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The Etymology of the Word þegn: A Case Study of a Happy Marriage between Linguistics and History?

Konferensbidrag (offentliggjort, men ej förlagsutgivet)
Författare Denis Sukhino-Khomenko
Publicerad i PhD workshop "Perspectives on the Nordic Middle Ages", May 2018, Graduate School, Arts at Aarhus University , Aarhus, Denmark
Publiceringsår 2018
Publicerad vid Institutionen för historiska studier
Språk en
Länkar https://www.academia.edu/36563770/T...
https://gup.ub.gu.se/file/207743
Ämnesord linguistics; Anglo-Saxon studies; thegn; etymology; Kluge's law;
Ämneskategorier Lingvistik, Historia

Sammanfattning

According to the databases for the old Scandinavian languages, the word þegn and its cognates occur in the corpora 402 times, predominantly in 13-14th-century ON, but in the Viking- Age skaldic verse and on rune stones, too. Surprisingly, the provided translations (chief among them: 1. (free) man; 2. subject of a monarch) are generally at variance with the cognates’ meaning in other Germanic languages, primarily OE, where it is found 1793 times (plus 314 cognates). As outlined by Henry Loyn in 1955, after the reign of King Alfred (d. 899) it evolved from a generic term for “one who served a lord in a personal capacity” to designate one of “the two recognized social divisions between freeman and king.” No indigenous OE source renders it ‘(free) man’ (scantly present in ME) or ‘subject’. This begs the question of the divergence point. Since 1850s, linguists linked þegn with Gr. τέκνον (‘child’) and derived both from PIE *tek- (‘to beget’). It could have explained the described dissimilarities (‘boy’ => ‘servant’, or ‘boy’ => ‘man’), but this etymology was lately challenged by Guus Kroonen, who convincingly connected þegn with *þegjan- (‘to request’; cf. ON þiggja, OE þicgan), thus rooting it in the meaning ‘retainer’. The unrecorded transition ‘*retainer’ => ‘man/subject’ in ON might be not without parallels, as the earlier Frankish and later Russian evidence suggests. The proposed paper, using inter-disciplinary approach, aims at elucidating the possible social and ideological circumstances of such transition that might add to our understanding of the Nordic medieval kingship.

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