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charl
May 30th, 2011, 09:24 PM
IOTL the runes of the Norse peoples were eventually phased out in favour of the Latin alphabet (though it stayed around for a remarkably long time in certain isolated parts of Scandinavia).

How can we make this not happen and have the runic alphabet keep being used as the main writing system in the Nordic countries all the way into the modern era? After all Cyrillic did fine as a parallel alphabet with the Latin one, and the Greeks manage to keep their alphabet as well, so it isn't unprecedented that it could happen in Europe.

Presumably the reason Cyrillic and the Greek alphabet did stay on was that they had religions backing them (Russian and Greek orthodox churches respectively), whereas the Norse went all Catholic in the 11th-12th centuries. Do you guys think that we'd have to find a way to make the Norse not convert in order to preserve their writing system, or might there be another way?

Obviously writing systems change over time and I am by no means thinking we have to preserve the use of the futhark here, but some kind of successor or otherwise runic based alphabet ought to be possible I'm thinking.

Sandmannius
May 30th, 2011, 11:21 PM
Bump for interest.

robertp6165
May 31st, 2011, 12:16 AM
IOTL the runes of the Norse peoples were eventually phased out in favour of the Latin alphabet (though it stayed around for a remarkably long time in certain isolated parts of Scandinavia).

How can we make this not happen and have the runic alphabet keep being used as the main writing system in the Nordic countries all the way into the modern era? After all Cyrillic did fine as a parallel alphabet with the Latin one, and the Greeks manage to keep their alphabet as well, so it isn't unprecedented that it could happen in Europe.

Presumably the reason Cyrillic and the Greek alphabet did stay on was that they had religions backing them (Russian and Greek orthodox churches respectively), whereas the Norse went all Catholic in the 11th-12th centuries. Do you guys think that we'd have to find a way to make the Norse not convert in order to preserve their writing system, or might there be another way?

Obviously writing systems change over time and I am by no means thinking we have to preserve the use of the futhark here, but some kind of successor or otherwise runic based alphabet ought to be possible I'm thinking.

As long as they convert to Roman Catholicism, the church will promote the use of the Latin alphabet, and since the church controlled the education system in the Middle Ages, what they say will go.

One idea about how to circumvent this is if somehow you can get a surviving and competitive Arianism that survives long enough, you could possibly have the Norse convert to Arianism and the Arian Church hierarchy and education system promote the use of the runic scripts. But of course, such a change would mean basically a completely different Europe by the 12th century.

Swan Station
May 31st, 2011, 03:44 AM
Well, it is interesting to see how long they lasted, I understand they were still in use in the 16th century (even if in small pockets, as you say). Which gives me an idea:

Could the Reformation lead to a Swedish Church (could still be Lutheranism) with a bit more nationalist base, such that the church decides to take on a runic alphabet for it's ecclesiastical writings?

corditeman
May 31st, 2011, 07:57 AM
...Basic futhorc has only 16 letters. The two extant futharcs (7th-8th cent, 8th-9th cent) had up to 33 symbols. The Swedish 1600s futhorc was a military cipher.

If you can make a furtharc into a written trade-language (a litera franca?), then it might just survive. One problem is that Simon Dee, pesticide, made-up 'runes' for astrology/sorcery that are a load of bunk and bear no resemblance to reality. Runes became regarded as sorcerous and un-Christian, although the futharc survives on shaft-crosses as evidence of Christian usage. A surviving English Pelagian heresy in the British Isles could have done it - change either the Synod of Whitby or 1066, or ensure Cnut's North Sea Empire survives into present day.

yourworstnightmare
May 31st, 2011, 08:16 AM
Perhaps it could survive on Iceland and the Faeroe Islands.

Last of the Stuarts
May 31st, 2011, 09:26 AM
Perhaps it could survive on Iceland and the Faeroe Islands.

I think this is the most likely way for it to survive. If it was taken with the Vikings to Iceland, Greenland and Vineland then it could be rediscovered in the Age of Exploration as the Native Americans could use it.

yourworstnightmare
May 31st, 2011, 09:30 AM
I think this is the most likely way for it to survive. If it was taken with the Vikings to Iceland, Greenland and Vineland then it could be rediscovered in the Age of Exploration as the Native Americans could use it.
Why? The Native Americans pretty much wiped out the Viking settlers before they even took a look at anything resembling a writing system.

However, thinking of the relative isolation of Iceland and the Faeroe Islands, it surviving there is plausible. Especially if we can mange to isolate them even more than OTL.

Hkelukka
May 31st, 2011, 10:09 AM
Best bet to do this is a unified Scandinavia under some form of kingdom rule. That would have a vested interest in maintaining a separately controlled church.

Imagine a Scandinavia that is controlled by a Danish king by around 900AD and decides to convert to christianity and forms a new christianity. To get that going a runic bible should be written.

Its a long shot but a good opportunist king that unifies Scandinavia and then does something similar to the reformation. Limited to Scandinavia and the north German coastline + Parts of N-Isles. Not sure if that would be feasible but would be a interesting timeline.

charl
May 31st, 2011, 10:48 AM
Well, it is interesting to see how long they lasted, I understand they were still in use in the 16th century (even if in small pockets, as you say). Which gives me an idea:

Could the Reformation lead to a Swedish Church (could still be Lutheranism) with a bit more nationalist base, such that the church decides to take on a runic alphabet for it's ecclesiastical writings?

By the time of the reformation the runic alphabet was already in disuse. The only places that still used them at that point was the Elfdalians and certain isolated Icelandic communities, and they only did so internally (aka, when writing for themselves and not outsiders).

The idea of a nationalist revival of some sort, based on religion or writing systems or language or whatnot is a bit too early IMO. That sort of thing only really started happening in the 19th century. Nationalism before that was more about being loyal to a particular king than any culture or ethnicity, and the kings of Sweden wanted to be as Continental as possible for diplomatic purposes if nothing else.

Perhaps it could survive on Iceland and the Faeroe Islands.

It did for a couple of centuries apparently. Iceland strikes me as a more viable alternative. If you could somehow get the king of Norway and later Denmark not be interested in Iceland or you could somehow make the Icelandic resist conversion to Christianity then I could maybe see a situation where runes could stay in use on Iceland.

I think this is the most likely way for it to survive. If it was taken with the Vikings to Iceland, Greenland and Vineland then it could be rediscovered in the Age of Exploration as the Native Americans could use it.

A native American-Norse interaction and the possible spreading of written language as a result of it has been discussed in other threads quite extensively. There are several factors speaking against it establishing much of a presence, mainly that there aren't very many media available for the native to write upon. Wood is the only viable alternative, or bark, but it's perishable and fragile which has its own sets of problems. And regardless such a writing system wouldn't be "proper runic", if you will, as it would have to be adapted for use on wood (which granted the runes already are very good for) and it would change fundamentally from the cultural clash and the fact that the material used to write it with wouldn't last for very long.

Best bet to do this is a unified Scandinavia under some form of kingdom rule. That would have a vested interest in maintaining a separately controlled church.

Imagine a Scandinavia that is controlled by a Danish king by around 900AD and decides to convert to christianity and forms a new christianity. To get that going a runic bible should be written.

Its a long shot but a good opportunist king that unifies Scandinavia and then does something similar to the reformation. Limited to Scandinavia and the north German coastline + Parts of N-Isles. Not sure if that would be feasible but would be a interesting timeline.

Unifying Scandinavia in 900 is a bit ambitious to say the least. But an alternate Norse Christianity (or Christian-Norse syncretic alternative would be nice) could be just what is needed to keep the runes alive. If Russia and Greece is any indication a Norse Orthodox church would also do the trick. I'll have to discuss that with Dan (I think it was) who was making a timeline about a Fenno-Swedish orthodox church and its liturgical language.

Hkelukka
May 31st, 2011, 11:26 AM
Very ambitious, and very unlikely to succeed. But I suppose instead of going to the Isles and dying http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harald_Hardrada Would succeed in his conquest of Denmark. And be a little less obnoxious at that and actually get the Danes to like him. Followed by taking Sweden.

Follow that up with a sort of cult of personality thing and a new bible and you might be set. Unlikely to work of course but I suppose it would be possible.

carlton_bach
May 31st, 2011, 12:30 PM
I think it is eassier than having a major political upheaval. Increased vernacular literacy might be enough. From what we know, Germanic societies had very little use for vernacular literacy and revered feats of memory. We know, however, that vernacular languages were routinely written during the Viking age, and I suspect our evidence is really the tip of the iceberg. An earlier development of this type might do it. Runic was alive and well e.g. in Anglo-Saxon England. If its status was just a bit higher, it could become more widely used to write down Aenglisc. Or the continental kingdoms could adopt it for their vernacular writing (which IOTL seems to pretty much not have happened until the ninth or tenth century). Of course that does not mean it will remain the primary writing system - more likely, it will still be displaced by the Latin alphabet simply because that remains the favoured tool of the interregional elites - but it is quite probable that pockets of Runic will survive in folk tradition until such time as anntiquarian interest and national pride can rescue it.

charl
May 31st, 2011, 12:38 PM
Hmm...

That bit about England gave me an idea. What is Canute bring the runic alphabet with him to England, and forces it upon the population? His kingdom lasts longer than it did OTL and eventually the Danes are absorbed into the population and the kings become nativised (like with the Normands IOTL). The English then declares their own church over some kind of dispute with the pope. The English eventually come to dominate Britain as IOTL, and in the equivalent to the modern era ITTL the British still use a runic alphabet long after the Scandinavians stopped using them themselves?

Emperor Qianlong
May 31st, 2011, 12:45 PM
I think it is eassier than having a major political upheaval. Increased vernacular literacy might be enough. From what we know, Germanic societies had very little use for vernacular literacy and revered feats of memory. We know, however, that vernacular languages were routinely written during the Viking age, and I suspect our evidence is really the tip of the iceberg. An earlier development of this type might do it. Runic was alive and well e.g. in Anglo-Saxon England. If its status was just a bit higher, it could become more widely used to write down Aenglisc. Or the continental kingdoms could adopt it for their vernacular writing (which IOTL seems to pretty much not have happened until the ninth or tenth century). Of course that does not mean it will remain the primary writing system - more likely, it will still be displaced by the Latin alphabet simply because that remains the favoured tool of the interregional elites - but it is quite probable that pockets of Runic will survive in folk tradition until such time as anntiquarian interest and national pride can rescue it.

Actually, we do not know how well-used the runic writing system was used by early Germanic societies. It must have been wider-used than we expect. One big reason to assume so is the origin of the Runic alphabet: while it's origins are obscure, the most likely source is the Etruscan alphabet, very likely by intermediate stage of the Celtic-speaking peoples in the Alps and along the Danube who also used the Etruscan alphabet to write their own languages. In any case, we have several centuries to bridge there (between the demise of the Etruscans until the first attestation of the Runic alphabet), during which the Runic alphabet must have been refined and spread.