Language and History in the Early Germanic World

This book offers a distinctive and accessible approach to the earliest encounters of the Germanic tribes of Northern Europe with classical antiquity and with early Christianity. It brings together linguistic evidence from across Europe and dating from before Caesar to about 900 AD, to shed light on important aspects of Germanic culture. It shows how semantics and loanword studies, often avoided by non-specialists, can provide important clues for historians and archaeologists of the period. Likewise, it demonstrates that philologists and linguists ignore historical evidence at their peril.

• Linguistic evidence is used to illustrate the fusion of barbarian, classical, and Christian cultures in the rise of the early Middle Ages • The book provides a fascinating wider context for the study of Germanic historical linguistics • It argues that historians could benefit from linguistic insights, and that linguists should not neglect historical and archaeological evidence


Introduction; Part I. The Germanic World: 1. Religion; 2. Law; 3. Kinship; 4. Warfare; 5. People and army; 6. Lordship; 7. Kingship; Part II. Contact with the Non-Germanic World: 8. Contact with the Celts; 9. The migration of the Goths; 10. Germanic loanwords in Latin; 11. Latin loanwords in Germanic; 12. Trade and warfare with the Romans; 13. Names of the days of the week; 14. The vocabulary of writing; Part III. Contact with Christianity: 15. Problems of Christianisation; 16. The influence of provincial Roman Christianity; 17. The influence of Gothic; 18. The influence of the Merovingian Franks; 19. The influence of the Anglo-Saxons; 20. Contrasts in Christian vocabulary; 21. The vocabulary of ethics and fate; Bibliography; Index of words.


‘This is a book like no other. The author of that classic work, The Carolingian Lord, who demonstrated the wealth of new historical evidence and insights which semantic study of the Germanic lexicon can deliver, has struck again! He now offers a general but well referenced introduction to this field for those students of late Antiquity and the earlier Middle Ages who are interested in the interface of a Roman and Christian Europe with the civilisation of its Germanic neighbours. For the cultural historian, Language and History in the Early Germanic World will be an essential companion and guide for many years to come.’ David N. Dumville, Professor of Palaeography and Cultural History, University of Cambridge

Green … provide[s] a dynamic, three-dimensional picture of history, language and culture from Proto-Germanic to early medieval times. Those interested in the intersection of linguistic/philological work with (pre-) history and archeology should certainly read this book. [It] can be recommended to graduate students in Germanic historical linguistics and anyone interested in Germanic etymology. The book should also prove useful to historians and archaeologists. Joseph Salmons (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Diachronica

‘At last, we have an accessible and up-to-date book showing what can be done with language history. The material within Dennis Green’s book is authoritative and comprehensive, its style probing and stimulating. The book encompasses a body of information essential to anyone wishing to learn about the character of the period in which the foundations of modern Europe were laid out over and around the ruins of the Roman Empire. For students of any field, it is a fine example of how and why one should make use of a cross-disciplinary approach. There could not be a better basis for understanding how we try to organize and describe our view of this crucial historical period than contemplating how the people of that era grappled with the same challenges.’ John Hines, School of History and Archaeology, Cardiff University

Nøkkelord: Historie Språk Lingvistikk