Modularity And The Spectrum Of Formularity In The Homeric Corpus
Since the work of Milman Parry, the analysis of Homeric language has devoted considerable effort to analyzing conceptions and applications of "the formula." Defined by Parry as "a group of words which is regularly employed under the same metrical conditions to express a given essential idea," the formula was often connected to theories of origin and composition. In this study, however, I have identified five parameters for the analysis of that formularity, without relying on any single definition of the term. The parameters are metrical position, metrical size, metrical shape, lexical content, and syntactic behavior. They are to be applied to individual verse segments, defined as verse units constrained by regularly occurring caesurae and verse-end. Any segment may be compared by means of the parameters, without adducing a concept of the formula, much less a hypothesis of origin. When samples are subjected to this method, a number of features emerge. First, verse segments turn out to have internal syntactic schemata localized within them, which generate and regulate morphological content internal to that segment. Abstract syntactic patterns can generate surface outputs that are related syntactically but with no lexical item in common; we call this a template. Multiple templates can localize within the same segment, sometimes interacting with one another, for which a term is needed. I have suggested 'module.' Finally, these localized templates and modules can combine with adjacent verse segments to form higher level syntactic schemata, which themselves can behave independently of their smaller, constitutive templates and modules. This ability for segments to maintain internal syntactic regularity, while simultaneously binding with adjacent segments to create larger syntactic units, and even whole blocks of verses, is further justification for the term 'module' - verse segments in this poetry behave in a modular fashion, since internally stable segments can freely combine with each other in order to create a flexible, idiomatic language. The conclusion to be drawn is that we have in the Homeric corpus a spectrum of formularity, with no single isolable item at its core, and that the parametric method can be profitably used for literary and linguistic analysis.
dissertation or thesis