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In language, alliteration refers to the repetition of a particular sound in the first syllables of a series of words or phrases. Alliteration has historically 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".
Alliteration is usually distinguished, as and within, from the mere repetition of the same sound positions other than the beginning of each word — whether a consonant, as in "some mammals are clammy" (consonance) or a vowel, as in "yellow wedding bells" (assonance); but the term is sometimes used in these broader senses. Alliteration may also include the use of different consonants with similar properties (labials, dentals, etc.) or even the unwritten glottal stop that precedes virtually every word-initial vowel in the English language, as in the phrase "Apt alliteration's artful aid" (despite the unique pronunciation of the "a" in each word).
Alliteration is commonly used in many languages, especially in poetry. Alliterative verse was an important ingredient of poetry in Old English and other old Germanic languages like Old High German, Old Norse, and Old Saxon. This custom extended to personal name giving, such as in Old English given names. 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. The Anglo-Saxon saints Tancred, Torhtred and Tova provide a similar example, among siblings.
- James Thomson. The Castle of Indolence.
- Khurana, Ajeet Alliteration: What is Alliteration? How Do You Define Alliteration? Outstanding Writing.
- Stoll, E. E. (May 1940). Poetic Alliteration 55 (5).
- Scott, Fred N. (December 1915). Vowel Alliteration in Modern Poetry 30 (8).
- 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.
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