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  Philologica 5 (1998)  
   
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E. A. KRASNOPEVCEV

THE PHONICS AND SEMANTICS OF THE HOMERIC HEXAMETER
(Triadic World Structure)

 
 
 



 

Summary

In this article some semantic features of the tripodies of the Ancient Greek epic hexameter are established. In the first three feet words are more frequently used which are connected with the ideas of articulate speech, signification, discreteness, as well as numerals, personal pronouns, articles and particles. Conversely, in the last three feet words are more frequently used which signify a continuous flow of sound; relation, connection; things surrounding human beings; names of gods and notions pertaining to the divine world. Hemistichs are also opposed in terms of right vs. left, straight vs. curved and recent vs. ancient. Besides, the feet of each tripody reveal a semantic correlation with the spatial position on the vertical: in many archaic cultures the triad “the heavens — man — the earth” functions as a universal classification system. The results of the research make us think that the three feet of the tripody symbolize the three levels of archaic space (in the sequence from the higher to the lower).

On the other hand, the tongue as the speech organ is also involved in the process of spatial movement. The phonics of the first hemistich is chiefly organized by means of initial consonants: in the first foot there is an increase in the proportion of the words with initial dentals, in the second foot there is an increase in the proportion of the words with initial labials, while in the third foot there is an increase in the proportion of the words with initial velars. The phonics of the second hemistich is chiefly organized by means of vowels: the proportion of front vowels (η, ι) rises in the fourth foot, the proportion of “middle” vowels (α) rises in the fifth foot, and the proportion of back vowels (ο, ω) rises in the sixth foot. Therefore, the consonants of the first hemistich are opposed to the vowels of the second hemistich as discrete sounds to continuous sounds (at the same time the formal difference between the tripodies fully corresponds to their semantics). The discovered “mechanism of verse” enables us to appreciate anew the role of the hexameter in ancient poetic tradition. Its agents, aoidoi, were capable of being inspired by the sacred truth and expressing it through speech, whose meter to some extent reflected the structure of spiritual space.

 



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