Ants Oras: Did He Know Russian “Formalists”?

  • Marina Tarlinskaja Department of Linguistics, University of Washington, Seattle, Box 354340 Seattle, WA 98195-4340
Keywords: syntax, punctuation, pause, syntactic break, gradation of syntactic breaks, Formalists


The article compares two approaches to studying line segmentation in verse. Line segmentation probably corresponded to pauses in declamation. The Estonian scholar Ants Oras studied syntactic breaks in Elizabethan dramas using punctuation as a signal of a “pause”. His research yielded valuable results, and his method has recently been followed by Professors Mac Donald P. Jackson and Douglas Bruster: places of punctuation can be quickly found by a computer. However, punctuation came from the random choices of copiers, editors and typesetters, therefore it is not too reliable. The Russian school of thought to which I belong looks for places of syntactic breaks of various strength. These do not change from edition to edition. Ants Oras’s tables at first glance remind us of those by Russian “Formalists”, for example, Boris Tomashevsky. However, no Russian scholar is quoted in Oras’s works, so the question is: did he know about the Russian works?


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