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11. Word values within the phrase The particular meaning conveyed by any group of spoken words is determined largely by inflection and change of pitch.1 By means of these, attention is directed to significant words, which are lifted into prominence, while those of less importance are subordinated, as in the illustration above. Inflection and change of pitch are therefore important means of emphasis.
1. Emphasis by inflection. While every word in expressive speech has some inflectional variation, words in which the thought is most strongly centered are set out by infleotions of greater range and duration, the range and duration varying according to the purpose of the speaker and the importance of the thought. Suppose, for example, that some circumstance has arisen in which one is unable to decide at once upon a course of action or to state a definite opinion. The perplexity of the mind might be expressed by some such inflectional emphasis as this:-
say. But if one is being urged unexpectedly to speak and cannot think of anything to say, the sentence might be spoken thus:
I 1 How would you speak the sentence "There is honor among thieves” so
2. Emphasis by change of pitch. Significant words are often made prominent by change of pitch before or after them. Note how the word “now" is made emphatic by the upward leap of the voice in the command :
Often the change of pitch comes between the unaccented and accented syllables of the emphatic word, as in
3. Change of pitch essential to proper inflectional emphasis. Change of pitch itself is not only a means of emphasis, but it often helps to make inflectional emphasis possible by placing the important words on such a key that the emphatic rise and fall of the voice shall be within its easy range. In the following sentence the words “animal," “ unique," and "striking " receive strong rising inflections, yet it would be vocally impossible to give each of these words an equal inflectional range were it not for the downward leaps of the voice throughout the sentence, by which its melody is given balance and proportion. as to justify the reply, “Nonsense! thieves are just as bad as other people "? Repeat the sentence in a way to imply that even among thieves there is some sense of honor.
12. Phrase and clause relations As the pitch variation within the word-group belps to convey the exact meaning the speaker intends, so it reveals the relation between the ideas of the various phrases and clauses within the sentence.
1. Completeness of thought. Notwithstanding an old and arbitrary rule that the voice should rise at a comma and fall at a period, we find that in normal speech the voice often falls at a comma, or whenever, comma or no comma, the attention is momentarily centered on a phrase, the thought of which is clear and complete in itself and of sufficient importance to stand as an independent affirmation. Then one virtually “makes periods in the midst of sentences.” Take, for example, the following sentence from Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address. Beginning with the clause, “ let us finish the work we are in,” it, and each subsequent clause, states a thought complete in itself, and, in reading, each may be given the falling inflection of completeness, as indicated in the illustration :
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphans, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.1
The following sentences contain phrases which may be treated as complete in themselves :
There is the constitution, there are the laws, there is the government.
We would speak first of the Puritans, the most remarkable body of men perhaps which the world has ever produced.
2. Incompleteness of thought. When the thought is but partially stated in any phrase, and, in consequence, depends for its completion on others to follow, this dependence is shown by the rising inflection and the general upward trend of the voice. Attention is thus directed to what follows.
I find where I thought myself poor there I was most rich.
The plateau being somewhat tilted toward the west, this spot on which we had paused commanded a wide prospect on either
a. In expressions of doubt, entreaty, contradiction or opposition, the trend of the voice is often upward, for the reason that in such states of mind the thought is virtually
1 The inflections indicated in this sentence are not to be understood as representing the only ones that may be used in reading the lines. They are intended merely to illustrate one way of expressing the thought. The first portion of the quotation has not been marked. There is good ground for the use of either rising or falling inflection in rendering the opening phrases.
incomplete. Further information
Further information is desired or pected.
I thought I left my hat here. (Possibly I did n't. But where
is it?) I do not understand this. (Will you explain?)
Don't leave me here alone.
(Will you ?)
I did not say that.
(Explain or retract.) 6. Direct questions frequently take the rising inflection of incomplete thought. Attention is directed to the answer.1
Is this your book?
13. Subordination Change of pitch is an important factor in showing the relation of phrases to each other. In complex sentences in which central ideas are limited, qualified, or explained by subordinate phrases or clauses, these modifying word-groups are often spoken on a lower key and are passed over more quickly than are the clauses they support, but whether their pitch is lower or higher, their time of utterance faster or slower, depend on their importance and the judgment and purpose of the speaker. Sometimes a qualifying phrase may be given more prominence than any other in the sen
1 Students are often led into error by assuming that an interrogation point always demands the rising inflection. In many instances it does not. For ex. ample, when the question is uttered as a command, as an exclamation, or as an assertion of an assumed fact, the falling inflection is natural. Where are you going ? (You are evidently going somewhere.
Tell me.) Why did you do this ?
(It is done, but not according to instruo
tions. Explain.) Is n't this a beautiful day? (No one would deny it.) How did you enjoy the game? (Of course you enjoyed it.)