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themselves, nor to have any desire that it should be understood or felt by their audience. This is a fundamental fault': a speaker without energy is a lifeless statue.
In order to acquire a forcible manner of pronouncing your words, inure yourself, while reading, to draw in as much air as your lungs can contain with ease, and to expel it with vehemence, in uttering those sounds which require an emphatical pronunciation; read aloud in the open air, and with all the exertion you can command; preserve your body in an erect attitude while your are speaking; let all the consonant sounds be expressed with a full impulse or percussion of the breath, and a forcible action of the organs employed in forming them; and let all the vowel sounds have a full and bold utterance. Continue these exercises with perseverance, till you have acquired strength and energy of speech.
But, in observing this rule, beware of running into the extreme of vociferation. This fault is chiefly found among those, who, in contempt and despite of all rule and propriety, are determined to command the attention of the vulgar. These are the speakers, who, in Shakspeare's phrase, "offend the judicious hearer to the soul, by tearing a passion to rags to very tatters, to split the ears of the groundlings." Cicero compares such speakers to cripples, who get on horsebackbecause they cannot walk: they bellow, because they cannot speak..
Acquire compass and variety in the height of your voice. THE HE monotony so much complained of in public speakers is chiefly owing to the neglect of this rule. They commonly content themselves with one certain key, which they employ on all occasions, and upon every subject: or if they attempt variety, it is only in proportion to the number of their hearers, and the extent of the place in which they speak; imagining, that speaking in a high key is the same thing as speaking loud; and not observing, that whether a speaker shall be heard or not depends more upon the distinctness and force, with which he utters his words, than upon the height of the key in which he speaks.
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.
Pronounce your words with propriety and elegance. 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 z, 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 ACCENT.
As, 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 custom more honour'd in the Breach, than in the Observance... * Book iii, Chap. 2.