Sounds of the Futhark

The first thing you should know is that no-one is sure how the ancients pronounced the runes. The best guesses by experts are based on modern languages and a clever method of back-tracking.

How and why language changes over the centuries, and what effect this has on the sound of words is a specialized field known as "historical linguistics" Research has resulted in a variety of suggested pronunciations for the runes. Archaeological runologists have also contributed to our best guesses by studying inscriptions on rune monuments and artefacts. Because runes are a phonetic system, the way known words are spelled can often give a clue to the way they sounded - when spoken by the rune carver, that is!

And that is the main problem. Runes were used by people speaking several different native tongues, pronouncing things in different ways. Even within a single language/culture, there would be wide regional variations in dialect, just as there are today. Listen to an Australian talking to an Irishman and you will hear what I mean. In the USA compare the deep south with New England, or in the UK compare Cockney with Geordie - it's hardly obvious these as the same language!

The runes featured on the Runemaker website are those brought to Britain by Northern European immigrants in the 5th-6th centuries AD, and so the pronunciations I offer here are based on the probable Anglo-Saxon tongue of that time.

There are a few rune sounds that are a bit difficult to explain in writing, so I have prepared a "Sounds of the Futhark" guide that includes 24 WAV files of me speaking the rune names. Individual rune names can be heard on the Rune Reading pages of the Runemaker website..

Before you read the pronunciation table, I would just like to point out one or two sounds used in Anglo-Saxon (or Old English, as it is sometimes called) that do not equate to anything in modern English.

 

Pronunciation Table
Rune Name Letter
Equivalent
Sound

Fehu

F F as in fat

Uruz

U U as in under, OO as in Booze

Thurisaz

Th Th compound consonant as in thin, or in weather

Ansuz

A A as in add, AW as in awful

Raido

R R as in red

Kauno

C (hard), K C as in cat; K as in king

Gebo

G G as is good; Gh as in loch, but softer

Wunjo

W, V W as in wax; v as in van

Hagalaz

H H as in hat

Naudiz

N N as in now

Isa

I (short) I as in sit

Jera

J, Y J as in jam; Y as in yap

Ihwaz

I (long) I as in site, Y as in style

Perth

P P as in pot

Algiz

Z Z as in zone. S as in cousin (may also have been the rolling RRR heard in Scottish dialect)

Sowilo

C (soft), S C as in nice; S as sit

Tiwaz

T T as in top

Berkanan

B B as in bag

Ehwaz

E E as in end, EE as in sheet

Mannaz

M M as in man

Laguz

L L as in let

Ingwaz

Ng Ng compound consonant as in finger

Dagaz

D D as in dog, DJ as in Django Reinhardt, DTH as in breadth

Othila

O O as in old, or as in cot

As well as the "Sounds of the Futhark" I also recorded a recital of the Anglo-Saxon Rune Poem, but my wife couldn't stop laughing when I tried it out on her, so I decided against offering you that!
 
Author Bob Oswald
Home Page http://www.runemaker.com
email click here
Copyright 1994-2013 Bob Oswald

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