The Poetics of Speech Tags

  • William Flesch


Midway between punctuation and semantics, sometimes prominently stressed but often a kind of residual rhythm barely more temporal than the unarticulated speech prefix they approximate, frequently offered in the frame of the parenthetical lunulae, speech tags merge quoted speech or writing to the quoting context in a linguistic inlay. They can help provide valuable insight into the nature and effect of poetic form since in their use you can see the work a poem has to do in order to make a set of words conform to a prosodical template. A speech tag supplements the words it quotes, filling out rhythms and rhymes where necessary. As in marquetry, the shape of the speech tag fits the shape of the cited words, or at least of their rhythm, since it must provide the supplement and balance needed to assimilate them to a rhythm. (This metrical framing for notionally or actually pre-existent words makes for a kind of converse to troping, where words are chosen to match a pre-existent music; although in practice there may be little or no difference between them since the poet will invent words that will fit the poem.)


Henry VIII Narrative Context Rhyme Word Performative Utterance Poetic Form 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Mark David Rasmussen 2002

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  • William Flesch

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