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PRINCIPLES OF ELOCUTION.
ELOCUTION, as a department of ornamental education, in the art of speaking and reading according to a certain established standard of elegance. Instruction in the art may be said to have two objects, good colloquial or conversational speech, and the power of reading aloud and making formal addresses with effect. Some persons, when called upon to read or speak before a considerable multitude, deliver themselves in an ungainly manner; while others charm all who are present. It must be obvious, that to bring out the best powers of the voice, and extend the gift of agreeable speaking beyond the comparatively small circle in which it is usually found, are objects of considerable importance.
Elocution is divided into
I. ARTICULATION and PRONUNCIATION; under which are comprehended, distinctness, force, and freedom from provincialisms.
II. INFLECTION and MODULATION, which have a regard to the slides, shifts, and pauses of the voice, natural to certain constructions of language, and suited, with other modifications of the voice, as to force, height, and time, to the expression of certain sentiments and passions.
LII. EMPHASIS, which is to be guided by the comparative importance of words in a sentence.
*IV. GESTURE, comprehending those attitudes, motions, and looks, which are suitable to certain passions, and land force or embellishment to the meaning of the speaker
Speech," says Channing, “is one of our grand distinctions from the brute. A man was not made to shut up his mind in itself, but to exchange it for other mind Our power over others lies not so much in the amount of thought within us, as in the power of bringing it out. A man of more than ordinary intellectual vigour may, for want of the faculty of expression, be a cipher, without significance, in society. And not only does a man influence others, but he greatly aids his own intellect, by giving distinct and forcible utterance to his thoughts. Our social rank, too, depends a good deal on our power of utterance. The principal distinction between what are called gentlemen and the vulgar, lies in this: that the latter are awkward in manners, and are especially wanting in propriety, clearness, grace, and ease of utterance.”
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 words are composed, that the ear shall, without difficulty, acknowledge their number, and perceive, at once, to which syllable each letter belongs. Where these points are not observed, the articulation is proportionally defective.
Correct articulation is the most important exercise of the voice and of the organs of speech. A public speaker, possessed only of a moderate voice, if he articulate correctly, will be better understood, and heard with greater pleasure, than one who vociferates without judgment. The voice of the latter may, indeed, extend to a considerable distance; but, the sound is dissipated in confusion; of the former voice, not the smallest vibration is wasted; every stroke is perceived at the utmost distance to which it reaches, and hence it has often the appearance of penetrating even farther than one, which is loud but badly articulated.
In just articulation the words are not to be hurried over, nor precipitated syllable over syllable: nor, as it
were, melted together into a mass of confusion: they should be neither abridged, nor prolonged, nor swallowed, nor forced, and, (if I may so express it,) shot from the mouth; they should not be trailed, nor drawled, nor let to slip out carelessly, so as to drop unfinished; no, they are to be delivered out from the lips, as beautiful coins, newly issued from the mint, deeply and accurately impressed, perfectly finished, neatly struck by the proper organs, distinct, sharp, in due succession, and of due weight.
The difficulty of acquiring a correct articulation being unusually great in the English language, the foundation should be laid at that early age when the organs are most tractable.
Pronunciation points out the proper sounds of vowels and consonants, and the distribution of accent on syllables. As pronunciation is better, because more amply, taught in Dictionaries, it is unnecessary to attempt to give any rules for it in this place.
II. INFLECTION AND MODULATION. An inflection is a bending or sliding of the voice either upwards or downwards. There are two inflections; the one, called the Upward, or Rising Inflection; the other, the Downward, or Falling Inflection. In more simple terms—there is one inflection, which denotes that the sense, or meaning of the sentence is suspended, as,
To be carnally minded'; and another, which denotes that the sense is completed, as,
is death! To be carnally minded'-is-death'. To give a practical example, that must be understood by the dullest comprehension :- I am to give a person, two, three, four, five, or ten dollars-say, I am to give him five dollars. In counting, I must pronounce up to the fourth number with the rising inflection; that is, with the inflection denoting incompletion, thus :
One-Two-Three'-Four"-Five'. The numbers up to four are pronounced with the rising
inflection ; and nature dictates, that the numbers, one, two and three, which merely imply continuation, shall be pronounced with a less degree of the same inflection, than number “ Four,” which not only denotes continuation, but, it must denote, at the same time, by the greater elevation of the voice, that the next number completes the sum to be given. Let us apply this principle to sentences :
goodness of God"-must all be unbounded.'
They, through faith, subdued kingdoms-
flight the armies of the aliens'.
Before the pupil begins to study the rules of inflection, it is absolutely necessary that he understand distinctly the nature of the slides, and be able to inflect with ease, and in a full and sonorous voice. Many who instruct themselves, are apt, when they see the mark of the rising inflection on a word, to pronounce that word with loudness merely; and when they see the falling mark on a word, to give that word in a weak voice. Now, one may slide the voice to a great height, and yet not speak in a loud tone; and to a great depth, and not speak in a weak or
soft tone. It is as well, in the first attempts in inflection, to give it, whether rising or falling, in a loud tone; but care must be taken that the slide of the voice take place. If the pupil is apt to imagine, from a deficiency of tune, that he rises when he speaks loud, then his inflections ought to be given with great softness. When there is a tardiness, as in such cases, in apprehending the inflection, the pupil may find it the more readily in expressions of surprise, where it is more marked and produced, than in any other situation, as is heard in the word indeed, when anything remarkable is mentioned. A violin may be made to inflect, by sliding the finger up and down the same string, while the bow is drawn across. This will explain to those who have not the benefit of a master, the true nature of an inflection, and the difference between an inflection, and a sudden elevation or depression of the voice.
TABLE OF INFLECTIONS. The acute accent () denotes the rising inflection; and
the grave accent () the falling infection. One'--Two-Three'-Four-Five-Six'-Seven-Eight'
Nine'--Ten'-Eleven"-Twelve'. One'. One', two'. One', two', three'. One', two, three', four'. One', two', three', four', five'. One', two', three', four', five', six'. One', two', three', four', five', six', seven'. One', two', three', four', five', six', seven', eight! One', two', three', four', five', six', seven', eight, nine'. One', two', three', four', five', six', seven', eight', nine', ten'. One', two', three', four', five', six', seven', eight', nine', ten', el.
even'. One', iwo', three', four', five', six', seven', eight', nine', ten', el.
gave you two'. Did you give me two'?
gave you three'. Did you give me three'?
I gave you four Did you give me four”?
I gave you five' Did you give me five'?
I gave you six'. Did you give me six'?
I gave you seven'. Did you give me seven'? I gave you eight'.