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History of runes
Report



History of runic alphabets



Fulfilled by the second year student of

Rostov State Pedagogical University
Translation Department
Neustroev Cyril

Checked by



Rostov-on-Don

2001



From ancient times mankind was appealed by unknown writings: half-
forgotten antique languages, Egypt hieroglyphs, Indian inscriptions… The
fate of runes was much happy – their sense wasn’t lost in the course of
time, even when Latin alphabet became dominating one in Europe. For
instance, runes were used in calendars till the end of the 18-th c.

Modern linguists think that runes posses another kind of meaning, which
we cannot find in ideograms, hieroglyphs or in modern exotic alphabets –
this meaning exists in subconsciousness level. Runes were the
personification of the surrounding world, essence of outlook. With the help
of special links between runes a man could express nearly everything,
compiling them (so called combined runes). In different times runes could
change their meaning, so we can say this adjusting system created dozens of
meanings of one and the same symbol. (Linguists find confirmation of this
theory in the following example – every rune in different languages had
separate and original meaning, which didn’t fully coincide with another one
in the second language.
Like all others components of language, runes endured numerous changes:
in form, style of writing, system of sounds and letters, which expressed
them. We can say, that these alphabets took wide spreading not only among
Scandinavian and German tribes, but we can also trace its penetration in
Celtic and Slavonic languages. Now runes keep their main original meaning -
in the beginning they were the symbols of fortunetelling lore with sacred
sense and mystic signs (The general matter why they didn’t get wide
diffusion before AD). Even the word “rune” corresponds as “secret” (compare
old Celtic “run”, middle welsh “rown”, modern German “raunen”). The last
1000 years in Iceland runes have been used for divination. In Anglo-Saxon
England the hours of king council were called “runes”.
The most important sources about runic history are ancient texts of
Scandinavian pagan religion – Old Edda by Brynolf Swesson and Lesser Edda
by Snorri Sturlusson. They were two missionaries who discovered these
manuscripts in the time of Christian expansion. Another documents
containing the information about runes origin are Northern king sagas “Red
leather” and Icelandic kin chronicles. Tombstones, altars, pagan pillars
called “runic stones” played quite catholic role in scientific researches -
usually they are found dappled with miscellaneous writings (Gothland,
Upland, Norway). The most famous is Cilwer stone, which dates from the 5-th
c. So we can find a lot of writings on jewels and weapon, for barbarians
believed things had to posses their own names (breakteats).
German and Slavonic runic writing was the letter system of peculiar
look, accounted by the writing technique on bone, wood and metal. Nowadays
we have the main runic alphabet, consisting of 24 signs, may be more, but
another ones are regarded as variants or combined runes. Letters of any
language can have several sources of origin, for a taste Greek language,
which gave the birth to North Italian writing, had a good many of meaning
for every sign. This tradition was inherited by Etruscan alphabet and later
by runic one. However, Christian chronicles of 9-12c, known as «songs»,
revealed information about rune names and their meanings. Every rune in it
conforms to one strophe, which begins with this rune and its name. In its
turn, the name begins with its sound. The whole system is divided into 2
parts – futarks (arises from the first symbols – F, U, Th, A, R, K: Old
futark (runes of Old German origin – o
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