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Alliteration in IdiomsAlliteration is a phonetic stylistic device which aims at imparting a melodic effect to the utterance. The origin of this word dates back to the 17th century, approximately 1650-1660 years. The term comes from Latin and literary means “putting letters together”. Alliteration in the english language is deeply rooted in the traditions of english folklore. The laws of phonetic arrangement in Anglo-Saxon poetry differed greatly from those of present-day english poetry. In Old english poetry alliteration was one of the basic principles of verse and considered, along with rhythm, to be its main characteristic. Each stressed meaningful word in a line had to begin with the same sound or combination of sounds. The traditions of folklore are exceptionally stable and alliteration as a structural device of Old english poems and songs has shown remarkable continuity. The issue of alliteration interest mostly translators of different styles, rather than phoneticians. That is why, writing
this article, we have encountered such problems: - no clearly stated definition of the term alliteration; - the lack of theoretical sources about the issue of alliteration as a phonetic expressive means; - the lack of data in the field of alliterated idioms. In this article we have tried to overcome these problems giving our definition to alliteration, counting alliterated idioms and collecting data about the alliteration in idioms. Alliteration seems to be rather understandable phonetic expressive means. However, as it was already mentioned, searching for material for this article, we encountered some problems in finding the exact definition of this term. Different sources give similar, but not the same explanations of this term. For instance, Wikipedia defines alliteration as “a literary or rhetorical stylistic device that consists in repeating the same consonant sound at the beginning of several words in close succession”. It illustrates in with the example of Mother Goose tongue-twister, “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers…” The Encyclopedia also gives assonance and consonance as the types of alliteration, alliteration is the genus, whereas, assonance and consonance are the species. So an example would be alliteration and then more specifically and exactly
consonance or assonance. Here we have inconsistency between the whole and the part. The alliteration presupposes the repetition of a sound only in the beginning of a word, whereas the consonance may occur in different places of a word. That is why some dictionaries consider alliteration to be a type of consonance. Then, The UVic Writer’s Guide determines alliteration as “the repetition of consonantal sounds in words close together, particularly using letters at the beginning of words or stressed syllables”. Here, the definition specifies the consonantal nature of alliteration and extends the limits of its occurrence to any stress syllable, not obligatory in the beginning of the word. Some dictionaries consider alliteration to be of double origin, giving the first definition as “the commencement of two or more stressed syllables of a word group either with the same consonant sound or sound group (consonantal alliteration), as in from stem to stern, or with a vowel sound that may differ from syllable to syllable (vocalic alliteration), as in each to all” and the second as “the commencement of two or more words of a word group with the same letter, as in apt alliteration's artful aid”. In the first definition the consonantal alliteration is identical with consonance and
vocalic alliteration - with assonance, taking into account the aforementioned explanations of these terms. The second term also unites consonants and vowels within itself. Not only the sound nature of alliteration remains to be not sufficiently cleared, some supporters of classical rhetoric also claim that alliteration must involve at least three points of repetition, whereas the majority nevertheless tends to consider it to be a repetition of, at least, two sounds. Furthermore, alliteration, according to Seth Lindstromberg and Frank Boers, can occur on different linguistic levels, i.e. on the phonemic, lexical and syntactical levels. To the syntactical-level alliteration refers multi-word repetitions, e.g. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. Then, on the lexical level we have word repetitions, as in by and by, over and over, out and out, running neck and neck, stand shoulder to shoulder, buy one, get one free. On the phonetic level the scientists distinguish also several kinds of alliteration. They are: - rhyme, which can be seen both as repetition of everything but the front of a word and, in a more detailed view, as assonance plus “back-end” alliteration (e.g. a make or break situation, deep sleep, high and dry, sky high, night light); - both front and back alliteration
(knick-knack, bric-a-brac, tick-tock, tit for tat); - front or interior alliteration plus assonance (one stop shopping, lo and behold, scantly clad, All roads lead to Rome); - front alliteration (bend over backwards to help, carry the can for the cock-up, the devil is in the details, fall flat on your face, gas guzzling 4 x 4's, looking hale and hearty); - front and interior alliteration (above and beyond, bleeding heart liberal, a late bloomer); - non-front repetition (stone cold sober, rat race, jam-packed, flat pack, free and easy, an eager beaver, blind alley, all clear). Having looked through all the definitions of alliteration, for our article we have chosen the most frequent encountered one: alliteration is the repetition of an initial sound in a succession of words, both of consonant and vowel nature. Alliteration is a phonetic expressive means. Its main function is being one of the basic devices of poetic speech. The second function of alliteration is logical. Alliteration emphasizes close relationship between components of the statement. Especially brightly alliteration shows the unity of an epithet with an attributed word. The third function of alliteration in english language – to attract attention of the reader
— is widely used in the names of literary works, newspaper headings and often in articles. Alliteration, like most phonetic expressive means, does not bear any lexical or other meaning unless we agree that a sound meaning exists as such. But even so we may not be able to specify clearly the character of this meaning, and the term will merely suggest that a certain amount of information is contained in the repetition of sounds, as is the case with the repetition of lexical units. However, certain sounds, if repeated, may produce an effect that can be specified. Therefore alliteration is generally regarded as a musical accompaniment of the author's idea, supporting it with some vague emotional atmosphere which each reader interprets for himself. But for prose, poetry and advertising slogans, alliteration has a wide distribution among idioms. This euphonic feature makes an idiom easily remembered. Idioms are the most irregular phraseological units, that is the phraseological units which are representing the greatest idiomaticity and stability. A “classical” idiom, a typical representative of this category, should be the carrier of all or the majority of relevant features. Among these features we distinguish the following one - presence or absence of signs of formal structure.
It is understood first of all as a rhyme and alliteration in a componential structure of an idiom. Traditionally, alliteration is used for semantic soldering of components of an idiom and an intensification of value of expression. If the alliteration is anaphorical (letters, which are at the beginning of an idiom, are repeated), it has the potential of rhythm construction and the units alliterated are more strongly linked. These properties give to the alliterative group a kind of semantic autonomy, integrity, formal completeness, which creates an impression of also meaningful completeness. In alliterative idioms this means provides connectedness, although this connectedness can be sometimes achieved by using together units, which are similar only formally, but semantically they are chosen arbitrarily. For example, can we treat chalk and cheese as absolutely different substances (“as different as chalk from cheese”)? How does just a nail differ from a doornail (“dead as a doornail”)? But the most vivid example of illustrating formal, but not meaningful connections is english proverb “Lovers live by love as larks live by leeks”. The author of the vocabulary G. Apperson gives the following commentary to it: “Desire
for alliteration seems to be the only explanation of this absurd comparison”. In the given research work we have analyzed 1859 idioms of english language. Our research objective was to reveal frequency of the usage of stylistic method of alliteration in english idiomatic expressions. We have grouped all the idioms, taking into the following principles: 1. 'Ch' phrases are grouped separately from 'c' phrases is, of course, that two different sounds are involved [?, k] 2. The same is true for 'sh' phrases and 's' phrases [?, s, z] 3. In contrast, the 'c' phrases and the 'k' phrases involve the same [k] sound but have not been combined lest learners get confused about spelling. This separation seemed especially proper because when the first point of alliteration is a 'c', the second point almost always is too. 4. On the other hand, the [w] category includes words beginning with 'o' and 'w'. This is because sorting seemed less practical in view of relatively frequent mixing of 'o' and the 'w' spellings (as in one way street). So, the following grouping is built up according to the alliterated sound. [?]: Albatross around your neck; An apple a day keeps the doctor away;
[b]: Baby boomer; Back burner; Back to back; Back to the drawing board; Bad blood; Bad workers always blame their tools; Bag of bones; Bark is worse than their bite; Bated breath; Be true blue; Bear the brunt; Beat about the bush; Beat your brains out; Beauty is in the eye of the beholder; Bee in your bonnet; Behind bars; Behind someone's back; Behind the eight ball; Below the belt; Belt and braces; Bend over backwards; Bent as a nine bob note; Best of a bad bunch; Best of both worlds; Best thing since sliced bread; Bet your bottom dollar; [k]: Cake's not worth the candle; Call on the carpet; Canary in a coal mine; Carry the can; Case by case; Cash cow; Catch as catch can; Clean your clock; Kangaroo court; Keep your cool; King of the castle; Kissing cousin; Kith and kin; [?]: chip and charge; cheap and cheerful; chocolate chip; as different as chalk and cheese; chop and change; choke chain; [d]: Dead as a dodo; Dead as a doornail; Dead duck; Derring-do; Devil is in the detail; Dig way down deep; Dime a dozen; Dirty dog; Dish the dirt; Do a Devon Loch; [f]: Faint heart never won fair lady; Fairweather friend; Fall on our feet; Fast and furious; Fat hits the fire; Feast today, famine tomorrow; Feathers fly; Feel free; Few and far between; Find your feet; [g]: Get a grip; Get in
on the ground floor; Get off the ground; Get the green light; Gift of the gab; Give as good as you get; Give up the ghost; Go against the grain; Go over like a lead balloon; Go-to guy; Kill the goose that lays the golden egg; [h]: Hairy at the heel; Hale and hearty; Hard on someone's heels; Have a heart; He who hesitates is lost; Head over heels in love; Healthy as a horse; Heap coals on someone's head; Heavy-handed; Hell in a handcart; Here today, gone tomorrow; [?]: Jersey justice; Judge, jury and executioner; Jumping Judas!; [l]: Labour of love; Larger than life; Last laugh; Lay down the law; Legend in your own lunchtime; Lie like a rug; Lie low; Life and limb; Like a kid in a candy store; Lily-livered; Lock and load; [m]: Mad as a March hare; Made of money; Make a meal; Make a mint; Make a monkey of someone; Make a mountain out of a molehill; Make money hand over fist; Make my day; If Mohammed won't come to the mountain, the mountain must come to Mohammed; [n]: now or never; no news is good news; [p]: pick-pocket; (as) pretty as a picture; paint a pretty picture of; picture perfect; The proof of the pudding is in the eating; pill popper; plaster of Paris; pen pusher; paper pusher; penny wise, pound foolish; earn a pretty penny; part and parcel of; pride of place; press pack;
to pin-point; a pin prick; pip someone at the post; [r]: (as) right as rain; rock and roll; rough and ready; robin redbreast; road rage; a rug rat; rule the roost; rant and rave; to go from rags to riches; a ram-raider; a ram rod; a ring road; the rat race; raise the roof / rafters; rip roaring; [s]: silver screen; star of stage and screen; saddle sore; ship shape; swim suit; scum sucker; scatter shot; spic and span; a sob sister; sweet and sour; a sailor suit; signed, sealed and delivered; a short, sharp shock; just to be on the safe side…; settle a score; sink or swim; so to speak; soul searching; scrimp and save; a sound sleep; (as) smooth as silk; silky smooth; silent scream; [?]: shilly-shally; (get/give) short shrift; a short sharp shock; ship-shape; [t]: a two-timer; Trick or treat!; tell tale signs; tried and tested; tip top; tree top; tank top; tick tock; time travel; time table; tip toe; (only) time will tell; take a toll (on); turn the tables on; talk turkey; turn tail; To tell the truth,…; tea time; twinkle toes; time is tight; tongue-tied; a twist in the tale; tit for tat; take to task; trials and tribulations; toss and turn; [ [voiced]: this and that; then and there; [unvoiced] as thick as thieves; in the thick of things; V: Vim and vigo(u)or, be a virtue or
a vice; W: weasel words; wolf whistle; woodwind; whirlwind; watch word; wind & weather; wet & windy; Waste not want not; turn off the waterworks; Where there's a will there's a way; I can't just wave my magic wand and; Z: Zigged before you zagged. Coming to a conclusion, we can state, that the percentage of alliterated idioms comprises 21% (390 among 1859 studied). Then, alliteration prevails among consonants rather than vowels (7% to 93%). The most frequently alliterated sounds are [b, p, s, t]. The less alliterated sounds are, of course, vowels. And among consonants these sounds are [n, v, z]. The patterns, which prevail in alliterated idioms, are as follows: noun + and + noun, adjective + and + adjective, noun + noun and adjective + adjective. The alliteration usually involves two points of repetition, more rarely - three, four and five points of alliteration are a rare thing for english idioms.