Poetic structure

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dihydrogen monoxide

Senior Member
Slovene, Serbo-Croat
Why is it that sentence structures, ie. word order that are found in poetry, grammatical in languages but unnatural in spoken language?
 
  • Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    The short answer is to make the words fit the meter.

    The longer answer is that poetry is an art form which has its own rules. though they may differ according to time and place. In poetry every word can be considered a piece of a mosaic which is chosen carefully and put in the right place according to the effect you want to achieve. If poetry wanders too far from syntax though it risks being obscure - which is only fine if you want to be obscure.
     

    Penyafort

    Senior Member
    Catalan (Catalonia), Spanish (Spain)
    It is also interesting to know some of the differences among languages when counting those meters in poetry.

    For instance, in the Romance languages, the Alexandrine verse in Catalan, French and Occitan is made of 12 syllables divided by a caesura (6+6), while in Italian and Spanish it's got 14 syllabales (7+7). This is mainly due to differences in word length and this affects the way of counting syllables in verses.
     

    Welsh_Sion

    Senior Member
    Welsh - Northern
    We also make use of 'unnatural' structures in poetry in order to affect such things as alliteration, assonance, rhyme, onomatopeia and in Welsh what we call cynghanedd (a system of 'harmony', which is essentially unique to us - but you can write, usually very poor in meaning/sense however, cynghanedd in other languages.

    Also in Welsh, 'clipped' forms of words (reducing syllables, say) and placing the adjective before the noun are also 'tricks' of the poet's craft in order to satisfy the constraints of so-called strict metre - in order to satisfy strict syllable counting rules per line and also the constraints of cynghanedd.

    Note in Welsh that the sonnet is NOT considered a 'strict metre' form of poetry as it is not written in cynghanedd.
     

    Treaty

    Senior Member
    Persian
    Also, poets tend to muse with older stages of the language (like imitating the classical language used by preceding poets). In this sense, the 'unnatural' grammar and vocabulary might have been somewhat natural in an earlier point.
     

    dihydrogen monoxide

    Senior Member
    Slovene, Serbo-Croat
    However, in BCS which is free word order, the poetic word order is not unnatural. But usually, if a language has a sentence structure that sounds weird, it is usually written of as poetic in linguistics.
     
    In Μodern Greek the most common poetic verse (since 10th c. CE) is made of 15 syllables known as iambic decapentasyllabic verse (iambic because each syllable is composed of two feet, one unstressed followed by a stress called «ἴαμβος» íămbŏs --> iambus, mocking verse (because iambic verse was first used by satirists): ws|ws|ws|ws||ws|ws|ws|ws|w (w=weak, s=strong, ||=caesura), and decapentasyllabic from dekapente=15 in Greek + syllable (7+8).
    Like BCS, Greek has free word order, the poetic word order may change depending on the emphasis and the meaning the poet seeks to express.
     

    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    However, in BCS which is free word order, the poetic word order is not unnatural. But usually, if a language has a sentence structure that sounds weird, it is usually written of as poetic in linguistics.
    In Russian it isn't exactly unnatural (certainly nothing which could be compared to the Latin poetry, where they often utilized an almost random, highly unprojective word order), but the word orders which would be otherwise emphatic aren't actually percieved as such in poetry.
    Consider:
    Пришла, рассыпалась. Клоками
    Повисла на суках дубов,
    Легла волнистыми коврами
    Среди полей, вокруг холмов,
    Брега с недвижною рекою
    Сковала пухлой пеленою,
    Блеснул мороз, и рады мы
    Проказам матушки-зимы.
    (Alexander "Our Everything" Pushkin, a winter scene from Eugene Onegin)
     

    ahvalj

    Senior Member
    In Russian it isn't exactly unnatural (certainly nothing which could be compared to the Latin poetry, where they often utilized an almost random, highly unprojective word order), but the word orders which would be otherwise emphatic aren't actually percieved as such in poetry.
    Там врагу заслон поставлен прочный ©
    There — to the enemy — a barrier — has been put — firm
    ”A firm barrier has been put there against the enemy”.

    Я тебя в твоей не знала славе ©
    I — you — in your — didn't know — glory
    “I didn't know you in your glory”.
     

    Quiviscumque

    Moderator
    Spanish-Spain
    It is also interesting to know some of the differences among languages when counting those meters in poetry.

    For instance, in the Romance languages, the Alexandrine verse in Catalan, French and Occitan is made of 12 syllables divided by a caesura (6+6), while in Italian and Spanish it's got 14 syllabales (7+7). This is mainly due to differences in word length and this affects the way of counting syllables in verses.
    Well, in practice you can get the same number of syllabes, since French counts 6 syllabes to the last stress, and the same for Italian and Spanish. So, if you scan this verse following Spanish rules, you get 14:

    Que- tou-jours,- dans- vos- vers, (6+1)// le- sens- cou- pant- les- mots (6+1)

    And if you scan this verse following French rules, you get 12:

    En- cier-ta- ca-te-dral (6)// u-na- cam-pa-na ha-b-í-a (7 -1)
     
    Last edited:

    Quiviscumque

    Moderator
    Spanish-Spain
    The short answer is to make the words fit the meter.

    The longer answer is that poetry is an art form which has its own rules. though they may differ according to time and place. In poetry every word can be considered a piece of a mosaic which is chosen carefully and put in the right place according to the effect you want to achieve. If poetry wanders too far from syntax though it risks being obscure - which is only fine if you want to be obscure.
    To be pedantic, we can say that divergence from usual language has an "indexical" function (to point to the fact that we are uttering poetry) and an "iconic" function (to build well-sounding utterances).
     
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