The Grey Tongue

Hello Gothlings!

I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted – blah blah blah, you know how all of these posts start – and I don’t have much time to post today either, but I wanted to stop by to deliver some exciting news about the language! Well, a couple of pieces of exciting news, actually.

First, I will be presenting a paper about the language at the 53rd International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo on May 12th as part of a roundtable discussion about modern uses of medieval languages. If you happen to be there, please stop by and say hello!

Leading up to the conference, I’ve also been doing some more structural work on the language, and one thing seems of particular importance to share with you: I’ve changed the name!

From its inception, the name of this language has been some derivation of ‘Gothic’, with some various sound changes.  As the language has really started to develop its own identity apart from Wulfila and friends, I’ve felt more and more awkward about using it. That coupled with the fact that the anglicisation of Gutiška yields “Gutish,” which sounds more like a digestive condition than a language, led me to start looking for a new moniker.

Going back to the roots of Gothic, two of the main gothic tribes were the Greuthungi (or Griutuggōs) and the Thervingi (Tairwiggōs) – probably more literally ‘the steppe-dwellers’ (or maybe ‘stony-beach-dwellers’) and the ‘forest-dwellers’. In my mind, the Language-soon-to-be-formerly-known-as-Gutish is/was spoken by a population who are vaguely descended from the Goths, though they have about as definitive a relationship to the Ostrogoths and Visigoths as the French have to do with the Franks led by Charlemagne: That is, well, the name is similar…

After some deliberation, I’ve decided to give the language two names, actually. A nice Latinized English exonym: Valthungian (Walðungiška), language of the Valthungs (Walðungas), literally, the ‘language of the forest people’ (walðus being another more common word for forest). But in Valthungian, no one actually uses the word walðungiška apart from an occasional historical reference, just like the Germans speak Deutsch and not Germanisch. Or Allemanisch. Or Tedeskisch or Sachsisch or Nemezkisch or any of the other exonyms given to them by their neighbors. In Valthungian, the endonym is derived from the other tribe, the Greuthungi, but somewhere along the line, the etymology got a little turned around, and greut-ung was reanalyzed as grew-tung, and the language came to be called Grējutungiška ‘language of the grey-tongues’, or even sō Grējuga Tunga ‘the Grey Tongue’.

So in case you’re wondering what happened to Gutish, it’s still here, just rebranded in time for my paper!