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  Philologica 2 (1995)  
   
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S. E. LIAPIN

THE PROBLEM OF THE INFLUENCE OF SYNTAX ON THE RHYTHM OF VERSE
(Using the Example of Fully Stressed Trochaic Tetrameters of Pushkin’s Verse Tales)

 
 
 


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Summary

Besides the specific segmentations which are peculiar to verse, poetic speech is also divisible into syntactic segments, the latter often coinciding with line-boundaries. Therefore the characteristics of the “natural rhythm of prose” (which are dependent on syntax) can also be seen in the rhythmic structure of the poetical line; in particular they can influence the statistics of the distribution of phonetic words.

This article deals with the rhythm of word-boundaries in Russian trochaic tetrameters with feminine endings and full ictic stressing (three of Pushkin’s tales in verses were used as material: The Tale of the Tsar Saltan, The Tale of the Dead Tsarevna, and The Tale of the Golden Cockerel). The results of statistical investigation demonstrate that the average length of the initial word in the line is dependent on the syntactic peculiarity of the preceding line-boundary. The weaker the syntactic bonds between two adjacent lines, the shorter on the average is the initial word of the second line: the strong syntactic pause pulls the next word-boundary “back to the left”.

To find out whether this phenomenon is connected with the characteristics of poetic rhythm, a methodically innovative theoretical model was elaborated. In it we took into account the frequency with which the word combinations belonging to different rhythmic types appear in a particular syntactic position in prose (at the beginning of a sentence, after the comma etc. ). It was revealed that, in the theoretical model (as well as in the actual poems), the probability of the variation of the “Car’ Saltan s zhenoj prostiasia” type sharply increases if the beginning of the line coincides with the beginning of the sentence (68% in Pushkin’s tales and 63—68% in theory); correspondingly, the probability of the variation of the “Snova kniaz’ u moria xodit” type is quite low (32% in Pushkin and 32—37% in theory). At the same time, if the isolation of the line is weak, then mono- and bisyllables are equally likely at the beginning of the line (49% and 51% in Pushkin’s poems; 39—53% and 47—61% in theory). Thus the rhythmic structure of verse can be understood and adequately described only if the syntactic context is taken into account.

 


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