Faculty of Social Sciences

Skriftsystem i förändring: en grafematisk och paleografisk studie av de svenska medeltida runinskrifterna

  • Date:
  • Location: Ihresalen, Engelska parken, Humanistiskt centrum, Thunbergsvägen 3, Uppsala
  • Doctoral student: Palumbo, Alessandro
  • About the dissertation
  • Organiser: Institutionen för nordiska språk
  • Contact person: Palumbo, Alessandro
  • Disputation

The aim of this dissertation is to study the development of Swedish runic writing during the Middle Ages in terms of runic shapes and orthography. It comprises three related investigations.

 A preparatory investigation surveys the runic shapes employed during the Middle Ages in Sweden. The second investigation aims to identify the graphematic distinctions used and developed during the Middle Ages, the chronological and geographical patterns evident in the use of the system of runic writing as well as the phonological conclusions which can be drawn from the graphematic analysis. The third and final section of the dissertation focuses on the use of certain long-branch and short-twig runes from a palaeographic perspective.

The Swedish runic writing system changed during the course of the Middle Ages and varied in accordance with different factors, including chronology as well as local traditions. Västergötland, especially the area of Falbygden, appears the most prominent Swedish centre of innovation. As regards to the vowel system, the new grapheme <æ> was consistently used there in the 12th century, whereas not even in the 13th century was it completely established in Uppland. The grapheme <ø> instead was introduced only in the beginning of the 13th century and does not appear to have ever been consistently employed in any province. The analysis of the vowel system, in particular as regards to the unrounded front vowels, has also revealed several graphematic changes that can be explained phonologically and attest to ongoing dialectal developments.

Even though no dotted graph type for consonants is used without exception and the double marking of long consonants is employed in less than a third of the attestations of long consonants, greater consistency in the use of both practices can be observed during the 13th century than during earlier periods. Also in this case, the development proceeded more rapidly in Västergötland than in Uppland. Among other provinces, several new features also occur in Småland. Also the inscriptions in Östergötland attest to an advanced use of writing, but the mediaeval innovations there seem to be younger than in Västergötland and western Småland, which indicates that they spread to more easterly areas at a later stage.

Medieval innovations such as dotted runes with a consonantal value seem to have their origin and focus in East Scandinavia. Many of the earliest attestations occur on coins minted in Lund, and it is possible that they spread from there to Småland and Västergötland. In other cases, for example as regards the dotted f-rune, these Swedish areas may themselves have acted as centres of innovation. Here, closer contact between carvers and the Church and the introduction of the Roman script may have contributed to creating a more dynamic writing culture.

As regards the alleged existence of a "completely dotted runic alphabet", the analyses in this dissertation have shown that there was no uniform use of those features which are often maintained to be characteristic of the completely dotted rune row. These results make it clear that the introduction of innovations could not have occurred via a reform and confirm that no completely dotted rune row was ever established.