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The Sound Patterns Evident in a Poem and an Advertising Text, Their Function and Contribution Towards the Meanings the Texts Generate.

By obichlivka Jan 12, 2011 2712 Words
The sound patterns evident in a poem and an advertising text, their function and contribution towards the meanings the texts generate.

Poetry is a form of literary art and uses particular forms and conventions to suggest alternative meaning in the words and to evoke some emotional responses. There are sound patterns in poetry which create further meaning, such as assonance, alliteration and onomatopoeia. These sound effects have a particular function in a poem. Poems often make heavy use of imagery and word association to quickly convey emotions.[1] Poetry is distinguished from prose because are used some techniques such as rhyme, meter and repetition. The same sounds can convey different meanings and it depends on the context of a poem. Sound patterns can be also discovered in some advertising slogans. In advertisement we have the freedom to change the natural order of the language. It depends on the product and the target group of consumers. The advertising text has to capture the reader’s or listener’s attention. Therefore the natural order of the language is modified, shaped and stylized. One of the most frequently used devices in slogans, catchphrases and article titles is alliteration: Don’t Live a Little, Live a Lotto![2]

The advertising slogans are the most effective means of drawing attention to one or more aspects of the product. In this text we can spot an example of foregrounding. ‘Deviation, which is a linguistic phenomenon, has an important psychological effect on readers (and hearers). If a part of a poem is deviant, it becomes especially noticeable, or perceptually prominent. We call this psychological effect foregrounding’.[3] Most of the writers use the sound of words in such a way that the readers’ attention is immediately engaged. The most common mean which is involved by the writers is repetition. Our attention is captivated and we start analysing the reasons why the writers use it.We can recognise play of sounds : little/lotto. There is also alliteration- the repetition of ‘l’ and ‘t’ sounds. Alliteration refers to tbe repetition of the same or similar consonants. /t/ is a voiceless, alveolar, plosive sound. It is produced without vibrations of the vocal cords, by obstructing the airflow in the vocal tract. /l/ is a voiced, bilateral, retroflex and approximant sound. The vocal cords are vibrating during the articulation and the airstream flows over the both sides of the tongue. When poets construct a poem they carefully choose words for their meanings, connotation and sounds. According to Paul Simpson ‘we make connections between, on the one hand, the physical properties of the sound represented within a text and, on the other, the non- linguistic phenomena situated outside a text to which these sounds relate’[4]. The sound effects of the poetic text are basic to the interpretation of poetry. When a relationship between sound and meaning is obvious, then it can reinforce the significance of a word for speaker and hearer. ‘The way people ‘sound’ their language can, certainly, be an indication of their individual or cultural personalities...Speakers of a different language, from a different culture, might associate different implications with such sounds’.[5] The most critics are interested in the form of the poem and its meaning, and the poet’s message. According to Paul Fussell ‘Poetic forms are like that: they tend to say things even if words are not at the moment fitted to their patterns. As Louis MacNeice has said, “In any poet’s poem the shape is half the meaning.”’.[6] Poetic forms refer to different sets of rules followed by poems. The rules describe such ascpects as the meter or rhythm of the poem, the rhyme scheme or the use of alliteration. One of the basic ways in which poetry can be distinguished from prose is the possession of metre. Some critics maintain the idea that the rhythm and metre are the same thing. The difference between both is in the way in which they relate to the whole. The metre is ‘an extra layer of rhythmic structuring’. [7] The rhythm is ‘the apprehension of a series of events as a regularly repeated pulse of energy, an experience which has a muscular as well as a mental dimension’.[8] The following lines aim to discuss the relationship between sound patterns, their function and their contribution towards the meaning a certain poem generates. Attention will be paid to the poem ‘My Last Duchess’, written by Robert Browning. He was an English poet and playwright whose verses of dramatic monologues made him one of the most renowned Victorian poets today. The poem is anthologised as an example of the dramatic monologue, ‘in which an identified character, or person, is the sole speaker: that is, the voice in the poem is ‘playing’ a role as in drama’.[9] The structure and the style of this poem play a significant role. It contains three formal elements – an occasion, a speaker, and a hearer. The words in dramatic monologues not only convey setting and action but also reveal the speaker’s character. The comments which he makes reveal information about his personality and psyche, knowingly or unknowingly. The main focus of a dramatic monologue is the personal information, not the topic which the speaker happens to be discussing. ‘We can see the personality of both poet and speaker in dramatic monologue, and can be aware of them operating as a reflex in the elements of action which is constant picture and vice versa’. [10] Browning defined the poem as a dramatic lyric. It is dramatic because there is an actor in it and performs a scene. However, at the same time it can’t be said that it is a typical lyric poem. The poem appears as one half of a conversation. He is not speaking his thoughts aloud to himself while he is alone. In general poems are written with the ‘full body’ of words and have their own meaning. ‘Meaning is something the reader intuits through the distorting influence of ‘form’, something the writer may choose, but does not necessarily control.’[11] The goal of Browning is to illustrate a scene. There is a relation between sounds and meanings, the reality which language may represent. In his piece of work Robert Browning uses many techniques – enjambment, a simple rhyme scheme and caesura to convey various characteristics and qualities about the speaker and the situation. Mick Short claims that ‘The basic idea was that poems should enact what they described: ‘the sound must seem an echo to the sense’ (Alexander Pope, ‘An Essay on Criticism’, line 365). Musicality revolves around phonetic and rhythmic effects in particular, and it is thus necessary to be able to do metrical analysis in order to be able to explain important effects in many poems’.[12] ‘My last Duchess’ is written in iambic pentameter in order to imitate natural speech so that the poet is not confused with the persona. Browning’s intention is to imitate natural speech could be to distance himself from the Duke, who is the speaker in the poem. Iambic pentameter is ten syllables, five pairs of stressed and unstressed syllables: That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall,

- / | - / | - / | - / | - /
Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a wonder, now: Fra Pandolf’s hands
Worked busily a day, and there she stands.

The poem is written in 28 rhymed couplets. The rhyming pairs are called heroic couplets. It is a traditional form which is used for epic and narrative poetry. ‘Rhyme is usually reserved to refer to the final syllables of different lines of poetry when the vowel and syllable- final consonants (if any) of the words in question are identical’[13]. Rhymes can be on the one, two, or three syllables. Here we can discover a masculine rhyme, which is of one identical syllable – wall/ call. There is also a play of sounds, because only one letter is changed and the meaning of the words is different. Robert Browning uses AA BB rhyme scheme which is very common to ballads and songs. Line 1 rhymes with line 2 and these pairs of rhyming lines are called couplets. ‘The basic metrical unit of one strong plus one weak position is traditionally referred to as the metrical foot.’ [14] The format of the poem suits well because the speaker, the Duke of Ferrara, appears as being very controlling, especially in his conversation. The observant reader can discover the most horrific example of a totally mad mind. The set- up in this poem is about the duke’s annoyance with his last wife and how he uses her as a complement to how the ideal wife should be. Through him we learn something about the last duchess while at the same we learn a great deal about his character by hearing how he thought and felt about her. The lines are in rhymed couplets, but these couplets are open – the sentence does not finish at the same time the line does : Her husband’s presence only, called that spot

Of joy into the Duchess’ cheek: perhaps
“Spot of joy” is a metaphor for blushing and comparing the splendour and beauty of the duchess’s cheek which caught a lot of attention. At the same time this expression is also an enjambment. It occurs when the sense of a line of verse ‘runs on’ into the next line without a grammatical break. Such a line is known as a run-on line.[15] The statement is one sentence and contains two couplets. The Duke can shape his speech into couplets, but his thoughts are against that structure. For example, he seems jealous that he was not able to control his former duchess’ smiles for himself . It is obvious that the Duke is self- important. He is a manipulative person, filled with family pride, and a feeling of ownership over even the memory of his deceased wife. Unfortunately we see that money and power can buy everything exept for love. What makes him angry is that the duchess’s behavior that she thinks anyone could be important as important as he is. The duchess is too flirtatious and friendly for the duke’s liking: She looked on, and her looks went everywhere

The way she thanked men constrasts to the way she supposedly disvalued the duke’s family history and prestige: ...She thanked men good! But thanked
Somehow I know not how as if she ranked
My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name
This is a further evidence of her flirty nature in the eyes of the duke. Every word is a combination of sound and meaning, a combination of signifier and signified. According to Shepherd so called ‘‘sound effects’ are profoundly meaningful. Without them the communicative power of speakers would be radically reduced and to utter groups of words entirely without rhythm and intonation is extremely difficult- more robotic than human.’[16] In order to intensify the meaning of the poem Browning uses alliteration. It is used to make a line of poetry more pleasing, interesting to the ear, or even more memorable: The dropping of the daylight in the West,

The bough of cherries some officious fool
Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule
She rode with round the terrace – all and each
The /f/ sound is voiceless, labio-dental and fricative. The repetition of /r/ sound gives an oppressive sensation. Another device which Browning uses is ithe irony. He wants the poem to sound natural. The speaker articulates as he has no speech skills: ...Even had you skill

In speech which I have not make your will
In these lines there is enjambment and it indicates the control that the speaker is using on the conversation and give the feeling that the speaker is rushing through parts of the poem. It is obvious that when the Duke is speaking of the death of his wife, he is nervous about the subject. The caesuras suggest to the reader that he is hiding something or that he is pausing to think. The flirtatious traits of the duchess had irritated the Duke to the point of killing her. Browning uses synecdoche when the Duke admits to his murder of the Duchess. Instead of saying that he killed her, he mentions that all of her smiles have stopped: ...I gave commands, Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands

As if alive. ...
It symbolizes the certain death of the duchess and the personification and the simile point out that the duke’s wife is no longer living. The Duke reveals his belief that the communication with the Duchess would be stooping: Never to stoop. Oh sir, she smiled, no doubt

Browning uses assonance which is repetition of vowel sounds to bring emphasis to the lines. He uses also irony to illustrate the duke’s manipulative and cruel character as he refers to the girl he wants to marry as “my object”. This is dramatic irony and reveals a lot about the duke’s character. He treats women as items. The final art object that the Duke points out is the bronze statue of Neptune, which is the Roman god of the sea and the sea-horse: ...Notice Neptune, though,

Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity,
Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me!
The alliteration is used to embellish the focus of an image. The word ‘notice’ invite us to use our sense of sight . We have to envisage our apprehension of Neptune and it depends on how and what we understand about the image. The high an omnipresent power of Neptune symbolises the revengeful male powers.Neptune is constrasted by a ‘sea-horse’, which is representing the female as a weak creature but at the same time is beautiful and elegant. The sound patterns contribute towards the texts generate and when a correlation exists between sound and meaning it can reinforce the significance of a word for speaker and hearer. The meanings we acquire from groups of segments are generally augmented by ‘suprasegmental feautures’. Sound effects help authors to present the real thoughts and feelings.


Primary Sources:

- An advertising text - ‘Don’t live a little, live a lotto’ – Lotto[17]

- ‘My Last Duchess’ a poem by Robert Browning[18]

Secodary Sources:

Fussell, Paul, Poetic Meter and Poetic Form, revised edition (Random House, New York, 2004) Hrushovski, Benjamin, The Meaning of Sound Patterns in Poetry: An Interaction Theory, Poetics Today, 2 (1980) Shepherd, Valerie, Literature about language, London : Routledge, 1994 Short, Mick, Exploring the Language of Poems, Plays and Prose, London: Longman, (1996) Simpson, Paul, ‘Rhythm and metre’, ‘Interpreting patterns of sound’, Stylistics: A Resource Book for Students (Routledge, London, 2004) Wainwright, Jeffrey, Poetry: The Basics (Routledge, London, 2004)

[1] [13.05.10]
[2] [14.05.10]
[3] Short, Mick, Exploring the Language of Poems, Plays and Prose, (Longman, London, 1996), p. 11

[4] Simpson, Paul, Stylistics: A Resource Book for Students, (Routledge, London, 2004), p. 66 [5] Shepherd, Valerie, Literature about Language, (Routledge, London, 1994), p.49 [6] Fussell, Paul, Poetic Meter and Poetic Form, revised edition (Random House, New York, 2004), p.126 [7] Short, Mick, Exploring the Language of Poems, Plays and Prose, (Longman, London, 1996), p. 127

[8] Campbell, Matthew, Rhythm and Will in Victorian Poetry, (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1999), p.53 [9] Wainwright, Jeffrey, Poetry: The Basics, (Routledge, London, 2004), p.187 [10] Campbell, Matthew, Rhythm and Will in Victorian Poetry, (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1999), p.103

[11] Campbell, Matthew, Rhythm and Will in Victorian Poetry, (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1999), p.104

[12] Short, Mick, Exploring the Language of Poems, Plays and Prose, (Longman, London, 1996), p. 129 [13] Short, Mick, Exploring the Language of Poems, Plays and Prose, (Longman, London, 1996), p. 113

[14] Short, Mick, Exploring the Language of Poems, Plays and Prose, (Longman, London, 1996), p. 131

[15] [13.05.10 [16] Shepherd, Valerie, Literature about Language, (Routledge, London, 1994), p.52

[17] [11.05.2010]

[18] [11.05.2010]

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