NON-LINEAR PHONOLOGY AND ELIZABETHAN PROSODY1

Authors


  • 1

    This paper was first given at a meeting of the Philological Society on 16th February, 1990. I am very grateful to all those who offered such helpful and lucid criticisms of this work on that occasion. I am also most grateful for the comments of the referees of this paper, all of whom made challenging and stimulating comments about the central argument. They did not agree with everything I have had to say, but their criticisms have made the paper stronger than it would otherwise have been. I have tried to incorporate as many of their suggestions as I felt were possible; to accept and incorporate all of them would have necessitated an altogether different piece of that the fourth syllable of the sapphic line, while originally either long or short, is in Horace always long; Horace also ‘introduces a caesura after the fifth syllable’ (Attridge 1974:18). This matter is also discussed in Allen (1973:348). On whether the patterning of long and short syllables within the line is to be analysed as a sequence of ‘feef’, see Allen (1973:347).

Abstract

In this paper I argue that the dating and extent of the ‘quantitative movement’ in English metres (c.1550 to c. 1603) is no mere literary accident, but is connected with changes that had taken, or were taking, place in the stress phonology of English. Chief among these changes was the extensive replacement of the native, ‘left-strong’ system of English stress by a Latinate, ‘right-strong’ system. This replacement has further consequences: a particular kind of relationship between English syllable structure and stress is established, and many secondary-stressed syllables at the right edges of English words are reduced. Both these consequences are germane to the structure of English quantitative verses of the period, as the paper explicates. The paper therefore explores, using non-linear formalism, what links may exist between the stress phonology of English and instances of English poetic form.

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