Gothic for Goths: Some More Thoughts on Pronunciation

I got most of it out of my system in that last post, but let me just touch on one more pronunciation issue while i'm at it. Fortunately, this one really isn't quite as controversial as the last; this is really just a clarification, though i promise there is a bit of contention to overcome for those of you just tuning in for the drama.

While everyone agrees that the digraphs ai and au are the most contentious to pronounce in gothic, one of the most confusing letters by far is g.  (Well, giba, really, but i'm not going to confuse the issue by using actual gothic letters in my blog.)  Fortunately, there are a pretty solid and undisputed set of rules governing its pronunciation in various circumstances.  I'll try to enumerate them all here for your reference and reflection, as well as the one contentious bit where i once again have to disagree with my hero Mr. Joseph B. Voyles, whose thoughts about g aren't so much wrong as his thoughts about h.  But that's another story.

  • g = [g]
    • when word-initial.
      • gaggan [gaŋgan] (to go)
      • giba [giβa] (gift)
    • when adjacent to a voiced obstruent or sonorant (other than g).
      • baurgja [bɔrgja] (citizen)
      • brigdil [brɪgdɪl] (bridle)
  • g = [γ]
    • when intervocalic.
      • agan [aγan] (to fear)
      • igil [ɪγɪl] (hedgehog)
    • (maybe?) before a syllabic sonorant.
      • hagl [haγl̩] (hail)
      • baugms [bauγm̩̩s] (tree)
  • g = [x]
    • when word-final.
      • dag [dax] (day, acc.)
      • galiug [galyx or galɪʊx] (lie)
    • before an unvoiced obstruent.
      • dags [daxs] (day, nom.)
      • dulgs [dʊlxs] (debt)
  • g = [ŋ]
    • before a velar consonant (i.e. g, k, or q).
      • gaggan [gaŋgan] (to go)
      • drigkan [drɪŋkan] (to drink)
      • igqis [ɪŋkwis] (y'all)
I would also throw a clarification in there that "word-initial," in my view anyway, includes after prefixes, so "gagaggan" would be [gagaŋgan], not [gaγaŋgan].

Voyles postulates that initial g may in fact have been continuant ([γ]), and while i find this unlikely, i don't argue that it is a possibility.

The real controversy i promised is Voyles' (not unreasonable) speculation that the appearance of g instead of h for [x] is evidence that all instances of h were pronounced [h] and never [x].  This contrasts with the other stops b (which becomes f in similar circumstances) and d (which becomes þ).  Once again, i attribute this to orthographical conventions rather than phonetics, and hold firm to my belief that h = [h] when word- or word-segment-initial (except perhaps before a sonorant, i.e. hl-, hn-, or hr-), and [x] elsewhere.  Or perhaps we're both sort of correct, and where i have posited that h = [x], it may in fact be something more like [ç].

Gothic for Goths: Some Thoughts on Pronunciation

You know, no matter how many times i say it, people keep asking me why i pronounce things a certain way in gothic, or "Shouldn't it be ____ instead of ____?" or "How come you say ____ when that other guy on YouTube pronounces it like ____?"

Of particular contention among all gothic scholars are the diphthongs (and/or digraphs) ai and au.  So let me put this to rest here, once and for all.

First of all, no one is "right" or "wrong" about this.  Nevermind, that's not true.  There are a lot of "wrongs," but it's impossible to know if one is right, because gothic just plain doesn't exist anymore.  So let me present the theories, the evidence, and my own personal take on the situation.

Ideas about gothic pronunciation really fall into three basic camps, one of which is just plain wrong.  I fall somewhere between the second and the third, if we think of these three camps on a sliding scale.

Theory #1:  ai and au are pronounced as [ai] and [au], respectively.

This theory is the easiest to explain, and the easiest to discredit.  It's just plain not the case.  Look at any greek word with an epsilon that is borrowed into Wulfilas' bible and you'll find it transliterated as "ai," and epsilon was just plain old never pronounced as [ai], but always as [ɛ].  And this shouldn't be construed as the mispronunciation of a non-native greek speaker trying to render the words: It is thought that Wulfilas' mother was possibly greek, and that he spoke it as a child.

Theory #2: ai and au are prounounced [ɛ] and [ɔ] in some cases, and sometimes [ai] and [au], respectively.

The trick here is to decide what constitutes "some cases," and what doesn't.  My theory of gothic pronunciation falls pretty firmly into this category, as do most scholars, but they are far from uniform on opinions about which are which.

Some of the nicest gothic lessons out there are those by Slocum & Krause, and they fall squarely into this category.  They fall into what we might call "Theory #2a," which would be that ai and au are usually pronounced [ai] and [au] except in very specific circumstances, like in borrowed greek words or when occurring before r, h, or hw.

My own theory i would classify as "Theory #2b," which I'll spell out in some more detail below, but it may be summarized to say that it is Slocum & Krause's pronunciation with mora loss in unstressed diphthongs, particularly in noun and verb endings.  Pronouns are a different story, and i explain more about them below.

Theory #3: ai and au are pronounced [ɛ] and [ɔ], respectively, in all cases.

There is some interesting evidence to back this up, at least in the case of au, particularly in the use of certain transliterations in gothic like the name of the Apostle Paul, where Wulfilas renders Παυλος as Pawlus (instead of the expected Páulus), or the latin "cautio," transliterated as "kawtsjō."

Voyles falls strictly into this camp, and extends his germanic ai/au-to-ē/ō rule to apply to all instances of ai and au in east germanic.  In particular, the germanic rule:
Monophthongization of unstressed ai, au
Stage 1: ai,au → ɛ̄,ɔ̄ when in a word-final unstressed syllable immediately preceded by an unstressed syllable in east germanic only.
Stage 2: ai,au → ɛ̄,ɔ̄ when unstressed, then → ē,ō in northwest germanic only.
Later he expands this rule in gothic.
Monophthongization of ai, au
ai,au when stressed → ɛ̄,ɔ̄ when word-final or before a non-vocalic consonant.
So there you have a run-down of the classic theories.  Now allow me, if you will, to spell out my own, which as i mentioned earlier is "Theory #2b."

I think that Voyles was pretty darn close, but i would simply cut out his later Gothic Monophthongization of ai,au rule and attribute his evidence for it to orthographical conventions rather than phonetics.  I also have little doubt that this later rule actually did take place, but i don't believe that it had completed at Wulfilas' time.

So in a nutshell, i would posit that:
  • ai,au = [ai],[au] 
    • whenever stressed, with a few exceptions, below.
  • ai,au = [ɛ],[ɔ] 
    • always when unstressed.
    • always before r.
    • always before l. (This would explain away the rendering of Pawlus.)
    • before h(w) except where stressed and from germanic [au], instead of from germanic [u] via the gothic expansion of first umlaut.
      • For example, PGmc hauhaz → hauhs [hauxs], but PGmc luhō- → lauh- [lɔx].
One aspect which stumped me for a while are monosyllabic words with standard endings which ought in most cases to be pronounced [ɛ] and [ɔ], such as bai, twai, etc.  After much consideration, i've come up with the following rather ad hoc rule which is still open to some debate, and is largely based on what seems the most natural to say:
  • ai,au = [ai],[au]
    • when final, as in bai, þai, twai.
  • ai,au = [ɛ],[ɔ] 
    • when followed by a consonant, as in þaim, twaim.
A problem word:

raida:  I've been saying [rɛða], based partially on the much later spelling of the letter R as rēda (from the 9th century Codex Vindobonensis); it is uncertain if the proto-germanic was raidō or rēdō.  It is very likely that the later spelling is reflective of Voyles' later rule.  In my first lesson, i pronounced it [raiða], which stands an equal chance of being correct as far as i can tell, but i've grown to like the sound of [rɛða] better.


The Jamin & Karen Supper Club: Wasabi, revisited

Karen and i haven't visited a new place in a while, so we planned to go out tonight to a new sushi place - Origami, Nami, or Midori's Floating World.  Somehow, though, we ended up back at Wasabi, getting almost exactly what we got last time.  Only we got the spicy tuna, which was very nice, instead of the rainbow roll, which was kinda boring.

I won't spent a lot of time on the details, since I already talked about Wasabi, but I did get some pictures of the volcano roll this time.  Sorry, they're taken in bad light with a fairly low-end camera phone.  But Behold!

Sorry, i'd already eaten a couple before i thought to get a picture of it!

A closeup of the "volcano," which kept burning for a disturbingly long time. By the way, those little orange bits i think are cripy-fried sweet potato, though i can't be certain. Nom!

Spicy tuna on the left and volcano roll on the right.  I love those silver chopsticks!


Exciting New Merchandise, Gothy and Otherwise, for your Home Shopping Pleasure!

Hi Folks,

I just wanted to post a quick note to let you know about two new merchandising opportunities for you!

First and foremost, i've just about got all the kinks worked out in the Gothic for Goths T-shirt store.  The last kink remaining is that i need to sell ten designs before i can upload anymore.  Brilliant from their perspective; really annoying for me.  I've sold eight so far: I just need two more!  Won't you buy a gothy T-shirt?

There are eight items (two designs) available in all:
  • "Sa feina niuja swarta undarhams meins gneidiþ mik" ("My fancy new black underwear is chafing") - T-shirts in black with red or parchment lettering, or boxers in black with red or parchment lettering on the back or on the front left leg.
  • "Ōkai, sō dulþs waírþiþ unhráinja. Ik gawasja mik, gagguh háimō." ("Okay, this party's getting dirty.  I'm putting on my clothes and going home.") - T-shirts in black with red or parchment lettering.  "Ōkai, sō dulþs waírþiþ unhráinja" is on the front, "Ik gawasja mik, gagguh háimō," on the back.
So here's the deal.  I need to sell two more of these puppies before i can upload more designs, and i want to have a good, broad selection available before i launch the shop publicly.  Er, ya know, more publicly.  So if you happen to be reading this, go to the shop and buy a t-shirt or some boxers.  I will personally Paypal my commission (negligible though it may be) to the next two people to buy something (or the next two designs sold) - just email me and let me know that you bought it.  This deal is only available until i've reached my minimum to be able to upload more designs and launch the shop publicly, so order yours today!  Heck, i'll pay for your (domestic ground) shipping too

(Oh.  And for those of you who are going to tell me, "Just go buy two t-shirts yourself!  Use a different name or something." I already got called out on that.  Different name and address and payment information and everything.  And all I got was a delightfully passive-aggressive note: "Congratulations on your first sale! Did you perhaps order a t-shirt for yourself? For testing purposes of course ;-)"  So, meh.)

In other merchy news, i'm in the process of opening a sort of local shop called Cottage Industries where locals can buy homemade yoghurt, maple syrup, and home-roasted coffee.  It's still in the startup stages, so don't buy anything there just yet (because your order will evaporate into the adminisphere!) but i'll post when it's ready to go.  Yoghurt delivery is local only, of course.  Everything else so far will have some sort of shipping cost associated with it unless you live or work in our delivery area.

Ideally, once i get the hang of the shopping cart systems and shipping and whatnot, i'd like to consolidate the two shops, but for now i'll leave the t-shirt business in the capable hands of the experts at SpreadShirt.  Maybe i could have other neat little shops in there too, like links to Ms. Maus's fabulous gothy yarn and yarnstuffs, or other delightful local products.

So that's all my excitement currently.  Go buy a t-shirt!  I wanna launch my shop!