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Re: 16 Danish Runes - Scandinavian Phonetic Alphabet

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  • konrad_oddsson <konrad_oddsson@yahoo.com>
    Sæll Stuntie. Thank you for your interest in this topic. ... inscriptions in general. I have taken bits out of your post and elaborated on them. ... most of
    Message 1 of 3 , Feb 1, 2003
      Sæll Stuntie.

      Thank you for your interest in this topic.

      --- In norse_course@yahoogroups.com, "Stuntie" <stuntie@s...> wrote:
      > Dear Konrad,
      > Hi, I have made a few comments on the futharks and on runic
      inscriptions in general. I have taken bits out of your post and
      elaborated on them.

      > As always when dealing with runology the biggest problem is that
      most of the books are either very basic or for runologists only. A
      lack of decent introductions is a major problem.

      I understand what you mean. Another major problem is the lack of
      printed and readily available Norse texts in easy to read runes.

      > [I hope to kick start some work on runic inscription that I have
      been meaning to do for years. If I get it done I will post it up for
      all on the Norse Course.]

      This would be appreciated by the group.

      > "Around the year 800, a new nordic alphabet arose. This development
      is likely to have taken place in Denmark, where the majority of the
      earliest inscriptions employing these characters in found. In short
      order, this new alphabet spread to Norway and Sweden, where various
      innovations where made both in the forms of these 16 runes and their
      phonological accuracy. " - from one of my posts

      > The change was from an older roughly 24 rune futhark to a slimmed
      down 16 rune futhark. this occurred at the same time as major sound
      changes in what was to become Old Norse. The two factors are almost
      certainly related.

      Yes, I believe they were. However, there must have been some other
      reasons as well. One that comes to mind is the convenience of not
      using runes with two vertical staves. We must consider the materials
      on which the characters were written as well. Trade must also have
      been a factor. In fact, the first step from the formal Egyptian we
      see painted in the tombs of the kings to the plain ancestor of the
      alphabet I am typing is now believed to have been taken by traders.
      Hiring the Egyptian priests was too expensive.

      Stuntie: > Whilst there is evidence of a consistency of development
      (the same 16 runes) the two futharks both contain graphical elements
      that could not be derived from each other,this suggests simultaneous
      development. The two scripts are best described as Long branch and
      Short branch rather than Swedish and Danish as is often the case.
      Neither is purely distinct to one country or another.

      Let me try to be more clear. First of all, I am only talking about
      the classical 16-letter alphabet. Secondly, the terms 'Danish'
      and 'Swedish' have been used by earlier scholars to characterize
      some of the variations in forms seen for the same letters. The
      term 'Norwegian' has also been used about the practice of dotting
      runes. This usage conforms to evidence about the origins of these
      variations and practices. Nevertheless, I admit that they are not
      very good terms at all. Innovations spread from one place to another
      in little time. Examples of any type or phase can been found almost
      anywhere in Scandinavia during this time. There is a lack of terms.

      Konrad: > "Any modern runologist can testify to the confusion and
      uncertainty involved in trying to accurately transcribe inscriptions
      from this period."

      Stuntie: > Caused mostly by an attempt to fit runic characters into
      our precise linguistic world.

      A more likely reason lies in the fact that the Norse of this period
      had far more actual vowel sounds than runes to represent them. The
      number of consonants was also insufficient.

      > The Vikings used letters rather loosely.

      Yes. As in any oral culture, many must have been illiterate or very
      near so. There were no grammar schools or printing presses.

      Stuntie: > A 'u' for instance would be used to signify certain range
      of sounds (back round) rather than anything as precise as 'u'. And
      even for close sounds such a 'v'.

      If an engraver was untrained enough, it could represent even sounds
      outside of the usual range of sound allowed for a single rune.

      > This is bizarre to us because we have a world of precision.
      Vikings would be able to sit and ponder an inscription whereas we
      want the meaning right now!

      Sometimes. However, huge numbers of memorial stones and sticks were
      engraved under the heat of the moment, sometimes even abroad. As the
      historians suggest, the Viking Age could be a dangerous time to be
      alive. Historians and archeaologists seem to agree that, with the
      dawn of the Viking Age, we see overpopulation, temperature changes
      and an increase in violent activity in Scandinavia. Foreigners did
      not fail to notice it.

      Konrad: > "this alphbet will consist only of the original 16 Danish
      runic characters and be capable of accurately transcribing any
      Scandinavian dialect from about 800 until 1300."

      Stuntie: > Why Danish (by which I mean long branch)? What's wrong
      with the short branch futhark?

      I see nothing wrong with either short- of long-branch runes. Either
      way, the same 16 runes are used. Also, as the placement of the dots
      would be the same for either version, we could easliy adapt and use
      both forms. However, the long-brach variety is the oldest and was
      clearly used on some of the most formal, and even royal, monuments.
      As we live in an age of printed media, long-brached runes would be
      hardly as inconvenient for us as for our ancestors. Moreover, the
      spelling would be that of the 9th century, when long-branched runes
      were still almost universal. Nevertheless, both could be used.

      > It was after all the one most commonly used.
      > [By this I mean never assume that only one solution is correct.]

      In theory, one could use 16 coloured circles and black dots to write
      the language. One could use the numbers 1-16 and question marks.
      Neither of these methods would, however, be historical. A program
      cabable of printing both short- and long-stave runes is preferable
      to one printing only the long.

      Konrad: > "If we were to remove the dots from our runes, then our
      text should appear precisely as on a classical Danish runestone from
      about 800-900."

      Stuntie: > The dots are there for a reason. We may not always
      appreciate the reason, but does that mean we should remove them?

      We are not talking the same language here. What I meant above is
      this: were we to remove the dots used in a modern printed text for
      clarifying the characters, then what remains would look very nearly
      like an inscription from the earliest period of this alphabet,
      during which no dots of any kind were used to modify the value of
      the runes in question. I am certainly NOT saying that dots, when
      they did come into use, were not used for a reason.

      Stuntie: > Dotting in runic inscription does not indicate anything
      other than 'pay attention to this rune'.

      No, the dots (except when used as word-dividers) were used to more
      clearly indicate the phonological value of the rune. This innovation
      resulted from a very noticable lack of phonological clarity in the
      alphabet. In posts to come, it will be seen that I am both retaining
      and expanding upon this tradition. 'Y' is as it was, as well as 'E'
      (except that the dot is moved off to the side of the vertical line -
      the reason should become apparent).

      Stuntie: > Barnes, Haglund and Page came up with the best solution
      for transliterating dotted runes #1. Just add a dot to the Latin
      character - hence k + a dot rather than g. using g suggests things
      about the sound of the rune and how it was used that could be
      misleading. (in this example it could be 'nk' or 'ng' for instance).

      Whether we write Latin or Runic G has no effect on the sound of the
      language. Native speakers of any language can be illiterate and yet
      speak and understand the language better than any foreign scholar
      trying to invent an alphabet for it. Our 'g' will be like the old
      one as well - a dotted 'k'. Also, as in both Proto-Norse and Viking
      Age inscriptions, our nasals will not be represent by a rune - we
      will be using a dot instead. I seriously doubt if King Godfred ever
      saw an inscribed nasal in his life, or any of his ancestors from the
      dawn of humanity. Part of our theme is that only the dots separate
      us from the runes of his time. This is a logical compromise between
      linguistic modernity and the integrity of the past.

      Konrad: > "Can we accuratly represent all Norse sounds from 800-1300
      using only 16 characters and little black dots? The answer is yes."

      Stuntie: > Why not, they did.

      Accurately? I doubt if anyone was speed-reading novels without dots.

      Konrad: > "Furthermore, our alphabet will not only be historically
      accurate, it will also be more pholologically accurate than the
      modified Latin alphabet used to print Old Norse today."

      Stuntie: > Apart from one common character (Hooked O) all the
      modified Latin letters are those used by Icelandic saga writers.
      The only major reform suggested by the first grammarian in his
      attempt to standardise the Icelandic alphabet was to introduce dots
      for nasality.

      Yes. I am sure he would be quite surprised by our use of dots.

      Stubtie: > Also you are forgetting the wide variations in spelling
      (dialects and otherwise) that occur in runic inscriptions.

      I am well aware of this variation. Even in the the Catholic period
      we see great variation in spelling. In fact, a reasonable case could
      be made that spelling remains inconsistent to this day. Irregularity
      could hardly be said to promote literacy, however.

      Stuntie: > The Old Norse texts we have are heavily edited to remove
      weird characters and odd spellings. What we get is 'standardised Old

      Due to public education, we can spell our ancestors' language better
      and more consistently than they could. Due to linguistic advances,
      we can analyze and represent the phonology and evolution of our
      ancestors' language in ways they could hardly have imagined. Due to
      the ravages of time, we will never speak their language better than
      they did. Due to respect for our ancestors and their tradition, we
      may seek to preserve and represent their language as a cherished and
      holy inheritance. This is a part of what Rúniska is all about - the
      protection and promotion of what was common to our common ancestors
      as common among their common descendants. This is what I mean.

      Stuntie: Runic inscriptions are even worse as we cannot guarantee
      exactly what sound a rune may have had in a certain position.

      Certainly not in cases where more than one word could be meant. Yet,
      we have no real problems transcribing the overwhelming majority of
      Viking Age inscription. We have made great advances in this field.

      Stuntie: > One thing in general is the concept of accuracy with the
      16 runes. ALL the Scandinavian languages have and have always had
      more than 16 phonemes.

      This statement is probably as close to absolute truth as is possible
      in our field of reasearch! Strangely enough, it appears that there
      was a period when Old West Norse in particular set the record for
      the greatest number of vowel-sounds in any Germanic language to date.

      Stuntie: Without a one to one phoneme / grapheme relationship (that's
      'sound' / 'letter' in techno babble) there cannot be accuracy. Even
      the graphemic relationship of the modern languages does not
      accurately relate to the phonemes used. c.f. Swedish g in gick and
      gat ('yick' and 'gat'). The 16 runes had a large degree of latitude
      as to which sounds they represented. Accuracy is impossible without
      artificial modification to such an extent that the 16 runes would be

      We will not have many readers without clarity, despite the obvious
      fact that no language can be reproduced on paper with complete and
      utter fidelity. The Indians certainly did a remarkable job. I have
      never heard of any Indian taking linguistic issue with their script,
      even though it is less perfect than a recording.

      Stuntie: > I am currently reading through your posts on Danish
      vowels, so I may have some more comments soon.

      These would be welcome. However, there are still more vowels to come.

      Stunite: > One brief one on that is that Danish is a vowel minefield
      Danish is not agood example to base any system on. You may be
      creating extra work for yourself with that one.

      By 'Danish' I mean the same thing as 'Norse'. The purpose here is
      NOT to represent Modern Danish. A modern Dane could certainly adopt
      our characters, but he would have to pronounce them in a manner very
      different than they were pronounced during the period we are using
      as the basis for our script. Nevertheless, I have no problem with
      the idea of repronouncing the characters for use in Modern Danish.
      This usage, however, falls outside the scope of our discussion. I
      want to thank you for your comments and responses. Be well.


      > Cheers
      > Stuntie.
      > #1 Barnes, Haglund, Page. The runic inscriptions of Viking age
      > #2 Lagman S. De Stungna runorna (Runrön 4)
      > #3 [forgotten who]. The first grammatical treastsie.
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