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I've been reading a bit about Russian prosody and it's been puzzling me. According to Wikipedia, there are different historical definitions of what дольник means, but most scholars today subscribe to the following one:

Дольник возникает, когда в исходном трёхсложном силлабо-тоническом стихе интервал между сильными слогами (иктами) в случайных местах сокращается с двух слабых слогов до одного.

Meanwhile, by the article on слог,

В русском языке слоги различают по количественной характеристике: сильные (оканчивающиеся на долгую гласную или на гласную+согласные) и слабые (оканчивающиеся на краткую гласную).

However, according to the article on долгие и краткие гласные,

В процессе формирования самостоятельных славянских языков на основе праславянских диалектов в большинстве из них оппозиция гласных по долготе — краткости была утрачена за исключением чешского, словацкого и сербохорватского языков.

After all Russian does not distinguish between long and short vowels...! So my questions are:

  1. What are the сильные and слабые слоги?

  2. What exactly is дольник? It seems to me that дольник just means each line of the poem has the same number of stresses. However, Wikipedia gives the following example which doesn't really correspond to my understanding:

Его встречали повсюду
На улицах в сонные дни.
Он шел и нес свое чудо,
Спотыкаясь в морозной тени.
(А. Блок)

Any help is very much appreciated!

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    15 лет назад никаких сильных и слабых слогов не учили. Были только глухие и звонкие согласные. – Qwertiy Nov 15 at 19:08
  • @Qwertiy, это про ритмику, с фонетикой никак не связано. В школьной программе её нет. – Arhad-the-dev Nov 15 at 23:16
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    @Arhad-the-dev Увы, уже есть. Теперь школьников на уроках литературы заставляют определять стихотворный размер. Причем, толкуют именно про УДАРНЫЕ слоги, а не сильные доли. И среднестатистического ученика вводит в полнейший ступор, что "ударных" слогов в одном слове вдруг оказывается несколько. А слова с одной гласной могут, наоборот, оказаться вообще без ударения. «когдА мой двОр уЕдинЕнный /печАльно снЕгом зАнесЕнный/ твой кОлокОльчик ОгласИл»/// Про то, что ямб - это «вода-вода», хорей - «мама-мама», дактиль - «радуга-радуга-радуга-ра», учебник умалчивает – Elena Nov 18 at 19:20
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  1. These are stressed and unstressed syllables. Also you can think about them as of weak and stong beats in music. It is "слабая и сильная доли" for Russian. Доля - дольник.
  2. So ДОЛЬНИК is a prosodic foot, where stressed syllable goes for strong beat, but for weak beat there are one or two unstressed syllables.

It is like 4/4 time signature, where number is strong beat.

...........1.................2.............3.............4
........Его .. встречали повсюду........ !
......На улицах в сонные дни. ..........!
...Он шел и ...... нес свое чудо, ...... !
Спотыкаясь в морозной тени. ....... !

  • Thanks a lot for the answer! Would you mind answering two further questions? 1. so the rule for сильные (оканчивающиеся на долгую гласную или на гласную+согласные) does not apply? 2. would you explain what stressed and unstressed syllables are? For example, I don't understand why there is no stress in the word своё in the third line. Thank you! – yshen Nov 15 at 14:27
  • @yshen You are welcome. Stressed syllables are the ones where vowel is stressed. FYI en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stress_(linguistics) I guess, when is "ё" already stressed, it was not used as strong beat 'couse of there is no unstressed syllables between "Ё" and "У". I'm not sure what is the rule you meant. – ratschbumm Nov 15 at 15:00
  • According to the article ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/…, this is another example of дольник: Дне́й бы́к пе́г, / Ме́дленна ле́т арба́, / На́ш бо́г бе́г, / Се́рдце — на́ш бараба́н. (Маяковский) But here in the first line, there is no unstressed syllables between Дне́й and бы́к, or between бы́к and пе́г... – yshen Nov 15 at 21:09
  • @yshen, Mayakovskii was an avant-garde poet, and used such deviations intentionally. Purpose of it, obviously, to do strong beats even more strong. As for me, sounds awful. – ratschbumm Nov 16 at 8:57
  • Сильная доля and stress are not equal notions in poetry, especially in дольник. If you read more of Блок, уou will find that pronouns can often be used as if they are unstressed. – V.V. Nov 16 at 18:43
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After all Russian does not distinguish between long and short vowels...!

You confuse commonly spoken language and poetic/song language. Formally, дольник is a kind of accentual verse (тонический стих in Russian; although it is also often referred as "a transitive form" between accentual-syllabic and accentual verse).

And сильный слог in this context differs from "stressed syllable" as in normal speech. Therefore it was also explicitly named "ictus".

What exactly is дольник?

You can think it as a regular iamb or trochee with a few extra (weak) syllables (2-syllable based), or one of regular 3-syllable forms where a few weak syllables are (irregularly) omitted (3-syllable based).

AFAIK, in English and German poetry they don't use a special term for it. So, say, a German speaking person may refer "Ich weiss nicht, was soll es bedeuten, // Dass ich so traurig bin" as "Jambus", while by Russian tradition it should be classified as "дольник".

  • Thanks for your reply! I realize that сильный слог is different from a stressed syllable... but what exactly is it? Your answer suggests that in poetic language Russian does distinguish between long and short vowels (is it?). If so, how are they classified? – yshen Nov 15 at 20:59
  • @yshen Verses differ from songs, as poets do not provide additional scripts of how to read them. But usually it's not that hard for a native speaker. The rest is a matter of taste. – Matt Nov 15 at 21:23

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