Mythological Names and dróttkvætt Formulae III: From Metric-Structural Type to Compositional System


  • - Frog Folklore Studies / Department of Philosophy, History, Culture and Art Studies, University of Helsinki, P.O. Box 59 (Unioninkatu 38 A), 00014 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 third 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 study concentrates on two-element kennings meaning ‘battle’. The first part in this series introduced the approach to kennings as semantic formulae and illustrated their formulaicity through evidence of the preferred lexical choices with which they were realised. The second part presented a case study illustrating that preferred word choices could extend beyond the kenning to additional elements in the line like rhyme words. The third case study presented here concentrates on the potential for a formula of this type to develop a general preference for elements of the kenning to come from one semantic category rather than another without such choices being metrically motivated per se.


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