Children of men

*[XGEN.PL] barnō/suniwiz

by C Ryan Moniz

original research· spring 2013 - harvest 2021
updated & published· spring 2022

philology

Mjǫðr Óðins· Reconstructing Germanic verse formulae


This formula, like the ‘each among men,’ is a very common halfline filler with the functional meaning of “everyone,” taking the form *[XGEN.PL] barnō/suniwiz ‘children/sons of people/men,’ where X is an alliterative word meaning ‘people, folk, men.’ The West Germanic examples invariably use a reflex of *barnō ‘children,” while Old Norse examples predominantly use synir from Proto-Germanic *suniwiz; however, there are some instances in Old Norse where bǫrn (from *barnō) is used. There are 6 specific examples of this formula which I reconstruct for Proto-Germanic: *aldijǫ̂ barnō/suniwiz, *firhwijǫ̂ barnō/suniwiz, *haliþǫ̂/haluþǫ̂¹ barnō/suniwiz, *gumanǫ̂ barnō/suniwiz, *mannǫ̂ barnō/suniwiz, and *Eutijǫ̂² barnō/suniwiz. The final section of this article also lists examples of this formula in Old English and Old Norse for which I have not found cognates outside of the respective language.

The form of Proto-Germanic *haliþaz is suggested by the West Germanic reflexes (Old English hæleþ, Old Saxon helið, &c) and Old Norse halr, whereas the Old Norse form (which is the sole reflex that appears in this formula) suggests Proto-Germanic *haluþaz.

The Old Norse form ýtar ‘men’ and the extant Old English form Ýte ‘Jutes’ point to an *i-stem *Eutiz, given here (cf. Spangshus 2019 p 14). The attested Old English Éotas and Old Norse jótar ‘Jutes’ point to an alternative *a-stem *Eutaz :: GEN.PL *Eutǫ̂. The form attested in the Old English example of this formula, *Eotena, includes an unexpected -en which may have been a scribal error due to unfamiliarity with the ethnic term at the time of transcription, taking it rather as an “error” for the more recognized term eoten ‘ettin’ (Bjork & Fulk & Niles 2008 p 181)


*aldijǫ̂ barnō/suniwiz

Old English

Béowulf 70a, 150b, 605a; Genesis A 2472b; Cædmon’s Hymn 5b; The Seafarer 77a; Crist 936b; The Order of the World 99a

ylda bearn

Old English Rune Poem 77b

elda bearn

Old Saxon

Hêliand 1068a, 1387b, 1430b, 1508b, 1525b, 1780a, 3076b, 3235a, 3534a, 4057a,4436b, 4658a; Genesis B 464a

eldibarn

Old Norse

Vǫluspá 20

alda bǫrn

Hávamál 12 12; Fáfnismál 16

alda synir

 

*firhwijǫ̂ barnō/suniwiz

Old English

Andreas 409a; Crist 242b

fíra bearn

Old Saxon

Hêliand 9a, 16a, 47a, 420b, 496b, 1160b, 1216a, 1372a, 1487a, 1511b, 1537b, 1600b, 1783b, 1795a, 2594a,2614a, 3065a, 3068b, 3241a, 3513b, 3639b, 3844a, 3923a, 4231a, 4395a, 4454b, 4497b, 5029a, 5439a, 5712a,5773a

firiho barn

Old Norse

Fáfnismál 2, 3

fíra synir

 

*haliþǫ̂/haluþǫ̂ barnō/suniwiz

Old English

Béowulf 1189a, 2224a; Crist 1277b, 1591b

Andreas 494a

þrýðbearn hæleða

Old Saxon

Hêliand 500b, 869b, 4330b, 4383b, 5570b, 5667b, 5737b; Genesis B 742a

heliðo barn

Old Norse

Hávamál 129

hǫlda synir

• There is also a later prose example in Borgarþingslǫg Kristinn réttr hinn forni (Keyser & Munch 1846 p 345)

hǫlda born

 

*gumanǫ̂ barnō/suniwiz

Old English

Béowulf 878a, 1367a

gumena bearn

Crist 886b

dryhtgumena bearn

Old Norse

Hávamál 129

gumna synir

 

*mannǫ̂ barnō/suniwiz

Old English

Exodus 395b; Crist 85b; Genesis A 1554b; Azarias 86b, 146a

manna bearn

Old Saxon

Genesis B 403b

manno barn

Old Norse

Grímnismál 41

manna synir

 

*Eutijǫ̂ barnō/suniwiz

Old English

Béowulf 1088a, 1141a

Éotena bearn

Old Norse

Hávamál 68, 147, 164; Sólarljóð 33

ýta synir

 

Miscellaneous language-specific examples

Old English

Old Norse

 


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