In language, alliteration is the repetition of a particular sound in the prominent lifts (or stressed syllables) of a series of words or phrases. Alliteration has developed largely through poetry, in which it more narrowly refers to the repetition of a consonant in any syllables that, according to the poem's meter, are stressed, as in James Thomson's verse "Come…dragging the lazy languid Line along". Another example is Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers.
In alliterative verse, the alliteration that is relevant to the metre is the lift of the half-line (a lift being a stressed syllable); the ironic example often given to illustrate this is that the word alliteration itself alliterates on the consonant l, not a (the a of alliteration being marked as a dip or unstressed syllable, hence non-alliterating) - thus, bold beauty is an alliterative formula, between beauties is not, etc.
Consonance (ex: As the wind will bend) is another 'phonetic agreement' akin to alliteration. Assonance is also often in said category (ex: she loves the thunder), though is more akin to true-rhyme than alliteration (assonance-rhyme being a main feature of Old Celtic verseforms). Alliteration may also include the use of different consonants with similar properties such as alliterating z with s, as does Tolkien in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, or as Anglo-Saxon (Old English) poets would alliterate hard/fricative g with soft g (the latter exemplified in some courses as the letter yogh - ȝ - pronounced like the y in yarrow or the j in Jotunheim); this is known as license. The concept is that the sounds are formed orally with exceptional similarity (which can be exampled simply by pronouncing the difference between z and s, or f and v likewise being acceptable as license in alliterative verse).
There is one specialised form of alliteration called "Symmetrical Alliteration". In this case, the phrase must be constituted of by two end words both starting with the same letter, and the pairs of outside words getting progressively closer to the centre of the phrase also starting with identical letters. For example, "rust brown blazers rule", "purely and fundamentally for analytical purposes" or "fluoro colour co-ordination forever". Symmetrical alliteration is similar to palindromes in its usage of symmetry.
The poem Dancing Dolphins by Paul McCann has the following example : "Those tidal thoroughbreds that tango through the torqouise tide/ Their taut tails thrashing, they twist in tribute to the Titans/ The twirl through the trek/ Tumbling towards the tide/ Throwing themselves towards those theatrical thespians."
Examples in nursery rhymes[edit source | edit]
In Thank You for the Thistle by Dorie Thurston, poetically written with alliteration in a story form: "Great Aunt Nellie and Brent Bernard who watch with wild wonder at the wide window as the beautiful birds begin to bite into the bountiful birdseed."
In the nursery rhyme Three Grey Geese by Mother Goose, use of alliteration can be found in the following lines : "the Three grey geese in a green field grazing. Grey were the geese and green was the grazing."
The tongue-twister rhyme Betty Botter by Carolyn Wells is a brilliant example of alliterative composition : "Betty Botter bought some butter, but she said, this butter's bitter; if I put it in my batter, it will make my batter bitter, but a bit of better butter will make my batter better..."
Another commonly recited tongue-twister rhyme illustrating alliteration is "Peter Piper". - " Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, where's the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?".
Pop culture[edit source | edit]
Alliteration is most commonly used in modern music but is also seen in magazine article titles, advertisements, business names, comic strip and cartoon characters. :
^Gelling, M., Signposts to the Past (2nd edition), Phillimore, 1988, pp. 163–4.
^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.
^Rollason, D.W., 'Lists of Saints' resting-places in Anglo-Saxon England', in Anglo-Saxon England 7, 1978, p. 91.
^Coard, Robert L. Wide-Ranging Alliteration. Peabody Journal of Education, Vol. 37, No. 1. (July 1959) pp. 30–32.