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Ringler, Dick / Beowulf: A New Translation for Oral Delivery (May 2005)


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Structural alliteration—alliteration that occurs in regular recurring patterns and is therefore an element of formal structure—is obligatory in both the Old English original of Beowulf and the present translation.

The word "alliteration" denotes a correspondence between the initial sounds of heavily stressed syllables; thus big and bat; single, cycle and psychic; quarter and akimbo; nebulous and Scandinavia; ache, eight, and creation. Note that alliteration involves a correspondence of sounds, irrespective of their spelling; also that alliterating stressed syllables can occur within words as well as at their beginning.[1*]

In the present translation, a given Modern English sound normally alliterates only with itself, as in the above examples. But there are some special cases:

—. any vowel or diphthong alliterates with any other vowel or diphthong, thus

Otherwise, ever
after, he is doomed

—. each of the following sounds alliterates only with itself, never with any of the others (or with simple s-):

sh- (as in "shallow" or "assurance")
sk- (as in "skull" or "square")
sp- (as in "speed")
st- (as in "sturdy")

—. the sound [w], however spelled (e.g., whether as in "want" or as in "once"), alliterates with the sound [wh] (as in "white" or "whale").

—. the sound [r] (as in "rapid" or "arrest") alliterates with the sound [hr] (as in "Hrothgar").


[1*] On a few occasions, in the translation, alliteration reflects the way the text is actually pronounced, not the way it is conventionally spelled or syllabicated, e.g.,

they never bring it
an ounce of profit


Moreover, written
in runic symbols

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