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English as well as in Greek and Latin, it will be necessary first to inquire, what we mean by long and short vowels, or, as some are pleased to term them, syllables.
2. In English, then, we have no conception of quantity arising from any thing but the nature of the vowels, as they are pronounced long or short. Whatever retardation of voice in the sound of a vowel there miglit be in Greek or Latin before two consonants, and those often twin consonants, we find every vowel in this situation as easily pronounced short as long; and the quantity is found to arise from the length or shortness we give to the vowel, and not from any obstruction of sound occa. sioned by the succeeding consonants. Thus the a in banish, banner, and banter, is short in all these words, and long in paper, taper, and vapour : the i long in miser, minor, and mitre, and short in misery, middle, and mistress: and so of the rest of the vowels : and though the accent is on the first syllable of all these words, we see it perfectly compatible with either long or short quantity.
3. As a farther proof of this, we may observe, that unaccented vowels are frequently pronounced long when the accented vowels are short. Thus the o in Cicero, in English as
upon accents as alone regulating the pronunciation of English, and quantity as “ excluded from it.”-- Forster's Essay on Accent and Quantity, page 28.
As a farther proof of the total want of ear in a great Greek scholar-Lord Monboddo says, “Our accents differ from the Greeks in two material
respects : “ First, they are not appropriated to particular syllables of the word, but are laid
upon different syllables, according to the fancy of the speaker, or rather as “ it happens : for I believe no man speaking English does, by choice, give
an accent to one syllable of a word different from that which he gives to 16 another."
“ Two things, therefore, that, in my opinion, constitute our verse, are the “ number of syllables, and the mixture of loud and soft, according to certain rules. “ As to quantity, it is certainly not essential to our verse, and far less is accent." See Steele’s Prosodia Rationalis, page 103. 110.
well as in Latin pronunciation, is long, though unaccented; and the i short, though under the accent. The same may be observed of the name of our English poet Lillo.
So in our English words cónclave, réconcile, chamomile, and the substantives cónfine, përfume, and a thousand others, we see the first accented syllable short, and the final unaccented syllable long. Let those who contend that the acute accent and long quantity are inseparable call the first vowels of these words long, if they please, but to those who make their ear and not their eye the judge of quantity, when compared with the last vowels, they will always be esteemed short *.
4. The next object of inquiry is, What is the nature of English accent ? Mr. Sheridan t, with his usual decision,
* A late very learned and ingenious writer tells us,
that our accent and quantity always coincide; he objects to himself the words signif', magnify, qualify', &c. where the final syllable is longer than the accented syllable ; but this he asserts, with the greatest probability, was not the accentuation of our an
stors, who placed the accent on the last syllable, which is naturally the longest. But this sufficiently proves that the accent does not necessarily lengthen the syllable it falls on; that is, if length consists in pronouncing the vowel long, which is the natural idea of long quantity, and not the duration of the voice upon a short vowel occasioned by the retardation of sounding two succecding consonants, which is an idea, though sanctioned by antiquity, that has no foundation in nature; for who, that is not prejudiced by early opinion, can suppose the first syllable of elbow to be long, and the last short ?--See Essay on Greek and Larin Prosodies.- Printed for ROBSON.
# The term (accent) with us has no reference to inflexions of the voice or musical notes, but only means a peculiar manner of distinguishing one syllable of a word from the rest.-Lectures on Elocution, quarto edition, page 41.
To illustrate the difference between the accent of the ancients and that of ours, (says Mr. Sheridan,) let us suppose the same movements beat upon the drum, and sounded by the urumpet. Take, for instance, a succession of words, where the accent is on every second syllable which forms an Iambic movement; the only way by which a drum fas it is incapable of any change of notes), can
tells us, that accent is only a greater force upon one syllable than another, without any relation to the elevation or depression of the voice; while almost every other writer on the subject makes the elevation or depression of the voice inseparable from accent. When words are pronounced in a monotone, as the bellman repeats his verses, the crier pronounces his advertisement, or the clerk of a church gives out the psalm, we hear an ictus or accentual force upon the several accented syllables, which distinguishes them from the others, but no more variety of tone than if we were to beat the syllables of the same words upon a dium, which may be louder or softer, but cannot be either higher or lower; this is pronouncing according Mr. Sheridan's definition of accent: and this pronunciation certainly comes under the definition of singing: it is singing ill, indeed, as Julius Cæsar said of a bad reader,--but still it is singing, and therefore essentially different from speaking ; for in speaking, the voice is continually sliding upwards or downwards; and in singing, it is leaping, as it were, from a lower to a higher, or from a higher to a lower note: the only two possi
mark that movement, is by striking a soft note first, followed by one more forci. ble, and so in succession. Let the same movement be sounded by the trumpet in an alternation of high and low notes, and it will give a distinct idea of the dif. ference between the English accent and those of the ancients. Art of Reading, page 75.
I am sorry to find one of the most ingenious, learned, and candid inquirers into this subject, of the same opinion as Mr. Sheridan. The authority of Mr. Nares would have gone near to shake my own opinion, if I had not recollected that this gentleman confesses he cannot perceive the least of a diphthongal sound in the i in strike, which Dr. Wallis, he observes, excludes from the simple sounds of the vowels. For if the definition of a vowel sound be that it is .formed by one position of the organs, nothing can be more perceptible than the double position of them in the present case, and that the noun eye, which is perfectly equivalent to the pronoun I, begins with the sound of a in father, and ends in that of e in equal. See Nares's English Orthoë py, page 2. 144.
ble ways of varying the human voice with respect to elevation or depression : so that when we are told by some writers on this subject, that the speaking of the ancients was a kind of singing, we are led into the error of supposing that singing and speaking differ only in degree, and not in kind; whereas they are just as different as motion and rest *.
5. Whenever in speaking we adopt a singing tone, (which was formerly the case with Puritan preachers,) it differs essentially from speaking, and can be pricked down upon paper, and be played upon a violin: and whenever in singing we adopt a speaking tone, the slide of this tone is so essentially distinct from singing as to shock the ear like the harshest discord. Those, therefore, who rank recitative as a medium between singing and speaking, are utterly ignorant of the nature of both. Recitative is just as much singing as what is called air, or any other species of musical composition.
6. If we may have recourse to the eye, the most distinct and definite of all our senses, we may define musical notes to be ho. rizontal lines, and speaking tones oblique lines: the one rises from low to high, or falls from high to low by distinct inter
vals, as the following straight lines to the eye;
* It is not denied that the slides in speaking may sometimes leap, as it were, from a low to a high, or from a high to a low note ; that is, that there may be a very considerable interval between the end of one of those slides and the beginning of another; as between the high note in the word no in the question, Did he say No ? and the low note which the same word may adopt in the answer. No, be did not. But the sound which composes the note of speaking, as it may be called, and the sound which composes the note of singing, are essentially distinct ; the former is in continual motion, while the latter is for a given time at rest. --See Note to sect. 23.
the other slides upwards or downwards, as the following ob.
nor is the one more different to the eye than the other is to the ear. Those, therefore, who gravely tell us that the enunciation of the ancients was a kind of musical speaking, impcse upon us with words to which we can annex no ideas; and when they attempt to illustrate this musicospeaking pronunciation, by referring us to the Scotch and other dialects, they give us a rhetorical flourish instead of a real example: for however the Scotch and other speakers may drawl out the accent, and give the vowel a greater length than the English, it is always in an oblique, and not in a straight line ; for the moment the straight line of sound, or the monotone, is adopted, we hear something essentially distinct from speaking.
7. As high and low, loud and soft, forcible and feeble, are comparative terms, words of one syllable pronounced alone, and without relation to other words or syllables, cannot be said to have any accent *. The only distinction to which such words are liable, is an elevation or depression of voice, when we compare the beginning with the end of the word or syllable. Thus a monosyllable, considered singly, rises from a lower to a higher tone in the question Nó? which may therefore be
* How the ancients could make every monosyllable arcented, (that is, according to their definition of accent, pronounced with an elevated tone of voice,) without telling us how this elevation happened, whether it was an elevation of one part of the syllable above the other, or the elevation of one word or syllable above other words or syllables --how these distinctions, I say, so absolutely necessary to a precise idea of accent, should never be once mentioned, can be resolved into nothing but that attachment to words without ideas, and that neglect of experiment, which have involved the moderns in the same mist of ignorance and