Although (North) Germanic languages are known to have been in close contact with Finnic and Sámi languages throughout their history, to my knowledge no systematic attempts have been made to identify possible Finno-Ugric elements in runic inscriptions. This may in part reflect assumptions about linguistic and cultural contacts that appear outdated in the light of recent developments in archaeology, onomastics and contact linguistics.
Olsen and Bergsland’s (1943) suggestion that the 12th c. spade from Indriðastaðir, Iceland, contained the Sámi word (bohtit ‘to come’, spelled boattiat) was emphatically rejected by the runological community but persists as lore in Sámi circles (see Willson 2012).
Antonsen’s (2002:114) offhand suggestion that ahti in a 4th c. strapring from Nydam, Denmark, represents the Finnish heroic/divine name Ahti has been quoted (e.g. Grünzweig 2004: 85-86) as warranting further investigation.
I will discuss the methodological issues that must be addressed in assessing a proposed Finnic or Sámi interpretation. In order for a non-Germanic interpretation to be regarded as defensible, the following must all be plausible:
- The linguistic forms for all languages concerned for the time and place
- The mapping between letter-forms and phonetic strings
- The meaning of the inscription in the context of runic writing practice Proposed name elements must be assessed in the context of the naming systems of the languages involved. Preferably there should be archaeological, onomastic or documentary evidence for contacts in the relevant area.