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Everything You Need to Know About Alliterations

‘Anxious ants avoid the anteater’s advances.’- does this sentence sound any different to you? If it doesn’t, then you should notice the starting letter of each word in the sentence. Each of the words starts with ‘A’. Alliteration is the repetition of the same letter or sound at the starting of most of the words in a sentence. Usually, alliteration is made with consonants and not with vowels and you may not have to repeat every word with the same letter. Rather, you can repeat the letter in words that are close to each other. You can also use alliteration within the same clause, phrase, sentence or successive lines. Tongue twisters are an example of alliteration.

Alliterations

Other examples of alliteration are as follows:

Gnarly gnats need new necklaces

In this example of alliteration, the second word ‘gnat’ has a silent “n” sound and thus this sentence is alliterative one. The definition of alliteration can vary, depending on the type of sentence and the message it conveys.

Some Examples of alliteration

  • Have you heard the song by The Beatles ‘Let it be’? Well, if you listen to it carefully, you will find alliteration in the lyrics of that song when it says ‘whisper words of wisdom…’. Here, the letter ‘w’ is causing the alliteration.
  • The song ‘Shake it off’ by Taylor Swift also has an example of alliteration in the line ‘I’m dancing on my own, I make the moves up as I go.’ Here, the letter ‘m’ creates the alliteration.
  • The Sugarhill Gang has a song named “Rapper’s Delight” that says ‘I said a hip, hop, a hippie to the hippie’. Here, the letter ‘h’ makes the alliteration.

As it is clear from the examples, alliteration needs to be from the same consonant sound, but not necessarily from the same letter.

This rule is used in poetry to create various effects to increase the curiosity of the reader when they go through a piece of writing.

Examples of Alliteration Using The First Syllable & Stressed Syllables

Crooks conspire with the unkind king.

Dan declares that he deserves to debate.

The first example has the letter ‘D’ that creates the alliteration in the first syllable of each word. But, the second example may invite a lot of debate because the alliteration occurs in the second syllable of ‘unkind’ and the second syllable is the stressed one. However, both the alliteration definitions are accepted. The stressed syllable alliteration was not legitimately accepted a few years ago. The stressed syllable alliteration has made things easier for poets.

Can Vowels Alliterate?

It depends. Usually, alliteration is strictly restricted to the use of consonants. But, certain sentences prove that vowels can also alliterate. For instance, ‘American alliteration’ is alliterative and it is done with the vowel ‘A’. Similarly, the term ‘open octagon’ is not alliterative because the letter ‘o’ sounds different in each word.

Even when you are using consonants for the alliteration, make sure that you don’t cluster consonants to form alliteration, as that usually brings down the quality of your writing. It should sound meaningful and witty.

Different examples of alliterations and their uses:

Now that we know about different alliteration definition and examples, let’s find out the various types of alliteration that have contributed to the evolution of English literature and helped authors and poets to achieve rhythm or express their thoughts in a better way.

  • General Alliteration

As the name suggests, this alliteration refers to the usual repetition of the initial sound of the words in a sentence. Take for example, ‘Sally saw seventeen savages.’ In this sentence, the sound ‘S’ repeats itself in all the words. Similarly, if the first syllable of a series of words is repeated, we call it to be alliteration.

  • Consonance

When the consonant sound in the middle, beginning or the end of the sentence is repeated, we call that consonance. Many people debate on the fact that consonants are not alliteration or it can only be considered as alliteration when the consonant sound is repeated in the first letter of all the words. However, here is an example of consonance: “Nimbly, he named the number.” The letters ‘n’ and ‘m’ cause both alliterations as well as a consonance in this sentence.

  • Assonance

Most students find it difficult to distinguish between assonance and alliteration. At times, they are also given assignments to write on the difference between assonance and alliteration. But, assonance is the repetition of the vowel sounds at some place within the word. So, the repetition of vowel sounds in the first letter of each word is termed as both alliteration and assonance. ‘All alterations always alter my clothes awfully.’ In this sentence, you can notice the repetition of the letter ‘A’ and hence it is an example of assonance and alliteration. Basically, assonance and alliteration are different types of the same thing.

  • Unvoiced alliteration

Some letters at the starting of the words may be unvoiced or silent and hence may not be expressed in speeches. But, these letters can also contribute to alliteration. For instance, ‘Perry just poked a pink pterodactyl.’ In this example, the letter ‘p’ is repeated, and that includes the word ‘pterodactyl’ which is silent. But, it still counts as alliteration.

Animal alliteration

This is quite a fun classification of alliteration and is a powerful way to entertain and attract a reader. If you find it difficult to highlight your writing skills in an assignment, try using the animal alliteration. It can make things simpler. It makes use of imageries of animals to create the alliteration and is quite fun. Kids can learn the concept of alliteration easily with the help of animal alliteration. Look at this example: Arthur the alligator ate an atomic apple and an aqua avocado. The letter ‘A’ is the repetitive sound here and is responsible for the alliteration.

Why Do Authors & Poets Use Different Types of Alliteration?

Writers or authors use alliteration to bring added effect in their writing. They want to grab their reader’s attention to a specific sound by emphasizing on a certain sound. Now, this can be because he wants to make a particular point or he is just focusing on writing a catchy tune. For writers, it is essential to understand when and how to use the alliteration to enhance the quality of the writing. It is usually used sparingly, because it is meant for effect. Incorporating alliteration helps the author to convey his message with ease.

Alliteration has a special place in poetry because poets can create an amazing rhythm with the help of alliterations. For example, ‘Peter Piper picked a peck of pebbled peppers’- sounds quirky when you read it out loud and fast. Alliteration sets the pace of a piece by slowing it down or speeding it up, depending on the types of sounds you use and the other rhetorical devices that you implement in the poem. It also sets the mood and tone of the poem or any novel, only if you use it properly. These days, writing alliteration has become easier with the advent of online alliteration finders that can give you hundreds of alliterations with just a click.

Effects of Alliteration in “I have a dream” speech By Martin Luther King

The ‘I have a dream’ speech made by Martin Luther King is the proof that alliterations are not only meant for poems and novels but also for public speaking. In paragraph 14 of the speech, MLK describes Mississippi as the ‘state sweltering’ with racism. As you can see, the sound ‘S’ is repeated and is alliteration.

Similarly, in paragraph 8 of the speech, he states the energy of the Civil Rights Movement to be ‘marvelous new militancy’ which has the repetitive sound of the letter ‘m’. In the entire speech, the term ‘sweltering’ was used multiple times. It is done to grab the attention of the listeners and highlight the fact that African Americans were going through rough times. So, this speech proves that an orator can achieve great success with his speech by using alliteration.

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