Distinctness And Precision Of Utterance. Continued
It is the work of a lifetime to learn the accents of a large vocabulary and to keep pace with changing usage; but an alert ear, the study of word-origins, and the dictionary habit, will prove to be mighty helpers in a task that can never be finally completed.
Correct enunciation is the complete utterance of all the sounds of a syllable or a word. Wrong articulation gives the wrong sound to the vowel or vowels of a word or a syllable, as doo for dew; or unites two sounds improperly, as hully for wholly. Wrong enunciation is the incomplete utterance of a syllable or a word, the sound omitted or added being usually consonantal. To say needcessity instead of necessity is a wrong articulation; to say doin for doing is improper enunciation. The one articulates - that is, joints - two sounds that should not be joined, and thus gives the word a positively wrong sound; the other fails to touch all the sounds in the word, and in that particular way also sounds the word incorrectly.
"My tex' may be foun' in the fif' and six' verses of the secon' chapter of Titus; and the subjec' of my discourse is 'The Gover'ment of ar Homes.' "1
What did this preacher do with his final consonants? This slovenly dropping of essential sounds is as offensive as the common habit of running words together so that they lose their individuality and distinctness. Lighten dark, uppen down, doncher know, partic'lar, zamination, are all too common to need comment.
Imperfect enunciation is due to lack of attention and to lazy lips. It can be corrected by resolutely attending to the formation of syllables as they are uttered. Flexible lips will enunciate difficult combinations of sounds without slighting any of them, but such flexibility cannot be attained except by habitually uttering words with distinctness and accuracy. A daily exercise in enunciating a series of sounds will in a short time give flexibility to the lips and alertness to the mind, so that no word will be uttered without receiving its due complement of sound.
Returning to our definition, we see that when the sounds of a word are properly articulated, the right syllables accented, and full value given to each sound in its enunciation, we have correct pronunciation. Perhaps one word of caution is needed here, lest any one, anxious to bring out clearly every sound, should overdo the matter and neglect the unity and smoothness of pronunciation. Be careful not to bring syllables into so much prominence as to make words seem long and angular. The joints must be kept decently dressed.
Before delivery, do not fail to go over your manuscript and note every sound that may possibly be mispronounced. Consult the dictionary and make assurance doubly sure. If the arrangement of words is unfavorable to clear enunciation, change either words or order, and do not rest until you can follow Hamlet's directions to the players.
1 School and College Speaker, Mitchell.
Questions And Exercises
1. Practise repeating the following rapidly, paying particular attention to the consonants.
"Foolish Flavius, flushing feverishly, fiercely found fault with Flora's frivolity.1"
Mary's matchless mimicry makes much mischief.
Seated on shining shale she sells sea shells.
You youngsters yielded your youthful yule-tide yearnings yesterday.
2. Sound the l in each of the following words, repeated in sequence:
Blue black blinkers blocked Black Blondin's eyes.
3. Do you say a bloo sky or a blue sky?
4. Compare the u sound in few and in new. Say each aloud, and decide which is correct, Noo York, New Yawk, or New York?
5. Pay careful heed to the directions of this chapter in reading the following, from Hamlet. After the interview with the ghost of his father, Hamlet tells his friends Horatio and Marcellus that he intends to act a part:
Horatio. O day and night, but this is wondrous strange! Hamlet. And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
1 School and College Speaker, Mitchell.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
Here, as before, never, so help you mercy,
How strange or odd so'er I bear myself, -
As I perchance hereafter shall think meet
To put an antic disposition on, -
That you, at such times seeing me, never shall,
With arms encumber'd thus, or this head-shake,
Or by pronouncing of some doubtful phrase,
As "Well, well, we know," or "We could, an if we would,"
Or "If we list to speak," or "There be, an if there might,"
Or such ambiguous giving-out, to note
That you know aught of me: this not to do,
So grace and mercy at your most need help you,
- Act I. Scene V.
6. Make a list of common errors of pronunciation, saying which are due to faulty articulation, wrong accentuation, and incomplete enunciation. In each case make the correction.
7. Criticise any speech you may have heard which displayed these faults.
8. Explain how the false shame of seeming to be too precise may hinder us from cultivating perfect verbal utterance.
9. Over-precision is likewise a fault. To bring out any syllable unduly is to caricature the word. Be moderate in reading the following:
The Last Speech Of Maximilian De Robespierre
The enemies of the Republic call me tyrant! Were I such they would grovel at my feet. I should gorge them with gold, I should grant them immunity for their crimes, and they would be grateful. Were I such, the kings we have vanquished, far from denouncing Robespierre, would lend me their guilty support; there would be a covenant between them and me. Tyranny must have tools. But the enemies of tyranny, - whither does their path tend? To the tomb, and to immortality! What tyrant is my protector? To what faction do I belong? Yourselves! What faction, since the beginning of the Revolution, has crushed and annihilated so many detected traitors? You, the people, - our principles - are that faction - a faction to which I am devoted, and against which all the scoundrelism of the day is banded!
The confirmation of the Republic has been my object; and I know that the Republic can be established only on the eternal basis of morality. Against me, and against those who hold kindred principles, the league is formed. My life? Oh! my life I abandon without a regret! I have seen the past; and I foresee the future. What friend of this country would wish to survive the moment when he could no longer serve it, - when he could no longer defend innocence against oppression? Wherefore should I continue in an order of things, where intrigue eternally triumphs over truth; where justice is mocked; where passions the most abject, or fears the most absurd, over-ride the sacred interests of humanity? In witnessing the multitude of vices which the torrent of the Revolution has rolled in turbid communion with its civic virtues, I confess that I have sometimes feared that I should be sullied, in the eyes of posterity, by the impure neighborhood of unprincipled men, who had thrust themselves into association with the sincere friends of humanity; and I rejoice that these conspirators against my country have now, by their reckless rage, traced deep the line of demarcation between themselves and all true men.
Question history, and learn how all the defenders of liberty, in all times, have been overwhelmed by calumny. But their traducers died also. The good and the bad disappear alike from the earth; but in very different conditions. O Frenchmen! O my countrymen! Let not your enemies, with their desolating doctrines, degrade your souls, and enervate your virtues! No, Chaumette, no! Death is not "an eternal sleep!" Citizens! efface from the tomb that motto, graven by sacrilegious hands.
which spreads over all nature a funereal crape, takes from oppressed innocence its support, and affronts the beneficent dispensation of death! Inscribe rather thereon these words: "Death is the commencement of immortality!" I leave to the oppressors of the People a terrible testament, which I proclaim with the independence befitting one whose career is so nearly ended; it is the awful truth - "Thou shalt die!"