Alliteration

Watkins has noted some instances of alliteration in the Luwian fragments. It is also noticeable in the Lydian documents, not as an invariable feature but as an intermittent ornament. As such it is observable in most of the Indo-European poetic traditions.90 It is often conspicuous in Vedic;91 sometimes in the Gathas and the pre-Christian Armenian fragments; rarely in Greek, though examples can be found.92 In western and northern Europe it was cultivated especially where an initial stress-accent developed, in Italic, Irish (but not Celtic overall), Germanic, and to a lesser extent Latvian. In historical Latin verse, although the generalized initial accent no longer prevailed, many words still did have it, and alliteration is a prominent feature in the early period. So it is in Irish, and we have seen that the terminology applied to it both in Irish and in Norse acknowledges it as having a structural significance in composition. In Germanic versification it had long been obligatory and governed by definite rules. These were already in operation by the time of the earliest runic inscription (c.200 ce), and probably before Tacitus' time.93

In view of this diffusion there is every likelihood that alliteration was an occasional, though not a constitutive, feature of Indo-European verse. We shall see in the next chapter that the choice and arrangement of words formed

90 Cf. Wackernagel (1943), 5; Schmitt (1967), 40 n. 259; Watkins (1994), 714-16; (1995), 109-14, 188; Gamkrelidze-Ivanov (1995), 735-7.

91 E.g. RV 1. 67. 6 priya padani pasvö ni pahi; visvayur Agne guha guham gah, 10. 14. 7 prehi prehi pathibhih purviyebhir, yatra nah purve pitarah pareyuh. Cf. W. Krause, ZVS 50 (1922), 121-3; J. Gonda, Acta Orientalia 18 (1939), 50-79; id. (1959), 177-200; S. Sani, SSL 12 (1972), 193-226.

92 Cf. M. S. Silk, Interaction in Poetic Imagery (London 1974), ch. 8. A noteworthy instance is Hes. Op. 25 f. Kai Kepa/j,evs Kepa^ei Korea Kai reKrovi reKr^v, I Kai nr&>xos nr^x^i ^Ooveei Kai aoiSos aoiSäi, where the verbs in each line are chosen to alliterate with the nouns.

an important part of Indo-European verbal art and often expressed itself in figures characterized by assonance of one sort or another.

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