Styles of Communication, Vol 6, No 1 (2014)

Lexical Approach to Cultural Aspects of Death in the Old Frisian Writings

Katarzyna Buczek


Death as a phenomenon was in Germanic culture both feared, celebrated and respected. Personalized, it was supposed to take the deceased to the afterlife world. That is why the way somebody lost his life or the circumstances of his death were very significant. After the introduction of Christianity, death was treated as the end of the worldly life and the beginning of the eternal life in haven or eternal damnation. Church’s teachings were reflected in the mediaeval legal codes, which tried to keep a tight rein on the society and regulate the earlier dominating tribal laws. The main task of the study constitutes the linguistic analysis of the notion of death on the basis of the Old Frisian texts. The first part of the paper focuses on the cultural treatment of death by Frisians in the past. Here, the death as an ultimate and natural end of life is counterpoised to the death that is conceived as a consequence of punishment or murder. The second part of the paper provides the analysis of the vocabulary taken from the texts included in two manuscripts, the Rüstring and Brokmer Manuscript (both edited by Buma (1949 – 1963)), connected with the account of death. Here, the preference for the choice of lexical means which are present in these texts is detected and estimated. Expressions referring to death as a punishment are compared with those connected the natural decease of family members or nobilities.


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