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  Philologica 5 (1998)  


(Following E. A. Krasnopevcev’s Hypothesis)




The phonic and semantic study of verse is an important province of poetics, which still remains the field of timid and uncoordinated experiments. E. A. Krasnopevcev’s article poses an interesting problem: how different sounds and words are distributed in the hexametric line and whether this distribution is linked to the semantics of verse form.

Our data, collected with the aid of computer text processing, are close to Krasnopevcev’s. It turned out, however, that the overall figures for dentals, labials and velars conceal significant discrepancies in the distribution of the sounds whose local characteristics are identical. One of the most frequent Greek consonants, the rough breathing, does not conform with the general pattern either. Moreover, if we take it into consideration, it considerably changes the distribution of other consonant sounds.

The scholar skirts the following question: which words provide for the presence of particular phonemes in a particular part of the line. In the meanwhile, for instance, the responsibility for three fifths of the initial [t] and [h] (which predominate in the first foot) falls on link words: they tend to appear at the beginning of the line (this is partly dictated by the syntactic peculiarities of the Homeric dialect and partly pre-ordained by the general rules of the Greek language). Of course, these and other facts which demonstrate a close correlation of rhythm with grammar and lexis cannot serve as evidence for any phonetic preferences.

Close inspection of the word lists attached to Krasnopevcev’s article will reveal sheer arbitrariness of his lexical-semantic classifications. The glossaries he has compiled are neither exhaustive nor consistent: seemingly, the author has selected “key” words at random.

From the point of view of methodology, Krasnopevcev’s research does not appear satisfactory, and his conclusions do not seem reliable. At the same time, we hope that the work under discussion will attract the attention of students of versification to the unresolved problems in the phonics and semantics of the poetic text.



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