LSA 235: Verbal art

Lev Michael | session 2 | MW 8:30 – 10:15, 370 Dwinelle Hall

Despite the importance of verbally artistic uses of language in the world's speech communities, verbal art has remained relatively peripheral to the basic tasks of language documentation and language typology. The goal of this course is to provide the student with the necessary conceptual and methodological tools to document and describe verbally artistic speech genres, and to contribute to scholarship on the structure and typology of these genres.

This course presents a typological perspective on artistic uses of language, drawing on three traditions that examine verbal art from linguistically-informed perspectives: generative metrics, ethnopoetics, and oral theory. With their roots in linguistics, linguistic anthropology, and classics/folklore, respectively, these three traditions provide complementary tools and concepts for developing a typological framework for understanding the types and range of verbally artistic genres found in the world's speech communities. We will also critically examine theoretical claims arising from these three major traditions that have significant typological implications, and consider their empirical validity.

The course will focus on poetic genres, presenting frameworks for distinguishing types of composition strategies, types of poetic lines, and types of line-internal structure, including meters. Using recordings and transcriptions provided to them, students will carry out description and analysis of a particular genre of verbal art in a series of assignments, with the aim of enabling the student to contribute to the typology of verbal art.

Reading: Selected materials available online.

Prerequisites: None, although prior coursework in phonology and exposure to metrical phonology in particular will be helpful.

Areas of linguistics: Fieldwork and language documentation; Sociolinguistics and linguistic anthropology

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