Gothic/4/Word Order

Gothic Word OrderEdit

Most of the extant Gothic texts are a virtual word-for-word translation of the New Testament Greek and thus our knowledge of Gothic syntax is heavily influenced by the Greek. However, this shows us that the word order of Gothic was rather free due to its rich declension system. Nonetheless, certain areas of the Gothic text can show us what appears to be native Gothic syntax. Sometimes what can be expressed in one word in the original Greek will require a verb and a complement in the Gothic translation. In these sentences the Gothic verb usually follows the complement as in:

dwala gatawida from Greek ἐμώρανεν (μωραίνω) 1 Cor 1:20

- made foolish

Therefore, it seems safe to conclude that the natural word order of Gothic was OV (object-verb). This was also the natural word order of other ancient Germanic languages, including the earliest attested stage of North Germanic.

Imperatives, Negations and hw-questionsEdit

Imperatives, negations, and questions formed with hw-words are an exception.

In imperatives the verb usually comes first as in:

wairþ hrains from Greek καθαρίσθητι (καθαρίζω)

- become clean!

Also in negations the verbs usually comes first as in:

ni nimiþ arbi from Greek μὴ κληρονομήσει (κληρονομέω)

- does not take inheritance

There is a tendency in hw-questions for the verb to follow the hw-word directly, sometimes against the Greek, as in:

ƕa skuli þata barn wairþan? Compare Greek τί ἄρα τὸ παιδίον τοῦτο ἔσται;

- What shall the child become?


  • Thráinsson, Höskuldur (1996). Studies in Comparative Germanic Syntax: Volume II. The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers. ISBN 1-4020-0294-7.