The Lord’s Prayer in Old Wenthish

Old Wenthish, for those who don’t yet know it, is a fictional Germanic language I’ve been working on – specifically one influenced early on by Ingvaeonic, but not within the Ingvaeonic family itself. It’s spoken in the later centuries of the first millennium on the Wenthar Islands, a fictional archipelago of low-lying, windswept, North Atlantic islands in the vicinity of Rockall.

And here’s their paternoster, with a few explanatory notes:

Ūser fadar, thu tha isi1 ā2 hibnē:
gahāilgōda sī
3 thenha4 namō,
cuemē thenha cuinnengarēca
6 thenha uiliō
an middegardē
7 sua sama ā hibnē.
8 ūs ādagē ūser dagelēcen hlāibia9
ād frageb ūs ūser scuild
sua sama fragebād uī ūser scuildēdom
ād ne t
eoh ūs in cuistongo11
ac befri ūs aba droehtthō

1: usually, a locative verb is to describe positions; in this case, the choice of the existential verb indicates an essential property (God’s being in heaven is part of what is meant by ‘God’) rather than an accidental location.

2: heaven is considered something God is “on”, rather than “in”. This may reflect influence from Old Irish, but is also a natural decision in Germanic languages (c.f. English “on high”)

3: the subjunctive form of the copula; throughout this prayer, the optative sense is conveyed simply by subjunctive verb forms. The copula takes two arguments, but both are in the nominative, and their order is optional, with the adjective fronted here for emphasis (is is often the case with adjectival predication).

4: the reduced form of the possessive, used when no specific contrast is implied.

5: kingdom, from cuinnenga, ‘king, warlord’, and reach, ‘realm, domain’. The more intuitive (for English speakers) cuinnengadōma is also a valid word, but primarily conveys the sense of ‘kingship’ (the quality or property), rather than ‘kingdom’ (the geographical entity).

6: the transformative copula, but also used, as here, for the enactment, instantiation or implementation of abstract nouns – a loose translation might be “come to pass” or “come to be”

7: ‘the middle enclosure’ (c.f. “middle-earth”, “Midgard”). It would also be possible to speak of earth, but this would primarily indicate earth or soil, rather than the world. Nonetheless, an earth is an colloquial phrase for ‘in the world’, ‘on earth’ or ‘in life’.

8: this is a rather direct language, and a plain imperative is not considered inappropriate for requests, even of God.

9: bread (c.f. “loaf”). The cognate to English “bread”, brād, also appears, and can be used for cakes and loaves of bread, but primarily has the sense of ‘swelling, bulge’. This is probably because the Old Wenthish still primarily made use of unleavened bread (PGmc. *hlaibiz), with the term for the newerfangled leavened, risen bread (PGmc. *braudaz) becoming primarily associated with the swollen appearance of bread after rising.

10: flaw or wrong(doing). The sense here is therefore closer to ‘sin’ or ‘crime’ than to (as is found in many English translations) ‘debt’, although a scuild is distinct from, vaguer than and more innocent than a scathō (injury, harm, crime), pecced (sinful act), anfoled (injustice, crime) or cairi (crime, felony). The cognate term is used in an old Northumbrian version of the prayer, though not in those from southern England.

11: here the translation follows the Old English – cuistong, not unlike Old English “cost(n)ung” primarily bears the sense of a tribulation, trial, or test, even a hardship, rather than the more seductive sense of modern English “temptation”. This reflects a wider uncertainty over the appropriate translation of the Greek term that has vexed translators into many languages.

12: evil, particularly of a theological kind; the abstract noun derived from droht, ‘evil, unholy, morally wrong’, which itself is a loanword from Old Irish.



And a tentative translation (sure to be revised later) into Modern Wenthish (the contemporary descendent of the above):

Ur faðer, thu as er á hibhenne,
lątte thy nąmme yheilow’ð a’liegge
lątte thy conge-reach a’cwemme
lątte thy ønske a’weorthe
an midyarde sam as á hibhenne.
Ląt thyssel a’yebhe us ydaynne ur dáyly hláf
an so lietch thi, Ab
áy a’fayebhe us ur schiydde
also sam we fayebhen schiyd-effaren with us
áy ná a’leððe us ynat ná cystung
achnion a’byfrion us av driythi
an so lietch thi, Ab


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