No distinction is made in surviving runic inscriptions between long and short vowels, although such a distinction was certainly present phonologically in the spoken languages of the time. The term runes is used to distinguish these symbols from Latin and Greek letters.
It is attested on a 6th-century Alamannic runestaff as runa and possibly as runo on the 4th-century Einang stone. The name comes from the Germanic root run- Gothic: Ogham is a Celtic script, similarly carved in the Norse manner. The root run- can also be found in the Baltic languages , meaning "speech". In Lithuanian , runoti means both "to cut with a knife " and "to speak". Elder Futhark The runes developed centuries after the Old Italic alphabets from which they are probably historically derived.
The debate on the development of the runic script concerns the question regarding which of the Italic alphabets should be taken as their point of origin and which, if any, signs should be considered original innovations added to the letters found in the Italic scripts.
The historical context of the script's origin is the cultural contact between Germanic people, who often served as mercenaries in the Roman army , and the Italian peninsula during the Roman imperial period 1st century BC to 5th century AD. Giuliano and Larissa Bonfante suggest that runes derived from some North Italic alphabet, specifically Venetic: There are no horizontal strokes: This characteristic is also shared by other alphabets, such as the early form of the Latin alphabet used for the Duenos inscription , but it is not universal, especially among early runic inscriptions, which frequently have variant rune shapes, including horizontal strokes.
Runic manuscripts that is written rather than carved runes, such as Codex Runicus also show horizontal strokes. The " West Germanic hypothesis" speculates on an introduction by West Germanic tribes. This hypothesis is based on claiming that the earliest inscriptions of the 2nd and 3rd centuries, found in bogs and graves around Jutland the Vimose inscriptions , exhibit word endings that, being interpreted by Scandinavian scholars to be Proto-Norse , are considered unresolved and long having been the subject of discussion.
Another theory presumes a Northwest Germanic unity preceding the emergence of Proto-Norse proper from roughly the 5th century.
Makaev, who presumes a "special runic koine ", an early "literary Germanic" employed by the entire Late Common Germanic linguistic community after the separation of Gothic 2nd to 5th centuries , while the spoken dialects may already have been more diverse. These inscriptions are generally in Elder Futhark , but the set of letter shapes and bindrunes employed is far from standardized.
Theories of the existence of separate Gothic runes have been advanced, even identifying them as the original alphabet from which the Futhark were derived, but these have little support in archaeological findings mainly the spearhead of Kovel , with its right-to-left inscription, its T-shaped tiwaz , and its rectangular dagaz.
If there ever were genuinely Gothic runes, they were soon replaced by the Gothic alphabet. The letters of the Gothic alphabet, however, as given by the Alcuin manuscript 9th century , are obviously related to the names of the Futhark.
The names are clearly Gothic, but it is impossible to say whether they are as old as the letters themselves. A handful of Elder Futhark inscriptions were found in Gothic territory, such as the 3rd- to 5th-century Ring of Pietroassa. In this stanza, Odin recounts a spell: Due to this, it is possible that the early runes were not used so much as a simple writing system, but rather as magical signs to be used for charms.
Although some say the runes were used for divination , there is no direct evidence to suggest they were ever used in this way. The name rune itself, taken to mean "secret, something hidden", seems to indicate that knowledge of the runes was originally considered esoteric, or restricted to an elite.
Haidzruno runu, falahak haidera, ginnarunaz. Arageu haeramalausz uti az. I, master of the runes? Incessantly plagued by maleficence, doomed to insidious death is he who breaks this monument.
There also are some inscriptions suggesting a medieval belief in the magical significance of runes, such as the Franks Casket AD panel. Much speculation and study has been produced on the potential meaning of these inscriptions. Rhyming groups appear on some early bracteates that also may be magical in purpose, such as salusalu and luwatuwa.
Further, an inscription on the Gummarp Runestone — AD gives a cryptic inscription describing the use of three runic letters followed by the Elder Futhark f-rune written three times in succession. There are at least three sources on divination with rather vague descriptions that may, or may not, refer to runes: The first source, Tacitus's Germania, describes "signs" chosen in groups of three and cut from "a nut-bearing tree", although the runes do not seem to have been in use at the time of Tacitus' writings.
One of these accounts is the description of how a renegade Swedish king, Anund Uppsale , first brings a Danish fleet to Birka , but then changes his mind and asks the Danes to "draw lots". According to the story, this "drawing of lots" was quite informative, telling them that attacking Birka would bring bad luck and that they should attack a Slavic town instead.
The lack of extensive knowledge on historical use of the runes has not stopped modern authors from extrapolating entire systems of divination from what few specifics exist, usually loosely based on the reconstructed names of the runes and additional outside influence. Medieval use[ edit ] Codex Runicus , a vellum manuscript from approximately AD containing one of the oldest and best preserved texts of the Scanian Law , is written entirely in runes.
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March Learn how and when to remove this template message As Proto-Germanic evolved into its later language groups, the words assigned to the runes and the sounds represented by the runes themselves began to diverge somewhat and each culture would create new runes, rename or rearrange its rune names slightly, or stop using obsolete runes completely, to accommodate these changes.
Thus, the Anglo-Saxon futhorc has several runes peculiar to itself to represent diphthongs unique to or at least prevalent in the Anglo-Saxon dialect. Nevertheless, that the Younger Futhark has 16 runes, while the Elder Futhark has 24, is not fully explained by the some years of sound changes that had occurred in the North Germanic language group. For example, voiced and unvoiced consonants merged in script, and so did many vowels, while the number of vowels in the spoken language increased.
Some later runic finds are on monuments runestones , which often contain solemn inscriptions about people who died or performed great deeds. For a long time it was presumed that this kind of grand inscription was the primary use of runes, and that their use was associated with a certain societal class of rune carvers. In the mids, however, approximately inscriptions, known as the Bryggen inscriptions , were found in Bergen.
Following this find, it is nowadays commonly presumed that, at least in late use, Runic was a widespread and common writing system. Now in the collection of the British Museum In the later Middle Ages, runes also were used in the clog almanacs sometimes called Runic staff, Prim, or Scandinavian calendar of Sweden and Estonia. The authenticity of some monuments bearing Runic inscriptions found in Northern America is disputed; most of them have been dated to modern times.
Runes in Eddic lore[ edit ] In Norse mythology , the runic alphabet is attested to a divine origin Old Norse: This is attested as early as on the Noleby Runestone from c.