Literary Devices: Using Sounds -Sibilance, Alliteration etc. ?


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Thread: Literary Devices: Using Sounds -Sibilance, Alliteration etc. ?

  1. #1

    Literary Devices: Using Sounds -Sibilance, Alliteration etc. ?

    I not only read poetry for the visual imagery I read aloud and listen to the words and the sound they create. With this in mind I’m trying to achieve a better understanding of alliteration and other devices so I can be mindful of the use of certain words to improve flow and create different moods when writing. Poetry becomes music? I’ll start with sibilance as I’m not sure I’ve fully grasped this.
    Definition of Sibilance

    Sibilance is a literary device where strongly stressed consonants are created deliberately by producing air from vocal tracts through the use of lips and tongue. Such consonants produce hissing sounds. However, in poetry, it is used as a stylistic device, and sibilants are used more than twice in quick succession. Most of the times, the “s” sound is the sibilant.
    https://literarydevices.net/sibilance/

    My understanding is the poet not only paints pictures with words but also with sounds to create a mood, so auditory as well as visual imagery is also important.

    Difference Between Alliteration and Sibilance is produced by the of first consonant sounds in the words, generally the first one or two letters, such as in “A big bully beats a baby boy.” However, sibilance is also a specific type of alliteration that uses the soft consonants. In sibilance, hissing sounds are created. These soft consonants are s, with sh, ch, and th, including three others such as z, x, f and soft c. For instance, “Sing a Song of Sixpence” is the title of a nursery , which can be considered as a good example of sibilance.
    When I read some poetry aloud I feel the use of sibilance can also ‘oil’ one word as it slides into the next which means word choice is important. Therefore, instead of using a hard sound at the end of a word such as G or T (not sure if this has a name) I’d use a sibilant sound depending on the auditory picture I am trying to paint

    Alliteration is the repetition of two or more words of the first consonant sounds (usually first one or two letters) with sibilance does it matter if there is no repetition?

    Apparently this poem is a good example of the use of sibilance. I’ve bolded the internal rhyme in red and sibilance in blue

    A Cradle Song (By William Blake)

    “Sweet dreams, form a shade ...?
    O’er my lovely infants head.
    Sweet dreams of pleasant streams
    By happy silent moony beams
    Sweet sleep with soft down.
    Weave thy brows an infant crown.
    Sweet sleep Angel mild,
    Hover o’er my happy child.
    Sweet smiles in the night,
    Hover over my delight.
    Sweet smiles Mothers smiles
    Sweet moans, dovelike sighs,
    Chase not slumber from thy eyes,
    Sweet moans, sweeter smiles.”

    Am I on the right track here?

    Further advice, suggestions and examples would really help, thanks.
    Last edited by PiP; January 7th, 2020 at 10:13 PM.
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  2. #2
    If sibilence is a form of alliteration which is a form of rhyme, and rhyme is repeated sounds, then there is no rhyme without the repetition and 'sibilance' requires the repitition of the soft consonant. But I don't see why it would have to be the first consonant in the word. The like sounds could fall anywhere. That's my take, anyway.
    Last edited by TL Murphy; January 7th, 2020 at 12:13 AM.

  3. #3
    Using sibilants is not so much used in poetry alone, and is not alliteration only, it's a linguistic term. Sibilants are the letters made by the tongue against the teeth, for example the 's' and the 't' (in other languages, more letters are formed that way).

    In poetry:
    As an example, I love to use snakes in my poems, snakes that slither, squirm and twist.
    So, in other words, by using sibilants in the snakes example, you recreate not only the way a snake moves, but also that hissing sound you associate with snakes.

  4. #4
    Yes, the consonantal beginning of the sibilant effect is usually ​the first syllable of both the first and second words, but, as Tim discerns, this is not a 'rule'. Sibilence can occur anywhere in a polysyllabic word. For intended effect, however, there should always be a REASON for the sibilance. Darren's example of the snake is a good one. If there is NO connection between sound and intent, the device come off as arbitrary and mechanical. Poet showing off



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  5. #5
    I use a lot of this sort of thing in prose. I wonder often why it works, and have come to the conclusion that the sibilants, assonances etc, resemble sounds early humans might hear in the wild, and generate apposite reactions in them. Sibilance could mean snakes, or it could mean a breeze. Plosives (B, P, etc) are like impactful bursts, but combine them with certain vowel sounds, can be rounded into something more comfortable, almost babylike. K is harsh, like rocks cracking, and so on. To create those effects, I try and tap into the origins of the feeling and use words that sound like the thing that would have caused the feeling. It saves me a lot of bother actually, otherwise I'd have to come up with the stuff myself.


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  6. #6
    I will admit being very guilty of showmanship...


  7. #7
    Sibilants and plosives are fantastic in poetry (also in prose I imagine). I think most of us use those devices without even thinking about it. I am from a country that has a lot of different deep-throated 'k' 'kh' and 'g' and 'gh'. Those sound harsh and cold in the English language, but it's funny how that differs from language to language. I use it to create certain effects. But as said before, I don't use it very consciously. I prefer to let the images speak for themselves, and if a number of sibilants and plosives can help me there, then yes, by all means

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by TL Murphy View Post
    If sibilence is a form of alliteration which is a form of rhyme, and rhyme is repeated sounds, then there is no rhyme without the repetition and 'sibilance' requires the repitition of the soft consonant. But I don't see why it would have to be the first consonant in the word. The like sounds could fall anywhere. That's my take, anyway.
    Thanks, Tim. That would make more sense. So the poem above is not a good example?

    Would wasps buzzing be classed as sibilent

    Quote Originally Posted by Darren White View Post


    In poetry:
    As an example, I love to use snakes in my poems, snakes that slither, squirm and twist.
    So, in other words, by using sibilants in the snakes example, you recreate not only the way a snake moves, but also that hissing sound you associate with snakes.
    Thanks, Darren. I see what you mean. the hissing of a snake is a good example! However, my literal self is probably overthinking this, Please indulge me. I can't hear twist as a sibilant sound. And T (unless th) is not listed as a soft consonant

    These soft consonants are s, with sh, ch, and th, including three others such as z, x, f and soft c.
    If I am to believe the above from https://literarydevices.net/sibilance/
    technically SL and SQ are not sibilant sounds either.

    The way snakes slither makes me squeamish

    Quote Originally Posted by bdcharles View Post
    Plosives (B, P, etc) are like impactful bursts, but combine them with certain vowel sounds, can be rounded into something more comfortable, almost babylike. K is harsh, like rocks cracking, and so on. To create those effects, I try and tap into the origins of the feeling and use words that sound like the thing that would have caused the feeling. It saves me a lot of bother actually, otherwise I'd have to come up with the stuff myself.
    Plosives! Yes, that was the term I was looking for! Putters off to research further.
    K is harsh, like rocks cracking Good example.



    Quote Originally Posted by Darren White View Post
    But as said before, I don't use it very consciously. I prefer to let the images speak for themselves, and if a number of sibilants and plosives can help me there, then yes, by all means
    I think we need to understand them even if we don't consciously use them. the reason I say this is because if I'm writing a poem about the sea I'd use more sibilant sounds than plosive sounds when it came to word choice. It's not just imagery but also auditory?
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  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by clark View Post
    Yes, the consonantal beginning of the sibilant effect is usually ​the first syllable of both the first and second words, but, as Tim discerns, this is not a 'rule'. Sibilence can occur anywhere in a polysyllabic word. For intended effect, however, there should always be a REASON for the sibilance. Darren's example of the snake is a good one. f
    Clark, please can you suggest some examples where sibilance has been used to good effect?

    If there is NO connection between sound and intent, the device come off as arbitrary and mechanical. Poet showing off
    Yep.
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  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by PiP View Post
    . So the poem above is not a good example?

    Blake's poem is a fine example of sibilance. It just doesn't cover every possible usage.

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