The Gothic demonstrative pronoun

The demonstrative pronoun is one of the most important words of the Gothic language. It is the ancestor of the definite article (“the”) of the English language and it serves a similar purpose.

To be a bit more precice: But in those times it was not quite an article. It still was a bit more of a “this” or “that” . It was something on the way of becoming an article.

How to learn the Gothic demonstrative pronoun

This word is so common that I strongly recommend to learn its forms. Time spent on this is time well spent.

Don’t worry if at first the forms might not stick well to your memory. You will encounter them so often, that in the end they will.

Tip 1: Repeat the forms. Pick one column (m/f/n) first. Start with the singular. That’s only four forms for the four cases. Repeat them until you can repeat them by heart. Then some other day take the next portion. In the end you will know them all.

Tip 2: whenever you encounter this pronoun in a Gothic text, take a short break and refer to the list of forms, identify which one it is, and check why the case makes sens in that place, then proceed with your sentence.

Tip 3: set a goal to learn the forms within a certain time. Celebrate once you are done.

I am pretty sure that each time you practice, you will know the forms a little bit better and suddenly you find, that you know them all.

The forms of the Gothic demonstrative pronoun

As you might have guessed, the demonstrative pronoun is subject to declension. It changes its form according to case, number and gender. So we have 4 (cases) x 2 (numbers) x 3 (genders) = 24 forms. The forms are:

nom sgsasothata
acc sgthanathothata
gen sgthisthizosthis
dat sgthammathizaithamma
nom plthaithostho
acc plthansthostho
gen plthizethizothize
dat plthaimthaimthaim

Let’s have a look at this table and let’s find out how to find some pattern that help to learn this table easily.

  • Only two forms start with s: masculine and feminine nominative singular. All other forms start with th.
  • In the neuter gender the nominative form always equals the accusative form. You have one for singular, another for plural, but within singular and within plural the nominative equals the accusative. This is a general rule that applies throughout the language. It is also valid for Latin, Ancient Greek and Russian.
  • Mascline and neuter forms for the other two cases (genitive and dative) are alike.
  • Feminine plural is the same for nominative and accusative.
  • Dative plural is the same for all three genders.

The usage of the demonstrative pronoun in the Gothic Bible

The Gothic Bible translation often uses it to translate the greek article ὁ (ho) m, ἡ f (hē), τό n (tó), but not always. So when learning the Gothic language it might be an interesting thing to observe where it does and where it doesn’t and where it uses the demonstrative pronoun even though Greek does not have the article.

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