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Reuven Tsur

Phonetic Cues and Dramatic Function
Artistic Recitation of Metered Speech

This paper explores the artistic recitation of metered dramatic speech.1 By the same token, it attempts a brief synthesis of two of my research areas as expounded in two of my earlier books, What Makes Sound Patterns Expressive: The Poetic Mode of Speech-Perception(1992), and Poetic Rhythm: Structure and Performance--An Empirical Study in Cognitive Poetics(1998). It is a micro-scale study, focusing on certain aspects of phonetic cues. Consequently, the complexity of the issues involved must be demonstrated through a very small number of examples. So, I will confine myself to Gloucester's first speech in Richard III.The phrase "metered dramatic speech" suggests that phonetic cues may serve in it three different functions: phonological, expressive and rhythmic. In other words, they may deviate from "ordinary" speech under the pressure of the rhythmic and the expressive needs. I will explore three structural relationships between phonetic cues and their effects: redundancy (when several phonetic cues combine to the same effect); conflicting cues (which serve to convey conflicting prosodic effects by the same stretch of speech); and overdetermination (when one phonetic cue serves to convey a variety of unrelated--e.g., phonological, rhythmical and expressive--effects). The ensuing discussion will be divided into five sections: first, I will reproduce some of my assumptions and findings concerning the rhythmical performance of poetry; second, I will draw upon Iván Fónagy's explorations of the expressive functions of vocal style; third, I will offer a brief interpretation of Gloucester's speech; fourth, I will briefly take care of two preliminary issues required for an understanding of the main issues of the paper; the final and longest section will explore in great detail how these principles work in a small sample of lines in Gloucester's speech, on a commercial CD of Naxos (NA201512): William Shakespeare--Great Speeches and Soliloquies.2

The Rhythmical Performance of Poetry
This paper offers further empirical evidence in favour of my conception of poetic rhythm and performance as presented in my book Poetic Rhythm: Structure and Performance--An Empirical Study in Cognitive Poetics.
3It claims that in an enjambment, for instance, the performer may convey both the verse line boundary and the run-on sentence as perceptual units, however strained, by having recourse to conflicting phonetic cues: cues of continuity and discontinuity simultaneously. In my book I provided some empirical evidence for this assumption.

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This research has been supported by a grant from the Israel Science Foundation. The four performers (Simon Russel Beale, Estelle Kohler, Clifford Rose, and Sarah Woodward) are members of the Royal Shakespeare Company; but there is no indication on the record who is reading what (I assume that the speech under consideration is spoken by Beale). The sound files of the lines discussed in this paper can be downloaded from my website, http://www.tau.ac.il/~tsurxx/. Consequently, the present theoretical part of this paper is heavily drawing upon that book.