Alliteration is the repetition of the first consonant sound in a phrase. A common example in English is "Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers." Alliteration can take the form of assonance, the repetition of a vowel, or consonance, the repetition of a consonant; however, unlike a strict definition of alliteration, both assonance and consonance can regularly occur within words as opposed to being limited to the word's initial sound. Some critics hold the opinion that the term "alliteration" applies just as accurately to phonetic repetitions that occur elsewhere than the first position (first letter), sometimes falling on later syllables, yet retaining alliterative properties due to the form of the example's meter, which, through affecting the syllables' stress may mimic the intensity of the initial. Further, the use of differing consonants of similar properties (labials, dentals, etc.) is sometimes considered to be alliteration. [Stoll, E. E. "Poetic Alliteration". "Modern Language Notes", Vol.55, No. 5. (May, 1940), pp. 388] Similarly, phrases such as "Apt alliteration's artful aid" still seems to retain the efficacy of alliteration despite the unique pronunciation of the "a" in each word. This has been attributed by the American writer Fred Newton Scott to the sharing of the attribute of a glottal stop (which he terms the "glottal catch") by virtually every vowel in the English language when it is found in the initial position. [Scott, Fred N. "Vowel Alliteration in Modern Poetry". "Modern Language Notes", Vol. 30, No. 8. (Dec., 1915), pp. 237.]

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 other Germanic languages such as Old High German, Old Norse, and Old Saxon. Particularly notable examples of early literary alliteration can be found in these languages' poetry, namely alliterative verse. Alliterative verse is a form of poetry that relies heavily on consonance and assonance rather than rhyme. Perhaps the most famous example of Old English alliterative poetry is this passage from the epic "Beowulf": "Gan under Gyldnum Beage, þær þa godan twegen". [Hieatt, Constance B., 'Alliterative Patterns in the Hypermetric Lines of Old English Verse', in "Modern Philology" Vol. 71, No. 3. (Feb. 1974), pp. 237.]

Another use of alliteration in Old English, outside the literary sphere, is found in personal name giving. [Gelling, M., "Signposts to the Past" (2nd edition), Phillimore, 1988, pp. 163-4.] 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. [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.] The Anglo-Saxon saints Tancred, Torhtred and Tova provide a similar example, among . [Rollason, D.W., 'Lists of Saints' resting-places in Anglo-Saxon England', in "Anglo-Saxon England 7", 1978, p. 91.]

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. [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.] 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. [Stoll, Elmer E. "Modern Language Notes", Vol. 55, No. 5. (May, 1940), pp. 388-390.]

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

Alliteration survives most obviously in modern English in magazine article titles, advertisements and business names, comic strip or cartoon characters, and common expressions: [Coard, Robert L. "Wide-Ranging Alliteration". "Peabody Journal of Education", Vol. 37, No. 1. (Jul., 1959),pp. 30-32.]

*Magazine articles: “Science has Spoiled my Supper” [Wylie, Philip G. “Science has Spoiled my Supper”. "Atlantic" April 1954.] , “Too Much Talent in Tennessee?” [Dykeman, Wilma. "Too Much Talent in Tennessee?" "Harper's Magazine". 210 (Mar 1955): 48-53.] , and "Kurdish Control of Kirkuk Creates a Powder Keg in Iraq" [Oppel, Richard A. "Kurdish Control of Kirkuk Creates a Powder Keg in Iraq". "New York Times" .]
*Comic/cartoon characters: Beetle Bailey, Donald Duck, Peter Parker, Bruce Banner, Clark Kent
*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: 'Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii' []

However, it still seems to maintain an important, though perhaps more subtle, part in modern English poetry.

See also

*Alliterative verse


External links

* [ A List of Alliterations] a selection of compiled alliteration examples.

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  • Alliteration — Allitération L allitération (substantif féminin), du latin ad ( à ) et littera ( lettre ) est une figure de style qui consiste en la répétition d une ou plusieurs consonnes, à l attaque des syllabes accentuées, à l intérieur d un même vers ou d… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • allitération — [ a(l)literasjɔ̃ ] n. f. • 1751; angl. alliteration, du lat. littera « lettre » ♦ Rhét. Répétition des consonnes initiales (et par ext. des consonnes intérieures) dans une suite de mots rapprochés. L allitération peut être un procédé de style. ⇒… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Alliteration — Sf Stabreim per. Wortschatz fach. (18. Jh.) Neoklassische Bildung. Neo kl. alliteratio wurde im 16. Jh. von einem italienischen Humanisten gebildet und dann in die Volkssprachen übernommen. Zu l. littera Buchstabe und ad hinzu .    Ebenso nndl.… …   Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen sprache

  • Alliteration — Al*lit er*a tion, n. [L. ad + litera letter. See {Letter}.] The repetition of the same letter at the beginning of two or more words immediately succeeding each other, or at short intervals; as in the following lines: [1913 Webster] Behemoth,… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Alliteration — (v. lat.), 1) die Übereinstimmung der Anfangsconsonanten in mehreren Wörtern eines Satzes, z.B.: Wo die Wellen wogen, wo die Winde wehen; 2) (Anreim, Stabreim, Poet.), in der altnordischen, angelsächsischen u. althochdeutschen Dichtkunst der Reim …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Alliteration — (lat., deutsch Stabreim oder Anreim) besteht darin, daß einzelne Wörter im Anfangslaut ihrer stark betonten Silben übereinstimmen, z. B. vernichten und Nebel (dagegen bilden Gebet und Gelage keine A.). Von den Konsonanten reimt ein jeder nur mit… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Alliteration — (neulat.), Stabreim, die älteste Reimform der german. Sprachen, beruhend auf dem Gleichklang, der durch den gleichen Anfangslaut mehrerer Worte (nicht mehr als 3 in einer Langzeile) entsteht, auf Island heute noch im Gebrauch, in Deutschland seit …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • Alliteration — besteht in der absichtlichen Wiederholung eines Mitlautes durch mehrere Wörter und Zeilen eines Gedichtes; z. B. in folgendem Verse: »Wo der Wächter, weilt das Weh!« B–l …   Damen Conversations Lexikon

  • Alliteration — oder Anklang, die Uebereinstimmung der Anfangslaute in mehreren Wörtern eines Satzes z.B. Stock und Stein, Fried und Freud. 2. Stabreim, vertrat in der altnordischen Poesie den Reim; in 2 zueinander gehörigen Versen finden sich 3 Wörter mit… …   Herders Conversations-Lexikon

  • alliteration — (n.) 1650s, a begining with the same letter, from Mod.L. alliterationem (nom. alliteratio), noun of action from pp. stem of alliterare to begin with the same letter, from L. ad to (see AD (Cf. ad )) + littera (also litera) letter, script (see… …   Etymology dictionary

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