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SECT. 4. Classification of Inflections.

This is the point on which, most of all, Walker is defective. The conviction that he was treating a difficult subject, led him into the very common mistake of attempting to make his meaning plain by prolixity of remark, and multiplicity of rules. One error of this respectable writer is, that he attempts to carry the application of his principles too far. To think of reducing to exact system all the inflections to be employed in the delivery of plain language, where there is no emotion, and no emphasis, is idle indeed. Many who have attempted to follow the theory to this extreme, perplexed with the endless list of rules which it occasions, have become discouraged. Whereas the theory is of no use except in reference to the rhetorical principles of language, where tones express sentiment. And even in passages of this sort, the significant inflections belong only to a few words, which, being properly spoken, determine of necessity the manner of speaking the rest.* The maxim, that "there cannot be too much of a good thing," has led some to multiply marks of inflection on unimportant words; just as others, in their zeal for emphasis, have multiplied Italic words in a page, till all discrimination is confounded.

Another fault of Walker is, that the elements of speaking tones are not presented in any intelligible method; but are so promiscuously intermingled throughout his work, as to give it the character of obscurity. The view of these elements to which he devotes about a hundred

* This I endeavor to illustrate in the discussion of Emphasis and Modulation.

and fifty pages, after he enters on inflections, I here attempt to comprise in a short compass. In order to render the new classification which I have given intelligible, I have chosen examples chiefly from colloquial language; because the tones of conversation ought to be the basis of delivery, and because these only are at once recognised by the ear. Being conformed to nature, they are instinctively right; so that scarcely a man in a million uses artificial tones in conversation. And this one fact, I remark in passing, furnishes a standing canon to the learner in elocution. In contending with any bad habit of voice, let him break up the sentence on which the difficulty occurs, and throw it, if possible, into the colloquial form. Let him observe in himself and others, the turns of voice which occur in speaking, familiarly and earnestly, on common occasions. Good taste will then enable him to transfer to public delivery the same turns of voice, adapting them, as he must of necessity, to the elevation of his subject.

The examples set down under each rule, should be repeated by the student, in the hearing of some competent judge, till he is master of that one point, before he proceeds to another. If more examples, in the first instance are found necessary to this purpose, they may be sought in the exercises.

As the difficulty of the learner at first, is to distinguish the two chief inflections, and as the best method of doing this, is by comparing them together, the following classification begins with cases in which the two are statedly found in the same connexion; and then extends to cases in which they are used separately; the whole being marked in a continued series of rules, for convenient reference.


4] RULE I. When the disjunctive or connects words or clauses, it has the rising inflection before, and the falling after it.


Shall I come to you with a ród-or in lòve?

Art thou he that should cóme,-
-or look we for another?
The baptism of John, was it from heaven,--or of mèn?

Will you gó--or stày?

Will you ride--or walk?

Will you go today-or tomorrow?

Did you see him--or his brother?

Did he travel for health,-or pleasure?

Did he resemble his father,--or his mòther?

Is this book yóurs,

---or mine?

5] RULE II. The direct question, or that which admits the answer of yes or no, has the rising inflection, and the answer has the falling.

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6] NOTE I. This sort of question ends with the rising slide, whether the answer follows it or not. But it is not true, as Mr. Walker has seemed to suppose, that every question beginning with a verb is of this sort. If I wish to know whether my friend will go on a journey within two days, I say perhaps, "Will you go today or tomórrow?" He may answer, "yes,"--because my rising inflection on both words implies that I used the or between them conjunctively. But if I had used it disjunctively, it must have had the rising slide before it, and the falling after; and then the question is, not whether he will go within two days, but on which of the two ;--thus, “Will you go today--or tomorrow?" The whole question, in this case, though it begins with a verb, cannot admit the answer yes or no, and of course cannot end with the rising slide.

The very general habit of elocution which gives this slide to a question beginning with a verb, is superseded by the stronger principle of emphatic contrast in Rule 1st. Thus the disciples said to Christ, "Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar or not? Shall we give or shall we not give?" Pilate said to the Jews, "Shall I release unto you Barabbas, or Jesus?" Let the rising slide be given on both names, in this latter case, and the answer might indeed be yes or no, but the sense is perverted, by making these, two names for the same person; just as in the following, "Was this becoming in Zoroaster, or the Philosopher of the Magí ?" Such an example may help to satisfy those who doubt the significance of inflection.

NOTE 2. When Exclamation becomes a question, it demands the rising slide; as, 66 How, 7, you say, are we to

accomplish it? How accomplish it! Certainly not by fearing to attempt it."

7] RULE III. When negation is opposed to affirmation, the former has the rising, and the latter the falling inflection.


I did not say a bétter soldier,—but an èlder.
Study not for amusement,—but for improvement.
Aim not to show knowledge,—but to acquìre it.
He was esteemed, not for wealth,—but for wisdom.
He will not come today,—but tomòrrow.

He did not act wisely,—but unwisely.
He did not call mé,-but you.
He did not say pride,-but pride.

Negation alone, not opposed to affirmation, does not by any means always take the rising inflection, as Mr. Knowles supposes. The simple particle no, when under the emphasis, with the intensive, falling slide, is one of the strongest monosyllables in the language. But when negative and affirmative clauses come into opposition, I think of no exception to the rule but that mentioned under emphatic succession, Rule IX. Note 2.

8] NOTE 1. This rule, like the two preceding, is founded on the influence which antithetic sense has on the voice. The same change of inflections we find in comparison; as,

"He is more knàve than fóol.”

"A countenance more in sòrrow than in ánger."

So in the following case of simple contrast, where, in each couplet of antithetic terms, the former word has the rising inflection.

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