Indication of Germanic Languages

Folio 76 recto:

This 47-line folio contains three paragraph-like segments in which the final line of each does not extend to the right-hand margin. Of special interest is the fact that the first paragraph of these 29 lines is accompanied by nine symbols on the left-hand margin of the folio which appear to be alphabetic, with eight resembling consonant letters and one vowel letter. Within these lines most of the letters are repeated in the text suggesting a linguistic treatment of the characters in some kind of context.

The two remaining paragraphs are much shorter but like the first paragraph appear to treat linguistic topics. Each of these three paragraphs is headed by what appears to be a particle resembling a preposition which is then cojoined with a longer string of letters, presumably forming nouns. These introductory phrases are on the order of English phrases such as “regarding...”, “as for...”, and the like. The author or authors of this manuscript intended to discuss the characters as letters representing consonant and vowel sounds of at least one Germanic language.

The paragraphs begin with the same two characters (fo) which could be a preposition meaning “for” or “as to” followed by a governing noun, perhaps a word having to do with a letter or sound or even a grammar part in the language being described.

The first line of this folio (foθĺotar ĺifĺðã of ŕðã gohf ĺfĺiã) offers a skeletal syntax of several elements which are reminiscent of certain Germanic languages. The second and third words appear to show agreement between a plural noun and a past participle, such as the English cognate “-ed”. The fourth word seems like a preposition common in Germanic “of” with the meaning “from” and seems to govern a plural noun in the accusative case, i.e. a direct object form in a nasal “a” or “ã”, represented by . This accords quite well with Gothic and Old Norse parallels. The sixth word is perhaps one form of a preposition and a prefix very common in the manuscript meaning “with” or “through the agency of”. In the Germanic language family the cognate forms “ga-” and “ge-” are usually verbal prefixes with perfective force, while less commmonly these forms are markers for collective nouns, such as the German “machen” (to make), “hat...gemacht” (made), “halten” (to hold), “Gehalt” (contents).

The 14th line beginning with the seventh word (gotar ŕiðã ŕiðã hŕiðã gohĺiðã oθiðã h) shows a patterning of two adjoining words identical in form and a subsequent third word very similar in appearance which may be the main reason students of this manuscript have dismissed the possibility of its having been written in a natural language. A case can be made showing this to be a meaningful sentence. You can see this in the description of the 14th line described at the beginning of this paragraph. This line is an excellent illustration of the author's practice of citing word forms for their spelling or pronunciation. It brings out an interesting feature of the Germanic language family whereby some languages have the initial consonant cluster "hr" while some lose the “h”, for example Gothic “hrains” and German “rein”. In this analysis this example has been rendered as: The Goths say the word “say” as “hsay”. Awkward as this sentence rendering is we might make this structure more acceptable if we use a similar rendering with the modern English word “read”: The Goths read [aloud] the word “read” with an initial “h” rendered as “hread”. Actually the word “read” is in fact related to the presenters' word (ŕiðã) in the Gothic form.

While this folio has a number of syntactic frames similar to the one just described, the main point of interest is the author's linguistic analysis, presumably written in his own language, of another Germanic language or dialect.