International Journal of Language & Linguistics

ISSN 2374-8850 (Print), 2374-8869 (Online) DOI: 10.30845/ijll

On The Diachronic Analysis of Old English Metre
Professor Inna Matyushina

The article is devoted to the diachronic analysis of Old English metre, based on the study of changes in the metrical structure of lines, modification of laws governing the placement of a caesura and the sound structure of alliteration, as well as transformations of the phonetic organisation of verse (the loss of certain types of sound devices, the appearance and spreading of others). As is shown in the article, the most important criteria for the diachronic analysis of Old English metre appear to be deviations from the canons governing the quantitative structure of alliteration (alliteration including palatal [g'] and velar [g]; alliteration of voiceless consonants [hl-, hn-, hr-, hw-]; alliteration of consonant clusters [st, sp-, sl-, sn-, sw-]) as well as the use of double alliteration, studied with special reference to skaldic runhent. The main focus of the article is on the study of the sound organisation of half- and long lines. In nearly a third of the extant lines of Old English poetry, alliteration is enriched by additional sound devices, whose structure and function appear to be crucial for the diachronic study of Old English metre. In discussion of these in Old English verse not only full repetitions of vowels and consonants of root morphemes are considered, but also consonances, as these were canonised in other Germanic poetic traditions (i.e. Old Norse), preserving the skaldic system of internal rhyme (skothendingar – consonances used in odd lines, and aðalhendingar – full rhymes used in even lines). The distribution of full rhymes and consonances involving root morphemes is analysed in opposition to the sound repetitions of inflectional and suffixational morphemes. Inflectional rhymes resulting from rhythmic-syntactic parallelisms are taken into account, if they occur in isosyllabic units constituting rhythmic groups and in the same function as the rhymes of root morphemes. The function of consonances and full rhymes is studied not only in the units of poetic speech, such as compound words, lexical repetitions, repetitions of genetically related words and formulas, but also in the metrical units of verse. The change in the distribution of different types of full rhymes and consonances within half-lines and long lines can be accounted for by the changes taking place in the metrical organisation of alliterative verse.

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