The text-building function of names and nicknames in 'Sverris saga' and 'Boglunga sogur'

In Sverrir Tómasson (ed.), The Ninth International Saga Conference. The Contemporary sagas. Akureyri, 1994. Reykjavík: Stofnun Árna Magnússonar. pp. 892-906 (1994)
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This paper explores the hypothesis that proper names serve as anchors identifying the individuals in the possible or real world. This hypothesis is tested on Old Icelandic narratives. A prominent feature of Old Icelandic sagas is that the narrative matter is not quite new. A Saga is reliable iff it refers to the events relevant for its audience and accepted as true by the whole community. I argue that proper names must be regarded as references to the background knowledge of the medieval audience. I follow two contemporary Sagas based on the fresh events and show that proper names in a Saga mind were arranged in form of a database, each type of a personal designation having its charachteristic text-building profile. The form of the name and its frequency in the Saga are linked with the rank of the character. The high number of people mentioned in the Sagas is explained by the fact that the Sagas aimed at describing the real world, where the names of the individuals and the events they were involved cross-identified each other. Every character had its rigid identifiers. The total amount of propria is always higher than the number of active figures. I classify the Saga characters into five ranks and discuss their information-structural profiles.

Author's Profile

Anton Zimmerling
Pushkin State Russian Language Institute


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