MY GOTHIC READINGS are intended to make a little contribution to the reconstruction of Gothic pronunciation. Besides, they are to be conceived as a piece of art, of course. They shall be published aperiodically and​—​at least for the beginning​—​be confined to reciting the Gothic Bible. Their prelude is the first chapter of St. Luke’s gospel.

But before, I’d like to state my point of view in the diphthong controversy1. As is well known, pronunciation of the Gothic digraphs “ai” and “au” at Wulfila’s time is being disputed. Especially in older scholarship those were considered monophthongs [ɛ, ɔ] merely in short syllables, while diphthongs [ai̯, au̯] in long ones2. The opposite view, which has become more and more popular, regards them as monophthongs even in long syllables [ɛː, ɔː]3. My humble assumption now says that they are neither di- nor monophthongs, but simply half diphthongs​—​hence, “ai” is neither pronounced [ai̯] nor [ɛː], but [ɛi̯] or rather [ɛe̯]. Accordingly, “ai” is pronounced [ɔu̯] or rather [ɔo̯].4 The two digraphs’ sounding as monophthongs in short syllables is simply due to the fact that a half diphthong can only ardously be pronounced fast and thus easily becomes a monophthong in short syllables (cf. “to say”, but “said”). Their being meant as half diphthongs explains why Wulfila chose to uniformly display them by “ai, au”, though.


1st Reading: Luke I

Listen now​—​in Gothic and with Gothic subtitles​—​how archangel Gabriel prophesies to the old priest Zacharias the birth of his son John, the later baptist, (which Zacharias can hardly believe and is therefore interim struck dumb,) how the angel then announces the birth of Jesus to surprised Mary, and finally how after John’s birth there’s disagreement on his name:

The background music is taken from the CD “Frühe Gesänge der Bulgarisch-Orthodoxen Kirche” (Early Chants of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church) and is used by courtesy of Cantica Music and Concert Production.


Excursus: Langobardic and Old High German — The Lay of Hildebrand

Already my second reading consists in a short excursion into two western Germanic idioms: Old High German, ancestor of today’s standard German, and Langobardic, a pre-Old-High-German dialect—both depicted using the example of the Hildebrand’s Lay. The reconstruction of its Langobardic original text used in this video is taken from the book “Das Westgermanische” by Wolfram EULER, a recently published, comprehensive grammar of the western Germanic proto language (the common ancestor of German, English and Dutch).

The Old High German text of the Hildebrand’s Lay is recited here in its passed down version of Fulda. An excerpt of the differing, rectified version by Georg BAESECKE can be found here. A completely different effort of reconstructing the Langobardic text was made by Willy KROGMANN in 1959; you’ll find an artistically rendered excerpt here.

2nd Reading: Luke II, 1–20 — The Nativity Story

Hear now subsequently to my first reading above how Roman fiscal authority rouses the occupied Israel and how, under unfavourable circumstances, a child is born whose unimagined importance is first told to the shepherds:

The music in the opening and end titles is taken from the CD “Transeamus · Schlesische Weihnachtslieder” (Transeamus · Silesian Christmas Carols) and is used by courtesy of the Membran Entertainment Group GmbH. The background images are used according to U.S. and German copyright law. I particularly thank Joseph F. BRICKEY by whose permission I show the images “Annunciation to the Shepherds” and “A Savior is Born” (both ©2000) as well as Walter RANE who has provided his painting “Behold the Lamb of God”.


1 See Frank HEIDERMANNS in Wilhelm Braune/id., Gotische Grammatik, 20th ed. Tübingen 2004, § 21 note 2 et seq. with further references; William BENNETT, The Monophthongization of Gothic ái áu, Language vol. 25 № 1 (jan.–march 1949), pp. 15 ff.

2 So e. g. Wilhelm STREITBERG, Gotisches Elementarbuch, 3th/4th ed. Heidelberg 1910, § 34 № 7.


4 Similar already Eric HAMP, Gothic ai and au, Modern Language, vol. 71 № 4 (april 1956), p. 256 (269).