Figures of sound patterning

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(This page forms part of a Course in Figures of Speech. You can find an introduction to it at Figures of Speech course. This page can stand on its own, as well. You may have accessed it from a page on a particular example.) (There is a list of the important Figures of Speech dealt with in this section of the course here.)

Figures of sound patterning (or making of patterns) of thought is perhaps the most common way, after the figures of comparison, in which we use figures of speech to "ornament" our language. In rhetoric, for example, orators often use a particular form of repetition to emphasise their ideas - they repeat similar words in identical structures. This has its own technical term - anaphora: "the repetition of the same word or phrase in several successive clauses" (OED). President Lincoln emphasised the idea of democracy, for example, by repeating the construction of preposition + "the people" in the Gettysburg Address of 1863: "we here highly resolve: that government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth."

The repetition of structures rather than words is best called parallelism.

Some forms of parallelism are particularly designed to repeat sounds, and to make patterns of them. This is above all true of rhyme, and the patterns of verse. Some patterns of sound, however, are worth remembering for their use in ordinary prose.

There is a list of the important Figures of Speech dealt with in this section of the course here. There is no clear distinction between Figures of Construction and Figures of sound patterning, so the lists of these two refer to items in both groups.