Two Sides of the Same Coin? Investigating Iambic and Trochaic Timing and Prominence in German Poetry

Petra Wagner, Universit├Ąt Bielefeld

This paper examines the acoustic and perceptual properties of iambic vs. trochaic meter in a large corpus of read German poetry. Psychoacoustics determined intensity variation as main correlate of trochaic grouping and length variation as main correlate of iambic grouping. However, these findings are not applicable to speech, due to the interaction of these parameters in prominence expression. It is possible that grouping effects in (poetic) speech are merely an artifact of listeners' expectations based on rhythmic alternations previously heard. Empirical findings show small but significant duration differences between iambic and trochaic feet. Furthermore, it was found that stressed and unstressed syllables are produced with a stable phase relationship of 3:2, independent of meter. Experience in poetry reading plays a role in production style. On the level of prosodic prominence, only subtle differences can be traced. Our findings do not provide convincing evidence for meter specific prosodic shapes and are compatible with an affordance based dynamic view of rhythmic structure