Tackling the Toolkit pp 179–⁠192
On the Expected and Actual Rhythmical Grammar of Russian Iambic Tetrameter
Kseniya Tver'yanovich


The combination of certain rhythmical forms and similar grammatical structures in Russian iambic tetrameter was first noted in the 1920s by scholars such as Sergey Bobrov and especially Osip Brik, who detected its presence across the oeuvres of different authors. Decades later, drawing on his own data about the parts of speech in Russian language and verse, Mikhail Gasparov claimed that rhythmical and grammatical stereotypes occurred in Russian classical meter because each ictus could naturally only accommodate certain words or grammatical forms based on their length or accentual structure. Together with his co-author, Tatiana Skulachyova, Gasparov discovered, for example, that Russian adjectives and verbs tended to be longer than an iambic foot and therefore to occupy ictuses that lacked any metrical stresses. By creating preferred verse locations for certain parts of speech, this also strongly influenced the syntax of the iambic line. This paper considers new data about parts of speech that behave atypically from the standpoint of Gasparov's schema. For some of the authors and periods concerned, longer forms tend to fit into shorter syllabic slots and vice versa. My overview and analysis are based on data regarding iambic tetrameter in the work of two Russian poets from the early 20th century. I conclude that verse is an intricate system in which the rhythmical vocabulary of parts of speech—that is, their typical syllabic length and stress locations—does not necessarily prevail over other important factors. Those factors may ultimately determine the content of rhythmical structures.


Tver'yanovich, K. (2021). On the Expected and Actual Rhythmical Grammar of Russian Iambic Tetrameter. In P. Plecháč, R. Kolár, A. Bories, & J. Říha (Eds.), Tackling the Toolkit: Plotting Poetry through Computational Literary Studies (pp. 179–192). Prague: ICL CAS. doi: 10.51305/ICL.CZ.9788076580336.12


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