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PRONUNCIATION OR DELIVERY.
The great objects to which every public speaker should direct his attention in forming his delivery, are, first to speak so as to be fully and easily understood by his hearers; and next to express himself with such grace and energy as to please and to move them.
To be fully and easily understood, the chief requi. sites are a due degree of loudness of voice, distinctness, slowness, and propriety of pronunciation.
To be heard is undoubtedly the first requisite. The speaker must endeavour to fill with his voice the space occupied by the assembly. Though this power of voice is in a great measure a natural talent, it may receive considerable assistance from art. Much depends on the proper pitch and management of the voice. Eve ery man ha
three pitches in his voice, the high, the middle, and the low. The high is used in calling aloud to some one at a distance ; the low approaches to a whisper; the middle is that which is employed in common conversation, and which should generally be used in public speaking. For it is a great error to suppose that the highest pitch of the voice is requisite to be well beard by a great assembly. This is confounding two things materially different, loudness or strength of sound with the key or pote on which we speak. The voice may be rendered louder without altering the key ; and the speaker will always be able to give most body, most persevering force of sound to that pitch of voice to which in conversation he is accustomed. IVhereas, if he begin on the highest key, he will fatigue himself, and speak with pain ; and wherever a man speaks with pain to himself, he is always heard with pain by his audience. Give the voice, therefore, full strength and şwell of sound; but always pitch it on your ordinary speaking key ; a greater quantity of voice should never be uttered than can be afforded without pain, and without any extraordinary effort. To be well heard it is useful for a speaker to fix his eye on some of the most distant persons in the assembly, and to consider hims
self as speaking to them. We naturally and mechani. cally utter our words with such strength as to be heard by the one to whom we address ourselves, provided he be within the reach of our voice. This is the case in public speaking, as well as in common conversation. But it must be remembered that speaking too loudly is peculiarly offensive. The ear is wounded when the voice comes upon it in rumbling, indistinct masses ; besides it appears as if assen: were demanded by mere vehemence and force of sound.
To being well heard and clearly understood, distinctness of articulation is more conducive perhaps than mere loudness of sound. The quantity of sound requisite to fill even a large space, is less than is commonly supposed; with distinct articulation a man of a weak voice will make it extend farther than the strongest voice can reach without it. This therefore demands peculiar attention. The speaker must give every sound its due proportion, and make every syllable, and even every letter, be heard distinctly. To succeed in this, rápidity of pronunciation must be avoided. A lifea less, drawling
method, however, is not to be indulged. To pronounce with a proper degree of slowness and with full and clear articulation cannot be too industria ously studied, nor too earnestly recommended. Such pronunciation gives weight and dignity to a discourse. It assists the voice by the.pauses and rests which it allows it more easily to make; and it enables the speaker to swell all his sounds with more energy and more music, It assists him also in preserving a due command of himself; whereas a rapid and hurried manner excites that flutter of spirits which is the greatest enemy to all right execution in oratory.
To propriety of pronunciation nothing is more conducive than giving to every word which we utter that sound which the most polite usagé appropriates to it, in opposition to broad, vulgar, or provincial pronuncia. tion. On this subject, however, written instructions avail nothing. But there is one observation which it may be useful to make. In our language every word
of more syllables than one, has one accented syllable. The genius of the language requires the voice to mark that syllable by a strong precussion, and to pass more slightly over the rest. The same accent should be given to every word in public speaking, and in comnon discourse. Many persons err in this respect. When they speak in public and with solemnity, they pronounce differently from what they do at other times. They dwell upon syllables, and protract them; they multiply accents on the same word from a false idea that it gives gravity and force to their discourse, and increases the pomp of public declamation. But this is one of the greatest faults which can be committed in pronunciation ; it constitutes what is termed a theatri. cal or mouthing manner, and gives an artificial affecied air to speech ; which detracts greatly from its agreeableness and its impression.
We shall now treat of those higher parts of delivery, by studying which, a speaker endeavours, not merely lo render himself intelligible, but to give grace and force to what he utters. These may be comprehended under four heads, emphasis, pauses, tones and ges
By emphasis is meant a fuller and stronger sound of voice, by which we distinguish the accented syllable of some word on which we intend to lay particular stress, and to show how it affects the rest of the sentence. To acquire the proper management of emphasis, the only rule is, study to acquire a just conception of the force and spirit of those sentiments which you are to deliver, In all prepared discourses it would be extremely usesul if they were read over or rehearsed in private, with a view of ascertaining the proper cmphasis before they were pronounced in public ; marking at the same time the emphatical words in every sentence, or at least in the most important parts of the discourse, and fixing ihem well in memory. A caution, however, must be given against multiplying emphatical words too much. They become striking only when used with prudent re
If they recur 100 frequently ; if a speaker at
tempt to render every thing which he says, of high importance, by a multitude of strong emphasis, they will soon fail to excite the attention of his hearers.
Next to emphasis, pauses demand attention. They are of two kinds ; first, emphatical pauses ; and secondly, such as mark the distinctions of sense.
An em... phatical pause is made after something has been said of peculiar moment, on which we wish to fix the hear. er's attention. Sometimes a matter of importance is - preceded by a pause of this nature. Such pauses have the same effect with strong emphasis, and are subject to the same rules ; especially to the caution just now given of not repeating them too frequently. For, as they excite uncommon attention, and consequently raise expectation, if this be not fully answered, they occasion disappointment and disgust.
But the most frequent and the principal use of pauses is to mark the division of the sense, and at the same time to permit the speaker to draw his breath; and the proper management of such pauses is one of the most nice and difficult articles in delivery. A proper command of the breath is peculiarly requisite. To obtain this, every speaker should be very careful to provide a full supply of breath for what he is to ulter. great mistake to suppose that the breath must be drawn only at the end of a period, when the voice is allowed to fall. It may easily be gathered at the intervals of a period, when the voice suffers only a momentary suspension. By this management a sufficient supply may be obtained for carrying on the longest period without improper interruptions.
Pauses in public discourse must be formed upon the manner in which we express ourselves in sensible conversation, and not upon the stiff artificial manner, which we acquire from perusing books according to common punctuation. Punctuation in general is very arbitrary; often capricious and false ; dictating a uniformity of tone in the pauses which is extremely unpleasing. For it must be observed, that, to render pauses graceful and expressive, they must not only be made in the right places, but also be accompanied by proper tones of
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voice ; by which the nature of these pauses is intimated much more than by their length which can neve er be exactly measured. Sometimes only a slight and simple suspension of the voice is proper ; sometimes a degree of cadence is requisite ; and sometimes that peculiar tone and cadence which mark the conclusion of a period. In all these cases a speaker is to regulate himself by the manner in which he speaks, when engaged in earnest discourse with others.
In reading or reciting verse there is a peculiar difficulty in making the pauses with propriety. There are two kinds of pauses which belong to the music of verse ; one at the end of a line, and the other in the middle of it. Rhyme always renders the former sensible, and compels observance of it in pronunciation. In blank verse it is less perceivable ; and when there is no suspension of the sense, it has been doubted whether in reading such verse any regard should be paid to the close of a line. On the stage, indeed, where the appearance of speaking in verse should be avoided, the close of such lines as make no pause in the sense, should not be rendered perceptible to the ear. On other occasions we ought, for the sake of melody, to read blank verse in such manner as to make each line sensible to the ear. In attempting this, however, every appearance of singsong and of tone must be cautious. ly avoided. The close of a line, where there is no pause in the meaning, should be marked by only so slight a suspension of sound, as may distinguish the passage from one line to another, without injuring the
The pause in the middle of the line falls after the 4th, 5th, 6th, or 7th syllable, and no other. When this pause coincides with the slightest division in the sense, the line may be read with ease; as in the two first verses of Pope's Messiah.
Ye nymphs of Solyma, begin the song,
But if words that have so intimate a connexion as not to admit even a momentary separation, be divided