What is ‘prosody’?

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

Increase your vocabulary and you’ll make your writing much more precise. That’s why I provide a word of the week. Today’s word: prosody….

As a voracious reader, I regularly encounter words I’ve seen many times before but that I’m still hard-pressed to define. Prosody is one such word.

I found it most recently in the book The Brain’s Way of Healing by Norman Doidge, (pictured above). A proponent of neuroplasticity — the brain’s ability to change in response to activity and mental experience — Doidge is a psychiatrist who argues that people can use natural and noninvasive ways to heal from chronic pain and illness. He lept to fame with his 2007 book The Brain That Changes Itself.

Here is how he used the noun, prosody:

It has to do with helping the prosody — the musical part of language, and the emotional flow of language — to come out more easily.

Prosody carries several meanings but most broadly it refers to the rhythmic and intonal aspect of language. More specifically, it also means the study of versification (poetry), especially metrical structure. The word dates back to the late 15th century, from Latin prosodia, meaning “accent of a syllable,” from the Greek prosoidia meaning “song sung to music.”

To hear the correct pronunciation of the word, click on the read microphone near the top of this link.