|Spoken in||formerly Crimea|
|Language extinction||by the 18th century(?)|
|Writing system||originally, probably Runic alphabet, later Gothic, Greek, and Latin alphabets|
|ISO 639-3||got – Gothic|
|Note: This page may contain IPA phonetic symbols in Unicode.|
The existence of a Germanic dialect in the Crimea is attested in a number of sources from the 9th century to the 18th century. However, only a single source provides any details of the language itself: a letter by the Flemish ambassador Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq, dated 1562 and first published in 1589, gives a list of some eighty words and a song supposedly in the language.
Busbecq's information is problematic in a number of ways: his informants were not unimpeachable (one was a Greek speaker who knew Crimean Gothic as a second language, the other a Goth who had abandoned his native language in favour of Greek); there is the possibility that Busbecq's transcription was influenced by his own Flemish tongue; there are undoubted misprints in the printed text, which is the only source.
Nonetheless, much of the vocabulary cited by Busbecq is unmistakably Germanic and was recognised by him as such:
|Other Germanic cognates|
|Apel||"apple"||(unattested)||German Apfel, Dutch appel, Swedish (vild-)apel, äpple|
|Handa||"hand"||handus (f.)||German Hand, Swedish hand|
|Schuuester||"sister"||swistar (f.)||German Schwester, Dutch zus(ter), Swedish syster|
|Hus||"house"||-hūs (n.)||German Haus, Dutch huis, Swedish hus|
|Reghen||"rain"||rign (n.)||Dutch and German regen, Swedish regn|
|Singhen||"sing"||(unattested)||German singen, Dutch zingen, Swedish sjunga|
|Geen||"go"||(unattested)||German gehen, Dutch gaan, Swedish gå|
|Busbecq also cites a number of words which he did not recognise but which we now know have Germanic cognates:|
|ano||"chicken"||hana (m.)||German Hahn, English hen, Swedish höna|
|malthata||"said"||(unattested)||Old English maþelode, Swedish mälte (archaic)|
While the initial identification of this language as "Gothic" probably rests on ethnological rather than linguistic grounds - that is, the speakers were identified as Goths therefore the language must be Gothic - it shares a number of distinctive phonological developments with the Gothic of Ulfilas's Bible. For example, the word ada "egg" (Swedish ägg) shows the typical Gothic "strengthening" of Proto-Germanic *-jj- into -ddj- (as in Ulfilian Gothic iddja "went" from PGmc. *ejjon), being from Proto-Germanic *ajja-.
There are also examples of features preserved in Crimean Gothic and Biblical Gothic but which have undergone changes in West and North Germanic. For example, both Crimean Gothic and Biblical Gothic preserve Germanic /z/ as a sibilant, while it became /r/ in all other Germanic dialects.
However, there are problems in assuming that Crimean Gothic represents simply a later stage in the development of the Gothic attested in Ulfilas' Bible. Some innovations in Biblical Gothic are not found in Crimean Gothic, for example:
However, there are also similarities with developments in West Germanic, such as the change of /þ/ to a stop seen in Crimean Gothic tria (cf. Biblical Gothic þriu). Several historical accounts mention the similarity to Low German and the intelligibility of Crimean Gothic to German speakers.
There are two alternative solutions: that Crimean Gothic presents a separate branch of East Germanic, distinct from Ulfilas' Gothic; or that Crimean Gothic is descended from the dialect of West Germanic settlers who migrated to the Crimea in the early Middle Ages and whose language was subsequently influenced by Gothic.
Both of these were first suggested in the 19th century and are most recently argued by Stearns and Grønvik, respectively. While there is no consensus on a definitive solution to this problem, it is accepted that Crimean Gothic is not a descendant of Biblical Gothic.
The song quoted by Busbecq is less obviously Germanic and has proved impossible to interpret definitively. There is no consensus as to whether it is in fact Crimean Gothic.