Are there any Crimean Gothic loanwords in Pontic Greek?

By: | Post date: 2017-07-26 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Linguistics, Modern Greek

Are there any Crimean Gothic loanwords in Pontic Greek?

Actually, OP, you mean Mariupolitan Greek. The answer is, I’ve read a fair bit on Mariupolitan, and I haven’t seen any mention of it anywhere.

That’s the answer. Now the background.

The Goths of various vintages are an important part of the history of Europe, and Gothic is an important part of the history of Germanic. What we have of Gothic is some of the Bible translation and a little bit of theological commentary, and a tiny amount of inscriptions. Gothic pretty much died out by the 8th century AD…

… except, bizarrely, for Crimean Gothic, a version of the language that survived, nowhere near where the other Goths were. There are scattered mentions of Gothic spoken in the Crimea from the 9th through to the 18th century; our records of Crimean Gothic are a word list gathered in 1562, and (this was news to me) some stone plates dating from around 900, and deciphered in 2015.

Crimean Gothic was already dying out in 1562; of the two people that the word list came from, “one was a Greek speaker who knew Crimean Gothic as a second language, and the other was a Goth who had abandoned his native language in favour of Greek.”

The Greek spoken in the Crimea, then, would be the Greek in which one might expect to see survivals of Crimean Gothic.

The Greek spoken in Crimea is just about dead now; but it isn’t spoken in Crimea any more. Catherine the Great invited the Greek Orthodox population of the Crimea to move to a new town in the Ukraine, Mariupol. (Mariupol is under Ukrainian control—just, but is right next door to the Donetsk People’s Republic, and has been shelled.) The variant of Greek spoken in the villages surrounding Mariupol is called Mariupol Greek. Noone has reported any Gothic in it. A whole lot of Russian, sure, and some Pontic (one of those villages was actually settled from the Pontus in 1826). And a whole lot of Urum, including possessors preceding their nouns.

Urum (“Roman”) is the version of the Crimean Tatar language spoken by ethnic Greeks. It was traditionally regarded as a “bazaar” (urban) language by the Mariupol Greeks, and the Urums settled in Mariupol proper. Just as Mariupolitan Greek seems to have been a successor language of Crimean Gothic, Urum was a successor language of Mariupolitan Greek: Urum-speaking Greeks remained Christian, but adopted the Turkic language of the Crimean Khanate.

Given that the Tatars moved into the Crimea in the early 1400s, and Tatar was widely spoken in the Crimea, it makes sense that Crimean Tatar would also be a successor language of Crimean Gothic.

And it’s in Crimean Tatar, Wikipedia tells me, that the one possible lexical survival of Crimean Gothic is to be found: the Gothic word razn ‘house’ may be reflected in the Crimean Tatar word for ‘roof lath’. (Hunting down the reference, I don’t know that I’m convinced.)

EDIT: from Crimean gothic : it turns out that some guy heard from some guy in 1928 that Biblical Gothic razn has survived in Tatar. Dunno as what, and it’s a semantically somewhat distant loan. Tatar has been studied since 1928, and I’d hope that there was some progress in investigating the word since.

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