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the assistance which this author has given, that I shall endeavour to push my inquiries into emphasis still farther than he has done : I shall not only establish the distinction he has laid down, but attempt to draw the line between these two kinds of emphasis, so as to mark more precisely the boundaries of each. To this distinction of emphasis, I shall add another : I shall make a distinction of each into two kinds, ' according to the inflection of voice they adopt ; which, though of the utmost importance in conveying a just idea of emphasis, has never been noticed by any of our writers on the subject. This distinction of emphasis arises naturally from the observations already laid down, on the rising and falling inflection ; we have seen the importance of attending to these two inflections in the several parts, and at the end of a sentence; and it is presumed, the utility of attending to the same inflections, when applied to emphasis will appear no less evident and unquestionable.
But before we enter into this distinction of emphatick inflection, it may not be improper to show more precisely the distinction of emphasis, into that which arises from the peculiar sense of one or two words in a sentence, and that which arises from the greater importance of the nouns, verbs, and other significant words, than of connectives and particles. And, first, let us examine some passages where only the latter kind of emphasis is found; this emphasis, if it may be so called, takes place on almost every word in a sentence, but the articles, prepositions, and smaller parts of speech; and by pronouncing these feebly, we give a force to the other words, that is commonly, but improperly, styled emphasis.
Thus, in pronouncing the following sentence in the Spectator :
Gratian very often recommends the fine taste as the utmost perfection of an accomplished man. Spectator, No. 409.
We may perceive a very evident difference in the force with which these words are pronounced : the article the, the conjunction and particle as the, and the preposition and article of an, are very distinguishable from the rest of the words by a less forcible pronunciation; and this less forcible pronunciation on the smaller words, raises the others to some degree of emphasis. If we pronounce the next sentence prop. erly, we shall find several other words sink into an obscurity of the same kind, and by their feebleness a comparative degree of force thrown on the rest of the words.
As this word arises very often in conversation, I shall endeavour to give some account of it ; and to lay down rules how we know whether we are possessed of it ; and how we may acquire that fine taste in writing which is so much talked of a. mong the polite world. Ibid.
In this sentence we find the prepositions, conjuctions, and pronoun it, pronounced with the same degree of feebleness as in the last instance ; and besides these we find the words, I shall, we may, we are, and which is, pronounced much more feebly than the rest of the words ; this can be owing to nothing but the nature of the words themselves, which, though indicating person, promise, power, and existence, exhibit none of these particulars emphatically ; that is, these words imply only such general circumstances, as the objects are commonly supposed to be accompanied with, and therefore are anticipated or presupposed by the hearer : for whatever the hearer is supposed to be acquainted with, is not the object of communication : the person speaking is under no necessity of telling his auditors that he in particular shall do any thing, unless he means to distinguish himself from some other speaker ; for that he speaks, is very well understood by every one who hears him ; and for this reason, whatever has been once
mentioned, is generally pronounced afterwards with less force than at first, as supposed to be already sufficiently known.
As an instance of the variety which this emphasis of force (as it is called) admits, it may not be improper to mark the foregoing sentence two different ways ; first with such words in Italicks as seem necessarily to require a greaterforce than the particles; and then to add to these, such words as we may pronounce in the same manner without altering the sense.
As this word arises very often in conversation, I shall endeavour to give some account of it ; and to lay down rules how we may know whether we are possessed of it, and how we may acquire that fine taste in writing which is so much talked of among the polite world.
As this word arises very often in conversation, I shall endeavour to give some account of it ; and to lay down rules how we may know whether we are possessed of it ; and how we may acquire that fine taste in writing which is so much talked of among the polite world.
It may, however, be observed, that though the last manner of marking this sentence is more emphatical, the first is the most easy and natural.
I shall offer another instance to show the difference in the stress we lay on different words in a sentence, and then proceed to an examination of that stress which may be properly styled emphatical. Thus if we repeat the following sentence,
Exercise and temperance strengthen the constitution,
We find the particles and and the, pronounced much more feebly than the other words : and yet these other words cannot be properly called emphatical ; for the stress that is laid on them is no more than what is necessary to convey distinctly the meaning of each word : but if a word which has emphasis of sense be thrown into this sentence, we shall soon perceive a
striking difference between these words and the emphatical one ; thus, if we were to say,
Exercise and temperance strengthen even an indifferent cona stitution.
Here we shall find the word indifferent pronounced much more forcibly than the words exercise, temperance, and stengthen, as these words are more forcibly pronounced than the particles and and the, and even than the word constitution: for as this word comes immediately after the emphatick word indifferent, and is, by the very import of the emphasis, in some measure understood, it sinks into the same degree of obscurity with the particles, and cannot be raised from this obscurity without diminishing the force of the emphatick word itself.
If it should be asked what degree of force are we to give to these obscure words, it may be answered, just that force we give to the unaccented syllables of words ; so that two words, one accented and the other not, are to the ear exactly like one word ; thus the words, even an indifferent constitution, are sounded like a word of eleven syllables, with the accent on the fifth. For a full explication of the relative force of words, see Rhetorical Grammar, p. 97.
This brings us to a three-fold distinction of words with regard to the force with which they are pronounced ; namely, the conjunctions, particles, and words understood, which are obscurely and feebly pronounced ; the substantives, verbs, and more significant words, which are firmly and distinctly pronounced ; and the emphatical word, which is forcibly pronounced: it is the last of these only which can be properly styled emphasis ; and it is to a discovery of the nature and cause of this emphasis, that all our attention ought to be directed.
And first we may observe, that if these distinctions are just, the common definition of emphasis is very
faulty. Emphasis is said to be a stress laid on one or more words to distinguish them from others : but this definition, as we have just seen, makes almost every word in a sentence emphatical, and, at the same time, confounds the distinction between words which have force from a peculiarity of meaning, and those which have force from having only a general meaning, or more meaning than the particles. Here then we must endeavour to investigate a juster definition ; such a one as will enable us to distinguish words which are really emphatical, from those which are only pronounced with common force : for, as the ingenious author abovementioned has observed, these latter words may sometimes be forcibly, and sometimes feebly pronounced, without any importance to the sense, as has been shown in the last example but one; but the former, that is, such words as are truly emphatical, must always have their just degree of force and energy, or the sense will be manifestly injured : this Emphasis of sense, therefore, ought to be the first object of inquiry.
The principal circumstance that distinguishes emphatical words from others, seems to be a meaning which points out, or distinguishes, something as distinct or opposite to some other thing. When this opposition is expressed in words, it forms an antithesis, the opposite parts of which are always emphatical. Thus in the following couplet from Pope:
'Tis hard to say, if greater want of skill
The words writing and judging are opposed to each other, and are therefore the emphatical words : where we may likewise observe, that the disjunctive or, by which the antithesis is connected, means one of the things exclusively of the other. The same may be observed in another couplet from the same author ;