Ian Dangerfield Lecture

Friday, November 24, 2023 - 19:00 to 20:00
Hamilton Institute Seminar room (317), 3rd floor Eolas Building, North Campus, Maynooth Universtiy

Speaker: Professor David Stifter, Department of Early Irish, Maynooth University

Title: "Alliteration by Numbers"

Abstract: Alliteration is a rhetorical and poetic ornamentation in which the onset of consecutive stressed syllables starts with the same sound. As a stylistic device, alliteration is particularly common in languages with a strong initial accent. It is therefore not unsurprising that it is an important element of the metrical rules of early medieval Irish poetry ca. 600–1200). In Irish poetry, alliteration does not only connect two words that follow each other immediately (i.e., X X), but the poets make use of much more complex patterns (e.g., X Y Y X, X Y X Y, Xyz Xyz, X Xx, etc.). However, due to their formal complexity, there are practical limitations to the frequency in which these patterns occur in poetry. For the modern analyst, the challenge therefore arises to determine whether a given instance of a particularly complex alliterative pattern is the deliberate creation of the poet or if it is just due to mere chance. As will be demonstrated in this talk, it is possible to model the random occurrence of alliteration in ordinary speech in a precise mathematical formula, which accordingly allows us to determine with a simple statistical test if a specific alliterative pattern in a poem is random or is rather the intentional creation of the poet.


Virtual participation: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88069113805?pwd=N0hLVC94OTR0OUszWDlvemNId2JzQT09
Passcode: 248183
Webinar ID: 880 6911 3805