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Opposite opinions of learned men concerning the power of the
266 The definition which the ancients give f the acute accent un
intelligible, without having recourse to the system of the inflexions of the speaking voice
268 An attempt to reconcile the accent and quantity of the an
cients, by reading a passage in Homer and Virgil, accord
ing to the ideas of accent and quantity bere laid down - - 272 The only four possible ways of pronouncing these passages without singing
273 The only probable method pointed out
ib. This method renders, the reading very monotonous; but this
must necessarily be the case, let us adopt what system we will
274 The definition of the circumflex accent, a confirmation of the system here adopted -
275 The monotony of the Greek and Latin languages not more ex
traordinary than the poverty of their music, and the seeming absurdity of their dramatic entertainments
276 Probable causes of the obscurity and confusion in which this
subject is involved, both among the ancients and moderns - 28?
As a perusal of the Observations on Greek and Latin Accent and Quantity requires a more intimate acquaintance with the nature of the voice than is generally brought to the study of that subject, it may not be improper to lay before the reader such an explanation of speaking sounds, as may enable him to distinguish between high and loud, soft and low, forcibleness and length, and feebleness and shortness, which are so often confounded, and which consequently produce such confusion and obscurity among our best prosodists.
But as describing such sounds upon paper as have no definite terms appropriated to them, like those of music, is a new and difficult task, the reader must be requested to give as nice an attention as possible to those sounds and inflexions of voice, which spontaneously annex themselves to certain forms of speech, and which, from their familiarity, are apt to pass unnoticed. But if experience were out of the question, and we were only acquainted with the organic formation of human sounds, we must necessarily distinguish them into five kinds : namely, the monotone, or one sound continuing a perceptible time in one note, which is the case with all musical sounds ; a sound beginning low and sliding higher, or beginning high and sliding lower, without any perceptible intervals, which is essential to all speaking sounds. The two last may be called simple slides or inflexions; and these may be so combined as to begin with that which rises, and end with that which falls, or to begin with that which falls, and end with that which rises: and if this combination of different inflexions be pronounced with one impulse or explosion of the voice, it may not improperly be called the circumflex or compound inflexion ; and this monotone, the two simple and the two compound inflexions, are the only modifications, independent on the passions, of which the human voice is susceptible.
The different States of the Voice.
The modifications of the voice which have just been enu. merated may be called absolute; because they cannot be con. verted into each other, but must remain decidedly what they are; while different states of the voice, as high and low, loud and soft, quick and slow, are only comparative terms, since what is high in one case may be low in another, and so of the rest. Besides, therefore, the modifications of voice which have been described, the only varieties remaining of which the human voice is capable, except these produced by the passions, are high, low, loud, soft, quick, slow, forcible, and feeble. Though high and loud, and low and soft, are frequently confounded, yet, when considered distinctly, their difference is easily understood; as if we strike a large bell with a deep tone, though it gives a very loud tone, it will still be
one ; strike a small bell with a high tone, it will still be a high tone, though the stroke bè ever so soft ; a quick tone in music is that in which the same tone continues but a short time, and a slow tone where it continues longer; but in speaking, a quick tone is that when the slide rises froin low to high, or from high to low, in a short time, and a slow tone the reverse ; while forcible and feeble seem to be severally compounded of two of these simple states ; that is, force seems to be loudness and quickness, either in a high or low tone also; and feebleness seems to be softness and slowness, either in a high or a low tone likewise. As to the tones of the passions, which are so many and various, these, in the opinion of one of the best judges in
and if we
the kingdom, are qualities of sound, occasioned by certain vibrations of the organs of speech, independent on high, low, loud, soft, quick, slow, forcible, or feeble : which last may not improperly be called different quantities of sound.
It may not, perhaps, be unworthy of observation, how few are these principles, which, by a different combination with each other, produce that almost unbounded variety of which human speech consists. The different quantities of sound, as these different states of the voice may be called, may be combined so as to form new varieties with any other that are not opposite to them. Thus high may be combined with either loud or soft, quick or slow; that is, a high note may be sounded either in a loud or soft tone, and a low note may be sounded either in a loud or a soft tone also, and each of these tones may be pronounced either in a longer or a shorter time; that is, more slowly or quickly; while forcible seems to imply a de. gree of loudness and quickness, and feeble, a degree of softness and slowness, either in a high or a low tone. These combinations may, perhaps, be more easily conceived by classing them in contrast with each other :
High, loud, quick.
Low, soft, slow. Forcible may be high, loud, and quick; or low, loud, and quick, Feeble may be high, soft, and slow; or low, soft, and slow.
The different combinations of these states may be thus represented : High, loud, quick, forcible. Low, loud, quick, forcible, High, loud, slow.
Low, loud, slow, High, soft, quick.
Low, soft, quick. High, soft, slow, feeble.
Low, soft, slow, feeble,
When these states of the voice are combined with the five modifications of voice above mentioned, the varieties become exceedingly numerous, but far from being incalculable : per, haps they may amount (for I leave it to arithmeticians to reckon them exactly) to that number into which the ancients distinguished the notes of music, which, if I remember right, were about two hundred.
These different states of the voice, if justly distinguished and associated, may serve to throw some light on the nature of accent. If, as Mr. Sheridan asserts, the accented syllable is only louder and not higher than the other syllables, every polysyllable is perfect monotone. If the accented syllable be higher than the rest, which is the general opinion both among the ancients and moderns, this is true only when a word is pronounced alone, and without reference to any other word; for when suspended at a comma, concluding a negative member followed by an affirmative, or asking a question beginning with a verb; if the unaccented syllable or syllables be the last, they are higher than the accented syllable, though not so loud. So that the true definition of accent is this : If the word be pronounced alone, and without any reference to other words, the accented syllable is both higher and louder than the other syla lables either before or after it; but if the word be suspended, as at the comma, if it end a negative member followed by an affirmative, or if it conclude an interrogative sentence beginning with a verb, in this case the accented syllable is louder and bigher than the preceding, and louder and lower than the sur. ceeding syllables. This will be sufficiently exen;plified in the following pages. In the mean time it may be observed, that if a degree of swiftness enters into the definition of force, and that the accented syllable is the most forcible, it follows that the accent does not necessarily lengthen the syllable, and that if it falls on a long vowel, it is only a longer continuation of that force with which it quickly or suddenly commenced; for as the voice is an efflux of air, and air is a fluid like water, we may conceive a sudden gush of this fluid to continue either a longer or a shorter time, and from thence form an idea of long or short quantity. If, however, this definition of force, as applied to accent, should be erroneous or imaginary, let it be remembered