Of/um-Partikkelen som dateringskriterium for eddakvada

  • Leiv Olsen
Keywords: of/um particle, expletive particle, Eddic poems, dating of poetry


The author investigates the function and possible meanings of the of/um particle and how this particle can be used as a dating criterium for Eddic poems, as Hans Kuhn proposed in 1929. The author concludes that the of/um particle was not a filler word (“expletive particle”), as most philologists have assumed, but an unstressed prefix which supplied the following word with a specific meaning – as Ingerid Dal claimed in 1929/30. The particle was probably used in daily speech when Old Norse was spoken, but gradually fell out of use, and disappeared after the end of the 13th century. The most marked change occurred between the end of the 10th and the middle of the 11th centuries. The frequency of the of/um-particle in skaldic poems from the 9th and 10th centuries is 10 times the frequency in skaldic poems from the 12th and 13th centuries. This is important when dating Eddic poems.

The of/um particle can be used as a dating criterium only when the material for analysis is extensive. This requires at least 300 short verses to use the particle as an indication for age. It is a very sound criterium when the material includes thousands of short verses. Dating of Eddic poems based on the frequency of the of/um particle corresponds well with dating based on other linguistic criteria. All in all, dating based on the of/um particle is the best criterium we have for dating Eddic poems.