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Three-Position Verses in Beowulf and Genesis A: Syntagmatically-Induced Exceptions to the Four-Position Principle

  • Seiichi Suzuki (a1)

Three-position (catalectic) verses in fornyrðislag are fully integrated with their regular, four-position counterparts, and accordingly composed in strict conformity to the four-position principle through alignment of the verse-final drop with null linguistic material. However, they are produced only exceptionally in violation of the same principle in Beowulf and Genesis A. With maximal fidelity to the principle, Beowulf almost categorically disallows such short verses, whereas Genesis A, constrained by the principle to a lesser extent, is more liberal in accepting them, as with other metrical operations controlled by the canon, such as anacrusis. Far from random accidents, however, these anomalous verses are most likely to arise under a cluster of syntagmatic conditions: i) The missing element constitutes a verse-final drop; ii) it is preceded by two consecutive lifts. Given the two forces working in optimal combination, the configuration PPx occurs with the highest incidence among the variants of three-position verses in these two Old English poems. *

Corresponding author
Kansai Gaidai University, 16-1 Nakamiya-higashino, Hirakata 573-1001, Japan, []
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Thomas Cable . 1991. The English alliterative tradition . Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Alger N. Doane 2013. Genesis A: A new edition, revised . Tempe, AZ: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.

Calvin B. Kendall 1991. The metrical grammar of ‘Beowulf’ . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Geoffrey Russom . 1998. Beowulf and Old Germanic metre . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Seiichi Suzuki . 1996a. The metrical organization of Beowulf: Prototype and isomorphism . Berlin: de Gruyter. Reprinted as Suzuki 2011.

Seiichi Suzuki . 1996b. On the syllable weight of -VC# in Old English: A metrical perspective. English historical linguistics 1994, ed. by Derek Britton , 3955. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Seiichi Suzuki . 2014b. Metrical positions and their linguistic realisations in Old Germanic metres: A typological overview. Studia Metrica et Poetica 1.938.

Eric Weiskott . 2013. Three-position verses in Beowulf . Notes and Queries 60.483485.

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Journal of Germanic Linguistics
  • ISSN: 1470-5427
  • EISSN: 1475-3014
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-germanic-linguistics
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