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Volume 38, Issue 1 (May 2000)


The phonology of Classical Greek meter

Chris Golston
  • Corresponding author
  • California State University Fresno.
  • Email:
/ Tomas Riad
  • Corresponding author
  • Stockholm University.
  • Email:
Published Online: 2008-02-20 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ling.38.1.191


We propose an analysis of Greek meter based purely on phonology and the idea that well-formedness in meter is largely gradient, rather than absolute. Our analysis is surface-true, constraint-based and nonderivational, in line with proposals like optimality theory (Prince and Smolensky 1993). The discussion centers on two properties of meter, rhythm (dactylic, anapestic, iambic …) and line length (hexameter, pentameter, tetrameter …). Unmarked meters are expected to be binary (dimeter) and rhythmic (no clash or lapse). We analyze individual meters in terms of how they deviate from this unmarked state, where deviations (big and small) are encoded directly as constraint violations following Golston (1996). Greek anapests are shown to be unmarked in terms of rhythm, while dactyls distinctively violate the constraint NOCLASH and iambs distinctively violate NOLAPSE. Similarly, dimeter is unmarked in terms of binarity, while trimeter, tetrameter, pentameter, and hexameter violate constraints on binarity.

About the article

1Correspondence address: Chris Golston, Department of Linguistics, California State University Fresno, Fresno, CA 93740, USA.

2Correspondence address: Tomas Riad, Department of Scandinavian Languages, Stockholm University, S-10691 Stockholm, Sweden.

Received: 1998-12-14

Revised: 1999-07-27

Published Online: 2008-02-20

Published in Print: 2000-05-01

Citation Information: Linguistics, ISSN (Online) 1613-396X, ISSN (Print) 0024-3949, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ling.38.1.191. Export Citation

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