John Gower's Germanic and Romance English (A Phonological/Metrical Analysis).

Werthmüller, Gyöngyi.

John Gower's Germanic and Romance English (A Phonological/Metrical Analysis).

Werthmüller, Gyöngyi. "John Gower's Germanic and Romance English (A Phonological/Metrical Analysis)." Tanulmányok Nyelvtudományi Doktori Iskola, ed. Bárdosi Vilmos (Budapest: Eötvös Loránd University, 2012), 419-36. ISBN: 9789632843605.

This paper addresses a scholarly lacuna identified by Thomas Cable (1998: 39), who has complained of the "lack of phonological and metrical concern in studies whose subject was Gower." Werthmüller begins by assuming that, in the bulk of Gower's English verse, grammatically-determined rhythm (here referred to as "linguistic stress") aligns with metre. She then analyses a range of forms to show how Gower deploys both Germanic and Romance patterns of emphasis within his iambic measure. Especially useful in this regard are a pair of tables (pp.429-450). In the first, Werthmüller lists a set of words that she considers tended to be stressed on the second syllable in Gower's English (e.g. "desese," "merveille," "fortune," "nature," etc.), in the manner of French, contrasting with a second set of forms where Germanic-style stress on the first syllable seems commonly to have been used, even when the forms in question are etymologically derived from French (e.g. "vertu," "meschief," "tresoun"). It is interesting that all these usages seem to have been prototypical rather than invariable; "merveille," for instance, seems to have received stress on the second element in 84.6% of tokens, but that still leaves 15.4% of occurrences with stress on the first syllable, while "conseil," by contrast, was front-stressed in 75.7% of occasions, but stressed on the second syllable in 24.3% of tokens. And the form "peril," a fairly common noun in the CA, seems to have stressed equally frequently (50:50) in both ways. Some contrasts are drawn with Chaucer's practice, e.g. with "batailles," where Gower it seems tends to stress the second element whereas Chaucer prototypically emphasises the first syllable. The author also makes some suggestive comments on Gower's conservative retention of –e (which she contrasts with perceived greater Chaucerian apocope), and on the appearance--albeit fairly limited--of prototypically "low-stress" words, e.g. "the," in positions where, metrically, strong stress might be expected. The paper is largely descriptive in its orientation, and, rather controversially, sets aside issues of poetic motivation for rhythmical variation against the metrical norm. It is avowedly a preliminary piece of work, flagging at the end the need for further research of this kind across the whole range of Middle English poetry: "It is my view that the serious scrutinisation of the interaction of metre/phonology on the one hand, and syntax on the other, can ensue only after this task had been at least partially completed by scholars of M[iddle] E[nglish]" (434). Reference: Cable, Thomas 1998. "Metrical similarities between Gower and certain sixteenth-century poets," in Robert F. Yeager (ed.), Re-visioning Gower (Asheville: Pegasus), 39-48. [JJS. Copyright. The John Gower Society. eJGN 38.1.]


Gower Subjects
Style and Versification
Language and Word Studies
Sources, Analogues, and Literary Relations