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The Grammar of Medieval Scandinavian Personal Names in Continental Manuscripts

Conference contribution
Authors Michelle Waldispühl
Published in 22nd International Conference on Historical Linguistics. 27-31 July 2015. Naples, Italy.
Publication year 2015
Published at Department of Languages and Literatures
Language en
Keywords Onomastics, grammar of names, historical graphemics, historical phonology, historical morphology, language contact, Old Norse, Middle High German
Subject categories Languages and Literature, Linguistics, Bilingualism, Scandinavian languages, Germanic languages


For the beginning of the Scandinavian Middle Ages, onomastic evidence is by the majority attested in runic inscriptions. Beside this, there is a large corpus of personal names found outside Scandinavia in a couple of Libri vitae and necrologies from Continental monasteries. The names are testimony of Scandinavian pilgrims travelling to Rome and other Christian centres in the 11th and 12th centuries. To date, this Continental corpus has never been edited and studied as a whole. It is part of my project to fill this gap, and currently, data compilation and technical considerations for the database are in progress. While general and technical aspects of the corpus edition will be mentioned only briefly in this paper, my main aim is to explore theoretical and methodological approaches to analysing the grammar of these names. Many instances show interferences from German or Latin, some of them supposedly resulting from scripting by dictation. On the basis of examples from the Reichenau Liber vitæ, which comprises approximately 720 Scandinavian names, I will propose a model for graphemic, phonological and morphological analysis of personal names written in a multilingual historical context. Moreover, I will – beside codicological and philological aspects – address situational and functional factors, such as language and writing skills of actors and the pragmatics of names in Libri vitæ, and discuss their significance for grammatical analysis. In conclusion, I would like to raise the question if and how such considerations should be included in the design of a corpus edition.

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