Greek nominal compounds in the Gothic Gospels

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter tracks the result in Gothic of each nominal compound in the Greek Gospels. Nominal compounds are morphologically and semantically complex words which are often not straightforward to translate. The Gothic translator was required to take decisions about their translation, which can be explored and, in some cases, reconstructed.
After a brief introduction considering the analysis of translation, the chapter treats the complexities of nominal compounds. The various strategies available for translating them are enumerated, including borrowing, calquing (translating the individual units of the compound separately and then re-compounding them), and periphrasis. Also mentioned are phenomena of linguistic contact, such as semantic extension and matching, whereby existing words in the target language take on new characteristics from formally equivalent words in the source language.
The chapter then parenthetically evaluates whether systemic patterns of interest can be discerned from the translation of compounds. It concludes that such patterns cannot be established.
The bulk of the chapter is then devoted to an examination of every Greek nominal compound whose translation into Gothic does not match the typical rule of one Gothic word for every Greek word. Possible are a) multiple Greek words, including at least one compound, translated with a single Gothic word and b) Greek compounds which are translated with multiple Gothic words. In the former case, the Gothic translation process may have recognized Greek synonymy or conflated Greek distinctions. In the latter, the translation process may have recognized multiple senses or simply have deployed Gothic synonymy inadvertently.
While some variances remain obscure, approaching nominal compounds in this way reveals a significant dictionary error, whereby Gothic arka has been misdefined as ‘bag’, Beutel’. It also furnishes examples of subtle translations, such as for χρεοφειλέτης, ἀρχισυνάγωγος, or προσευχή/δέησις. Equally, there are compounds whose treatment in Gothic leaves something to be desired, including διάβoλoς, καταβoλή, and συναγωγή. Meanwhile, renderings such as staþs for κατάλυμα or the conflation of παράκλησις and λύτρωσις as laþons may represent deliberate deviations from the strict sense in the service of clarity or parallelism. The translation of ὑπόδημα with gaskohi in two locations is a particular case of deft translation, in that it illustrates the sense of the ga- prefix in Gothic, with gaskohi and skohs acting almost as a minimal pair. All of these observations colour our impression of the work and nature of the translation that remains the principal monument of the Gothic language.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationStudies in Gothic
EditorsJared S. Klein, Arturas Ratkus
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Print)9780198896692
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 28 Feb 2019


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