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Excess of vivacity, on the other hand, or excess of sensibility, often produce a hasty, confused utterance. Delicacy speaks in a timid, feeble voice; and the fault of indistinctness is often aggravated in a bashful child, by the indiscreet chidings of his teacher, designed to push him into greater speed in spelling out his early lessons; while he has little familiarity with the form and sound, and less with the meaning of words.
The way is now prepared to notice some of those difficulties in articulation, which arise from the sounds to be spoken.
The first and chief difficulty lies in the fact that articulation consists essentially in the consonant sounds, and that many of these are difficult of utterance. My limits do not allow me to illustrate this by a minute analysis of the elements of speech. It is evident to the slightest observation that the open vowels are uttered with ease and strength. On these, public criers swell their notes to so great a compass. On these too, the loudest notes of music are formed. Hence the great skill which is requisite to distinct articulation in music; for the stream of voice, which flows so easily on the vowels and half vowels, is interrupted by the occurrence of a harsh consonant; and not only the sound, but the breath, is entirely stopped by a In singing, for example, any syllable which ends, with p, k, d, or t, all the sound must be uttered on the preceding vowel; for when the organs come to the proper position for speaking the mute, the voice instantly ceases. Let any experienced singer, carefully try the experiment of speaking, in the notes of a slow tune, these lines;
With earnest longings of the mind,
Each syllable should be spoken by itself, with a pause after it. In this way it will appear that where the syllable ends with a consonant, especially a mute, the stream of sound is emitted on the preceding vowel, but is broken off when the consonant is finished. This is the case with the syllables mind, God, look; the moment the organs come into a position to speak d or k they are shut, so as to stop both sound and breath. But in the syllables my, to, thee, I,—the closing vowel sounds are perfectly formed at once, and may be continued indefinitely, without any change of the organs. The common mode of singing, indeed, is but a mere succession of musical notes, or open vowel sounds, varying in pitch, with little attempt to articulate the consonant sounds. This explains what has sometimes been thought a mystery, that stammering persons find little difficulty in reading poetry, and none in singing; whereas they stop at once in speaking, when they come to certain consonants. Any one who would practically understand this subject, should recollect that the distinction between human speech, and the inarticulate sounds of brutes, lies not in the vowels, but in the consonants; and that in a defective utterance of these, bad articulation primarily consists.
[The reader is apprised that the marginal numbers beginning at this place, direct to correspondent numbers in the EXERCISES. To avoid confusion in the body of the work, but few examples for illustration are inserted. Any
*This is partly owing also to a deliberate, metrical movement.
principle that requires special attention and practice is marked with figures on the left hand, and the same figures in the Exercises point to examples which should be practiced with a view to the more perfect understanding of the principle.]
1.] A second difficulty arises from the immediate succession of the same or similar sounds. The poet who understood the principles of euphony in language better than any other English writer, has exemplified this in translating a line of Homer respecting the stone of Sisyphus, where the recurrence of the aspirates and vowels is designed to represent difficulty.
Up the high hill he heaves a huge round stone. In another case he purposely produces a heavy movement, by the collision of open vowels;
Tho' oft the ear the open vowels tire.
Every scholar knows that the Greeks adopted many changes in the combination of syllables to render their language euphonic, by avoiding such collisions.*
But a greater difficulty still is occasioned by the immediate recurrence of the same consonant sound, without the intervention of a vowel or a pause. The following are examples; "For Christ's sake." "The hosts still stood." "The battle lasts still." The illustration will be more intelligible from examples in which bad articulation affects the sense.
Wastes and deserts;-Waste sand deserts.
* On this account they wrote πάντ ̓ ἔλεγον for πάντα ἔλεγον ; ἀφ ̓ οὗ for ἀπὸ οὗ ; κἀγὼ for καὶ ἐγω ; δέδωκεν αὐτῷ for δέδωκε αὐτῷ &c.
His cry moved me ;-His crime moved me.
Two successive sounds are to be formed here, with the organs in the same position; so that, without a pause between, only one of the single sounds is spoken; and the difficulty is much increased when sense or grammatical relation forbids such a pause; as between the simple nominative and the verb, the verb and its object, the adjective and its substantive. In the last example, "he could pain nobody,”—grammar forbids a pause between pain and nobody, while orthöepy demands one. But change the structure so as to render a pause proper after pain, and the difficulty vanishes ;-thus, "Though he endured great pain, nobody pitied him."
2.] A third difficulty arises from the influence of accent. The importance which this stress attaches to syllables on which it falls requires them to be spoken in a more full and deliberate manner than others. Hence, if the recurrence of this stress is too close, it occasions heaviness in utterance; if too remote, indistinctness. An example of the former kind, we have from the poet before mentioned;
And ten low words oft creep in one dull line.
This too is an additional reason for the difficult utterance of the line lately quoted from the same writer; Up the high hill he heaves a huge round stone.
The poet compels us, in spite of metrical harmony, to lay an accent on each syllable.
But the remoteness of accent in other cases involves a greater difficulty still; because the intervening syllables
are liable to be spoken with a rapidity inconsistent with distinctness, especially if they abound with jarring consonants. When such close and harsh consonants come together in immediate succession, and without accent, the trial of the organs is severe. Combinations of this kind we have in the words communicatively, authoritatively, terrestrial, reasonableness, disinterestedness. And the case is worse still where we preposterously throw back the accent so as to be followed by four or five syllables, as Walker directs in these words receptacle, pèremptorily, acceptableness. While these combinations almost defy the best organs of speech, no one finds any difficulty in uttering words combined with a due proportion of liquids, and a happy arrangement of vowels and accents.
Not so when swift Camilla scours the plain,
Flies o'er the unbending corn, and skims along the main.
The euphony of the Italian, in which it is distinguished from all other languages, consists chiefly in its freedom from harsh consonants.*
3.] A fourth difficulty arises from a tendency of the organs to slide over unaccented vowels. Walker says, "Where vowels are under the accent, the prince and the lowest of the people, with very few exceptions, pronounce them in the same manner: but the unaccented vowels, in the mouth of the former, have a distinct, open sound; while the latter often totally sink them, or change them into some other sound." There is a large class of words beginning with pre and pro, in which this distinction sel
* Even the flowing Greek has such unseemly junction of consonants as to make προσφθεγκτικὸς κακομηχανάομαι, κακκείειν.