Mythological Names and dróttkvætt Formulae II: Base-Word-Determinant Indexing


  • - Frog Folklore Studies / Department of Philosophy, History, Culture and Art Studies, University of Helsinki



oral poetry, variation, formula, skaldic poetry, dróttkvætt, kenning


This article explores patterns of language use in oral poetry within a variety of semantic formula. Such a formula may vary its surface texture in relation to phonic demands of the metrical environment in which it is realised. This is the second part of a four-part series based on metrically entangled kennings in Old Norse dróttkvætt poetry as primary material. Old Norse kennings present a semantic formula of a particular type which is valuable as an example owing to the extremes of textural variation that it enables. The first part in this series introduced the approach to kennings as semantic formulae and included an illustrative case study on kennings meaning ‘battle’ realising the last three metrical positions of a dróttkvætt line. This demonstrated that lexical variation in realising these formulae varied according to functional equivalence across semantic categories. The present case study advances this discussion through the examination of the metrical entanglement of the lexicon in realising the semantic formula. On the one hand, it presents evidence of the associative indexing of lexical items realising a battle-kenning of this particular metric-structural type: certain kenning base-words exhibit a preferred semantic category of determinant. On the other hand, it also presents evidence of the associative indexing of lexical items that are used for realising the metrically required rhyme in a position in the line that is outside of the semantic formula: certain kenning base-words exhibit co-occurrence with a particular rhyme-word.


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