1 Feb 2015

Figures of repetition - sounds

When I started my GCSE course in English, little did I know about the figures of speech. In actuality, I knew some basics figures, which probably most of us learnt at high school.
In my pursuit of figures of speech, I discovered that there are literally tons of these figures (over 1300 on one of the linguistics websites) and for an average person it is neither sense nor fun to learn all by heart.
In a book, "Figures of Speech" by Arthur Quinn, I have discovered many strange Greek-sounding words for "operations" on the language, but also I have learnt that the best way to understand the figures of speech is to group them logically.

There is an interesting definition of a figure of speech:
An intended deviation from ordinary usage.

Thus, if we pretend that there is an ordinary sentence, what kind of operations can we execute on it?

It slightly sounds like mathematical stuff, but there are a few possibilities:
addition, omission, repetition, substitiution, arrangement.

I will set aside the other figures like metaphors and similes or personification for the time being; for me they seem to belong to the different group of the figures of rhetoric.

Now, the other logical attempt at grouping the figures of speech concerns a part of the sentence they may affect:
sounds, syllables, letters, words, phrases, clauses and ideas. Again, I would probably send ideas into the group of the figures of rhetoric.

I think that having these two groups in mind, it is much easier to try to discuss some of the ways of an intended deviation in a sentence.
For me, figures of repetitions are the most important, the most often used and worth studying in great detail.

Repetition of letters, syllables, sounds and some of their names (there are more):
alliteration, assonance, consonance, sibilant. 
Alliteration taken to the extreme:
'The powers of prunes are prudent to provide potent palliative prophylaxis of potential pooper problems, priming you for purging.' 
—Rob Bohnenberger

Alliteration is the repetition of the same sound at the beginning of two or more nearby words. In most cases, it is the repetition of the initial, stressed consonants. 

Assonance is the repetition of similar vowel sounds, preceded and followed by different consonants, in the stressed syllables of adjacent words.
The sergeant asked him to bomb the lawn with hotspots.

Consonance is the repetition of a consonance, rather at the end orin  middle of the word than in the beginning. Though some modern definitions treat Alliteration as the whole group and assonance/consonance as the two sub-groups. 
Mike likes his new bike.

Sibilant is a special case of alliteration when s, sh, z sounds are repeated, giving the hissing sound: 
There was nothing but the silence, stirring and seeping silently. 

I think it would be useful to add here another figure of sounds: onomatopoeia
Strictly not a figure of repetition, but somehow it repeats or imitates the sound it names.
There is a poem I have found on the Internet:

"Onomatopoeia every time I see ya
My senses tell me hubba
And I just can't disagree.
I get a feeling in my heart that I can't describe. . .

It's sort of whack, whir, wheeze, whine
Sputter, splat, squirt, scrape
Clink, clank, clunk, clatter
Crash, bang, beep, buzz
Ring, rip, roar, retch
Twang, toot, tinkle, thud
Pop, plop, plunk, pow
Snort, snuck, sniff, smack
Screech, splash, squish, squeak
Jingle, rattle, squeal, boing
Honk, hoot, hack, belch."

(Todd Rundgren, "Onomatopoeia")