Around the turn of the last Millennium, two papers published by Judith Jesch and Anders Andrén respectively expressed the idea that the visual proximity of words in Swedish runic inscriptions of the 11th century may have been more than a mere coincidence. Both researchers argued independently that the Swedish rune-carvers of the Late Viking Age intentionally placed words which were not connected grammatically next to each other to create new meaning. If this assumption turned out to be true, it would have severe consequences for our understanding of how runes were read in the Viking Age. A linear reading process following a sequence of lines or the loops of a rune-band would then omit facets of meaning at least, if not extensively distorting the whole content of the inscription. Moreover, the modern scholarly methods of interpreting runic inscriptions practiced normally would turn out to be highly inappropriate; many results of runology achieved so far could then be questioned.
Bearing these implications in mind, it is not surprising that the assumptions outlined above (especially those by Andrén) were painstakingly checked and heavily criticized by multiple runologists. The two main arguments were that on the one hand far-reaching assumptions as these must be based on analyzing a representative corpus as a whole and not a set of deliberately chosen examples, and that on the other hand it is nearly impossible to distinguish whether the proximity of words was arranged intentionally by the carver or happened accidentally.
To address the second argument, one feature of 11th-century runic culture in Sweden promises to be exceptionally interesting. In a few instances, multiple rune-stones bearing near-identical inscriptions were erected by the same sponsor to commemorate one person, and sometimes these monuments were even executed by the same carver. If the placing of words in each other’s proximity was a stylistic device to create meaning employed by Viking Age rune-carvers, one should expect to find identical visual patterns of related words on the aforementioned multiple monuments. In my paper, I would like to examine these particular cases, trying to find out whether the technique of word-placing proves to be a means of expression of Viking-Age Scandinavians so far overlooked or a slight case of modern over-interpretation.