What is the literary term used to describe long vowel sounds?

For example in Ted Hughes's "Your Paris" in his Birthday Letters anthology "Eerie Familiar Feeling", what term would be used to describe this literary long vowel sound technique?

  • 1
    Could you describe this technique a little more? Is it the repetition of ee that you are wondering about? Then why does it matter whether short or long vowels are echoed? Commented Jun 19, 2011 at 12:13

1 Answer 1


The only literary technique exhibited there is alliteration, but that is not limited to long-vowel sounds. It refers to similar sounds placed close together. In this case eerie and feeling both have the ee combination, and familiar and feeling both begin with the f sound.

Now, if you are really asking about a term to describe long vowel sounds apart from alliteration, you are asking a question about linguistics, and that is not really the topic of this site.


Some have questioned my usage of the term alliteration here. I maintain that it may be used in the broader sense described above. The use of consonance and assonance to refer narrowly to consonant and vowel repetition is a distinction, not a generally restrictive provision. Alliteration can also refer to phonemes with similar properties, anywhere in a word.

When I studied Old English, in which alliteration reigned absolutely, we were taught to consider a line like this one from "Cædmon's Hymn",

He ærest sceop        eorþan bearnum
[He erst* shaped [for] earth's bairns**]

as containing alliterative matches in "ærest", "eorþan" and "bearnum": ær, eor, and ear. That means the definition included vowel sounds that were near matches, and also occurred elsewhere than at the beginning of the word.

* First.
** Bairns, meaning children, survives today in the Scottish dialect.

  • 1
    Don't you mean assonance? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assonance Commented Jun 19, 2011 at 12:11
  • Feeling and familiar both begin with the 'f' sound, giving allitertion. There are also lots of internal 'l's and 'r's in the phrase; this might be called consonance. Finally, almost all the vowels are long 'e's or short 'i's, which are very close in sound, so this creates assonance. Commented Jun 19, 2011 at 12:18
  • @Cerberus, Peter Shor: Yes, I thought assonance too obvious to mention; also I felt I was going somewhat far afield anyway, given the restriction in the OP's title.
    – Robusto
    Commented Jun 19, 2011 at 12:54
  • 1
    To the careless reader, your answer would seem to point to ee as alliteration, which it isn't. Commented Jun 19, 2011 at 13:16
  • @Cerberus, Peter Shor: Please see my edit. I disagree with your assertion that alliteration is as restrictive as you suppose.
    – Robusto
    Commented Jun 19, 2011 at 13:48

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.