Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Syntactic Aspects of Poetry: A Pragmatic Perspective

Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Syntactic Aspects of Poetry: A Pragmatic Perspective

Article excerpt


The language of poetry is different from the language of other literary genres. That is to say, the grammar of poetry is different. This refers to the fact that the rules of grammars will have to be modified so as to permit certain "liberties" or "licenses" on the one hand, and to account for the novel kinds of restrictions that are imposed on linguistic units in poetry both within and beyond the sentence, on the other. Such grammar would reveal, by a comparison with the grammar of the ordinary language, many differences between poetic language, the ordinary language and any literary genre. Therefore, literature particularly poetry cannot be examined apart from language. Accordingly, poetry cannot be grasped without a thorough knowledge of grammar.

Keywords: Linguistic, Aspects, Poetry, Pragmatic, Perspective

1. Introduction

This paper is meant to review some studies and analyses that deal with the language of poetry as it is different from the language of other literary genres. Poetry consists of language that produces effects ordinary language does not produce. So poetry is a language differently ordered or arranged. Levin (1969) pointed out that linguistic analysis, when applied to poetry, would result in a grammar that is different from the grammar that a linguistic analysis of ordinary language would produce (11).

The language of poetry differs drastically from ordinary discourse. Many of these differences derive from certain literary conventions. In other words, many features distinguishing poetry from ordinary discourse result from the mere fact that a writer addresses himself to writing a poem. This fact entails a considerable number and variety of linguistic particularities. The conventions of the poetic form entail features like rhyme, alliteration, meter and so on (Levin 59).

2. Types of Deviations in the Language of Poetry

Leech (1969) argues that any deviation from expected patterns of linguistic behavior will bring about a reaction of disorientation and surprise. Rules in poetry, Leech elaborates, are made to be broken (10-12). Leech observed that looking back over the span of English literature since Chaucer; we note that certain freedoms of language have been traditionally sanctioned in verse, but not in prose (17-23). Leech remarked:

The obvious function of these freedoms is to compensate the poet for his loss of freedom in submitting himself to the discipline of verse composition; to furnish him with a wider set of choices than are normally available in English and thus to give him a better chance of squeezing his language into a predetermined mould of versification (18).

2.1 Lexical Deviation (violation of lexical rules of word formation)

Neologism, or the invention of new words, is one of the more obvious ways in which a poet exceeds the normal resources of the language. Leech calls new words "nonce-formations" if they are made for the nonce, i.e., for a single occasion only (42). The English rule of word formation permits prefixation of "fore-" to a verb, to convey the meaning "beforehand" as in foresee, foreknow, foretell and forewarn. If this rule were completely free in its application, we would use verbs such as foresell (sell in advance) or foreappear (appear in advance) without even noticing their oddity. But the rule is in fact limited to a small group of vocabulary items. For instance, in "The Waste Land" T.S. Eliot augments the group by using the verb "foresuffered" in the line:

1). And I Tiresias have foresuffered all ("The Waste Land" 243).

This strikes us as a novelty and as a surprising extension of the expressive possibilities of the language. Leech maintains that "Eliot's "foresuffered" is not just a new word, but the encapsulation of a newly formulated idea: that it is possible to anticipate mystically the suffering of the future just as it is possible to foresee, foretell, or have foreknowledge of future events (44). …

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