Runes and Germanic Linguistics

Runes and Germanic Linguistics

Runes and Germanic Linguistics

Runes and Germanic Linguistics


The older runic inscriptions (ca. AD 150 - 450) represent the earliest attestation of any Germanic language. The close relationship of these inscriptions to the archaic Mediterranean writing traditions is demonstrated through the linguistic and orthographic analysis presented here. The extraordinary importance of these inscriptions for a proper understanding of the prehistory and early history of the present-day Germanic languages, including English, becomes abundantly clear once the accu-mulation of unfounded claims of older mythological and cultic studies is cleared away.


My serious interest in runic studies did not develop until I had completed the Ph.D. degree in Germanic linguistics at the University of Illinois and begun developing a program in Germanic linguistics at the University of Iowa in the early 1960s. I then offered a course in the history of the Scandinavian languages, which of course meant that I came unavoidably into intimate contact with the early runic inscriptions.

It very quickly became apparent to me that the explanations for certain linguistic forms given in the standard works on runes simply could not be correct, and when Makaev's treatise on the older inscriptions (1965) appeared and I reviewed it for Language (Antonsen 1968b), I became all the more convinced that there was a pressing need for a new investigation of these oldest attestations of any Germanic language, an investigation that had to be grounded in a rigorous linguistic approach. the updated results of this research over a period of approximately forty years are presented here in a single volume. I am greatly indebted to the editors and publishers of journals and collective works indicated at the end of the separate chapters for permission to publish revised versions of earlier works.

I have not provided detailed descriptions of the archaeological finds, nor photographs of the individual inscriptions. I assume that the reader will be familiar with the basic runological works and I have indicated where a good photographic reproduction of each inscription can be found. By reproducing each inscription as closely as possible in runic fonts created for me by Geoffrey Muckenhirn (to whom I am greatly indebted), I hope to provide the reader with a satisfactory understanding of the problems involved in working with them without actually having them at hand.

I have chosen to employ a modified American structuralist approach to language analysis, since it is this approach that lends itself most readily to the study of written language.

Although I had no mentor in the study of runes and therefore owe no allegiance to any particular school, I readily acknowledge my . . .

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