiber anbrachte waren darüberhinaus auch unvollständig und inkonsequent. Ein wahrer Alptraum für dem Sprachwissenschaftler der die Quellen braucht für die Rekonstruktion des altniederländischen Lautstandes. Deshalb sprechen viele Sprachwissenschaftler nicht vom Altniederländischem, sondern vom Altniederfränkischem, damit die Position des Dialektes im fränkischem Kontinuüm betont wird. Man muss sich hingegen realisieren dass auch die Bezeichnungen Altsächsisch, Angelsächsisch und Althochdeutsch nur theoretische Konstrukte sind, welche manchmal wenig mit der sprachwissenschaftlichen Realität zu tun haben.

            Bestimmt wenn man sich die „Wachtendonckse Psalmen“ anseht, trifft man ein Dialekt an der in vielen Hinsichten der Vorfahr des Mittelniederländischen war. Die althochdeutsche Lautverschiebung hat in diesem Dialekt nicht statt gehabt, es gibt drei verschiedene Pluralis-endungen im Präsens des Verbs, der Reibelaut /x/ <h> ist für einen /l/ schon verschwunden, Auslautverhärtung ist in diesem Dialekt die Norm und der Laut der dem Altsächsischen /ô/ entspricht ist im Altniederländischem schon zum /uo/ geworden. Durchaus wertvolle Daten für den Altgermanist.

            Dennoch bleibt der Existenz des Altniederländischen für viele Niederländisten und Laien beschränkt auf der alniederländischen Probatio Pennae ‚hebban olla uogala nestas hagunnen hinase hi anda thu’ „alle Vögel haben Neste begonnen ausser mir und dir“ und für diesen Niederländisten sehen die übrigen altniederländischen Schriftdenkmäler oft sehr exotisch aus. Es ist nicht verwunderlich als die Niederländisten sich kaum kümmern um das altniederländischen Schrifttum. Auch Sprachwissenschaftler begeistern sich nicht oft an interlinearen Glossen lateinischer Psalmen und exegetischen Ausarbeitungen des Hohelieds. Das es nur interlineare Übersetzungen der Bibel gibt, ist noch nicht so schlimm, sondern dass keine interessanten Teile der Bibel versehen sind mit altniederländische Glossen ist ziemlich Schade. Nur ein einzige Zeile des Hohelieds kann ein bisschen aufregend genannt werden: wanda bezerre sint thine spune themo wine “denn besser sind deine Brüste als Wein”.

Es ist zu Schade dass der altniederländischer Abschreiber nicht das Buch Genesis oder die Offenbarung des Johannes mit altniederländischen Glossen versehen hat. Deshalb habe ich mir die Freiheit genommen den enigmatischen Anfang der Genesis 6 (1-4) vom Niederländischem des siebzehnten Jahrhunderts im Altniederländischem zu übersetzen. Was die Wortfolge betrifft, habe ich die niederländische Syntaxis des siebzehnten Jahrhunderts benutzt. Ich habe mich entschieden für eine Übersetzung aus modernem Niederländischem weil das Ergebnis netter war als eine wörtliche Übersetzung aus dem Latein des Vulgats. Ich habe mich genau für diese Zeilen entschieden weil die Passage für frühmittelalterliche Leute eine wichtige bedeutung gehat haben müsste. Die Passage gab ihnen eine Möglichkeit ihre nicht-christlichen Weltanschauungen in der biblische Chronologie zu stellen. Die altgermanische Welt kannte nämlich auch Göter und Riesen und die Römische Kirche könnte mit einem Hinweis auf diese Passage erklären warum es auch nach der Bibel kein Götter und Riesen mehr gäbe: sie waren nämlich während der Sintflut alle vertrunken. In dieser Übersetzung habe ich die Wörter die nur im Althochdeutschen belegt sind in den vermutlich entsprechenden altniederländischen Formen verändert. Zum Beispiel habe ich <ouch> in < ôk> verändert.


Genesis 6 1-4


Ende het geschiedde, als de menschen op den aerdbodem begonnen te vermenichvuldigen, ende hen dochters geboren werden; dat Godes sonen de dochteren der menschen aensagen, dat sy schoon waren, ende sy namen hen wijven uyt alle, die sy verkoren hadden. Doe seyde de HEERE; Mijn Geest en sal niet in eeuwicheyt twisten met den mensche, dewyle hy oock vleesch is: doch sijne dagen sullen zijn hondert ende twintich jaer. In die dagen warender Reusen op der aerde, ende oock daer na, als Godts sonen tot de dochteren der menschen ingegaen waren, ende sich [kinderen] gewonnen hadden: dese zijn de geweldige, die van outs geweest zijn mannen van name.


*In is gedân thuo thie man an erthon begunnun te gemanagfaldone in im giboran uurthen dohtera that Godes sunon dohtera mannero scouuodon that sia scona uuaron in sie namon im uuif ut allon the sie gecoran habdon. Thuo quath druftin: min gçst ne scal in euuon fehtan mit manne bithiu hç ist ôk flçsc thoch sîn daga sculon uueson hundrat in tuuintig iaro. An then dagon uuaron wrisila an erthon in ôk aftir also Godis sunon te dohteron mannero ingangon uuaron in im kint giuuunon haddon; thesa sint thie giuueldigon the fan eldi geuueson uuaron, man mit name.




A Quak & J.M. van der Horst, Inleiding Oudnederlands (Leuven 2002).

Arend Quak, Die altmittel- und altniederfränkischen Psalmen und Glossen; nach den handschriften und Erstdrucken neu herausgegeben (Amsterdam 1981)

Arend Quak, “Hintergründe eines altniederländischen Textes”, in: Amsterdammer Beiträge zur älteren Germanistik 66 vol 1 (Amsterdam 2010) 63-74.

Bijbel, dat is de gansche heilige schrift bevattende alle de canonieke boeken des Ouden en nNieuwen testaments (Amsterdam 1917)

Robert L. Kyes, Dictionary of the Old Low and Central Franconian Psalms and Glosses (Tübingen 1983).





Oudnederlands schriftdom: saai of super?

Wetenschappers, die zich bezighouden met de oudste bekende fase van wat de directe voorouder van het Nederlands mag heten, hebben daarvoor drie vroegmiddeleeuwse bronnen tot hun beschikking: de Wachtendonckse psalmen, de Egmondse Williram en de Middelfrankische rijmbijbel. Van geen van dezen kan men zeggen dat het om louter Oudnederlandse teksten gaat. Vaak heeft een vermoedelijk Oudnederlands sprekende kopiist de Oudhoogduitse klankvorm van de tekst aangepast aan zijn eigen dialect. Dat is geen verrassing wanneer we bedenken dat de schrijfcentra in die tijd vaak in het oosten van het land gelegen waren. Alleen het klooster Egmond had in het westen van het land een scriptorium, maar dat werd pas vanaf de twaalfde eeuw echt actief.

We vermoeden dat een adaptatie van een in het Oudhoogduits geschreven commentaar op het Hooglied dáár zijn Oudnederlandse trekken heeft opgedaan, vooraleer het manuscript in de Leidse universiteitsbibliotheek terecht kwam. De aanpassingen die de kopiist aanbracht waren dan ook nog eens niet volledig en niet consistent. Een ware nachtmerrie voor de taalwetenschapper die de bronnen wil gebruiken voor het reconstrueren van de tiende-eeuwse Oudnederlandse klankstand. Daarom willen veel linguïsten niet van het Oudnederlands spreken, maar gebruiken liever de neutralere term Oudnederfrankisch, die aangeeft waar het dialect zich in het Frankische dialectcontinuüm bevindt. Men moet zich echter realiseren dat ook termen als het Oudsaksisch, het Oudengels en het Oudhoogduits theoretische constructen zijn die soms weinig met de taalkundige realiteit te maken hebben.

Zeker wanneer men naar de Wachtendonckse psalmen kijkt, ziet men toch een dialect dat in veel opzichten als de voorloper van het Middelnederlands beschouwd kan worden. De Oudhoogduitse klankverschuiving is in het dialect niet opgetreden, er zijn drie verschillende pluralis-uitgangen in de tegenwoordige tijd van het werkwoord, de wrijfklank /x/ is voor een /l/ reeds verdwenen, Auslautverhärtung is in het dialect de norm en de klank die correspondeert met de Oudsaksische /ō/ is in het Oudnederlands een /uo/ geworden. Wel degelijk waardevolle gegevens voor de Oudgermanist.

Toch blijft het bestaan van het Oudnederlands voor veel Neerlandici en leken beperkt tot het zinnetje ‘hebban olla vogala nestas bigunnan hinase hic anda thu’ en zijn de Wachtendonckse psalmen en de Egmondse Williram voor veel Neerlandici exotisch ogende schriftmonumenten. Dat de Neerlandici zich nauwelijks bekommeren om het Oudnederlandse schriftdom zij hen vergeven. Ook als taalkundige is het erg moeilijk om van letterlijke boven de Latijnse tekst staande vertalingen van de psalmen en onduidelijke exegetische uitwerkingen van het Hooglied opgewonden te worden. Dat het letterlijke bijbelvertalingen zijn, is op zich niet eens zo erg, maar dat er weinig interessante stukken uit de bijbel van Oudnederlandse glossen zijn voorzien, is dan wel weer jammer. Alleen een enkele Hooglied-passage kan als lichtelijk amusant gezien worden: wanda bezerre sint thine spune themo wine “want beter zijn jouw borsten dan de wijn’.

Het blijft jammer dat de Oudnederlandse kopiist niet het boek Genesis of de Openbaring van Johannis van Oudnederlandse glossen had voorzien. Daarom heb ik de vrijheid genomen om het enigmatische begin van genesis 6 (1-4) met de vroegmoderne syntaxis van de Staatenvertaling van 1618 van het vroegmodern Nederlands in het Oudnederlands te vertalen. Ik heb voor een vertaling vanuit het vroegmodern Nederlands gekozen in plaats van een vertaling van de Latijnse tekst uit de Vulgaat van sint Hiëronymus, omdat het resultaat gewoon stukken leuker is. Ik heb juist voor deze passage gekozen omdat zij voor de vroege middeleeuwers erg belangrijk was. Het gaf hun namelijk een mogelijkheid hun oude niet-christelijke wereldvoorstellingen in de bijbels ante-diluviale (d.w.z. van voor de zondvloed) chronologie te plaatsen. De Oudgermaanse wereld kenden namelijk ook goden en reuzen en de kerk kon door naar deze passage te verwijzen, verklaren waarom die Oudgermaanse goden en reuzen ook volgens de bijbel nu niet meer zouden bestaan; ze waren namelijk tijdens de zondvloed verdronken. Bij de vertaling heb ik de woorden die alleen in Oudhoogduitse vorm overgeleverd zijn, omgezet naar de vermoedelijke Oudnederlandse klankstand. Zo heb ik bijvoorbeeld omgezet naar < ōk>.

Genesis 6 1-4

En het geschiedde, als de mensen op den aardbodem begonnen te vermenigvuldigen, en hun dochters geboren werden, dat Gods zonen de dochteren der mensen aanzagen, dat zij schoon waren, en zij namen zich vrouwen uit allen, die zij verkozen hadden. Toen zeide de HEERE: Mijn Geest zal niet in eeuwigheid twisten met den mens, dewijl hij ook vlees is; doch zijn dagen zullen zijn honderd en twintig jaren. In die dagen waren er reuzen op de aarde, en ook daarna, als Gods zonen tot de dochteren der mensen ingegaan waren, en zich kinderen gewonnen hadden; deze zijn de geweldigen, die van ouds geweest zijn, mannen van name.

*In is gedān thuo thie man an erthon begunnun te gemanagfaldone in im giboran uurthen dohtera that Godes sunon dohtera mannero scouuodon that sia scona uuaron in sie namon im uuif ut allon the sie gecoran habdon. Thuo quath druftin: min gēst ne scal in euuon fehtan mit manne bithiu hē ist ōk flēsc thoch sīn daga sculon uueson hundrat in tuuintig iaro. An then dagon uuaron wrisila an erthon in ōk aftir also Godis sunon te dohteron mannero ingangon uuaron in im kint giuuunon haddon; thesa sint thie giuueldigon the fan eldi geuueson uuaron, man mit name.


A Quak & J.M. van der Horst, Inleiding Oudnederlands (Leuven 2002). Arend Quak, Die altmittel- und altniederfränkischen Psalmen und Glossen; nach den handschriften und Erstdrucken neu herausgegeben (Amsterdam 1981) Arend Quak, “Hintergründe eines altniederländischen Textes”, in: Amsterdammer Beiträge zur älteren Germanistik 66 vol 1 (Amsterdam 2010) 63-74. Bijbel, dat is de gansche heilige schrift bevattende alle de canonieke boeken des Ouden en nNieuwen testaments (Amsterdam 1917) Robert L. Kyes, Dictionary of the Old Low and Central Franconian Psalms and Glosses (Tübingen 1983).