“Said a Word, Uttered Thus”: Structures and Functions of Parallelism in Arhippa Perttunen’s Poems

Verse parallelism is one of the most distinctive features of a Finnic tradition of oral poetry, which is called “kalevalaic poetry” in Finland or “regilaul” in Estonia. This essay presents grammatical and semantic principles and patterns according to which parallel verses are composed, and introduces a statistical analysis of parallelism in the repertoire of one singer of these poems. Verse parallelism is considered a constitutive feature which, alongside the meter and alliteration, defines this register. As the first line has normally the full referential power of a proposition, parallel lines add to this power and deepen and enrich description in the discourse.

Parallelism in the Hanvueng: A Zhuang Verse Epic from West-Central Guangxi in Southern China

Zhuang is a Tai-Kadai language spoken in southern China. Parallelism is ubiquitous in Zhuang poetry and song,in ritual texts, and in a range of oral genres. Curiously, this salient fact has generally escaped the notice of scholars writing on the subject of Zhuang poetics. This article looks specifically at the phenomenon of parallelism in one particular Zhuang ritual text from west-central Guangxi. This is the Hanvueng, a long verse narrative that is recited at rituals intended to deal with cases of unnatural death and serious family quarrels, especially feuding between brothers. I provide a general description of the role of song and parallel verse in Zhuang oral culture. I next present a typology of poetic lines and passages exhibiting strict parallelism and quasi-parallelism, and also look at the rhetorical and rhythmical uses of non-parallel lines. As a second step in this investigation, I re-analyse these typological categories in terms of the recitation soundscape as it unfolds in real time and in ritual performance. This second step brings us back from an objectivist account to a variety of emic perspectives, and allows us to see more clearly the rhetorical and emotive power generated by the ongoing narration – and its artistry – for a range of participants within the ritual space.

Poetic Parallelism and Working Memory

A widespread kind of parallelism is a relation between sections of text such that each resembles the other in linguistic form, or in lexical meaning, or in both form and meaning. In poetry, this kind of parallelism can be systematic, and when it is, it holds between two adjacent sections. The new claim of this article is that these sections are short enough for the whole parallel pair to be held in working memory (in the episodic buffer). Parallelism thus shares a property with the other added forms of poetry – meter, rhyme and alliteration – that it holds over material which can be held as a whole section (such as line or couplet) in working memory. I conclude by suggesting that processing the parallel pair in working memory brings advantages to the poetry: an emotional effect from contrastive valence, an epistemic effect from the fluency heuristic, and the production of metaphorical meaning.

Parallelism and Musical Structures in Ingrian and Karelian Oral Poetry

Listening to historical oral poetry usually means listening to archival sound recordings with no possibility to ask questions or compare performances by one singer in different performance arenas. Yet, when a greater number of recordings from different singers and by different collectors is available, the comparison of these performances has the potential to reveal some locally shared understandings on the uses of poetic registers. In the present article, this setting is applied to examine the relationships of textual parallelism and musical structures in Kalevala-metric oral songs recorded from two Finnic language areas, Ingria and Karelia.

“The Language of Gods”: The Pragmatics of Bilingual Parallelism in Ritual Ch’orti’ Maya Discourse

In this study I investigate the discursive function of parallelism in the ritual speech of Ch’orti’ Maya. Specifically, I examine the exploitation of the dual lexicons of Ch’orti’ Mayan and Spanish in the production of parallel structures. Ch’orti’ ritual speech is almost universally constructed in parallelistic fashion, accomplishing at once a near hypnotic cadence when performed, while also serving various pragmatic functions. I detail the dynamic breadth of what I refer to as bilingual parallelism, i.e., parallelism that involves the pairing of synonymous terms from different languages in a distich. The effective use of parallelistic speech is said by the Ch’orti’ to be an imitation of the speech patterns of the gods themselves, thereby further explaining its importance in ceremonial contexts when speaking to gods and otherworld beings.

“Word upon a Word”: Parallelism, Meaning, and Emergent Structure in Kalevala-meter Poetry

This essay treats parallelism as a means for articulating and communicating meaning in performance. Rather than a merely stylistic and structural marker, parallelism is discussed as an expressive and cognitive strategy for the elaboration of notions and cognitive categories that are vital in the culture and central for the individual performers. The essay is based on an analysis of short forms of Kalevala-meter poetry from Viena Karelia: proverbs, aphorisms, and lyric poetry. In the complex system of genres using the same poetic meter parallelism transformed genres and contributed to the emergence of cohesive and finalized performances.

Remembering and Recreating Origins: The Transformation of a Tradition of Canonical Parallelism among the Rotenese of Eastern Indonesia

This paper examines and illustrates key oral traditions of canonical parallelism among the Rotenese of eastern Indonesia. The Rotenese are concerned with maintaining a knowledge of origins and the poets who perpetuate this knowledge are known for their ability to recount long chants that reveal these origins. On Rote, a traditional ritual canon of origins that recounts relations between Sun and Moon and the Lords of the Sea has now been complemented by a Christian canon based on the appropriation of Biblical knowledge. This Christian canon strictly adheres to the paired lexicon and rules of composition of the traditional canon, but has developed its own appropriate lexicon of theological pairings. Another, lesser canon has also begun to emerge to recount the celebration of national origins. All of these canons now form part of a continuing body of creative traditions expressed in the paired language of parallelism.

“Hear the Tale of the Famine Year”: Famine Policy, Oral Traditions, and the Recalcitrant Voice of the Colonized in Nineteenth-Century India

This essay considers the appearance of British colonial representations of Indian oral traditions in administrative documents concerning famine relief policies, as an example of the connection between colonial ethnography on the one hand and forms of disciplinary control on the other. Raheja analyzes eleven Hindi and Punjabi famine songs recorded in colonial texts, songs that addressed issues of hunger, famine, “custom,” and famine policy in tones of either compliance or critique. The singers of these songs occupied various locations within local hierarchies and with respect to the colonial state; she reads their words as historically situated, reflective, heterogeneous, and diversely positioned memory and critique. Raheja argues that while compliant native voices in a few of these songs were characterized as “the voice of the people” and entextualized in colonial documents to create an illusion of Indian consent to colonial rule, other voices–the voices of remonstrance and lament–were erased or marginalized or criminalized, to contribute to that same illusion.

Beginning from the End: Strategies of Composition in Lyrical Improvisation with End Rhyme

This essay examines the basic principles of constructing improvised verses with end rhyme in three contemporary cultures: mandinadhes, Mallorcan gloses, and Finnish freestyle rap. This study is based on ethnographic interviews, in which improvisers analyze their methods of composition. This knowledge is complemented by a textual analysis of examples of performances in the given traditions. Sykäri shows that competent improvisers master complex cognitive methods when they create their lines that end with the poetic device of end rhyme, and in particular when they structure the discourse so that the strong arguments are situated at the end of the structural unit of composition. This “reversed” method witnesses a tendency to use parallel phonic patterns in a way that is largely the opposite of those employed with semantic (or canonical) parallelism.