Masculine and feminine rhymes: Their structural effect

Reuven Tsur*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This article assumes that poets use "masculine" and "feminine" rhymes not only in order to conform with conventions based on grammatical rules, but also because they are heard different. It explores possible combinations of two independent variables: stress placement in, and phonetic structure of, rhyme words. Masculine rhyme in the tonic-syllabic metre consists of a metrical strong position occupied by a stressed syllable, generating an abrupt cut-off point. In the feminine rhyme, by contrast, this clear-cut ending is followed by an unstressed syllable rendering the halt more gradual, more fuzzy-edged. Consequently, it is perceived as softer, less forceful, more pliable. Clive Scott pointed out similar effects in French versification: "masculine rhymes are abrupt, unrelenting, circumscribed,⋯ feminine rhymes are evanescent, yielding, reverberant." Speech sounds too may be either [+ABRUPT], or [+CONTINUOUS], [±PER10DIC], [±NASAL], Both feminine rhymes and nasals may be described as reverberant. These two variables can be combined in unforeseen combinations with each other and with meaning, yielding unforeseen perceptual qualities. Such qualities are not inferred but directly perceived, and can be discussed only after the event.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
JournalStyle
Volume47
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2013

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