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Jasmin Higgs

Languages and Literature, University of Nottingham

Thesis title:

Writing Runes: Determining Functional Variation in Early Runic Inscriptions

My research is concerned with determining the functions of runic script in Britain, specifically using the Pre-Old English runic corpus (henceforth PrOERC), which is defined as the runic inscriptions before c.650CE with find-spots in Britain. The PrOERC is a small corpus of 20 inscriptions on a range of different objects such as coins, bracteates, brooches and urns, amongst others. Though the slim majority of the PrOERC is lexical, there is a substantial minority that is either uncertain in their lexicality or is non-lexical. The functions of runic script in the PrOERC, then, must be varied, with substantial non-linguistic-communicative functions. My research determines the different functions of runic script in the PrOERC, asking: 1) what are the functions of runic script in Britain c.400-650AD? and 2) how do we determine the functions of runic script? 

To answer my research questions, I am adapting an approach from historical pragmatics called pragmaphilology to create a pragmatic model that is suited to the PrOERC data. This is then applied to each runic inscription in the PrOERC, with subsequent discussions on the functions of script and how that may be informed by the medium on which it is situated.  

Research Area

  • Languages and Literature


Higgs, J. (forthc.) ‘Review: Runes Across the North Sea from the Migration Period and Beyond An Annotated Edition of the Old Frisian Runic Corpus (2021), by Livia Kaiser’, Futhark: International Journal of Runic Studies 14, xx-xx

Chiarelli, A., Carter, I., Palmer, F., Thomas, B., Higgs, J., & Johnson, R. (2023). Review of annual statements on research integrity (Version 1). Zenodo. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.8014377.

Higgs, Jasmin. (2022). ‘Inscribing Brooches: women and runes in fifth to seventh century Britain, Blog post for the Women’s History Network, https://womenshistorynetwork.org/inscribing-brooches-women-and-runes-in-fifth-to-seventh-century-britain-jasmin-higgs/  

Higgs, Jasmin. (2021). 'Review: Anglo-Saxon Micro-texts (2019), eds. Lenker and Kornexl', TOEBI newsletter XXVIII, 40-43. 

Higgs, Jasmin (2017). 'Examine the value of place names as evidence for the history, landscape and, especially, language(s) of your chosen area: North Essex'. Innervate: Leading Undergraduate Work in English Studies 10, 79-90. 



  • 'Pre-Old English Runes and Historical Pragmatics', Symposium on Old English, Middle English, and Historical Linguistics in the Low Countries (SOEMEHL), Leiden, the Netherlands 2023.
  • 'Hidden texts and 'text reception' in the pre-Old English runic inscriptions', Runes in Mythology, Ritual, Literature: The Aarhus Old Norse Mythology Conference, Aarhus, Denmark 2023.
  • 'Runes in Britain, c400-650AD', 33rd International Conference of the Spanish Society for Medieval English Languages and Literature (SELIM), Murcia, Spain 2023.
  • 'Runic (ill)Literacy in Early Medieval Britain', Literacy in the Medieval Period, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK 2023.
  • 'Showcasing methodological approaches to fragmentary and non-lexical runic data using the brooches form the Pre-Old English runic corpus', International Medieval Congress (IMC) Leeds, Leeds, UK 2023.
  • 'A Pragmatic Approach to the Runic Bracteates from Britain', 13th April 2023, 12th Háskóli Íslands Student Conference on the Medieval North, University of Iceland, Iceland.
  • ‘Inscribed Swords from the 5th to 7th Centuries in Britain’, 22nd October 2022, University of Nottingham Postgraduate Medieval Seminars. 
  • ‘A New Runic Inscription in York, England’, 33rd Field Runologist Meeting, 9th October 2022, Uppsala, Sweden.  
  • ‘Determining Functional Variation in the Early Runic Inscriptions’ (poster), 14th-19th June 2022, Ninth International Symposium on Runes and Runic Inscriptions, Akademie Sankelmark, Germany.  
  • ‘Adapting Pragmaphilology for Runic Data’, 25th November 2021 University of Nottingham Postgraduate Medieval Seminars.  
  • ‘The Functions of the pre-Old English Runic Inscriptions’, 16th February 2020, University of Leicester Medieval Seminars.  
  • ‘The Function of the Early Runic Inscriptions in East Anglia, c.400-800AD’, 27th June 2019, York Centre for Medieval Studies Postgraduate Conference: New Voices in Medieval Studies.

Public Engagement & Impact

    Outreach Programme PhD Co-Ordinator, Vikings for Schools/Anglo-Saxons for Schools Outreach Programme, University of Nottingham. August 2022- present day.  
      Learning Facilitator, University of Nottingham Museum of Archaeology. October 2022- present day.  
        Activities leader, Viking for Schools/Anglo-Saxons for Schools Outreach Programme, University of Nottingham. November 2021- August 2022. 
          SEN TA, primary schools in Nottingham. November 2020-Summer 2021. 
            EFL teacher. September 2018- January 2020. 
              Object handler and public outreach volunteer, University of Nottingham Museum of Archaeology. November 2017- March 2018. 

              Other Research Interests

              • historical linguistics, especially historical pragmatics
              • epigraphy and orthography
              • onomastics and place-names studies 


              Research and related work.

              Research Consultant, Research Consultancy, March 2023.

              Researcher (postgraduate placement), titled ‘Embedding Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in a Doctoral Training Programme’, The Researcher Academy, University of Nottingham. February 2022-March 2022.

              Research Affiliate, Institute for Name-Studies, University of Nottingham. November 2021- October 2022.  

              Conference Assistant, Institute for Name-Studies, University of Nottingham. April 2019.  

              Admin Assistant, Institute for Name-Studies, University of Nottingham. January 2019-June 2019.  

              Cataloguer, The National Justice Museum. September 2017 – March 2020.  

              Awards and Prizes.

              Midlands 4 Cities Doctoral Scholarship via the Arts and Humanities Research Council, 2020-2024. 

              Christine Fell Award, School of English, University of Nottingham, 2018-2019. 

              Alfred Oscroft Essay Prize, English Place-Names Society, 2017. 


              PhD    (full time, fully funded with Midland4Cities/Arts and Humanities Research Council). 2020-2024 School of English, University of Nottingham  

              Research titled ‘Writing Runes: Determining Functional Variation in Early Runic Inscriptions’, supervised by Professor Judith Jesch (UoN), Dr Martin Findell (UoN), and Dr Philip Shaw (Durham University).  


              MA     Viking & Anglo-Saxon Studies (full time, partly funded with the Christine Fell Award) 2018-2019 School of English, University of Nottingham. Graduated with Distinction.  

              MA dissertation was ‘The Function of the Early Anglo-Saxon Runic Inscriptions (c.400-650AD)’, which researched the application of Speech Act Theory to early runic data.  


              BA      (Hons) English. 2015-2018 School of English, University of Nottingham. Graduated with First Class Honors. 

              BA dissertation explored Old English lexicography and lexical semantics.