Multisense Of Intextual Units Within Poetic Communication


The significance of the problem discussed in the paper has been attributed by insufficient study of the mechanism of the context borrowing process that takes part between intertextual units, which appear in the process of poetic communication. From the perspective of such a mechanism, one can define the characteristics of the term multisense being a peculiar feature of intertextual units, poetic texts and poetic communication in general. The purpose of the article is to study the multisense phenomenon and illustrate it by practical materials. In the article we define the concept of poetic communication, discuss three types of poetic texts – a regular, a free and a mixed one; consider basic linguistic aspects of poetic texts’ features and properties, observe the concept of intertextuality. As scientific research methods we use the typology of text attributes by Y. V. Kazarin and the model of intertextual relations by N. S. Olizko (paradigmatic relations of intextual units in a poetic text). We take the best works of English poetry within a period of the 17th-20th centuries (we discuss works by J. Milton, W. Blake, O. Wilfred, J. R. R. Tolkien, T. S. Eliot, R. Frost, L. Ferlinghetti, J. Morrison and other poets). The examples of different intextual relations (marked/not marked quotations, quasi-quotations, allusive proper names, allusive cultural and specific elements, allusive plotting) as well as the multisense of intextual units within poetic communication are under consideration in the practical part of the article.

Keywords: Intextualityintertexualitymultisensepoetic textsemiotics


Our research is concerned with semiotic and semantic peculiarities of textual units, which actualize their meaning within poetic communication. We use several theoretical and methodological approaches of linguistics and attempt to successfully synthesize them in one logical universal mechanism in order to divide the complicated process of interpretation of the analyzed textual units into several steps and discuss each defined step of interpretation in details.

Problem Statement

The problematics of our research is determined by nonidentity of two linguistic terms – the term “sense” and the term “meaning”. The term “sense” is a term of wide comprehension. It represents the erratic semantic concept having a nonlinear complicated structure. The term “meaning” is understood more narrowly and is considered being only an aspect of the term “sense”. A recipient can define meanings of composite textual units within poetic communication (we understand poetic communication after Yakobson as the poetic function of communication, which is focused on the form of expression of poetic textual units) (Yakobson & Bogatirev, 2015). These meanings can’t be changed in a given context because they have stable denotation. In such a case we can say that the whole meaning of a text is a sum of the meanings of its units. Discussing the same problem from the intertextual point of view we find out the contrary regularity. A textual unit being at the same time an intertextual unit enters into a dialogue with an identic or a similar (having resembling semantic qualities) unit of other poetic texts. In consequence of their dialogue there appears a contextual interchange. In such a manner we observe how a singular stable meaning of a given textual unit being under the influence of a new context expands and becomes an advanced semiotic unit. It means that one and the same intertextual unit can have one or more meanings (and can be defined by them at the same time) within one given context. From the perspective of such a communication model of intertextual units it is possible to introduce the term “multisense” (multilevel semantic concept of analyzed units of poetic communication).

Research Questions

In order to discuss the multiple sense concept of intextual units within poetic communication in a convincible manner we study the concept of a poetic text in a broad and narrow sense, discuss general, categorical, differential, additional attributes and categories of the poetic text, delimit the concepts of polyinterpretation and multisense, observe the theory of intertextuality and intertextual units, analyze our practical material using discussed theoretical bases.

The object of our research is poetic communication as the foundation for intertextual interaction of poetic texts as semiotic sign systems.

The subject of our scientific work is an intextual unit of a poetic text, which intertextually actualize semiotic complexes of both one separate textual unit and the whole text as a semiotic system. The result of such an actualization is the multisense concept of intextual units within poetic communication.

Purpose of the Study

The main idea of our research is to define and delimit the concept polyinterpretation and the concept of multisense of textual units within poetic communication. This task leads us to another narrower problem of determining the peculiar features and principal differences between the term “meaning” and the term “sense”. Thus, the purpose of our study is to demonstrate the potency of a textual unit to have several meanings in one and the same context within poetic communication by analyzing intextual devices in the given poetic texts.

Research Methods

The question under discussion is broad that is why we divide this section of our research into four main aspects to be more coherent: poetic text peculiarities, attributes of poetic texts, problems of the multisense, intertextuality and its devices.

Peculiarities of Poetic Text

We define a poetic text as a unit of poetic communication from the point of view of two approaches. In a narrow sense a poetic text is a rhythmically organized usually rhymed speech, which is graphically presented as a verse. We name three main types of a poetic text: a regular, free and mixed one. A regular poetic text includes syllabic-accentual (having rhymes, a proper number of syllables and stresses in a line), accentual (a number of stresses in a line is considered being the beat; a number of unstressed syllables between stressed ones doesn’t matter) and blank verses (written with a regular beat and meter but not having any rhymes). A free poetic text refers to a free verse (vers libre), which breaks rhymes, meter, isotonia, isosyllabism, division into stanzas and other principles of syllabic-accentual poetry. The mixed type of a poetic text considers the combination of the regular and free types. Further in the text of our study we provide all the types of a poetic text with practical material.

Attributes of Poetic Text

A substantial contribution to the problem of attributes and categories of the text in general and a poetic text in particular has been made by L. G. Babenko, M. M. Bakhtin, N. S. Bolotnova, I. R. Galperin, E. A. Goncharova, S. G. Ilyenko, Y. V. Kazarin, M. N. Kozhina, T. V. Matveeva, A. I. Morokhovsky, A. I. Novikov, Y. A. Sorokin, E. V. Sidorov, Z. Y. Turaeva, I. Y. Chernukhina, etc. (as cited in Babenko & Kazarin, 2018). Within our study we base our further research on the typology conceived by Y. V. Kazarin. The scientist divides all the attributes of the text into four types: general (systematic, structural, functional, polyinterpretative, anthropological, modal, and cultural properties can be found in all the texts), categorical (not all the texts can be characterized by integrity, intensity, coherence, completeness, stylistics), differential (only some texts have experimental, heuristic, enigmatic, idiomatic, hermitic properties) and additional (properties of imagery, connotation, chronotype) ones (Kazarin, 2016).

The most interesting for us is the general attribute of polyinterpretation. This attribute refers to the hermetic (presence of author’s unique codes) and idiomatic (the high degree of isomorphism of a static form and semantic content) text properties. Bolotnova (2014) explains the high correlation between text attributes with their integrity or inter-presence. The attribute of interpretation provides semantic multiplicity of a text fragment. The analysis of the poetic text attributes shows that semantics of an intextual unit can be defined by the term “multisense”. It means this unit has several meanings, the difference of which is proved by using one and the same given unit in various contexts of proto- and metatexts. In other words, the number of ways to interpret the given unit is equal to nonrecurring contexts in which the unit is used.

Comparison of the Concepts of Polyinterpretation and Multisense

The terms “polyinterpretation” and “multisense” differ in the following way. The first one directs a recipient to a text, i.e. it helps a recipient understand the written information in different ways depending on a context of a given text and the competence of a recipient. The term “multisense” works vice versa by directing a text to a recipient, i.e. it provides the semantic multiplicity of a poetic text by the process of a contextual interexchange between its intextual units and the intextual units of other poetic texts.

The concept of polyinterpretation can be illustrated by the text corpus of an American poet J. Morrison whose poetry is a part of postmodern literature of 1960-70s. Within Morrison’s poetry it is possible to detach some author’s codes among which is “town/city”. This code actualizes its semantic complex in the poems “The Lords: Notes on Vision” and “The New Creatures”.

The city forms – often physically, but inevitably

psychically – a circle. (Morrison, 2009a)

In the given fragment of the poem “The Lords: Notes on Vision” we see the metonymy “The city forms a circle”, which shows that it is possible to interpret the noun “city” as a philosophic category meaning a vicious circle, the game, a casino. In the poem “The New Creatures” we find a similar meaning being supplemented by the ideas of the distressful situation of the city residents.

The City: Hive, Web, or severed

insect mound. All citizens heirs

of the same royal parent.

"There is only one disease

and I am its catalyst",

cried doomed pride of the carrier. (Morrison, 2009b)

Morrison compares the image of “city” to a hive, web and a mound. In such a way the author shows vanity and drabness of the residents’ life. The personalization “and I am its catalyst, cried doomed pride of the carrier” denotes the reason of the city’s adversity – its residents are dazzled by the sin of pride. So, the author’s code “city” is associated with the spiritual crisis of the mankind.

The next step is to discuss the cases when the analyzed author’s code provides not only the expansion of meanings of its text fragment by comparing the meaning’s of similar textual units (as it has been shown higher) but also the transformation of the multimeaning into the multisense as the potency of the text to have different sometimes contradictory meanings. We will compare the context of the analyzed textual unit with different contexts of the same or similar unit of other texts to synthesize their contexts into one universal and multilevel context. To precisely understand this process and to describe the multisense concept deeper we should discuss the theory of intertextuality, which is the theoretical and methodological base for semantic multiplicity.

Theory of Intertextuality as the Base for Semantic Multiplicity

Taking into account different approaches of describing and defining the phenomenon of intertextuality (works by Y. Kristeva, R. de Beaugrande, W. U. Dressler, L. Dallenbach, W. van den Heuvel, G. Genette, I.P. Smirnov, I.V. Arnold, E.V. Mikhaylova, N.A. Fateeva, N.A. Kuzmina etc.) it is important to consider the terms “metatext” and “prototext”. Both of them are functional variants of the text. In other words they are the texts between which we can map intertextual relations. We define the metatext after Kuzmina (2016) as the text, which fulfills not only the referential function, but also the function of interpretation or explication of the referential sense of the prototext. On the other hand the prototext is the basic text, which influences the process of the metatext’s creation. Kuzmina (2016) proposes the term “t-0” – the moment when we analyze a given text. This very text is considered being a metatext. All the texts created before t-0 are the potential prototexts and the texts created before t0, which are referred to by the analyzed text are the real prototexts (Kuzmina, 2016). Thus, the prototext is the text, which is referred to by the metatext using intertextual units (quotes, allusions etc.).

We define the term “intertextuality” from the semantic aspect point of view after Kuzmina (2016). Intertextuality is a textual potency to form its sense by referring to other texts, which can be found in works by the same author, in adjacent art or previous literature (Kuzmina, 2016).

We base the classification of intertextual relations on the typology by Olizko (Sergodeev & Olizko, 2018). The scientist divides the intertextual relations according to the level of analysis (syntagmatic or paradigmatic relations). Syntagmatic relations include hypertextuality and paratextuality, paradigmatic relations present intextuality and archtextuality. We discuss only the intextual level within this research.

Paradigmatic relations are associated with intextuality, which is the body of specific textual references giving a metatext some information about a prototext or prototexts. Let’s define the units and devices of intextual relations.

The quotation is one of the most famous intextual units. The quotation is the fragment of a text, which is found word by word in the other texts. Within the article we detach graphically marked quotations (with inverted commas, italics or author’s comments), graphically non-marked quotations (still recognizable in different contexts) and quasi-quotations (with intentionally changed meanings by cutting the quote, adding associative, homonymous, antonymous or paronymous lexical substitutions).

The example of the marked quote can be found in the poem “Dulce et Decorum Est” by Wilfred (2019).

The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est

Pro patria mori. (Wilfred, 2019)

The marked lines of the given poetic text refer to the so-called “roman odes” by Horatio and are translated like “it is sweet and beautiful to die for the mother-land” or “the red death for the mother-land”. Wilfred gives the opposite sense to these lines within his emotional anti-war poem.

A non-marked quote is the most popular kind of quotations because it doesn’t repeat the prototext lines word by word and at the same time continues keeping their original sense. In the verses of “Footnote to Howl” by Ginsberg (2019) we find the example of a non-marked quote.

Everyday is in eternity ! Everyman’s an angel! (Ginsberg, 2019)

The marked phrase is the quotation referring to the poem “Auguries of Innocence” by Blake (2019).

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour (Blake, 2019)

As we can see from the example A. Ginsberg changes the prototext (the noun “hours” is replaced by the noun “day”) but keeps its original sense making it recognizable. It is the main difference that we can see between a non-marked quote and a quasi-quote.

We illustrate the quasi-quote phenomenon by analyzing the poem “All that is gold does not glitter” by Tolkien (2019).

All that is gold does not glitter,

Not all those who wander are lost; (Tolkien, 2019)

The marked line is the changed English proverb “All that glitters is not gold”. Tolkien denies the verb “to glitter” instead of the noun “gold”. So, taking into account the intentional transformation of the original proverb’s sense we can define the analyzed line as a quasi-qoute.

The next unit of intertextuality is an allusion. It refers or mentions episodes and names, which have a historic, geographic, mythological, scientific or literary character. An allusion is realized by reproducing of a prototext’s untransformed textual unit in a metatext. Allusions are divided into allusive proper names (the names of mythological heroes, literary characters, actors, musicians, politicians, scientists, writers etc.), allusive realia (elements or events associated with the same elements or events of a prototext) and the allusive plotting (a mythological, historical or literary plot to which a new context is given by mentioning this unit in a metatext).

Allusive proper names can be exemplified by analyzing the poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by Eliot (2019).

To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,

Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all” (Eliot, 2019)

The underlined fragment of the given poetic text has the proper name of Lazarus, which alludes to The Gospel of Eliot changes the meaning of the prototext. As a result we see a double change of the meaning. The poet understands the story of Lazarus’ resurrection as Lazarus is resurrected to tell all the people something incredible (as we can see from the poetic text above). More over the final lines of the stanza show that the narrator is not resurrected Lazarus but an ordinary person.

Another fragment of the same text has got the allusive name of a famous Shakespeare’s character.

No! I am not Prince Hamlet , nor was meant to be; (Eliot, 2019)

The narrator of the text is compared to Prince Halmet. The opposition of these two images shows the opposition of rebellious spirit and complaisance. The narrator doesn’t want to dramatize. He is glad to be of use to politics, society and the progress. In the broad sense this comparison shows the conflict of the human inner world and inner dialogue with the destructive (to a personality) influence of the modern world.

The allusive realia are broadly presented in the poem “paradise Lost” by Milton (2019).

Waked by the circling Hours, with rosy hand

Unbarred the gates of Light . (Milton, 2019)

In the given fragment of the poetic text we underline two fragments being allusive realia. “The circling Hours” alludes to the Greek goddess of four seasons Horae, Horai or Hours. According to the legend Horae (the daughters of Zeus and Themis) open and shut the gates of Olympus. Milton (2019) replaces the gates of Olympus with “the gates of Light”.

The fragment “with rosy hand” is the example of allusive realia referring to the Odyssey by Homer (2004).

As soon as rosy-fingered Dawn appeared, Odysseus’ steadfast son rose from his bed and dressed.

Milton (2019) describes the dawn (in the Greek mythology the goddess of the dawn is Eos) as “Morn with rosy hand”. It has something in common with the dawn described by Homer: “rosy-fingered Dawn”. The context of the prototext and metatext is practically the same. In the prototext the dawn rises from the darkness. In the metatext the dawn shuts the gates of light.

The next type of the allusion is the allusive plot.

So Eden sank to grief,

So dawn goes down to day. (Frost, 2019)

In the given poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay” by Frost we find the allusive plot presented by the line “So Eden sank to grief”. In the Biblical prototext God exiles Adam and Eve from the paradise/Eden because of their disobedience. This action results in their human suffering and deaths. The line “So Eden sank to grief” symbolizes the impermanence of time, youth, life, etc.

Now we have fully discussed the research methods and can pass on to the multisense of textual units.


After discussion of linguistic and intertextual methodological bases of our research in details we have come to a conclusion that the ability to find and decode intextual units mainly depends on background knowledge of a recipient. Understanding of these units and their relations allows us to talk about the multisense of the analyzed poem and to define literary, cultural, historical, political interests of the author. We illustrate the multisense of textual units by analyzing the poem “I am waiting” by Ferlinghetti (2019).

I am waiting

for the Grapes of Wrath to be stored

and I am waiting

for them to prove

that God is really American

In the context of the given poetic text we find the metaphor “the Grapes of Wrath” being the unmarked quote, which alludes to the novel “The Grapes of Wrath” by J. Steinbeck. The name of the novel is also the allusive plottting that refers to The Revelation (2006):

So the angel swung his sickle to the earth and gathered the clusters from the vine of the earth, and threw them into the great wine press of the wrath of God .

The given fragment helps us understand that “the wrath of God” is the recompense for human sins. The phrase “wine press” is the lexical base for Steinbeck’s “grapes” (the idiom “grapes of wrath” also means “wine”). J. Steinbeck changes the metaphoric comparison “wine press of the wrath of God” to the similar “the grapes of wrath”. There are many different allusions to the Bible events in the novel: Connie stands for Judas, California seems to be Palestine, Tom Joad’s girlfriend is similar to the wife of Lot etc. This is one more argument for associating the name of the novel with the lines of the Revelation.

The name “The Grapes of Wrath” being the allusive Bible plotting is also the unmarked quote from the song “The Battle Hymn of The Republic” by Howe (2019).

He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored (Howe, 2019);

According to Howe, this patriotic American song of the Civil War symbolizes the victory over evil. The given line is the allusive plotting that refers to the discussed fragment of the Revelation.

Thus, in both cases (talking about the novel by J. Steinbeck or the song by Julia Howe) we face the bible events from one hand and some social and civil problems from the other hand. The topics of the discussed textual fragments can be found not only in the quote “the grapes of Wrath” of the poem “I am waiting” by L. Ferlinghetti but also in the other textual units of this very poem: religious motives (“the Second Coming”, “religious revival”) are mixed with social problems (discussed above “the Grapes of Wrath”) and the problems of nationalism (“God is really American”). Such a thematic association makes the basic poetic text semantically dependent on the prototexts. Identic intextual units (in our case they are “the Grapes of Wrath”) of the discussed fragments of several prototexts send to each other contexts, which are alien for each of them separately. It results in semantic evolution exhibiting some variants of meanings in one and the same context of the basic poetic text. If a textual unit has several meanings, but is defined only by one of them in one and the same context, we say this unit has several meanings. If a textual unit has several meanings and can be defined by all of them in one and the same context, we say this unit has several senses or the multisense.


From the perspective of the discussed material, general and categorical textual attributes, model of intertextual relations and given practical examples we can talk about the global intertextual net. This net can be presented as the universal collection of the texts, which are in the state of a permanent dialogue. The process of such a dialogue is possible due to the common elements for all the texts. We call these elements intertextual units and describe the peculiarities of their communicating mechanisms. The more popular, well known and influential an intertextual unit is, the more texts take part in the global dialogue. The wealth of semantics depends on the number of texts having common intertextual units. The matter is these units are participants of the permanent nonlinear informative interchanging. They send to each other semantic variants of their intextual units (universal binding units for every thematic group of texts, which enter into a dialogue with each other). This complicated semantic mechanism provides the multisense of intextual units within poetic communication.

The problem of semantic evolution of a textual unit (or the evolution of “meaning” into “sense”) is important because its studying helps estimate some basic principles, mechanisms and even laws of semantic self-organization and fluctuations on the broad text level, which mainly doesn’t depend on a recipient. In fact researchers or readers can only choose one or several variants of meanings that are little grains of a global, universal and ultimate multisense.

As a result of our research we have considered the linguistic differences between the term “meaning” and the term “sense”, viewed the concept of poetic communication, described the basic attributes of poetic texts (general, categorical, differential, additional ones), defined the term of intertextuality, prototexts and metatexts, analyzed and illustrated paradigmatic relations of poetic communication by the considering the examples of intextual units (quotations, allusions and their types).

The complex linguistic analysis of intextual units within poetic communication for the purpose of demonstration of their contextual interchange and the ability to have several meanings in one and the same context has been conducted.

The article materials could be useful for lecturers and linguists who are interested in text science, semiotics, philological and linguistic analysis of a text, lingua-synergetic research trends.

There are still several questions, which have appeared in the process of our research. For instance, what is the mechanism of the extraction of intextual units from the poetic text’s total volume; which meaning of all the defined ones has higher priority; which other types of intertextual relations can be considered? These questions define the necessity of the further research in order to find new approaches and methods of studying the problem of semantic organization of textual units within poetic communication.


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07 August 2019

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Sergodeev, I. V., & Olizko*, N. S. (2019). Multisense Of Intextual Units Within Poetic Communication. In Z. Marina Viktorovna (Ed.), Journalistic Text in a New Technological Environment: Achievements and Problems, vol 66. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 121-130). Future Academy.