Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …

Journal of Literary Semantics

An International Review

Founded by Eaton, Trevor

Ed. by Toolan, Michael

2 Issues per year

CiteScore 2016: 0.44

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2015: 0.182
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2015: 0.764

See all formats and pricing
More options …
Volume 36, Issue 2


The effects of sound patterning in poetry: A cognitive pragmatic approach

Barbara MacMahon
Published Online: 2007-10-17 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/JLS.2007.006


In this article I posit a pragmatic model of how sound-patterning in poetry contributes to interpretation, with particular attention to the cognitive processes involved. The model is based in cognitive pragmatics (relevance theory) and psycholinguistics (spreading activation models), and the focus here is largely on segmental patterning such as rhyme and alliteration, though there is also some reference to metrical features. The article draws on relevance theory notions of literary language conveying a range of weak implicatures and thus resulting in diffuse and non-propositional impressions (Sperber and Wilson 1995 [1986]), notions used so far in relevance theory approaches to literary features such as repetition and metaphor. The article develops Pilkington's (2000) argument that poetic form, in slowing down lines and anticipating rhyming words, allows for longer access and deeper exploration of information associated with lexical concepts. Such exploration can lead to a potentially wide range of interpretive material. Here I focus on associative, iconic, and mimetic effects, which, I argue, are enabled through the spreading of semantic properties along sequences of relatively contiguous similar sounding words, and through the association of formal properties with semantic and encyclopaedic information. Through the analysis, my aim is also to account for the instability of poetic interpretation. The argument is presented with reference to poetry by Pope and Keats.

About the article

Published Online: 2007-10-17

Published in Print: 2007-10-19

Citation Information: Journal of Literary Semantics, Volume 36, Issue 2, Pages 103–120, ISSN (Online) 1613-3838, ISSN (Print) 0341-7638, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/JLS.2007.006.

Export Citation

Citing Articles

Here you can find all Crossref-listed publications in which this article is cited. If you would like to receive automatic email messages as soon as this article is cited in other publications, simply activate the “Citation Alert” on the top of this page.

Peter Stockwell
Language and Literature, 2008, Volume 17, Number 4, Page 351
Nigel Fabb
Journal of Literary Theory, 2010, Volume 4, Number 1, Page 1

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in