Alliteration Everywhere

Once you start thinking about alliteration, you can find it everywhere. It makes me wonder whether there is some “deep structure” in the human mind that tends to arrange language in alliterative patterns.
It isn’t only Old English, or English, of course, that makes use of alliteration. The Hebrew Bible is full of it. Consider the 119th Psalm, for just one of many instances, in which each set of eight verses begins with the same letter and the psalm works through the whole Hebrew alphabet. Or think of phrases like “Shaalu shalom Yerushalaim” (Psalm 122:6) with its wonderful “sh” and “l” alliterations. I’m always amused at the way the Book of Common Prayer translates the smooth Hebrew sounds into English plosives: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem”!
My very limited knowledge of Latin, Spanish, Greek. and Japanese, isn’t sufficient to know whether such patterns can be found in them. Does someone out there have insights about alliteration in other languages? I’d be curious to know.
All this is occasioned by my noticing last Sunday how the first reading (Acts 9:1-6) tended to alliterate on the letter “p.” These phrases occurred:
“power or piety”
“presence of Pilate”
“perfect health in the presence of all of you”
There was also alliterations on “s,” “w,” nd “n.”
“Messiah would suffer”
“we are witnesses”
“and now, friends, I know”
and a vowel alliteration:
“acted in ignorance”
Can seven such alliterations in seven verses be coincidence? Or is it likelier that the mind, looking for a word, looks first in the set that begins with the same letter as the last significant stressed word?
Looking back over what I have written, I notice “seven such alliterations in seven verses” and “likelier that the mind, looking for a word, looks . . .”
So is this coincidence, or do we need a full-scale investigation of this further evidence of “deep structures”? But enough for now. Let the language specialists respond!

– Beowulf Too

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