Haiku is a very short Japanese poem with seventeen syllables and three verses each being of 5,7 and 5 syllables respectively. The Haiku was written primarily in Japanese language and the rules applied were on that language.

Now when I want to write the same poem in another language, how to consider the language rules that was originally written for the primary language. We do have an English version of Haiku, but who decided the rules and how? What if I want to write the same in another (existing or constructed) language - how shall I apply that rule to that secondary language?

P.S. Haiku is not alone - we have limericks that originated in England, sonnets from Italy, Doha from India etc.

Edit: From the concerns mentioned in answer of Jay, what I meant was that in each language "syllable" has different ways of syllabification and way of defining or measuring it. Similar is the case for rhyme - we have different concept of rhyme in different languages.. Therefore, surely any spoken language would have concept of syllable and rhyming - but they differ in definition and structure.

  • 1
    Note that the counting units of traditional haiku are on, aka morae, rather than syllables, and looking at morae may help you with this question. – Aesin Jul 10 '18 at 23:53

I don't see how writing an English Haiku is a problem. So you write English words on three lines with line 1 having 5 syllables, line 2 having 7, and line 3 having 5. I remember writing haikus as a kid in elementary school. I'm no linguist, but I'd think any spoken language must have syllables, so the idea of counting syllables should be applicable to almost any language.

Similarly, any spoken language should have the concept of rhyme, so you could write a limerick in any spoken language.

Ditto any poem form that relies on rhyming patterns or syllable counts.

Are their languages whose speakers have never thought of the idea of syllables and/or rhyme?

Something like American Sign Language doesn't have rhyme or syllables, so they have to have entirely different mechanisms for poetry.

Are their other languages that would make applying such rules problematic? I'd be amused to know what languages and why.

Of course translating a poem from one language to another is fundamentally difficult. It would be an astounding coincidence if, say, a word-for-word translation of a poem from English to French rhymed or had any coherent rhythm. But I don't see why you can't take the rules for a form of poetry and apply them to another language.

  • I'd buy your argument - but what I meant was that in each language "syllable" has different ways of syllabification and way of defining or measuring it. For more info, you can have a look at wiki Similar is the case for rhyme - we have different concept of rhyme in different languages. You can read this – Karan Desai Jul 9 '18 at 4:43
  • 2
    @KaranDesai But it shouldn't matter how syllables are formed in a language, simply that they are. However it's done, you'll still end up with a number. That number needs to produce a 5-7-5 form. You're going to have to give an example of what you mean if this is still not clear. – Jason Bassford Jul 9 '18 at 12:49
  • astounding coincidence or very good skills in both languages ! – kiiyess Dec 27 '18 at 15:27

You use the rules of the language you are writing in, period. Haiku may be written in English, using the English rules and definitions of syllables. Japanese and English Haiku do not translate as Haiku from one language to the other but they can use the same rules in terms of syllable count. Similarly I've heard Chinese and Malaysian limericks written using the native language and the English construction rules, Shakespeare rather famously wrote a number of Sonnets in English, rhyming couplets and puns work in every language and puns can even be made across two different languages.

Short version; use the construction rules that define the thing you want to write and the language rules for whatever you're writing in.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.