Assonance Definition



Assonance is the perceptible repetition of similar vowel sounds in two or more words. This technique can influence the mood and rhythm of a beat in a story or it can emphasise an idea the writer wants to stress to the reader.

Since this echoing of vowel sounds occurs in the middle of words and the pronunciation of these sounds can vary according to our accent and then change over time, assonance is difficult to identify.

Example of Assonance from Sonnet 60

The opening quatrain of Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 60” compares the unstoppable and relentless movement of time to how “waves” reach the “pebbled shore” one after the other. It is no surprise that the writer tries to mimic that rhythm in the sounds of the words:

“Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,
So do our minutes hasten to their end;
Each changing place with that which goes before,
In sequent toil all forwards do contend.”

The same gliding “a” sound, represented in phonetically as /eɪ/, occurs in “waves”, “make”, “hasten”, “changing” and “place”, and the same long vowel sound can be heard in “towards”, “shore”, “before” and “forwards”.

The position of these lengthy vowel sounds in the lines helps establish the great movement of the waves.

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