Article

English Prosody

Thomas Cable

in Medieval Studies

ISBN: 9780195396584
Published online December 2010 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0035
English Prosody

More Like This

Show all results sharing these subjects:

  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)
  • Literary Studies (Early and Medieval)
  • Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy
  • Byzantine and Medieval Art (500 CE to 1400)
  • Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Archaeology

GO

Preview

Medieval English poetry was composed over a period of eight centuries that split roughly into two periods: Old English (late 7th to early 12th century) and Middle English (mid-12th to mid-15th century). The prosody of Old English poetry is a Germanic inheritance with parallels in the meters of Old Norse, Old Saxon, and Old High German. These meters are usually referred to as “accentual,” “strong-stress,” and “alliterative,” although all the terms are problematic. The prosody of Middle English poetry has two main strands, the native Germanic meter and the various meters adapted from foreign sources—French primarily, but also Latin and Italian. Controversy surrounds all these topics. For Old English, the concerns are not only matters of empirical fact (Were the poems chanted? What does “chant” mean?) but also matters of theoretical simplicity and elegance. For Middle English, the empirical matters concern source, filiation, and influence, especially in poetry where the categories are blurred (Is this poem in a native meter or a foreign meter?). For both strands of Middle English poetry, there are parallels to the questions of theoretical elegance posed for the earlier period, and indeed the main issues have not been resolved in the poetry of Modern English up to the present, where direct access to the poet and the poem is possible. The issues are ultimately ontological. They can be summarized by the reef on which the study of English prosody has split during the past two centuries: the assumptions of “temporal” prosody (also “rhythmical,” “musical” prosody) versus the assumptions of “stress” prosody (including most “linguistic” approaches). The selection of features of the English language with which a theory begins is the source of the contrasting approaches of “timers” and “stressers.”

Article.  3919 words. 

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500) ; Literary Studies (Early and Medieval) ; Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy ; Byzantine and Medieval Art (500 CE to 1400) ; Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Archaeology

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribeRecommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »