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Artistic Recitation of Metered Speech


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andescantonmine owndefor mitiiiii Figure 12Wave plot and pitch contour of "An(d) descant on mine own deformity"

The close phonological connection of Andto the preceding sun blurs, then, the preceding verse line as a whole. As I suggested above, this apparently unjustified connection may have a structural justification, nevertheless. It may have been meant to weaken the last but one prosodic-syntactic unit, so as to increase the requiredness and closural quality of the last line. By the same token, this would increase the "punch-line" quality of the last line, enhancing its jubilant sarcasm, as a perceptual quality. We have said enough about enjambments to claim that there arevocal strategies that may solve this problem, to eat one's cake and have it. In fact, I believe, this is a borderline case. Some listeners may judge that the falling terminal intonation contour does take care of weakly articulating the line boundary. I personally would prefer if the word-final [n] were a shade longer.11
To conclude. We have explored the "triple encodedness" of phonetic cues in metered dramatic speech. The phonetic cues that serve to identify ordinary speech sounds are manipulated such that they provide information about two additional dimensions of the text: its emotive import and rhythmic organisation. When listeners encounter some deviation from ordinary pronunciation, in the appropriate circumstances they tend to decode the distorted speech sounds as parts of two or three different sets.12We have pointed out three types of structural relationships between phonetic cues and poetic effects: redundancy, conflicting cues, overdetermination. Skilled actors are usually aware only of the intended effect, not the details of the vocal manipulations, just as you and I are capable of verbal communication, without being aware of the phonetic cues we use. The poet does not indicate what phonetic cues should be used, and in what manner. The actor generates his speech applying his "phonetic competence" to the written text. And once introduced, he exploits the phonetic cues for multipe purposes. That's how artistic creation works in general, on other levels of poetry, and in other artistic media as well.


Barney, Tom (1990) "The Forms of Enjambment". University of
Lancaster unpublished MA dissertation.

11I have attempted to lengthen the [n] electronically, and displayed the result on
my website, among the other sound files.
12There are, of course, additional sets as well, such as regional and social dialect.