|Nombre de pages||16|
|Publié en ligne||12 juillet 2010|
Rhythmic change in the medieval octosyllable and the development of group stress
L'Évolution rythmique du vers octosyllabique au moyen âge par rapport au développement des groupes accentuels
Department of Linguistics, Cambridge
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The medieval period witnessed a radical change in the stress rules of French. Strong lexical stress inherited from Latin was replaced by the modern French ‘group stress’ system, in which the position of stressed syllables was determined by the syntax. As demonstrated in extensive experimental work by Dupoux and Peperkamp (Dupoux et al. 1997, Dupoux and Peperkamp 2002, Peperkamp and Dupoux 2002), one of the consequences of the group stress system for L1 modern French speakers is ‘stress deafness’: a great difficulty in perceiving phonological stress constrasts. I link this observation to empirical evidence showing a change in the rhythmic patterns attested in syllabic verse in the medieval period. Using a corpus of 33 texts from 950–1500, I detail a consistent method for reconstructing the position of stressed syllables in lines of verse, permitting partial reconstructions in unclear cases. Based on these reconstructions, I show that while the earliest octosyllabic texts have a strong iambic (weak–strong) rhythm, during the first half of the thirteenth century strongly iambic texts become increasingly rare, confirming the findings of Guthrie (1987) and Noyer (2002). Moreover, I claim that despite a rise in rhythmic patterns with a stressed fifth syllable, overall development is towards a loss of deliberate rhythmic organization, since by C15 it is impossible to discern a dominant rhythmic pattern in any text. I show that the same development is attested in narrative and theatrical texts, but that strongly iambic theatrical texts are less common even in early C13. I argue that the emergence of ‘stress deafness’ may have been responsible for the disappearance of rhythmic organization from verse, and that consequently we may date the emergence of group stress to late C12–mid-C13.
© Owned by the authors, published by EDP Sciences, 2010