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notes on which you can articulate distinctly. Many of these would neither be proper nor agreeable in speaking; but the exercise will give you such a command of voice as is scarcely to be acquired by any other method. Having repeated this experiment till you can speak with ease at several heights of the voice, read, as exercises on this rule, such compositions as have a variety of speakers, or such as relate dialogues; observing the height of voice which is proper to each, and endeavoring to change it as nature directs.
In the same composition there may be frequent occasion to alter the height of the voice, in passing from one part to another, without any change of person. This is the case, for example, in Shakespeare's (All the world's a stage,) etc., and in his description of the Queen of the Fairies.
PRONOUNCE YOUR WORDS WITH PROPRIETY AND ELEGANCE
T is not easy to fix upon any standard by which the propriety of pronunciation may be determined.
A rigorous adherence to etymology, or to analogy, would often produce a pedantic pronunciation of words, which in a polite circle would appear ridiculous. The fashionable world has, in this respect, too much caprice and affectation to be implicitly followed. If there be any true standard of pronunciation, it must be sought for among those who unite the accuracy of learn. ing with the elegance of polite conversation. An attention to such models, and a free intercourse with the world, afford the best guard against the peculiarities and vulgarisms of provincial dialects.
The faults in pronunciation which belong to this class are too numerous to be completely specified. Except the omission of the aspirate already mentioned, one of the most common is, the interchange of the sounds belonging to the letters v and w.
One who had contracted this habit would find some difficulty in pronouncing these words: “I like white wine vinegar with veal very well.) Other provincial improprieties of pronunciation are: the changing of ow into er, or of aw into or, as in fellow, window, the law of the land; that of ou or ow into 00, as in house, town; i into oi, as in my; e into a, as in sincere, tea; and s into 2, as in Somerset. These faults, and all others of the same nature, must be avoided in the pronunciation of a gentleman, who is supposed to have seen too much of the world to retain the peculiarities of the district in which he was born.
PRONOUNCE EVERY WORD CONSISTING OF MORE THAN ONE SYLLABLE WITH ITS
any stringed musical instrument receives a smart percussion its vibrations at first produce a loud and full sound, which gradually becomes soft and faint, although the note, during the whole vibration, remains the same, so any articulate sound may be uttered with different degrees of strength, proportioned to the degree of exertion with which it is spoken. In all words consisting of more syllables than one, we give some one syllable a more forcible utterance than the rest. This variety of sound, which is called accent,* serves
* « Accent » in the classical languages (as in Chinese) is the musical rise and fall of the voice. The English ear cannot appreciate it without special training. In the word "pity," the natural English accent on the first syllable is acute. Both syllables can be short «by position'» but the word is naturally a "trochee,” – that is a long syllable followed by a short (-v).
W. V. B.
to distinguish from each other the words of which a sentence is composed; without it the ear would perceive nothing but unmeaning succession of detached syllables. Accent may be applied either to long or to short syllables, but does not, as some writers have supposed, change their nature; for accent implies not an extension of time, but an increase of force. In the words pity, enemy, the first syllable, though accented, is still short. Syllables may be long, which are not accented; as appears in the words empire, exile. Accent affects every part of the syllable, by giving additional force to the utterance of the whole complex sound, but does not lengthen or change the vowel sound. In the words habit, specimen, proper, as they are pronounced by Englishmen, the first syllable, though accented, is not long. Some words, consisting of several syllables, admit of two accents, more forcible than the other, but both suffi. ciently distinguishable from the unaccented parts of the word; as in the words monumental, manifestation, naturalization.
In accenting words, care should be taken to avoid all affected deviations from common usage. There is the greater occasion for this precaution, as a rule has been arbitrarily introduced upon this subject which has no foundation either in the structure of the English language, or in the principles of harmony: that in words consisting of more than two syllables, the accent should be thrown as far backward as possible. This rule has occasioned much pedantic and irregular pronunciation; and has, perhaps, introduced all the uncertainty which attends the accenting of several English words.
In Every SENTENCE, DISTINGUISH THE MORE SIGNIFICANT WORDS BY A NATURAL,
FORCIBLE, AND Varied EMPHASIS
THERE are in every sentence certain words which have a greater share in convey
ing the speaker's meaning than the rest; and are, on this account, distinguished by the forcible manner in which they are uttered. Thus in the sentence, «Cheerfulness keeps up a kind of daylight in the mind, and fills it with a steady and perpetual serenity, the principal stress is laid upon certain substantives, adjectives, and verbs; and the rest of the sentence is spoken with an inferior degree of exertion. This stress, or emphasis, serves to unite words, and form them into sentences. By giving the several parts of a sentence their proper utterance, it discovers their mutual dependence, and conveys their fuil import to the mind of the hearer. It is in the power of emphasis to make long and complex sentences appear intelligible and perspicuous. But for this purpose it is necessary that the reader should be perfectly acquainted with the exact construction and full meaning of every sentence which he recites. Without this it is impossible to give those inflections and variations to the voice which nature requires; and it is for want of this previous study, more, perhaps, than from any other cause, that we
so often hear persons read with an improper emphasis, or with no emphasis at all; that is, with a stupid monotony. Much study and pains are necessary in acquiring the habit of just and forcible pronunciation; and it can only be the effect of close attention and long practice, to be able, with a mere glance of the eye, to read any piece with good emphasis and good discretion.
It is another office of emphasis to express the opposition between the several parts of a sentence, where the ideas are contrasted or compared; as in the following sentences: «When our vices leave us, we fancy that we leave them. » «A coupt'nance more in sorrow, than in anger;» (A custom more honor'd in the breach, than in the observance. »
In some sentences the antithesis is double, and even treble; this must be expressed in reading by a corresponding combination of emphasis. The following instances are of this kind: «Anger may glance into the breast of a wise man, but rests only in the bosom of fools;» «To err is human; to forgive, divine;"> An angry man who suppresses his passion, thinks worse than he speaks; and an angry man that will chide, speaks worse than he thinks;» «Better to reign in hell, than serve in heav'n.”
“He rais'd a mortal to the skies;
She drew an angel down.”
When any term, or phrase, is used to express some particular meaning, not obviously arising from the words, it should be marked by a strong emphasis; as, «To BE, contents his natural desire;» «Sir Balaam now, he lives like other folks; » «Then you will pass into Africa; Will pass, did I say ?»
In expressing any maxim, or doctrine, which contains much meaning in a few words, the weight of the sentiment should be accompanied with a correspondent energy of pronunciation. For example: «One truth is clear; Whatever is, is right. The principal words which serve to mark the divisions of discourse should be distinguished in the same manner.
Emphasis may also serve to intimate some allusion, to express surprise, or to convey an oblique bint. For example:
« While expletives their feeble aid do join.”
He said ; then full before their sight
( And Brutus is an HONORABLE man.”
Lastly, emphasis is of use in determining the sense of doubtful expressions. The following short sentence admits of three different meanings, according to the place of the emphasis: «Do you intend to go to London this summer ? »
For want of attending to the proper emphasis, the following passage of Scripture is often misunderstood: «If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! »
In order to acquire a habit of speaking with a just and forcible emphasis, nothing more is necessary than previously to study the construction, meaning, and spirit of every sentence, and to adhere as nearly as possible to the manner in which we distinguish one word from another in conversation; for in familiar discourse we scarcely ever fail to express ourselves emphatically, or to place the emphasis properly. With respect to artificial helps, such as distinguishing words or clauses of sentences by particular characters or marks, I believe it will be found, upon trial, that, except where they may be necessary as a guide to the sense, not leaving the reader at full liberty to follow his own understanding and feelings, they rather mislead than assist him.
The most common faults respecting emphasis are, laying so strong an emphasis upon one word as to leave no power of giving a particular force to other words, which, though not equally, are in a certain degree emphatical; and placing the greatest stress on conjunctive particles, and other words of secondary importance. This latter fault is humorously ridiculed by Churchill, in his censure of Mossop:
( With studied improprieties of speech
He soars beyond the hackney critic's reach.
Emphasis is often destroyed by an injudicious attempt to read melodiously, In reading verse, this fault sometimes arises from a false notion of the necessity of preserving an alternate succession of unaccented and accented syllables; a kind of uniformity which the poet probably did not intend; and which, if he had, would certainly, at least in a poem of considerable length, become insufferably tiresome. In reading prose, this fondness for melody is, perhaps, more commonly the effect of indolence, or affectation, than of real taste; but to whatever cause it may be ascribed, it is certainly unfavorable to true oratory. Agreeable inflections and easy variations of the voice, as far as they arise from, or are consistent with, just speaking, may deserve attention; but to substitute one unmeaning tune in the room of all the proprieties and graces of elocution, and then to applaud this mander under the appellation of musical speaking, implies a perversion of judgment which can admit of no defense. If public speaking must be musical, let the words be set to music in recitative, that these melodious speakers may no longer lie open to the sarcasm: «Do you read or sing ? if you sing, you sing very ill. It is much to be wondered at, that a kind of reading which has so little merit considered as music, and none at all considered as speaking, should be so studiously practiced, and so much admired. Can a method of reading, which is so entirely different from the usual manner of conversation, be natural or right? Or is it possible, that all the varieties of sentiment which a public speaker has occasion to introduce, should be properly expressed in one melodious tone and cadence, employed alike on all occasions, and for all purposes ?
ACQUIRE A Just Variety OF PAUSE AND INFLECTION
are not only necessary in order to enable the speaker to take breath without inconvenience, and hereby preserve the command of his voice, but in order to give the hearer a distinct perception of the construction and meaning of each sentence, and a clear understanding of the whole. An uninterrupted rapidity of utterance is one of the worst faults in elocution. A speaker who has this fault may be compared to an alarm bell, which, when once put in motion, clatters on till the weight that moves it is run down. Without pauses the spirit of what is delivered must be lost, and the sense must appear confused, and may even be misrepresented in a manner most absurd and contradictory. There have been reciters who have made Douglas say to Lord Randolph: “We fought and conquer'd ere a sword was drawn.»
In executing this part of the office of a speaker, it will by no means be sufficient to attend to the points used in printing; for these are far from marking all the pauses which ought to be made in speaking. A mechanical attention to these resting places has, perhaps, been one cause of monotony, by leading the reader to a uniform cadence at every full period. The primary use of points is to assist the reader in discerning the grammatical construction; and it is only indirectly that
they regulate his pronunciation. In reading, it may often be proper to make a pause where the printer has made none. Nay, it is very allowable, for the sake oi pointing out the sense more strongly, preparing the audience for what is to follow, or enabling the speaker to alter the tone or height of the voice, sometimes to make a very considerable pause where the grammatical construction requires none at all. In doing this, however, it is necessary that upon the word immediately preceding the pause the voice be suspended in such a manner as to intimate to the hearer that the sense is not completed. The power of suspending the voice at pleasure is one of the most useful attainments in the art of speaking; it enables the speaker to pause as long as he chooses, and still keep the hearer in expectation of what is to follow.
In order to perceive the manner in which this effect is produced, it is necessary to consider pauses as connected with those inflections of the voice which precede them. These are of two kinds: one of which conveys the idea of continuation; the other, that of completion; the former may be called the suspending, the latter the closing, pause. Thus in the sentence,-«Money, like manure, does no good till it is spread,”
- the first and second pauses give the hearer an expectation of something further to complete the sense; the third pause denotes that the sense is completed.
There are, indeed, cases in which, though the sense is not completed, the voice takes the closing rather than the suspending pause. Thus, where a series of particulars are enumerated, the closing pause is, for the sake of variety, admitted in the course of the enumeration; but in this case the last word or clause of the series takes the suspending pause, to intimate to the hearer the connection of the whole series with what follows. For example: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. On the contrary, interrogative sentences are terminated by the suspending pause, as in the following example: “Hold you the watch tonight ? – We do, my lord. -- Arm'd, say you ? - Arm'd, my lord.— From top to toe ?- My lord, from head to foot.) Except that where an interrogative pronoun or adverb begins a sentence it is usually ended with the closing pause, as: “Why should that name be sounded more than yours ? » and that, where two questions are united in one sentence, and connected by the conjunction or, the first takes the suspending, the second the closing, pause, as: “Would you have been Cæsar, or Brutus ?» It may, notwithstanding, be received as a general rule, that the suspending pause is used where the sense is incomplete, and the closing where it is finished.
The closing pause must not be confounded with that fall of the voice, or cadence, with which many readers uniformly finish a sentence. Nothing can be more destructive of all propriety and energy than this habit. The tones and heights at the close of a sentence ought to be diversified according to the gen. eral nature of the discourse, and the particular construction and meaning of the sentence. In plain narrative, and especially in argumentation, the least attention to the manner in which we relate a story, or maintain an argument in conversation, will show that it is more frequently proper to raise the voice than to fall it at the end of a sentence. Some sentences are so constructed that the last words require a stronger emphasis than any of the preceding; while others admit of being closed with a soft and gentle sound. Where there is nothing in the sense which requires the last sound to be elevated or emphatical, an easy fall, sufficient to show that the sense is finished, will be proper. And in pathetic pieces, especially those of the plaintive, tender, or solemn kind, the tone of the passion