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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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Chapter 1: Runic names ending in –o, a West Germanic feature?


← 28 | 29 → Chapter 1: Runic names ending in -o: a West Germanic feature?

In the field of North-West Germanic runic inscriptions and linguistics, Elmer Antonsen is one of the most prominent scholars of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. In his work from 2002,1 Antonsen dedicates a chapter to some controversial grammatical forms of the inscriptions in the Older Futhark. It is in this chapter that personal names in the inscriptions with the ending -o are dealt with. As Antonsen tells us, the grammatical interpretation of this kind of inscription has undergone a significant shift in the last forty years. At the very beginning of the chapter, Antonsen mentions the work of Ingrid Sannes Johnsen in 1969.2 She carried out a study on the role of women in ancient Scandinavia and concluded that “women of the period could legally inherit, and therefore could apparently occupy important economic positions in these early Germanic times.”3 She focused on three runestones as the main evidence for female power statuses. In these inscriptions, female names (or what she thought were names with traditionally feminine endings) were related to positions of social importance or high economic means. One of these inscriptions is the Rosseland stone, which reads: ek wagigaz arilaz agilamudon,4 “I, Wagigaz, the erilaz of Agilamundō”.5 Although the exact meaning and connotations of the word erilaz are not known, it is normally understood that the eril was a figure of certain social position that had knowledge of the runes...

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