Poetry Corpus and Stress Placement Difficulties in Russian Classical Poetry

2022. № 3, 92-105

Niyaz I. Kireyev,

independent researcher (Russia, Moscow), niyazkireyev@gmail.com


The paper deals with some common stress placement mistakes when reciting Russian accentual-syllabic poetry. The phenomenon of extrapolating accentuation from the current usage to old literary texts is exemplified by the conjunction ili (‘or’): its  stress could fall on the second syllable in the 18–19th-century Russian, but this fact has hitherto gone unnoticed despite the prevalence of the end-stressed variant in classical poetry. Obviously, every single verse similar to ili … no kak vsё to isčislit’ (Nikolay Karamzin’s iambic tetrameter) could be understood as containing trans-accentuation (“pereboj”, i.e. the first foot is trochaic instead of being iambic), but the abundance of such entries in the poetry subcorpus of the Russian National Corpus shows that they are not associated with trans-accentuations. The inverse case, an attribution of pseudo-authentic nonexistent accentuations to an old text, is represented by the famous metrical eccentricities of Fyodor Tyutchev’s poem “Silentium!”. Corpus evidence helps to clarify the metrical organization of the oeuvre: unusual stress placement that is commonly adopted while reciting the work in order to adjust the intricate rhythm to the regular iambic pattern (zaxodját or evenxodjat, razgonját), is impossible in Russian and has never been used elsewhere in the texts. The paper displays the high potential of corpus technologies for the research of Russian verse history as well as Russian historical accentology, illustrates some problems of interpreting poetry corpora data and proposes possible solutions.

For citation:

Kireyev N. I. Poetry Corpus and Stress Placement Diffi culties in Russian Classical Poetry. Russian Speech = Russkaya Rech’. 2022. No. 3. Pp. 92–105. DOI: 10.31857/S013161170020748-1.


The author expresses gratitude to an anonymous reviewer, as well as to Boris Orekhov and Vladimir Plungian, conversations with whom helped to clarify some ideas of this paper. However, only the author of the article is to blame for all possible flaws.