Roman Jakobson’s essay, “Linguistics and Poetics” is a lengthy study on the difference and similarities between the two, and how they’re used in literary and colloquial instances.
Jakobson uses various references and citation in his analysis on linguistics. He cites both Russian verses and poetry from Poe to show readers how language is constructed using syllables and metonymic structures. Jakobson also studies the six factors he says determines a different function of language: the Addresser, context, message, contact, code, and addressee. The first couple of paragraphs illustrates the uses of these components with help from various writers and theorists. Afterwards, Jakobson introduces the functions of language: emotive, conative, and referential. By offering a study of linguistics first, Jakobson leaves room for comparison of poetics. Various languages are used in his chosen passages of poems to show how meaning differs due to linguistic interpretations.
Jakobson’s interpretation of linguistics and poetics was difficult for me to understand at certain parts but his stance on how various rhymes and homonyms are used was very interesting. At the end of page 45, he states, “Are totally or partly homonymic rhymes prohibited, tolerated, or favored? Such full homonyms are son-sun, I-eye, eve-eave, and on the other hand echo rhymes like December-ember, infinite-night…”. While I’d obviously recognized a similarity between the words stated above, I never considered that one may be favored over the other. This caused me to question the differentiation between the spoken and written versions of these words. The context in which “son” or “son” is used maintains how it is interpreted by the Addressee. For example, “The sun is bright” and “Your son is bright” have different denotations and is recognized as having different interpretations yet Jakobson is question the reason one is used over the other. If the words were switched, the intelligence of the Addresser would be compromised. He states that when these grammatical rhymes differ in meaning but are similar in sound. Context is the essential aspect that provides a wall between the sound of “son” and “sun”. While this particular analysis was a small piece of the essay, I found his interpretations on definitions, differences, and similarities of linguistics interesting.
As stated above, this hefty essay proved challenging but what I found most frustrating was Jakobson’s random citation of various figures. Unlike previous essays, Jakobson doesn’t provide cushion or ground for the introduction of these people, he simply adds them to his critique and assumes the reader can connect the dots. On page 33 alone names such as “Voegelin”, “Sapir”, and “Joos” appear without previous recognition or introduction.