"The Role of Phonological Phrasing in Sung and Chanted Verse"

by Bruce Hayes and Abigail Kaun (1996).  Appeared in The Linguistic Review, vol. 13, 243-303.


(1996) Bruce Hayes and Abigail Kaun, "The Role of Phonological Phrasing in Sung and Chanted Verse," The Linguistic Review 13, 243-303.

This article is a study of the metrics of sung and chanted verse, based on a data corpus of 670 English folksong lines, as well as chanted renditions of the corpus by ten native speaker consultants. Our theoretical focus is on the role of phonological phrasing in metrics. We find that in sung and chanted verse, an especially tight correspondence to the metrical pattern is imposed on linguistic material that is either bounded within a tight phrasal domain or located at the right edge of a high-level domain. These patterns have been observed earlier for spoken verse. But for the phenomenon of metrical inversion, the behavior of sung and chanted verse is quite different from spoken verse. We develop an explanation of the difference, based on the idea that inversion in sung and chanted verse occurs only in those cases where it is the best available metrical option.

A further finding is that sung and chanted verse tends to match the number of beats alloted to a syllable to that syllable's natural linguistic duration.  We suggest that the relevant measure of duration is phonetic, not phonological; and that the tendency to phonetic duration matching in sung and chanted verse has a categorial, phonologized analogue in the phenomenon of spoken-verse Resolution.


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Sound Examples  

The examples in this paper include metrical grids showing the arrangement of syllables in time.  To help the auditory imagination in interpreting these examples, a full set of sound files with the first author chanting the examples may be obtained by clicking here.



640 lines of English folksong, from fieldwork by Cecil Sharp and others. Annotated for rhythmic textsetting (16-position grid), stress level, phonological phrasing, and weight of stressed syllables. ASCII text format (view in word processor using Courier font). See Hayes and Kaun for full documentation for this data file.


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