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demotion


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The use of a stressed syllable in an ‘offbeat’ position in a metrical verse line that would normally be occupied by an unstressed syllable. An important means of variation in English verse, demotion usually has the effect of slowing the rhythm of the line, as in the iambic verse of Tennyson's ‘Ulysses’:The long day wanes, the slow moon climbs; the deepMoans round with many voiceswhere ‘day’, ‘moon’, and ‘Moans’ are all demoted to offbeat positions. This does not mean that they should be read as unstressed: in fact the effect depends upon their retaining at least some of their normal stress. The demotion rules formulated by Derek Attridge in The Rhythms of English Verse (1982) permit a stressed syllable to realize an offbeat between two other stressed syllables or at the beginning of a line before a stressed syllable. In similar positions in triple metre, a stressed syllable may realize an offbeat, either on its own, or with an unstressed syllable, or (more rarely) with another stressed syllable. The concepts of demotion and promotion account more successfully for those metrical variations that traditional prosody described in terms of substitution. See also metre.

Subjects: Literature.


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