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The Early Runic Inscriptions

Their Western Features


Irene García Losquiño

Why were runes invented? What did the Germanic peoples of southern Scandinavia speak during the first centuries CE? Can the earliest runic inscriptions be used to learn something about their dialects, and can we extract other information from their study as a corpus? The Early Runic Inscriptions: Their Western Features gives answers to these questions through an analysis of the earliest runic inscriptions found mainly in Denmark, and later in England and on the continent up to the seventh century. This analysis offers a novel tracing of the initial appearance and later establishment of West Germanic dialectal features in an area and time usually referred to as having a more Northern linguistic identity.
The earliest runic inscriptions are an invaluable source of information about the state of the Germanic dialects during the first seven centuries of our era. They also provide insights about some of the social customs of different Germanic groups during this period, such as the development of the purposes of runic writing or personal-name formation. Using a comparative and comprehensive methodology, this book combines linguistics with other disciplines to cast as much light as possible on these oftentimes single-worded inscriptions.
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In this book, I attempt to locate and prove the existence of West Germanic features in a set of runic inscriptions assumed to belong within a Northwest Germanic language. According to most scholarship, these WGmc features are not supposed to appear in the language until a later date than that of the inscriptions. In order to understand the early evolution of the Germanic languages, this introduction will present the history of Germanic dialectology from its beginnings until currently. Part I, composed of Chapters 1 and 2, will deal with the first corpus analysed: the earliest Danish runic inscriptions. The inscriptions in this corpus date anywhere from the second to the fifth century. Once the inscriptions are investigated and the WGmc features presented, in Part II (Chapters 3 and 4) I will compare the results to early younger inscriptions in two WGmc-proper corpuses: those of the Anglo-Saxon and South Germanic territories, dating from the fifth to seventh centuries.

The analysis of these three sets of inscriptions occupying different areas and centuries will give me an overview of the evolution of WGmc from the earliest appearance of dialectal features in Denmark to the establishment of different WGmc varieties (Ingvaeonic and non-Ingvaeonic) in the modern territories of England and Germany. The previous analysis will also present sociolinguistic and anthropologic points, which will be dealt with in Chapter 5. Here I will show how the appearances of certain features will give evidence for the purposes of early runic carving and...

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