forehead: the little girl with a little curl right in the middle of hers

Charles Doyle cdoyle at UGA.EDU
Sun Apr 6 18:13:19 UTC 2008

Yes, I did write that entry too hastily (typo and all!).

I meant to suggest that "perfect rhyme" is an abstraction, seldom defined with any precision--a point perhaps implied in (Arnold's?) parenthesis following the definition: "phonological identity of the terminal portions of words (for some specification of 'terminal portion')." Not only is "terminal portion" unspecified, but "phonological identity"--even in a so-called "perfect rhyme"--is often not really an identity but just a degree (and perhaps kind) of similarity. The very concept of a half-rhyme (slant rhyme, eye rhyme, etc.) implies variance from a "whole" rhyme.

Larry raises the point of whether homophones "count" as rhymes (more nearly "perfect" than most). My favorite canonical example (from Chaucer's "Miller's Tale"):

". . . [C]lerkes ben ful subtile and ful queynte; / And prively he caughte hire by the queynte."

Incidentally, my least favorite cononical rhyme (from Shakespeare's(?) _Pericles_):

"To seek her as a bedfellow, / In marriage pleasures playfellow."

Parallel questions could be raised (indeed, have been raised) about puns.


---- Original message ----
>Date: Sat, 5 Apr 2008 07:02:45 -0700
>From: "Arnold M. Zwicky" <zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU>
>On Apr 5, 2008, at 6:27 AM, Charlie Doyle wrote:
>> That's an important point commonly overlooked by literary scholars.
>> The only really "perfect" rhyme
>i've puzzled over this for some time now, and i can't make any sense of it.  it seems to presuppose that total identity is the *real* meaning of "rhyme".  but where does that idea come from? certainly not from the way the words "rime" and "rhyme" have been used in english, which involves not total phonological identity, but phonological identity of the terminal portions of words (for some specification of "terminal portion").
>> would be a repitition
>nice typo.  and an extremely common one -- 211,000 raw google webhits, a few of which (Repitition Miniature Shnauzers, for instance) are intentional re-spellings, but most of which are clearly misspellings or typos.
>> of the same word (in the same syntactic position, etc.)--which is usually not thought of as a rhyme at all. Otherwise, we're loosely weighing the relative "closeness" among a range of phonological features.
>> Also, since no rhyme is perfect, one must be cautious about using rhymes to establish historical pronunciations.
>well, the real problem is the existence of various kinds of half-rhyme (quite prominent in some poetic traditions, at best sporadic in others), differing specifications of "terminal portion", eye rhymes, and so on.

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