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The third constituent of good articulation, is to be found in the proper functions of the tongue and the lips. These organs divide and modify the voice into distinct portions of sound, constituting letters and syllables, and consequently require energy and deliberateness, or due force and slowness, along with perfect precision, or exactness, in their action.
Energy in the play of these minor organs of speech, is a quality entirely distinct from loudness, or mere force in the emission of the voice.
A sound may come from the lungs and the throat with great vehemence,
and very obscure in its peculiar character, because not duly modified by the tongue. The voice of a person under the excitement of inebriation, furnishes, sometimes, a striking illustration of this distinction. Strong emotion and great loudness of speech, are, from à cause somewhat similar, not favourable to clear expression of meaning, but often have a contrary effect; the violence of feeling and of utterance preventing the true and accurate formation of sound. Energy of articulation, on the other hand, consists in the force with which the constituent sounds of every word, are expressed by the exertion of their appropriate organs. It may exist with but very little of mere loudness. It sometimes gives indescribable power to a bare whisper. It is the quality which gives form and character to human speech, and constitutes it the appropriate vehicle of intellect; although from languor or carelessness of habit, it is too seldom exemplified in public reading and speaking.
The next point to be observed, in the action of the organs, is deliberateness or due slowness, the medium between hurry and drawling,-faults which are a great hinderance to distinctness; the former producing a mass of crowded and confused sounds which make no distinct impression on the ear, and leave no intelligible trace on the mind; and the latter causing the voice to lag lazily behind the natural movement of the mind's attention, with an unmeaning and disagreeable prolongation of sound, which takes away the spirit and the significance of speech. The degree of slowness required for an accurate and distinct enunciation, is such as to leave sufficient time for the true and complete formation of every sound of the voice, and for the deliberate and regular succession of words and syllables ; but it is free from any approach to languor and drawling.
Force and slowness, however, are not the only qualities essential to distinct articulation. There must be, in addition to the right degree of these properties, a due attention, in every instance, to the nature of the sound to be produced, and to that exertion of the organs which is adapted to its exact execution. Articulate utterance requires, in other words, a constant exercise of discrimination in the mind, and of precision, or accuracy, in the movements of the organs of speech. A correct articulation, however, is not laboured and artificial in its character. It results from the intuitive and habitual action of a disciplined attention. It is easy, fluent, and natural; but, like the skilful execution of an accomplished musician, it gives forth every sound, even in the most rapid passages, with truth and correctness. A good enunciation gives to every vowel and consonant its just proportion and character; none being omitted, no one blending with another in such a manner as to produce confusion, and none so carelessly executed as to cause mistake in the hearer, by its resemblance to another.*
The faults most common in articulation, were mentioned at the beginning of the first lesson. They may be briefly recapitulated as consisting in feebleness of expression, arising from deficiency in organic exertion; omission, occasioned by rapidity; and obscurity, by inadvertency and negligence;-all contributing to render the voice unintelligible or indistinct. The faults opposed to these are not so prevalent, nor so objectionable, in regard to their influence on audible and clear expression, but are very unfavourable in their effect, owing to the associations inseparably connected with them : they consist in undue force and prolongation
* The exercises on enunciation, in the first part of this volume, are classed with reference to the different organs which they call into action. This arrangement was adopted with a view to the cultivation of strict accuracy of habit in articulation.
of sound, on accented syllables; and a fastidious precision or undue prominence, in those which are unaccented. These faults create an inexpressive, drawling, and childish utterance, or an artificial and affected style, which is repugnant to natural feeling and good taste.
The former of these two classes of faults, (exemplified in such enunciation as anim'l for animal, momunt for moment, &c.) strikes the ear of taste as coarse and careless; while the latter, which throws half the accent on the last syllable, and creates the Latin word animal', or the French style of momen't, destroys the natural rhythm of spoken language, and substitutes for it a languid and tedious succession of mechanical sounds. The appropriate style of English accent, is peculiarly forcible and prominent, leaving unaccented sounds very slight to the ear. The excess of this disproportion is, what may be called a natural fault; but the least deviation from this tendency of utterance, and especially any approach to an opposite extreme, produce a foreign accent.
The worst and the most prevalent of all faults, however, are those of omitting and obscuring unaccented sounds, through rapidity and negligence of articulation, which render it impossible to receive rightly the sense of what is read or spoken; since they prevent the possibility of articulate distinctions in the voice, and of corresponding discriminations by
The great object of speech, is thus, to all intents, lost; for the reader or speaker is not understood.
The subject of enunciation has, thus far, been regarded chiefly as a physical exercise, or a mechanical function of the organs of speech. It will now be briefly considered in connexion with the expression of thought and feeling. Contemplated in this view, it requires attention to the following particulars, force, pitch, and time, or rate of utterance.
Force. The distinction has been already made between the force of vociferation, and that of energetic articulation. The former was mentioned as arising from peculiar physical circumstances, and as being inapplicable to public speaking. Another kind of force equally inappropriate, but habitually adopted by some speakers, was also alluded to,--that arising from violence of emotion. This style of utterance, from whatever kind of feeling it arises, is as unsuitable in addressing a public assembly as a private circle, or even an individual; although it may be very natural and appropriate in poetic or dramatic recitation, which often implies an expression of the extremes of human feeling. The proper force of voice for public speaking, has been mentioned as most nearly exemplified in animated conversation, addressed to a numerous company in a large room. This style of utterance possesses the energy of sentiment; embracing the mental influence of thought and feeling, blended with the physical influence of space. It is by departing from this manner, and approaching to that first mentioned, that those faulty and unnatural tones are produced, which have become prevalent in professional and public perform
Directions for practice. The exercises on force of utterance, commencing at page 67, may be practised as follows.
The exercises on shouting and calling,' should be repeated daily, with the utmost attainable force; their purpose being to strengthen the organs, and impart volume and power of voice..
The exercises on 'force of emotion, may be managed in nearly the same way. Their chief use is to facilitate strength of expression, in passages marked by great vehemence.
The exercises on declamatory force, appropriate style of public speaking on subjects of importance and interest, must be carefully preserved from the violence of tone belonging to the preceding exercises, and should be strictly confined to the natural manner of earnest conversation with a distinct and impressive utterance.*
* The mode of utterance which appropriately belongs to public speaking, is that to which all learners, except the very youngest, should be accustomed, for its mental, not less than its physical, advantages ; since the voice may, by early training, be forined to any desirable point of strength and pliancy, and a distinct, ener
The exercise on 'moderate and conversational force,' should not fall short of the energy of voice required for conversing in public, but should preserve that moderation of utterance, which distinguishes the ordinary occasions of conversation from those of peculiar interest.
The exercise on 'subdued force' should be read in a style approaching to a whisper; and that on 'whispering should be performed in literal correspondence to its designation. The intention of these two forms of exercise, is, to perfect the student's command of his voice, and to enable him to retam distinctness of enunciation, while he lays aside loudness.
The most difficult of these exercises, are those on declamatory and conversational force; the former of which is apt to become a compound of chanting and calling, and the latter to drop down into the feebleness of private conversation. The result, in the one case, is the common arbitrary and mechanical tone of oratorical occasions, and professional performances, a
getic utterance is favourable to strong and clear impressions on the mind of the reader or speaker himself, as well as of those who are addressed. Youth is the favourable season for the formation of habit; and the practice of vigorous exercise of voice, in early years, lays the foundation of facility in professional effort, in after life. But, aside from these general considerations, the necessity of the case, in the size, merely, of most public school-rooms, furnishes an immediate reason for the assiduous cultivation of a forcible and natural enunciation, in school exercises. The habits which generally prevail in school reading, are a bawling or a feeble utterance, and a formal tone ; and these defects are necessarily transferred to the higher stages of education, and to the habits of professional life.
Students whose voices are fully formed, and therefore not exposed to injury from great exertion, would do well, in their daily practice, to carry their force of voice, not only to the utmost possible limit of exercise in public buildings, but even to that required in addressing a numerous assemblage in the open air. Exercise of this sort gives great freedom of utterance, and general command of voice, in practising on a smaller scale.
Students who labour under organic weakness, and learners whose voices are in the stage of transition to the grave tone of adult life, should commence the practice of such exercises with a moderate force, and proceed, by degrees, to the utmost extent of loudness. An abrupt commencement of force might, in some cases, occasion injury to health, or to the voice.