End-weight effects in verse and language

Lev Blumenfeld


Weight ordering preferences appear to function in opposite directions in verse and language. While linguistic expressions, in both syntax and phonology, typically display a “long-last” effect (Cooper and Ross 1975), stanza forms often show the the opposite, “short-last” structure.

This effect has been called “saliency” in previous literature (Hayes and MacEachern 1996; Kiparsky 2006). In this paper I address this apparent discrepancy between the behaviour of verse and language. I argue that “saliency” is not a primitive in the theory, but can be derived from more basic mechanisms that allow grouping structure to be signalled, and show that “short-last” structures are optimal under the conditions of metrical verse that possesses parallelism.


weight; prosody; stanza

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.12697/smp.2016.3.1.01


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ISSN 2346-6901 (print)
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