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Olly Buckle
November 8th, 2012, 08:03 PM
“Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive”.
I wasn’t actually practicing to deceive when I wrote ‘I just want to Write’, only to prick people’s curiosity. It seems I succeeded in at least one case, with the writer’s permission here is a slightly edited version of the PM I got, and my reply. Now, here is food for discussion.

... I was trying to study meter, I got as far as to say it begins in iambic pentameter but I still. (as usual), am having trouble with the rules of stressed and unstressed syllables. I got as far as finding the rules are shaped so that,

1. A stressed syllable can contain a long vowel in its nucleus
2. A stressed syllable can contain a diphthong in its nucleus
&
3. A stressed syllable must have at least one or more coda(s) (or tail(s)) of consonants

However than then I found other rules that state,
"the problem is to decide whether or not to double the final consonant of the base word when adding a suffix."
For example, read the following words and deciding where to place emphasis on the stress:

profit target enter order
&
begin equip regret commit


You should notice that in the first group of words you stressed the first syllable.
And in the second group of words you stressed the second syllable.

Here is the pattern:

o If the stress is on the first syllable than the base word doesn’t change:
profit + able = profitable
enter + ed = entered

o If the stress is on the last syllable, double the final consonant before adding a vowel suffix:
begin+ ing = beginning
equip + ed = equipped

And then, Olly, it gets better
Once you finally think you can grasp the process they throw these unwarranted rules your way such as:
o The stressed syllable or syllables in a word are the ones that get pronounced more forcefully.
o The unstressed syllable or syllables in a word are the ones that get pronounced less forcefully.
For example, the adverb forcefully has the first syllable stressed,
And the other two syllables unstressed: force´fully
o You can see the (´) mark to the right of the stressed syllable to denote stress.
o This stressed syllable mark will be shown in all English dictionaries.
So, FORCE fully is the correct way to say this word.
•FORCE = the stressed syllable
•fully = the two unstressed syllables
If you said forceFULLY, the word would sound wrong


So all in all Olly, I'm to say the least....EXTREMLEY....confused
What’s your experience with these double dimensions



I didn’t come across the rules, so I didn’t have the problem like that. My introduction was reading Philip Hobsbaum, Metre, Rhythm and Verse Form. It is a good book in that it has loads in it, it is also a pig to read, I find I have to read everything about five times and look up lots of words to be sure I understand. Anyway, on stress he says it is “The amount of weight given to a given syllable” and then goes on to say it can be heavy, medium, medium to light , or light, followed by,
“It must be remembered that stresses are, to some extent, relative, affected by their position in a line and by the other stresses surrounding them.” Then he gives,

Had we but world enough and time

as an example of a line using all four stresses. He has a system using accents over the syllables to show the four types, it is very helpful, but it is quite a time consuming business working it out. Until one learns which symbol is which one has to refer back and forth to the place in the text that tells you. My keyboard won’t do all the accents, it goes

medium, light,/ light, heavy,/ light, medium-light,/ light, heavy

My first thought when reading the rules was whether they were universal, I reckon “Hey! You!” is two stressed syllables that the third rule doesn’t apply to, only one consonant in it, at the beginning. Rules don’t work well with language, it is too fluid, think of spelling rules, like ‘i before e except after c’ and then all the exceptions, or the rules for verbs when you learn a foreign language, and then there are all the irregular ones.

I don’t know if it is really a valid comparison but I would compare the rules to prescriptive as opposed to descriptive grammars.
Prescriptive grammars flourished in the nineteenth century and were still dominant in my childhood. Basically they prescribe what is right and what is wrong. For example, they say “Do not use double negatives. If you say ‘No I never did!’ you are stating that you deny never doing it, therefore you must have done it. If you did not mean that expressing yourself in this way is wrong, say ‘I did not do it’.”

Descriptive grammars, on the other hand, seek to describe the grammatical systems found in place. So they would hear people using double negatives, see this is a common dialect usage and look for a reason. Mainly it turns out to be a way of emphasising the negativity, in this case simple denial, “I didn’t do it“ is not seen as enough. Weight must be added to it, the more serious the more emphasis. “No, Miss Poppins, not never I didn’t do it, no how”

Unless you are a Mary Poppins script writer who has lifted it from its natural environment, it is also an oral thing. That means it probably carries social elements as well, such as identifying with a group. The nice thing about the descriptive system is that it not only allows for this sort of observation but it allows for the language being a living, forever changing thing. Fixed rules do not allow for that, and language certainly is that, though writing slows the changes down compared to purely oral traditions.

To go back to my comparison, remember Hobsbaum said “It must be remembered that stresses are, to some extent, relative, affected by their position in a line and by the other stresses surrounding them”. A system that has to cope with such ideas needs to be flexible and cannot be expressed in terms of ‘rules’. May be, considered as general principles rather than rules, they could give some guidance to those with a literal turn of mind, but I don’t see them as a substitute for educating the ear to hear the stress.

In many ways the best guide, until we develop our ear enough to hear it directly, is old fashioned common sense. To me forcefully will have the emphasis on force for several reasons. The force part of the word is the core meaning, the fully part could be replaced with ing, able, or less. Then the simple sound of the ‘or’ bit, it is like in ‘roar’, an onomatopoeic word, it feels more positive than ‘ul’ , that is like someone from Hull saying ‘dull’.

If the emphasis is put on the –fully it is not ‘wrong, it would emphasise the completeness of the forcing rather than the power. We haven’t joined that word up yet, force fully. Force is also by nature a strong thing. For those reasons I would expect softly to also have the emphasis on the first syllable, but as it is soft not force, and the r has smoothed into an f, I would expect a weaker stress.

The weaker the stress on a syllable the more easily the opposing syllable can gain enough strength to make it the stressed syllable. This is language, where every time you put together a combination of words you say something a bit different. Everything, everywhere changes all the time. To my mind learning to see the stress patterns is a bit like learning language when you are little. You know something is going on, but without language to explain it to yourself you don’t exactly know what. Then one day it clicks, kids go from their first word to chatterbox incredibly quickly. Don’t stress, The stress will come to you.
This is art, there is not one right way. But take as much as you can from each and, as the knowledge connects up, it gets easier, for a bit.

Try saying these out loud and seeing how the meaning changes.

To be or not to be that is the question?

The question mark at the end is mine, but put it in tonally, then,

To be or not to be that IS the question

The emphasis on the second syllable right through, perfect iambs, but lots on IS as though it is an emphatic answer. Then the way Shakespeare wrote it

To be or not to be THAT is the question

The emphasis comes on ‘that’, though not as strongly as the capitals suggest, but it is not all iambs. The emphasis depends on the context, and I don’t believe it can be dictated by a simple rule, I think it is like sailing, or playing football, or any other really complex activity, you have to learn to get the feel for it. General principles help, stay to windward, pass to the space, but they are only principles.

Ariel
April 22nd, 2013, 10:19 PM
So, to boil down your points on stressed meter: it is a learned ability with practice being the best teacher?

Personally, I find that breaking things into syllables helps me. I would go so far as to say that perhaps, for bite-sized practice, writing haiku, tanka, or even American sentences would help teach how to hear/count syllables.

I'm not the greatest at meter myself and I'm always looking for help, especially on stressed versus unstressed meter.

sas
January 31st, 2017, 11:15 PM
Oily....(where I grew up, Detroit, that could have been a gang name...smiles),

I shouldn't interject a single word here, as I understand none of it. But, you made me reminisce back to 1963 when, in college, I had to recite that famous line. I, purposely, chose to recite it this way:

To be or not/ to be/ that IS the question

I never trust my old memories, but like to think I received an A. I never could stand to do some things as expected. It has held me in good stead.

sas
February 1st, 2017, 02:10 PM
So, to boil down your points on stressed meter: it is a learned ability with practice being the best teacher?

Personally, I find that breaking things into syllables helps me. I would go so far as to say that perhaps, for bite-sized practice, writing haiku, tanka, or even American sentences would help teach how to hear/count syllables.

I'm not the greatest at meter myself and I'm always looking for help, especially on stressed versus unstressed meter.


Yes, writing in syllables is helpful. I wrote all my poems that way for over a year, and also wrote many haiku/senryu. I read a Phillip Levine interview (he, like myself, grew up in Detroit; went to same University) where he said he naturally writes with a nine count...his internal clock, I guess. Seems my clock was never wound (when I was born it was required...smiles). Although I wrote decent poetry, during that period, I found I often passed up a better word, due to count. I decided the right word was more important than the right count and stopped. It is also the reason I do not write in rhyme. Few can do it well, in mature content.

I am glad poetry has embraced less rigid styles, as acceptable. It's like being able to run under a warm summer rain, in one's underpants. Free. I always hold my arms out wide.
.

Ariel
February 1st, 2017, 02:28 PM
It took me a minute to get why I don't remember this conversation. It's nearly four years old. Still, this is great conversation for meter.

Kevin
February 1st, 2017, 04:41 PM
(geesus...she called him oily)

sas
February 1st, 2017, 06:13 PM
Kevin....I'm dying laughing. My eyes are worse than I thought. I know I'm deaf...but blind??? Yikes.

Kevin
February 1st, 2017, 06:56 PM
It's alright. The other day I lost my glasses flipped up on my head. I found another pair and went to double stack them flipped up on my head. No one was around, but oh boy... I was there and I did not appreciate it.

Olly Buckle
February 1st, 2017, 11:52 PM
Oily....(where I grew up, Detroit, that could have been a gang name...smiles),

I shouldn't interject a single word here, as I understand none of it. But, you made me reminisce back to 1963 when, in college, I had to recite that famous line. I, purposely, chose to recite it this way:

To be or not/ to be/ that IS the question

I never trust my old memories, but like to think I received an A. I never could stand to do some things as expected. It has held me in good stead.


Olly, not oily, though possibly by nature :) Short for Oliver, not a very good gang name, unless you are the roundheads :)

There ws a great skit done by Hancock where he recited that line as
'To be or not to be', that is the question?