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Sheridan says ;
tion comes not so much from bad organs as from the abuse of good ones.
6 In several northern counties of England, there are scarce any of the inhabitants who can pronounce the letter R at all. Yet it would be strange to suppose that all those people should have been so unfortunately distinguished from other natives of this island, as to be born with any peculiar defect in their organs, when this matter is so plainly to be accounted for upon the principle of imitation and habit.” Though provincialisms are fewer in this country than in most others, a similar incapacity is witnessed, in families or districts more or less extensive, to speak certain letters or syllables, which are elsewhere spoken with perfect ease. The same fact extends to different nations. There are some sounds of the English language, as the nice distinction between d and t, and between the two aspirated sounds of th, that adult natives of France and Germany cannot learn to pronounce. Some sounds in their languages are equally difficult to us; but this implies no original difference of vocal organs. And surely no defect in these need be supposed, to account for stubborn imperfections in the utterance of those who from infancy have been under the influence of vulgar example.
Besides the mischief that comes from early imitation, the animal and intellectual temperament doubtless has some connexion with this subject. A sluggish action of the mind imparts a correspondent character to the action of the vocal organs, and makes speech only a succession of indolent, half-formed sounds, more resembling the muttering of a dream than the clear articulation, which we ought to expect in one who knows what he is saying.
Excess of vivacity, on the other hand, or excess of sensibility, often produce a hasty, confused utterance. Delicacy speaks in a timid, feeble voice ; and the fault of indistinctness is often aggravated in a bashful child, by the indiscreet chidings of his teacher, designed to push him into greater speed in spelling out his early lessons; while he has little familiarity with the form and sound, and less with the meaning of words.
The way is now prepared to notice some of those difficulties in articulation, which arise from the sounds to be spoken.
The first and chief difficulty lies in the fact that articulation consists essentially in the consonant sounds, and that
many of these are difficult of utterance. My limits do not allow me to illustrate this by a minute analysis of the elements of speech. It is evident to the slightest observation that the open vowels are uttered with ease and strength. On these, public criers swell their notes to so great a compass.
On these too, the loudest notes of music are formed. Hence the great skill which is requisite to distinct articulation in music; for the stream of voice, which flows so easily on the vowels and half vowels, is interrupted by the occurrence of a harsh consonant; and not only the sound, but the breath, is entirely stopped by a mute. In singing, for example, any syllable which ends, with p, k, d, or t, all the sound must be uttered on the preceding vowel; for when the organs come to the proper position for speaking the mute, the voice instantly
Let any experienced singer, carefully try the experiment of speaking, in the notes of a slow tune, these
With earnest longings of the mind,
My God, to thee I look. Each syllable should be spoken by itself, with a pause after it. In this way it will appear that where the syllable ends with a consonant, especially a mute, the stream of sound is emitted on the preceding vowel, but is broken off when the consonant is finished. This is the case with the syllables mind, God, look; the moment the organs come into a position to speak d or k they are shut, so as to stop both sound and breath. But in the syllables my, to, thee, 1,--the closing vowel sounds are perfectly formed at once, and may be continued indefinitely, without any change of the organs. The common mode of singing, indeed, is but a mere succession of musical notes, or open vowel sounds, varying in pitch, with little attempt to articulate the consonant sounds. This explains what has sometimes been thought a mystery, that stammering persons find little difficulty in reading poetry, and none in singing ; ;* whereas they stop at once in speaking, when they come to certain consonants. Any one who would practically understand this subject, should recollect that the distinction between human speech, and the inarticulate sounds of brutes, lies not in the vowels, but in the consonants; and that in a defective utterance of these, bad articulation primarily consists.
[The reader is apprised that the marginal numbers beginning at this place, direct to correspondent numbers in the EXERCISES. To avoid confusion in the body of the work, but few examples for illustration are inserted. Any
* This is partly owing also to a deliberate, metrical movement.
principle that requires special attention and practice is marked with figures on the left hand, and the same figures in the Exercises point to examples which should be practiced with a view to the more perfect understanding of the principle.]
1.] A second difficulty arises from the immediate succession of the same or similar sounds. The
poet derstood the principles of euphony in language better than any other English writer, has exemplified this in translating a line of Homer respecting the stone of Sisyphus, where the recurrence of the aspirates and vowels is designed to represent difficulty.
Up the high hill he heaves a huge round stone. In another case he purposely produces a beavy movement, by the collision of open vowels;
Tho? oft the ear the open vowels tire. Every scholar knows that the Greeks adopted many changes in the combination of syllables to render their language euphonic, by avoiding such collisions.*
But a greater difficulty still is occasioned by the inmediate recurrence of the same consonant sound, without the intervention of a vowel or a pause. The following are examples; “ For Christ's sake.” 66 The hosts still stood.” “ The battle lasís still.” The illustration will be more intelligible from examples in which bad articulation affects the sense.
Wastes and deserts ;- Waste sand deserts.
* On this account they wrote πάντ' έλεγον for πάντα έλεγον και αφ' ου for από ου και καγώ for και εγω ; δέδωκεν αυτώ for δέδωκε αυτή &c.
His cry moved me ;-His crime moved me.
Two successive sounds are to be formed here, with the organs in the same position ; so that, without a pause between, only one of the single sounds is spoken ; and the difficulty is much increased when sepse or grammatical relation forbids such a pause ; as between the simple nominative and the verb, the verb and its object, the adjective and its substantive. In the last example, “he could pain nobody,”—grammar forbids
pause between pain and nobody, while orthöepy demands one. But change the structure so as to render a pause proper after pain, and the difficulty vanishes ;—thus, “Though he endured great pain, nobody pitied him.”
2.) A third difficulty arises from the influence of accent. The importance which this stress attaches to syllables on which it falls requires them to be spoken in a more full and deliberate manner than others. Hence, if the recurrence of this stress is too close, it occasions heaviness in utterance; if too remote, indistinctness. An example of the former kind, we have from the poet before mentioned;
And ten low words oft creep in one dull line. This too is an additional reason for the difficult utterance of the line lately quoted from the same writer ;
Up the high hill be heaves a huge round stone. The poet compels us, in spite of metrical harmony, to lay an accent on each syllable.
But the remoteness of accent in other cases involves a greater difficulty still; because the intervening syllables