by F. Juniper
Word Ways, 1977


We may regard a syllable as consisting of an initial consonant cluster (which may be zero), a vowel cluster, and a final consonant cluster (which may be zero in most schemes of phonemic analysis).

This analysis is ambiguous; it varies from dialect to dialect, and within one dialect according to one's point of view. To a Scotsman, for instance, bird would certainly be b+[schwa]+rd; but southern Englishmen omit the r, Americans who pronounce it as a glide may want to count it as part of the vowel, and Americans like me who omit the schwa may count the r as the vowel or may call the vowel zero. So also, in all dialects, we may take the y in boy as the completion of a diph-thong or as a final consonant. These ambiguities infect all of prosody, including what I write here, but not to an intolerable degree.

At this level of analysis two syllables may be either similar or different in each of their three parts, so that there are eight possible kinds of resemblance. Two of these are degenerate: homo-nymy (beet and beat) and complete dissonance (break and mend). Of the remaining six, there seem to be traditional names for four:

Rhyme: similarity in vowel and final consonants (love and shove)

Alliteration: similarity in initial consonants (love and light)

Assonance: similarity in vowel (love and duck)

Consonance: similarity in initial and final consonants (love and live)

If the other two have not been named already, I suggest:

Deliteration: a correspondence of the final consonant cluster only (hit and bat)

Insonance: a correspondence of the initial consonant cluster and the vowel (bat and ban)

Alternatively, we may set up a concise systematic nomenclature by calling homonymy blend, dissonance clash, and the six resonances by mixtures of parts of these two, chosen to bear the given relation to blend:

1-resonances: blash = alliteration, clesh = assonance, cland = deliteration

2-resonances: clend = rhyme, bland = consonance, blesh = insonance

In this table, the first row contains resemblances in one constitutent; the second, in two. The resonances in each column form a complementary pair.

It is not hard to write quatrains in which the members of these pairs are interleaved, with pleasing effect. Over twenty years ago I read a science fiction story containing a poem in which the first four lines ended in prostitute, lines, light and tunes. These contain two bleshes (column pairs) and two clands (row pairs) as diagrammed at the left below. A similar interleaving of blands and cleshes is used more seriously and beautifully throughout W.H. Auden's "The Night When Love Began" (though he is forced to an approximation in the third stanza). The end words in the first stanza form the pattern at the right below. The third possibility, clend and blash interleaved, I have never seen. That is a surprise, as rhyme and alliteration are the commonest resonances in conventional verse.

-tute   light       began   flash
tunes   lines       gun   flush

The most complete possible interleaving is an octet of syllables, each clashing with one of the others and bearing a different resonance with each of the remaining six. The names we have been using form an artificial octet of this kind. These may be conveniently diagrammed at the vertices of a cube, which we may squash onto the page in quasi-perspective. The small inner square is the bottom of the cube; the large outer one, the top. The sloping lines are the vertical edges, which link clending (rhyming) pairs. North-south edges link bleshing pairs; east-west edges, blanding pairs. The edges of the cube represent 1-resonances, diagonals of the faces represent 2-resonances, and syllables connected by a body diagonal clash.

	|    \		    /	|
	|     clend---------bland	|
	|     |		  |	 |
	|     |		  |	 |
	|     clesh---------clash	|
	|    /		    \	|

Such an artifical octet may be made from any clashing pair of monosyllables such as blend and clash. In that one, only one of the new syllables, bland, happened to be a common English word, but that is unusual. Ordinarily, several new words result, as given in the example below. It is amusing and usually possible to pick a clashing pair that are also antonyms, as here, and find a path from one to the other along edges through real words--i.e., to connect them by a chain of 1-resonances in English: love, lave, late, hate. One might write quatrains on such chains. From the observation that they usually exist, it seems to follow that a large proportion of all monosyllabic combinations of allowed English phoneme clusters are actually used as English words.

love           lave
  [huv]       behave  
  hut       hate  
[lut]           late

Complete octets of words are probably not very rare. I have found:

wit           wait
  hit       hate  
  hill       hail  
will           wail

On another set I have managed a poem, which I think has some charm, at least for hikers. The meter is an imitation of old native meter, which survives to some extent in nursery rhymes, and I have put in additional alliterations (bleshes) to accord with that tradition:

Convected, fueled by the noon's FAT,
(You are a flame in all you EAT),
In sight of our ruddy and pale tent AT
The top we made a movable FEAST.
Now we stand, staring at the EAST
Like the moon, and break our starry FAST--
Golden-breasted, silvery-ASSED,
Unbound boots on reminiscent FEET.

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