East Germanic languages

"East Germanic" redirects here. For the tribes who spoke the East Germanic languages, see Germanic peoples.
East Germanic
Ethnicity: East Germanic peoples
Formerly central Europe and parts of eastern Europe, including Crimea
Linguistic classification:


ISO 639-5: gme
Glottolog: (not evaluated)
goth1244  (Gothic)[1]
The distribution of the primary Germanic dialect groups in Europe in around AD 1:
  North Sea Germanic, or Ingvaeonic
  Weser-Rhine Germanic, or Istvaeonic
  Elbe Germanic, or Irminonic
  East Germanic

The East Germanic languages are a group of extinct Germanic languages of the Indo-European language family spoken by East Germanic peoples. The only East Germanic languages of which texts are known are Gothic and its dialect, Crimean Gothic; other languages that are assumed to be East Germanic include Vandalic and Burgundian, though very few texts in these languages are known. Crimean Gothic is believed to have survived until the 18th century.


By the 1st century CE, the writings of Pomponius Mela, Pliny the elder, and Tacitus indicate a division of Germanic-speaking peoples into large groupings with shared ancestry and culture. (This division has been appropriated in modern terminology about the divisions of Germanic languages.)

The expansion of the Germanic tribes 750 BC – AD 1 (after the Penguin Atlas of World History 1988):
   Settlements before 750 BC
   New settlements by 500 BC
   New settlements by 250 BC
   New settlements by AD 1

Based on accounts by Jordanes, Procopius, Paul the Deacon and others; linguistic evidence (see Gothic language); placename evidence; and archaeological evidence, it is believed that the East Germanic tribes, the speakers of the East Germanic languages related to the North Germanic tribes, had migrated from Scandinavia into the area lying east of the Elbe.[2] In fact, the Scandinavian influence on Pomerania and northern Poland from period III onwards was so considerable that this region is sometimes included in the Nordic Bronze Age culture (Dabrowski 1989:73).

There is also archaeological and toponymic evidence that Burgundians lived on the Danish island of Bornholm (Old Norse: Burgundaholmr), and that Rugians lived on the Norwegian coast of Rogaland (Old Norse: Rygjafylki).


Groups identified as East Germanic tribes include:

Traditionally the Langobards were classified as East Germanic, however, the Lombardic language and Yiddish are now considered by many specialists to be close to Old High German, especially its Upper German dialects, which would make a classification as West Germanic rather than East Germanic more sensible.

See also

Notes and References

  1. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Gothic". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. The Penguin atlas of world history, Hermann Kinder and Werner Hilgemann; translated by Ernest A. Menze; with maps designed by Harald and Ruth Bukor. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-051054-0, 1988. Volume 1, p. 109.
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