Dr Martin Findell

Contact details

Email:  martin.findell (at) nottingham.ac.uk

Martin is now an Associate Professor in Historical Linguistics at the University of Nottingham.


Dialects in Diaspora:  Linguistic variation in early Anglo-Saxon England

Project summary

This project re-examines the available evidence for the language of the early Anglo-Saxon period (commonly labelled 'pre-Old English'), c.400-700 AD. The body of evidence is very small: it consists most importantly of runic inscriptions (many of them difficult to interpret), and personal names in a few coin legends, charters and non-runic inscriptions datable (possibly) to the late 7th century. To understand the language of this early period we have relied to a large extent on reconstruction from later records of Old English and related languages. The traditional methods of reconstruction, however, tend to treat the early material as belonging to a single, essentially uniform language. In this project I am treating each textual witness as part of a set of closely related language varieties, and trying to incorporate insights from other branches of linguistics to help us understand how the dialects of early settlers interacted with one another, and with the language(s) of the Romano-British population.

Other research interests

The Loveden Hill Urn: Working with Dominic Powlesland at the Landscape Research Centre and with permission of the Trustees of the British Museum, we have produced a dynamic 3D model of the 6th C  Loveden Hill cremation urn, which carries one of the earliest texts in Old English.
Click here for more information.

Although my main focus is on runic inscriptions as pieces of linguistic evidence, I am also interested in the reception and use of the runic script in modern times. I have presented a number of papers on the occult interpretations of runes produced by members of the völkisch movement in German and Austria during the Wilhelmine period.

I am also concerned with the problems of interpreting small written corpora (where quantitative analysis is not possible), and with the relationship between written and spoken forms of language. I am currently involved in the international collaborative project 'Reading and interpreting runic inscriptions:  the theory and method of runology', based at the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters in Oslo.

Along with colleagues from the Diasporas team, I have been involved in activities to support the British Museum's exhibition 'Vikings: Life and Legend'.  I participated in the Vikings Live broadcast shown at cinemas across the UK and worldwide, and helped the Museum's web team to 'runify' their website (try typing 'go berserk' into the search box).  A guest post I wrote for the Museum blog is available here.


Runes (London: British Museum, 2014). ISBN 978-0714180298.

Review of Michael P. Barnes, Runes: A Handbook (2012). History 98(333): 769-770.  DOI:  10.1111/1468-229X.12042.

'The Germanic diphthongs in the Continental runic inscriptions.' Futhark 3 (2013): 45-58.

'From Hávamál to racial hygiene: Guido List’s Das Geheimnis der Runen, "The Secret of the Runes".' In Christina Lee and Nicola McLelland (eds.): Germania Remembered 1500-2009: commemorating and inventing a Germanic past. (Tucson, AZ: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2013), pp. 249-269.

Phonological Evidence from the Continental Runic Inscriptions. Ergänzungsbände zum Reallexikon der germanischen Altertumskunde 79 (Berlin: de Gruyter 2012).  ISBN 978-3-11-025934-6

'East Germanic and West Germanic in contact: n-stem personal names in the Continental runic inscriptions.' In Judith Mills and Marjolein Stern (eds.): North and South, East and West: Movements in the Medieval World, Proceedings of the 2nd Postgraduate Conference of the Institute of Medieval Research, University of Nottingham. http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/Medieval/Publications/NorthandSouth,EastandWest.aspx (2010).

'The "Book of Enoch", the Angelic Alphabet and the "Real Cabbala" in the Angelic Conferences of John Dee (1527-1608/9).' Henry Sweet Society Bulletin 48 (2007): 7-22.

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