The term assonance originates from the Latin word assonāre, which means “to generate the same sound.” Historically, the first clarification of assonance was “a likeness of sound,” which was then changed to “a half-rhyme consisting of words with similar but not the same sounds, as in words gate and sake.” Assonance is now defined as the art of matching the identical or similar vowel sounds that can be detected within words, pairs of words, or complete sentences.
This literary tool can be implemented instead of full rhyme (1) in the rhyme position and (2) in near-standing words.
Assonance can be applied by the author to lower the rhyme importance by referring to contextual and external elements. Thus, it can be found in old ballads, in which the sound matching effect simply replaces the rhyme. Most ballads are adapted for singing which explains their rhythmic features that affect the structural quality of the rhyme. In folk ballad “The Unquiet Grave,” the words speak – sleep and sleep – seek are put in assonance by forming a full rhyme.
Assonance is more often to be used in near-standing words within contextual phrases. The English poetry is full of assonance forms where they are applied as additional decorative tools to meter, rhyme-schemes, or stanza structures. When used on its own, any assonance form can serve as a structuring principle in poems that are lacking rhyme. In Gerald Manley Hopkins’s poem “God’s Grandeur,” the purpose of assonance is to reach a proper mood and add powerful rhythmic patterns to the lines. The words, which are placed in assonance, are submitted in the following lines:
Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
Assonance is often used with other stylistic tools, including alliteration and consonance, in order to focus the reader’s attention on certain images and form a proper atmosphere by placing stress on particular words. Assonance, which is sometimes mistakenly considered the group of occasionally repeated vowels, makes the identical vowel sounds produce different sounds in separate words. In addition, assonance is considered more subtle than the rest of literary tools, because its usual place in the middle of words or lines makes the repetition more noticeable. Also, all word sounds should be located relatively close to one another.
Vowel sounds can be split into high and low sounds, depending on the pitch. For example, the sound “i” in “dish” is high, while the sound “a” in “pub” is low. Another example – the sentence Go slow over the road – where assonance is reached via the repetition of the diphthong “ou” placed in the near-standing words. In some cases, assonance can hardly be spotted, as it is subtle and can be structured subconsciously.
Assonance as a literary tool is applied to draw out the right rhythm, tone, and mood of a text. In literary pieces, the combination of sounds creates various stylistic patterns and textures. Therefore, the flow of blending sounds encourages continued attention that keeps the reading process longer. This slowing-down of the language creates a melancholy mood that attracts more readers. In the poem “Tyger,” the repetition of the sound “ai” is clearly observed the sentence: “Tyger, Tyger burning bright in the forest of the night.”
Assonance is used predominantly in the English poetry, although its reflection can also be found in the Old French and Celtic literature. Poets’ lines have a deeper meaning and a more intense wordplay by comparison to a standard line of prose. The use of this literary tool makes the poem sound interesting. Furthermore, it enriches the poem with singsong quality that mirrors its content.
Assonance can be quite effective in prose in the attempts to reach poetic beauty. It can intensify the language. When the writer refers to the assonance technique, he or she most likely pursues the idea of making the reader focus on the chosen words and their order. It can be an interesting occurrence, which allows reflecting the mood of a poem by referring to the subject matter.
Apart from poems and verses, assonance can also appear in ordinary conversations and music lyrics where it can play the same role as in literary pieces. In songs, it adds quality to the line texture and enables its interaction with tones and pitches along with stylistic patterns.
Assonance can take many forms. Rhyme is the strongest and the clearest one due to the similar word sounding: “She’s so far from home, Oh why did She roam.” Half-rhymes are relatively weaker than perfect ones: “shape – keep.” A balanced phrase is the type of assonance highlighting repetitive sounds and rhythms: “Waste not, want not.” Assonance of meaning covers a completely different non-grammatical aspect of the term. For example, the pair of words “hot and cold” is more assonant than “hot and rot,” because it refers to a primal contrast.