BH head-dependent asymmetry and poetic meter
decaen at chass.utoronto.ca
Mon Apr 29 09:45:35 EDT 2002
i had a very exciting breakthrough this weekend, and i couldn't keep from
sharing the good news... ;-)
it seems like i've been working on tiberian phonology and masoretic
studies forever. the details of processes and the complexity of the accent
system are enough to make a brave man weep. i'd decided that progress
would require a thorough investigation of phonology as instantiated in the
tiberian poetic accent system (job, proverbs, psalms), the more
constrained and finely-grained of the two systems.
empirical coverage requires distinguishing extrametrical vs. metrical
syllables; surface-long vs. underlyingly long vowels; metrical feet and
their organization into prosodic units and eventually the phonological
word; rules for secondary accents and the several uses of maqqef. i think
i have a prosodic hierarchy that makes sense of quite a bit.... (finally!)
but the crowning insight belongs to Dresher and van der Hulst (1998),
"Head-dependent asymmetries in phonology: complexity and visibility",
Phonology 15: 317-352. phonological structure, specifically the
visibility of branching, is asymmetrical in Tiberian Hebrew in systematic
ways. this explains why syllables behave like feet, e.g., or feet like
words, when in prosodically dominant positions; and contrariwise.
it just so happens that this tiberian asymmetry accounts for metrical
patterns, and even the distribution of variations, across almost all
hebrew poetry (as far as I can see). there is a unified treatment of
tetrameters, pentameters and hexameters that is a beauty to behold. there
is a fundamental unity of the principles of cantillation (prosodics) and
hebrew poetry (metrics): perhaps not surprisingly, in retrospect.
i hope to summarize this approach in a programmatic paper before the end
of the week, for comment. i hope this paper will be included in a
collection on generative metrics forthcoming this year. i will notify the
list when the paper is available for download from my website.
Vincent DeCaen, Ph.D. <decaen at chass.utoronto.ca>
University of Toronto
Hebrew Syntax Encoding Initiative (HSEI)
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