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Weak monosyllables in iambic verse and the communication of metrical form

Fabb, N. (2001) Weak monosyllables in iambic verse and the communication of metrical form. Lingua, 111 (11). pp. 771-790. ISSN 0024-3841

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Abstract

Generative theories of English iambic pentameter can explain the distribution of prominent syllables (strong syllables in polysyllables) but are not well suited to explaining the complementary facts about the distribution of non-prominent syllables (such as the articles). This paper shows that non-prominent syllables are regularly distributed but less regularly than prominent syllables, and suggests that these facts are not well suited to a generative metrical account. Instead, these regularities are explained by understanding the organisation of the verseline as constituting ostensive evidence for its metrical type, in keeping with the general requirement for verbal art to draw attention to its own form.