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Sign Systems Studies

Volume 29, Issue 2, 2001

Maria-Kristiina Lotman
Pages 535-560

Prosody and versification systems of ancient verse

The aim of the present study is to describe the prosodic systems of the Greek and Latin languages and to find out the versification systems which have been realized in the poetical practice. The Greek language belongs typologically among the mora-counting languages and thus provides possibilities for the emergence of purely quantitative verse, purely syllabic verse, quantitative-syllabic verse and syllabic-quantitative verse. There is no purely quantitative or purely syllabic verse in actual Greek poetry; however, the syllabic-quantitative versification systems (the Aeolian tradition) and quantitative-syllabic versification systems (the Aeolian tradition) were in use. The Latin language, on the other hand, has a number of features, which characterize it as a stress-counting language. Since at the same time there exists also the opposition of short and long syllables, there are preconditions for the syllabic, accentual and quantitative principle, as well as for the combinations of these. The Roman literary heritage shows examples of purely accentual, syllabic-quantitative, quantitative-syllabic, as well as of several other combinatory versification systems.

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