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Quantitative Metrics in Chadic and Other Afroasiatic Languages

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Metrics is the study of the properties of metrical language found in poetry and song in languages throughout the world. This paper looks at examples of metrical language from traditions of poetry/song in two languages of the Chadic family, Ngizim and Hausa. These languages organize their metrical patterns on quantitative principles of syllable weight rather than of stress or syllable counting. The paper adopts an analytical framework of generative metrics using a grid and constraints for setting text to the grid. The paper shows that despite very different cultures and methods of transmission, poetry/song in these two languages conform to exactly the same principles. Moreover, the Hausa poems, composed in meters of Classical Arabic origin, show that principles underlying poetry composed in the Classical Arabic tradition should be analyzed in similar ways. The final section of the paper shows that the oral performance of texts is systematically related to the more abstract properties of the text itself, and moreover, is crucial in understanding properties that do not emerge from examining the text alone.

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