Prose Rhythm

Latin rhetoric considered the artistic treatment of linguistic rhythm as a potent rhetorical feature not only of verse, but also of literary, philosophical and oratorical prose. However, it failed to push the analysis of prose rhythm beyond identifying individual rhythmical groups in direct analogy to lyrical verse, and it knew of no means of capturing complex non-linear patterns. Since the early 20th century, several attempts have been made to turn the intuitively plausible concept of prose rhythm into one that has a well-defined linguistic correlate for more extended text segments; however, the pertinent studies were largely limited to analyzing binary patterns of stressed and unstressed syllables. Accordingly, a critical review of existing literature on the issue (Nolan/Jeon 2014) could not find convincing evidence for the existence of either coordinating or contrastive rhythmical patterns in prose. Combining the analytical tools of classical rhetoric and of contemporary linguistic theory with state-of-the-art methods of complex pattern detection, our project makes a new attempt to lend analytical reality to the so-far elusive construct of "prose rhythm". We pursue this goal via theoretical and explorative work on the construct itself, as well as via exemplary studies on the prose of individual literary authors.