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The truth is, something relative to the pronunciation can be conveyed by written marks, and something cannot. The pauses between sentences, and members of sentences, may be conveyed; the accent on any particular syllable of a word may be conveyed ; the emphasis on any particular word in a sentence may be conveyed ; and it is presumed it will be demonstrated in the course of this work, that a certain inflection of voice, which shows the import of the pauses, forms the harmony of a cadence, distinguishes emphasis into its different kinds, and gives each kind its specifick and determinate meaning, may be as clearly conveyed upon paper, as either the pause, the accent, or the emphatick word :--Here then is one step farther, in the art of reading, than any author has hitherto ventured to go ; and that this new step is not entirely visionary and impracticable, will more clearly appear by considering the nature of speaking sounds.
Of the two simple Inflections of the Voice.
ALL vocal sounds may be divided into two kinds, namely, speaking sounds, and musical sounds. Musical sounds are such as continue a given time on one precise point of the musical scale, and leap, as it were, from one note to another ; while speaking sounds, instead of dwelling on the note they begin with, slide* either upwards, or downwards, to the neighbouring notes, without any perceptible rest on any : so that speaking and musical sounds are essentially distinct ; the former being constantly in motion from the moment they commence; the latter being at rest for some given time in one precise note.
* Smith's Harmonicks, p. 3. Note (c)
The continual motion of speaking sounds makes it almost as impossible for the ear to mark their sev. eral differences, as it would be for the eye to define an object that is swiftly passing before it, and continually vanishing away; the difficulty of arresting speaking sounds for examination, has made almost all authors suppose it impossible to give any such distinct account of them, as to be of use in speaking and reading; and, indeed, the vast variety of tone which a good reader or speaker throws into delivery, and of which it is impossible to convey any idea but by imitation, has led us easily to suppose that nothing at all of this variety can be defined and reduced to rule : but when we consider, that whether words are pronounced in a high or low, in a loud or a soft tone ; whether they are pronounced swiftly or slowly, forcibly or feebly, with the tone of the passion, or without it ; they must necessarily be pronounced either sliding upwards or downwards, or else go into a monotone or song; when we consider this, I say, we shall find, that the primary division of speaking sounds is into the upward and the down. ward slide of the voice ; and that whatever other diversity of time, tone, or force, is added to speaking it must necessarily be conveyed by these two slides.
These two slides, or inflections of voice, therefore, are the axis, as it were, on which the force, variety, and harmony of speaking turns. They may be considered as the great outlines of pronunciation ; and if these outlines can be tolerably conveyed to a reader, they must be of nearly the same use to him, as the rough draught of a picture is to a pupil in painting. This then we shall attempt to accomplish, by adducing some of the most familiar phrases in the language, and pointing out the inflections which ev. ery ear, however unpractised, will naturally adopt in pronouncing them. These phrases, which are in every body's mouth, will become a kind of data, or principles, - to which the reader must constantly be referred, when he is at a loss for the precise sound that is understood by these different inflections ; and these familiar sounds, it is presumed, will suffi. ciently instruct him.
Method of explaining the Inflections of the Voice.
It must first be premised, that, by the rising or falling inflection, is not meant the pitch of voice in which the whole word is pronounced, or that loudness or softness which may accompany any pitch ; but that upward or downward slide which the voice makes when the pronunciation of a word is finishing ; and which may, therefore, not improperly be called the rising and falling inflection.
So important is a just mixture of these two inflections, that the moment they are neglected, our pro. nunciation becomes forceless and monotonous : if the sense of a sentence require the voice to adopt the rising inflection on any particular word, either in the middle, or at the end of a phrase, variety and harmony demand the falling inflection on one of the preced. ing words ; and on the other hand, if emphasis, har. mony, or a completion of sense, require the falling inflection on any word, the word immediately preceding, almost always, demands the rising inflection ; so that these inflections of voice are in an order nearly alternate.
This is very observable in reading a sentence, when we have mistaken the connection between the meme bers, either by supposing the sense is to be continued when it finishes, or supposing it finished when it is really to be continued : for in either of these cases, before we have pronounced the last word, we find it nesessary to return pretty far back to some of the preceding words, in order to give them such inflec
tions as are suitable to those which the sense res quires on the succeeding words. Thus, in pronoun. cing the speech of Portius in Cato, which is generally mis-pointed, as in the following example:
Remember what our father oft has told us,
if, I say, from not having considered this passage, we run the second line into the third, by suspending the voice at intricate in the rising inflection, and dropping it at errors in the falling, we find a very improper meaning conveyed; and if, in recovering ourselves from this improper pronunciation, we take notice of the different manner in which we pronounce the second and third' lines, we shall find, that not only the last word of these lines, but that every word alters its inflection ; for, when we perceive, that by mistaking the pause, we have misconceived the sense, we find it necessary to begin the line again, and pronounce every word differently, in order to make it harmonious..
But though these two inflections of voice run through almost every word of which a sentence is composed, they are no where so perceptible as at a long pause, or where the sense of the words requires an emphasis ; especially if the word end with a long open vowel : in this case, if we do but attend nicely to that turn of the voice which finishes this emphati. cal word, or that member of a sentence where we pause, we shall soon perceive the different inflection with which these words are pronounced.
In order to make this different inflection of voice more easily apprehended, it may not, perhaps, be
useless to attend to the following directions. Let us suppose we are to pronounce the following sentence:
Does Cæsar deserve fame or blame ? This sentence, it is presumed, will, at first sight, be pronounced with the proper inflections of voice, by every one that can barely read; and if the reader will but narrowly watch the sounds of the words fame and blame, he will have an example of the two inflections here spoken of : fame will have the rising, and blame the falling inflection : But, to make this distinction still clearer, if, instead of pronouncing the word fame slightly, he does but give it a strong em. phatick force, and let it drawl off the tongue for some time before the sound finishes, he will find it slide upwards, and end in a rising tone; if he makes the same experiment on the word blame, he will find the sound slide downwards, and end in a falling tone: and this drawling pronunciation, though it tengthens the sounds beyond their proper duration, does not alter them essentially; the same inflections are pre. served as in the common pronunciation; and the distinction is as real in one mode of pronouncing as in the other, though not so perceptible.
Every pause, of whatever kind, must necessarily adopt one of these two inflections, or continue in a monotone : thus, when we ask a question without the interrogative words, we naturally adopt the rising inflection on the last word; as,
Can Cæsar deserve blame ? Impossible ! Here blame, the last word of the question, has the rising inflection, contrary to the inflection on that word in the former instance ; and impossible, with the note of admiration, the falling : The comma, or that suspension of voice 'generally annexed to it, which marks a continuation of the sense, is most.fre