Towards a universal definition of the caesura

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In modern verse, the caesura can be roughly defined as the first word-boundary that follows the nucleus of a non-final break syllable; it is synthetical if, and only if, it is associated with the break syllable, otherwise it is analytical. This approach runs into difficulties when applied to the Homeric hexameter and the iambic trimeter of Greek tragedy or comedy. Relying on a theory which explicitly distinguishes between underlying feet and the various surface feet that may realize them in a verse instance, and on the hypothesis that, in terms of metrical tree structure, both the hexameter and the trimeter consist of a dimetric expansion of four feet and a monometric clausula of two feet, we show that the rules or regularities which relate caesura location to the distribution of word boundaries within the whole line can be conceived of as contour principles that govern a series of contrasts between suprasyllabic units at all levels (Expansion vs Clausula, Metron, Foot, Position). We also argue that, while caesura location may be constrained in very divergent ways with respect to the various relevant suprasyllabic units, it is always primarily constrained with respect to the most prominent non-final metron. This allows us to formulate a tentative definition of the universal notion of caesura syntheticity and to claim that Greek and Latin meters make use of both progressive and regressive analyticity.


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