Rune: A computer program for interpretation of rune stones

Research output: Working paper


The language on Swedish rune stones written in the 16 character alphabet (futhark) constitutes a very special fragment of the Swedish of its time (about 800-1100). Because of the ritual character of the inscriptions the language is rather standardized. The greatest variation is in proper names. As has long been noted the typical formula is (in English translation): N raised this stone after M his P, where N and M are personal names and P is a kinship term. Additional sentences may state where the person died, e.g. He fell in Greece. Depending on the success of the new religion the formula God help his soul is sometimes also added (for safety). There are about 3000 rune stones with text of this type. The purpose of this paper is to describe a computer program which is able to interpret such typical rune stone texts and translate them into Modern Swedish. In a first step the runes are transliterated into Latin letters. The second step is the parsing of the transliterated text resulting in a functionalsemantic representation showing the analysis in terms of subject, predicate, objects and adverbials functional roles) in addition to word meanings according to Swetra grammar. In a third step this functional representation is then used as an intermediate language (interlingua) in an automatic translation into Modern Swedish. The program may also be run in the other direction translating Modern Swedish into runes. Some stones are offered for demonstration.


  • Bengt Sigurd
  • Johan Dahl
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • General Language Studies and Linguistics
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1997
Publication categoryResearch

Publication series

NameWorking Papers, Lund University, Dept. of Linguistics
ISSN (Print)0280-526X

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