The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Phonology Circle 3/28 - Kevin Ryan

Speaker: Kevin Ryan (Harvard)
Title: Strictness functions in meter
Date/Time: Monday, March 28, 5:00-6:30pm
Location: 32-D831

Meters can vary in strictness along several dimensions, four of which I’ll illustrate using the Finnish Kalevala, though the principles are arguably universal.
1. Strictness increases across constituents such as the line (couplet, etc.), such that exceptions are most frequent at the beginning and taper off towards the end.
2. Although the meter is conventionally described as regulating only stressed syllables, I show that degree of regulation correlates with degree of stress, such that violations of the meter are more tolerated for more weakly stressed syllables, but not fully ignored.
3. Although conventionally described as binary, the meter evidently treats weight as gradient, such that the more the duration of a syllable deviates from its metrical target, the more the mapping is penalized.
4. Word boundaries are increasingly avoided towards the end of the line (beyond prose baselines). The conventionally recognized prohibition on line-final monosyllables is only the most extreme manifestation of this tendency.
In all four cases, strictness of mapping (i.e. how much a violation of the meter is “felt”) is modulated by some scale such as position in the line, stress level, or duration. I discuss how such modulations of strictness can be modeled in a maxent or logistic constraint framework and some resulting typological predictions.