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PROPER LOUDNESS OF VOICE.
THE first attention of every person who reads to others, doubtless, must be to make himself be heard by all those to whom he reads) He must endeavour to fill with his voice the space occupied by the company. This power of voice, it may be thought, is wholly a natural talent. It is, in a good measure, the gift of nature; but it may receive considerable assistance from art. Much depends, for this purpose, on the proper pitch and management of the voice) Every person has three pitches in his voice the HIGH, e MIDDLE, and the Low The high, is that which he uses in calling aloud to some person at a distance.) (The low is, when he approaches to a whisper.) (The middle is, that which he employs in common conversation, and which he should generally use in reading to others. For it is a great mistake, to ima,.ne that one must take the highest pitch of his voice, in order to be well heard in a large company. This is confounding two things which are different, loudness or strength of sound, with the key or note on which we speak. There is a variety of sound within the compass of each key. A speaker may therefore render his voice louder, without altering the key: and we shall always be able to give most body, most persevering force of sound, to that pitch of voice, to which in conversation we are accustomed. Whereas by setting out on our highest pitch or key, we certainly allow ourselves less compass, and are likely to strain our voice before we have done. We shall fatigue ourselves, and read with pain; and whenever a person speaks with pain to himself, he is always heard with pain by his audience. Let us therefore give the voice full strength and swell of sound; but always pitch it on our ordinary speaking key It should be a constant rule never to utter a greater quantity of voice than we can afford without pain to ourselves, and without any extraordinary effort. As long as we keep within these bounds, the other organs of speech will be at liberty to discharge their several offices with ease; and we shall always have our voice under command. But whenever we transgress these bounds, we give up the reins, and have no longer any management of it. It is a useful rule too, in order to be well heard, to cast our eye some of the most distant persons in the company, and to sider ourselves as reading to them. We naturally and chanically utter our words with such a degree of strength, to make ourselves be heard by the person whom we adess, provided he is within the reach of our voice. As this
is the case in conversation, it will hold also in reading to others. But let us remember, that in reading, as well as in conversation, it is possible to offend by speaking too loud. This extreme hurts the ear, by making the voice come upon it in rumbling, indistinct masses.
By the habit of reading, when young, in a loud and vehement manner, the voice becomes fixed in a strained and unnatural key; and is rendered incapable of that variety of elevation and depression which constitutes the true harmony of utterance, and affords ease to the reader, and pleasure to the audience. This unnatural pitch of the voice, and disagreeable monotony, are most observable in persons who were taught to read in large rooms; who were accustomed to stand at too great a distance, when reading to their teachers; whose instructors were very imperfect in their hearing; or who were taught by persons, that considered loud expression as the chief requisite in forming a good reader. These are circumstances which demand the serious attention of every one to whom the education of youth is committed.
In the next place, to being well heard and clearly understood, distinctness of articulation contributes more than mere fonduess of sound. The quantity of sound necessary to fill even a large space, is smaller than is commonly imagined and with distinct articulation, a person with a weak voice will make it reach farther, than the strongest voice can reach without it. To this, therefore, every reader ought to pay great attention. He must give every sound which he utters, its due proportion; and make every syllable, and even every letter in the word which he pronounces, be heard dictinetly; /without slurring, whispering, or suppressing any of the proper sounds.
(An accurate knowledge of the simple, elementary sounds of the language, and a facility in expressing them, are so necessary to distinctness of expression, that if the learner's attainments are, in this respect, imperfect, (and many there are in this situation) it will be incumbent on his teacher, to carry him back to these primary articulations; and to suspend his progress, till he become perfectly master of them. It will be in vain to press him forward, with the hope of forming a good reader, if he cannot completely articulate every elementary sound of the language.
DUE DEGREE OF SLOWNESS.
In order to express ourselves distinctly,moderation is re quisite with regard to the speed of pronouncing. Precipitancy of speech confounds all articulation, and all meaning. It is scarcely necessary to observe, that there may be also an extreme on the opposite side. It is obvious that a lifeless, drawling manner of reading, which allows the minds of the hearers to be always outrunning the speaker, must render every such performance insipid and fatiguing. But the extreme of reading too fast is much more common, and requires the more to be guarded against, because, when it has grown into a habit, few errors are more difficult to be corrected. To pronounce with a proper degree of slowness, and with full and clear articulation,jis necessary to be studied by all, who wish to become good readers; and it cannot be too much recommended to them. Such a pronunciation gives weight and dignity to the subject.) It is a great assistance to the voice, by the pauses and rests which it allows the reader more easily to make; and it enables the reader to swell all his sounds, both with more force and more harmony.
PROPRIETY OF PRONUNCIATION.
AFTER the fundamental attentions to the pitch and management of the voice, to distinct articulation, and to a proper degree of slowness of speech, what the young reader must, in the next place, study, is propriety of pronunciation; or, giving to every word which he utters, that sound which the best usage of the language appropriates to it in opposition to broad, vulgar, or provincial pronunciation This is requisite both for reading intelligibly, and for reading with correctness and ease. Instructions concerning this article may be best given by the living teacher. But there is one observation, which it may not be improper here to make. In the English language, every word which consists of more sylla bles than one, has one accented syllable. The accents rest sometimes on the vowel, sometimes on the consonant.) (The genius of the language requires the voice to mark that sylTable by a stronger percussion, and to pass more slightly over the rest. Now, after we have learned the proper seats of these accents, it is an important rule to give every word just the same accent in reading, as in common discourse.) Many persons err in this respect. When they read to others, and with solemnity, they pronounce the syllables in a different panner from what they do at other times. They dwell upon
them and protract them; they multiply accents on the same word; from a mistaken notion, that it gives gravity and importance to their subjects, and adds to the energy of their delivery. Whereas this is one of the greatest faults that can be committed in pronunciation: it makes what is called a pompous or mouthing manner; and gives an artificial, affected air to reading, which detracts greatly both from its agreeableness and its impression.
Sheridan and Walker have published Dictionaries, for ascertaining the true and best pronunciation of the words of our language. By attentively consulting them, particularly "Walker's Pronouncing Dictionary," the young reader will be much assisted, in his endeavours to attain a correct pronunciation of the words belonging to the English language.
By Emphasis is meant a stronger and fuller sound of voice, by which we distinguish some word or words, on which we design to lay particular stress, and to show how they affect the rest of the sentence. Sometimes the emphatic words must be distinguished by a particular tone of voice, as well as by a particular stress. On the right management of the emphasis depends the life of pronunciation. If no emphasis be placed on any words, not only is discourse rendered heavy and lifeless, but the meaning left often ambiguous. If the emphasis be placed wrong, we pervert and confound the meaning wholly.
Emphasis may be divided into the SUPERIOR and the InFERIOR emphasis. The superior emphasis determines the meaning of a sentence, with reference to something said before, presupposed by the author as general knowledge, or removes an ambiguity, where a passage may have more senses than one.) The inferior emphasis enforces, graces, and enlivens, but does not fir, the meaning of any passage The words to which this latter emphasis is given. are, in general, such as seem the most important in the sentence, or, on other accounts, to merit this distinction. The following passage will serve to exemplify the superior emphasis:
"Of man's first disobedience, and the fruit
"Of that forbidden tree, whose moral taste
Brought death into the world, and all our wo," &c. "Sing heavenly Muse!"
Supposing that originally other beings besides men.had discbeyed the commands of the Almighty,and that the circumstance were well known to us, there would fall an emphasis upon the word man's in the first line; and hence it would read thus
“Of man's first disobedience, and the fruit," &e.
But if it were a notorious truth, that mankind had transgressed in a peculiar manner more than once, the emphasis would fall on first; and the line be read,
"Of man's first disobedience," &c.
Again, admitting death (as was really the case) to have been an unheard of and dreadful punishment, brought upon man in consequence of his transgression; on that supposition the third line would be read,
"Brought death into the world," &c.
But if we were to suppose that mankind knew there was such an evil as death in other regions, tho' the place they inhabited had been free from it till their transgression, the line would run thus:
"Brought death into the world" &c.
The superior emphasis finds place in the following short sentence, which admits of four distinct meanings, each of which is ascertained by the emphasis only.
"Do you ride to town to-day?"
The following examples illustrate the nature and use of the inferior emphasis:
"Many persons mistake the love for the practice of virtue.” "Shall I reward his services with falsehood? Shall I forget him who cannot forget me "
If his principles are false, no apology from himself can make them right: if founded in truth, no censure from others can make them wrong."
"Though deep, yet clear; though gentle, yet not dull;
"A friend exaggerates a man's virtues; an enemy,his crimes." "The wise man is happy, when he gains his own approbation; the fool, when he gains that of others."
The superior emphasis, in reading as in speaking, must be determined entirely by the sense of the passage, and always made alike: but as to the inferior emphasis, taste alone seems to have the right of fixing its situation and quantity:
Among the number of persons, who have had proper opportunities of learning to read, in the best manner it is now taught, very few could be selected, who, in a given instance, would use the inferior emphasis alike, either as to place or quantity. Some persons, indeed, use scarcely any degree of it: and others do not scruple to carry it far beyond any thing to be found in common discourse; and even sometimes throw it upon words so very trifling in themselves, that it is evidently done with no other view, than to give greater.