Authors Archives: Dirk Vanderbeke

Rhymes without Reason? Or: The Improbable Evolution of Poetry

Abstract

Poetry, and especially lyrical poetry, seems to be a rather useless form of communication. Nevertheless, it is a universal in human cultures and thus there could be an evolutionary basis to it. In my paper I suggest that poems may be useless, but not the poetic form. Parallelisms, i.e. linguistic structures of repetition with variation, not only facilitate language acquisition but also help to memorize information and are thus advantageous in oral cultures. The inherently favorable human response to poetic utterances would then result from an adaptive process, with poetry as we know it today as a cultural epiphenomenon.

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