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Alliteration is the repeated occurrence of a consonant sound at the beginning of several words in the same phrase. Consonance is the repetition of the same consonant sound anywhere in a string of words, not just the initial sound as is in alliteration. An example is the Mother Goose tongue-twister, "Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers …" or "waiting for Warren". It is usually used as a form of figurative language.

In poetry, good alliteration may also refer to repetition of a consonant in any syllables that, according to the poem's meter, are stressed as if they were word-initial, as in James Thomson's verse "Come…dragging the lazy languid Line along" [1].

The term is sometimes applied in a more general way to the repetition of any sound, whether a vowel (assonance) or a consonant (consonance), in any positions within the words.[citation needed] Alliteration may also include the use of different consonants with similar properties (labials, dentals, etc.) [2] or even the unwritten glottal stop that precedes virtually every word-initial vowel in the English language, as in the phrase "Apt alliteration's artful aid" (despite the unique pronunciation of the "a" in each word) [3].

Alliteration is a common literary or rhetorical device in all languages, although its accidental occurrence is often viewed as a defect. Alliterative verse was an important ingredient of poetry in Old English and other old Germanic languages such as Old High German, Old Norse, and Old Saxon.


[edit] Usage

[edit] Literature

The relative formal accessibility of alliteration makes it one of the most commonly used literary tools in English, tracing its origins back to Old English and its ancestral languages. Old Germanic poetry was mostly in the form of alliterative verse that relied heavily on consonance and assonance rather than rhyme. Perhaps the most famous example of Old English alliterative poetry is this passage from Beowulf: "gan under gyldnum beage, þær þa godan twegen" (line 1163).[4]. It still seems to maintain an important, though perhaps more subtle, part in modern English poetry and more.

Alliteration survives most obviously in modern English in magazine article titles, advertisements and business names, comic strip or cartoon characters, and common expressions: [5]

  • Magazine articles: “Science has Spoiled my Supper”[6], “Too Much Talent in Tennessee?”[7], and "Kurdish Control of Kirkuk Creates a Powder Keg in Iraq" [8]
  • Comic/cartoon characters: Beetle Bailey, Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, Peter Parker, Bruce Banner, Clark Kent, Spongebob Squarepants, Larry the Lobster, Captain K'nuckles, Perry the Platypus, Bob the Builder
  • Restaurants: Coffee Corner, Sushi Station
  • Expressions: busy as a bee, dead as a doornail, good as gold, right as rain, etc...
  • Music: Blackalicious' "Alphabet Aerobics" focuses on the uses of alliteration in rhyme
  • Names: Ronald Reagan, Rodney Rude
  • Sports Teams: Los Angeles Lakers, New Jersey Nets, Cleveland Cavaliers, San Antonio Spurs, Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago Cubs

Books aimed at young readers often use alliteration, as it consistently captures children's interest.

[edit] Old English names

Another use of alliteration in Old English, outside the literary sphere, is found in personal name giving.[9] This is evidenced by the unbroken series of 9th century kings of Wessex named Æthelwulf, Æthelbald, Æthelberht, and Æthelred. These were followed in the 10th century by their direct descendants Æthelstan and Æthelred II, who ruled as kings of England.[10] The Anglo-Saxon saints Tancred, Torhtred and Tova provide a similar example, among siblings.[11]

[edit] Alliteration in literary analysis

As testament to the pervasive use of alliteration in English poetry, it is commonly tabulated and statistically analyzed, and has even for example been mapped in a Thomas Churchyard poem in order to correctly date it in relation to his other works.[12] Statistics can also fuel debates on author’s alliterative motive, in attempts to determine if the alliterations that critics find were included by chance or by the author’s volition. One such study of 100 Shakespearian sonnets concluded that the author “might as well have drawn his words out of a hat”, and provoked other critics' defense of the questioned alliteration.[13]

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ James Thomson. The Castle of Indolence. 
  2. ^ Stoll, E. E. (May 1940). "Poetic Alliteration". Modern Language Notes 55 (5): 388. 
  3. ^ Scott, Fred N. (December 1915). "Vowel Alliteration in Modern Poetry". Modern Language Notes 30 (8): 237. 
  4. ^ Hieatt, Constance B., 'Alliterative Patterns in the Hypermetric Lines of Old English Verse', in Modern Philology Vol. 71, No. 3. (Feb. 1974), pp. 237
  5. ^ Coard, Robert L. "Wide-Ranging Alliteration". Peabody Journal of Education, Vol. 37, No. 1. (Jul., 1959),pp. 30-32.
  6. ^ Wylie, Philip G. “Science has Spoiled my Supper”. Atlantic April 1954.
  7. ^ Dykeman, Wilma. "Too Much Talent in Tennessee?" Harper's Magazine. 210 (Mar 1955): 48-53.
  8. ^ Oppel, Richard A. "Kurdish Control of Kirkuk Creates a Powder Keg in Iraq". "New York Times" .
  9. ^ Gelling, M., Signposts to the Past (2nd edition), Phillimore, 1988, pp. 163-4.
  10. ^ Old English "Æthel" translates to modern English "noble". For further examples of alliterative Anglo-Saxon royal names, including the use of only alliterative first letters, see e.g. Yorke, B., Kings and Kingdoms of Early Anglo-Saxon England, Seaby, 1990, Table 13 (p. 104; Mercia, names beginning with "C", "M", and "P"), and pp. 142-3 (Wessex, names beginning with "C"). For discussion of the origins and purposes of Anglo-Saxon "king lists" (or "regnal lists"), see e.g. Dumville, D.N., 'Kingship, Genealogies and Regnal Lists', in Sawyer, P.H. & Wood, I.N. (eds.), Early Medieval Kingship, University of Leeds, 1977.
  11. ^ Rollason, D.W., 'Lists of Saints' resting-places in Anglo-Saxon England', in Anglo-Saxon England 7, 1978, p. 91.
  12. ^ Shirley, Charles G, Jr. "Alliteration as Evidence in Dating a Poem of Thomas Churchyard: An Exploratory Computer-Aided Study". Modern Philology, Vol. 76, No. 4. (May, 1979), pp. 374.
  13. ^ Stoll, Elmer E. Modern Language Notes, Vol. 55, No. 5. (May, 1940), pp. 388-390.

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