“Metrical and rhythmic constraints interaction within some Moroccan multilingual poetic materials”

The Poetics of Multilingualism – La Poétique du plurilinguisme

International Colloquium,

Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, 4-5-6 April 2013


“Metrical and rhythmic constraints interaction

within some Moroccan multilingual poetic materials”


Mohamed Elmedlaoui

Université Mohammed V- Souissi, Rabat

Institut Universitaire de la Recheche Scientifique





The historically rooted multilingual situation in Morocco yielded many forms of multilingual poetic composition, called sometimes matruz “embroidered”. The last aspect of such manifestations in recent times is the Moroccan Rap singing idiom, where either Berber or Moroccan Arabic interferes as lyrics with French and/or English. In this paper, I will address some traditional samples of such forms: Arabic-Berber, Judeo-Arabic and Judeo-Berber.


I will investigate the interaction between metrical and rhythmic constraints in poetic composition. The question will not be addressed from a genetic point of view, asking for example, for a given idiom, whether metrical lyrics are composed first music-independently, and then put to tune with a compatible musical rhythm, or is it the reverse. This last issue is supposed to be a pragmatic byproduct which depends on some complex interference between sociological and psychological dimensions at work during creation within the domain of tunes and lyrics. Despite the fact that, for a given poetic idiom, formal evidence may be discovered and adduced regarding the autonomy or dependency between any metrical pattern and its compatible musical rhythms, I will not address this issue for the different samples I’ll present in this paper.


Based on the reasons we already have to believe that the typologically quantitative metrical component is autonomous in both Tashlhiyt Berber and the Moroccan Arabic malħun poetic idioms,(1) I will focus here rather only on the way the non native linguistic material, incorporated to a tune or another in these tow poetic idioms, fits with the metrical pattern at use for a given poetic line. For example:


- To which extent and how the non native material fits with the Light Heavy quantitative opposition of syllables within a metrical pattern?

- How geminates, consonantal clusters, long vowels and schwas are metrically dealt with in such cases?


As just one example: according to Chahbar 1990:53, the two following lines (a and b) are both composed on the same metrical pattern, one of the most used within the Moroccan Arabic malħun idiom, viz. the decasyllabic metrical pattern: {#H) (LL LL) (LHH) (LL#}, (L/H: light/heavy syllable):


a) Mor.Arabic   اش من عار عليكوم ا-رجال مكناس   =   aš  mn  ɛar  ɛlikum  a-ržal  mknas


b) Hebrew:          צמאה נפשי לאל תמים דעים          =   tsamǝaa  nafšii  lǝ-eel  tǝmiim  daɛiim,(2)





Chahbar, Abdelaziz (1990) “Los megorašim marroquíes y el canto de las moaxajas y el-zéjel”. Pp. 51-57 in Fernando Diaz Esteban, ed.: Abraham Ibn Ezra y su tiempo – Abraham Ibn Ezra and his age. Asociación Española de Orientalistas. Madrid 1990.

Dell, François and Mohamed Elmedlaoui (2008) Poetic meter and musical form in Tashlhiyt Berber songs. Rüdiger Köppe Verlag. Cologne.

Elmedlaoui, Mohamed (2011) “The Generator of the Moroccan Arabic malħun’s Metrical Patterns (A draft for a paper)”. A detailed handout distributed in the symposium: In the Shadow of Arabic. Berber, Arabic and South Arabian Studies;in Honour of Harry Stroomer. Leiden University Center for the Study of Islam and Society. November, 10, 2011

Elmedlaoui, Mohamed (2012):

المدلاوي، محمد (2012) رفع الحجاب عن مغمور الثقافة والآداب؛ مع صياغة لعروضي الأمازيغية والملحون. منشورات المعهد الجامعي للبحث العلمي، الرباط.

Fabb, Nigel and Morris Halle (2008) Meter in Poetry: A New Theory. Cambridge University Press.



(1) See respectively: Dell & Elmedlaoui 2008:23-31 (Berber) and Elmedlaoui 2011; 2012: 445-539 (Mor. Ar.)


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