Linguistics in Göttingen - A platform for empirical and theoretical linguistics

Roland Schuhmann (Jena): Remarks on grammatical and morphological Problems in the oldest Runic Inscriptions

The oldest layer (starting from ca. 150/60 AD) of the runic inscriptions passes down the first genuine transmission of the Germanic languages. Only some two hundred years later (ca. 350 AD) the first big corpus transmission of East Germanic starts with the translation of the Gothic Bible by Wulfila. It is not until quite much later (from ca. 800 AD) that some of the West Germanic languages (Old High German etc.) are transmitted, not to mention the even later record of North Germanic (Old Norse etc.). This gap is all the more fatal because - as is agreed upon generally and correctly - by far most of the early runic inscriptions display a language that is not East Germanic. So it is clear that for our understanding of how early Germanic grammar looked like the early runic inscriptions are the most valuable sources.
However, the early runic inscriptions display many problems that aggravate their exact analysis and therefore also their grammatical interpretation. Sometimes the definitive reading is disputed or they show forms that are unexpected in view of what is normally reconstructed in for Proto Germanic.
In my talk I will address some of these problematic cases, discuss different suggestions brought forward in greater detail and try to offer some solutions.