The linguistic remains of Gothic provide a window into the origin and history of the Gothic tribes that sometimes complements, and sometimes conflicts with, literary and archaeological records. Specifically, the words borrowed by Gothic from different languages, as well as those borrowed by other languages from Gothic, provide clues about cultural contact, and hence possible geographic location. Generally, at least in the ancient world, languages are assumed to borrow from neighboring languages. Such an assumption certainly leads to some objections, but on the whole it forms a good working hypothesis, which may lead to conclusions that can be compared with the archaeological and literary records for confirmation. If such a hypothesis fails, however, scholars must look for other means for the languages to come into contact, such as through travel along common trade routes.
The Gothic language as recorded in Wulfila's translation contains loan-words from Latin and Celtic. This could imply that either the Goths were settled close to Roman or Celtic populations, or they were in contact with them via commerce or some other means. Since the literary sources pertaining to the Goths generally speak of their origins near the Baltic Sea, scholars have primarily looked for what modes of contact the Goths may have had with these peoples from a distance. For example, if the Goths were never proximate to the Romans, the Latin loans may have come from Gothic mercenaries in Roman employ, since many of the loans have a military character: Gothic *annō from Latin annōna 'military wages'; Gothic militōn 'serve in the army' from Latin mīlēs, pl. mīlitēs 'soldier'. Such loans could could date to the period of contact between Romans and Gutones, when Drusus, son of Tiberius, convinced Catualda, chief of the Gotones, to enter the fight against the Marcomanni.
Celtic loans are likewise often of a military or political character, such as Gothic reiks: compare Gaulish -rīx, and Old Irish rī, genitive rīg. Such Celtic acculturation was possible during the Wielbark period, where the Gutones in the region belonged to the Lugian cult league. Scholars suspect the Lugians were considered Celts before the birth of Christ, but after a century had come to be considered Germanic, closely allied to the Vandals. This holdover of Celtic terms, as with Latin terms possibly borrowed during the Marcomannic wars, requires the Gutonic language to carry over into 4th century Gothic. Proximity to Celtic Lugians does not explain why these particular elements are common only to Celtic and Gothic, since other Germanic tribes were part of the Lugian league.
There are some facts (see Kortlandt, 2000) which argue against a theory of Scandinavian origin for the Goths. On the one hand, much of the source material, admittedly for Jordanes and perhaps for his predecessors Ablabius and Cassiodorus as well, is in the form of oral traditions, the interpretation of which may change within a culture as the culture itself changes. On the other hand, there are some problems with the notion of large-scale migration from the Baltic to the Black Sea. One problem is that the region between the point of origin and the destination is believed to be the homeland of the Slavs, who seem not to have moved until the advent of the Huns. This seems unlikely if there was a mass migration of Goths through the territory. (It is subject to the same argument that supposes the advent of the Huns is what caused the Goths to press into Roman territory.) In addition, the general trend of migration near the borderland of the steppes was westward from poorer lowland to richer upland, not eastward. Another typical trend of the period is that of migration toward more civilized areas rather than away from them, hence in this case toward the Roman Empire's nearest border, the Danube -- a direction in which the Slavs in fact moved, a few centuries later.
Therefore a different proposal arises (Kortlandt, 2000), namely that the Gutones moved south early, toward Italy and the Roman Empire, until they came to the Danube. There they adopted the speech of Alemannic tribes that had previously migrated to the region from the west, and whose speech would already be colored by Roman contact. They were prevented from entering Roman territory, and joined forces with other Germanic tribes in Lower Austria. This mingling of the Gutones with other Germanic tribes in the region resulted in the Gothic ethnogenesis.
One simple fact supporting such a theory is the panoply of names applied to the Goths in the course of their migrations, none of which is actually 'Goth' until a fairly late date. It seems especially likely that the Gothic tribe through the 3rd and 4th centuries was composed of several fluid factions. To add to such literary observations, there is linguistic data as well that may support a Gothic ethnogenesis in southern Germany.
In particular, some of the linguistic features deemed most conservative in Gothic, such as the reduplicated suffix in the past plural of weak verbs, may in fact be innovations. If the origin of the weak verbs is the dh-determinative, then the reduplication found in Gothic may not be an archaic holdover, but rather a form based on analogy with such forms as the preterite of *dhē in Old High German.
In reference to Latin, the fact that the Latin suffix -ārius is productive in the Gothic words such as bōkareis 'scribe', láisareis 'teacher', liuþareis 'singer', mōtareis 'toll-taker', sōkareis 'disputer', may argue for closer contact than merely mercenary jargon. Other cultural loans from Latin, lacking military character, are common, e.g. aurali 'napkin' < Lat. ōrārium; kubitus 'reclining (company) at a table' < Lat. cubitus; aurti-gards, with first element from Latin hortus; mēs < Vulgar Latin mēsa < Latin mēnsa. The word lukarn 'lamp' is an early borrowing from Latin; aket, akeit 'vinegar', a borrowing from Latin acētum, because of non-palatalized c-, may have been borrowed in 1st-3rd centuries, before migration to Russia. Also borrowed from Latin were Kreks 'Greek' and marikreitum 'pearls', showing the change of Latin g to Gmc k, interesting in light of the fact that the Alemannic dialects lack voiced obstruents. In fact, Greek words often appear in Latinized forms, e.g. aípistula 'letter', aíwaggeljō 'gospel', paúrpura 'purple', diabulus 'devil'. Greek words with accented -í- often show -j-, i.e. no accent, in Gothic: aikklesjō 'congregation', skaúrpjōnō 'of scorpions'. In general Greek o is represented by Gothic ō, as in Gothic Aírmōgaínēs corresponding to Greek Ermogénēs. However the fact that Greek o-stems are inflected as Gothic u-stems in the singular, and as i-stems in the plural, may be a result of Latin transmission: Iudaius, -áus sg.; Iudaieis, ē pl.
Thus there may have been a protracted period of close contact between the Goths and Romans well before Wulifila's translation, and the Celtic loans need not have come from Lugians in the north, but possibly from the Bastarni (if they were in fact Celts) in the Balkans. Certain words adopted from Latin into Gothic also show devoicing characteristic of Alemannic dialects, which suggests that the Goths may have been in close proximity to southern Germanic dialects for an extended period. It seems that the linguistic picture of Gothic origins is as heterogeneous as that derived from the literary and archaeological remains.
The following passage is from John 6.1-14, in which Jesus provides enough bread and fish to feed the multitude. The Gothic translation shows some noteworthy linguistic features. In 6.6, the phrase habáida táujan '(what) he would do' provides an example of a compound future tense, with a sense of necessity given by haban. The following verse, John 6.7, has the phrase twáim hundam skattē hláibōs ni ganōhái sind, literally 'loaves at (the price) two hundred of coins are not enough'. This shows the common use of the genitive with a numeral, analogous to Modern English 'a little bit of money'; likewise it illustrates the use of an instrumental dative with genōhs to denote price. John 6.8 contains the genitive Paítráus. Greek loan words in -os tend to be declined according to the Gothic u-declension.
We find in verse 6.11 some insight into the original Greek source of the Gothic translation. As with the Old English translation and Wycliffe's translation of 1389, Gothic lacks the phrase 'to the disciples, and the disciples'. This suggests that the Gothic translator worked with a manuscript different from that used to prepare the King James Version, but belonging to the same family as that of earlier English translations.
Note also the syntax of the word wáihts in John 6.12 : wáihtái ni fraqistnái 'that nothing be lost'. Here the dative of wáihts (with negative ni) is used with an impersonal verb, giving more literally '(that) it be lost for (no)thing' or 'at (no)thing', equivalent to '(that) it be lost in no way, in no respect'. The syntax of John 6.14 is similarly noteworthy: gasaíƕandans þōei gatawida táikn Iēsus, literally 'seeing the-which-(Jesus)-did miracle', where the relative clause has been pulled to the front, before its actual antecedent. This fronting of the relative clause is common to many of the Indo-European languages, including Sanskrit and even its modern daughters, such as Hindi.
6:1 - Afar þata galaiþ Iesus ufar marein þo Galeilaie jah Tibairiade.
2 - jah laistida ina manageins filu, unte gaseƕun taiknins þozei gatawida bi siukaim.
3 - usiddja þan ana fairguni Iesus jah jainar gasat miþ siponjam seinaim.
4 - wasuh þan neƕa pasxa, so dulþs Iudaie.
5 - þaruh ushof augona Iesus jah gaumida þammei manageins filu iddja du imma, qaþuh du Filippau: ƕaþro bugjam hlaibans, ei matjaina þai?
6 - þatuh þan qaþ fraisands ina: iþ silba wissa þatei habaida taujan.
7 - andhof imma Filippus: twaim hundam skatte hlaibos ni ganohai sind þaim, þei nimai ƕarjizuh leitil.
8 - qaþ ains þize siponje is, Andraias, broþar Paitraus Seimonaus:
9 - ist magula ains her, saei habaiþ ·e· hlaibans barizeinans jah ·b· fiskans; akei þata ƕa ist du swa managaim?
10 - iþ Iesus qaþ: waurkeiþ þans mans anakumbjan. wasuh þan hawi manag ana þamma stada. þaruh anakumbidedun wairos raþjon swaswe fimf þusundjos.
11 - namuh þan þans hlaibans Iesus jah awiliudonds gadailida þaim anakumbjandam; samaleiko jah þize fiske, swa file swe wildedun.
12 - þanuh, biþe sadai waurþun, qaþ du siponjam seinaim: galisiþ þos aflifnandeins drauhsnos, þei waihtai ni fraqistnai.
13 - þanuh galesun jah gafullidedun ·ib· tainjons gabruko us fimf hlaibam þaim barizeinam, þatei aflifnoda þaim matjandam.
14 - þaruh þai mans gasaiƕandans þoei gatawida taikn Iesus, qeþun þatei sa ist bi sunjai praufetus sa qimanda in þo manaseþ.
6:1 Afar þata galaiþ Iesus ufar marein þo Galeilaie jah Tibairiade. 2 jah laistida ina manageins filu, unte gaseƕun taiknins þozei gatawida bi siukaim. 3 usiddja þan ana fairguni Iesus jah jainar gasat miþ siponjam seinaim. 4 wasuh þan neƕa pasxa, so dulþs Iudaie. 5 þaruh ushof augona Iesus jah gaumida þammei manageins filu iddja du imma, qaþuh du Filippau: ƕaþro bugjam hlaibans, ei matjaina þai? 6 þatuh þan qaþ fraisands ina: iþ silba wissa þatei habaida taujan. 7 andhof imma Filippus: twaim hundam skatte hlaibos ni ganohai sind þaim, þei nimai ƕarjizuh leitil. 8 qaþ ains þize siponje is, Andraias, broþar Paitraus Seimonaus: 9 ist magula ains her, saei habaiþ ·e· hlaibans barizeinans jah ·b· fiskans; akei þata ƕa ist du swa managaim? 10 iþ Iesus qaþ: waurkeiþ þans mans anakumbjan. wasuh þan hawi manag ana þamma stada. þaruh anakumbidedun wairos raþjon swaswe fimf þusundjos. 11 namuh þan þans hlaibans Iesus jah awiliudonds gadailida þaim anakumbjandam; samaleiko jah þize fiske, swa file swe wildedun. 12 þanuh, biþe sadai waurþun, qaþ du siponjam seinaim: galisiþ þos aflifnandeins drauhsnos, þei waihtai ni fraqistnai. 13 þanuh galesun jah gafullidedun ·ib· tainjons gabruko us fimf hlaibam þaim barizeinam, þatei aflifnoda þaim matjandam.
14 þaruh þai mans gasaiƕandans þoei gatawida taikn Iesus, qeþun þatei sa ist bi sunjai praufetus sa qimanda in þo manaseþ.
From the King James version:
6:1 After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias. 2 And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased. 3 And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples. 4 And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh. 5 When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? 6 And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do. 7 Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little. 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, saith unto him, 9 There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many? 10 And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11 And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would. 12 When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. 13 Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten.
14 Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.
Not all nominal stems end in a vowel. Several end in consonants. The type most common in Gothic, the n-stems, will be discussed in a subsequent lesson. The consonant stems in the present section are fewer in number, but generally denote important concepts, the names for which are undoubtedly survivals from a very archaic stage of the language.
The r-stem nouns form a small but important fraction of the Gothic vocabulary. All r-stems in Gothic are inherited directly from Proto-Indo-European. The nouns fadar 'father', brōþar 'brother', daúhtar 'daughter', and swistar 'sister' illustrate the declension. All Gothic r-stems denote familial relation, with the grammatical gender following the natural gender.
|A, V||brōþar||fadar (V)||daúhtar||swistar|
The word fadar occurs only once in the vocative, the word atta 'father' being used elsewhere. The declensions of the nouns are the same, being reproduced for the sake of completeness. The nominative plural ending -jus comes by analogy with sunjus, the r-stems already having accusative and dative plurals identical to the u-stems (see Section 7.2).
The nd-stems derive from an original present participle formation, but were frozen as substantives. These nouns are generally masculine. The nouns frijōnds 'friend', fijands 'enemy', nasjands 'savior' illustrate the declension.
Note the identical forms of the nominative singular and nominative and accusative plural. The following nouns decline similarly: allwaldands 'the Almighty'; bisitands 'neighbor'; dáupjands 'baptizer, baptist'; fráujinōnds 'ruler'; fraweitands 'avenger'; gibands 'giver'; mērjands 'proclaimer'; midumōnds 'mediator'; talzjands 'teacher'.
Some noun stems end in consonants different from those above. Their declensions are not prevalent enough to warrant separate discussion, so they are collected below. The nouns mēnōþs 'month', reiks 'ruler' are masculine; baúrgs 'city', mitaþs 'measure', nahts 'night' are feminine; fōn 'fire' is neuter. Their forms are given below.
Note: the feminine genitive and dative plurals were formed by analogy with i-stems, except the dative plural nahtam which parallels dagam. Note also the -d- in the genitive singular of mitaþs. The only neuter noun of this type is fōn, with no plural forms attested.
In comparison to other Germanic languages, Gothic has a fairly reduced set of demonstratives. The demonstratives could generally be used as deictic adjectives, or in a substantival role as demonstrative pronouns.
The most common demonstrative is sa, þata, sō. As adjective, it may point to something relatively close ('this') or relatively distant ('that') from the perspective of the speaker. In a less marked sense, the demonstrative is used as a simple definite article 'the'. As pronouns, the same forms may translate as 'this one' or 'that one'. The forms are as follows.
The final a of þata is often elided before ist: þat' ist. A neuter instrumental singular is preserved in certain phrases and as part of some conjunctions: ni þē haldis 'none the more'; bi-þē 'while'; jaþ-þē 'and if'; du-þē 'therefore'; þē-ei 'that'. A locative or instumental form survives as the relative particle þei 'that'.
The emphatic demonstrative sah, þatuh, þōh 'that, that in particular, that especially' is formed by adding the enclitic -uh to the forms of sa, þata, sō. This demonstrative expresses not only emphasis, but contrast as well. The attested forms are as follows.
When the simple pronoun ends in -a, the -a is elided before the following -u, except in the nominative singular masculine (that is, weakly stressed -a is lost). When the simple pronoun ends in a long vowel or diphthong, the following -u is elided. Final -s changes to -z before -uh. The instrumental occurs in the adverb bi-þēh 'after that, then afterward'.
There are remnants of a demonstrative built to the stem hi-. These are confined, for the most part, to a small number of temporal adverbial phrases: himma daga 'on this day, today'; und hina daga 'to this day'; fram himma 'henceforth'; und hita (nu) 'till now, hitherto'; also hidrē 'to here'.
The demonstrative jáins 'that, that there, yon' declines as a strong adjective (the nom. and acc. pl. neut. is always jáinata). The demonstratives silba 'self' and sama 'same' decline as weak adjectives.
Adjectives employ two different sets of endings, strong and weak. These names only reflect a binary system, equivalent to Type A and Type B, respectively; the adjectives 'strong' and 'weak' have no other connotations. Whereas a given noun is either strong (inherently) or weak (inherently) but not both, a given adjective by contrast may employ either strong or weak endings as the context requires. There is thus a difference in use and connotation between strong adjectival endings and their weak counterparts. The term 'strong adjective' is generally used as a shorthand for 'adjective with strong endings'; similarly 'weak adjective' means 'adjective with weak endings'. Using this terminology, the difference in usage is the following: strong adjectives are indefinite, weak adjectives are definite.
The strong adjective endings are a mixture of the endings of strong nouns like dags, waúrd, giba (cf. Section 3) and of pronouns (cf. Sections 8.2 and 12). The adjective blinds 'blind' illustrates the declension of a-stem adjectives. Pronominal endings are italicized.
|N Sg.||blinds||blind, blindata||blinda|
The ja-stem adjectives divide into two groups: (1) those with short radical syllable, and those whose stems end in a vowel; (2) those with a long radical syllable. The difference between the two only appears in the singular forms. The adjective midjis 'middle' illustrates the endings of group (1).
|N Sg.||midjis||*midi, midjata||midja|
The adjective wilþeis 'wild' serves to illustrate the endings of group (2). The forms which differ from those of Group (1) are in boldface.
|N Sg.||wilþeis||wilþi, wilþjata||wilþi|
The wa-stem adjectives are sparsely attested. The adjective triggws 'true' serves to illustrate the attested forms.
Only a handful of wa-stem adjectives remain in the surviving Gothic texts. The adjective lasiws 'weak' occurs only in the nominative singular maculine. Other wa-stems such as *qius 'alive', *fáus 'little', *usskáus 'vigilant' do not occur in the nominative singular masculine at all.
The strong forms of the i-stem adjectives differ from the ja-stem forms only in the nominative singular of all genders, the accusative singular neuter, and the genitive singular masculine and neuter. The adjective hráins 'clean' serves to illustrate the paradigm. The forms differing from the ja-stems are in boldface.
The following adjectives decline similarly: analáugns 'hidden'; anasiuns 'visible'; andanēms 'pleasant'; áuþs 'desert'; brūks 'useful'; gafáurs 'well-behaved'; gamáins 'common'; sēls 'kind'; skáuns 'beautiful'; skeirs 'clear'; suts 'sweet'.
The u-stem adjectives also employ for the most part the endings of the ja-stem declension. Only the nominative singular of all genders and the accusative singular neuter show different forms, following the declensions of sunus 'son', feminine handus 'hand', and neuter faíhu 'cattle' (see Section 7.2). Though the genitive singular likely followed the form of u-stem nouns, no instances survive; likewise no dative singular forms are attested, nor nominative and accusative plural neuter. The adjective hardus 'hard' serves to illustrate the paradigm. Forms differing from the ja-stems are boldface.
|N Sg.||hardus||hardu, hardjata||hardus|
The following adjectives decline similarly: aggwus 'narrow'; aglus 'difficult'; hnasqus 'soft'; kaúrus 'heavy'; manwus 'ready'; qaírrus 'gentle'; seiþus 'late'; tulgus 'steadfast'; twalibwintrus 'twelve years old'; þaúrsus 'withered'; þlaqus 'soft'.
The possessive adjectives decline exclusively as strong adjectives (there are no weak forms of possessives). These forms are built from the genitive forms of the respective pronouns, with the addition of adjectival endings, e.g. ik 'I', with G sg. meina, gives adjectival *meina-s > meins 'my' (N. sg. masc.). The forms of meins 'my, mine' serve to illustrate the paradigm.
|N Sg.||meins||mein, meinata||meina|
The second person builds a possessive adjective þeins, and the reflexive pronoun has possessive *seins (as it points back to the subject of the clause, only oblique forms occur). The dual and plural forms of the personal pronouns also build possessives:
|1 Sg.||meina-||meins||mein, meinata||meina|
|refl. (Acc.)||seina-||seinana||sein, seinata||seina|
The reflexive possessive adjective *seins serves as a reflexive for any number, just like the pronoun itself. The dual possessive *unqar 'of us two' does not occur. Note that final -s (-z) drops after a short vowel followed by consonantal -r (cf. Section 6.2.2), hence the nominative forms of the dual and plural possessives lack final -s. The neuter nominative and accusative singular of the dual and plural possessives do not show the ending -ata. In all other forms, *ugkara- 'of us two', igqara- 'of you two', unsara- 'of us (all), our, ours' and izwara- 'of you (all), your, yours' follow the paradigm of meins.
The third person pronouns have no corresponding possessive adjectives, using simply the genitive forms of the personal pronoun (singular is, is, izōs; plural izē, *izē, izō) or of the demonstrative pronoun (singular þis, þis, þizōs; plural þizē, þizē, þizō).
Like Modern English, Gothic has a past participle whose formation depends on whether the verb is strong or weak. Unlike, e.g., classical Greek or Sanskrit, which have morphologically distinct past active and past passive participles, Gothic makes no morphological distinction between active and passive participles. One and the same formation generally has different interpretations based on the transitivity of the root: the past participle of transitive verbs is construed as passive (e.g. 'having been eaten'), while the past participle of intransitive verbs is construed as active (e.g. 'having gone').
The formation of past participles in Gothic parallels that of Modern English, as well as the other Germanic languages. There are two types of past participle, reflecting the distinction between strong and weak verbs. Note there is no correlation between the terms 'strong' and 'weak' as applied to verbs, and the same terms as applied to adjective endings. A strong verb forms a past participle, which may be declined as either a strong or a weak adjective; likewise a weak verb's past participle may take either weak or strong adjectival endings. The weak adjective endings are treated in Section 17.1.
Strong verbs form the past participle by adding the suffix -an to the verbal stem, which in general displays ablaut. Compare Modern English eat-en. Strong a-stem or weak adjective endings are then added to the -an suffix. Because of the relative unpredictability of ablaut, the past participle is typically given as one of the principal parts. For example, the strong class IVa verb qiman 'come' has principal parts qiman, qam, qēmun, qumans. The past participle stem is thus quman-. The nominative singular forms for strong and weak declension of quman- are as follows.
|Strong Vb. PPl.||Masculine||Neuter||Feminine|
Weak verbs form the past participle by means of a dental suffix -þ, as one finds in e.g. Modern English ask-ed. This is added to the stem, sometimes with an intervening vowel, and adjective endings are added to this. The intervening vowel depends on weak verb class. Consider the following exemplars.
|Class||Past Ptcpl. (Str. N Sg. Masc.)||Infinitive||Meaning|
No verbs of the weak class iv leave any past participle forms in the records. Though it is often remarked in grammars that this class contains only intransitive verbs, this does not explain a priori the absence of such participles, as the example qumans shows above (see also þaúrsjan 'thirst' below). A small number of verbs of the weak class i add the dental suffix with no intervening vowel. The most common are listed below.
|Infinitive||Meaning||Preterite (1/3 Sg.)||Past Ptcpl. (Str. N Sg. Masc.)|
As with the participles of strong verbs, those of weak verbs decline as either strong a-stem or weak adjectives as the context demands. The nominative singular forms for strong and weak declension of quman- are as follows.
|Weak Vb. PPl.||Masculine||Neuter||Feminine|
Note the the change of -þ- to -d- between vowels.
As mentioned above, the past participle of transitive verbs is construed as passive in sense; the past participle of intransitive verbs is construed as active. For example, qiman 'to come' (intransitive) vs. qumans 'come' (active -- cf. Shakespearean 'I am come' = 'I have arrived'), but baíran 'to bear' (transitive) vs. baúrans 'borne' (passive); likewise nasjan 'to save' (transitive) vs. nasiþs 'saved' (passive), but þaúrsjan 'thirst' (intransitive) vs. af-þaúrsiþs '(having) thirsted, thirsty' (active). Even this distinction, though, is not absolute. For example, the transitive verb drigkan 'to drink' has a past participle with active sense, drunkans 'having drunk', hence simply 'drunk': drunkans ist in Col. 11.21 translates Greek methúei 'is intoxicated'.
The past participle frequently appears in the dative in an absolute contruction, much as Old Church Slavonic dative, Latin ablative, Greek genitive, and Sanskrit locative. Such constructions convey an event grammatically separate (hence 'absolute') from the main clause. For example, jah usleiþandin Iēsua in skipa, gaqēmun sik manageins filu du imma 'and Jesus having passed over in the ship, there came together to him a great multitude'; dalaþ þan atgaggandin imma af faírgunja, láistidēdun afar imma iumjōns managōs 'then having come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed after him'. The nominative is found on rare occasions in such absolute constructions: waúrþans dags gatils '(and) a fitting day being come'.
The past participle is sometimes used with the suppletive verb wisan 'to be' or with waírþan 'to become' to form a periphrastic passive. For example, miþþanei wrohiþs was 'when he was accused' (Matthew 27.12); afar þatei atgibans warþ Iohannes 'after that John was put...' (Mark 1.14); skal sunus mans uskusans waírþan 'the son of man shall be rejected' (Mark 8.31).
Each Gothic preposition governs objects in one or more of the oblique cases. The case governed is a property of the preposition: each preposition governs only a specific case or cases. If a preposition governs more than one case, its meaning may or may not change depending on the case employed. Generally the genitive is used after a preposition to denote source, cause, or instrument. The dative commonly denotes position in space or time without motion, or it may denote source, cause, or instrument. The accusative is used after a preposition to denote motion to or through space or time, or to denote a point of time within a certain period, opposition, or correspondence. A few adverbs have prepositional force when combined with a noun in the genitive. The following chart lists the primary Gothic prepositions, together with the cases they govern and the associated meanings.
|afar||acc.||after, according to|
|dat.||after, according to|
|and||acc.||along, through, over|
|and||acc.||along, throughout, towards|
|at||acc.||at, by, to|
|dat.||at, by, to|
|bi||acc.||by, about, around, against|
|dat.||by, about, around, against|
|hindar||acc.||behind, beyond, among|
|dat.||behind, beyond, among|
|in||acc.||in, into, towards|
|dat.||in, into, among|
|gen.||on, on account of|
|nēƕa||dat.||nigh to, near|
|und||acc.||until, up to|
|us||dat.||out, out of|
|utana||gen.||from outside, up to|