Synonymy and rank in alliterative poetry

Jonathan Roper


This paper addresses the high sonic demands of alliterative metres, and the consequences of these demands for sense: the semantic stretching of common words and the deployment of uncommon (archaic, 'poetic') words. The notion of alliterative rank is discussed as an indicator of such consequences (examples are given from English and Estonian verse) and the range of onsets found for synonyms of key notions in verse traditions is remarked upon.

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SIGN SYSTEMS STUDIES. ISSN 1406-4243 (print), 1736-7409 (online). E-mail: Postal address: Sign Systems Studies, Dept. of Semiotics, University of Tartu, Jakobi St. 2, 51014 Tartu, Estonia