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shape and magnitude of those cavities in the throat and mouth by which the sound is reverberated. The voice, like every other faculty, may be greatly improved by exercise, and grow worse by neglect.
The breath thus passing with rapidity and violence through the glottis, is reverberated from the palate and roof of the mouth, and in its passage it is modulated by the organs of speech. For articulation does not begin till the breath or voice has passed through the larynx. And as those hollow places in the inside of the mouth and nostrils are by nature better or worse shaped for reverberation, the voice is rendered more or less agreeable. Speech is articulated voice; whispering, articulated breath.
“ If we consider," says a judicious writer on this subject, “ the many varieties of sound, which one and the same human voice is capable of uttering, together with the smallness of the diameter of the glottis, and reflect that the same diameter must always produce the same tone, and consequently that to every change of tone a correspondent change of diameter is necessary, we must be filled with admiration at the mechanism of these parts, and the fineness of the fibres that operate in producing effects so minute, so various, and in their proportions so exactly uniform. For it admits of proof, that the diameter of the human glottis is capable of more than sixty distinct degrees of contraction or enlargement, by each of which a different note is produced ; and yet, the greatest diameter of that aperture does not exceed one tenth of an inch.”
A correct articulation, therefore, which is the essential property of a good reader or speaker, consists in giving a full and distinct utterance to the several simple and complex sounds. The nature of these sounds ought to be well understood, and much pains should be taken to discover and correct those faults in articulation, which, though often ascribed to some defect in the organs of speech, are generally the consequence of inattention or bad example. The most effectual mode of conquering bad habits in reading or speaking is, to read aloud passages chosen for the purpose; such, for instance, as abound with long and unusual words, or in which many short syllables come together, and to read much slower than the sense and just speaking would require. Almost all persons, who have not studied the art of speaking, have a habit of uttering their words so rapidly, that this exercise ought to be carefully observed; for where there is a uniformly rapid utterance, it is absolutely impossible that there should be strong emphasis, natural tones, or any just elocution. There may be also an extreme on the opposite side ; a lifeless, drawling manner, which allows the minds of the hearers to be always outrunning the reader or
speaker, must render every such performance insipid and fatiguing. But the error of reading too fast is much more common. To proRounce, therefore, with a proper degree of slowness, and with full and clear articulation, is necessary to be studied and invariably adhered to by all who wish to become good readers, and it cannot be too much attended to. Such a pronunciation gives weight and dignity to the subject. It is a great assistance to the voice, by the pauses or rests which it allows it more easily to make, and enables the reader to swell all his sounds, both with more force and more harmony.
The pronunciation of the elementary sounds of a language is to speaking and reading what the practice of the notes is in singing ; it being as necessary for the speaker or reader to be able to pronounce distinctly each letter of the alphabet, as for a singer to sound every note in the scale of music. It has often been observed, by foreigners, who have acquired through study and long practice a perfect command of our language, and even by native Englishmen, that it is generally pronounced with more accuracy and melody in the middle States of America than in England. The variety of dialects throughout that country, and particularly what is called the Cockney pronunciation of London, occasioning such corruption and confusion as sometimes to render native Englishmen unintelligible to each other. .
A very marked difference of pronunciation also prevails among the inhabitants of Ireland, of Scotland, and of Wales; all professing to speak the English language. The chief peculiarities of the Irish are in the sounds of the two first vowels, a and e; the former being generally sounded a, as in bar, in most words where it is pronounced a, as in day, by the English. Thus they say pat'tron, mat'tron, when they should say patron, mātron; it being an established rule that when the letter a ends a syllable, and the accent is upon it, it has invariably the sound of slender a, except in the words father, papa, mamma, and alarum.
The second vowel, e, is for the most part sounded ee, by the English, whereas the Irish sound it like slender a; and in its combination with a, i, and e, as in tay, plase, for tea, please ; and desate, resave, for deceit, receive, with many other deviations.
The final e mute, in correct English pronunciation, makes the preceding e in the same syllable, when accented, have the sound of * ee; as in the words supreme, sincere, replete. This rule is almost universally broken through by the Irish, who pronounce all such words as if written suprāme, sinsāre, replāte. There are I believe but two exceptions to this rule in the English pronunciation, which are the words there, where.
But the strongest characteristic of the pronunciation of Ireland, is the rough jarring sound of the letter r, and the aspiration or roughi breathing before all the accented vowels. The termination rm is also by them generally divided into two syllables, as in sto rum, fa rum, for storm, farm.
The pronunciation which distinguishes the inhabitants of Scotland is very different. They pronounce almost all their accented vowels long. Thus they say haabit, teepid, seenir, for habit, tepid, sinner. Slender a is pronounced by them as aw, as Sawtin, fawtal, for Satan, fatal; and frequently they change the accent in dissyllables: a ludicrous instance of which occurred during the American war. A Scottish member of Parliament, more remarkable for a powerful eloquence, than for pure English pronunciation, in the course of a speech said, “I will not give my support to a Cabal, but I will give my súpport to Administrātion.” This declaration, the part he meant to take having been before dubious, produced a marked sensation with a cry of “hear, hear," which excited the curiosity of a member just then entering. Turning to the old door-keeper, who happened to be at his elbow within the door, he asked what the speaking member had said. "I do not know" answered the door-keeper, “what he has been talking about ; only I just heard him say he would give a ball and supper to Administration.” This strange perversion of the words, as jocular as it may appear, the old man made without any intention of either joke or perversion, misled entirely by the honorable member's Scottish pronunciation of the words cabal and support, with the broad sound of a in the second syllable of the former, as in the word hall; and a strong accent on the first syllable of the latter instead of the second, as in the word supper.
The Welsh pronounce the sharp consonants and aspirations instead of the flat; instead of b they use p, for g they use k or hard c, and for d they employ t, for blood they say plut, for God, cot, and for dear, tear; s is also used by them for z, ás for zeal and praise, they say seal and praisse ; f they substitute for v, as instead of virtue and vice, they say firtu and fice. Shakspeare's exemplification of the Welch pronunciation, in the character of Parson Evans, is very accurately executed. “It is petter," says he to Shallow, in the Merry Wives of Windsor, “ It is petter that friends is the sword, and end it: and there is also another device in my prain, which peradventure prings good discretions with it.” “ It is not meet the Council hear of à riot; there is no fear of Got in a riot: the Council look you, shall desire to hear the fear of Got, and not to hear a riot.” In one of the western counties of England, the semivowels are pronounced in a manner directly opposite to that of the Welsh. For, as the Welsh change the vocal into the aspirate, they change the aspirate into the vocal ; thus for father they say vather, for Somerset, Zomerset.
In some places in England they always omit the letter h. Instead of saying “heavy is the heart that is without hope,” they would say, “evy is the art that is without ope." V and w are frequently substituted for cach other. Instead of saying, virtue and vice are very opposite extremes, they would say, wirtue and wice are wery opposite extremes.
These, and similar errors, arise from the want of an accurate knowledge of the organs of speech, and the proper direction of their pow. ers, in the formation of those elementary sounds, which constitute the basis of correct pronunciation.
The simplest articulate sounds are those which proceed from an open mouth, and are by grammarians called vocal or vowel sounds. When the voice in its passage through the mouth is totally intercepted, or strongly compressed, there is formed a certain modification of articulate sound, which, as expressed by a character in writing, is called a consonant. Silence is the effect of a total interception; and indistinct sound of a strong compression; and therefore a consonant is not of itself a distinct articulate voice; and its influence in varying the tones of language is not clearly perceived, unless it be accompanied by an opening of the mouth, that is, by a vowel, with which it must necessarily be connected to obtain an articulate sound. Hence its derivation from the two Latin words con together with, and song to sound,
The human voice in passing through the mouth may be intercepted by the lips, or by the palate and tongue, or by the tongue and throat: and each of these interceptions may happen, when the voice is directed to go out by the mouth only, or through the nostrils only; or partly through the mouth and partly through the nose. Thus if the voice, directed to the mouth only, be totally intercepted by the lips, ve articulate what is expressed by the letter P; if by the tongue and palate, T; if by the tongue and throat, K. These three consonants are therefore called pure mutes ; because these interceptions, unless preceded or followed by a vowel, produce absolute silence. If the voice directed to go forth, partly through the mouth, and partly through the nose, be totally intercepted by the lips, we form the sound expressed by B; if by the tongue and palate, D; if by the tongue and throat, the simple sound of G, as it is heard in the word gay. These consonants are called semi-mutes ; because, without the assistance of any vowel, they produce a faint sound, which continues for a little time, and seems partly to pags out by the nose, and partly to rererbe
the simple sol semi-mutes : bound, which cod partly
rate from the roof of the mouth; and hence when the nose is shut it is not easy for us to give them a distinct utterance. While the voice is passing out by the nostrils chiefly, if the lips be closed we hear the sound of M; if the forepart of the tongue be applied to the palate, N is formed; and if the tongue be drawn a little backward towards the throat, we produce the final sound of the words sing, ring, long, &c. These are called semi-vowels, because of themselves and without the aid of any vowel, they make a sound, which is not very indistinct, and may be continued as long as we please. If while we are sounding them, we suddenly shut our nose, the sound ceases entirely, which is a proof that it goes out by the nostrils.
Thus, by the operation of the different organs of speech, either singly or combined, are the different simple elementary sounds of our language produced: and by attending to the peculiar motions of these articulating organs, ingenious men have even contrived the art of teaching those who are born deaf to speak.
One of the simplest combinations in language is the diphthong; which is formed when two contiguous vowel sounds coalesce in such a manner, as that though they form but one syllable, the sound of both, or at least a double sound is distinctly heard, as oi in voice, ou in ounce: sometimes indeed three vowels coalesce in this manner by a single impulse of the voice, as i, e, w, in view. i
Consonants, by being joined to consonants, produce many combinations of articulate sound; and simple vowels and diphthongs may be joined to single or double or treble consonants, and thus an endless variety of syllables may be formed : and a syllable may be joined to other syllables, or stand by itself, so as to form short or long words ; and each vowel sound may be long, or short, and vary the import of the syllable accordingly. So that though the number of elementary sounds is not great, the variety of possible words that may be formed by combining them is in every language so great, as almost to exceed computation, and much more than sufficient to express all the varieties of human thought. But the real words, even of the most copious language, may without difficulty be numbered; for, a good dictionary comprehends them all. In our language, after deducting proper names, and the inflections of our verbs and nouns, they do not exceed forty thousand.
The quantity of distinct speech that we pronounce with one effort of the articulating organs is called a syllable. In every syllable there must be one vowel sound at least ; because without an opening of the mouth there can be no distinct articulation.