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A phonological approach to Tennyson's Maud Horsman, Nancy Christine

Abstract

Modern linguistics has offered methods of analysis which have permitted fresh insights into the structure of language. Two such methods are J. R. Firth's "prosodie analysis", which works from the hypothesis that the syllable is the basic unit of sound-meaning in English, and the phonemic theory of the major American structural linguists. This thesis uses a combination of both theories in order to explore some of the phonological structures of Maud and their relation to meaning. Such an analysis holds that /y/, /w/ and /h/ are prosodies which work to give resonant effects to the poem, as these same prosodies do in the language. From the phonological descriptions three suggestions emerge. First, Maud reveals a dominant /wh/ sound which, because of its very strong effect in the poem, intimates that it is a dominant sound in the language. Second, the poem has deep imbeddings of /ow/, /ay/, /ey/, /iy/, and /Xj and /d/ syllables, which occur in the poem as wave patterns of sound-meaning rather than as line patterns of sound and meaning. Third, there is a strong correlation between the sound syllables and the theme words in Maud, which points to the possibilities of a unit analysis of the syllable as the repository of sound-meaning in the poetry, and, perhaps, in the language. From these suggestions the thesis offers the conjectures that sound symbolism in poetry--as in language--has evolved, not from the poet's "instinctive" responses to the cries of nature, but from his sophisticated responses to the events of his own language, and that his uses of language events may have a supra-linear rather than a. line-by-line logic. Finally, the underlying assumption of the thesis is the view that English poetry, because of its conscious recognition of possible sound-meaning relationships in the language, may be the class of all language events and not the subclass of language events. This assumption recognizes that English poetry (or language) does not have to be conceived as having only linear arrangements.

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