« EdellinenJatka »
spect to gravity or acuteness of sound. These inflections of the voice,
With even step and musing gait
O Prince! I cònjure thee, as thou believest
Shaks. Meas. for Meas.
There many minstrales maken melody
Shaks. Sonnet 143.
Go to my lady's grave and call her's thence,
Shaks. True Gent.
Par. Lost, IV, 780.
Such are a few of the striking differences between ancient and moderu accentuation. Many others might be collected by an attentive and general reader. The present selection will be sufficient to prove the assertion.
What then are the characteristical qualities of that accent which gives eminence to one letter in a monosyllable, or to one syllable in every polysyllabical word of the English language, is the question now offered to our consideration. On first view it may seem that the answer should be readily suggested by the ear, and it may appear strange that a matter so open to the observation of every day, and almost every moment, should be a matter of dispute. Still stranger, however, surely must seem the question, What is the difference between the accent, tone or pitch of the voice, used in uttering a syllable, and the quantity or time employed in uttering it? or, are they not the same thing? or, if not absolutely the same thing, are they not so blended and confounded in the nature of modern speech, that to distinguish them is no longer possible? Upon a just investigation of these points, it would be found that the parts concurring to constitute that small, and it might seem simple thing, a syllable, are so many, so different, so minute, and so implicated, that when fully and fairly exhibited, it would not perhaps appear wonderful if the critics and disputants have, some overlooked, and others avoided the labour necessary to such an analysis as alone could obviate mistake about them.
Upon this field of critical discussion, the most conspicuous, and perhaps the most skilful of modern combatants, are Mr. Sheridan and Mr. Walker; the former asserting that accent has reference only to quantity, not to quality, and that of course the accented syllable is only louder, and not higher than the other syllables; the latter maintaining that accent relates to quality, not to quantity, to tone or tune, not to strength. This opinion coinciding with that of I believe a considerable majority both of ancient and modern critics, and proceeding from a man who, from his acuteness of investigation and strength of talents, is now generally and justly considered an oracle with respect to pror nunciation, I shall proceed in the discussion of the subject, under the adoption of the system advocated by him; the greater part of English writers on accentuation having considered the eminent syllable in English speech as principally distinguished by acuteness of tone: for though variation of force in speech might suffice for expression, which however may be doubted, yet variation of tone is essential towards adding
the grace of melody. The truth is, that to give eminence to an accent, a strengthened enunciation is necessary. But, the eminent accent of words, in English speech, with superior force, has also, by the indispensable law of that speech, a higher tone, and is what has been most commonly called, an acute accent. Without variety of tone, or in musical phrase, without various notes, though there might be measure, there could be no melody in speech. It would therefore be highly injurious to our language to hold that the accent of English words derives its character from force of utterance only.
But it will be obvious to all acquainted with English speech, that the longer polysyllables have more than one distinguishing accent. One indeed is always predominant; superior in force, higher in tone: it is properly called by way of eminence, the principal accent, or, even simply the accent. By its situation in the word, the situation and the comparative eminence of inferior accents is directed. In trisyllables, if the middle syllable be accented, neither of the others has a distinguished character; they will be equally grave, or what is called unacrented. But if the first have the accent, the third will be more distinguished than the second; it will be louder and sharper, as in the words e'nergy, co'nfident. If the last have the accent, the first will be more distinguished than the second, as in re'fug'ee, co'nfida'nt. In both cases, the middle syllable will have the lowest tone, as well as the least forcible tone. In words of four syllables, there will still be but two of distinguished accent, as otherwise two acute or strong accents would meet in one word, which the genius of English pronunciation forbids. Under this restriction, words of five syllables may have three, or only two distinguishing accents, and words of multiplied syllables more in proportion, called secondary accents. But more of this hereafter.
That, in every syllable, of every language, some tone, accent, or pitch of the voice, must accompany articulation, is as evidently of natural necessity, as that some portion of time must be employed in it It is very obvious then, that in the English language, every word not monosyllabical has one syllable always made eminent by a distinguishing tone or accent. This syllable is often called the accented syllable, and its tone the accent; and the other syllables in contradistinction are called unaccented; a mode of speaking, which, if it have any occasional conveniency, may perhaps be allowed, provided it be always remembered that the terms are so used, by a license of speech, to signify the more and the less eminent accentuation; accent or tone being that, some mode and degree of which must always coëxist; that is, must always be among the impressions made by the voice upon the ear, with every syllable uttered.
Among foreign modern languages, the general character of the accentuation in the Italian, the Spanish, and the modern Greek, is the same as in the English. In all these, and I believe I might add the Portuguese, the German, and those of the same origin with the German, one syllable, of every two or more in one word, is made eminent by its tone. We are well assured that, so far at least, the accentua. tion of the ancient Greek and Latin, agreed with that of these modern languages. It may be important then to observe, on account of the more extensive familiarity with the French than with any other for reign speech, in our country, and still much more throughout Europe, particularly on the continent, that the French language differs in this from all others. The French grammarians and critics universally hold, that no syllable of any word in their language is entitled to any characteristical accent. - It is not here meant, that no syllable, in French polysyllabical words, is ever, in proper French pronunciation, made eminent by force of utterance; but only that no one syllable is, in French, as in the other European languages, constantly entitled to such preëminence. Hence a consequence, obvious to those who have had any opportunity for observation is, that the accentuation of all the other European languages has peculiar difficulties for the French people. That of our own, in particular, little among the difficulties for as Italian learning our speech, is to a Frenchman, after boyhood, in general unattainable. The French are, above all other foreigners, distinguished among us, by what is commonly called, and properly enough, a foreign accent.
In some languages, different accentual marks regulate not only the tone or modulation of the voice, but also supply the place of our sentential stops.
The Greeks have three grammatical accents, viz. the acute accent (') which shows the tone of the voice is to be raised; the grave accent () which marks a depression of voice; and the circumflex accent (^or^) which is composed of both the acute and the grave, and points out a kind of undulation of the voice. The Latins have made the same use of these three accents. The Hebrews have a grammatical, a rhetorical, and a musical accent, placed sometimes above and sometimes below the syllable; thus serving not only to regulate the risings and fallings of the voice, but to distinguish the sections and periods in a discourse, and to answer the same purposes with the points in other languages. The tonic accents are essentially necessary to the Jews, as they may be said to sing, rather than to read their language.
The use of accents is remarkable in some of the eastern languages, particularly the Siamese and the Chinese. Among the people of China every word, or, what is the same thing syllable, admits of five accents: and thus stands for many different things. The union of the two letters, ya, according to the accent fixed on them, signifies God, a wall, excellent, stupidity, and a goose. Their talking is a kind of music or singing. Hence the great difficulty of their language to foreigners. If they deviate ever so little from the true accent, they say quite a different thing from what was intended. Thus, meaning to compliment the person you are talking to, with the title of sir, you call him a beast, with the same word, only a little varied in the tone.
The Siamese have also a great variety of accent.
But the English, having no more than one accent, have only one mark in writing to point it out, viz. the acute accent of the Greeks (0) which is universally adopted.
Accent is either principal or secondary.
The principal accent is that which necessarily distinguishes one syllable in a word from the rest. The secondary accent is that which we may occasionally place on another syllable besides that which has the principal accent, in order to pronounce every part of the word more distinctly, forcibly, and harmoniously: thus privateer, domineer, caravan, have an accent on the first, as well as on the last syllable, though a somewhat less forcible one. The same may be observed of violin, repartee, complaisant, referee, &c.
In accenting words, care should be taken to avoid all affected devi: ations from common usage. There is the greatest occasion for this precaution, as a rule has been arbitrarily and injudiciously introduced upon this subject by some superficial orthoëpists, which has no foundation either in the structure of the English language, or in the principles of harmony, viz. that in words consisting of more than two syllables, the accent should be thrown as far back as possible. This rule has occasioned much pedantic and irregular pronunciation, and has per, haps introduced all the uncertainty which attends the accentuation of several English words.
Accent generally dwells with greatest force and propriety, on that part of the word, which from its importance, the hearer has always the greatest occasion to observe; and this is necessarily the root or boe dy of the word. But, as harmony of termination frequently attracts thę. accent from the root to the branches of the word, so the first and most natural law of accentuation seems to operate less in fixing the accent, than any other. Accent seems to be regulated in a great measure by etymology, and a regard to the classical laws of the different languages from which words are derived. In words of the Saxon, the accent is generally on the root: in words from the learned languages, particularly the Latin and Greek, of which there are many, it is generally on the termination. And if to these we add the different accents we lay on