Gothic alphabet

The Gothic alphabet is an alphabet for writing the Gothic language, created in the 4th century by Ulfilas (or Wulfila) for the purpose of translating the Bible.[1]

The alphabet is essentially an uncial form of the Greek alphabet, with a few additional letters to account for Gothic phonology: Latin F and G, a questionably Runic letter to distinguish the /w/ glide from vocalic /u/, and the letter ƕair to express the Gothic labiovelar.

Ulfilas is thought to have consciously chosen to avoid the use of the older Runic alphabet for this purpose, as it was heavily connected with heathen beliefs and customs.[2] Also, the Greek-based script probably helped to integrate the Gothic nation into the dominant Greco-Roman culture around the Black Sea.[3]

Below is a table of the Gothic alphabet.[4] Two letters used in its transliteration are not used in current English: thorn þ (representing /θ/), and hwair ƕ (representing //).

As with the Greek alphabet, Gothic letters were also assigned numerical values. When used as numerals, letters were written either between two dots (•𐌹𐌱• = 12) or with an overline (𐌹𐌱 = 12). Two letters, 𐍁 (90) and 𐍊 (900), have no phonetic value.

The letter names are recorded in a 9th-century manuscript of Alcuin (Codex Vindobonensis 795). Most of them seem to be Gothic forms of names also appearing in the rune poems. The names are given in their attested forms followed by the reconstructed Gothic forms and their meanings.[5]

Most of the letters have been taken over directly from the Greek alphabet, though a few have been created or modified from Latin and possibly (more controversially[7]) Runic letters to express unique phonological features of Gothic. These are:

𐍂 (r), 𐍃 (s) and 𐍆 (f) appear to be derived from their Latin equivalents rather than from the Greek, although the equivalent Runic letters (, and ), assumed to have been part of the Gothic futhark, possibly played some role in this choice.[10] However, Snædal notes that "Wulfila's knowledge of runes was questionable to say the least", as the extreme paucity of inscriptions attests that knowledge and use of runes was rare among the East Germanic peoples.[7] No indisputably Gothic Runic inscriptions are known to exist.[7] Some variants of 𐍃 (s) are shaped like a sigma and more obviously derive from the Greek Σ.[7]

𐍇 (x) is only used in proper names and loanwords containing Greek Χ (xristus "Christ", galiugaxristus "Pseudo-Christ", zaxarias "Zacharias", aiwxaristia "eucharist").[11]

Regarding the letters' numeric values, most correspond to those of the Greek numerals. Gothic 𐌵 takes the place of Ϝ (6), 𐌾 takes the place of ξ (60), 𐌿 that of Ο (70), and 𐍈 that of ψ (700).

Diacritics and punctuation used in the Codex Argenteus include a trema placed on 𐌹 i, transliterated as ï, in general applied to express diaeresis, the interpunct (·) and colon (:) as well as overlines to indicate sigla (such as xaus for xristaus) and numerals.

The Gothic alphabet was added to the Unicode Standard in March 2001 with the release of version 3.1.

The Unicode block for Gothic is U+10330– U+1034F in the Supplementary Multilingual Plane. As older software that uses UCS-2 (the predecessor of UTF-16) assumes that all Unicode codepoints can be expressed as 16 bit numbers (U+FFFF or lower, the Basic Multilingual Plane), problems may be encountered using the Gothic alphabet Unicode range and others outside of the Basic Multilingual Plane.