Difference Between Alliteration and Consonance (With Table)

Alliteration and consonance are two literary devices that use sounds to draw attention to something. They are quite similar because they both deal with the repetition of consonant sounds. However, they should not be confused together because they are used for different purposes.

Alliteration vs Consonance

The main difference between alliteration and consonance is that alliteration is used at the stressed parts of words. A consonance is used to repeat consonant words in closely connected words. Alliteration is a sort of subset of consonance, as it is a special case of a consonance. 

Alliteration is a type of consonance in which the starting sound of two or more words is repeated. It is used in prose and poetry to add a kind of audible effect to the text. It allows people to specially remember something if it is catchy.

In consonance, the consonant words that are repeated are close. The repeated sound can occur anywhere in the world. The consonant sound will not be a vowel sound. It is commonly used in poetry, but also prose, idioms, phrases, etc.

Comparison Table Between Alliteration and Consonance

Parameters of ComparisonAlliterationConsonance
Whole/PartAlliteration is a special case of consonance.Consonance is the bigger category of which alliteration is a part.
MeaningWhen repetition of a stressed sound occurs at the starting of the word, it is alliteration.Consonance is the repetition of consonant words that are closely connected.
Stressed partThe sound is stressed at the beginning of a word.The consonant sound is stressed at any part of the word.
Vowel/Consonant soundThe sound that is stressed could be a vowel or a consonant sound.The stressed sound can only be a consonant sound.
ExampleThe wicked witch of the west.
Betty bought a bit of butter.
I thought I sent a silent tweet.
Mike likes his new bike.

What is an Alliteration?

Alliteration can be defined as the repetition of a similar initial consonant sound in closely connected syllables within a group of words. The word ‘alliteration’ can trace its origin to the Latin word ‘littera’, which means ‘letter of the alphabet. Alliteration is a poetic device used in a lot of prose and poetry all around the world, in multiple languages.

For it to be an alliteration, the sounds need not be written the same way. The sounds ‘z’ and ‘s’ sound very similar in speech, but are written as different letters. They can be used in the same alliteration. There is a subset of alliteration, called symmetrical alliteration. This requires the words at the end, then at the second end, to have the same or matching sounds.

Some popular forms of poetry that make use of alliteration are ‘The Raven’ by Edgar Allen Poe and ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Alliteration is used for purposes of rhetoric, to make the audience feel some urgency or some other emotion. As sounds are stressed repeatedly, the audience feels the emotion even deeper.

What is a Consonance?

Consonance is a literary device that repeats consonant sounds at any part of closely connected words which have different vowel sounds. A vowel sound counterpart to consonance is assonance. Words like ‘coming home’ and ‘Cosmo Kramer’ can be called consonance. A consonance has two special cases; alliteration and sibilance.

The origin of the word ‘consonance’ can be traced to Latin. The word ‘consonare’ changed to ‘consonant’, which translates to ‘sounding together’. This was adopted by the English language and evolved into the word ‘consonance’, which came to hold the meaning it does today.

A consonance can occur in the beginning, middle, or the end of a word, and it occurs in repetition. The main part of consonance is the sounds made by the consonants, not the letters. This is used as a poetic device as it makes the poem better. The poems ‘The Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock’ by T.S.Eliot and ‘Not Waving but Drowning’ by Stevie Smith make use of this. Some common examples of consonance are ‘tea and toast’ and ‘better late than never’.

Main Differences Between Alliteration and Consonance

  1. A consonance uses the repetition of consonants at any part of closely connected words to create a literary device. An alliteration, however, stresses repeated parts of words that are usually in the starting of words.
  2. For an alliteration, the repeated sound needs to be at the beginning of a word, or a stressed part of the word. For a consonance, the consonant sound could be at any part of the word.
  3. An alliteration is a part of the broader literary device category that is a consonance.
  4. The sound in alliteration could be a vowel sound or a consonant sound, whereas the sound in consonance needs to be a consonant sound.
  5. Consonance is more distinguishable when the repeated sounds occur at the end of words, whereas alliteration is noticed better when it is at the beginning of words.

Conclusion

There are poems and prose which employ the use of both alliteration and consonance, such as ‘The Raven’ by Edgar Allen Poe, and the famous tongue twister that starts with ‘Betty bought a bit of butter’. However, there are stark differences in the use and meaning of alliteration and consonance.

First of all, consonance is a broader category and alliteration is a part of it. They are used for different purposes in different contexts, to highlight certain words. Both are used to make a piece of writing more memorable for the reader. The emotions that the reader would normally feel while reading the poem will be deeper and ingrained in their memory better when literary devices such as these are used.

References

  1. https://uzjournals.edu.uz/tziuj/vol2021/iss02/15/
  2. https://www.jstor.org/stable/40753950