INTRODUCTION AND CREDITS
By and Š 1999 Ingeborg S. Nordén, Edited by Úlfgrim Vílmeiđson
The original inspiration for this project came from a fellow runester and linguist, Douglas W. Smith (aka "Deep Stream"). He has convinced me that the way most Heathens render modern languages in runes is wrongthat people should transcribe a word as it actually sounds, instead of copying the conventional (Roman alphabet) spelling letter for letter. Mr. Smiths suggestions for transcribing most of the modern Germanic languages are acceptable to me, even though I know little German and no Dutch at all.
Many of the transcriptions that Mr. Smith proposed are acceptable in Swedish as well (especially the consonants, which show fewer differences than the vowels). He did a reasonably good job for someone who does not speak the language, and who has only a general idea of its history. However, every languageeven within a tight groupdevelops some unique sounds and sound-changes: a phonetic spelling system that works well for English, German or Dutch may not necessarily work well for Swedish.
With that in mind, here are my own recommendations for rendering Modern Swedish in the Elder Futharkone rune at a time, similar to Mr. Smiths discussion section in his "FUTHARC" article.
Section One: The Vowels
Uruz is a fairly obvious, straightforward equivalent of both u sounds in Swedish. The long u of hus house and the short u of hund dog should be written with this stave: hus and hund respectively.
The rune had three other sound values during the Viking Age, but I would not suggest these in an Elder transcription:
The uses of this vowel, too, look simple at first glance; most obviously, it represents both the long and the short a sounds in stavar staves: stabaz. However, Ansuz is also one possible spelling for the vowel å and probably the best alternative from a historical point of view, since å did develop from an Old Swedish a: the word gård farm, enclosed yard can be transcribed gard .
In Swedish, the long i sound resembles the vowel in English "machine"and writing the word is ice without its namesake rune would make no sense. This stave works equally well, though, for a short i (which sounds much like the English or German one): the sequence fina could be read as either fina fine [adj., pl.] or finna find.
Despite Mr. Smiths recommendationwhich has some historical basisI would not use Isa to represent a schwa in Modern Swedish. That choice does not match actual pronunciation well; even in an unstressed position, the vowel Swedes use is closer to the one in English "ten" than the one in "tin" or "teen".
This rune not Uruz! is the one I recommend for transcribing Swedish y. (The name Yggdrasil would be spelled Igdrasil, for instance.) Why do I prefer this solution to the y problem? There are two good reasons, based on the history of both Old Norse and the runes themselves:
This vowel-rune has more uses than the other five, which should not be a surprise considering how common e-like sounds are in Swedish.
Sometimes, however, it is safe to omit unstressed e in a runic transcription. If a word ends in el, -en or er, it should be obvious enough where the schwa goes. In Old Norse, words like that tended to have one syllable; the vowel was inserted at a later stage, when Swedish had begun to split off
ON sigl sail ā ModSw segel segl
ON vatn water ā ModSw vatten watn
ON heiđr honor ā ModSw heder hedz
On the other hand, -en sometimes serves a grammatical function in Swedish: the definite article is not usually a separate word, but a suffix added to nouns. Not including a vowel-rune for the e may confuse some readers, especially if the noun ends in n itself. There should be a visible difference between sägen segn legend WITHOUT an article, and sägnen segnen the legend WITH one. (Double letters are traditionally disallowed in runic writing, so recording the e between those two n-sounds seems like the best option.)
Considering the way the o-sound has evolved in Swedish, using this stave is not as simple as it looks. Three possible sound-values for Othala exist (ranging from most to least appropriate):
In my correspondence with Mr. Smith, he has argued in favor of a minimalist approach to runic transcription: letting a single stave to represent many related sounds, and leaving the reader to puzzle out the context. Purely magical inscriptions may need to be this cryptic, so he does have a valid point in that case. However, some runic inscriptions (ancient and modern) are longer texts that contain mostly ordinary words. This type of inscription ought to be easier for an average Heathen to decipher: that does not have to mean following a Roman-to-runic transliteration slavishly, but it might mean using different spellings for similar-sounding words that might be misunderstood.
What does all this have to do with transcribing Swedish in particular? The conventional Swedish alphabet includes three vowels (å, ä, ö) not found in English. Although å/o and ä/e sound very similar at times, the spelling does distinguish meaning: sed tradition and säd seed are different words, but they could be confused if a runester spelled both as sed in the same inscription.
Is it possible to distinguish these sounds when the need arises, without inventing totally new symbols? In my opinion, the answer is YES. Even in Viking times, people extended the use of existing runes in two main ways.
Spelling and pronunciation coincide more often in Swedish than they do in English, so most of the consonant-runes are straightforward even in a phonetically based transcription. Only a few potential misuses arise, such as including silent letters or ignoring "hard" vs. "soft" consonantsbut those will be discussed under the individual letters.
This stave has two possible uses in Swedish:
The sound represented by this runeth as in English "thing"-- no longer exists in Swedish. The only "mundane" use for Thurisaz would be transcribing Old Norse proper names. Two examples come to mind:
Using this rune correctly is trickier than it seems, especially in a Scandinavian language like Swedish. Old Norse originally had TWO distinct r-sounds: One of them (represented by Raidho) had been r since Primitive Germanic times, and the other (represented by Elhaz) developed from an earlier z-sound. This z-turned-r appeared only in certain grammatical endings, however; it was never part of a word stem. (I will list these endings under the Elhaz rune itself.)
Unless you are writing a word with one of those endings, Raidho is always the correct rune for the Swedish r-sound: rida rida ride; bara bara only; finger fiNerfinger.
Again, Swedish pronunciation makes using this rune harder than it seems. The language has both a "hard" k-sound (the one normally associated with k in English) and a "soft" one used before certain vowels (it resembles the "soft" ch in German ich). Only the "hard" sound, in my opinion, should be transcribed with a Kenaz-rune standing alone. Even then, the rune can correspond to several Roman-alphabet spellings
As for transcribing the Swedish soft k, I prefer using the sequence Kenaz+Jera--not Hagalaz, as Mr. Smith suggested for the German "ich-sound". (Swedish does not have the corresponding "hard", guttural ch as in German ach; besides, the kj spelling reflects the way this sound developed historically.) Whether or not the present Roman-alphabet spelling has kj- in a word, I use the runic equivalent consistently: kjol kjol skirt looks as a Swede would expect, but kärna kjerna core gets one extra letter in runes.
One last note to English-speaking people: Swedes DO pronounce k in the combination kn-, so a Kenaz-rune should be retained when transcribing it. The words knekt knekt soldier and knut knut knot sound as they are conventionally spelled.
This rune, too, is likely to be misused because of conventional Roman-alphabet spelling. In Swedish, the letter g has five possible sound valuesonly ONE of which should be spelled as Gebo.
In Old Norse, two things happened to the w-sound which this rune originally represented. Before some vowels, the w disappeared altogether: this explains the difference in English/Swedish pairs such as "word" and ord, "wonder" and under. Otherwise the w became a v in all the Scandinavian languages (see the examples in the next paragraph).
Because of this sound change, it is possible to use Wunjo as a distinct stave for Swedish v: vilja wilja will[power]; vatten watn water; svensk swensk Swede (n.); Swedish (adj.). However, if the v is NOT at the beginning of a word (or part of a cluster like sv-), chances are good that the word had either a b (Berkano) or an f (Fehu) in Primitive Germanic. The letter that spelled the original sound might be more appropriate then; but if I had to choose a single Elder Futhark rune to represent v in a Scandinavian language, Wunjo would be that rune.
Finally, a simple rune compared to all the others I have discussed so far! Its only sound value is h, which Swedes pronounce the same way Americans usually do: hem hem home; hund hund dog. (For the combination hj-, see my notes under Jera.)
The same rules for using this rune correctly apply in both English and Swedish: it stands ONLY for the n sound of "night" or "thin". (The Swedish equivalents of those words are natt nat and tunn tun respectively.)
For the combination ng- (as in "sing"), the only correct Elder Futhark equivalent is Ingwaz. The nk- combination should also use Ingwaz for n, because that IS the way people pronounce it: blank shining should be spelled blaNk in runes.
Someone who knows no Swedish might think that using this rune is pretty straightforward. It is the obvious equivalent of j in a word like jaga jaga hunt; but other ways of spelling that sound exist:
As straightforward as its Roman-alphabet equivalent, for once: this rune stands for the p sound in pappa papa (no translation needed here!). Swedish does not have any letter combinations like ph- which might lead to misusing this rune.
As Mr. Smith mentioned in his original paper, this rune occurs ONLY in grammatical endings which had a z in Primitive Germanic. Where have those endings survived in Modern Swedish? All over the language--
Note: The vowel-rune can be omitted in an er ending (as shown in the examples above). However, I would NOT omit it in any other vowel-plus-r grammatical ending: the unstressed a and o still have distinct sounds in Swedish. I would also retain the vowel in comparative (a)re, which should be distinguished from er in some words. (Högre higher and höger right [as opposed to left] come to mind )
If a plural r and a possessive s occur in the same word, the situation becomes awkward. Using two Elhaz-runes in a row looks wrong, and using a single one to cover both suffixes is misleading. Then, and ONLY then, would I allow a runester to spell one of the endings "incorrectly" (his choice of which, though I tend to pick the s possessive myself): alla gudars namn ala1gudazs1namn the names of all gods.
Also, keep in mind that not every grammatical ending with an r in it had a z in Primitive Germanic. The are suffix used to indicate the performer of an action was originally taken from Latin. It had an r in that position to begin with, so nouns with that suffix should use Raidho (not Elhaz) there: krigare krigare warrior, älskare elskare lover.
This is the correct rune for s in most situations (the possessive s has already been covered above, however). Swedish lacks the voiced s/z sound that exists in West Germanic languages, so transcribing that one really isnt an issue.
On the other hand, one particular Swedish sound (which foreigners usually have trouble pronouncing!) can be spelled in a number of ways, most of which involve s plus some other consonant: sj, sk, skj, or stj. In a runic inscription based on sound rather than Roman-letter spelling, I would consistently write this sound as Sowilo plus Jera: själ sjel soul; skilja sjilja separate; skjul sjul shed; stjärna sjerna star.
Using this stave correctly is simpler in Swedish than in English: it represents the sound at the beginning of words like tala tala speak and träd tred tree. Modern Swedish lacks the th-sounds in English "that thing", so transcribing them should not normally be an issue. (Purists might still want to use Thurisaz for spelling some Norse names in an inscription, as I have noted under that rune.)
The combination tj- was originally pronounced as written. However, it now sounds like the "soft" ch in German ich (or the kj combination/"soft k" used in other Swedish words). Theoretically, it COULD be written Kenaz+Jera in runes; but some dialects do have a noticeable t-sound in words that begin with tj-. Not everyone pronounces tjära tjera tar and kära kjera dear [pl.] exactly alike
In Modern Swedish inscriptions, Berkano has two uses:
The sound value of this rune is the same in English and Swedish inscriptions: morgon morgon morning; komma koma come. English-speaking people should note, however, that Swedes DO pronounce m in the combination mn (and the runic spelling should reflect that): namn namn name.
This rune represents the l sound in land land (no translation needed); mellan melan between; and hel hel whole. The letter l is silent in a few conventional spellings, however, so NO stave should be used there
While discussing MISuses of some other runes, I have already given some situations where Ingwaz would be called for in transcribing Swedish. I will repeat them here for the sake of completeness.
In a Swedish inscription, Dagaz represents ONLY the hard d sound: its namesake-word, dag day, would be written in full as dag. The only potential misuse I can see is in the combination dj- at the beginning of a word. Because the d is silent then, NO stave should be used to represent it: djup jup deep; djärv jerf bold.
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