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PART I

CLEARNESS OF MEANING

CHAPTER I

THE RELATION OF THOUGHT AND SPEECH

There is no worse arrangement than for one to make pretensions to the spirit of a thing while the sense and letter of it are not clear to him. (GOETHE: Wilhelm Meister.)

1. What reading aloud involves OUR first duty in reading aloud is to get a clear under. standing of the meaning of what we read. Whether we read the literature that instructs, or tells a story, or describes a scene, or portrays a character, we must give the meaning the author intended to convey in every phrase and sentence. There can be little delight in “ the vision of the sky” when the lines

Slow fades the vision of the sky,

The golden water pales, are read with such emphasis on “ water" and dropping of the voice on “pales” as to suggest to the listener that the foreground of the picture is composed of water pails. Nor are the emotions of tenderness apt to be strongly aroused when we are told that “ Silas Marner decided to keep the child (who was frozen one evening) outside his house in the snow.” Thoughtless utterance of words often results in such misstatement and misrepresentation of meaning. It never reveals the finer shades of thought nor contributes to words the significant variety of living speech.

Words are not the whole of speech, nor is the utterance of them all there is to reading. The meaning conveyed through them is determined by the way they are spoken. For example, so simple an expression as “ It is a beautiful day” may be uttered as an assertion of the fact that the day

is beautiful, or in concurrence with the opinion of another that the day is beautiful, or implying that, though the day is beautiful, the night was wild, or it may be so spoken as to imply the opposite of that which the words themselves assert, that the day is anything but beautiful. The sense conveyed depends on the intention of the speaker. If he have no definite intention, his speech will reveal that too, whether the words are spoken in conversation or read from the pages of a book. The reader's task is to find out what the author means, then to speak that meaning truthfully.

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2. Sight reading and preparation for utterance It is obvious that to read well one must prepare well, as well and thoroughly as time permits. Even sight reading involves preparation, though the time for it is necessarily brief. The preparation must be made during pauses and intervals of silence. When reading at sight, the reader must gather the thoughts as he goes along, hastily and piecemeal, it is true, yet words should not be spoken until their meaning is known. If the reader has nothing but words to speak, he has nothing to say. When he has thought the author's thought after him, and not till then, is he ready to speak. The inexperienced reader is apt to speak words one by one as they meet the eye. Not until the phrase or sentence is spoken does he know what the meaning is. But he should remember that he is not reading for himself alone, but to communicate thought to others, and this thought cannot be clearly, easily, and pleasantly communicated until he himself knows what he is saying. The monotonous and "sing-song” reading, so often heard in the classroom and elsewhere, is due largely to this heavy-eyed glimpsing and perfunctory voicing of words without definite knowledge of what they mean.

In sight reading, as well as in the reading of that with which one is familiar, the eye should be trained to precede the voice. During pauses between phrases, sentences, and paragraphs the reader has an opportunity to familiarize himself with what follows. This, indeed, is what pauses are for. They are the intervals in which the mind prepares itself for speech. The thoroughness of this preparation depends on the alertness of the vision and the mind. The beginner finds it difficult to grasp even a short group of words in advance of utterance. But with practice the eye becomes apt in the forward look which apprehends all that cool reason may comprehend. Then word reading will give place to thought-getting and thought-giving. Then the spoken word will mean more to others because it first means something to the reader.

. 3. Vocal evidence of clear thought The voice, when under the guidance of mind and eye, will tend to respond, as in spirited conversation, to the demands of the thought. Monotonous, hesitant, and stumbling speech indicates that the reader does not know what he is saying until he has said it, and even then he may not be sure of its meaning. Thoughtful reading is marked by the variety of utterance characteristic of conversation, and variety is the direct result of thinking at the time of speech. Try the following paragraph, pausing between the phrases, indicated by dashes, long enough to permit the eye to see all the words in the next phrase, and the mind to get ite sense before the words are spoken. Read the passage again and again until the forward look becomes easy. When the attention is thus centered in the thought carried by the words, and not limited to the words themselves, the reading will show it by the natural emphasis and variety found in animated conversation.

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