This essay is a study of seal-hunters' terms for the seal in the area around the Gulf of Bothnia and around the Baltic Sea. The purpose is to investigate whether there are noa words present among the seal-hunters' many words for the seal. The basic material consists of approximately 200 different terms for seal, collected from the Swedish-speaking areas around the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Bothnia, areas where the seal has been hunted well into the 20th century. These terms have been collected partly from archives and partly from published litterature.
From this basic material some twenty or so words have been extracted, which regarding meaning or origin, contain features that are characteristic for noa words in general. Only a few of the terms can with any certainty be said to be noa words. But there are tendencies in the material which point to the existence of linguistic taboos in the world of the seal-hunters.
The background to the presence of linguistic taboos, which is very complex, is also discussed here. First and foremost these taboos are based on a faith in the power of the language and the word. There is a fixed relationship between the words and the object/s that they represent and consequently the language acquires the power of invocation.
Tabooing should also be seen as one precautionary measure among the many which the seal-hunters were fored to take during the dangerous hunt.
Furthermore, the seal-hunters had two different occupations in two completely separate physical environments: they were farmers on land and seal-hunters at sea. The purpose of linguistic tabooing then became to separate the two different environments from each other, to mark the invisible border between the living conditions on land and at sea, with the help of language.
Finally, the taboos are part of a religious, supernatural context. In folk belief seals have been seen as drowned people. I have here described a legend which is connected with this belief. The legend says that the seals are the soldiers of Pharaoh, who were turned into seals when they drowned in the Red Sea, after pursuing Moses and the children of Israel out of Egypt. A further example of the fact that the seal ha been placed in a supernatural context is that the head of the seal has been seen as carrier of magical power.
Umeå: Umeå universitet , 1989. , 59 p.