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Language and Music as Cognitive Systems$
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Patrick Rebuschat, Martin Rohmeier, John A. Hawkins, and Ian Cross

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199553426

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199553426.001.0001

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Metrical structure and the prosodic hierarchy

Metrical structure and the prosodic hierarchy

(p.32) Chapter 4 Metrical structure and the prosodic hierarchy
Language and Music as Cognitive Systems

Brechtje Post

Oxford University Press

This chapter adds further comments on the discussion in Chapter 2. Fabb and Halle argue that word stress as well as metre in verse and music are all governed by the same computational principle, which groups elements into the hierarchical pattern of the metrical grid. In language, the principle accounts for differences in prominence between syllables, explaining the pattern of stresses in words by means of a combination of rules for grid-building and prominence-assignment. In poetry, it accounts for length restrictions and the placement of marked syllables in metrical grids, and in music, the grouping of timing slots in the metrical grid accounts for its beat pattern. This implies that the parallels between language, poetry, and music run much deeper than has so far been suggested, which tallies with recent claims that different forms of temporally ordered human behaviour all show strong parallels in the way in which they are structured, reflecting the sharing of cognitive and neural resources. However, the grid does not suffice to account for prominence distribution in language. This chapter argues that the stress-assignment rules of French are very different from those of English, and they point to a different weighting of prosodic constraints, leading to cross-linguistic variation. It suggests that a prosodic hierarchy needs to be added to Fabb and Halle's metrical constraints.

Keywords:   word stress, French language, metre, verse, music, metrical grid, prominence, prosodic hierarchy

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