HDAA03640U East Norse. Runes, manuscripts and literature

Årgang 2013/2014
Engelsk titel

East Norse. Runes, manuscripts and literature


This course is an introduction to runic and medieval East Norse language and literature. The course offers a chance to study East Norse texts in the original language, reading a range of Old Swedish and Old Danish texts representing Scandinavian genres as well as rewritings and adaptations of European works, such as inscriptions on stones and loose objects, provincial laws, chronicles, anthologies of instructional texts, legends and devotional books.

The course presents an overview of the history of the East Norse languages from the Iron Age to the Late Middle Ages dealing with the following topics: the linguistic developments from Proto Norse to East Scandinavia, the emergence of East Scandinavian runic dialects, the runic lexicon, a description of the morphology and syntax of Old Swedish (c. 1225 – 1526) and Old Danish (c. 1100 – c. 1525). The course includes field trips to runic locations in Denmark and Southern Sweden. As the majority of the texts to be read are preserved in manuscripts located in the Arnamagnæan Collection in Copenhagen students will get hands-on practice in reading, examining and describing manuscripts.


Participants (who need no prior experience with East Norse) will learn to read the runic alphabets and how to transliterate runic inscriptions. They will learn how to read and translate diplomatic (un-normalized) representations of texts in East Norse and will be able to identify Old Swedish and Old Danish texts respectively and to characterize the texts as regards syntax and style. They will get an overview of the usage of runes from the Iron Age to the High Middle Ages in Southern Scandinavia and of East Norse texts and manuscripts. They will gain basic knowledge of East Norse paleography and the codicology of the medieval book.


  • Michael P. Barnes: Runes a Handbook. Woodbridge 2012.
  • Sven B.F. Jansson: Runes in Sweden. Stockholm 1987
  • Erik Moltke: Runes and Their Origin. In Denmark and Elsewhere. Copenhagen 1985.
  • Einar Haugen: The Scandinavian Languages. 1976

Old Danish and Old Swedish

  • In The Nordic Languages: An International handbook of the history of the North Germanic languages, ed. Oscar Bandle et al., Berlin/New York, 2005:

Jonas Carlquist: The history of Old Nordic manuscripts III: Old Swedish.

Britta Olrik Frederiksen: The history of Old Nordic manuscripts IV: Old Danish.

Lars-Olof Delsing: The morphology of Old Nordic II: Old Swedish and Old Danish.

Patrik Åström: Manuscripts and bookprinting in Late Medieval Scandinavia and in Early Modern Times.

  • Britta Olrik Frederiksen: Medieval books in Danish – in plain and less plain figures. In Living Words & Luminous Pictures: Medieval book culture in Denmark.Essays, ed. Erik Petersen, København/Aarhus 1999.





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