Assonance is a literary technique that repeats the same or similar vowel sound.

It’s often used in poetry or narrative prose to create an atmosphere and rhythm. Most often, the assonance will be internal to a word – for example, the phrase ‘he rowed the boat’ uses the long ‘oh’ sound twice. That’s assonance, meaning in the literature that there’s a flow between the words, and a lovely link, even though they don’t rhyme.

What is an example of assonance?

Chances are, your students will already know some common examples of assonance. Lots of common phrases and sayings utilize assonance, as assonance makes them more catchy. Assonance is also an excellent device for remembering things, which is why it’s so commonly used.

  • Dumb luck
  • In awhile, crocodile
  • See you later, alligator
  • Chips and dip
  • Good day; I’ll be on my way
  • Cock of the walk
  • Chow Chow, for now
  • Lean, mean, fighting machine
  • Toodles, Poodles!

The effect of assonance: Why is assonance used?

There are all sorts of reasons why you might use assonance. When you read a text, think about what the assonance adds to the overall feel and meaning to help you decide why it has been used. There are many reasons for using assonance, meaning in literature, it crops up quite commonly. Read on to learn more about the uses for assonance in writing and poetry.

1) Create a rhythm and flow to writing: One core reason already discussed is to provide a lovely flow to the words. Assonance can help link comments together so that even poetry that doesn’t rhyme still has continuity.

2) Create tongue twisters: This is common in tongue twisters, where the same vowel sounds are often repeated in proximity to each other to attempt to trip up the speaker. A good example is ‘she sells seashells on the sea shore,’ which alternates a long and short ‘e’ sound to create a tangled forest of complicated sounds. These are great exercises in pronunciation and are often used by actors before they go on stage.

3) Pairs with the use of onomatopoeia: You might also come across more onomatopoeic examples of assonance, meaning in the literature that the sound highlighted specifically exists to mimic something. So, for example, the phrase ‘the wind wails and flails around the stables’ repeats the ‘ay’ sound, miming the thrashing wind’s intensity as it batters the stables about.

4) Helps you to remember things: The sing-song, rhyme-y effect that assonance often has can be a great mnemonic device, which can help you to remember things. That’s why so many common phrases and idioms use assonance. Next time you try to remember something, why not attach some adjectives with the same vowel sounds? This is a great way to help keep it in your mind.

What is the difference between alliteration and assonance?

You might be starting to wonder what exactly the difference between alliteration and assonance is. Unfortunately, the two literary techniques are somewhat similar, meaning it’s easy to confuse them.

Here’s the easiest way to remember the difference between alliteration and assonance:

Assonance is when the same vowel sounds are repeated in multiple words. For example:

  • The gleaming sunbeams shone down on the vast green fields.
  • The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain.
  • Goodnight, sleep tight, and don’t let the bedbugs bite!

The main effect of assonance in literature is to create a sense of rhythm. It helps dictate which syllables should be stressed within a line of text. This rhythm-making has a flow-on effect, making a phrase sound more memorable. This is partially what makes sayings like “there’s no place like home” – where we can spot assonance on the “o” sound of “no” and “home.”

Alliteration is when a word’s consonant sounds are repeated in multiple terms. For example:

  • The slippery snake slithered away as he sang a silly song.
  • Heather was hysterically happy.
  • Emily is envious of everyone except for Emma.
  • Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.

An effect of alliteration is that it can direct the readers’ focus to a particular section of text. In addition, alliterative sounds create rhythm and mood and sometimes have specific connotations. For example, the repetition of an “s” sound can make a snake-like quality, giving the text a sense of trickery and danger.

What is the difference between assonance and sibilance?

Assonance and sibilance are often used in the same context, as they have similar effects in writing. However, because it is so easy for these devices to get confused, your students must become familiar with how they each work.

  • Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of a vowel sound. This is either at the beginning or in the middle of words. Fore example, mighty cries in the night.
  • Sibilance: Sibilance, on the other hand, is the repetition of the ‘s’ sound throughout a phrase or a sentence. For example, she slowly staggered across the street.

Spot the assonance: How can you identify assonance?

A great way to identify assonance is to read things out loud. This is because the same sounds don’t always look the same on paper! Sometimes they do; for example, ‘stood’ and ‘hood’ both have the same vowel sound. However, if you were to highlight every instance of a double ‘o’, you might fall into the trap of highlighting words like ‘food,’ where the vowel sound is very different and much longer. So instead, by reading things aloud, you’re much more likely to notice words with the same vowel sound. For example, ‘push’ has the same internal vowel sound but looks very different on paper.

It’s much easier to hear assonance, meaning it can often go unnoticed in literature. Use our handy tool to help avoid this, and ensure you and your learners are picking up on all the literary devices you could be.

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