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Sounding Off on Sonics

Sounds come in families. That may not be a shocking revelation to most readers; however, it becomes important for poets who want to be slightly more subtle in the use of devices like rhyme or alliteration. Instead of using straight rhyme or alliteration, we can use slant rhyme or alliteration, and it is often easiest to trade off consonants from the various sonic families to achieve a close effect without being as obvious about it.

So, let's look at the various sound families:

Bilabial Stops: b, p
Alveolar Stops: d, t
Lingualdental Fricatives: th, TH
Labialdental Fricatives: f, v
Velar Stops: g, k
Aspirate: h
Alveolar Affricates: (d)j, (t)ch
Alveolar Fricatives: zh, sh
Alveolar Continuants: l, r
Nasals: m, n
Palatal Fricatives: s, z
Semi-Vowels: w, y

When using the strictest definition of family, such as the voiced and unvoiced version of a sound, one is often very close to perfect rhyme: close/rose, staid/mate, etc. Obviously, there may be more than one way to group the families together since most are based on two parts: where the sound is generated and how. So, going further afield, one might try to rhyme different alveolar sounds: judge/wash. Or different fricatives: waif/face.

To give an example of slant rhyme using members of the same family:

I spent my time
on the New York line.

Similarly, one might use a more subtle form of alliteration:

Juiced, the Bartlett pears provided a baste for the beef.

Using these sonic families to broaden the possibilities from true rhyme and alliteration can be a subtle tool for a poet to explore.

Happy writing!

The Gnostic Poet

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