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My conlang, called Pandemonic for now, is a language with OSV word order, that uses synthetic prefixes and postfixes to both nouns and verbs. Only adjectives and adverbs, which always follow the word to which they apply, are not heavily synthetic, though they may both have prefixes. Conjunctions appear at the end of the group of conjoined elements.

Given that it appears that these structures will often limit the trailing sounds of the words in Pandemonic sentences, should rhyming or other poetry be possible and meaningful?

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  • Rhyme is not the only component of poetry, and in fact focusing on it over much is a sign of terrible poetry, especially in languages like English that have very little rhyme. More important is the rhythm, be it stress or syllable timed, and there is no language that cannot produce a good rhythm. Once you have a good rhythm, you can pepper the poem with rhyme, alliteration, assonance and other phonemic "bridges"
    – No Name
    Aug 23, 2023 at 5:00
  • I write rhyme-less meter poetry.
    – Joshua
    Aug 23, 2023 at 19:08

1 Answer 1

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+50

The verbal suffixes making most sentence ends sound the similar doesn't necessarily mean you can't do rhyming poetry - in fact, you can go out of your way to make them rhyme exactly the same. The Georgian national epic, the ვეფხისტყაოსანი Vepxist'q'aosani (conventionally translated as "The Knight in the Panther's Skin"), is written entirely (?) in "monorhymed quatrains" - 4 lines a row, each 16 syllables long, that each end in the exact same rhyme. For example, the last quatrain of the introduction (rhyme bolded):

თუ მოყვარე მოყვრისათვის ტირს, ტირილსა ემართლების;
სიარული, მარტოობა ჰშვენის, გაჭრად დაეთვლების;
იგონებდეს, მისგან კიდე ნურაოდეს მოეცლების,
და არ დააჩნდეს მიჯნურობა, სჯობს, თუ კაცსა იახლების.

Tu moq'vare moq'vrisatvis t'irs, t'irilsa emartlebis;
Siaruli, mart'ooba hshvenis, gach'rad daetvlebis;
Igonebdes, misgan k'ide nuraodes moetslebis,
Da ar daachndes mijnuroba, sjobs, tu k'atssa iakhlebis.

If the lover cries and weeps for his love, tears are the lover's due.
Solitude suits him, the roaming of plains and forests suits him, too.
When he's by himself, his thought should be of how to worship anew.
But when a lover is in the world, he should hide his love from view.

(Source - though, that translation takes some liberties to make the English mirror the rhyme structure of the original Georgian. A more literal translation can be found here.)

But if monorhyming bothers you, then the obvious alternative is just to not make your language's poetry based on rhyming to begin with. Plenty of languages' definition of poetry is effectively rhyme-blind. Mark Rosenfelder, in his Language Construction Kit, gives the following examples for alternatives:

  • Latin did poetry based on meter - the particular example he uses is dactylic hexameter, made up 6 "feet" per line, where a "foot" is a either a long/long pair (a spondee) or long/short/short pair (a dactyl):

Cūm pu-er | āu-dā|cī co-e|pīt gaū|dē-re vo|lā-tū
Dēs-se-ru|īt-que du|cēm, cāe|lī-que cu|pī-di-ne | trāc-tus,
Āl-ti-us | ē-git i|tēr. Ra-pi|dī vī|cī-ni-a | sō-lis
Mōl-lit o|dō-rā|tās pēn|nā-rūm | vīn-cu-la | cē-rās.

When the boy began to rejoice in bold flight
He deserted the leader and, drawn by desire for the sky
Made his way higher. Proximity to the fierce sun
softened the fragrant wax, the binding of the feathers.

English can do something similar but it's much easier, because of our lexical stress, do iambic meter - series of unstressed-stressed pairs; Shakespeare famously used lots of iambic pentameter, which often rhymed, but didn't always:

The e|vil that | men do | lives af|ter them;
The good | is oft | inter|rèd with | their bones;
So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
If it | were so, | it was | a grie|vous fault,
And grie|vously | hath Cae|sar an|swer’d it.

  • Old English used lots of alliteration, as in this sample from Beowulf:

Wæs se grimma gæst ⁠Grendel hāten,
mǣre mearc‐stapa, ⁠sē þe mōras hēold,
fen ond fæsten;fīfel‐cynnes eard
won‐sǣli wer⁠ weardode hwīle,
siþðan him Scyppend⁠ forscrifen hæfde.

Grendel this monster grim was called,
march-riever mighty, in moorland living,
in fen and fastness; fief of the giants
the hapless wight a while had kept
since the Creator his exile doomed.

  • Hebrew poetry is often based on parallelism, especially synonymous parallelism - finding multiple ways to say the same thing:

עד־אנה יהוה שועתי ולא תשמע אזעק אליך חמס ולא תושיע׃
O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear; or cry to you "Violence!", and you will not save?
(Habakkuk 1:2)

ויגל כמים משפט וצדקה כנחל איתן׃
But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.
(Amos 5:24)

Or antithetic parallelism, where two opposite ideas are juxtaposed with parallel sentence structure:

נסו ואין־רדף רשע וצדיקים ככפיר יבטח׃
The wicked flee when no man pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion;
(Proverbs 28:1)

  • You could always rely simply on diction, that is, word choice for poetic effect. For example, Old Norse poetry was full of "kennings" replacing simple, concrete, boring words with more figurative, evocative, almost always longer (maybe much longer), circumlocutions. e.g.:

Ǫld vann skjǫldu ossa rauða, þás kómu þingat hvítir; þat vas auðsætt hljóms hring miðlǫndum. Þar hykk ungan gram gerðu gǫngu upp í skip, þars sverð slæðusk, en vér fylgðum; svǫrr blóðs fekk gunnsylgs.
Men made our shields red, that came there white; that was obvious to the {sharers of the {sword-clamour [battle]} [warriors] }. There I think the young king made his advance up on to the ship, where swords were blunted, and we followed; the {bird of blood [raven] } gained a {battle-draught [=blood] }.

(Source)

Fengum feldarstinga, þanns lendingar álhimins sendu oss útan, ok galt við fjǫrðhjǫrðu. Mest selda ek mínar hlaupsildr gaupna Egils við mævǫrum sævar; hallæri veldr hvôru.
We received a cloak-pin, which the {landsmen of {the channel-sky [ice] } [Icelanders] } sent us abroad, and I spent it on {fjord-herds [fish] }. Most of all I sold my {leaping herrings of Egill’s palms [arrows] } for the {slender arrows of the sea [herring] } ; the famine causes both things.

(Source)

So there's lots of ways to still do poetry even without rhyming. If you really don't want to rhyme.

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  • in the Beowulf example, hwīle does not alliterate with won, wer⁠, or weardode. W and hw are treated as entirely separate onsets (so too are s, sp, st, & sc). In fact the fourth lift of each line cannot alliterate with any of the other lifts.
    – Tristan
    Aug 24, 2023 at 14:30

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