Runic and Latin Written Culture: Co-Existence and Interaction of Two Script Cultures in the Norwegian Middle Ages

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Dokumentart: Masterarbeit
Date: 2011
Language: English
Faculty: 5 Philosophische Fakultät
Department: Germanistik
DDC Classifikation: 439 - Other Germanic languages
Keywords: Rune , Kulturaustausch , Futhark , Mittelalter , Altnordisch , Latein
Other Keywords:
Runes , Cultural transfer , futhark , Medieval , Old norse , Latin
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When Latin writing finally reached Scandinavia sometime in the 11th century, it was met by a strong and well established runic writing tradition which had been in permanent use as a functional writing system for over 800 years. Latin script culture came in the wake of Christianity and church organisation, and the Latin alphabet was by this point of time already deeply rooted in social, political, and religious institutions. Runic writing, on the other hand, was not linked to such powerful religious and/or political institutions but served a pragmatic everyday purpose. Still, the native script culture was not immediately superseded by the newly arrived script system. Instead, there evolved a vibrant two-script culture which lasted for a period of at least 300 years. It was characterised by the peaceful coexistence of runic and Latin writing. Moreover, runic tradition not only survived by the side of Latin script culture. It rather appears to have experienced an enormous upswing after the introduction of Latin writing. This development proved to be unique in the European context. – The present thesis pursues a systematic and cultural-historical approach in order to explore the nature of the coexistence of these two script cultures. The intention is to adopt a slightly different perspective than in previous research. Thus, the objective is not to reconfirm the influence which Latin script culture undeniably exerted on runic writing and repeat the diachronic ‘success story’ of Latin writing. On the contrary, the focus lies on a synchronic perspective and an analysis of how runic tradition took advantage of the presence of the Latin script system. Thus, this thesis seeks to demonstrate that runic writing neither passively yielded to nor slavishly copied from the new script culture. Rather, runic tradition responded to and sovereignly dealt with the impulses springing from Latin writing. It maintained its characteristic features and independent status in the comparatively long period of coexistence. Rune-carvers took up particular elements and exploited them for their own benefit and, what is even more important, on the basis of the runic tradition’s own premises, i.e. on the basis of its heritage from the older and Viking runic tradition. – The underlying structure of this thesis follows the observation that the contact between these two script cultures occurred and found expression on three different levels of runic writing: the writing system itself, orthographical and other writing standards, and – last but not least – writing materials and subject matter. In order to facilitate comparison, each of these sections is preceded by an overview of the state affairs concerning the aspect in question in the older and Viking runic tradition and ends with a preliminary conclusion. In addition, the thesis discusses some reflections on conceptual changes in the perception of writing among rune-carvers after the introduction of Latin writing.

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