Vandalic language

Vandalic was the Germanic language spoken by the Vandals during roughly the 3rd to 6th centuries. It was probably closely related to Gothic, and as such is traditionally classified as an East Germanic language. Its attestation is very fragmentary, mainly due to Vandals' constant migrations and late adoption of writing. All modern sources from the time when Vandalic was spoken are protohistoric.

Native toSpain, North Africa
Extinct6th century AD
Language codes
ISO 639-3xvn

The Vandals, Hasdingi and Silingi established themselves in Gallaecia (northern Portugal and Galicia) and in southern Spain, following other Germanic and non-Germanic peoples (Visigoths, Alans and Suebi) in c. 410 before they moved to North Africa in the 430s. Their kingdom flourished in the early 6th century, but after their defeat in 536 they were placed under Byzantine administration and their language likely disappeared before the end of the century.


Very little is known about the Vandalic language other than various phrases and a small number of personal names of Vandalic origin, mainly known from documents and personal names in Spanish. The regional name Andalusia is believed to be derived from the Vandals, according to the traditional view. When the Moors invaded and occupied Spain from the 8th century to the end of the 15th, the region was called "Al-Andalus".

In one inscription from the Vandal Kingdom, the Christian incantation of Kyrie eleison is given in Vandalic as "Froia arme" ("Lord, have mercy!").[2] The same phrase appears in Collatio Beati Augustini cum Pascentio ariano 15 by Pseudo-Augustine: "Froja armes".[3]

The epigram De conviviis barbaris in the Latin Anthology, of North African origin and disputed date, contains a fragment in a Germanic language that some authors believe to be Vandalic,[4][5] although the fragment itself refers to the language as "Gothic". This may be because both languages were East Germanic and closely related; scholars have pointed out in this context[6] that Procopius refers to the Goths, Vandals, Visigoths, and Gepids as "Gothic nations" and opines that they "are all of the Arian faith, and have one language called Gothic".[7] The fragment reads:

Inter "eils" Goticum "scapia matzia ia drincan!"
non audet quisquam dignos educere versus.
Calliope madido trepidat se iungere Baccho.
ne pedibus non stet ebria Musa suis.[8]

Amid the Gothic "Hail! Let's get [something to] eat and drink"
nobody dares to put forth decent verses.
Calliope hurries to depart from wet Bacchus.
An inebriated Muse may not stand on her feet.

Other surviving Vandalic words are Baudus, "master" [9] and Vandalirice, "King of the Vandals".[10]

A table with Vandalic words which survived in Vandalic names and texts can give us some clues of the Vandalic language by comparing them with Proto-Germanic, in this list words of the second part of names were used because the first part might have been under influence of a connecting vowel, therefore those are unreliable:[11]

Vandalic Proto-Germanic Modern German English first part of name word attested in Vandalic text total
*ari *harjaz Heer army, cf. arch. here
arme *armāną erbarmen (have mercy) yes
*baudes *bauðiz (Herrscher) (master, ruler)
*bere *berô Bär bear yes
*bluma *blōmô Blume flower, bloom yes
*dagila *dagaz Tag day (diminutive)
drincan *drinkaną trinken drink yes
eils *hailaz heil hale, whole yes
*frida *friþu- Friedensstifter (pacifier)
*feua *friþu- Friedensstifterchen (pacifier, diminutive)
froia *frawjô Freiherr, cf. Frau (lord), cf. free yes
*frede *friþuz Friede (pacifier)
*geis *gaiza- Speer, arch. Ger (spear), cf. garlic
*gunda / guntha *gunþjo Kampf, Gund- (in names) (battle)
*Giulia *wilja- Wille will yes
*guiti wîti- Weite combat [the Germanic word means width, not combat]
*hildi, ild *hildjô Kampf, Hild- (in names) (battle) yes
*hostra *austra Osten east
ia *jahw (und) (and) yes
matzia *matiz (= food) Essen, cf. Messer (food, eating, cf. meat) yes
*mir/mer *mērijaz cf. Mär(chen), Mer- (in names) mere (famous)
*munds *mundō (f.) Beschützer, cf. Mündel, -mund (in names) (defender)
*mut *moða Mut courage, cf. mood
*oa *hauha- hoch high
*osta *austra- Ost east
*ricus *rîkaz König, cf. -rich (in names) and Reich king
*rit *rêðaz Rat counsellor, cf. rede
*rith *rêðaz Rat advice, counsel, rede
*rix *rîkaz -rich (in names), cf. Reich king
*runa *runo Geheimnis, cf. Rune (secret)
scapia *skapjaną schaffen to create, to do, cf. to shape yes
*scarila *skara- Schar (band, diminutive)
*sifila *sibjo Sippe kindred, diminutive; cf. sibling
*sind(i) *sinþa- reisen, cf. senden travel, cf. to send "make travel" yes
*trioua *triwwa Treue, treu loyal, cf. true
*teus *þewaz Sklave, Diener, cf. De-mut (slave, servant)
*theudo *þeudō Diet- (in names), cf. deutsch folk, cf. Scottish thede
*uit *wîti- Weite combat [the Germanic word means width, not combat]
vandalirice - king of the Vandals yes
*vili *wilja wille will yes
*vult *wulþu- (Herrlichkeit, Glanz) (glory)


Very little is known about Vandalic grammar, but some things can be extracted from Vandalic names.

Phonology and sound-change

The phonological features of Vandalic are similar to the ones of Gothic.

The Proto-Germanic long vowel *ē is often preserved in Vandalic names (Gunthimer, Geilimer), but it could become i when it was unstressed: Geilamir, Vitarit. The Proto-Germanic short vowel *e turned into i in Vandalic when it was not preceded by */r, h or w/, Sigisteun contains -i because g precedes the vowel, but Beremut retains the *e because r precedes the vowel. The Proto-Germanic *z is also preserved in the language but is written as s in the Latin names (Gaisericus).

Proto-Germanic *ō turns into /u/ in Vandalic: Blumarit (Proto-Germanic: *blōmô), Vilimut, while it is retained as ō in Gothic (blōma).

The Proto-Germanic diphthong *eu tends to remain the same in Vandalic: Theudo- (people), while it changes to /iu/ in Gothic (þiuda).

The original diphthong *ai is preserved as /ai/, but tends to become /ei/ later (Gaisericus changes to Geiseric in later documents).

The original h- was also lost early in Vandalic when compared to Proto-Germanic (Arifridos, Guntari, Proto-Germanic: *harja- 'army'). When royal names are spelled on Vandal coins, a conservative and official spelling is used and the h- is never omitted.

The Proto-Germanic cluster *-ww- can be strengthened as -g-.

The Proto-Germanic *-tj- can become [tsj] (matzia < *matjana).

Declension and word-formation

The original Proto-Germanic *-z endings of the nominative masculine singular which was lost in West-Germanic languages early is preserved in the Vandalic language, but it is an archaic feature because the *-z is lost in most words and in 6th-century Ostrogothic names it was lost completely. The *-z is rendered both as -s and -x in Vandalic. Some of the Vandalic names have a Romanized ending with -us. Vandalic also didn't have an Umlaut, which can be observed in names which contain the word *ari (Ariarith, Arifridos, Guntari, Raginari, Proto-Germanic: *harjaz 'army'), in comparison to the Old English form here, which does show umlaut.

The epithet Vandalirice could possibly mean that there existed a genitive plural ending -e (Gothic -ē). If this is correct, the -e is written as i here. Non-East Germanic languages like Old English and Old Norse had the genitive plural ending -a.

Some of the names also occur in other declinations. The genitive of *rith is ridos.

Latin influence

  • The Proto-Germanic fricatives *þ and *ð often turned into t or d, but there are also some names in which they were retained (Thrasamundus, Guntha).
  • The original h- was also lost under Latin influence, though it was still included in the spelling of some royal names on Vandalic coins.
  • The initial Proto-Germanic *w- sometimes changed into [gw-] (Guiliaruna, < Proto-Germanic *wilja-, Guitifrida, < *wîti-), but, in some instances, it is spelled as /v/ (pronounced [w]): vult- (< wulþuz).
  • Vandalic names could contain Latin elements or suffixes (Mauritta, Bictoricus, etc.)[12]

See also


  1. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Vandal". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. Berndt, Guido M. (2016-04-15). Arianism: Roman Heresy and Barbarian Creed. Routledge. ISBN 9781317178651.
  3. Steinacher, Roland (2008). "Gruppen und Identitäten. Gedanken zur Beichnung "vandalisch"" (PDF). In Berndt, Guido M.; Steinacher, Roland (eds.). Das Reich der Vandalen und seine (Vor-)Geschichten. 2005. Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften. p. 254. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 March 2012.
  4. "Indogermanistik Wien: Quellentexte". Archived from the original on October 17, 2010. Retrieved 2017-09-02.
  5. Greule, Albrecht and Matthias Springer. Namen des Frühmittelalters als sprachliche Zeugnisse und als Geschichtsquellen. P. 49-50.
  6. Greule, Albrecht and Matthias Springer. Namen des Frühmittelalters als sprachliche Zeugnisse und als Geschichtsquellen. P. 48
  7. Procopius of Caesarea, THE VANDALIC WAR I,2-8
  8. Quoted in Magnús Snædal, 'The "Vandal" Epigram', in Filologia Germanica/Germanic Philology, 1 (2009), 181-213 (pp. 183-84).
  9. Anthologia Latina No. 307, I. 5
  10. Anthologia Latina No. 215, 523-543
  11., Nicoletta Onesti, "Tracing the Language of the Vandals",, 16 pages, 22 February 2015
  12., Nicoletta Onesti, "THE LANGUAGE AND NAMES OF THE VANDALS",, 2009, 3, 22 February 2015
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