Alliteration is easily recognized by the way it looks in the text. Its main feature is melodic sound that it gives to the writing. This effect is achieved through the positioning of sounds and letters in the word so that their combination results in soothing flow and smoother reading experience. Repetitive usage of words that starts with or contains similar letters in stressed syllables is the major factor that defines alliteration in the text.
Though the first usage of term “alliteration” was recorded in 1624, device itself has a much longer history. It can be seen from the Dark Ages and sometimes even before that. Alliteration was greatly used by the poets of Old Norse and Old English origin. Beowulf is a prime example of it. The author uses alliterative verse throughout the whole epic. This type of verse is naturally described as one that contains alliteration which poses as one of the main literary techniques used in the work. Aside from literature, there is a clear correlation between alliteration and names of a number of related Old English kings. Besides already mentioned Norse and English, the old versions of High German and Irish are also famous for the verses that are heavily influenced by alliteration.
This device has found a permanent spot in many works of literature without a heavy dependence on the rhyme structure or its absence. Despite the fact that rhythmic sound and flow are more typical for poetic forms of writings, prose can sometimes be the gold mine for alliteration fans as well. Edgar Allan Poe and Walter Abish among others make a good use of this technique in their prose works with the latter completing a novel, where each chapter starts with the same letter.
Poetry has a significantly bigger pool of things to show. Alliteration became a powerful tool for many poets across centuries. Famous J.R.R. Tolkien used this method in many of its translations and original poems, including some of the background stories and verses that explained the culture of the races that he came up with. The melodic sound that alliteration produced had the exact level of harmony, needed to portray high races in his works, elves in particular.
Alliteration can also be a way to develop fluent speech and pronunciation. Many tongue-twisters are based on this technique to bring more complexity and challenge to the line. Poets masterfully use this turn of expression to focus readers’ attention on a specific word that is supposed to provide great importance on the whole work.
Despite literature being the primary medium of sharing the alliterations with the world, they have a prominent place in rhetoric. The art of confident and persuasive speech often needs the knowledge of certain tricks and techniques to appeal to the audience even more. It goes as deep as the analysis of the effects of certain letters. For example, H is most likely to be interpreted as soft while B or P is the strong call to faster action and energizing. Combining the properties of specific sounds, the speaker can use alliteration to manipulate the feelings of listeners and influence them more confidently.
Such strong personalities as Abraham Lincoln, JFK, and Martin Luther King never refused to use alliteration with Mr. Kennedy using the technique 21 times in his Inaugural Address.
Influential effects are visible by other parties as well and the marketing teams around the world exploit the alliteration to their advantage. This technique is often seen in the names of the big brands. The main reason is that a rhythmic name with similar sounds is remembered and then recognized easier. This is how Coca Cola, Dunkin’ Donuts and a huge number of other brands got their names. Character names, comedy pieces, marketing materials and song lyrics are also good spots for examining the alliteration closely.