Presentation Abstracts

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Versification: Metrics in Practice. Abstracts for the 2016 NordMetrik Conference. 25th-27th May 2016.

Keynote Speakers’ Abstracts

Paul Kiparsky

On the Functional Differentiation of Metrical Forms

The modular template-matching approach to generativemetrics defines a meter by an abstract rhythmic pattern and a set of constraints that determine the licit correspondences between this rhythmic pattern and the phonological representation of a text, and assess their complexity by the (possibly weighted) least sum of their mismatches.


Within this formal framework, a metrical system is defined by a set of choices, in earlier work characterized by parameters, more recently by constraint rankings. The choices are dictated both by historical and by functional factors. Metrical form and practices of performance and composition are mutually accommodated, and metrical form is also accommodated to the phonology and syntax of the language. The relevant constraints include FIT and INTEREST (Hanson & Kiparsky 1996), which say respectively that a meter tends to be as expressive as necessary and as restrictive as possible.

This talk explores a functionally determined tradeoff between the complexity of the metrical patterns and the complexity of the correspondence constraints that is revealed by metrical typology. In stichic verse used in epic and dramatic poetry, the metrical pattern is normally simple and invariant while the realizational options are complex and diverse. Its correspondence constraints are defined over small domains, and allow rich scope for variations which can be exploited for expressive purposes. Examples include blank verse, hexameter, medieval Greek political verse, Vedic meter, and the Sanskrit ´sloka. In contrast, lyric verse composed in stanzas tends to develop a large repertoire of complex metrical patterns with strict constraints on their realization. In the limiting case, a poem conforms rigorously to a complex but invariant repeated pattern with a large domain of periodicity, as in Sanskrit lyric meters, Pindar’s dactylo-epitrite meters, Berber songs, and Arabic qasidas. These traditions place high demands on the poet and audience.

Subtler manifestations of the same differentiation appear within individual meters that are used across a range of poetic genres. This has been established for English iambic pentameter, and preliminary observations suggest that it may hold for Kalevala meter.

The upshot is that epic and dramatic verse privilege FIT, while lyric verse privileges INTEREST. I will consider some alternative explanations for this generalization.

Tomas Riad

Meter as improvement

I explore the hypothesis that poetic meter is derived directly from the linguistic grammar. First, the metrical template is taken to be derived in the same way as so-called prosodic morphemes (e.g. nicknames, reduplicants, root-and-pattern patterns). Where nicknames are prosodic words, a meter is an intonation phrase, hence much larger and more complex, but not different in kind. This is different from most other approaches where the metrical template is taken to be produced outside of grammar, e.g. in a template generator.

Second, the particular properties that characterize a meter relate directly to linguistic constraints. The length of a meter requires specification whenever it deviates from the unmarked tetrameter. Such deviances are represented as required violations of binarity constraints. Thus, if the template is seen as an underlying form, any property that does not come out as unmarked by grammar, needs to be specified. In other approaches, the length of templates are often directly stipulated.

Third, meters are often characterized by properties relating to rhythm and prominence alignment. I argue that such properties can be understood as resulting from a mechanism of cherry-picking, where individual linguistic constraints are more fully obeyed in the metrical tree than in the regular prosodic tree. This mechanism directly represents the intuitive notion of improvement that goes with much metered poetry. The quality of a meter as being “better” than regular prosody would thus follow from meter being strictly subject to some specific constraint, often one which has implication for overall rhythm. In other theories, some of the rhythmic properties are usually built into the template, which is subsequently matched with instances of text with their rhythmic properties. I argue that the notion of matching is not needed for several meters, given the model I outline.

I demonstrate my points with examples from Rubén Darío (alexandrines in Spanish), August Strindberg and Esaias Tegnér (dactylic hexameter in Swedish) and traditional meters of Tashlhiyt Berber.

Kati Kallio

 Performance, Music and Meter in Finnic Oral Poetry

The meter of poetry is an abstraction of linguistic phenomena, typically analysed independently of performance practices. Yet, as we move to the sphere of oral poetry, things get a little more complicated. Here, we do not always have any single, permanent text to be performed in different ways, but narrative structures, poetic themes, verse formulas and principles of versification to be applied by the singers in relation to the poetic tradition, individual creativity and different contexts of performance.

A singer may vary the metrical details according to genre-related conventions or performance practices. The performer may present metrically differing versions of one verse even in one thematic and metrical context. On the other hand, some individual verses may be applied to different metrical contexts that are also defined by different musical structures. Sometimes the performance tradition may be the only way to explain some ambiguous, hybrid practices of versification.

It has even been claimed that in the case of some metrical traditions, knowledge on the scale of possible performance practices is indispensable in order to make valid interpretations of the more abstract levels of the poetic system in question. Yet, it needs to be noted that, in some oral traditions, the relationship of text and performance has absolutely no effect on metrical interpretations: the importance of musical and performative structures in metrical analyses is highly dependent on the tradition in question. In my lecture, I will open the relationships of metrics, music and performance in Finnic oral poetics, dealing mostly with Kalevala-metric, lament and rhymed traditions in Finnish, Karelian and Ingrian languages.

Jarkko Niemi

Traditions of Versification among the Indigenous Ethnic Groups in the Northern Uralic Linguistic Area: Preliminary Results of a Comparative Structural Analysis of the Musical Styles

In this presentation I shall discuss the major results from my recent ethnomusicological research project (Academy of Finland, 2009–2014), which was targeted at the study of musical traditions of those indigenous ethnic groups living in western Siberia and northwestern Russia who are speakers of Samoyedic and Ob-Ugrian languages. The research task was to produce a comprehensive account of musical and metrical modalities especially of sung expression of the corresponding ethnic groups and their local traditions. While the properties of sung expression in each of these traditions are closely related with properties of language, the linguistic affiliation seemed to provide a logical boundary for the research area. The ethnic groups in this research area are related also by their traditional subsistence systems, basing to hunting and fishing, especially in the taiga zone and to semi-nomadic reindeer economy in northern tundras.

The target of this research was to attain an understanding of structures and sonic orders of sung expression in the mentioned indigenous culture area. As musical traditions in the research area are predominantly vocal, unaccompanied and soloistic, and as the song forms contain predominantly full linguistic song texts, the most crucial structural level in the sung expression is language and therefore the understanding of the sung expression must begin from the understanding of the main prosodic and metrical structural principles of the languages, with which the songs are performed and which are transformed in performance into metrical and musical forms.

Thus, the primary objective for the presented research project was the structural understanding of sung verse-form expression. This aim was met with musical data-oriented analysis of recurring and metrically organized motif paradigms, aided by linguistically informed metrical analysis. Thus, this aim has both a musicological and a linguistic orientation, where it is, in my opinion, quite important to understand how sung expression works simultaneously at various metrical or structural levels and with a wide array of possible mutual relationships, ranging from plain conformity to complex “contrapunctuality”.

The results seem to point in multiple directions. First, the description of some local traditions of sung verse still seem to be in a kind of pioneering stage, where we still do not understand the whole picture due to lack of materials and, accordingly, lack of analytical and comparative understanding of the verse forms. In the research materials of the present project, this is exemplified by the mystery of the strong inclination to variation in the verse forms of local styles of the Eastern Khanty and the Selkups. Then, on the other hand, this research area provides the mystery of great uniformity of versification, exemplified by the verse forms in Northern Samoyedic song traditions.

The aim of this presentation is not to try to solve these ‘mysteries’ that have become apparent, but rather to propose new ways of describing and interpreting the structural elements and the possibilities for gaining insight into the cultural history of these indigenous oral traditions.

Presentation Abstracts

Marina Akimova

M. L. Lomonosov Moscow State University, Russia

Some Observations on the Use of Verb Forms in the Poetry of Mikhail Kuzmin

Keywords: linguistics and semantics of verse, polymetrical compositions and lyrical cycles, Mikhail Kuzmin

The coordination between meter and theme in the so called polymetrical compositions – poems consisted of some fragments written in different meters – is a traditional issue in the study of Russian verse. Such scholars as P. A. Rudnev, M. L. Gasparov, and S. Matjash contributed to the study of the construction of such texts. They paid much attention to the thematic and stylistic principles of the changes of meters in poems, to the poetic function of the very fact of metrical change. Relying upon these studies and trying to develop the approach, I will focus my attention on the probable connection between the use of verb forms in a fragment of polymetrical text and its metrical organisation. The preliminary study of the text of Kuzmin’s poem “Forel’ razbivajet ljod” makes it possible to suggest that in this poem there is a definite dependence between the change of meter and the change of morphological characteristics of verbs used in each fragment. I will demonstrate this different atmosphere of grammatical time in the parts of the poem, which differ in their meter, style and plot. I will also show the grammar leitmotiv in the whole poem and try explicate how it may help in the interpretation of the whole text in connection with the main motifs of Kuzmin’s poetry. A theoretical question also arises concerning the nature of such meaningfulness of metrical form: is the connection between meter and grammar in polymetrical compositions regular, typical of one individual poetic style, or is it of the literary epoch, or is it of Russian verse in general, or do we instead have here the semantics appearing ad hoc for this concrete poem and the thought that gave birth to it? To answer this question, I will analyse, from the grammatical point of view, other polymetrical structures in Kuzmin’s poetry and in the poetry of his contemporaries, also citing examples of the classical Russian poems of that type (Derzhavin, Pushkin, Katenin, Nekrasov).

Jean-Louis Aroui

Paris-8 University / CNRS (French National Center for Scientific Research), SFL (Formal Structures of Language), France

The French Decasyllable from the 14th to the 16th Century: A Meter Family

Keywords: decasyllable, taratantara, metrical template differentiation, typology

Probably mistaken by canonical terminology, French metricists often believe their language and poetic tradition have only one meter totaling 10 obligatory metrical positions. At best, some of them carefully distinguish the classical decasyllable (holding a caesura after its 4th metrical position) and the taratantara, bearing a caesura after the 5th position. I will argue that this approach is extremely poor, if not to say false. Without considering 16th century attempts at French podic meters (Fr. vers mesurés), without hypothesizing a foot structure in French meters, it is easy to demonstrate that, from the 14th to the 16th century, different 4+6 syllabic meters were in use among poets. These different meters belong to a same poetic tradition and can be used sometimes by a same author. Nevertheless, they cannot be mixed in a same poem, which is strong evidence in favor of their theoretical differentiation.

In this paper, I will adopt a representational approach to metrics and assign a specific template to each of these meters. The different templates are build from a same set of principles, symbols and rules. This helps to draw up their consistent typology and to understand their history. I will compare these representations to the template we can build with the same tools for the French classical decasyllable, which appears during Clément Marot (1496–1544) lifetime.

The corpora used for this work is comprised of long poems by Guillaume de Machaut (c. 1300–1377), Eustache Deschamps (1340–1406), Christine de Pisan (1365– c. 1430), Alain Chartier (1385– c. 1430), Jean Regnier (1392–1468), Charles d’Orléans (1394–1465), Georges Chastellain (c. 1405–1474), Jean Robertet (1405–1492), Arnoul Gréban (c. 1420–1485), Jean Meschinot (1420–1491), Martial d’Auvergne (1420–1508), François Villon (1432– c. 1463), Jean Molinet (1435–1507), Jean Marot (1450–1526), Guillaume Crétin (1460–1525), André de La Vigne (c. 1470– c. 1515), Jean Lemaire de Belges (1473– c. 1525), Pierre Gringoire (1475–1539), Simon Bougoing (14??–15??), Marguerite de Navarre (1492–1549), Clément Marot (1496–1544), and a few others.

Eeva-Liisa Bastman

University of Helsinki, Finland

Functions of Rhyme, Assonance and Alliteration in 18th Century Hymn Poetry

Keywords: rhyme, assonance, alliteration, sound, stanza structure, hymn poetics

An essential feature in Finnish hymn poetry since the 16th century is rhyme. However, there has been a consensus among scholars that Finnish hymn writers rhymed rather poorly, supposedly because of the unfamiliarity of rhyme to the original metrical system of the Finnish language, the Kalevala-meter. My paper, dealing with pietist hymn poetry from the late 18th century, when iambic meter, stanza structures and rhyme were already established in both written and oral poetry in Western Finland, examines the notoriously inadequate rhymes from the point of view of poetics. The aim of the study is to explore the functions and uses of different forms of sound repetition for the stanza structure and for the hymn as a significant whole. Moreover, the paper illustrates what kind of poetic forms the shift from the metrical system of Kalevala-meter to iambic and trochaic meters entailed in a time when the boundaries between the oral and the written as well as between the artful and the popular were taking shape.

Lev Blumenfeld

Carleton University, Canada

Textsetting as Strengthened Meter: Evidence from Georges Brassens

Keywords: textsetting, syllabic meter, music, e-muet, textsetting structure versus metrical structure

Textsetting regulates the matching between rhythmic structures of the music and the text. An important question concerns the relationship of textsetting and meter: does textsetting access the text’s meter, or its phonological structure? Are textsetting and metrical constraints independent? In this paper I argue on the basis of data from Georges Brassens that textsetting constraints, while related to metrical ones, form a distinct system, and that textsetting interfaces with phonology directly.

In French syllable-counting meter, the weak vowel (e-muet) may occupy any position but the strongest one, typically the last position of the line or hemistich. Brassens’ songs are written in such meter, e.g. 8-syllable lines where e-muet is prohibited from occupying the 8th position, as in the “Chanson pour l’Auvergnat”. I show that Brassens’ textsetting employs a related but distinct constraint, where e-muet is prohibited not only from the strongest, but also from the second-strongest position in the musical rhythm.

In the “Chanson pour l’Auvergnat”, the 8-syllable lines are set on a triple musical beat, filling the space between four strong beats. Thus, there are 10 ‘slots’ in the musical rhythm that can be occupied by 8 syllables. This mismatch is resolved by Brassens in several ways, creating the rhythmic variety of the song. However, the variants are constrained by the prohibition of e-muet from the middle strong beat of the musical setting. Yet, e-muet is not generally avoided on strong musical beats, as Brassens allows it on the third strong beat.

Thus, the textsetting structure in this song, and similar ones in other songs, is simultaneous with and distinct from the metrical structure, and can be thought of a stronger version of the meter. At the same time, the textsetting system requires direct access to the phonology of the text rather than to its meter, and thus Brassens’ data provides crucial evidence on the meter-textsetting interface.

Sergei Bolotov

Russian State University for the Humanities, Russia

Natalia Štakelberg’s law for Czech verse (especially iambic) and Kalevalamitta: some metric-comparative considerations

Štakelberg’s law for Czech verse may be briefly formulated as follows:

  1. Czech trochaic verse pattern is violated rather rarely [e.g. in H. Mácha’s «Máj: Úvod» it is 1.23% (= 2 of 162 feet)] and (practically) exclusively with 3-syllabic word forms;
  2. Czech iambic verse pattern is violated rather often [e.g. first 58 lines of K. H. Mácha’s «Máj: I» give 17.70% (= 35 of 226 feet)] prevalently with 3-syllabic word forms [only 4 2-syllabic forms in the fragment just mentioned].

This law now supplies important information on Czech prosody otherwise unknown for linguists [though fitting well historical (better pre-historical) Czech phonology (namely dactylic vowel shortening known as well for English, thus typologically fine)]. On the other hand «Kalevala» metre is an important source for our knowledge of Finnish prosody not evident from the Finnish language data themselves.

Both languages are stress-initial and quantity-free, nonetheless they differ much as to moraic/non-moraic nature of their vowel and syllable lengths, this difference being better visible on the base of verse-metre prosody rather than purely linguistic data.

Varun de Castro-Arrazola

Leiden University / Meertens Institute, the Netherlands

Final Strictness and the Detection of Deviants in Pseudo-Verse Lines

Keywords: final strictness, typology, dynamic attention, perception experiment

We report the results from an experiment which addresses the source of final strictness in verse lines. These data are compared to corpus analyses of verse in several languages. A model of attention is proposed as the cognitive factor driving both types of data.

Final strictness captures the idea that verse lines follow the metrical template more faithfully towards the end. For instance, in traditions like Dutch or Estonian, metrical positions specify the presence or absence of stressed syllables, and in Sanskrit or Tashlhiyt Berber, syllabic weight is specified. Deviations from the template are more likely to occur later in the line.

Given that the phenomenon is found in typologically diverse languages, we contemplate the hypothesis that it has some general cognitive grounding, namely attention. In order to address the issue, we conducted a perception experiment where subjects were asked to detect deviant tones within pseudo-lines of 8 tones. Reaction times show that deviants occurring later in the line are detected faster. The experimental results mirror the patterns of final strictness found in real verse; that is, a decrease in the number of deviants correlates with a decrease in the time needed to detect deviants.

This preliminary study is correlational in nature, and cannot address the issue of causality. However, a model of dynamic attention (Large & Jones 1999) can be a promising framework to interpret the data. Neural oscillations tend to entrain to external regular signals, allocating peaks of attentional resources periodically. These oscillations may be disrupted at line boundaries, but as the line develops, attention is allocated more efficiently and deviants are more easily detected or avoided.

Further convergent evidence from (pseudo)-verse production tasks and neuroimaging will be needed to assess the attention hypothesis and better understand the causes behind final strictness.

Works Cited

Large, E.-W. & M.-R. Jones 1999. “The Dynamics of Attending: How People Track Time-Varying Events”. Psychological Review 106(1):119–159.

Jacqueline Ekgren

Ekgren Musikkinstitutt, Norway

Accentual Verse and Century-Old Vocal Tradition Feature Dipodic Pattern: Pairs of Strong Stresses Govern Old English Poetry and Norwegian stev

Keywords: dipod, stev, accentual / strong stress, Old English metrics, living tradition

The Norwegian stev poetry performance tradition will be compared to the Old English meter in order to elucidate structure and potential aspects of performance.  A potential historical relationship of these Germanic meters will also be mentioned.

Old English poetry is considered to be accentual verse which is stress-based, whereas much modern English poetry is governed by a set number of syllables per line. In Old English poetry each line is divided into two half-lines separated by a pause, a caesura. Each half-line has two strong stresses but the number of syllables may vary.

Norwegian stev is a solo, unaccompanied, sung tradition with roots to the early Middle Ages. The text forms the melody, being stress-driven, where stresses are often marked by foottaps. Each line in the four-line stanzas has a variable number of syllables. Each line is divided by a pause, and each half-line has two strong stresses, identical to the accentual verse pattern of Old English poetry.

In stev, the half-lines and their two strong stresses can be regarded as a prosodic phrase, termed “dipod”. It is exciting that the accentual verse pattern of half-lines with two strong stresses is found alive in Norwegian folk music performance of today.

Stephen Evans

Church musician, The Parish of Laitila, Turku Archdiocese, Finland

New Light on Versification in Ancient Greek Epic, Hymn and Lyric

Keywords: dactylic hexameter, ancient Greek epic, hymn and lyric, song-dance

New technology, new papyrus finds and new research have shed new light on versification in Ancient Greek epic, hymn and lyric and in their overlap. In recent reports hexameter scholars, when examining the use of formulas as set-phrases or cogs in a chain- and choice-model, have appealed to Chomsky’s transformational-generative grammar to explain the creativity of the oral poet. New papyrus finds of Simonides for example reveal a significant overlap between historical epic and lyric. Close scrutiny of ancient Greek comedy and tragedy bring to light hymnal elements in the choral lyric parts. In the last thirty years scholars of epic and lyric are ready to reduce the time-gap between these two genres. In plain language, the Homeric epics, Iliad and Odyssey, have been downdated from the eighth century BC to the seventh century BC and thus become closer in time to the lyric poetry of Bacchylides, Pindar, Alcman, Ibycus and Simonides. Computer technology has revolutionised our understanding of the dactylic hexamter in the Iliad, Odyssey and Homeric Hymns.

At the same time comparative literature research has broadened our understanding of song-dance culture, which in Ancient Greek is molpe, and comparative concepts of ‘carol’, ‘ballad’, sabar (Senegal), yoi (Tiwi), and e.g. capoeira (Brazilian). The dance performance of tragic and comic lyric and be extended to the descriptions of molpe in Ancient Greek epic and hymn. Thus it is possible to posit an interdiscursivity between the ring-dance of hymn and lyric to its performance in the dactylic hexameters of Greek epic.


University of Helsinki, Finland

Metrical Entanglement: The Interface of Language and Meter through Tradition

Keywords: oral poetry, language, formula, practice

This paper introduces the concept of metrical entanglement. I propose this term to describe the phenomenon by which use of the language of an oral-poetic system becomes conventionally linked to metrical positions or to metrical parameters. The term metrical entanglement describes links that develop socially between language and meter. It can be distinguished from metrical motivation, which describes how meter acts as a determinant on choices in expression. Metrical motivation describes a purely formal relationship between meter and language without reference to conventions of social practice. Elements of a register (i.e. the poetic idiom) can be considered metrically entangled if there is reason to believe that they are conventionally associated with one or more metrical contexts and are uncommon outside of that metrical context or those contexts, even if it is not necessarily striking when they do so. Metrically entangled expressions may be preferred solutions to metrically motivated choices, but this is not necessarily the case. Metrical entanglement also extends from individual words to sets of metrically equivalent synonyms and more abstract syntactic structures. The utility of this term is in the ability to address and discuss patterns in language use in oral poetry that cannot be accounted for by metrical motivation alone.

The phenomenon of metrical entanglement will be approached and discussed through Finnic and Germanic traditional poetries. The value of the term and concept for approaching formulaic language and also for metrical analysis will be illustrated through these materials.

Daniel Galbraith

Stanford University

A constraint-based account of Faroese ballad meter

In this paper, I argue that the folk ballad tradition of the Faroe Islands, to date never examined by metrists, is best accounted for by a constraint-based metrical grammar (Kiparsky 2006, Hayes et al. 2012) that generates a meter far closer to the actual data encountered than the iterative rule-based account of Fabb and Halle (2008), which both misses generalisations and predicts unattested line types. The ballad performances also reveal a general correspondence between strong metrical positions, strong dance steps and strong musical beats, indicating that rhythm is largely determined by metrical prominence. In support of my conclusions I draw upon both the ballad texts and audio/video recordings of sections of sample ballads I made on the Faroe Islands.

I propose that an inventory of constraints on the correspondence between a metrical template and a syllabic representation accurately captures the attested lines, and also accounts for generalisations about stress-meter alignment. By contrast, Fabb and Halle’s deletion rules cannot exclude nonexistent lines without additional stipulations. Where my analysis precludes unattested lines such as (1) by prohibiting lexical stress in weak position, Fabb and Halle must stipulate that such lines have ill-formed metrical grids. To do so, they must posit ad hoc restrictions on their deletion rules, which must not apply in other cases lest they exclude attested line types.



Text Tó- ast | reið *Sjúrður | bur- tur frá | kong- sins *høll
however | rode Sigurd | away- from | king -the.g hall
Meter S W | S W | S W | S W
Stress X x | X Xx | X xx | X xX

 ‘Yet Sigurd rode away from the king’s palace’
S/W = strong/weak, X/x = stressed/unstressed

Moreover, generalisations which seem to hold of structural boundaries in the stanza are easily captured via constraints on metrical position; such facts are lost on Fabb and Halle’s proposal unless they combine constraints with rules, leading to redundancy which my approach avoids.

From recordings I found that although there is not always a one-to-one mapping from meter to rhythm, evidence from the ringdance shows that metrical and musical peaks tend to align. With the exception of refrains and Danish-language ballads, which exhibit some irregularity, (2) is unviolated in my recording sample:

(2) Strong dance steps will always correspond to strong metrical positions.

(2) is not bidirectional, in that not all strong positions receive strong steps; nevertheless, it accurately predicts where a strong position will occur in the stanzas. On my account, this fact about text-setting provides a source of secondary evidence for a given parse. Therefore, I propose that a constraint-based approach to meter captures Faroese data accurately, rules out unattested lines, avoids redundancy and sheds light on the relation between meter and performance.


Fabb, Nigel and Morris Halle. 2008. Meter in Poetry: A New Theory. Cambridge: Cambridge    University Press.
Hayes, Bruce, Colin Wilson and Anne Shisko. 2012. Maxent grammars for the metrics of Shakespeare and Milton. Language 88.691–731.
Kiparsky, Paul. 2006. A modular metrics for folk verse. In Dresher, B. Elan and Nila Friedberg (eds.), Formal Approaches to Poetry, 7–49. Berlin: Mouton.

Satu Grünthal

Dragana Cvetanovic

Martina Huhtamäki

University of Helsinki, Finland

“Frá bygd til bý” by Swangah Dangah – A Contemporary Faroese Ballad

Keywords: ballads, rap, metrical studies 

Our study analyzes a contemporary Faroese rap text in relation to the tradition of heroic ballads, on the one hand, and modern hip hop culture, on the other.

The study connects to the theoretical framework of discourse analysis, ballad studies, and hip hop studies. The rap text chosen is “Frá bygd til bý” (From village to town) by the hip hop group Swangah Dangah. The starting point is that even in contemporary Faroese culture, tradition is visible in many ways (Gaini 2011). Accordingly, “Frá bygd til bý” makes use of ballad conventions and metrics, present-day social phenomena and significant features of the Faroese cultural identity. Like ballads, it consists of separate stanzas and makes use of alliteration and end rhymes. Also, it is characterized by distinctive musical and vocal rhythm.

The medieval Scandinavian ballads were defined by form, narrative content and objective style, which was often characterized by frequent use of formulas (Colbert 1989, Hansen 2006). “Frá bygd til bý” is not a narrative, but, instead, it consists of elliptic exclamations and singular, separate statements. As far as formulas are concerned, the rap-text is a mix of well-known, stereotypic expressions and unexpected, screwed formulations (Alim 2004). As a whole, “Frá bygd til bý” will be analyzed and discussed in relation to such traditional conventions. Similarly, the text relates to the modern rap and hip hop genres by its content, lexicon and intertextuality.

Our analysis is based on one particular live presentation of “Frá bygd til bý”. This live performance will be compared to traditional medieval ballad singing and chain dancing (cf. Andreassen 1992). The artists of Swangah Dangah communicate with their audience by using their voice and body, and the audience is also participating vocally, emotionally and physically (Bauman 2011).

Works Cited

Alim, Samy H. 2004. You Know My steez: An Ethnographic and Sociolinguistic Study of Styleshifting in a Black American Speech Community. Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press.
Andreassen, Eyðun. 1992. Folkelig offentlighed. København: Museum Tusculanums Forlag.
Bauman, Richard. 2011. “Commentary: Foundations in Performance”. Journal of Sociolinguistics. 15/5, 707-720.
Colbert, David. 1989. The Birth of the Ballad: The Scandinavian Medieval Genre. Stockholm: Svenskt Visarkiv.
Gaini, Firouz. 2011. “Cultural Rhapsody in Shift: Faroese Culture and Identity in the Age of Globalization”. In Firouz Gaini (ed.), Among the Islanders of the North: An Anthropology of the Faroe Islands. Tórshavn: Faroe University Press.
Hansen, Sólfinn. 2006. Endurreisn kvæðanna. Tórshavn: Faroe University Press.
Swangah Dangah. 2001. “Frá bygd til bý”. Recording Belials synir. Tórshavn: Tutl.

Haukur Þorgeirsson

Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies, Iceland

Two Types of Poetic Traditions

Keywords: Poetic traditions; phonology; historical linguistics

The question of how to interpret data from poetry is a recurring problem in historical linguistics. It is clear that equivalence in poetry is not always based on surface phonetic identity and that poetic conventions of various sorts can complicate the picture. But this does not mean that there are no constraints or that poetry has a completely arbitrary relationship with the language in which it is composed.

In dealing with poetic traditions I propose drawing a distinction between splitting and lumping traditions. Splitting traditions require the poets to make distinctions not found in their contemporary language. This places a heavy burden on the poets and requires them to memorize lists of words, carry around handbooks or learn an archaic spelling system. Traditional Chinese poetry has good examples of splitting traditions, requiring extensive formal education for aspiring poets. Lumping traditions, on the other hand, allow poets to ignore some of the distinctions found in the language for the purposes of rhyme or other poetic effects. This type of tradition is much easier for poets to learn and can normally be acquired simply by listening to existing poetry.

I argue that splitting traditions are rare and cannot be convincingly proposed as explanations for particular data unless some explicit documentation has survived. Thus, distinctions made by the poets can be assumed to be based on distinctions in the language itself unless surviving instructional materials or an archaizing spelling system point towards a splitting tradition.

Merging traditions, however, are frequently an attractive possibility. This is especially so if the distinction in question did not exist in the language at a previous stage. Thus, if one phoneme splits into two, poets can easily continue to treat the two phonemes as equivalent in poetry.

The explanation by tradition will be contrasted with explanations based on phonological theories on underlying identity as well as structural and distributional considerations. Examples will be drawn from poetry in various languages.

Panu Heimonen

University of Helsinki, Finland

Versification and Sibelius’s 2nd Symphony Op. 43

Keywords: meter, modality, cultural influence, Classicism, Romanticism

This paper argues for the central position of development of meter and modality in the 1st movement of Sibelius’s 2nd Symphony. At the time Sibelius was influenced by the Italian Classical culture and the change and tension between Nordic/Romantic and Classical culture can be seen in the language of the symphony. The main theme and 2nd theme contrast in a stylistic sense and they exhibit meter in a subtle, occasionally even in a dramatic manner. In this paper it is further argued that in music it is meter together with modalities that bring out the poetry i.e. versification in musical terms.

Classical influences bring qualities such as symmetry and balance to the fore, whereas Romantic tradition can be seen as a locus of vigorous, imaginative and largely asymmetrical metrical structures. Even modernist influences can be seen interspersed among the two traditions. In this way one has two or three social realities to be merged in the symphony. It is the social and individual modalities, which are able to mediate these cultural influences into the musical language. This cannot, however be accomplished without the contribution of meter. The Classical accompaniment figure at the beginning and the main theme are clearest instances of Classicism. The Classical figure is able to convey the above-mentioned cultural influences and to go through several stages of metrical transformations. In the main theme there is a major shift in metrical placement, which reflects the change in the status of influences of Classicism: clearly displaced at the beginning, the main theme reaches its rightful position in recapitulation starting at the main beat at the beginning of a metrical unit. This can be seen as a result of skilful dialogical processes where cultural influences and related meters are brought into the internal structure of the symphony.

Eszter Éva Hörcher

Holocaust Memorial Center, Hungary

On the Way Words and Melodies Meet: Concerning the Musical and Linguistic System of Relationships in 20th-Century Hungarian Poetry

Keywords: metrical and rate emphatic verse, relationship of melody and words in poetry, Hungarian, music aesthetics

My presentation is based on Hungarian poetry of the 20th century as versifying activity. The examined area is secular 20th-century poetry by poets of Nyugat (the greatest 20th-century Hungarian periodical which was active from 1908 to 1941). From this point the examination extends to contemporary poetry, through, for example, poetry of Sándor Weöres, who composed famous and normative poems as well as nursery rhymes.

Hungarian (or Karpat-basin area) aspects and elements of the poetry can be concretely be identified with the poetics of folk poetry and folk songs. The poets of Nyugat draw from these traditional sources, from the melody of folk poetry. The usable features of the traditions relate to naturalism, realism and genre poetry, and they connect with the subjective methods of expression used by the poets. They would use the traditionality of rate-emphatic verse and metrical verse, which is based on the Hungarian language’s special, melodic and manifold construction. Works range from classical styles and pieces to more abstract and more modern ones, with special words, figures of speech, and expressions of playfulness in uses of the Hungarian language.

This progress is in relation to aesthetic aspects of versification, like the relation of music, rhythm and language. The musical, melodic expression of the words can emphasize the verbal and written substance. Metrical and rate-emphatic verse can reinforce and strengthen the meaning, the real and free manifestation alongside formal aptness.

My presentation will consider the following questions: How could poets assert their artistic, literary and linguistic formal elements in relation to the formal obligations of versification? What are the relations between melody and word, musicality and linguistic expression, in these pieces? What is the relationship of the rhythm to the manifestation of verse? How could the musicality (versification) influence the emotional and conscious content of poems? How could the music and poetry work together, concretely in the Hungarian language area? How does the relationship of words and language as musical details in a verse correlate with or affect meaning and the intentions of the poet? What is the basic role of musicality in the poetic unit?

Elena Jugay

Vologda Institute of Business / Russian State University, Russia

The Phonetic Organization of Russian Folk Lamentations

Lamentations are texts performed by singing or recitation during a vernacular funeral rite in Russia. The phonetic organization of the Russian lamentation was examined by ethnomusicologists as a synthesis of melody and text (Efimenkova 1980), while the versification characteristic of the texts have not been examined sufficiently.

There is no single answer to the question of the meter of these lamentations. Even the modes of text organization (syllabic-tonic or free verse, frazovik, meterless) are different (Bailey 2001; Kwiatkowski 1966). Bailey noted that the meter varies due to the introductory words and extending of endings that should lead to a difference in between “sung” laments (performed during rite) and “retellings” of laments (just text, given in interviews).

The other point of phonetic organization is consonant repetitions, used in folk formulas. In Finno-Ugric lamentation (Vepsian and Karelian) alliteration is more important than semantics in building the vocabulary (Stepavova 1987; Zukova 2009). Alliteration is considered to be atypical for the Russian folk versification, but the research of Zaliznjak (2008) and Putilov (1999, 1986) show that some other specific types of the consonant repetitions exist in Russian folklore (songs, epics called bylinas).

The statistical method and quantitative analysis of a text corpus (The Databases “The Russian Lamentations”, made by the author) are used in the research presented in this paper. The comparative method reveals that the rhythm depends on the performance type of the lamentation. Structural and semantic analysis of lament texts helps to interpret the quantitative data.

Works Cited

Bailey, James. 2001. Selected Articles on Russian Folk Verse. Moscow (in Russian).
Efimenkova, Borislava. 1980. The North Russian Lamentation. Saint-Petersburg (in Russian).
Kwiatkowski, Alexander. 1966. Poetic Dictionary. Moscow (in Russian).
Putilov, Boris. 1986. Bylinas: A Collection. Leningrad. Pp. 5–46. (in Russian).
Putilov, Boris. 1999. An Excursion into the Theory and History of the Slavic Epic. St. Petersburg (in Russian).
Russian laments: hypertext dictionary and database. (the project was created in the RSUH and was supported by grant RFBR № 14-36-50255) (in Russian).
Stepanova, Alexandra. 1985. The Metaphorical World of Karelian Laments. Petrozavodsk (in Russian).
Zaliznyak, Andrei. 2008. “The Lay of Igor”: A View of a Linguist. Moscow (in Russian).
Zhukova, Olga. 2009. The Linguistic Features of Vepsian Ritual Lamentations. Petrozavodsk (in Russian).

Hanna Karhu

University of Helsinki, Finland

Finnish Rhymed Couplet Meter (rekilaulumitta) in Folk Songs and in Written Poetry – The Case of Otto Manninen’s Poems and Archival Material

Key words: oral folklore, written poetry, Finnish rhymed couplet meter, literary manuscripts

In my paper, I will examine different aspects of the Finnish rhymed couplet meter (rekilaulumitta) in a certain corpus that consists of Finnish folk songs, rewritings of these songs and published poems inspired by the songs. The folk songs concerned here, based on the Finnish rhymed couplet, were the most common folk song type in the end of the 19th and in the beginning of the 20th century in Finland. The songs commonly have only one stanza that consists of four verses (sometimes written in two lines). A stanza consists of two verse pairs connected by rhyme.

Finnish poet Otto Manninen (1872−1951) used certain elements of the Finnish rhymed couplet in his poetry. In Otto Manninen’s archive there is also a notebook that contains Finnish folksongs. Manninen made alterations to the folksongs and drafted a couple of his own poems in the notebook. Folksongs are a major subtext in Manninen’s famous poem “Pellavan kitkijä” (“The Harvest of Flax”) (1897/1905) which resembles a folksong; folksongs also have an influential role also in other poems of Manninen.

In my paper, I will observe the rhymed couplet meter in the original folk songs, in Manninen’s rewritings of the songs and also in his poems that resemble folk songs. With some examples I will compare the original folk songs and Manninen’s versions of them. I intend to demonstrate what metrical aspects of the original songs Manninen appreciated and what he tried to improve in his own poetry and why.

Erika Laamanen

University of Helsinki, Finland

The Metrical Evolution of Lauri Viita’s Poetry

Key words: Finnish Modernism, Lauri Viita, traditional metre, free verse, prose rhythm

In my paper, I examine metrical differences of Finnish modernist Lauri Viita’s (1916–1965) four books of poetry: Betonimylläri (1947), Kukunor (1949), Käppyräinen (1954), Suutarikin suuri viisas (1961). Each of the works has its own characteristics that range from the metrical discipline of Betonimylläri to the metrical disintegration of Suutarikin suuri viisas. What is the nature of this metrical evolution? What do the changes tell about Viita’s poetics? How are the paradigm shifts that first occurred in Finland at the beginning of 1950s (High Modernism) and then again at the end of the decade (departure from modernist poetics) reflected on the metrical form of his works?

The basic principle of Viita’s poetry is that of continuing tradition. In Viita’s case it means both conserving elements from literary tradition and adding new things to it. It also means revaluating the ideas of the past and evaluating newer trends. By examining the metrical frames that Viita employs in his books of poetry I will demonstrate that metre is an important means by which Viita carries out his notion of the continuation of tradition.

In his poems Viita successfully employs a variety of metrical forms – from traditional patterns to prose rhythm. Perhaps due to his fascination with metre Viita has been a problematic case for scholars who deal with Finnish Modernism. The idea that he was a traditionalist, and not a proper modernist, has survived until today. It is true that Viita never gave up traditional forms completely, but over time he did widen his metrical repertoire in ways that reflect the literary trends of the 1950s. In my paper I propose that the aspect of progression of Viita’s poetry should be given more emphasis and that it is more productive to examine Viita’s poems as modernist rather than traditionalist texts.

Eva Lilja

Göteborg University, Sweden

Embodied Rhythm

Key words: rhythm, embodiment, signification, inter media

Here I will define aesthetic rhythm and relate it to the human body. I will also demonstrate a model for rhythmic signification.

  • ‘Rhythm’ in a work of art signifies a play with temporal or spatial proportions within the perception of a Gestalt. ‘Rhythm’ may be looked upon as a motion within the (perceived) Gestalt, a play of directions that includes reaching a focus. Cognitive schemas shape the perception of impulses, the perceived relations between masses, stresses and deviations. In this process, the motoric patterns are important. I presume that ‘Balance’ is the schema specific for works of art. ‘Rhythm’ in a work art might be said to signify the play between balance and deviation from balance.
  • ‘Rhythm’ might be looked upon as bodily principles of order. Biorhythms work as models for aesthetic rhythm – like pulse, breathing, and walking. The shapes of biorhythms should be dominating in the form schemas of aesthetic rhythm.

Rhythm patterns seem to be the same for spatial and temporal art forms. Cognitive schemas must be premodal. The very word ‘rhythm’ emanates from the rhythmos of Ancient Greece, where it was used for ‘ordered movement’ of all kinds.

  • Experienced rhythm patterns should be coloured with bodily reactions – the balance of walking, the joy or anger of a jump, the safety of regular heart beats, and so on. In common life, signification have always been ascribed to rhythms. Just think of the power of good rock’n’roll. Rhythms always signify something with the help of the silent methods of the body rhythms that colour life with feeling and attitude.

I will demonstrate these matters with the help of Seamus Heaney’s poem “Sloe Gin” (1984).

Maria-Kristiina Lotman1

Mihhail Lotman2

1 University of Tartu; 2 University of Tartu / Tallinn University, Estonia

Meter and Semantics: Subjectivity in Estonian verse

Keywords: emotion, vocabulary, deixis, vocatives, statistical-comparative analysis

It is generally known that poetry is more emotional and subjective than prose. The aim of the present paper is to analyse the subjectivity of poetry with objective methods, focusing especially on possible differences between verse traditions and verse forms. The analysis concentrates on three aspects: communicative perspective of poetry (in particular, deixis), vocabulary related to emotions and, finally, vocatives and addresses.

The material for the analysis was chosen from two different Estonian poetical traditions: the poetry of the second half of the 19th century, when the Estonian poetical canon was established, and the modernist poetry of the beginning of the 20th century.

The method for the study is statistical-comparative analysis. In addition to the comparison of two different periods also the lexis of various verse metres is analysed, especially that of the main metres of the earlier poetry, i.e. iambic and trochaic tetrameters, while comparative material is provided by hexameter. All in all, 20 authors have been studied: from their works, 6207 iambic tetrameters, 9239 trochaic tetrameters, and 2300 dactylic hexameters were sampled. The data for the analysis of poetry, especially that of deixis, is compared to the corresponding indices of random metrical units sampled from prose.

The lexical analysis revealed differences between verse traditions as well as verse metres in every analysed aspect. It appeared that iambic poetry is the richest in the vocabulary of emotions, especially prevailing is love. When we compare traditionalists and modernists, then here the earlier authors have a greater proportion of such vocabulary, the prevalent lexics being that of love and hope. At the same time, the proportions of the lexics of happiness and misery are almost equal. The emotionality of hexameter is higher due to the lexics of anger; in other aspects the lexics of emotions is poorer. As for the lexics of addresses, the comparison of verse metres revealed that such lexics is somewhat richer in trochees; in iambi the occurrences of such vocabulary are to some extent raised with words like dear and darling in this context. Almost no addresses were observed in hexameters. The comparison of two periods showed an important difference: the incidence of addresses is remarkably higher in traditional poetry, while modernists display only occasional instances of such vocabulary. The analysis of deixis revealed also differences between traditions and metres: there are more deictics in iambic poetry and in traditional authors. Consequently, the analysis revealed that traditionalist poetry is richer in subjective lexics; as for the verse metres, the most subjective is iambic poetry.

Mikael Males

University of Oslo, Norway

Metrical Innovation in Skaldic Poetry c. 900–1220

Keywords: Old Norse, dróttkvætt, Háttatal, prosody

To the skalds, the concept of metre (háttr) was more inclusive than it is to us, comprising not only metrical and prosodic features, but also patterns of diction (cf. Kristján Árnason 2006: 82–83). The defining factor was fixed recurrence, without further restrictions to stress or quantity. Using their own concept makes it possible to trace developments that the skalds were probably aware of themselves, and similar results may be had by considering, for instance, verse-length and catalexis, rather than Sieversian types. If these blunt but effective tools are applied to the skaldic corpus, clear lines of development emerge which have so far passed largely unnoticed by scholars. Thus, the tenth century saw a regularization of the dróttkvætt metre, as well as, it would seem, the mysterious emergence of exact end-rhyme some 150 years before its time in Europe at large. In the eleventh century, new metres were constructed through the expansion or contraction of the verse, but also through the to us non-metrical feature of systematic splitting of verses. In the twelfth century, additional metres were not only formed by altered verse length and end-rhyme, but also by patterns of rhyme and diction. With regard to rhyme in particular, deviant verses in earlier poetry, which were the products of poetic licence at the time of composition, were classified and used as building blocks of new metres. In c. 1220, this development was carried to its systematic and unsurpassed completion by Snorri in his Háttatal. In this paper, an overview of these developments will be presented.

Works Cited

Kristján Árnason. 2006. “Um Háttatal Snorra Sturlusonar: Bragform og braglýsing”. Gripla 17: 75–124.

Alice Martin

Werner Söderström Osakeyhtiö, Finland

The Snark becomes Krauki: Translating Lewis Carroll’s Metre into Finnish

Keywords: verse translation, metrical solutions from English to Finnish, Lewis Carroll

This paper describes the struggle to translate Lewis Carroll’s epic poem The Hunting of the Snark: An Agony in Eight Fits (1876) into Finnish. As the original poem is written in iambic-anapaestic verse, and Finnish naturally tends towards the trochee, having regular word stress on the first syllable and a shortage of monosyllabic words, the prosodic solution required a great deal of thought. Rather than emulating the particular metre used by Carroll, the translator aimed at creating a regular metre that would be natural to Finnish, while also capturing the spirit of the original.

The elements that settled the metrical solution were the names of the characters, which were not only alliterative but sometimes quite long and hard to fit into metre of any kind, particularly when requiring case endings; the beginning of the poem, which would introduce the reader to the metre of the whole; and the famous refrain, “They sought it with thimbles, they sought it with care…”. The solutions to these translation problems became the key elements upon which the whole was built. Once the metre was settled and the number of choices was therefore cut down, the rest was comparatively simple. It remained to find rhymes and fit the poem into an existing prosodic scheme.

Examples of particular stanzas and prosodic details will be given, showing the kind of thinking process metrical translation can be, and possibly providing practical advice for future translators.

Klaus Johan Myrvoll

University of Oslo, Norway

Syllabic Quantity in Old Norse Metre

Keywords: syllabic quantity, Old Norse, morae, Craigie’s law, cohesion

As Bruce Hayes (1995: 50 ff.) outlines, the number of morae that make up long and short syllables may vary from one language to another. In Latin, for instance, all syllables with two or more morae (/tat/, /ta:/, etc.) count as long, but in other languages a bimoraic syllable must have a long vowel to count as long; the syllabic type /tat/ thus count in these languages as short.

It seems that Old Norse syllabic structure, as it is manifest in Old Norse metres, is of a third type, not mentioned by Hayes, where all bimoraic syllables, also those comprising a long vowel, count as short. Hence, e.g., both and vit are short syllables. In the handbooks of Old Norse these syllable types are dealt with in many different ways. Some (e.g., Iversen 1972) regard as a long syllable – apparently because of the long vowel – but vit as short (cf. Hayes). Others (e.g., Sievers 1893, Heusler 1931) claim that both and vit are long syllables, whereas the disyllabic búa and vita have short first syllables. The last fact may be observed in metrical practice, where words like búa and vita always occupy only one position in the metre by resolution.

This can, however, not explain why the Old Norse skalds so strictly avoided the placement of monosyllables such as and vit in metrically heavy positions before words beginning with a vowel, and the fact that and vit are treated identically with regard to Craigie’s law. To explain this, it will be argued in this paper that all bimoraic syllables in Old Norse count as short, as assumed by Noreen 1923. This would explain on the one hand that monosyllables such as and vit must be followed by a word beginning with a consonant to carry a heavy position (by cohesion), and on the other hand that words like búa and vita occupy one position by resolution. In this analysis, only the tri- and tetramoraic syllables count as naturally long.

Works Cited

Hayes, Bruce. 1995. Metrical Stress Theory: Principles and Case Studies. Chicago – London.
Heusler, Andreas. 1931. Altisländisches Elementarbuch. 3. ed. Heidelberg.
Iversen, Ragnvald. 1972. Norrøn grammatikk. 7. ed. by E. F. Halvorsen. Oslo.
Noreen, Adolf. 1923. Altnordische Grammatik I: Altisländische und altnorwegische Grammatik (laut- und flexionslehre) unter Berücksichtigung des Urnordischen. 4. ed. Halle.
Sievers, Eduard. 1893. Altgermanische Metrik. Halle.

Hans Nollet

KU Leuven (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven), Belgium

A Case Study: The Diachrony of the Dactylic Hexameter in Justus Lipsius’s Poetry

Keywords: metrics in practice, dactylic hexameter, versification, Neo-Latin, occasional poetry

The Brabant humanist Justus Lipsius (1547–1606) occupies a distinguished place in the respublica litteraria of his time. Lipsius’s vast knowledge of Roman Antiquity, combined with his unparalleled skill in the Latin language, earned him a reputation far beyond the borders of the Low Countries. His poetical output – mainly occasional poetry – represents but 1.2% of his Opera omnia, and totals around 3,000 lines. The poems are composed in more than 15 different metrical schemes, of which 4 distinctly prevail: Catullan hendecasyllables, iambic trimeter (each 25%), elegiac couplets and dactylic hexameter (each 15%).

In this paper I propose to deal with two aspects of Lipsius’s versification. In the metrical section, I intend to analyse the structure and the specific nature of his dactylic hexameter, illustrating the evolution it underwent throughout Lipsius’s life, in an attempt to provide additional evidence for narrowing down the date of creation of certain undated poems. Statistical results are compared with earlier research about the patterns and the frequency of hexameter verse in Antiquity and Humanism, as carried out by L. Ceccarelli, J.-L. Charlet, J. Dangel and G. E. Duckworth. In the linguistic section I discuss the dependencies on classical or humanist literary models, highlighting Lipsius’s continuous efforts to revitalise obsolete or rare Latin words. We conclude with some brief remarks on the social function of humanist poetry practice and on the criteria for the assessment of literary texts.

Janika Oras

Estonian Literary Museum, Estonia

Play with Structures in Seto Oral Singing Tradition: The Broken Line as a Model of Rhythmic Variation

Keywords: musical performance, rhythmic variation, Estonian regilaul, Seto oral singing tradition

The so-called broken lines – where the short first syllable of the word with prominent stress is placed in the metrically weak position in the line – are among important markers of the Baltic-Finnic traditional quantity-based verse meter. Due to the changes in the language, the Estonian branch of this tradition (regilaul) has changed and moved closer to the syllabic-accentual verse system. As a result, the broken lines seem to function as the means of merely rhythmic variation. Particularly in the South and West Estonian song recordings we can hear verses without the structural features of the broken lines that are nevertheless musically performed like broken lines – combining 2- and 3-part metrical groups.

I will analyze the strategies of constructing such broken-line-like structures in the song performances of the South-Eastern border of the Baltic-Finnic song tradition, in Seto polyphonic singing tradition. The analysis is based on the 28 recordings of the harvesting melody (põllu hääl) which belongs to the older singing style. The musical rhythm is syllabic (one syllable corresponds to one note) and isochronic (all the notes are of the same length). Such one-level rhythm is closely connected to the verse rhythm and enables quite remarkable occasional rhythmic variation. Not all of the variations are definite and predictable – while performing some types of verses, the singers can use alternative rhythmic solutions. So the performance resembles a (mutual) play of the singers – the lead singer and the choir – with rhythmic structure. The main topics of analysis are: 1) which verse types and strategies are used in forming the occasional broken-line-like structures (structures combining 2- and 3-part metrical groups) in the performance; 2) how the rhythmical peculiarities of Seto song performances are related to the classical Kalevala-meter and to its specific developments in South-Eastern Estonia.

Vera Polilova

Moscow State University, Russia

Genesis of Russian taktovik: The Actual State of the Problem

Keywords: rhythm and meter, tonic versification, taktovik, strict accentual verse

This report will focus on the questions of Russian taktovik’s genesis and the identification of this meter as an independent meter in the system of Russian tonic versification.

Russian taktovik or strict accentual verse is always conceptualized in connection with the main Russian non-classical meter — dol’nik: Mikhail Gasparov defined and described taktovik (1968, 1974) as a result of the dol’nik’s blurring through the introduction of ‘unlawful’ trisyllabic intervals between ictuses. James Bailey (1975) argued with this point and made mention of the fact that the time of birth (or, rather, flowering) of both types of verse dates back to the 1890s, which means that one meter cannot be considered as the result of the blurring of the other. Anyway, in the work of these researchers forty years ago by methods of statistical analysis taktovik (or strict accentual verse) was identified as an independent meter in which a line has the intervals between ictuses range from one to three syllables, and occasionally from zero to two. Today researchers apply Gasparov’s and Bailey’s principles of taktovik’s description and use the array of rhythmic forms elaborated by them. However, the problem of the genesis of this meter remains unsolved. Furthermore, as a recent observation shows neither is the problem of its separation from dol’nik: Sergey Liapin has recently demonstrated that Gasparov in his later works defined texts with intervals between ictuses range from one to three syllables in a line as dol’nik. In my presentation I am going to present the results of the first phase of an extensive re-examination on the Russian taktovik with a detailed description of the existing theories of taktovik’s origin, revision of the actual terminology and analysis of the rhythmic structure of the poetic texts of Russian Symbolists traditionally studied as examples of taktovik.

The reported study was supported by RFBR, research project No. 16-36-00421 мол_a.

Tuula Rautio

University of Helsinki, Finland

The Last Rhyme

Keywords: Kaarlo Sarkia, metrics, muses, rhyme, sonnet

The 1950s is known as the time of the great revolution in Finnish poetry called the modernism of the fifties. In those days metrics and rhyme were abandoned and our poetry was filled with free verse. But who really wrote the last rhymes and when? The name of one person is mentioned in many sources of literary history: Kaarlo Sarkia. As Kai Laitinen (1997) notes about him: “[this] poet has brought one mode to its end, it was not possible to go forward in the same direction”.

I would propose the illustrative role of a turning point to a certain sonnet in his last poem work Kohtalon vaaka (The scales of fate) 1943. The sonnet is suitable for showing changes because of its specific formally structured identity. The sonnet recognizes changes and adapts to them, but at the same time it maintains its formally identified nature. This poem was not his last but it is possible to observe some indications of the future through it. Are these signs visible or has the writer hidden them on purpose? Virtuosic rhyming, with long rhyme words and a versatile use of acoustic properties of the language, is characteristic of the production of this poet. He uses alliterations, consonance, rhymes and metrics traditionally. However, I will examine marks of a coming era, and notice also the group of poems surrounding this sonnet.

This sonnet is quite faithful to the schematic form of the traditional Italian sonnet (from the late 13th and early 14th century) and follows it in spite of some irregularities which differ from the tradition. On the other hand it makes the question of the Muse in modern sonnet poetry reasonably interesting.

Rosalía Rodríguez-Vázquez

University of Vigo, Spain

Galician Song Metrics in the Iberian Phonological Continuum

Keywords: metrics, stress, textsetting, folksong, Galician

Galician is a Romance language spoken by some 2.5 million people in Galicia, a region situated on the Northwest coast of Spain, just above Portugal. Despite the fact that Galician and Spanish share a good number of phonological characteristics, the behaviour of unstressed vowels in the two languages is one of the most salient differences between them. While Galician, like Iberian Portuguese, shows vowel reduction in unstressed positions – a fact linked to the existence of phonemically contrastive open and closed mid vowels in stressed positions only – Spanish tends to disfavour vowel reduction in both stressed and unstressed position (see Castro 2004).

The present paper aims at testing the existence of an ‘Iberian phonological continuum’ with regard to vowel reduction phenomena by studying the setting of text to music in Galician, as well as in Portuguese and Spanish. A small corpus of folksong in those three languages is analysed in order to determine (i) the textsetting constraints at work as well as their ranking in the three languages, (ii) the degree to which Galician and Spanish differ with regard to the status of stress, and (iii) the structure of stress groups in these languages.

As well as offering a number of textsetting criteria for the phonological characterisation of the languages in question, the analysis presented in this paper evinces that the metrics of Galician folksong has been influenced by Spanish and Iberian Portuguese textsetting, a fact that raises some interesting questions related to the history of the languages spoken in Galicia.

Works Cited

Castro, Obdulia (2004) “Pitch Accent in Galician Spanish”, in L. Sayahi, Selected Proceedings of the First Workshop on Spanish Sociolinguistics, Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project, 43-52.
Rodríguez Vázquez, Rosalía (2013) “The Metrics of Galician Songs: Some Preliminary Remarks”, SIGNA (Revista de la Asociación Española de Semiótica) 22: 59-80.

Nicolas Royer-Artuso

Laval University, Canada

Ottoman ‘Aruz to Usul’ Textsetting Principles

Key words: textsetting, Ottoman poetry, Ottoman court music, metrics, rhythm

Ottoman court poetry was driven structurally by the demands of the borrowed Arabic meter system, Aruz. Their music was rhythmically driven by a system very similar in its rules, the Usul system (where short and long subdivisions are added to form complex structures, e.g. Long+Short; Short+Short+Long, etc.). The mapping Aruz↔Usul is, nevertheless, never symmetrical: two relatively similar structures run in parallel, and adaptation is therefore necessary.

The aim of this talk is to uncover some of the principles that are in action in this process of adaptation and to propose some general textsetting principles. For this purpose, an analysis of four different types of adaptation that can be found in the repertoire will be presented:

  1. Different poems in the same meter that are mapped onto the same rhythm;
  2. Different poems in the same meter that are mapped onto different rhythms;
  3. Poems in different meters that are mapped onto the same rhythm; and
  4. Poems in different meters that are mapped onto different rhythms.

Some results:

  1. Because the rhythmical structure cannot change, the adaptations are only seen in the manner the text is to be mapped onto this structure;
  2. Often, words are added to some verses to fill positions that are rhythmically needed; these words generally function as propositional attitude markers at the level of the entire discourse that constitute the poem, or at the level of specific phrases;
  3. Tempo influences the texsetting process: faster songs tend to have a stronger one-to‐one relationship between syllables and rhythmical slots and a stronger one‐to‐one relationship between verses and measures, whereas slower songs tend to have a freer mapping of syllables onto slots and a freer mapping of verses onto measures;
  4. Strong beats and important pitches (according to the modal system, maqam) are the crucial determinants of the text→melody mapping.

Anna Rubtsova

Tallinn University, Estonia

Iambic Tetrameter of Vladislav Khodasevich

Keywords: iambic tetrameter, dynamic refraction of verse

Iambic tetrameter of Khodasevich – is a unique example of a poetical evolution and development of the author’s ‘voice’. The biggest part of it belongs to the rhythmical side. This paper is a report on several years of research on Khodasevich’s versification. The main methodological feature is the study of formal characteristics separately in each of the five books of his poems. It gives us an understanding of a dynamic refraction of the verse. Iambic tetrameter is the main verse size for four out of the five books. But the rhythmical side of it is less flat and we can without doubt claim that the poet’s rhythmical preferences did change during that time. The comparison of rhythmic curves tells us about his following the tradition of the 19th century in the second and third books, shows the Pushkin-type rhythm in the fourth book (“Heavy lira”) and the most classical and traditional iamb belongs to the last book – European night. But the feeling of a new, smooth and even modern manner of this book makes us think that there is not a sufficiently persuasive foundation for the well-known and almost undeniable statements about the fact that all the formal characteristics of Khodasevich’s verse contradict all the features common for his time. The study of all the rhythmical forms of iambic tetrameter (just for this purpose we created a new computer programme that makes a duet with a human, which helps to almost completely avoid statistical mistakes) gave the reason to consider that the rhythmical manner of Khodasevich is autonomous and the “return back to Pushkin standard on all possible levels” is an exaggeration. It feels like today it is strongly needed to update the data about the rhythmical forms of the iambic tetrameter that Kirill Taranovsky put together by adding new records about the 20th century poets. And we truly hope that our information presented in this paper might be helpful.

Taive Särg

Estonian Literary Museum

Recreating the Metre: Verses of More than Eight Syllables in Estonian regilaul

Keywords: regilaul, meter in performance, syllables per metrical position, sung meter

Meter is the presence of a regular pattern of beats, i.e. meter technically does not exist without a real performance of a verse or music in its context. The aim of this paper is to analyse some phenomena in the realisation of regilaul meter during the course of singing. The analysis is based on the sound recordings preserved in The Estonian Folklore Archives. Regilaul verses with more than 8 syllables will be analysed. Regilaul meter usually has 8 metrical units both in its lyrics and melody, but verses often consist of more than 8 syllables. A melody usually has 8 (sometimes 9) structural notes.

The regilaul meter is both a mental model that organises singing, and a set of formal features, being (re)created while singing. The singer forms verses that are on the one hand similar enough to build the meter and on the other hand, different, to makes use of the variety of language and cause some rhythmic variety.

The two main ways of singing will be analysed for longer verses.

  1. Longer verses are usually adapted to the regular meter of 8 metrical units while singing. For that some metrical units are divided and filled with two syllables.

There exist differences in local traditions in the preference of which metrical unit(s) are divided.

  1. In more rare cases syllables are not adapted to 8 metrical units, but some metrical units are added to the verse. It is a clear change in the metrical pattern.

What makes singers to perform differently the long verses of very similar or even of the same rhythmic structure? The questions of verse structuring are relevant for contemporary regilaul singers, as written verses always do not reveal the way the syllables form metrical units and should be matched to melody notes. Estonian folklore collections contain times more regilaul texts written down without melodies than songs with melodies.

Mari Sarv

Estonian Literary Museum, Estonia

The Relationship of Metre and Performance in Case of Folksongs

Keywords: metrical versus musical templates, Estonian folksongs, regilaul

In metrical studies it is generally considered that metre should be treated separately from its performance. It might held true for the author poetry, although one may presume that usually author, who is writing a poem, considers – at least mentally – how it will be pronounced or performed. In case of oral poetry it is presumable that the traditional way of performance and the text evolve together. In my paper I will try to prove this claim on the basis of Estonian folksongs.

When analyzing the meter of Estonian folksongs, I came to the conclusion that metrical and musical templates are not totally independent, but structure one another mutually: it may be the text that adapts itself to the rhythmic structure of the melody, or it may be the melody that adapts itself to the intonational and rhythmical structure of the text.

In case of Estonian folksongs the relationship between the text and the melody is usually considered quite simple and clear-cut – there are usually eight rhythmic units in a melody each corresponding most usually to a syllable, but there are certain rules and regional peculiarities of the tradition, which allow 6-12 syllables to be accommodated into a line. Setu song tradition from an ethnic group in Southeast Estonia offers us a much more complicated case: it is a branch of the Finnic runosong tradition where the poetic form is very similar to the Estonian songs, but the musical form is different, much more elaborated and varied, requiring the addition of syllables or small words during the performance. The same line can be adapted to the melodies of various rhythmic structure requiring the different, at the same time traditional, adaptation.

Maria V. Stanyukovich1

Galina B. Sytchenko2

1 Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera), Russian Academy of Science; 2 M. I. Glinka Novosibirsk State Conservatoire Russia

Poetic Language and Music of the hudhud ni nosi, a Yattuka Funeral Chant, the Philippines

Keywords: ritual poetry, sub-genre variations, music and metrical organization

The paper treats the correlation of text and melody in a hudhud-shaped dirge of the Yattuka, an indigenous group of Philippine highlanders. The Yattuka live in the municipality of Asipulo, the Southern part of the Ifugao province. Even within that small territory they constitute a minority: there are only two Yattuka-speaking villages surrounded by the speakers of Keley-I, Kalanguya, Ayangan and Tuwali Ifugao. The Yattuka language and culture are highly endangered. Hudhud ni nosi is performed very rarely because of ritual restrictions and the pressure of Christianization. Only three recordings of this genre have been made so far [Stanyukovich field archive].

We will concentrate on a song performed in February 2012 at the funeral of an old woman at the sitio of Boco, Nungawa village, Asipulo municipality. Hudhud ni nosi was sung by a female soloist with a mixed male-female chorus.

The chant follows the general pattern of the Yattuka / Tuwali Ifugao heroic epic genre in regard to poetics and music. However, there are significant peculiarities rooted in the specifics of the sub-genre. According to its contents hudhud ni nosi is not an epic but a shamanistic journey from the world of the living to the abode of the dead. The paper discusses these peculiarities focusing on the role of music in the metrical organisation of the text.

Eila Stepanova

University of Helsinki, Finland

“Kallehen kandajazen kandamaista kaimatah”: The Variability and Flexibility of “Poetic Strings” in Karelian Laments

Key words: lament poetry, poetic string, alliteration

Laments may be generally defined as sung poetry of varying degrees of improvisation, which nonetheless follows conventionalized rules of traditional verbal expression, most often performed by women in ritual contexts and potentially also on non-ritual grievous occasions. The poetics of Finnic laments is characterized by demands of alliteration within flexible compositional structures. Among these lament traditions, Karelian laments are composed in rhythmic-melodic “poetic strings” of variable length united by alliteration and melody. These strings are not constrained by regularly repeating metrical structures. In performance, one or many parallel strings would represent the same essential content with different patterns of alliteration. This was possible because of a highly developed language of poetic circumlocutions (synonyms) that could accommodate different patterns of alliteration, as in the title expression of this paper: kallehen kandajazen kandamaista kaimatah ‘dear carrier’s [mother’s] carried-one [child] is seen off’.

The present paper will introduce and explore flexibility and variation in relation to semantic structures and alliteration as a compositional constraint. It will look at the relationship of the semantic content of strings and the use of circumlocutions. These circumlocutions were built on a core word or basic expression that could be expanded and developed into a complex description that nevertheless functioned as a single word such as kandaja ‘carrier’ for ‘mother’ within the poetic string of a lament. Special attention will be on use and variation of semantic core-words in relation to patterns of variation, with consideration of the number of conventional core-words meeting the same and different patterns of alliteration. Syntactically, the verb was usually at the end of each string and participated in alliteration. This paper will consider evidence of the possibility that the verb and alliteration with the verb was a primary determinant on alliteration in a poetic string during composition in performance.

Marjo Suominen

University of Helsinki, Finland

Versification in Handel’s Opera Giulio Cesare in Egitto: Surfaces of Performativity and Intertextuality

Keywords: musical rhetoric, emotive methods, performativity, reception

I examine musical, performative and versification features in some recent representations of Handel’s opera Giulio Cesare via rhetoric based musical emotive theories. Giulio Cesare in Egitto (Julius Caesar in Egypt) was first performed in London in 1724, and it is an opera in three acts by Georg Friedrich Handel to a libretto written by Nicola Francesco Haym adapted from Giacomo Francesco Bussani’s Giulio Cesare in Egitto in 1677 and a later version of the same libretto in 1685.

By studying the emotive methods utilized by the composer in the opera, I imagine what the messages by the composer to his audience were and how contemporary listener in the 18th century might have experienced the performances of the work. Handel operates with musical motifs as versification and signifying the thematic meanings and structure of Giulio Cesare. For example in Cornelia’s aria “Cessa omai di sospirare”, an end now to sighing, she determinedly emphasizes words ‘heaven’, ‘hope’ and ‘constancy’, which prove also to have musical melodic corresponding motifs and metrical figures. The characterizations follow the themes of the work. The frameworks of this study include emotive theories derived from antiquity, Eero Tarasti´s existential semiotic Soi-Moi-modal model, and Raymond Monelle’s pastoral-epoque, hunting-protest, military-colonialist musical tropes.

My focus is on the overlapping of the surfaces of Giulio Cesare’s performativity, timelessness and flexibility in its 20th and 21st century performances, which are seen as acts of realization of the work, the composer is viewed as one of the performers of it. Handel utilized musical rhetoric via emotive tools in intertextual ways, so the renderings form out models of recent constructions, representing instances of basic views of an epoch (traditional), as well as satiric/ironic (modern) and colonialist (flamboyant) readings of the work.

Myfany Turpin

University of Sydney, Australia

Multi-Modal Parallelism in Central Australian Song-Poetry

Keywords: parallelism, positional variability, awelye poetry, everywhen

A performance of traditional Aboriginal song-poetry known as awelye is a communion with ancestral beings who sang the world into existence and who continue to exert influence on the living. Awelye is characterized by parallelism of form and meaning in the textual, musical and visual modalities of this multi-modal performance genre. Parallelism refers to the organized co-occurrence of elements such that each resembles the other, but is not identical; thus creating equivalence (Jakobson 1960: 368; Fabb 2010: 13 & in submission). In the verses we find measured repetition that serves as a frame for positional variability (Frog 2014: 186). Consider the repeating couplet below whose lines, A and B, exhibit parallelism in both form and meaning.


The rhythm in both lines is identical and the text differs only minimally. The locus for variability is the line initial position. Line A commences with a poetic word for a ceremonial headband, lyerlkarr, which is replaced in Line B with iltya-kenh, literally ‘belonging to the hands’, a metonym for a ceremonial headband used as a dancing prop; thus the two words are functionally equivalent. Accompanying this couplet is a dance whereby dancers whoosh a white headband through the air above their heads symbolising clouds. Here semantic parallelism spills into the visual domain as the objects, people and sounds lexicalized in the text are realized in the hands and movements of the dancers.

This paper identifies the various types of parallelism (syntactic, morphological, semantic, phonological, rhythmic and cross-modality) as well as the various levels (line, couplet, verse, hemistich, dipod) and positions at which parallelism operates. The preferred cite for textual variability is line-initial; and this is correlated with a prosodic feature of the language, namely word initial non-contrastive stress.

This paper also considers the role of parallelism in such high art, suggesting that it facilitates an effect of converging “performance and experiential reality” (Frog 2014: 200) and what Ellis (1984) and Strehlow (1971) describe as the merging of the everyday realm with that of the ancestral realm; which Stanner so aptly translates as the “everywhen”.

Works Cited

Ellis, Catherine. 1984. “Time Consciousness of Aboriginal Performers”. In Problems and Solutions: Occasional Essays in Musicology Presented to Alice M. Moyle. Ed. Jamie C. Kassler & Jill Stubington. Sydney: Hale & Iremonger. Pp. 149–185.
Fabb N. Under review. “Poetic parallelism and working memory”.
Fox, James. 2014. Explorations in Semantic Parallelism. Canberra: ANU Press.
Frog. 2014. “Parallelism, Mode, Medium and Orders of Representation”. Parallelism in Verbal Art and Performance. Pre-print Papers of the Seminar-workshop 26th–27th May 2014, Helsinki, Finland. Ed. Frog. Folkloristiikan toimite 21. Helsinki: University of Helsinki. Pp. 185–207.
Jakobson, Roman. 1960. Closing Statement: Linguistics and Poetics. In Sebeok, T.A. (ed.), Style in Language. Cambridge: M.I.T. Press. Pp. 350–377.
Stanner, W. E. H. 1987 [1956]. “The Dreaming”. In Traditional Aboriginal Society. Ed. W. E. H. Edwards. Melbourne: Macmillan. Pp. 225–236.
Strehlow, T. G. H. 1971. Songs of Central Australia. Sydney: Angus &Robertson.

Yelena Sesselja Helgadóttir

University of Iceland, Iceland

Formulaic Language in Minimal Metrical Requirements: The Case of Postmedieval Icelandic þulur

Keywords: þulur, formulaic language, alliteration, rhyme, lack of metrical consistency

Postmedieval Icelandic þulur (PMÞ) are lists of names, sequences of short motifs and/or longer narrative episodes (consisting of names and motifs) in very loose metrical form. The narration in PMÞ is fragmentary and seldom entirely coherent. PMÞ are deeply rooted in Old Icelandic þulur of mythological names and poetic synonyms, but they also draw on postmedieval Scandinavian rhymes – and supposedly on medieval folk poetic traditions that may have thrived alongside the more learned þulur mentioned above. PMÞ are folklore texts: fragmentary, intersecting, and varied.

The rhythm of PMÞ is so irregular that they are on the borderline between verse and prose. PMÞ do not have strophical division. They make use of alliteration and rhyme – both end rhyme and, less frequently, internal rhyme, – but never consistently. Their lines are of unequal length, and a number of lines is not woven into the text by any metrical means. Nonetheless, PMÞ are perceived as verse in their milieu, as indicated e.g. by the fact that PMÞ are laid out as metrical poetry in informants’ transcriptions.

PMÞ use formulaic language as part of their oral compositional strategies. Categorization of this language as formulaic presents, nonetheless, some theoretical challenges, since the definition of oral poetic formulae has been tightly bound to both metrical units and narration. Is the concept of poetic formulae applicable to poetry in as loose a metrical form as PMÞ, and where listing seemingly prevails over narration as the main compositional principle? In my paper I propose to discuss the problem of formulaic language in this poetry with minimal, yet essential metrical requirements and to showcase some strategies of its formulaic language adaptation to the metrical instability, on the one hand, – and how formulaic language creates and maintains metrical space around it, on the other.

Tobia Zanon

University of Padua, Italy

Versification, Translation and Lyrical Traditions

Keywords: translation and versification, literary and cultural transfers, European lyrical poetry (19th–20th century)

From the second half of the 20th century, scientific interest in translation has never ceased to grow. Not only as regards those aspects that relate to translation as ‘genre’, that is its purely literary implications, but also and especially as regards its sociological and cultural connotations. In this context, major interest has been shown in ‘literary transfer’, understood as one of the preferred aspects of a critical attempt to reinterpret literary history in a transnational perspective. In such a perspective translation in all its aspects appears to be a privileged token. Any form of literary contact (all the more translation) involves a change in the target literature. These forms of ‘literary interference’ appear even more interesting in a context such as the Italian-French one, characterized by a certain linguistic proximity and historical continuity of relationships and exchanges that has lasted since the Middle Ages. The principal aims that my paper intends to reach are the study the influences of translation in different metrical systems (specifically between Italy and France in the modern age) and in a purely stylistic and formal perspective, that is, the comparison of the two traditions in terms of their different lyrical poetic forms and different metric systems. I will thus be able to study the mutual influences of one literature on another and, together, the problem areas where linguistic proximity and metric diversity (for example in versification) collide. In choosing the corpus of texts to be studied, translations in both languages (19th–20th Century) will be taken into consideration.

Luca Zuliani

University of Padova, Italy

Music and Text in Contemporary Italy

Keywords: metrics, music, rhythm, prosody

Tonal music has changed the traditional metrical conventions of Italian poetry in many ways. Beginning with the opera arias, Italian prosody was forced to introduce some new features, both in rhymes and rhythm. The two main changes are:

  • the need of proparoxytone and oxytone rhymes, caused by the frequency of masculine endings in the melodic patterns;
  • the need of lines composed by regular feet, because tonal music has a simplified rhythmic system, with accents in a fixed position.

These metrical innovations are not well suited to the Italian language, which is a syllable-timed language, wherein most of the words are long and paroxytone and the rhythmic structure is rather rigid. At the end of the 16th century, a set of stylistic devices was developed to cope with these metrical needs, but it partially fell out of use during the second half of the 20th century. In a 2009 book (Poesia e versi per musica. Bologna: il Mulino), I have examined the whole Italian tradition, focusing on the transition from Middle Ages to Renaissance. In the last years, I have focused on contemporary musical texts. This paper will concentrate on the lyrics that are used in contemporary songs: new stylistic devices have been created, but the situation is still rather fluid and innovations coming from below are still not accepted by the most cultivated song-writers. These changes, and this resistance, continue a long-standing conflict in the history of Italian song, between the prosody of the poetic text (and of the Italian language) and the rhythm of the musical line.

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