East Germanic
Oder-Vistula Germanic, Illevionic (uncommon)
Varying depending on time (4th–18th centuries), currently all languages are extinct
Until late 4th century:
Central and Eastern Europe (as far as Crimea)
late 4th–early 10th centuries:
Much of southern, western, southeastern, and eastern Europe (as far as Crimea) and North Africa
early 10th–late 18th centuries — disputed (cp. Crimean Gothic):
Isolated areas in Eastern Europe (as far as Crimea)
Linguistic classificationIndo-European
ISO 639-5gme
The distribution of the primary Germanic languages in Europe c. AD 1:
  North Sea Germanic, or Ingvaeonic
  Weser–Rhine Germanic, or Istvaeonic
  Elbe Germanic, or Irminonic
  East Germanic †

The East Germanic languages, also called the Oder-Vistula Germanic languages, are a group of extinct Germanic languages that were spoken by East Germanic peoples. East Germanic is one of the primary branches of Germanic languages, along with North Germanic and West Germanic.

The only East Germanic language of which texts are known is Gothic, although a word list and some short sentences survive from the debatedly-related Crimean Gothic. Other East Germanic languages include Vandalic and Burgundian, though the only remnants of these languages are in the form of isolated words and short phrases. Furthermore, the inclusion of Burgundian has been called into doubt.[1] Crimean Gothic is believed to have survived until the 18th century in isolated areas of Crimea.[2]: 189 


Expansion of early Germanic tribes into previously mostly Celtic Central Europe:[3]
   Settlements before 750 BC
   New settlements by 500 BC
   New settlements by 250 BC
   New settlements by AD 1
Some sources also give a date of 750 BC for the earliest expansion out of southern Scandinavia and northern Germany along the North Sea coast towards the mouth of the Rhine.[4]

East Germanic was presumably native to the north of Central Europe, especially modern Poland, and likely even the first branch to split off from Proto-Germanic in the first millennium BC.

For many years, the least controversial theory of the origin of the Germanic (and East Germanic) languages was the so-called Gotho-Nordic hypothesis: that they originated in the Nordic Bronze Age of Southern Scandinavia and along the coast of the northernmost parts of Germany.[5]

By the 1st century AD, 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 taken over in modern terminology about the divisions of Germanic languages.)

Based on accounts by Jordanes, Procopius, Paul the Deacon and others, as well as linguistic, toponymic, and archaeological evidence, 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.[6] In fact, the Scandinavian influence on Pomerania and today's northern Poland from c. 1300–1100 BC (Nordic Bronze Age sub-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 which has been taken as suggesting 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).[citation needed]


See also


  1. ^ Wolfram, Herwig (1997). The Roman Empire and Its Germanic Peoples. University of California Press. p. 259. ISBN 978-0520085114. For a long time linguists considered the Burgundians to be an East Germanic people, but today they are no longer so sure.
  2. ^ MacDonald Stearns Jr. (1989). "Das Krimgotische" [Crimean Gothic]. In Beck, Heinrich (ed.). Germanische Rest- und Trümmersprachen (in German). Berlin: W. de Gruyter. pp. 175–194. ISBN 3-11-011948-X.
  3. ^ Kinder, Hermann (1988), Penguin Atlas of World History, vol. I, London: Penguin, p. 108, ISBN 0-14-051054-0.
  4. ^ "Languages of the World: Germanic languages". The New Encyclopædia Britannica. Chicago, IL, United States: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. 1993. ISBN 0-85229-571-5.
  5. ^ John T. Koch (2020). "CELTO-GERMANIC, Later Prehistory and Post-Proto-Indo-European vocabulary in the North and West", p. 38
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ Heinz Mettke, Mittelhochdeutsche Grammatik, 8th ed., Max Niemeyer Verlag, Tübingen, 2000, p. 16 (chart) and 17: „Hauptvertreter des Ostgermanischen ist das Gotische (Wulfilas Bibelübersetzung aus dem 4. Jh.), ferner gehören dazu das Burgundische, das Vandalische und das Rugische.“
  8. ^ Peter Ernst, Deutsche Sprachgeschichte, 3rd ed., 2021, p. 50: „Ostgermanisch (†): Gotisch, Vandalisch, Burgundisch, Rugisch, u.a. [= und andere]“
  9. ^ Harald Haarmann, Die Indoeuropäer: Herkunft, Sprachen, Kulturen, Verlag C.H.Beck, München, 2010, p. 71: „Ostgermanisch (ausgestorben): Gotisch, Gepidisch, Burgundisch, Vandalisch, Herulisch“
  10. ^ Georg F. Meier, Barbara Meier, Handbuch der Linguistik und Kommunikationswissenschaft: Band 1: Sprache, Sprachentstehung, Sprachen, Akademie-Verlag, Berlin, 1979, p. 73: „ übrige ostgermanische Sprachen
    Dazu gehören: Vandalisch, Herulisch, Rugisch, Gepidisch, Burgundisch, Bastarnisch und Skirisch. Diese Sprachen sind meist nur durch kurze Inschriften bzw. aus historischen Quellen bekannt.“
  11. ^ MacDonald Stearns, Das Krimgotische. In: Heinrich Beck (ed.), Germanische Rest- und Trümmersprachen, Berlin/New York 1989, p. 175–194, here the chapter Die Dialektzugehörigkeit des Krimgotischen on p. 181–185