Towards a new method for analyzing syntax in poetry
Paczkowski, Andrew Michael
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The Rigveda is a large collection of hymns that represents the oldest attestation of the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European language family. The value of the corpus as a source of syntactic insight, however, is limited by its entirely poetic nature. Its syntax has been studied, but until we better understand how poetic style and grammaticality interact, we cannot know how much our syntactic observations of the corpus really tell us about the grammar of the language. The difficulty of investigating syntax in poetry has not yet been properly treated. On the one hand, poetry must be intelligible, since it is composed and understood by the speakers of a language; on the other hand, the structures found in poetry can differ significantly from those of usual speech, which is why syntacticians avoid poetry in formal studies. But for those working with limited data or languages attested only in poetry, drawing the line between syntax and style is a necessary step towards an accurate syntactic account. The goal of this work is to establish a distinction between grammaticality and intelligibility, and to formalize a system for identifying which patterns in the Rigveda are grammatical and which may have been consciously manipulated. This system allows us to draw more reliable conclusions about the syntax of the language by filtering noise out of the data.