Article published in:Runic Inscriptions and the Early History of the Germanic Languages
Edited by Robert Nedoma and Hans Frede Nielsen †
[NOWELE 73:1] 2020
► pp. 69–90
New insights into Early Old English from recent Anglo-Saxon runic finds
The standard methods of philological reconstruction usually enable us to work back from the earliest recorded examples of a particular language and to reconstruct earlier stages – especially when the language in question has known close relatives. The Early Old English of the 7th to 9th centuries AD is far from unrecorded. In light of both of those facts, it is remarkable how far newly found specimens of the language, in runic inscriptions, are revealing quite new aspects of Old English. This paper considers three such examples in detail, all of them containing grammatically complete sentences. The evidence includes not only a previously unidentified runic graph, with its own implications for phonological awareness in the users of the runic script in Anglo-Saxon England, but also a range of morphological and lexical phenomena that altogether shed considerable light on varieties of Old English as early as the 8th century and on the value of this material for understanding the developing role of literacy across the period too.
Published online: 29 April 2020
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