Trochaic tetrameter in Russian folk spiritual verses of late tradition: Some issues of metrics and rhythmics

2022. №3, 54-74

Alexander M. Petrov
Institute of Linguistics, Literature and History of the Karelian Research Center, Russian Academy of Sciences, Petrozavodsk, Russia;


The article represents the first experience in analyzing the metrical and rhythmical organization of Russian folk spiritual verses written in trochaic tetrameter in the 19th–20th centuries. These verses existed not only orally, but in writing as well. The criteria for the selection of folklore material and its preparation for research are substantiated. The sample consists of 4447 lines, 93 texts were analyzed. The analysis is based on the principles of the “Russian method”. The purpose of the article is to test the hypothesis about different rhythmical structure of lines with feminine and masculine endings. According to this hypothesis, accentual dissimilation is progressive in feminine lines and regressive in masculine lines, which is also confirmed by some literary and folklore materials. The array of lines was differentiated by feminine and masculine rhymes; rhythmical tendencies were identifi ed on the basis of a separated analysis. The metrical repertoire of the bearers of the folklore tradition was revealed; the nomenclature of rhythmical forms was identified; accentual profi les were created; the data are presented in 25 tables. The research has shown that in lines of diff erent types the principle of regressive accentual dissimilation is observed, but in masculine lines dissimilation is more intense than in feminine lines. An important feature of the rhythm of spiritual poetry is the abundance of misplaced accents (emphatic syncopations). Taking into account the mobility of stress in folklore, I propose three models of rhythmical analysis. The fi rst model is based on the hypothesis of regular syncopations; the second one proposes the correction and exclusion of some cases of syncopations; the third one takes into account the regular shifts of stress to a metrically strong position, with elimination of all misplaced accents. As far as I could discover, an adequate characteristic of the rhythm of folklore verse does not require constant “fine tuning”. It is quite possible to use the basic model with checking the accentual variants by dictionaries.

For citation:

Petrov A. M. Trochaic tetrameter in Russian folk spiritual verses of late tradition: Some issues of metrics and rhythmics. Voprosy Jazykoznanija, 2022, 3: 54–74.


The paper was written as part of the state task assigned to the Karelian Research Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences, No. 121070800089-0 “Folklore, Handwritten Books and Literature of the European North: Source Study and Poetics”, individual section “Questions of Structure and Typology of Russian Folk Epic Verse”. I express my deepest and sincere gratitude to Sergei Evgenievich Liapin for friendly help and numerous detailed consultations; to Sergei Grigorievich Bolotov for useful discussion at the “Gasparov Readings” in 2020; to Ekaterina Vladimirovna Zakharova for providing me with some important lexicographic sources; to the anonymous reviewers of the manuscript for useful and constructive advice, comments and suggestions.