Tarlinskaja on Shakespeare.

Marina Tarlinskaja, per Wikipedia, is “a Russian-born American linguist specializing in the statistical analysis of verse,” and Elizabeth Scott-Baumann’s TLS review (from July 31, 2015) of her Shakespeare and the Versification of English Drama, 1561-1642 makes it sound interesting, if not exactly easy reading:

Tarlinskaja’s advocacy of versification as an object of statistical analysis is unswerving if quite briefly stated. She emphasizes how it can help us understand drama: “verse form helps us to understand and interpret dramatis personae . . . Shakespeare’s noble heroes speak in constrained verse, and villains speak in looser verse. Othello gradually changes from a noble hero to a villain, and his syntax and verse form evolve with his character’s evolution”. […]

Linguistic statistical analysis can reveal a fingerprint or style profile in versification, Tarlinskaja suggests, based on features such as strong syntactic breaks after the first hemistich, enclitic phrases, use of pleonastic “do”, and dissylabic “-ion”.

But what impelled me to post about it is this passage:

Tarlinskaja also sheds light on possible historical change. She looks, for instance, at how certain consonant pairs such as “tl”, “bl” and “dr” could create an extra syllable so that “gently”, “doubled” and “children” sometimes had three syllables (as in “For when the west wind courts her gen-tl-y” in The Two Noble Kinsmen).

It reminded me of the extra syllable in rig(a)marole, which we’re currently discussing. Different time period, of course, but a similar development.


  1. I wonder if it’s a matter of stage enunciation, rather than common speech.

  2. David Marjanović says

    So *gentlely was contracted in writing before it was in speech? Given the spelling practices of the time, I can actually imagine that… or how did Shakespeare actually spell it?

    Same for *double-ed; and compare children to Dutch kinderen.

  3. “In faith, Squier, thou hast thee well acquit, And gentilly; I praise well thy wit” (c) From Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales”

  4. Incidentally, I was amused by the two reviews at Amazon:

    5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
    By Ardith on February 21, 2015
    Loved it!

    5.0 out of 5 stars Great!
    By Marina Tarlinskaja on May 21, 2015
    Great book.

    On the one hand, it’s delightfully honest of Ms. Tarlinskaja to put her five-star review under her own name; on the other hand, I can’t escape a niggling suspicion that “Ardith” might not be a real name…

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