Sounds and Patterns

  • N. F. Blake
Part of the The Language of Literature book series (LOL)


Syntax and lexis have been considered in the previous chapters to illustrate some of the normal principles of ordering and selection in English so that the way in which authors could adapt the norms to suit their own expressive ends was illuminated. The discussion was inevitably somewhat formal and grammatical and treated each unit within a sentence independently and without regard to other units within the same sentence. The next step is to investigate how these features are exploited as part of the wider organisation of language within literature, how the choice in one unit may influence that in another. In this chapter I shall consider how sounds and patterns are deployed within and across sentences. For example, it may be true that a particular sound is thought to evoke a given sensation or emotion: as compared with the so-called consonants like /k/ or /g/, the sound represented by the letter s or by c in the neighbourhood of front vowels is widely believed to be soft and to conjure up images of gentleness and sweetness. Hence the word soft itself might be selected by an author precisely because she believes its initial /s/ creates the necessary sound effect for the meaning which the word as a whole implies. But if /s/ does invoke that atmosphere associated with softness, then it is likely that an author will want to have several words in a line or sentence with the same sound or one which is close enough to it to be identified with it.


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© N. F. Blake 1990

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  • N. F. Blake

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