Larin Parasken epiikan metriikasta

  • Petri Lauerma
Avainsanat: fonologia, Larin Paraske, metriikka


The metrics of Larin Paraske's epic folk poetry in the Kalevala metre (englanti)

1/2001 (105)

Petri Lauerma (


Epic folk poetry in the Kalevala metre was originally rendered by singing. However, the researchers collecting the folk poems would usually simply write down the words, often after asking informants merely to read out their poems. When written down, the often archaic language of folk poems would appear closer to the dialect of the person reciting the poetry. However, Borenius and Neovius, who collected a huge amount of folk poetry from Larin Paraske, the most famous rune singer in Ingria, wrote down separately the sung and recited versions of Paraskes folk poems.

The writer reports the results of a study based on the actual sung versions of folk poems, in contrast to previous studies where scholars have had to normalise the often shortened forms before they have been able to study metrical questions. The corpus for the study consisted of 20 poems written down by Borenius and Neovius. After removing lines considered unreliable, the corpus consisted of 1373 lines collected by Borenius and 1289 lines by Neovius.

The proportion of lines which are over-long, i.e. containing more than the eight syllables usual in Kalevala-metric folk poetry, is 2.8% for the lines collected by Borenius and 3.3% for those by Neovius. Over-long lines normally occur if the first foot is over-long, but especially in the rare instances where the line has as many as 10 syllables the later feet may also contain more than the normal two syllables. However, on the basis of the text only it is difficult to decide the exact position of the over-long foot.

There are also lines which seem to be too short to fit the requirements of the metre, although Borenius and Neovius tried to mark the not infrequent extra hiatuses which appeared when the shortened, spoken lines were sung. In order to guarantee the metrical reliability of the data, the lines lacking the special hiatus marks used by these collectors were (except for some of the most obvious instances) omitted from the analysis of rising and falling syllables, which was thus based on 1201 lines by Borenius and 1176 lines by Neovius.

In the Kalevala metre a word-initial syllable should be long if it is to occupy a rise; by contrast, a short word-initial syllable is placed on a fall. In the Paraske corpus used in the study a short stressed syllable occurs on a rise in 2.5% of Borenius lines and in 2.1% of Neovius lines. Most of these cases occur no further than on the second rise, but it should be noted that not all of them involve shortening by various sound changes (which is, however, typical of the short syllables occurring later on in the line).

In Paraskes epics there are also long stressed syllables on a fall. In contrast to the normal situation in Karelian epic poems, deviations of this kind are, surprisingly, much more common than those described above: 9.2% of Borenius lines and as much as 10.6% of Neovius lines contain a long stressed syllable on a fall, more often on the third than on the second fall. These cases are, however, mainly caused by certain sound changes, especially by primary gemination (8.5%; 9.95%), and far less frequently by compensatory lengthening (0.4%); other exceptions are even rarer (0.3%). This explains why the long stressed syllables are more frequent on the third fall: longer forms, which are also more prone to gemination, are usually met towards the end of lines. The unexpected frequency of this kind of deviation is partly explained by the fact that previous scholars usually took no notice of such exceptions, especially in their calculations. To an extent this can be considered a realistic approach, because although gemination has occasionally lengthened some otherwise short forms met on a rise, it is apparent that Paraske did not consider the lengthened forms equivalent to originally long syllables. This is because morphophonological processes like gemination and compensatory lengthening are normally not perceivable to native speakers.

tammi 1, 2001
Lauerma, P. (2001). Larin Parasken epiikan metriikasta. Virittäjä, 105(1), 44. Noudettu osoitteesta