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Indo-European Languages
Germanic Languages
North Germanic West Germanic East Germanic
Eastern subgroup Western subgroup Low Germanic
Continental-Germanic Gothic Burgundian †
Lombardic †
Vandalic †
Anglic Frisian Franconian Saxon High German Feytish
Gutnish (Gutemål)
Swedish (Sveamål)
Norwegian (Landsmål)
Wessish †
East Frisian
North Frisian
West Frisian
Batavian (Dutch)
Low Saxon Alemannic
Føtisk Crimean Gothic
Gepid †
Low Vissian

The language of the Vissi people of the Azores islands has quite fortunately been preserved in a number of ancient texts, documenting the various forms. While these do not answer the ultimate question of how a group of Goths became so estranged from their Eastern European cousins, it does show a clear linguistic connection.


The Vissi language originally began as an Ostrogothic language, closely related to the Gothic spoken later by Bishop Ulfilas. A great number of nautical and trade terms appear to be borrowed from Latin. Some would argue that this is due to frequent trade by the Goths with the Roman Empire while in Europe. Others, supporting the theory of Latin sailors bringing the Goths to the Azores, cite this as proof of their hypothesis. At present, these theories can neither be proved nor disproved.

Because the Bible was translated into the Vissian tongue around 500 AD, a schism developed in the language, High Vissian (alt. Old Vissi) became the language of the clergy, and Low Vissian (New Vissi) became the language of the people. Because of the interaction of the languages, the words used in the church's liturgy strengthened the liturgical sense of these words, while others quickly developed other meanings.

With the arrival of Portuguese sailors in the 16th century, Vissi quickly became the substrate language in a Portuguese pidgin. Also, with the sailors, the Arian 'Heresy' was suppressed, and Catholicism was ensconced as the religion, and with it, High Vissian was forced out of existence.

With Catholicism being removed as the state religion in the early 1910's, the Arian beliefs returned to the fore and a resurgence of the use of High Vissian began. This has re-introduced lexical terms that are now beginning to permeate the language, causing formerly related words to have completely different meanings within the lexicon.


Vissian is the official language of the islands, and outside of the major cities, it is the primary language. There are distinct regional dialects from island to island, however, they are all mutually intelligible. In the major cities, there are distinct Portuguese neighborhoods, and the patois that developed between the Portuguese and the Vissians continues to this day, but is in decline, as the Portuguese youth are more frequently learning Vissi and their native portuguese.

The government of the Azores has implemented a strict schooling in Vissian until the 7th or 8th year of school, when Portuguese is allowed to be taught. Exceptions have been won by ethnic-Portuguese, and their children are often taught in escola.


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