What is alliteration? Why do speakers, writers and artists use it so often? What are its effects?
Explore the effects it creates in these quotes:
- ‘Heorot trembled, wonderfully built to withstand the blows, the struggling great bodies beating at its beautiful walls. . .’ (Study.com, 2017)
- Peter Piper picked a peck of picked pepper (Tongue twister)
- Bin bagged (Sun headline after Americans kill Osama Bin Laden). You can find the full headline here:
Noun. The occurrence of the same letter or sound at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words: “the alliteration of ‘beautiful billowing birds on the beach’.
It’s very difficult to avoid feature-spotting with alliteration; students can easily spot it when they know about it, but can they explain its effects?
Centuries ago, when Old and Middle English was spoken and written, alliteration was much more common in poetry; it was the ‘glue’ that tied poems together. You can see this in the quote from Beowulf where many words alliterate.
Different letter sounds have different effects. The repeated ‘s’ sound can create a sinister hissing effect whereas strong consonants such as ‘b’ can create comedy. We see this in the headline ‘Bin Bagged’.
Students need to look very carefully at the context in which the alliteration is used and relate it to the meaning of the text. For example, the repeated ‘b’ sounds in the Beowulf lines create a sense of bravado, of courage, by suggesting the violence with which Heorot withstands.
This is a great website where you can alliterate any word and get the same part of speech. Very good for developing students’ knowledge of grammar: https://alliteration.me/
Old English is a great place to examine alliteration as a starting point. The British Library’s resources on Beowulf and Old English are fantastic: http://www.bl.uk/collection-items/beowulf