An Introduction to Alliteration
Alliteration is a stylistic device in prosodyOpens in new window, which creates a repetition of initial stressed consonant sound in a series of multiple words within a phraseOpens in new window or poetic verseOpens in new window or line.
- “Come…dragging the lazy languid line along”. — James ThomsonOpens in new window
- Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers”.
- Don't delay dawns disarming display. Dusk demands daylight. — Paul Mccan
- Sara's seven sisters slept soundly in sand.
As a poetic device, alliteration is often discussed with assonanceOpens in new window and consonance. ConsonanceOpens in new window is a broader literary device identified by the repetition of consonant sounds at any point in a word (e.g. coming home, hot foot). Alliteration is a special case of consonance where the repeated consonant sound is in the stressed syllable.
Alliteration may be observed in a number of common phrases, such as “pretty as a picture” and “dead as a doornail,” and is a common poetic device in most languages. In its simplest form, it reinforces one or two consonantal sounds, as in William ShakespeareOpens in new window’s line: When I do count the clock that tells the time — (Sonnet XII)
A more complex pattern of alliteration is created when consonants both at the beginning of words and at the beginning of stressed syllables within words are repeated, as in Percy Bysshe Shelley’s line:
- The City’s voice itself is soft like Solitude’s — (“Stanzas Written in Dejection Near Naples”)
There is one specialised form of alliteration called symmetrical alliteration. That is, alliteration containing parallelismOpens in new window. In this case, the phrase must have a pair of outside end words both starting with the same sound, and pairs of outside words also starting with matching sounds as one moves progressively closer to the centre. For example,
Symmetrical alliteration is similar to palindromeOpens in new window in its use of symmetry.