Oath formulas in the Poetic Edda

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2017-07-03

Authors

Reis, Jacob Robert

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Abstract

This study examines oaths in the ON Poetic Edda primarily from a linguistic and rhetorical standpoint with the aim of deducing syntactic-rhetorical formulas for oath swearing. As J. Grimm (1816) said and Hibbitts (1992) reiterated, poetic formulations in oral performance cultures may have had mnemonic functions and likely closely resembled real performance, which lends further validity and benefit to this project. This report begins with an examination of the relevant scholarly literature on oaths from Indo-European through ON. Four examples of oaths from the Poetic Edda are then presented, compared, and read with rhetorical and syntactic strategies to discover the formulas. A discussion section presents three evident conclusions on the structure of oath formulas: oaths are indeed formulaic, formula pieces can be optional but ordering does not change, and certain morpho-syntactic choices are intricately tied to the setting of oaths. Finally, directions for future research are suggested.

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