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Native speakers16,000 (2000)
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Herlish (Хэрлиш, translit. Herliš) is an East Germanic language spoken in Southeastern Europe, in the region of the Balkans. It is the language of the Herls, and spoken by about 16,000 people as a native language.

Isolated from the rest of the Germanic world for most of its existance, Herlish developed from the Gothic language spoken by settled and invading communities in the 4th and 5th centuries deriving from the Greuthungi, Herules, and Taifals, who migrated beyond the Danube to form settlements in the Eastern Roman Empire. The Herls are considered to derive from all three of these communities, as well as Greco-Roman inhabitants of Dacia, Thrace, and later Slavic migrants to the area. Herlish is part of the Balkan Sprachbund, and has developed characteristics that set it apart from other Germanic languages.

Early documentation of the language incorrectly identifies it as Danubian German, believing that it was simply a highly divergent dialect of High German, due to the later's established presence in the area. Closer inspection has since revealed that the language belongs to the Eastern Germanic family.




East Germanic

Herlish is a Germanic language, a branch of the Indo-European language family, having much in common with languages such as English, Dutch, German, Norwegian, Swedish and Danish. However, the languages closest to Herlish are the East Germanic languages: Gothic, Vandalic and Burgundian. Herlish itself is believed to have developed out of Gothic dialects spoken by the Greuthungi. However, due to the early divergence of the East Germanic branch from the rest of the Germanic family, and because of its separation and isolation from the rest of the Germanic languages, it has diverged from them and is an outlier in various ways.

Balkan Sprachbund

While most of Herlish grammar and morphology descends directly from Gothic, there are some features that are shared only with other languages of the Balkans and not found in Gothic nor in other Germanic languages. The shared features of the languages of the Balkan language area (Bulgarian, Macedonian, Albanian, Romanian, Greek, and Serbian) include a suffixed definite article, the syncretism of genitive and dative case and the formation of the future and the alternation of infinitive with subjunctive constructions.

Slavic Influence

Slavic influence had its greatest impact on the level of vocabulary, with about 20% of the Herlish lexicon being derived from Slavic sources, with further influences in its phonetics, morphology, and syntax. The majority of this vocabulary comes from Old Church Slavonic, which served as the liturgical language of the Orthodox Church. As a result, much of vocabulary dealing with religion, ritual, and hierarchy is directly taken from Slavic.




Herlish displays a slight simplification of the noun case system inherited from Gothic. While Nominative, Accusative, and Vocative were all preserved, the Genitive and Dative cases collapsed together into a single 'Prepositional' case.

Indefinite and Definite Declension

As with other languages of the Balkan Sprachbund, Herlish has developed a postpositioned definite article, derived from the weak declensions of Gothic by allegory to the strong-weak declensions of adjectives

Indefinite Definite
Singular Plural Singular Plural
Nominative -ус -a -ąс
Accusative - -ąс -ąс
Genitive-Dative -ąи
Vocative - -ус -ąс