Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

William D. Miller


In his article "Linguistics and the Study of Poetic Language," Stankewicz (1960) characterizes poetic organization as "completely embedded in language and fully determined by its possibilities." The purpose of this study is to examine the form that poetic function assumes in a language that itself has a structural organization fundamentally different from that of oral languages and in which, accordingly, the possibilities for poetic organization are radically different.

In wit and poetry, elements of form and meaning—a linguistic system--are used to create complex multi-layered expressions with multiple meanings and systems of form and meaning. Similarities--and differences—in form, function and meaning are exploited; the elements of linguistic system are manipulated and, sometimes, distorted to be significant. Such artful manipulations and distortions must stand out against a background of recognized regularities. Thus, how language is used in wit and poetry can inform us about the psychological reality of abstract constructs and about the awareness, on the part of language users, of regularities in the language.