AZ on imperfect rhyme

I’ve been assembling a bibliography of my papers on rock rhyme, half rhyme / half-rhyme, imperfect rhyme etc. and of other work springing from these. This is the first part, on 5 papers of mine.

Background: the patrician tradition. The critical and analytical literature on poetry concerns itself with poetry as an art form — serious poetry, art poetry, high poetry, whatever — as opposed to popular poetry, vernacular poetry, folk poetry, and so on, these latter taken to be inferior as art, ill-organized and slapdash, etc. Tom Lehrer’s comic song “We Are the Folk Song Army” both mocks the attitude and propagates it:

The tune don’t have to be clever
And it don’t matter if you put a couple extra syllables into a line
It sounds more ethnic if it ain’t good English
And it don’t even gotta rhyme… excuse me: rhyne!

And right there we have the half-rhyme line / rhyme — as good as it gets, the matching of /m/ and /n/ being the most common segmental half-rhyme in English.

So the NEAR RHYME entry (by Stephen L. Mooney & Ulrich K. Goldsmith) in the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, ed. by Alex Preminger et al. (1974 ed.) only takes imperfect rhyme seriously when real poets begin using it:

An old device in Icelandic, Ir., and Welsh verse, n.r. appears to have been deliberately used in Eng. first by [the metaphysical poet Henry] Vaughan, who was influenced by Welsh practices. Both internally and at line ends such inexact echoes can be found occasionally  in all poetry, especially in ballad, folk, and popular song. … But no major poet in Eng. had used n.r. consistently until Hopkins and Yeats. … Once considered an oddity in the work of such poets as Emerson and Emily Dickinson, n.r. is now acepted and used by nearly all 20th-c. poets, not to supplant perfect rhyme but to supplement it, so as to provide a greater range and freedom for the poet. … For examples of n.r., see Hopkins, Yeats, Ransom, Eliot, Owen, Tate, Wylie, and Auden.

Imperfect rhyme is in fact found extensively in ballads, folk songs, pop music, rock music, rap music, and so on, often in combination with a rich assortment of other phonological effects. The result is a thick texture of sound in such music, well worth serious study.

#1. The rock rhyme paper.

AMZ, “Well, this rock and roll has got to stop. / Junior’s head is hard as a rock.” Chicago Linguistic Society 12 (1976): on-line here

Distinguishes two types of imperfect rhyme: feature rhyme and subsequence rhyme. An example illustrating both, from my 12/21/12 posting “Pocket reference to half-rhyme”, about the Tom Waits, song “Ol ’55”:

with the haunting chorus:

Now the sun’s coming up,
I’m riding with Lady Luck,
Freeway cars and trucks,
Stars beginning to fade,
And I lead the parade.

From that posting:

Words that seem to suggest all sorts of interpretive possibilities, but certainly begin with a kind of pocket reference guide to types of half-rhyme: the first three lines, rhyming up, luck, and trucks, illustrate feature rhyme (up vs. luck, with /p/ vs. /k/, two voiceless stops differing only in the feature of point of articulation and so “sounding alike”) and subsequence rhyme (luck vs. trucks, with /k/ vs. /ks/, the first being a subsequence of the second and so, again, “sounding alike”).

The rock rhyme paper goes on to consider such relationships in fine detail (though on the basis of a not very large data set).

#2. The mental lexicon paper.

AMZ, “Classical malapropisms and the creation of a mental lexicon”, in Obler & Menn (eds.), Exceptional Language and Linguistics (1982): on-line here

A comparison of classical malapropisms (CMs), slips of the ear (SEs), Fay-Cutler malapropisms (FCs), and tip of the tongue responses (TTs) on a number of dimensions, but doesn’t consider phonological similarity as in imperfect rhymes and imperfect puns, though phonological similarity is an important factor in all six domains (the problem is the lack of comparable databases for the domains)

#3. The imperfect puns paper.

AMZ & Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky, “Imperfect puns, markedness, and phonological similarity: With fronds like these, who needs anemones?”, Folia Linguistica 20 (1986): on-line here

#4. The folk poetry paper.

AMZ, “Linguistics and the study of folk poetry”, in Bjarkman & Raskin (eds.), The Real-World Linguist (1986): on-line here

A survey of the richness of folk poetry, of many kinds, including its use of imperfect rhyme.

#5. The patterns and exceptions paper.

AMZ & Ann Daingerfield Zwicky, “Patterns first, exceptions later”, in Channon & Shockey (eds.), To Honor Ilse Lehiste (1987): on-line here

In poetry of several kinds, a (statistical) tendency for greater regularity (on several dimensions) early in a poem, with greater freedom later; in particular, more perfect rhyme early on, giving way to imperfect rhymes.

One Response to “AZ on imperfect rhyme”

  1. [BLOG] Some Monday links | A Bit More Detail Says:

    […] Zwicky links to a collection of papers examining imperfect […]

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