Tuesday, August 09, 2011

a question of rhyme

I've brought this exchange over from the TEF blog because I'm trying to keep comments about the blog confined to the Hairy Chasms (it's bad marketing to have a guest wander onto a blog, only to encounter possible criticisms):

Kevin, is it technically correct to say that "seong" rhymes with the English "sung" or that "do" rhymes with the English "doe"?

Doesn't rhyme require a difference?

For instance, do "so," "sow," and "sew" rhyme, or are they all just pronounced the same (in my 'dialect', anyway)?

Though I did once write a poem using "so," "sow," and "sew" as rhymes . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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August 3, 2011 3:24 PM

My reply:

From what I've seen after scanning a few online references, the concept of rhyme involves sameness or similarity of terminal sounds. This leaves open the question of whether a poem like

the girl with a bow
(her beau
named Bo)
to market did go
did go
did go

rhymes. If the answer is that the above poem does indeed rhyme, then can it be said that "bow," "beau," and "Bo" rhyme? If not, why not?

That said, if we are to get technical, then I'd have to admit that the Korean "seong" and the English "sung," when pronounced clearly by the native speakers of their respective languages, don't really sound alike at all. But that observation opens up a can of worms: if we adhere to exacting standards, is it at all possible to declare a set of phonemes in one language to be the rough phonetic equivalent of a set of phonemes in another language? Short of teaching my non-Korean-speaking readership Korean, what can I do to give them an idea of what Korean words sound like?

August 3, 2011 10:50 PM

Although I'm still thinking it over, I'm very likely going to change "rhymes with" to "sounds like" in the entry in question.



Charles said...

What is and what isn't rhyme aside, I think "sounds like" would case fewer problems than "rhymes with"--most people think of rhymes as occurring within languages as opposed to carrying across languages.

Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks for the link.

Jeffery Hodges

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Elisson said...

A rhyme consists (if I'm not mistaken) of two or more words with different initial sounds and similar or identical terminal sounds. Homophones don't exactly rhyme, but they can be used in poetry to great effect... but sparingly.

As for rhymes across languages, why not? Bi- or trilingual puns and rhymes can be lots of fun.