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I The rules in the larger type should be committed to memory. +
The compiler of this work having, in the preface to the “ English Reader,” explained at large the principles of elocution, nothing on this head seems to be necessary in the present publication, but to give a few plain and simple rules, adapted to the younger class of learners; and to make some observations calculated to rectify the errors which they are most apt to commit. These rules may be comprehended under the following heads. They are comprised in few words, and a little separated from the observations, that those teachers who wish their pupils to commit them to memory, may more readily distinguish them from the parts which require only an attentive perusal.
General Rules for Reading. I. All the simple sounds should be pronounced with fulness, distinctness, and energy; particularly the vowels, on the proper utterance of which, the force and beauty of pronunciation greatly depend.
The simple sounds, especially those signified by the letters l, 1, 3, th, and sh, are often very imperfectly pronounced by young persons. B and p. are apt to be confounded: so are d and t, s and z, f and o. The letters o and w are often sounded the one for the other : thus, wine is pronounced vine ; and vinegar, winegar. The diphthong ow is, in some words, vulgarly sounded
as foller, meller, winder; instead of follow, mellow, window. When several consonants proper to be sounded, oc cur in the beginning or at the end of words, it is a very common error to omit one of them in pronunciation: as in the words asps, casks, guests, breadth, fifth, twelfth, strength, hearths. Not sounding the letter h, when it is proper to sound this letter, is a great fault in pronunciation, and very difficult wholly to correct.
When children have acquired any improper habits with respect to simple sounds, the best mode of correction is to make
like er :
them frequently repeat words and sentences, in which those sounds occur. When the simple sounds are thoroughly understood and acquired, the various combinations of them into syllables and words will be easily effected.
II. In order to give spirit and propriety to pronunciation, due attention must be paid to accent, emphasis, and cadence.
When we distinguish a syllable by a greater stress of the voice, it is called accent. When we thus distinguish any word in a sentence, it is called emphasis. It is difficult to give precise rules for placing the accent; but the best general direction is, to consult the most approved pronouncing dictionaries, and to imitate the practice of the most correct speakers.
There are, in every sentence, some word or words, on which the sense of the rest depends; and these must always be distinguished by a fuller and stronger sound of the voice, whether they are found in the beginning, the middle, or at the end of the sentence. It is highly improper to lay an emphasis on words of little importance.-Words put in opposition to each other, are always emphatical : as “ Here I am miserable ; but there I shall be happy. “ Children,” says Beattie, “are not often trught to read with proper emphasis. When books are put before them which they do not understand, it is impossible they should apply it properly. Let them, therefore, read nothing but what is level to their capacity. Let them read deliberately, and with attention to every word. Let them be set right, not only when they misapply the emphasis, but also cautioned against the opposite extremes of too forcible and too feeble an application of it: for, by the former of these faults they become affected in their utterance; and by the latter, insipid.” That children may be enabled to apply the emphasis with judgment, they should carefully study the subject, and ascertain the meaning of every difficult word and sentence, previously to their being called to read to the teacher.
As emphasis consists in raising the voice, cadence signifies the falling of it. Towards the close of a sentence, the cadence takes place, unless the concluding words be emphatical. It should always be casy and gradual, not abrupt; and should never be expressed in a feeble and languid manner. Even the falling of the Foice may be managed with spirit and variety.
III. As the art of reading greatly depends on the proper management of the breath, it should be used with economy. The voice ought to be relieved at every stop ; slightly at a comma, more leisurely at a semicolon, or a colon; and completely at a period.
A due attention to this rule will prevent a broken, faint, and languid voice, which is the usual fault of ignorant and vulgar readers. It will enable the reader to preserve the command of his voice; to pronounce the longest sentence with as much ease as the shortest; and to acquire that freedom and energy, with which a person of judgment naturally expresses his perceptions, emotions, and passions, in common discourse.
The comma marks the shortest pause ; the semicolon, a pause double that of the comma; the colon, double that of the semicolon; and the period, double that of the colon. A dash following a stop, shows that the pause is to be greater than if the stop were alone ; and when used by itself, requires a pause of such length as the sense alone can determine. A paragraph requires a pause double that which is proper at a period.
The points of interrogation and exclamation are uncertain as to their time. The pause which they demand is equal to a semicolon, a colon, or a period, as the sense may require. They should be attended with an elevation of the voice. The parenthesis, unless accompanied with a stop, requires but a small pause. It geperally marks a moderate depression of the voice.
IV. Let the tone of the voice in reading be the same as it would be in speaking on the same subjecte
To render this rule proper and effectual, children should be taught to speak slowly, distinctly, and with due attention to the sentiments they express. The mode of speaking is then only to be imitated by the reader, when it is just and natural.
V. Endeavor to vary and modulate the voice according to the nature of the subject, whether it be in a solemn, a serious, a familiar, à gay, a humorous, or an ironical strain.
It would be highly improper to read an interesting narrative, with an air of negligence; to express warm emotions of the heart, with cold indifference; and to pronounce a passage of Scripture, on a sublime and important subject, with the familiar tone of com. mon conversation. On the other hand it would be absurd to read a letter on trivial subjects, in a mournful strain; or a production of gaiety and humor, with grave formality.
VI. In reading verse the same general directions must be observed, as have been given for reading prose.
Narrative, didactic, descriptive, and pathetic pieces, have the same peculiar tone and manner, in poetry as in prose. A sing. ing note, and making the lines jingle by laying too great stress on the rhyming words should be particularly avoided. A very small pause ought to be made at the end of a line, unless the sense, or some of the usual marks of pause, require a considerable one.
The great rule for reading verse, as well as prose; is to read slowly, distinctly, and in a natural tone of voice.
We shall now caution young readers against some faults which many are apt to commit. In doing this, it will unavoidably happen, that a few of the preceding observations will, in some respects, be repeated: but this confirmation of the rules will, it is presumed, be no disadvantage to the learners. A display of the various errors in reading, incident to children, may make a greater impression, than directions which are positive, and point only to the propriety of pronunciation.
Rules for the government of the voice.
1. Avoid too loud, or too low a voice.
An overstrained voice is very inconvenient to the reader, as well as disgusting to the hearer. It exhausts the reader's spirits; and prevents the proper management and modulation of his voice, according to the sense of his subject; and it naturally leads into a tone. Too low a voice is not so‘inconvenient to the speaker, as the other extreme: but it is very disagreeable to the hearer. It is always offensive to an audience, to observe any thing, in the, reader or speaker, that marks indolence or inattention. When the voice is naturally too loud, or too low, young persons should cor. rect it in their ordinary conversation ; by this means they will learn to avoid both the extremes in reading. They should begin the sentence with an even, moderate voice, which will enable them to rise or fall, as the subject requires.
2. Avoid a thick, confused, cluttering voice.
It is very disagreeable to hear a person mumble, clip, or swal. low his words ; Teaving out some syllables in the long words, and scarcely ever pronouncing some of the short ones; but hurrying on without any care to give his words their full sound, or his hearers the full sense of them. This fault is not easily cured. The best means of mending it, is to endeavor, both in conversation and reading, to pronounce every word in á deliberate, clear and distinct manner.