The Poem Not Itself

Opinions like this make me headdesk.
"The poem's lyric qualities can hardly be brought over into English. The clear strong articulation of the Spanish vowels gives them a beauty not easily reproducible in Northern tongues"-Paul Rogers (The Poem Itself)
Leaving aside the fact that "clear" vowels are indeed to be found in more northerly languages (such as Welsh) and that complex phonology and many slurred or reduced vowels can be found in other southerly Mediterranean languages (such as European Portuguese, or Moroccan Arabic), stuff like this pisses me off because it assumes that native or native-like Spanish speakers aestheticize their vowel inventory in the same way a non-native would.

English vowels often seem complex and varied and reduced even to Spanish speakers who are fluent in it. But when we Anglophones read, say, Robert Frost or Emily Dickinson we do not experience their sound-play in terms of varied complex or unclear sounds.

There are some aesthetic universals related to phonology. For example high front unrounded vowels (as in the "ee" of sheen) have been experimentally demonstrated to sound more sprightly and happy (and, in names, more feminine) than low back rounded vowels (like the oo of boom) which in turn sound slow, heavy and sad (and, in names, more masculine) in a variety of different cultures from Scotland to Japan to Lebanon.

But such constancies are few and far between.

In understanding the sound-texture of verbal art in another language, it is important to not look at the sounds of one language in terms of another.

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