Telling the numbers: a unified account of syllabo-tonic English and syllabic Polish and French verse

Nigel Fabb, Morris Halle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Our theory of meter, Bracketed Grid Theory, begins from the observation that in all metrical traditions, poets must be able to count the number of syllables in the line. We propose a set of rules by which counting is undertaken; these rules permit counting no higher than three, and build a bracketed grid as their output. This is the basis of metricality and is common to metrical traditions which on the surface are very different, such as the syllabo-tonic meters of English verse and the syllable-counting meters of French and early modern Polish verse. As no previous theory of meter has been able to provide a unified account of these different kinds of meter, we believe that we have made a significant advance in the understanding of metricality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-30
Number of pages26
JournalResearch in Language
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • bracketed grid theory
  • metricality
  • language learning

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