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Ethnolinguistics, Cultural Change and Early Scripts from England and Wales


Jacek Mianowski

The study presents a chronotope of linguistic and cultural changes that took place in England and Wales between the 4th and 8th centuries. It encompasses the areas of South Wales and Eastern England and describes the cultural practices of preliterate Anglo-Saxon and Celtic speech communities and their adaptation of runic, ogham and Latin scripts.

The study is based on the concepts of anthropological linguistics, ethnography of communication and discourse analysis. It incorporates 23 selected ogham- and Latin-inscribed stones from Wales, and 10 rune-inscribed everyday objects from England. The presented inscriptions were designed as text occurrences with well-planned, graphical content distribution, intentionally placed in the public space to increase the range of their potential audience.

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Chapter Four: Transformation of the Barbaric Mentality


The British Isles have witnessed a myriad of cultural transformations throughout their history. It should be remembered, however, that observing and describing cultural change is a complicated process, in which pinpointing the potential starting point, course and outcome may vary significantly depending on the methodology and concepts applied. This chapter attempts to gauge the scale of cultural change that took place at the threshold of the Roman period and the Early Middle Ages in England and Wales. The proposed perspective takes into consideration Anglo-Saxon and Welsh traditions as its main points of reference. The purpose of this is to acquaint the reader with the concept of the transitory period itself and to provide a better understanding of the process of adopting new writing systems in the milieu of the reforging of the ethnicities of England and Wales.

1. Germanic tradition of the British Isles

The pre-Christian and pre-Roman traditions of the British Isles began with a period of migration and conquest. The Germanic tribes not only had to conquer these new lands, but more importantly, initiate a long string of processes of developing, unifying and strengthening bonds to form new ethnic identities. The decision to abandon their Germanic homelands and seek their fortunes in new lands proved to be both a challenge and a reward and allowed them to forge new alliances and to develop an ingenious network of ethnic bonds.

The Anglo-Saxon settlement in the British Isles shaped the political situation...

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