Integrating quantitative meter in non-quantitative metrical systems:

the rise and fall of the German hexameter

  • Patrizia Noel, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich


The default of metrical organisation is that it is based on the prosodic organisation of a language. If a language has vowel quantity, the quantity contrast is very likely to be found in its metrical patterns. If a language does not show this contrast, a quantity-based metrical system is unlikely. Unlike Classical Latin and Old Greek, New High German neither distinguishes between long and short syllables nor between long and short vowels. The relationship between prosody and metrics left German poets with the question of how to incorporate foreign meters which contradict the native prosodic system. This paper is about the quest for a solution which took centuries: the integration of the hexameter into German. Read more