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Sound iconicity and grammar of poetry in Du Fu's "The Journey to the North" and "Singing My Heart Out in Five Hundred Characters on the Way from the Capital to Fongxian County" Hsieh, Ann-Lee

Abstract

This paper is about the sound iconicity of the Late Middle Chinese entering tone in two of Du Fu's long narrative poems, "The Journey to the North" and "Singing my Heart out in Five Hundred Characters on the Way from the Capital to Fongxian County", as well as Du Fu's grammar of poetry in these two poems. In poetry, rhyme is an arbitrary and 'visible' figure reiterated with regulation which forms an axis of sequence, and this axis will work jointly with all the other poetic elements—semantics, images, and grammar to form the whole of a poem. In these two poems, all the rhyme characters carry a voiceless —t ending, which is classified with —k and —p endings as the entering tone in Late Middle Chinese reconstructed by Edwin Pulleyblank. These voiceless stops are short, tense, and uncomfortable to utter; when they are repeated fifty and seventy times at the end of each couplet, it naturally brings about a strong, rough, and uncomfortable feeling which correlates with the feeling of suffering in both poems. It is sound iconicity, because an icon resembles the object it stands for in an immediate and concrete manner, and the —t ending rhyme characters do have the characteristics to make the reader grasp the feeling of suffering when she reads the poems. In terms of Du Fu's grammar of poetry, I used Jakobsonian methodology and found how Du Fu's poeticity was created with lexical meaning and grammar. Although Classical Chinese does not have a huge grammatical repertoire (e.g., person, case, gender, finite, non-finite . . .) which can figure in a poem, this language still has its own obligatory categories that will provide for the 'grammar of poetry'. Classical Chinese is already known for its grammatical parallelism in poetry, because this language is extremely isolating and analytical. However, grammatical parallelism is little in these two poems, but there are different kinds of grammatical tropes. They are mainly anti-syntactic inversions interacting with semantics. I found Du Fu a fascinating artist of grammar; he may be anti-grammatical but never agrammatical.

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