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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 the former chapters I have analysed three corpora of runic inscriptions in the older futhark and futhorc: the earliest set of inscriptions found in modern Denmark, England and Germany. The runic inscriptions analysed in these three countries belong to three different periods, and thus show different degrees of dialectality. The inscriptions were analysed with the purpose of identifying dialectal features that do not coincide with general NWGmc morphology or phonology, but rather belong within assumedly later WGmc features.

The first set of inscriptions examined under the WGmc paradigm is that of the earliest Danish inscriptions, which mainly present two linguistic features typical of WGmc: masculine names ending in -o, and masculine names presenting loss of -z. Chapter 1 was dedicated to the first of these features. I analysed a set of runic names, most of which had traditionally been considered feminine due to their -o ending, but which now can be understood as masculine with the finding of unequivocally masculine names with that ending in the bogs of Illerup and Vimose. The possibility that all the names presented here are masculine is very high, as the linguistic, archaeological and comparative examination of each item has shown. Even though this occurrence has been regarded as an aberrational ending previously, or has been explained as a temporary feature that would not last for more than two centuries, the truth is that the ending is found consistently all throughout the early corpus without interruption, and once we lift...

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