I read today that in Japanese, Haikus are based on morae instead of syllables. Wikipedia tells me that morae determine "syllable weight" and "in some languages determine stress or timing".

I still don't quite understand what morae are, though. Could a Haiku be written in English using morae, or does the concept not translate over?

  • The concept doesn't really transfer. In Japanese there is a useful distinction between what are called "heavy syllables", which count as two morae, and "light syllables", which count one. Latin had heavy and light ("long" and "short") syllables, too; a syllable that ended with a consonant or contained a long vowel was heavy, and others were light. This was important -- in Latin, the stress always falls on the syllable that contains the antepenultimate mora. English, however, does not make this distinction, and the mora is strictly a technical term when dealing with English phonology. – jlawler Apr 16 '14 at 23:31
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    Related question: What is a mora? – musicallinguist Apr 17 '14 at 2:06
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    The structure of English and Japanese syllables are so different that it's impossible to count the mora weight of every possible English syllable using the Japanese criteria of mora counting. E.g., the English 1-syllable word 'string' is perceived by the Japanese as having five syllables of 1 mora each: su-to-ri-n-gu (ストリング), and 5-mora syllables don't exist in Japanese. In other words, it's like using square meters for measuring length. :) – Yellow Sky Apr 24 '14 at 11:30

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