Generative prosody and English verse

David Chisholm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The primary task of generative prosody is to discover the principles which underlie the poet's selection and rejection of linguistic material for use in an essentially non-linguistic system (meter) and to formalize these principles as rules of prosody capable of generating metrical lines of verse without predicting unmetrical lines. This essay is an attempt to explore certain aspects of these rules in the lyric iambic pentameters of Shakespeare and Pope, with some comparative references to the German verse tradition. Introductory remarks on generative prosody and the concept of metricality (section 1.) are followed by an evaluation of a recently proposed theory of English meter (section 2.) and a discussion of levels of abstraction in prosodic and linguistic feature analysis (section 3.). The final section includes remarks on stress and lexicality as prosodic features (section 3.2.), the concept of metrical ambiguity (section 3.3.) and suggested modifications of the Magnuson-Ryder theory of prosody (sections 3.4.-3.6.). The essay concludes with a discussion of positional rules (section 3.7.) and a prosody for English iambic pentameter verse (section 3.8.).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)111-153
Number of pages43
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 1977

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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