how to read runic inscriptions

how-to,Linguistik,VGS — 22. Aug 2009
  1. make yourself comfortable in your living room and drink a bottle of wine (or two)
  2. by the time you finish the wine, you probably had at least one brilliant idea about the meaning of the inscription (which you only had a brief look at on a blurry, black and white photograph)
  3. flip through some old germanic dictionaries looking for words that might fit your interpretation. don’t worry if the words don’t look like the words in the inscription – you will see how to fix that in the next two steps
  4. make some wild phonological and morphological assumptions required to make the words you want to read look more like what is actually on the stone/object. feel free to use any endings you may find in any of the germanic languages, and combine them with any stem you may seem fit. if you can’t find the endings you need, you simply make up new ones and call them “old variants inherited from PIE” (cite some arbitray sanskrit forms to prove that these endings really existed). if you run into chronological problems, simply claim that the archeological dating must be wrong, or rearrange the established chronology of sound laws in any way you please.
  5. make any further assumptions needed for your interpretation. choose from among the following:
    • you may read any single rune as a “begriffsrune”, no matter if it stands separately, at the beginning, the end, or even in the middle of a word
    • don’t worry about word boundaries: you may read them as i-runes whenever it suits your needs, declare them as scratches or just ignore them altogether
    • conveniently, ornaments can always be read as runes and vice versa
    • feel free to ignore any runes, even if they are clearly visible, add elements (twigs, crooks) to existing runes, or claim that you can see runes, even if there is nothing there on the photograph to justify it. If you are still in need of an additional rune, you can claim that the rune master simply forgot to write it. you may also replace any rune with another one and call it a “misspelling”. remember: doubts are best covered up by bold claims!
  6. call any remaining parts of the inscription “magical words”
  7. publish!


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