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Near-Sameness in Early Insular Metrics: Oral Ancestry and Aesthetic Potential

Hildegard L. C. Tristram
Poetics Today
Vol. 16, No. 3, Metrics Today I (Autumn, 1995), pp. 445-470
Published by: Duke University Press
DOI: 10.2307/1773174
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1773174
Page Count: 26
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Near-Sameness in Early Insular Metrics: Oral Ancestry and Aesthetic Potential
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Abstract

In this paper I determine that near-sameness, as opposed to the paradigm of sameness in Continental cultures, comprised to varying degrees a principle of poetic patterning in the Insular languages (i.e., English, Welsh, and Irish) during the initial stages of literacy in their respective societies. A movement toward regularizing patterns took place later under the impact of a more advanced stage of literacy, whereby near-sameness was eventually abandoned for sameness in English while becoming an obligatory feature of versification in Welsh and Irish. I show how the early Insular literatures manifest intricate patterns of phonological equivalence based on different forms of near-sameness. I address both the segmental and suprasegmental near-sameness that was relevant for metrical purposes in the respective cultures, such as oxytonic and paroxytonic cadences in Welsh and Irish and "resolutions" in English; morphological alternations in Welsh and Irish (initial mutations); and phoneme splits (due to palatalization) in Old English. I further consider whether this obvious predilection for near-sameness was due to coincidence, (mutual) influence, or genetic inheritance and development ("drift").

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