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Sign Systems Studies

Volume 28, 2000

Michail Lotman
Pages 217-240

Russian verse
Its metrics, versification systems, and prosody (Generative synopsis)

Russian verse: Its metrics, versification systems, and prosody (Generative synopsis). In the article the general verse metre theory and its application to Russian verse is adressed, allowing us, thereby, to observe not the single details, but only the most general characteristics of verse. The treatment can be summarised in the five following points: 1) the basis for the phenomenon of verse is its metrical code: the special feature of verse text is the presence of its metre (this feature is common to every verse type, to the most regular verse, as well as to vers libre); 2) the nature of verse metre is extralinguistic, there is no metre within a language, the latter can only induce certain limitations in choosing a metre; 3) metre is an abstract chain of translational symmetry, the elementary period of which is called verse foot (i.e. firstly, verse feet are contained in every versification system, incl. syllabic verse and free verse, and, secondly, verse feet can not be defined in terms of natural language, e.g., as the combination of short and long or accented and unaccented syllables). 4) in verse text, metre appears through the medium of natural language: verse metre is coded in terms of natural language; the nature of its codification is detennined by the versification system. Hence, every verse metre can be realised in different versification systems, e.g. iambus can occur in syllabic-accentual, syllabic-quantitative, and some other versification systems; 5) verse prosody is a consequence of the influence of verse metre on the prosodies of language; the range of transformation of a language system by verse metre extends from the unification of the strength of verse accents in accentual verse to such artificial formations as the origination of long syllables in languages which lack phonological quantity.

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