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Re: Morae (was: Re: Lurkers, poetic forms)

From:Raymond Brown <ray.brown@...>
Date:Sunday, May 7, 2000, 19:25
At 10:20 am -0600 28/4/00, dirk elzinga wrote:

>[snipped] > >Thanks for the clarification, Ray!
You're welcome!
> It seems unusual to me that a >metrical system would be based on different acoustic and formal >cues than the accentuation system; I am frankly fascinated--
I have seen it stated that the Greeks took over metric systems developed by the pre-Greek Minoans. But AFAIK there's not the slightest proof of that. Ancient Vedic had a pitch accent system which appears to be similar to that of ancient Greek. More accurately, the ancient Hindu grammarians make a far better job of describing their pitch accent (and, indeed, their phonology generally) than the Greeks ever did; but from what clues we get it seems that the Greeks were trying to describe something similar. I believe, however, their verse rhythms were not based upon the pitch accent, but on something similar to the ancient Greek patterning of heavy & light syllables. I guess Philip Jonsson can probably tell us more about that. But there are so many things we do not know about ancient Greek phonology. We do not, e.g., know how pitch accent worked in the different dialects. We know at least that Aiolic had different rules from that of Attic & Epic Greek. Was Aiolic unusual or did other dialects diverge. We know only the details of Epic, Attic & Aiolic. As Epic is derived largely from Ionian & Attic is a sub-dialect within the Ionian group, we can be fairly certain the Ionic dialects followed the same system as Epic & Attic. But the rest, we have no knowledge; it is pure convention that prints texts in other dialects with the accentuation of Epic/Attic. We are _entirely_ ignorant about the speech rhythms of ordinary, every language in ancient Greece; and it is upon such rhythms that verse rhythms are generally developed. W.S.Allen suggests that words did have a weak stress accent and that this formed the beat in verse. Indeed, he even suggests the following rules: - words were primarily stressed on their last heavy syllable; - a secondary stress fell on preceeding heavy syllables if separated from the primary stress by at least one mora of quantity. Personally, I doubt this very much. When, in the late Koine, pitch accent gave way to stress accent, the new stress accent fell upon the _same_ syllable as the one containing the high pitched vowel under the old system. If Allen's theory is correct, we'd surely have had some 'interference' from the old stress accent - we have none. My theory is that stress was not a feature of words but, as in modern French, of _phrases_. Only a thorough analysis of Greek verse, of course, could give any insight as to whether this theory is true or not and, alas, I have neither the time nor the resources to make such an analyses :=( But far odder IMHO is the situation in Classical Latin. Latin had a stress-based word accent & one would expect that to be the basis of its verse rhythms. In the early Latin 'Saturnian verses' this was so (I know the details are not entirely clear & there are controversies, but the general consensus of opinion is that the rhythm comes from the natural word stress of spoken Latn); in Late Latin, stressed rhythm appears again & remained the norm in popular verse right throughout the Middle Ages. But in the Classical period something odd happened; the Romans adopted the time-base Greek rhythms, without regard to the Latin word stressed - or, at least, that's what we were taught at school. Yes, they did borrow the Greek time-based rhythms; yes, they apparently have nothing to do with the Latin word stress. But if one looks closer one sees something very interesting going on. It was, in fact, darn difficult for the Romans to adopt a rhythm which did have regular beats rather like those produced by regular timed bars in music & impose this on a language with word-stress without maling the verse beat & word-stress coincide - yet they did it. But the way the lyric metres had to be adapted clearly has something to do with making them acceptable in Latin. And the way the great poets used the hexameter is very illuminating. The verse beat necessarily coincides with word stress in the first foot & practically always does in the last two feet, so the rhythm is not lost. But in the intervening feet the poet is able to produce a contrapuntal effect in which the verse beat & word stress are set against one another, and to use this effect to enhance the meaning. When this was first brought to my attention, I excitedly turned to Catullus and took a look there. Yep - I found not only in the hexameter, but in other meters Catullus was using the dichotomy between verse rhythm & word-stress to produce contrapuntal effects. The Romans were not slavish imitators of the Greeks; they took Greek models and adapted & quite often, as in this case, added extra dimensions to them. I've never seen any book treating this in detail nor, indeed, do I know if anyone has done much work on this. If when I retire, the good God allows me long enough life & health this is for sure something I want to pursue further. Ray. ========================================= A mind which thinks at its own expense will always interfere with language. [J.G. Hamann 1760] =========================================