Don’t read too much into the runes

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Runic inscriptions, particularly those dedicated to the deceased, generally commence with a reference to its initiator and furthermore mentions the (usually highly regarded) rune writer by name, before the person that the monument is dedicated to is even named or related to his/her actions or the way he/she met his/her death. Language-wise the formulation is characterised by full sentences with action verbs mostly in the active voice. It is argued that the register of the inscriptions has much in common with oral narrative, which in itself has several iconic characteristics, such as taking the ‘I’ as point of departure, employing action verbs to describe activities and dealing with events in their order of occurrence. Therefore if certain distinctions between signifier and signified were not sharply drawn in the minds of those erecting memorials, signifier and signified must necessarily resemble each other to a sufficient extent to have an iconic relationship. The persistent presence and prominence of the initiator of the memorial and the rune writer in the inscriptions create the impression that the very raising and inscribing of a stone was tantamount to honouring the deceased, and therefore one and the same act.


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