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ACCENT AND EMPHASIS.
As a knowledge of ACCENT and EMPHASIS is essential to GOOD READING, the pupils should be made acquainted with the nature of each, and the distinction between them; for they are frequently confounded. Accent refers to syllables, and eans that peculiar stress or force which, in pronouncing a word of two or more syllables, we lay upon a certain one of the syllables as distinguished from the rest. Emphasis refers to words, and means that peculiar stress or force which, in uttering a sentence, we lay upon one or more of the words as distinguished from the others. Every word of two or more syllables has, in pronunciation, an accent upon one of the syllables; and some of the longer or more difficult words have, in addition to the principal accent, a SECONDARY, or weaker one. And in every sentence, and clause of a sentence, there is one or more words which require to be pronounced with a greater degree of force than the other words. Without knowing and marking the accented syllables in words, we cannot give them their proper pronunciation; nor can we bring out the full meaning of a sentence, unless we know and mark the emphatic words. The accented syllables of words we learn by imitating the pronunciation of correct speakers; and by referring, in cases of doubt, to a dictionary in which they are given. The emphatic words in a sentence we can only learn by knowing their relative importance in it, and the precise meaning which the writer of it intended each of them to convey. In fact, if we know the meaning and drift of the sentence, we shall have no difficulty in discovering the emphatic words. In all such cases they are naturally and spontaneously suggested to us, just as they are to persons uttering or speaking their own sentiments. For even the most illiterate persons are sure, when uttering their own sentiments, to lay the proper emphases on their words; though they may, and very often do, give them
the wrong accents. If a labouring man, for example, were to say, “It is a spade, and not a shovel that I want,” he would be sure to pronounce the words "spade” and “shovel” with a greater degree of force than the other words; because he wishes to draw the particular attention of the person whom he addresses to the ideas or things which they represent. Had he merely said, “It is a spade I want,” he would nevertheless have pronounced the word "spade” emphatically, because he wished it to be particularly understood that it was a spade, and not any other implement, such as a shovel, that he wanted. Should he say, “Is the spade broken ?” he would pronounce the word "broken” emphatically; because his object is to obtain precise information on that point. But if he should say, “ Is it the spade that is broken ?" he will lay the emphasis on the word “ spade,” and not upon“ broken;" because, understanding that there is some implement broken, he wishes to be informed whether it is the spade. Again, should he say, "Is it my spade that is broken?” he will lay the emphasis on the word “my;" because he desires to know whether the spade that is broken is his or not. Should he ask, “ Who broke the spade ?” he will lay the emphasis on the word “ wio;" because, being already aware that the spade is broken, his object in making the inquiry is, to learn the name of the
person who broke it. And, lastly, should he
say, was the spade broken ?” he will make “how” the emphatic word; because, in this case, he wishes to be informed of the manner or way in which the accident occurred.
It is obvious from what has been said, that if we understand the meaning of what we read, in the same degree as a person understands the thoughts which he utters, we shall, like him, naturally and spontaneously lay the emphases on the proper words. It is equally obvious, that if we do not understand the meaning of what we read, we shall either have to pronounce all the
words with the same degree of force—which would be absurd-or to run the risk of perverting the meaning of the author, by laying the emphases on the wrong words. The following sentence will exemplify this “O fools and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have written concerning me." If we perceive that the intention of our Saviour was to reproach his disciples for their backwardness in believing, we shall, in reading it, naturally lay the principal emphasis on the word “slow." But if we do not see that this was the object of the speaker, the chances are we shall lay the emphasis on one of the other words, and thus change or pervert the meaning. For example, if we lay the emphasis on “ believe,” it would imply that the disciples were reproached for believing; if on "all," then the inference would be that they might have believed some of the things which the prophets had written, but that it was foolish in them to believe all. If we lay the emphasis on "prophets,” it would imply that they might have believed others, but that they were fools for believing the prophets; if on “written,” the inference would be, that though they might have believed what the prophets had said, it was foolish in them to believe what they had written; and, finally, if we lay the emphasis
me," it would imply that though they might have believed what the prophets had written concerning others, yet they were fools for believing what they had written concerning the Saviour.
Even in the most familiar sentences, illustrations of this may be found. The simple question, for example, “Do you ride to town to-day?” may, by varying the
? position of the emphasis, be made to suggest as many different meanings as it contains words. If we lay the emphasis on you,” we wish to ascertain from the person addressed, whether it is he or some other person that is to ride to town to-day; if on ride," we mean to ask him whether he purposes to ride or walk; if on " town,” ( ar purpose is to inquire whether it is to the
town or to the country he means to ride ; and, finally, if we make “to-day” the emphatic word, we wish him to say whether it is to-day or to-morrow he intends to ride to town. Even the preposition “to,” if made emphatic, would imply, though obscurely, that we wished the person addressed to
say whether he intended to ride quite as far as the town, or only part of the way.
Before passing from the subject of ACCENT, we shall show, by a few illustrations, the power which EMPHASIS has over it when the sense or meaning requires it :
He must increase, but I must decrease.
Neither justice nor injustice has any thing to do with the matter.
What is done cannot be undone.
Religion raises men above themselves, irreligion sinks them below the brutes.
This corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
To me it was far from being an agreeable surprise; on the contrary, it was a disagreeable one. Thought and language act and react upon each other.
What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
I shall always make nature, truth, and reason, the measures of praise and dispraise.
A gentleman who was pressed by his friends to forgive his daughter, who had married against his wishes, promised to do so, but added, that he would have them remember that there was a difference between giving and forgiving.
In the preceding, and in all similar cases, the position of the accent is completely changed by the emphasis. The reason is obvious: the speaker wishes to draw the special attention of the person addressed to the contrasted parts of the words; and hence he pronounces those parts or syllables emphatically, the effect of which is, in such cases, to change the seat of the accent.
This transposition of the accent takes place also in words which have a sameness of termination, even though they may not be directly opposed in sense; as in the following examples :
Catiline was expert in all the arts of simulation and dissimu. lation; covetous of what belonged to others, lavish of his own.
In this species of composition, plausibility is more essential than probability
From what has been said with regard to emphasis, we may draw the following general conclusion. Whenever a person wishes to bring an idea prominently or forcibly under the notice of the person or persons whom he addresses, he will naturally and instinctively pronounce the word which expresses it with a corresponding degree of emphatic force. The degree or intensity of the emphasis will, of course, depend upon the importance of the idea to be expressed, the nature of the subject, and the feelings or emotions of the speaker. In some cases it will be slight, in others strong, and in others, vehement or energetic; and hence a good general division of emphasis, with regard to its intensity, might be into three degrees, namely, SLIGHT, STRONG, and
Of course, there must be a great diversity in the degrees of emphasis, from the slight to the vehement; but the general divisions which we have suggested will be quite suflicient for practical purposes—and we have no other in view.
Though in all properly constructed sentences, every word is useful and necessary, yet in every sentence the relative importance of the words must be different. Articles, Prepositions, Conjunctions, and Auxiliary Verbs, for example, are less important in their significations than the words which they introduce or connect—as Nouns, Verbs, Adjectives, and Adverbs. And hence it may be laid down as a general rule, that the less important words in a sentence should be pronounced with less of force and distinctness than the more important words. And this, as we have seen, we always do in SPEAKING; for it is to the more important words that we naturally desire to draw the special attention of the person or persons whom we address, and not to the ancillary or subordinate words.