Is it possible to use the ancient Gothic alphabet to write in English?

One might argue that the phonological inventory of Gothic is a spectacularly bad match for that of Modern English. But then again, so was the phonological inventory of Latin.

I think you can, so long as you hold your nose and write vowels as a one to one match with Modern English; you’re not really going to get anything sensible otherwise.

  • /f/ and /v/ aren’t differentiated, and they weren’t differentiated in Old English either; we could write <v> as <f>, or <u> or <w> or as <90> (which is a spare letter).
  • No <tʃ> (our <ch>), and not much of a soft <c> either. We can press the <x> character into service for one or both.
  • No /dʒ/ (our <j>; the Gothic <j> is our <y>). We could give up and make <j> ambiguous between /dʒ/ and /j/, or we could write /w/ as <ƕ> (wh), reuse <w/y> for /j/, and move <j> to /dʒ/. Yuck.
  • No /ð/, but that’s ok, <th> is already ambiguous within English.
  • No /ʃ/, just as there isn’t one as a letter in English (<sh>). I guess we won’t avoid h-digraphs after all.

… So, yeah, you *could* write English with the Gothic alphabet, but it would be quite awkward in places, and it would not do English justice. Where there’s a will there’s a way, I guess, but it would certainly not be child’s play. Every sentence would have some lack.

Or, to put that last paragraph in Gothic:

… so, jeah, jou kould write english wiþ þe goþik alfabet, but it would be qite awqard in plases, and it would not do english jhustise. ƕere þeres a will þeres a waj, i guess, but it would sertainli not be xilds plaj. eweri sentense would hawe some lakk.

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Can “αἰὲν ἀνάβηθι” be improved to resemble the Latin “excelsior?”

Not that I actually know much about Homeric Greek, but the infinitive does work better than the imperative, because it makes it less personal and more gnomic: it is a statement to the world, not a command to the individual. Although in context, it is not a command anyway, but reported speech:

Ever to Excel – Wikipedia

“Hippolochus begat me. I claim to be his son, and he sent me to Troy with strict instructions: Ever to excel, to do better than others, and to bring glory to your forebears, who indeed were very great … This is my ancestry; this is the blood I am proud to inherit.”

So grabbing Homer’s “ever to excel”, and changing “excel” to “ascend” in the infinitive, would be a good thing. Although I’d go with an antick Homeric infinitive, so αἰὲν ἀναβαίμεναι, rather than ἀναβαίνειν.

But you want to be careful that “ascend” in Greek has the same connotations as “excelsior”. Looking at LSJ, I’m seeing ἀναβαίνω have meanings like “go up to heaven”, “trample on the dead”, and “go on board a ship”; we can pass by “go on a podium to make a speech” as Attic, and “get on top of” for sexual purposes as… well, you know, I don’t know if we can rule that one out. 🙂

I’d look for a verb that’s less ambiguous, and more explicitly about excelling. Citius altius fortius doesn’t include amplius “further”, but I’m thinking ὑπερβάλλω: yes, in Modern Greek that only means “to exaggerate”, but in Ancient Greek its primary meaning is “to shoot beyond [the target]”, and thus “to excel”, “to surpass”. So αἰὲν ὑπερβαλέειν “always to overshoot”. For some extra archaism, make like Germanic and do tmesis: ὑπὲρ αἰὲν βαλέειν “always to shoot over”.