Phenomenology of Rhythm: The Role of Rhythm in Written Language




Researching Rhythms, Existential Phenomenology, Qualitative Case Study, Writing, Reading, Dyslexia


Based on existential-phenomenological perspectives from Merleau-Ponty and Løgstrup, we examine the significance of rhythm for written language skills. Rhythm is both omnipresent and a difficult phenomenon

to explore. Methodologically, the article presents phenomenological descriptions and exemplifications, not least a case study of a secondary school student with written language difficulties. Our intention is to illuminate connections between rhythmic perspectives in movement, speech, working memory and language as prerequisites for the acquisition of written language skills. We conclude that rhythm is an essential aspect of our bodily being, and based on the work of Merleau-Ponty, we are able to bring to light relationships between body, rhythm, and written language skills in ways that would not be possible from a natural scientific point of view. Inspired by Merleau-Ponty's analytical approach and the hermeneutic phenomenology of Ricoeur, we will combine an understanding perspective with both human scientific and natural scientific explanations, into a holistic interpretation. The article thus draws empirically on qualitative descriptions of rhythmic phenomena, and theoretically on perspectives from philosophy of language, developmental psychology and neuropsychology, but they are all interpreted in the light of existential-phenomenological ontology.

Author Biographies

Casper Feilberg

Casper Feilberg, PhD, is an Associate Professor in Educational Psychology at the

Department of Communication and Psychology, Aalborg University, Denmark. His topics of research are Pedagogy, Bildung, Professional Development in Higher Education – especially the Profession of psychology, Problem oriented Project work. The main philosophical and theoretical inspirations are Existential phenomenology (Merleau-Ponty, Heidegger, Gadamer, Ricoeur), psychoanalysis (Bion) and critical theory (Habermas, Negt). I make use of Qualitative methodology and several research methods.

John Maul

John Maul, PhD, Speech therapist and former Ass. Professor in Special Education at the Danish University of Education, later University College of Northern Jutland. John Maul is originally speech therapist from the Royal Danish School of Educational Studies and PhD with a dissertation on a qualitatively interpretive view of dyslexia; based on a working odyssey through cerebral palsy, aphasia, dysphasia and dyslexia with consequences for understanding the importance of movement, rhythm and body. Homepage editor of, homepage of The Danish Society for Existential Phenomenology.


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How to Cite

Feilberg, C., & Maul, J. (2021). Phenomenology of Rhythm: The Role of Rhythm in Written Language. Qualitative Studies, 6(2).



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