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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: May ::
Re: Accents
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1317  Tuesday, 14 May 2002

[1]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Monday, 13 May 2002 00:55:57 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1299 Re: Accents

[2]     From:   Peter Groves <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 14 May 2002 08:10:30 +1000 (EST)
        Subj:   RE: SHK 13.1299 Re: Accents

[3]     From:   Peter Groves <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 14 May 2002 15:43:27 +1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1299 Re: Accents


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Monday, 13 May 2002 00:55:57 -0400
Subject: 13.1299 Re: Accents
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1299 Re: Accents

The discussion of monosyllables and iambic verse invites me to revisit a
discussion I initiated a couple of years ago about the significance of
the following passage embedded in Hamlet's "How all occasions"
soliloquy.  The passage, consisting of 26 monosyllabic words (or 27 if
the last contraction is regarded as two), is clearly verse, beginning
and ending with caesuras:

-- I do not know
Why yet I live to say this thing's to do,
Sith I have cause, and will, and strength and means
To do't --

Can there be any question that this is pure iambic?  Does the fact that
the monosyllables scan so perfectly affect the conclusion I reached
about this passage?

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Groves <
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Date:           Tuesday, 14 May 2002 08:10:30 +1000 (EST)
Subject: 13.1299 Re: Accents
Comment:        RE: SHK 13.1299 Re: Accents

> But, really, can I (mildly) suggest that if anyone wants to play silly
> buggers with metrics, they cite volume-and-chapter-and-page from
> Sainsbury's _History of English Prosody_.
>
> Or, failing that, Malof's _A Manual of English Meters_.
>
> Robin Hamilton

And you might want to get your physics from Aristotle while you're at
it.

Peter Groves

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Groves <
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Date:           Tuesday, 14 May 2002 15:43:27 +1000
Subject: 13.1299 Re: Accents
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1299 Re: Accents

David Wallace writes:

> Peter Groves writes:
>
> > The placement of stress is governed by complex rules, certainly, as
> > Kiparsky and Hanson would be the first to acknowledge, but the
> > complexity is hidden from the native speaker, for whom language
> > functions as a sort of "black box".  A metre like i.p. is a set of
> > abstract binary patterns, all derivable from a common source (a set of
> > ten alternating metrical positions wS wS wS wS wS) by transformations
> > that (in English) swap adjacent positions (e.g. Sw wS wS wS wS); a
> > string with a prosodic structure that can be mapped onto one of these
> > patterns successfully is a metrical line.
>
> I'm sorry. I have no idea what this means. If stress or accent or
> emphasis or whatever could "swap adjacent positions" willy-nilly, there
> would be no pattern, would there?

In which case, common sense might suggest that they indeed do not do so
"willy-nilly".  The transformations, as one might suppose, are governed
by rules.  But it really isn't too much of a cognitive strain to see a
pattern like Sw wS wS wS wS (as exemplified in a line like "Merchant of
Syracusa, plead no more") as a variation on wS wS wS wS wS. It is
precisely this ability to derive a number of metrical templates from the
underlying matrix wS wS wS wS wS that gives pentameter its
much-commented-on doubleness of rhythmic effect 9sometimes described as
"counterpoint" or "syncopation").  If Mr Wallace wants to find out more
about this, he had better read the book; if he doesn't, there is not a
lot of use in his discussing it.

> > Derek Attridge has written of what he calls "the widely-felt
> > desire for a simple key to unlock the secret chambers of prosody"
> > (<Rhythms of English Poetry>  43); the matter, unfortunately, is much
> > more complicated than this.  You cannot, for example, simply disregard
> > the stress in lexical monosyllables as though it were irrelevant to the
> > metre. By this rule the following made-up example would be a metrical
> > pentameter:
>
> > Disconsolate friends of Bill and Elaine
> >  w  s  w s     w     s   w   s   w  s
>
> Again, I'm lost. Can Professor Grove [sic] explain why the above "made up
> example" cannot be considered iambic pentameter?

As Louis Armstrong is supposed to have remarked, "If you gotta ask, you
ain't got it yet."  Metricality is something (like grammaticality) that
we perceive in the first instance by means of acquired intuitions; if Mr
Wallace hasn't acquired them, I can't supply them.  He could try taking
a vote on the matter of its metrical acceptability among a number of
people who are familiar with the metre.  Of course, there is a
theoretical way of demonstrating its unmetricality, but it depends on a
prior understanding of the theory, which I can't provide in the space of
an email.

> And how is it an
> example of disregarding "the stress in lexical monosyllables"?

To give a short (and thus not fully satisfactory) answer, the stress in
the lexical monosyllables <friends> and <Bill>, occurring in w-position,
produce what Halle and Keyser would call unmetrical stress-maxima.  If
we changed it to the following (keeping exactly the same sequence of
lexically stressed and unstressed syllables, Kiparsky and Hanson would
now also rule it unmetrical:

Disconsolate buddies pity Elaine
 w  s  w s    w  s   w  s w  s

But effectively nothing has changed.  It is unmetrical for the same
reason the previous version is unmetrical -- misplaced lexical stress.

>I have a
> question I'd like to pose about monosyllables. Can Professor Grove offer
> a complete sentence consisting of ten monosyllables that he would NOT
> consider iambic pentameter. And could he kindly explain his reasons?

Certainly: how about "Jack says that Jill is a bit of a pill" or "What
are spikes on the top of the fence for?".  As for the reasons -- again,
if I hadn't had to write a book on the subject I certainly wouldn't have
bothered.  I know metre *seems* easy and straightforward, but that's
because the
linguiistic complexity of the process is concealed from us as users (as
it is in the case of the syntax and phonology of English itself):
marxists would call the process "fetichization"

> > On the other hand, the same rule will reject as unmetrical the following
> > inoffensive line, because the stressed syllable of <renew'd> falls in W:
> >
> > Give renew'd fire to our extincted Spirits      (Oth. 2.1.81)
> >  w    s w     s    w  s  w  s   w    s x
>
> Yes. But what Professor Grove neglects to mention is that this line is
> surrounded by an abundance of lines that DO adhere to the pattern I've
> offered. There are many lines that do not adhere to the principles.

If that's the case then the principles are not particularly
interesting.  Kiparsky and Hanson are generative metrists: you can be
certain they wouldn't argue like this.  A generative metric is a set of
rules that prescribes all and only the metrical lines in a tradition:
it's purpose is to make explicit the intuitions about metricality I
spoke of earlier.  The problem with "Give renew'd fire to our extincted
Spirits" is precisely that is ISN'T unmetrical: a theory that so
describes it is clearly wrong.

>The
> vast majority do. I don't know what Shakespeare was "hearing" in this
> line. Prefixes such as "re" or "un" sometimes receive stress and
> sometimes don't, often depending on the word and the context. I don't
> suggest the word be pronounced "RE-new'd. But it's worth noting that
> words with prefixes or compound words can shift their stress.
> In any
> event, is it inconceivable that Shakespeare could have written a
> unmetrical line

But it isn't unmetrical.

or that a copyist or a printer might screw up an
> occasional line? There is no way to account for every contingency.
>
> > And just to put the tin lid on this absurdity, the same rule will admit
> > as metrical my emended line below, which to anyone's ear is in metrical
> > terms virtually unchanged:
> >
> > Give a new fire to our extincted spirits
> >  w   s  w   s    w  s  w  s   w    s x
>
> The "rule" does not "admit" or exclude lines as metrical or unmetrical.

In which case, it is not particularly interesting.

> Shakespeare is not following the "rule". The principle *describes* the
> metrical pattern in the vast majority of lines. Even if its accuracy
> rate were only 95%, it would still be a decided improvement over the
> traditional description of iambic pentameter.

Any fool could devise a principle that includes most lines but also
includes unmetrical ones: how about "every line has ten syllables".
It's not a particularly interesting thing to do.

> > You also can't ignore contextually determined contrastive accent, as I
> > pointed out in my previous post.  Even Kiparsky has partly recognized
> > this, though what he doesn't realise is that it's altogether different
> > from lexical stress and has different metrical 'value'; he has claimed,
> > for example, that &#8223;Some apparent counterexamples [to his metrical
> > theory] are eliminated by taking into account contrastive stress"
> > (&#8223;Rhythmic Structure" 210), by which he means swapping adjacent
> > nodes in the stress-tree; this would save the following line, for
> > example (rather necessary since Pope, of all people, doesn't write
> > unmetrical lines) by shifting the "stress" from <-cowl'd> to <UN->
> >
> > Men bearded, bald, cowl'd, UNcowl'd, shod, UNshod (Pope, Dunciad 3.114)
> >  w    s  w    s     w      s  w        s   w   s
>
> What's the problem?

As Dr Johnson said, "Sir, I am obliged to furnish you with an argument;
I am not obliged to furnish you with an understanding."  I explain the
problem with tolerable clarity.

> The stress in "UNcowl'd" is in a strong metrical
> position. The stress in "UNshod" is in a weak metrical position
> following a syntactic break (a comma). Shakespeare does the same thing
> in "Never, never, never, never, never". The stress, here, is entirely
> inverted and still adheres to the principle Kiparsky and Hanson
> advance.  Examples in Shakespeare are legion.
>
> > But the same rule will render the following line UNmetrical (which is
> > clearly counter-intuitive)
> >
> > Curl'd or UNcurl'd, since Locks will turn to grey,      (Pope, RL 5.26)
> >  w     s  w  s       w     s     w    s    w   s
>
> Not so. According to the principles I outlined the line is perfectly
> metrical. "Or" is a conjunction - a syntactic break - exactly where
> Shakespeare (and others) permit stress in a weak metrical position.
> Again, examples are legion.

No: this only works for a clause or phrase-level conjunction.

>
> > as though the line were similar to this genuinely unmetrical line (for
> > Pope, at any rate):
> >
> > c
> >   w     s   w s   w     s     w    s    w   s
>
> How this line is unmetrical while the preceding IS metrical eludes me.
> It appears Professor Grove is relying on his intuition about what Pope
> would or would not consider metrical. Evidence please?

Of course I'm using my intuition; this is why the difference doesn't
elude *me*.  Anyone who can't see that "*Curl'd or wavy, since Locks
will turn to grey" (having as it does what traditional metrists would
call two successive trochees) is impossible in Pope, is probably wasting
their time writing about metre in the first place.  But intuitions can
be explained (<-curl'd> is stressed, and there is thus no reversal;
<-vy> isn't).  If Mr Wallace can find an actual example in Pope of a
reversal preceded only by a word-level (not clause-level) conjunction,
as here, I'll eat my left leg with mint sauce.

> > But it isn't, because stress and accent are different things (see my
> > reply to David Evett for a further elaboration).
>
> Yes. Stress assumes a pattern. Accent doesn't.

Now *I'm* confused: you claimed earlier that the <un-> in "Curl'd or
UNcurl'd" was "stressed".  What, then, is accent in your understanding?

> > David Wallace: "The advantage of the theory I am advocating is that it
> > offers empirical, concrete evidence of a metrical pattern. In
> > Shakespeare, the rhythmic pattern of the line must contend with the
> > syntactic character of the sentence. The rhythm is concrete (or absent
> > in the absence of polysyllabic words).
> >
> > So "So long as men can breathe or eyes can see" doesn't have an iambic
> > rhythm?  I think you may encounter some skepticism on this point.
>
> Yes, yes. By the traditional description. As in his example above from
> Othello, Professor Grove is attempting to make his case by focusing on
> the exception. We both could find dozens of examples which don't adhere
> to the traditional description. Such as "Then kill, kill, kill, kill,
> kill, kill" (*Lear* 4.6.187) - followed by a pause to allow for the
> entrance of another actor. All lines of verse have a rhythmic
> character.  That is not in question. What is at issue here is the nature
> of the *pattern*.

I'm sorry, but it's perfectly absurd to claim that "So long as men can
breathe or eyes can see" represents an exception to or aberration from
the metrical pattern: it's about as plonkingly obvious an iambic
pentameter as you could hope to find.  A theory that is required to
claim otherwise is clearly of very little value.

Peter Groves

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