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MODE OF ENUNCIATION REQUIRED FOR PUBLIC READING AND
SPEAKING. A correct enunciation is the fundamental quality of a distinct and impressive elocution. It is an attainment of great value, for the ordinary purposes of communication; but it becomes doubly important, in the act of reading or speaking in public, whether we advert to the larger space which must be traversed by the voice, or the greater moment of the topics of discourse which are usual on such occasions. The appro
riate style of modern eloquence, is that of intellectual, more than of impassioned, expression; and enunciation being, of all the functions of the voice, that which is most important, to the conveyance of thought and meaning, it justly requires, in the course of education, more attention and practice than any other branch of elocution.
A distinct articulation, regarded as a matter of taste, or the result of a well-disciplined mind, possesses, like the quality of perspicuity or clearness in writing, something more than a mere negative merit: it imparts to speech a positive propriety and gracefulness, for the want of which nothing can compensate.
In the English language, especially, it is an invaluable accomplishment; as our frequent consonants, and difficult combinations of sound, while they render an accurate enunciation essential to intelligible expression and natural fluency of speech, tend to betray the organs into a defective and inarticulate mode of utterance,a result which may be observed in the habits of the illiterate and the uncultivated, wherever the English language is spoken. Nor is erroneous habit, in this particular, confined to the uneducated: it extends, in consequence of defective initiation in the English language, to the business of the professions, and the exercises of literary institutions; and until a change, in this respect, is effected in the modes of early instruction, a good enunciation must remain to be the fruit of individual exertion and of self-cultivation.
To aid such efforts is the object, in part, of this manual, and the lessons and exercises prescribed in the preceding pages, although primarily designed for
the elementary discipline of young learners, will also, it is hoped, serve the purposes of preparatory practice for public reading and speaking, if attention is given to the following explanations and suggestions.
Distinct enunciation depends, as already mentioned, on the true and forcible action of the organs of speech. Regarded in connexion with the exercise of reading or speaking in public, it requires, 1st, the preparatory act of drawing a full supply of breath, that the lungs may be freely expanded, and a sufficient volume of air obtained for the production of strong and clear sound; 2d, a vigorous emission, or expulsion, of the breath, to give force and distinctness to the action of those organs which render sound articulate; 3d, an energetic, deliberate, and exact execution, in the functions of the tongue and the lips. It is from the combination of all these qualitics of articulation, that the ear receives the true and perfect sound of every letter and syllable; and the mind, the exact form and meaning of every word; while a failure in any of these points, is attended by a weak and inefficient voice, or a defective and indistinct utterance.
The qualities requisite to distinct enunciation, naturally belong to all human beings in the possession of health, and under an adequate impulse of the mind : they are especially characteristic of the activity and elasticity of youth, when not perverted or depressed by arbitrary modes of education, or when uncorrupted by bad example and neglect. Instruction and practice, however, are requisite to develope and confirm these natural good tendencies; but such aids become indispensable when the habits of enunciation have, through unfavourable influences, been stamped with error, or when individuals have commenced a course of study, preparatory to a profession which requires correctness and fluency in public address.
* This act is naturally and unconsciously performed by persons whose organization is happily adapted to vigorous exercise of voice. It easily becomes a habit, even with the infirm, if due attention is devoted to it. It facilitates, inexpressibly, the exertion necessary to public speaking; and the neglect of it is a great cause of internal exhaustion and injury.
A habit of drawing a full breath, has been mentioned, as the first preliminary to energetic and distinct enunciation. This point will, perhaps, be more clearly understood, and its value more distinctly perceived, by adverting to the circumstance, that many speakers, (adults, through the influence of neglected habit, and the young, from agitation or embarrassment,) begin to speak without a full supply of breath, or an entire inflation of the lungs, and that the mechanical impulse of speaking commonly carries on the action of the voice, without leaving opportunity for a full supply of breath to be drawn, in the course of a whole exercise. The lungs are thus exhausted and injured, by being required to furnish, (what they have not actually received,) a volume of air sufficient to create and sustain a strong articulate utterance. The whole style of a speaker's elocution is thus rendered feeble, indistinct, and unimpressive. A due attention to the student's habits of breathing, will do much towards enabling him to speak or read with ease and distinctness, as well as to acquire a full and habitual energy of voice, and a permanent vigour of the organs of speech.*
The second requisite to distinct articulation, is a forcible expulsion of the breath. Animated conversation, on subjects interesting to the mind, and especially when a numerous company is addressed, furnishes an idea of what is meant by expulsive or forcible utterance; and the voice of a sick person, -of an individual in health, when fatigued, -of a person overwhelmed with grief, shame, or embarrassment,-may serve to illustrate the opposite quality of speech,-a faint and ineffective mode of expression. The act of public communication by oral address, requires a vigorous exertion of the organs,--a thing equally essential to animation and interest in the speaker, and to the physical possibility of his voice being heard, or his words
* The exercise of reading or speaking in public, must necessarily be exhausting, when this point is neglected ; and it is no less capable of becoming easy, salutary, and invigorating, if this circumstance receive due attention, and the supply of breath be frequently renewed, by advantage being taken of every slight pause, while the chest is always kept fully expanded.
understood by his audience. To produce an energetic and distinct articulation, the breath must be forcibly expelled, as well as freely inhaled :a full volume of air must be transmitted, with great force, to the minor organs of speech, which give a definite character to sound.
Where the forcible emission of the breath is neglected, a grave and hollow voice, yet feeble and languid in its execution, is unavoidably contracted, by which the speaker's internal energy is much impaired, and the natural effect of his delivery is lost. A strong and adequate utterance, on the contrary, carries the voice outward, and causes it to reach with ease, and with full effect, over a large space. Expulsive enunciation should receive full attention, as an easy and natural means of strengthening the voice, and rendering it clear and distinct. As a mode of physical exercise, it is conducive to inward vigour, and to general health; and as an accomplishment in elocution, it is of the utmost consequence to the appropriate expression of elevated sentiment and natural emotion.
This kind of vocal force, however, must be carefully distinguished from that of calling or vociferation, with which it has little in common, but which is habitually exemplified by some public speakers, who indulge an undisciplined and intemperate energy of feeling or of voice, and by children, generally, when reading in a large room. It produces the style of utterance which most people erroneously adopt in conversing with a
Contrasted with a natural and habitual tone, this mode of utterance has a false note, and an effect altogether peculiar to itself: it is the tone of physical effort transcending that of mental expression. True force of utterance, on the other hand, keeps the tone of meaning predominant, and preserves the whole natural voice of the individual, while it increases its energy. It differs from the tone of private conversation solely in additional force, and a more deliberate and distinct expression. It is the want of this style of utterance which creates formal and professional tones, or what is not unjustly called a school tone.
The third constituent of good articulation, is to be found in the proper functions of the tongue and the lips. These organs divide and modify the voice into distinct portions of sound, constituting letters and syllables, and consequently require energy and deliberateness, or due force and slowness, along with perfect precision, or exactness, in their action.
Energy in the play of these minor organs of speech, is a quality entirely distinct from loudness, or mere force in the emission of the voice. A sound may come from the lungs and the throat with great vehemence, and yet be very obscure in its peculiar char-, acter, because not duly modified by the tongue. The voice of a person under the excitement of inebriation, furnishes, sometimes, a striking illustration of this distinction. Strong emotion and great loudness of speech, are, from a cause somewhat similar, not favourable to clear expression of meaning, but often have a contrary effect; the violence of feeling and of utterance preventing the true and accurate formation of sound. Energy of articulation, on the other hand, consists in the force with which the constituent sounds of every word, are expressed by the exertion of their appropriate organs. It may exist with but very little of mere loudness. It sometimes gives indescribable power to a bare whisper. It is the quality which gives form and character to human speech, and constitutes it the appropriate vehicle of intellect; although from languor or carelessness of habit, it is too seldom exemplified in public reading and speaking.
The next point to be observed, in the action of the organs, is deliberateness or due slowness, the medium between hurry and drawling,-faults which are a great hinderance to distinctness; the former producing a mass of crowded and confused sounds which make no distinct impression on the ear, and leave no intelligible trace on the mind; and the latter causing the voice to lag lazily behind the natural movement of the mind's attention, with an unmeaning and disagreeable prolongation of sound, which takes away the spirit and the significance of speech. The degree of slowness required for an accurate and distinct enun