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Learning the Lord’s Prayer in Gothic: A Personal Best Achievement for American High School Students

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Abstract:

Dear Young Friends,. . . Just as we know the word AMERICA goes back to someone’s name, so we know our “American Language,” as Noah Webster called it, goes back to earlier sources. The most recent of these is of course British English. But we also go back to Old English (before 1066) and even to so-called primitive Germanic, as represented by a translation of the Lord’s Prayer from the original Greek into fourth century Gothic.As a snapshot of our linguistic past, this Gothic translation is quite short (10 lines). But since many students, including me, have over the years learned these 10 lines by heart, I feel a brief look at this early text may stimulate your curiosity, enough so to encourage memorization of, say, the first five lines (only 20 words).Our Gothic text will be followed by a word-by-word treatment that includes phonetic transcriptions of its Gothic pronunciation, its English translation, and some information about its linguistic history. Then we’ll finish with some encouraging words about textual memorization, along with raising a key question for you and your friends to ponder, namely, is Gothic truly a “primitive language”?

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