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Within a certain compass of notes, above or below which articulation would be difficult, propriety of speaking requires variety in the height, as well as in the strength and tone of the voice. Different kinds of speaking require different heights of voice. Nature instructs us to relate a story, to support an argument, to command a servant, to utter exclamations of rage or anger, and to pour forth lamentations and sorrows, not only with different tones, but with different elevations of voice. Men, at different ages of life, and in different situations, speak in very different keys. The vagrant, when he begs; the soldier, when he gives the word of command; the watchman, when he announces the hour of the night; the sovereign, when he issues his edict; the senator, when he harangues; the lover, when he whispers his tender tale; do not differ more in the tones which they use, than in the key in which they speak. Reading and speaking, therefore, in which all the variations of expression in real life are copied, must have continual variations in the height of the voice. - *:
To acquire the power of changing the key in which you speak at pleasure, accustom yourself to pitch your voice in different keys, from the lowest to the highest 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 endeavouring 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 Shakspeare’s “All the World's a Stage,” &c., and in his description of the Queen of the Fairies”.
* See Book vii, Chap. 18 and 23, of this work.
It 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 perfectly 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 learning 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 oo, 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 it's proper Accxnt.
A s, when any stringed musical instrument receives a smart percussion, it's 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 to distinguish from each other the words of which a sentence is composed: without it, the ear would perceive nothing but an 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, one more forcible than the other, but both sufficiently 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 conveying 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 dependance, and conveys their full 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 count'nance more in Sorrow, than in Anger. A custom more honour'd in the Breach, than in the Observance.
* Book iii, Chap. 2.
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;
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.
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 a
discourse, should be distinguished in the same manner. Emphasis may also serve to intimate some allusion, to ex
press surprise, or to convey an oblique hint. For example:
While expletives their feeble aid do join.
And Brutus is an HonourABLE 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 ein is: Do you intend to go to London this summer?