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READING AND SPEAKING.
A JUST delivery consists in a distinct articulation of words, pronounced in proper tones, suitably varied to the sense, and the emotions of the mind; with due attention to accent; to emphasis, in its several gradations; to rests or pauses of the voice, in proper places and well measured. degrees of time; and the whole accompanied with expressive looks, and significant gestures. That the pupil may be assisted in forming a correct method of reading and speaking, a few rules shall be laid down, pointing out a proper use of each of those necessary parts of a just delivery. And first of
Let your articulation be distinct, slow, and forcible. A GOOD articulation consists in giving every letter in a syllable, its due proportion of sound, according to the most approved custom of pronouncing it; and in making such a distinction between the syllables, of which the words are composed, that the ear shall without difficulty acknowledge their number; and easily perceive to which syllable each letter belongs. Inattention to these points occasions an indistinct, quick, and weak articulation.
The faults of articulation, such as stuttering, hesitation, lisping, and inability to pronounce certain letters, can never be cured by precept alone; these must be remedied by a person skilled in the causes of those faults; who by teaching each individual how to use the organs of speech rightly, and by shewing him the proper position of his tongue, lips, &c. may gradually bring him to a just articulation.
Distinctness is the most essential point in articulation. Indistinctness, the greatest fault, is occasioned by too great a precipitancy of speech. To this hasty delivery which drops some letters, and pronounces others too faintly; which runs syllables into each other, and clusters words together; is owing to thick, mumbling, cluttering utterance which so much prevails. Demosthenes laboured under many natural defects, but by his diligence and exertion, he corrected them, and became the greatest orator in the world.* This truth is a happy encouragement to all, who have any natural imperfections in utterance, to exhibit the same example of diligence, to perfect themselves in a just delivery.
The best method to correct too quick an utterance, is to read aloud passages chosen for that purpose, (such as abound with long and unusual words,) and to read, at certain stated times, much slower than the sense and just speaking would require.+
Learn to speak slow; all other graces
Let your pronunciation be bold and forcible. PRONUNCIATION means the giving to every word that sound which the most polite usage of the language appropriates to it, in opposition to broad,vulgar, and affected pronunciation.
Moderation in pronouncing is essential to just delivery. Precipitancy of speech confounds all articulation, and all meaning. Where there is an uniform rapid utterance, there cannot be any strong emphasis, natural tones, or just elocution. In order to acquire a forcible pronunciation, read aloud in the open air, and with all the exertion you can command; let all consonant sounds be expressed with a full percussion of the breath, and a forcible action of the organs employed in forming ther; and let all the vowel sounds have a full and boid * See Chapter XIII. † See Chapter VIII:
utterance. Practise these rules till you have acquired strength and energy of speech.
In observing this rule, care must be taken, lest the extreme be adopted. A lifeless, drawling pronunciation renders every performance insipid, flat and languid, and should be avoided. A speaker without energy is like a lifeless statue. But the extreme of speaking too fast and too loud must be avoided, as offensive to all elegance and propriety of utterance.
Let every Word, consisting of more than one Syllable, be pronounced with its proper Accent.
ACCENT is the laying of a peculiar stress of the voice on a certain letter or syllable in a word, that it may be better heard than the rest, or distinguished from them.
Every word of more than one syllable has one accented syllable. When the accent is on the consonant, the syllable should be pronounced with a quick and forcible percussion; as, bat'tle, hal'it, pulpit. When the accent is on the vowel, the percussion should be less forcible, and the syllable should be lengthened; as father, bōly, glory. Monosyllables are also accented; as, add', led', bid', rod.
In accenting words, the general custom and a good ear are the best guides; observing at the same time, that accent should be regulated by the number and nature of simple sounds, and not by any arbitrary rules of quantity. The essence of English words consists in accent; as that of syllables, in articulation. We know that there are as many syllables as we hear articulate sounds, and as many words as we hear accents.
All persons who pronounce words properly, of course lay the accent right, as that is part of pronunciation; and never fail to do so in conversation. But when they come to read or speak in public, transgress the rules of accent. Let this simple and easy rule be adopted by
those who read or speak in public, to lay the accent always on the same syllables, and the same letter of the syllable, which they usually do in common discourse, and to take care not to lay any accent or stress upon any other syllable.*
Let the most significant Vords in a Sentence be marked by a natural, forcible, and varied Emphasis.
EMPHASIS discharges the same office in sentences, as accent does in words As accent connects syllables together, and forms them into words; so emphasis unites words together, and forms them into sentences, or members of a sentence. Accent dignifies syllables, emphasis ennobles words, and presents them in a stronger light to the understanding. Were there no accents, words would be resolved into their original syllables; were there no emphasis, sentences would be resolved into their original words; and consequently the hearer would be under the necessity of first making out the words, and afterwards their meaning.
The necessity of observing propriety of emphasis is so great, that the true meaning of words cannot be conveyed without it. For the same individual words, arranged in the same order, may have several different meanings, according to the placing of the emphasis. The following sentence may have as many different significations, as there are words in it, by varying the emphasis. "Shall you walk abroad to day?" By placing the emphasis on shall, as shall you walk abroad to-day? It implies that the person addressed had an intention, but a doubt in the questioner, whether he be determined or not; and the answer may be, Certainly, or, I am not sure. If the emphasis be on you, as Shall you walk abroad to-day? The answer may be, No, but my wife will. If on walk, as, Shall you walk abroad to day? The answer may be, No, but I shall ride. If on abroad
* See Chapter VIII
as, Shall you walk abroad to-day? The answer may be, No, I must be about home. If the emphasis be placed on to-day, as, Shall you walk abroad to-day? The answer may be, No, but I shall to-morrow.
So also in this sentence, "Judas, betrayest thou the Son of Man with a kiss?" Betrayest thou, makes the reproach rest upon the infamy of treachery. Betrayest thou, turns the disgrace upon the connexion of Judas with his Master. Betrayest thou the Son of Man, rests it on the character and eminence of our Saviour. Betrayest thou the Son of Man with a kiss? places the reproach upon Judas's prostituting the token of love and friendship to the purpose of a mark of destruction. Such is the importance of rightly placing the emphasis, that the whole life and spirit of reading and speaking depend upon it.
If no emphasis be placed on any words, every performance will be heavy and lifeless, and the meaning unintelligible. Should the emphasis be placed wrong the sense will be entirely confused.* Emphasis is either simple or complex. Simple, when it points out the plain meaning complex, when, besides, the meaning, it marks also some affection or emotion of the mind. Simple emphasis belongs to the calm and composed understanding; complex, to the fancy and passions. The following sentence contains an example of simple emphasis: "And Nathan said unto David, thou art the man." The emphasis on thou serves only to point out the meaning of the speaker. But in the following sentence, which contains the complex emphasis, we perceive an emotion of the speaker, superadded to the simple meaning: "Why will ye die?"
The emphasis often lies on the word that asks the question; as, Who said so? When will he come? What shall I do? Why dost thou weep? and when two words are set in contrast, or in opposition to one another, they are both emphatic ;t as, Washington is the father, not the tyrant, of the people; he was the saviour, not the traiter, of America.
*See Chapter VIII
† See Chapter II, for Examples,