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Old and Middle English Phonology and Meter

Donka Minkova (University of California, Los Angeles)

This seminar offers an introduction to the phonological features relevant to understanding early English versification. The changing metrical principles are examined both in relation to internal linguistic structure and as a reaction to external cultural factors.

We will read and discuss recent proposals concerning (1) the metrical structure of Beowulf and other Old English alliterative compositions, including Ælfric’s “rhythmical prose”, (2) the alliterative innovations and constraints in Middle English alliterative verse, (3) the emergence and the evolution of rhyme and syllable-counting in English prior to Chaucer, and (4) the iambic pentameter: metrical rules and violations in Chaucer, Wyatt, Milton, Shakespeare.