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tion of the smaller organs of voice, including the larynx and the circumjacent parts, the mouth and its various portions and appurtenances. Our preceding observations applied to the use of the larger organs, - the cavity and muscles of the chest, &c., and to the production of vocal sound. we are now occupied with the function of speech.
Propriety of pronunciation is justly regarded as an inseparable result of cultivation and taste. We recognize an educated person by his mode of pronouncing words; and we detect slovenliness in mental habit, or the absence of culture, with no less certainty, in the same way. Whatever thus holds true of pronunciation, - a thing subject to the law of prevailing good custom, merely, and liable, therefore, to various interpretations in detail, - is still more emphatically applicable to distinct enunciation, the unfailing characteristic of correct intellectual habits, and the only means of exact and intelligible communication by speech.
But a distinct enunciation is wholly dependent on the action of the organs, on their positions and their movements, on the force and precision of their execution. The breath having been converted into sound by the use of the component portions of the larynx, passes on to be modified or articulated into definite forms by the various portions of the mouth, and by the action of the tongue.
A person of perfect organization and in perfect health, in an undisturbed condition of feeling, and, consequently, with a clear state of thought,- utters his ideas distinctly and impressively, without special study. But defective organization, neglected habit, false tendencies of feeling, and confused conceptions, are so prevalent, that very few individuals in a community, can be selected as naturally perfect in the function of articulation. With most persons, and especially in youth, the negligence of unguarded habit impairs the distinctness and clearness of oral expression. The comparatively inactive life of the student, subjects him, usually, to imperfection in this, as in most other active uses of the organic frame; and every individual, — whatever be his advantages, as such, - needs a thorough organic training, before he can pass successfully to the comparatively forcible and exact mode of using the organs, which distinguishes public reading and speaking from private communication. The latter occupies but little space, and needs but a slight effort of attention or of will, to effect it : the former implies large space, and correspondent voluntary exertion of the organs, with the due precision which stamps, at once, every sound distinctly on the ear, and renders unnecessary any repetition of an imperfectly understood word or phrase, - a thing allowable in conversation, but impracticable in public speaking.
The functions of the organs in articulation, must obviously be determined by the character of the sound which, in any case, is to be executed. We shall find advantage, therefore, in first considering the character of the component elementary sounds of our language, as a guide to the mode of exerting the organs in producing them.
Dr. Rush, in his Philosophy of the Voice, has adopted an arrangement of the elementary sounds of our language, which differs from that of grammarians, and is founded on a more strict regard to the vocal properties of each element,
a classification which is more convenient for the purposes of elocution, as well as more exact in relation to the facts of speech. Dr. Rush's arrangement we shall follow in this branch of our subject; as it is best adapted to the purposes of instruction.
On a very few points of detail, however, we shall take the liberty to vary from Dr. Rush's system, where precision and accuracy of instruction seem to require such variation.
Dr. Rush's mode of classifying the elementary sounds of our language, presents, first, those which he has denominated " Tonic" elements, as possessing the largest capacity for prolongation of sound, and other modifications of tone. The following are the
* A shorter quantity, but the same in quality, with 00 in Ooze.
The following elements of the same class, are omitted by Dr. Rush. But they seem to be indispensable in teaching, which requires exact and close discriminations, in order to obtain accuracy in practice.
0, as in O-r.
O, as in O-n.
U, as in U-se. [The student's attention should be directed to the following observations, previous to practising the preceding sounds. ]
The a, in such words as ale, Dr. Rush has very justly represented as consisting of two elements : -1. The
radical,” or initial sound, with which the name of the letter a commences; and 2. The delicate “ vanish," or final sound, with which, in full pronunciation, and in singing, it closes, - bordering on e, as in eve,
but barely perceptible to the ear. This element obviously differs, in this respect, from the acute é of the French language, which begins and ends with precisely the same form of sound, and position of the organs of speech; while the English a, as in ale, requires a slight upward movement of the tongue, to close it with propriety; and hence its “vanish," approaches to the sound of e.
The i of ice, in like manner, will, on attentive analysis, be found to consist of two simple elements :— 1st, a, as in at; 2d, i, as in in. Walker, in his system of orthöepy, defines this element as commencing with the a in father. But such breadth of sound, is, in our own day, justly regarded as the mark of a drawling and rustic pronunciation; while good taste always shrinks from the too flat sound, which this element receives in the style of dialectic error in Scotland or Ireland, or in the style of fastidious and affected refinement, as if“ āyee."
The o of old, although not so commonly recognized as a compound element, will be found, on analysis, to belong properly to that class. Thus, if we observe closely the pronunciation of a native of continental Europe, in speaking English, we shall find that the letter o in such words as old, sounds a little too broad, and does not close properly,
The foreign pronunciation lacks the delicate “vanish," approaching to oo, in ooze, although not dwelling on that form of sound, but only, as it were approximating to it; as the letter u, in just and full utterance for public speaking, and for singing, closes with a slight approach to e, in eve, but does not dwell on that element.
That this compound form of the “ tonic" 0, in old, is a genuine tendency of the organs, in the pronunciation of our language, may be observed in the current fault of the utterance which characterizes the popular style of England, and in which the vanish of this element is protruded to such an extent as to justify American caricaturists in representing it by the spelling of " powst rowd," for post road.
The element ou, in our, is obviously a compound of o, as in done, the same with
- and a short, or “vanishing" quantity of oo in ooze. The negligent style of popular error, makes this element commmence with a, as in arm, or a in at; and the local style of rustic pronunciation in New England, makes it commence with e in end.
Ai, as in the word air, though not recognized by Dr. Rush, nor by many other writers on elocution, as a separate element from a, in ale, is obviously a distinct sound, approaching to that of e in end, but not forming so close a sound to the ear, nor executed by so much muscular pressure in the organs. The literal flat sound, however, of a in ale, if given in the class of words air, rare, care, &c. constitutes the peculiarity of local usage in Ireland, as contradistinguished from that of England.
Popular usage, in England and America, inclines, no doubt, to the opposite extreme, and makes a, in air too nearly like a prolonged sound of a, as in an. In the southern regions of the United States, this sound is even rendered as broad as that of a in arm. But while good taste avoids such breadth of sound, as coarse and uncouth, it still preserves the peculiar form of this element, as differing both from a in ale, and e in end, and lying, as it were, between them.
U, in up, seems to have been merged by Dr. Rush in the element e, in err, which would imply that the latter word is pronounced“ urr.” But this is obviously the error of negligent usage, whether in the United States, or in England. In the latter country, it is the characteristic local error of Wales.
In the usage of New England and of Scotland, there is,
0, in or,
no doubt, a too prevalent tendency to pronounce err, earth, mercy, &c. with a sound too rigidly close, like that of e in merit; thus, “ Airr," "airth," "maircy.” But cultivated and correct pronunciation, while it avoids this preciseness, draws a clear, though close distinction, between the vowel sounds in urn and earn.
Mr. Smart, in his Practice of Elocution, describes the element in question, with perfect exactness and just discrimination.
“Er and ir are pronounced by unpolished speakers just like ur, as indeed, in some common words, such as her, sir, &c. they are pronounced, even by the most cultivated : but in words of less common occurrence, there is a medium between ur and air, which elegant usage has established, as the just utterance of e and i joined to the smooth r.” *
and o, in on, are apparently considered by Dr. Rush as modifications of a in all. Admitting, however, the identity of quality in these elements, — their obvious difference in quantity, and in the position and pressure of the muscles by which, as sounds, they are formed, together with the precision and correctness of articulation, demand a separate place for them in elementary exercises designed for the purposes of culture, which always implies a definite, exact, and distinctive formation of sounds.
Oi, in oil, though omitted in the scheme of Dr. Rush, are evidently entitled to a distinct place in the classification of the elements of our language, on the same ground on which a separate designation is assigned to ou, in our.
This compound element, oi, is formed by commencing with the o in on, and terminating with the i in in. Popular and negligent usage, inclines to two errors in this diphthong :- 1st, that of commencing with o, in own, instead of o, in on ; 2d, that of terminating with a short sound of a, as in ale, instead of i, in in. The appropriate sounds are as mentioned above.
The compound element u, as in use, although obviously formed of a short quantity of e, in eve, and of oo, in ooze, is entitled to a place in the classification of the elements of our language, not merely as being a sound represented by a distinct character, as in the name of the letter u, but as constituting a peculiar diphthongal element.
* The Practice of Elocution. By D. H. Smart. London : 1826.