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The non-linguistic in poetic language. A generative approach

Fabb, Nigel (2010) The non-linguistic in poetic language. A generative approach. Journal of Literary Theory, 4 (1). pp. 1-18. ISSN 1862-5290

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Abstract

This article follows a generative approach to language, which argues that language is in part organized by rules and conditions which are specific to language. In Chomsky (Syntactic Structures, 1957), which is the foundational statement of generative linguistics, an example of a language specific rule was the ›transformational rule‹. This means that language may also be subject to other modes of organization, including linear concatenation, or counting, or rules of sequential ordering, which are not specific to language: these are the ›non-linguistic‹ modes of organization of language. In this article I identify some of the non-linguistic modes of organization as they appear in poetic language, and suggest that many aspects of poetic language must in fact be seen as non-linguistic in this sense. This violates a widely-stated hypothesis held by many linguists (at least since Sapir) who work on poetry, that poetic language is a development of the rules or conditions or processes of non-poetic (ordinary) language: this is the ›development hypothesis‹.