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16. The cause of emphasis As grouping and pitch variation are the result of thought, so thinking determines emphasis. Words are given prominence according as they serve to reveal the precise meaning the speaker wishes them to convey. Observe the different meanings brought out by shifting the emphasis in the following sentence:
I told you so. (It was I, not another, who told you.)
would n't believe me.)
17. Methods of emphasis The term “empbasis” is often thought of in a limited sense as referring merely to the added vocal force applied to a word to give it prominence; but there are several means of emphasis, of which vocal force, or loudness, is perhaps the least important. The setting out of particular words is effected in several ways, namely: by Inflection, Change of Pitch,1 Pause, Force, and Prolongation of Accented Vowels.2
1 See pages 52–55, sections 10 and 11, for discussion of Inflection and Ohange of Pitch as means of emphasis.
2 In ordinary, spirited utterance all these forms of emphasis frequently occur together on one word, and rarely is emphasis of a word confined to one form only. But in reading aloud and formal speaking there is a strong tendency to limit emphasis to one or two oft-repeated forms. This is one of the reasons why reading and public speaking often seem unnatural, stilted, or monotonous. In this chapter the different means of emphasis are considered separately in order to demonstrate that we do emphasize words in other ways than by force alone, and to offer exercise in each that may help to extend the use of all conversational means of emphasis to the expression of thought in reading aloud and formal public speaking.
1. Emphasis by pause. A word or phrase is often made emphatic by a pause, which pause may occur either before or after the word it sets out. Read aloud the lines quoted below from Longfellow's King Robert of Sicily, in which is described the action of the king when he finds himself imprisoned at night in the deserted church. First read the lines without pauses or very strict attention to their significance; then picture the situation, imagine the state of mind of the king as you describe his acts, read the sentence with definite pauses, as indicated by the dashes, and note how the pauses add emphasis and make the thought and situation clear and vivid.
He groped towards the door, but it was locked ;
He cried aloud, then listened, and then knocked. In reading aloud, the value of pause is often ignored, chiefly because the thought value of words is ignored. When the thought of the printed page becomes the clear, vivid thought of the reader, and when the desire to communicate it is definite and strong, pauses are frequent and natural. Time given to words is one way of measuring the ideas they stand for. It also gives the speaker and the listener opportunity to consider what is spoken.
The quotations below offer good illustrations of emphatio pause.
And yet Scrooge, having his key in the lock of the door, saw in the knocker, without its undergoing any immediate process of change, not — a knocker, but - Marley's face.
Dickens : Christmas Carol.
And besides this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue ; and to virtue — knowledge ; and to knowledge - temperance; and to temperance — patience; and to patience — godliness; and to godliness — brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness - charity."
II Peter, 1.
2. Emphasis by vocal force. While the emphasis by pause seems to be more usually confined to particular words and phrases, vocal force, in conjunction with inflections, not only helps to make individual words emphatic, but it is also instrumental in showing the logical relation of interdependent ideas.2 Thus:
Whoever hath meant good work with his whole heart hath done good work, whether he lived to sign it or not.
Emphasis by a slight increase of vocal force, in conjunction with pronounced inflection and change of pitch, is illustrated in the lines from the Merchant of Venice (v, i) quoted below:Portia.
Methinks it sounds much sweeter than by day.
When neither is attended ; and I think
No better a musician than the wren. Sometimes in excited commands, exclamations and the like, the emphasis is largely that of vocal force :
1 Emphasis by vocal force and by inflection often go together, and what is sometimes taken for emphasis by added force is chiefly that of inflection. Little drill on emphasis by loudness is needed. The important thing is to recognize the relative values of words and the relation of ideas to each other.
2 The added vocal force usually falls on the accented syllable of the emphatic word, the vowel of that syllable receiving the chief stress. An exception to this is found when words, differing but slightly in appearance and form, are used antithetically. The emphasis in such cases falls not on the similar but on the dissimilar syllables, regardless of the normal accent of the word, since the contrast or comparison centers in these syllables.
One arrives at his conclusions by induction, another by deduction.
Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,
“ Halt!” the dust-brown ranks stood fast.
Whittier: Barbara Frietchie.
your altars and your fires ;
Halleck: Marco Bozzaris. 3. Emphasis by prolongation of accented vowels. Words are given prominence by prolonging the vowel of the accented syllable. There is a suspension of voice on the sound, giving the effect of drawing out the tone. Compare the vowel length of the words “all” and “going" when emphasized and not emphasized in rendering the following sentence.1
Are you all going ?
Are you all going ?
“How now !” said Scrooge, caustic and cold as ever.
can you sit down ?”
6 Can you “ I can.”
“ Do it, then.” 1 It is easy to overdo this form of emphasis and to run into a style of speech in which prolonged vowels are more evident than the thought spoken. This mannerism is sometimes heard in exhortation when the speaker abandons himself to ardent, emotional appeal. It has been burlesqued in A Georgia Sermon.
“ After commenting upon that portion of Genesis descriptive of the flood, the speaker' warmed up'suddenly and broke out in the following strains : “Yes, my brethren, the heavens of the windows was õpened-ah, and the floods of the g-r-e-a-t deep kivered the wāters-ah, and there was Shem, and there was Ham, and there was Jāpheth-ah, a-l-l-a-gwine into the ārk-ah.'" (Anonymous. See Cumnock's Choice Readings, p. 456. 1896 edition.)
18. Value of the study of emphasis Exercises in the various methods of emphasis, explained and illustrated in the foregoing pages, are valuable means of clarifying the thought and of training the mind and voice to work together. Careless, vague thinking will be evident in carelessly placed emphasis, or in monotonous speech unrelieved by significant emphasis of any kind. On the other hand, definite, well-placed emphasis is positive evidence of attention and understanding. Good expression does not come by chance.
The study of emphasis is useful also as a means of overcoming certain mannerisms and faulty habits. It often happens that persons who speak or read with evident understanding and with well placed emphasis, are, nevertheless, tedious to listen to, because of the habitual use of but one or two forms of emphasis to the exclusion of all others. It may be that all important words are emphasized by the fall of the voice through about the same range of the scale in each inflection, or that words are given prominence by vocal force alone. The frequent or long-continued repetition of any particular modulation of the voice, which tends to a dead sameness of speech, is tiresome and taxing to the listener. In spirited, normal utterance, all modulations are combined to give words saliency. It is this variety that gives life to words and helps to keep alive the listener's interest.
Another difficulty encountered by the plodding or overcareful reader over-careful so far as words are concerned
is that of attempting to give every word a place of importance.1
1 Emphasis is regarded by many readers as the all important thing; but it is really the least important. Any untrained voice can emphasize. The difficult thing to do well is the opposite of emphasis — the slighting of certain