Heill Llama!

> The accented letters in your message got a bit garbled at the
Yahoo website, so I've filled in what I *think* you wrote; I
hope I haven't made any major mistakes; knowing our luck, they'll
probably just get garbled all over again :-)

Yes :-) It doesn't help that I'm hopping from machine to machine,

> Yes, 'skrifa' is ultimately from Latin 'scrîbere' "to write",
and 'lesa' a loan translation of Latin 'legere' "to gather" -- not
part of the inherited Germanic terminology for reading and writing.
(Incidentally, I first learnt that from a book that was published of
the letters of JRR Tolkien. In one he writes about how he
mistakenly used the Gothic cognate 'lisan' in one of his early
attemots to write in Gothic, before he learnt that Go. 'lisan' still
only meant "to gather".)

Interesting. It's sad that no Nordic tongue preserves the original
terminology here in modern times.

> I suppose they must have been taken into Old Norse from German
missionaries (compare Old Saxon 'scrîban', with crossed 'b', and
'lesan'). In this respect, English was more conservative than
Continental West Germanic and clung on to its native terms: 'read'
and 'write'.

Technically, these terms should be used in Nordic tongues as well.
Of course, they will never be re-introduced, even if they are the
correct terms, not even in Icelandic.

> On the other hand, Modern English 'rune' isn't a direct descendent
of Old English 'rún', but was reintroduced in the 17th century from
the Old Norse word. The native word survived into Middle
English as 'roun'; the last citations in the Oxford English
dictionary are from about 1400. If it had survived, we'd most
likely spell it 'rown' and rhyme it with 'brown' < OE brún. The
related verb 'rúnian' "whisper, mutter, murmur; talk privately, give
counsel" survived into Early Modern English, eventually acquiring
a 'd' to become 'round' (not related to the word
meaning "circular"!); it's now obsolete in Standard English.

Rown sounds nice. Read ye english rowns, good men of the land :-)

> In Old English, the simplex 'rún' has the senses 'whisper; mystery;
secret' [ http://beowulf.engl.uky.edu/%7Ekiernan/BT/bosworth.htm ].
A runic letter is 'rúnstæf', as in Béowulf: 'rúnstafas rihte gemearcod'
"runestaves marked aright" (on the hilt of a sword). There are a few
examples from late Old English and Middle English of 'rún' with the
meaning "runic letter", and I think it's been suggested that these
might be due to Old Norse influence, but I guess we can't be sure
about that. These include the collocation 'rúne wrítan', and the Old
English ltranslation of Bede's History renders 'litteras solutorias'
as 'alýsendlecan rúne' "loosening letters", magical characters
supposed to have the power of freeing someone from fetters. In some
other examples from late OE and ME, it even has the meaning "book,
writing, epistle".

Interesting. Yahoo is rejecting the special runes, but I am doing my
best to read them ;-)

> In Old Saxon 'rûn' is "counsel, conference"; in Old High German
"whisper; mystery; letter" (which should make us wary of discounting
the possibility that letter was among the meanings inherited from
very early times). Gothic 'rûn' translates Greek
MUSTERION "mystery"; BOULH "descision"; BOULH, SUMBOULION "counsel,
plan, plot", either consultation and planning made between people,
or the secret plans in people's hearts (in the sense of a
consultation between people, SUMBOULION, 'rûn' appears to be
synonymous with 'ga-rûni'). Besides this, there is the
compound 'haliurunnas' = Lat. 'magas mulieries' "witches" in
Jordanes (i.e. *halja-rûnôs, cognate with Old English
'hellerúnan' "witches, wizards"; Old High German 'helli-rûna'

> There are no examples of Go. 'rûn' used with the meaning "letter"
(which of course doesn't rule out anything, given the smallness of
the surviving corpus, and the fact that most regions where Gothic was
spoken are completely unrepresented); instead we have 'bôka' "letter
of the alphabet; document, deed, charter" and in the plural "book,
scripture". Greek ANAGNWSIS is translated in the Gothic Bibles as
'saggws boko', literally "singing of letters / book-singing",
ANAGINWSKEIN "to read" by 'siggwan bôkô' "to sing letters / to sing a
book or books". Go. 'us-siggwan' "read, recite" (literally "sing
out") corresponds to Greek ANAGNWNAI, Latin 'legere'. On English
'book', the OED comments: "The original meaning was evidently
`writing-tablet, leaf, or sheet': cf. Venantius Fortunatus Carm. vii.
18, 19 `barbara fraxineis pingatur runa tabellis', also OS. thia bôk
the writing-tablet, `pugillaris' Luke i. 63 (in Heliand 232, 235),
OE. bóc charter: in pl. tablets, written sheets, hence `book,' a sense
subseq. extended to the singular." And Old Norse 'bók' also has that
sense of fabric, textile: 'boekr váru þínar inar bláhvítu...'

Yes, Norse preserved this sense, just like it preserved 'read and
write' down to the introduction of Latin writing, and even longer in
inscriptions. Of course, the above mentioned sense of 'book' is long
since dead, as I'm sure that you know. I wouldn't expect the Gothic
term 'rune' to occur in the extant corpus with the meaning 'letter',
so it hardly surprises me that it does not occur, even if it is an
original and basic meaning of the word.

> All this seems to point to a native tradition of writing on bark,
which ties in nicely with the early Slavic birch bark inscriptions we
mentioned recently. The OED casts doubt on this idea, saying "there
are great difficulties in reconciling the early forms of the two
words, seeing that bôk-s `writing-tablet' is the most primitive of
all." Presumably the thinking there is that *'bôk-s' looks like the
more basic form, *'bôkjôn' the derivative, but I can't really see
that this is such a big problem that it disqualifies the idea.
Maybe the term for the tree became the regular word for a piece of
bark used for writing, then later a derivative was coined to refer
more specifically to the tree; any number of twists and turns in
sense could have happened, with words from the same root becoming
more generalised or more restricted:

> "I saw some book in the forest today."
> "What was it about?"
> "No, I mean the still growing kind of book, you know, a book-tree,
a beech."

:-) Yes. Compare ON 'bjarkan', the name of the b-rune. It also seems
clear to me that the oldest native tradition was writing on the bark
of the birch. I don't think that the term 'lesa' occurs in any of
the extant inscriptions, but perhaps it can be found in a very late
inscription (not sure). On the other hand, 'read' is frequent. One
of my favourites is 'sa skal runar rista es rada uel kunni' (found
in Norway - taking no chances with Yahoo here - 'he shal cut runes
who well can read them'). Both 'rista' and '(v)rita' are attested in
inscription, the former more common due to the materials on which
the runes occur. 'hoggva', 'marka', etc. also occur. Technically,
the term '(v)rita'(long i, strong declension, later weak) is the
most correct Norse term for writing on paper, being mostly a kind of
synonym for 'rista' (long) in inscriptions (X (v)reit runar - 'X
wrote the runes'), probably also on the ancient 'vaxspjald', a few
examples of which have survived (it was a specially shaped wooden
board with a raised frame around the edges, onto which wax was
poured and then written on when the wax had dried - in this way, one
could erase mistakes easily, as well as take out the wax tablet and
pour in new wax, if the 'writ' was to be kept). Speaking of 'writ',
there rare Norse term '(v)rit' (long i, fem.conson.-stem) survives
as a term for a shield, presumably because pictures (and runes) were
often painted on shields. In earlier, but likely unattested use, the
term = English 'writ', as can be seem by it's transfer to painted,
or runic, shields. One can also easily see how this term could also
be taken to mean 'book'.


> LN