Alliteration

Alliteration

Overview
In language
Language
Language may refer either to the specifically human capacity for acquiring and using complex systems of communication, or to a specific instance of such a system of complex communication...

, alliteration refers to the repetition of a particular sound
Phoneme
In a language or dialect, a phoneme is the smallest segmental unit of sound employed to form meaningful contrasts between utterances....

 in the first syllable
Syllable
A syllable is a unit of organization for a sequence of speech sounds. For example, the word water is composed of two syllables: wa and ter. A syllable is typically made up of a syllable nucleus with optional initial and final margins .Syllables are often considered the phonological "building...

s of Three or more words or phrases. Alliteration has historically developed largely through poetry
Poetry
Poetry is a form of literary art in which language is used for its aesthetic and evocative qualities in addition to, or in lieu of, its apparent meaning...

, in which it more narrowly refers to the repetition of a consonant
Consonant
In articulatory phonetics, a consonant is a speech sound that is articulated with complete or partial closure of the vocal tract. Examples are , pronounced with the lips; , pronounced with the front of the tongue; , pronounced with the back of the tongue; , pronounced in the throat; and ,...

 in any syllables that, according to the poem's meter
Meter (poetry)
In poetry, metre is the basic rhythmic structure of a verse or lines in verse. Many traditional verse forms prescribe a specific verse metre, or a certain set of metres alternating in a particular order. The study of metres and forms of versification is known as prosody...

, are stressed, as in James Thomson's verse "Come…dragging the lazy languid Line along".

Alliteration is usually distinguished, as and within, from the mere repetition of the same sound positions other than the beginning of each word — whether a consonant, as in "some mammals are clammy" (consonance) or a vowel, as in "yellow wedding bells" (assonance
Assonance
Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds to create internal rhyming within phrases or sentences, and together with alliteration and consonance serves as one of the building blocks of verse. For example, in the phrase "Do you like blue?", the is repeated within the sentence and is...

); but the term is sometimes used in these broader senses.
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Encyclopedia
In language
Language
Language may refer either to the specifically human capacity for acquiring and using complex systems of communication, or to a specific instance of such a system of complex communication...

, alliteration refers to the repetition of a particular sound
Phoneme
In a language or dialect, a phoneme is the smallest segmental unit of sound employed to form meaningful contrasts between utterances....

 in the first syllable
Syllable
A syllable is a unit of organization for a sequence of speech sounds. For example, the word water is composed of two syllables: wa and ter. A syllable is typically made up of a syllable nucleus with optional initial and final margins .Syllables are often considered the phonological "building...

s of Three or more words or phrases. Alliteration has historically developed largely through poetry
Poetry
Poetry is a form of literary art in which language is used for its aesthetic and evocative qualities in addition to, or in lieu of, its apparent meaning...

, in which it more narrowly refers to the repetition of a consonant
Consonant
In articulatory phonetics, a consonant is a speech sound that is articulated with complete or partial closure of the vocal tract. Examples are , pronounced with the lips; , pronounced with the front of the tongue; , pronounced with the back of the tongue; , pronounced in the throat; and ,...

 in any syllables that, according to the poem's meter
Meter (poetry)
In poetry, metre is the basic rhythmic structure of a verse or lines in verse. Many traditional verse forms prescribe a specific verse metre, or a certain set of metres alternating in a particular order. The study of metres and forms of versification is known as prosody...

, are stressed, as in James Thomson's verse "Come…dragging the lazy languid Line along".

Alliteration is usually distinguished, as and within, from the mere repetition of the same sound positions other than the beginning of each word — whether a consonant, as in "some mammals are clammy" (consonance) or a vowel, as in "yellow wedding bells" (assonance
Assonance
Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds to create internal rhyming within phrases or sentences, and together with alliteration and consonance serves as one of the building blocks of verse. For example, in the phrase "Do you like blue?", the is repeated within the sentence and is...

); but the term is sometimes used in these broader senses. Alliteration may also include the use of different consonants with similar properties (labials
Labial consonant
Labial consonants are consonants in which one or both lips are the active articulator. This precludes linguolabials, in which the tip of the tongue reaches for the posterior side of the upper lip and which are considered coronals...

, dentals, etc.) or even the unwritten glottal stop
Glottal stop
The glottal stop, or more fully, the voiceless glottal plosive, is a type of consonantal sound used in many spoken languages. In English, the feature is represented, for example, by the hyphen in uh-oh! and by the apostrophe or [[ʻokina]] in Hawaii among those using a preservative pronunciation of...

 that precedes virtually every word-initial vowel in the English language
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

, as in the phrase "Apt alliteration's artful aid" (despite the unique pronunciation of the "a" in each word).

Alliteration is commonly used in many languages, especially in poetry. Alliterative verse
Alliterative verse
In prosody, alliterative verse is a form of verse that uses alliteration as the principal structuring device to unify lines of poetry, as opposed to other devices such as rhyme. The most commonly studied traditions of alliterative verse are those found in the oldest literature of many Germanic...

 was an important ingredient of poetry in Old English and other old Germanic languages
Germanic languages
The Germanic languages constitute a sub-branch of the Indo-European language family. The common ancestor of all of the languages in this branch is called Proto-Germanic , which was spoken in approximately the mid-1st millennium BC in Iron Age northern Europe...

 like Old High German
Old High German
The term Old High German refers to the earliest stage of the German language and it conventionally covers the period from around 500 to 1050. Coherent written texts do not appear until the second half of the 8th century, and some treat the period before 750 as 'prehistoric' and date the start of...

, Old Norse
Old Norse
Old Norse is a North Germanic language that was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and inhabitants of their overseas settlements during the Viking Age, until about 1300....

, and Old Saxon
Old Saxon
Old Saxon, also known as Old Low German, is the earliest recorded form of Low German, documented from the 8th century until the 12th century, when it evolved into Middle Low German. It was spoken on the north-west coast of Germany and in the Netherlands by Saxon peoples...

. This custom extended to personal name giving, such as in Old English given names. This is evidenced by the unbroken series of 9th century kings of Wessex
Wessex
The Kingdom of Wessex or Kingdom of the West Saxons was an Anglo-Saxon kingdom of the West Saxons, in South West England, from the 6th century, until the emergence of a united English state in the 10th century, under the Wessex dynasty. It was to be an earldom after Canute the Great's conquest...

 named Æthelwulf, Æthelbald, Æthelberht
Ethelbert of Wessex
Æthelberht was the King of Wessex from 860 to 865. He was the third son of Æthelwulf of Wessex and his first wife, Osburga. In 855 he became under-king of Kent while his father, Æthelwulf, visited Rome. His brother Æthelbald was left in charge of the West Saxons...

, and Æthelred
Ethelred of Wessex
King Æthelred I was King of Wessex from 865 to 871. He was the fourth son of King Æthelwulf of Wessex...

. These were followed in the 10th century by their direct descendants Æthelstan
Athelstan of England
Athelstan , called the Glorious, was the King of England from 924 or 925 to 939. He was the son of King Edward the Elder, grandson of Alfred the Great and nephew of Æthelflæd of Mercia...

 and Æthelred II
Ethelred the Unready
Æthelred the Unready, or Æthelred II , was king of England . He was son of King Edgar and Queen Ælfthryth. Æthelred was only about 10 when his half-brother Edward was murdered...

, who ruled as kings of England
History of Anglo-Saxon England
Anglo-Saxon England refers to the period of the history of that part of Britain, that became known as England, lasting from the end of Roman occupation and establishment of Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in the 5th century until the Norman conquest of England in 1066 by William the Conqueror...

. The Anglo-Saxon
Anglo-Saxons
Anglo-Saxon is a term used by historians to designate the Germanic tribes who invaded and settled the south and east of Great Britain beginning in the early 5th century AD, and the period from their creation of the English nation to the Norman conquest. The Anglo-Saxon Era denotes the period of...

 saints Tancred, Torhtred and Tova provide a similar example, among siblings.

See also

  • Assonance
    Assonance
    Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds to create internal rhyming within phrases or sentences, and together with alliteration and consonance serves as one of the building blocks of verse. For example, in the phrase "Do you like blue?", the is repeated within the sentence and is...

  • Consonance
  • Tautogram
    Tautogram
    A tautogram is a text in which all words start with the same letter. Historically, tautograms were mostly poetical forms . The difference between a tautogram and alliteration is that tautograms are a written, visual phenomenon, whereas alliterations are a phonetic one...

  • Tongue twister