Ars Metrica

Language change and metrics —

versification in the Middle High German and Early New High German Nibelungen tradition

This paper suggests a direct relation between metrics and language rhythm on the basis of the evolution of meters. It focuses on the manifestation of language rhythm in German epics. This major type of folk verse guarantees a long-term evaluation process by both collective authorship and the audience. The consequences of language change for metrical systems are exemplified by the metrical change from the Middle High German Nibelungenlied (13th century) to the Early New High German Lied vom huernen Seyfrid (16th century). In addition, Hans Sachs’ tragedy Der huernen Seufrid (1557) exemplifies the Knittelvers, which evolved from the Germanic tradition. The prosodic change from Middle High German accent-based quantity to New High German quantity-insensitivity is reflected in the adaptation of the old metrical system to the new prosodic basis. Thus changes in metrical patterns provide evidence for the prosodic foundation of metrical systems. Read more