The poetic function and aesthetic qualities: Cognitive poetics and the Jakobsonian model

Reuven Tsur*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


According to Jakobson, the poetic function forces readers or listeners more than other linguistic functions to attend to the signifiers in linguistic signs, away from the signifieds. This it does by superimposing similarity on contiguity. As to aesthetic qualities, when you say “The music is sad”, or “This poem is sad”, you do not refer to a mental process of the music or the poem, but report that you have detected a structural resemblance between an emotion and the music or the poem. This is their aesthetic quality, Similarity between linguistic units in a continuous text may be exploited so as to display a perceptual quality that has a structural resemblance to human emotions. Within this theoretical framework, the paper explores how landscape descriptions can have a structural resemblance to human emotions; how rhyme and acoustic energy may contribute to emotional qualities; how Jakobson’s distinction between babbling and the arbitrary referential sign may illuminate poetic language; how alliteration may distinguish poetic from other kinds of language, but also hypnotic from other kinds of poetry; finally, it will account for the artificiality of visual patterning in poetry, but also for its relationship to mysticism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2-19
Number of pages18
JournalActa Linguistica Hafniensia
StatePublished - 2010


  • Cognition
  • Equivalence
  • Metaphorical and metonymical poles in language
  • Poetic function
  • Reader-response
  • Rhyme


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