The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Phonology Circle 10/22- Stefano Versace

This week’s Phonology Circle will feature a presentation by Stefano Versace on Italian meter.

Title: Metrical form and Montale’s meter
Time: Wed 10/22, 5pm, 32-D831

(1) nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita “in the middle of our life’s stride”
(2) mi ritrovai per una selva oscura “I found myself in a dark wood”
(3) e tu seguissi le fragili architetture “would you follow the frail architectures”

At first blush, the three lines above may appear to be written in the same meter, but in fact they are not. Famously, example (1) and (2) are the first two lines of Dante’s Divine Comedy, and instantiate two different patterns of endecasillabo, the most common meter in the Italian tradition: Generative Metrics (Cf. Nespor & Vogel (1986)) has provided a scansion of this meter in terms of an abstract iambic pattern, elaborating on Halle & Keyser (1966) proposal. Example (3) instead is a line from Montale’s poetry, and it differs from an endecasillabo in that it has more syllables than expected. It therefore exemplifies what the metrical tradition has labelled tredecasillabo (i.e. a 13- syllable line), simply acknowledging a difference in measure. Here I am going to claim instead that such lines can be scanned as endecasillabi by applying some deletion (Δ-) rules (as proposed by Fabb & Halle (2008)). After providing the necessary specifics about scansion rules in Italian metrics, the talk will focus on the interpretation of this meter, also discussing different frameworks for motivating the deletion. Beside the aforementioned Fabb & Halle (2008) modular approach, they mainly include constraint-based and prosodic-constituency-based interpretations; here, I will argue for the first one to be the most appropriate.

The schedule for the rest of the term is:

  • November 12: Hrayr Khanjian
  • November 19: Jonah Katz
  • December 3rd: Jen Michaels
  • December 10: Giorgio Magri