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The research project “Runic writing in the Germanic languages (RuneS)” deals with the runic script as a writing system within its historico-cultural context in a comprehensive way, focusing in particular on graphemic and text-pragmatic aspects. It investigates the oldest independently developed writing system in the Germanic languages, the runic script. As a means of communication this script was used in different variants in large areas of Europe (with centres in the German-speaking area, in Great Britain and Scandinavia) over a period of more than 1,400 years. In these languages, it preceded and for a long time co-existed with Latin literacy.

Apart from editorial work, research on runic monuments has hitherto concentrated predominantly on understanding the text of the individual inscriptions and their historico-cultural interpretation. Our project, in contrast, explicitly regards the runic script as a system evolved in various ways over the centuries, serving diverse communicative functions within the different historical societies it was used in.

It is the aim of the project to describe and analyse runic writing in a comprehensive way, transcending the boundaries of the three groups of runic writing systems (older fuþark, younger fuþąrk and Anglo-Frisian fuþorc) traditionally adhered to in runological research, by subjecting all three systems to uniform methods of investigation. In pursuing this perspective, the theoretical insights and categories of current writing research will be drawn on (cf. the concepts of Verschriftung ['scripting'] and Verschriftlichung ['textualisation']). There will be two principal domains of investigation:
1. The first domain deals with the the medial aspect of writing, i.e. the transfer of sounds into graphic characters (Runic Graphemics).
2. The second domain is devoted to the text-pragmatic and functional aspects of writing (Runic Text Grammar and Pragmatics).
These two domains of investigation will be preceded by a preparatory module providing the necessary editorial platform (Editorial basics) as well as theoretical-methodological preliminaries. For the results of the project follow the RuneS database.

The comprehensive design of the project with regard to time and space makes it possible to focus on the above issues more consistently and to formulate comparative statements on the development of runic writing from a historico-cultural perspective. As runic writing existed alongside Latin literacy over a longer period of time, the question of the influence the Latin script exerted on the creation and development of the runic script is central and possible interdependencies will be highlighted in the course of the project.

Kiel (project coordination)

Dr. Christiane Zimmermann

Akademieprojekt RuneS

Institut für Skandinavistik, Frisistik und Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft (ISFAS)

- Skandinavistik -

Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

Leibnizstraße 10, R. 432-433

D-24098 Kiel