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Vandalic was the Germanic language spoken by the Vandals during roughly the 3rd to 6th centuries. It was probably closely related to Gothic, and as such is traditionally classified as an East Germanic language. Its attestation is very fragmentary, mainly due to Vandals' constant migrations and late adoption of writing. All modern sources from the time when Vandalic was spoken are protohistoric.
|Native to||Spain, North Africa|
|Extinct||6th century AD|
The Vandals, Hasdingi and Silingi established themselves in Gallaecia (northern Portugal and Galicia) and in southern Spain, following other Germanic and non-Germanic peoples (Visigoths, Alans and Suebi) in c. 410 before they moved to North Africa in the 430s. Their kingdom flourished in the early 6th century, but after their defeat in 536 they were placed under Byzantine administration and their language likely disappeared before the end of the century.
Very little is known about the Vandalic language other than various phrases and a small number of personal names of Vandalic origin, mainly known from documents and personal names in Spanish. The regional name Andalusia is traditionally believed to have derived from Vandalic, although this claim is contested. When the Moors invaded and settled on the Iberian Peninsula from the 8th century to the end of the 15th, the region was called Al-Andalus.
In one inscription from the Vandal Kingdom, the Christian incantation of Kyrie eleison is given in Vandalic as "Froia arme" ("Lord, have mercy!"). The same phrase appears in Collatio Beati Augustini cum Pascentio ariano 15 by Pseudo-Augustine: "Froja armes".
The epigram De conviviis barbaris in the Latin Anthology, of North African origin and disputed date, contains a fragment in a Germanic language that some authors believe to be Vandalic, although the fragment itself refers to the language as "Gothic". This may be because both languages were East Germanic and closely related; scholars have pointed out in this context that Procopius refers to the Goths, Vandals, Visigoths, and Gepids as "Gothic nations" and opines that they "are all of the Arian faith, and have one language called Gothic". The fragment reads:
Inter "eils" Goticum "scapia matzia ia drincan!"
The tables below show various Vandalic words, phrases and forms that survive in (or as) names and various Latin texts. The majority of these were taken from Onesti's "Tracing the Language of the Vandals" (2015).
|Gothic cognate||Gloss of Vandalic form|
(form of 𐌰𐍂𐌼𐌰𐌽 (arman))
|drincan||𐌳𐍂𐌹𐌲𐌺𐌰𐌽 (drigkan)||'drink (inf.)'|
|eils||𐌷𐌰𐌹𐌻𐍃 (hails)||'hail!' (greeting)|
|froia||𐍆𐍂𐌰𐌿𐌾𐌰 (frauja)||'lord, (the) Lord'|
|matzia||𐌼𐌰𐍄𐌾𐌰𐌽 (matjan)||'eat (inf.),|
have one's meal (inf.)'
cf. 𐌲𐌰𐍃𐌺𐌰𐍀𐌾𐌰𐌽 (gaskapjan)
|vandalirice||—||'king of the Vandals'|
|Old English cognate||Gloss of Vandalic form|
|bere||𐌱𐌰𐌹𐍂𐌰- (baira-)||*bera-||bera-||'bear, carry'|
|bluma||𐌱𐌻𐍉𐌼𐌰 (blōma)||*blōmô||*blōma||'bloom, flower'|
cf. 𐌳𐌰𐌲𐍃 (dags)
(cf. MnE †frith)
cf. 𐌿𐍃𐌲𐌰𐌹𐍃𐌾𐌰𐌽 (usgaisjan)
(cf. MnE garlic)
|hildi-, -ild||𐌷𐌹𐌻𐌳𐌹- (hildi-)||*hildjō||hild||'battle'|
|*𐌼𐌴𐍂𐍃 (*mērs)||*mēraz, mērijaz||mǣre
(cf. MnE ‡mere)
(cf. MnE ‡mound)
(cf. MnE mood)
(cf. MnE †rede)
|𐍂𐌴𐌹𐌺𐍃 (reiks)||*rīk-||rice ('dominion')||'king'|
(cf. MnE †roun, rune)
(cf. MnE share)
(cf. MnE sibling)
(cf. MnE send)
|trioua||𐍄𐍂𐌹𐌲𐌲𐍅𐌰 (triggwa)||*triwwa||trīewu||'loyal, true (f.)'|
(cf. MnE †thew)
(cf. MnE †thede)
|vili, guilia||𐍅𐌹𐌻𐌾𐌰 (wilja)||*wiljô||willa||'will (noun)'|
|*𐍅𐌴𐌹𐍄𐌹- (*weiti-)||*wīti-||—||'struggle, combat'|
Very little is known about Vandalic grammar, but some things can be extracted from Vandalic names.
Phonology and sound changesEdit
The phonological features of Vandalic are similar to those of Gothic.
The Proto-Germanic long vowel *ē is often preserved in Vandalic names (Gunthimer, Geilimer), but it could become i when unstressed: Geilamir, Vitarit.
The Proto-Germanic short vowel *e turned into i in Vandalic when it was not preceded by */r, h, w/. For example, Sigisteun contains -i because g precedes the vowel, but Beremut retains the *e since r precedes the vowel.
Proto-Germanic *ō turns into /u/ in Vandalic, while it is retained as /oː/ in Gothic: Blumarit (compare Proto-Germanic *blōmô), Vilimut.
The Proto-Germanic diphthong *eu tends to come down to Vandalic as eu. Take for example the form theudo- ('people'), as opposed to the Gothic 𐌸𐌹𐌿𐌳𐌰 (þiuda), where it has changed to /iu/.
The Proto-Germanic diphthong *ai is preserved as /ai/, but tends to become /ei/ later on. For example, the name Gaisericus changes to Geiseric in later documents.
The Proto-Germanic *z is also preserved in the language as a sibilant (always found written s or as part of x), as opposed to having undergone rhotacism as it has in North or West Germanic. For example, compare the Vandalic form geis (as in Geiseric) 'spear' to Old English gār.
The word-initial /h/ inherited from Proto-Germanic seems to have been lost early in Vandalic (e.g., the element ari in Arifridos and Guntari, from Proto-Germanic *harja- 'army'). However, royal names on Vandal coins use a conservative official spelling, with the h always being written.
The Proto-Germanic cluster *-ww- can be found strengthened to -g.
The Proto-Germanic cluster *-tj- can become [tsj], as in matzia from Proto-Germanic *matjaną.
Declension and word-formationEdit
The original Proto-Germanic *-z used to mark mark the nominative masculine singular in nominals, which was lost in West Germanic early on, is attested within some preserved Vandalic forms as -s or as part of -x (occasionally found Romanized in some name attestations as -us). This marker is potentially to be deemed an archaic feature since it is lost in most words, with complete lost within Ostrogothic names from the 6th century onward.
Similar to Gothic, Vandalic does not seem to have i-umlaut. One example of items that demonstrate the lack of umlaut are names that contain the form *ari (< Proto-Germanic *harjaz 'army'): Ariarith, Arifridos, Guntari, Raginari vs. Old English here, the latter of which does does show umlaut with the Proto-Germanic *a having shifted to e.
The epithet Vandalirice 'king of the Vandals' gives possible attestation of a genitive plural ending -e (cf. Gothic -ē), albeit written as i within this form. Old Germanic languages outside of East Germanic have -a (as in Old English and Old Norse) or -o (as in Old Dutch or Old High German) as their equivalents of this ending instead; compare Old English Wendla against the potential Vandalic form *Vandali.
Some elements found within names are attested in declined forms. For example, the genitive of *rith is attested as ridos.
- The Proto-Germanic fricatives *þ and *ð often turned into t or d, but there are also some names in which they were retained or otherwise represented distinctly: Thrasamundus, Guntha.
- Initial h- was also lost under Latin influence; however, it is still found included in the spelling of some royal names on Vandalic coins.
- Initial w- sometimes changed into [gw-] (Guiliaruna, < Proto-Germanic *wilja-, Guitifrida, < *wīti-); in other instances, it is spelled as v (pronounced [w]): vult- (from Proto-Germanic *wulþuz).
- Vandalic names could contain Latin elements or suffixes (Mauritta, Bictoricus, etc.)
- Berndt, Guido M. (2016-04-15). Arianism: Roman Heresy and Barbarian Creed. Routledge. ISBN 9781317178651.
- Steinacher, Roland (2008). "Gruppen und Identitäten. Gedanken zur Beichnung "vandalisch"" (PDF). In Berndt, Guido M.; Steinacher, Roland (eds.). Das Reich der Vandalen und seine (Vor-)Geschichten. 2005. Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften. p. 254. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 March 2012.
- "Indogermanistik Wien: Quellentexte". Archived from the original on October 17, 2010. Retrieved 2017-09-02.
- Greule, Albrecht and Matthias Springer. Namen des Frühmittelalters als sprachliche Zeugnisse und als Geschichtsquellen. P. 49-50.
- Greule, Albrecht and Matthias Springer. Namen des Frühmittelalters als sprachliche Zeugnisse und als Geschichtsquellen. P. 48
- Procopius of Caesarea, THE VANDALIC WAR I,2-8
- Quoted in Magnús Snædal, 'The "Vandal" Epigram', in Filologia Germanica/Germanic Philology, 1 (2009), 181-213 (pp. 183-84).
- Anthologia Latina No. 307, I. 5
- Anthologia Latina No. 215, 523-543
- https://www.academia.edu/1516556/THE_LANGUAGE_AND_NAMES_OF_THE_VANDALS, Nicoletta Onesti, "THE LANGUAGE AND NAMES OF THE VANDALS", https://www.academia.edu, 2009, 3, 22 February 2015
- Francovich Onesti, Nicoletta, Tracing the Language of the Vandals, excepted from: Francovich Onesti, Goti e Vandali (2013), 179ff.