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Multilingualism in the Context of Scandinavian Pilgrimage. The Onomastic Evidence in Continental Sources

Conference contribution
Authors Michelle Waldispühl
Published in The Sixteenth Saga Conference. 9–15 August 2015. Zurich and Basel, Switzerland.
Pages 299-300
ISBN 9783033051676
Publication year 2015
Published at Department of Languages and Literatures
Pages 299-300
Language en
Keywords Pilgrimage, multilingualism, historical linguistics, onomastics, language contact, Middle High German, Reichenau, Old Norse
Subject categories Languages and Literature, Linguistics, Bilingualism, Scandinavian languages, Germanic languages


In the Middle Ages, Scandinavian pilgrims travelled through Continental Europe on their way to Rome, Santiago de Compostela and the Near East. Scandinavian sources, such as for example Sturlunga saga, the Abbot Nikulás’s Leiðarvísir and runic inscriptions, provide data about specific persons, the time they traveled and the goal of several journeys (Springer 1950, Krötzl 1994, Wassenhoven 2006). About the actual itineraries through Continental Europe and events on the way, however, only little is mentioned (cf. Wassenhoven 2006, 85). Still, Scandinavian pilgrims left marks in Continental sources. Among them are personal names in contemporary Libri vitae (Confraternity books), codices with extensive name lists that were kept in monasteries and had a commemorative liturgical function (McKitterick 2010). In this paper I will address the Scandinavian names in one of these books, the Confraternity book of Reichenau, both from a graphemic, onomastic and a sociolinguistic perspective. Some of the names clearly show German interferences which indicate direct contact between Scandinavian speakers and German scribes (Jørgensen & Jónsson 1923, Naumann 2009, Fix fc.). Yet, other name entries seem rather to be copied from a list written by Scandinavians since interferences are absent (ibid.). Next to methodological questions these „scripting contexts“ raise for graphemic and onomastic analyses, they provide data for language contact which in turn indicates multilingualism in the context of Scandinavian pilgrimage in the Middle Ages. What might have been possible „language biographies“ of Scandinavian pilgrims? How did they communicate in monasteries abroad? Lastly, such considerations constitute grounds to discuss the role of language skills and multilingualism as a trigger for cultural transfer from Continental Europe to Scandinavia.

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