The Sounds of Poetry Viewed as Music

Authors

  • FRED LERDAHL

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Music, Columbia University, New York, New York 10027, USA
      Address for correspondence: Dr. Fred Lerdahl, Department of Music, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027. Voice: 212-854-1295; fred@music.columbia.edu.
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Address for correspondence: Dr. Fred Lerdahl, Department of Music, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027. Voice: 212-854-1295; fred@music.columbia.edu.

Abstract

Abstract: An extended parallel is developed between musical and prosodic structures, using the author's cognitively oriented music theory and recent work in generative phonology. For illustration, the sounds of a short poem by Robert Frost are treated entirely in musical terms. The poem is assigned a phonological stress grid and then musical grouping and meter. These structures enable a durational realization. Phonological stress also helps assign the poem's normative melodic contour. Finally, the similarities and differences in sound repetition are given hierarchical structure by means of musical prolongational theory. These formal parallels suggest a corresponding realization in brain localization and function. Evidence from the neuropsychological literature is cited in support of this view. The picture emerges that grouping, meter, duration, contour, and timbral similarity are mind/brain systems shared by music and language, whereas linguistic syntax and semantics and musical pitch relations are systems not shared by the two domains.

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