Linguistic Approaches to Poetry
  • ISSN 0774-5141
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9676
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This article traces the origins of the Italian endecasillabo, the earliest surviving examples of which were composed in the thirteenth century, soon after the Albigensian Crusades destroyed the Occitan-speaking culture of the Southern French courts. It begins by discussing the achievements of that culture and, in particular, the ways in which the troubadours delighted in formal innovation and experiment, constantly recombining the structural elements of their verse in new ways. It then proceeds to analyse all the structural variants found in the earliest endecasillabi and demonstrates that each had antecedents in Occitan verse. This analysis supports Beltrami (1986) and Billy (2000), who argue that the endecasillabo evolved from the vers de dix largely as a result of the distinctive lexicon and phonology of the Italian language. It then examines the alternative hypothesis, that the endecasillabo evolved independently of its French and Occitan cognate metre, and finds all the arguments advanced in its favour unsatisfactory: the forged evidence of Baruffaldi (1713), the Latin origin proposed by Gasparov (1996), and the hypothesis of Meillet (1923) that all Indo-European verse has syllabic origins and a tendency to revert to them. This article concludes that the endecasillabo is a lasting legacy of the Occitan poets.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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