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- Public Speaking - 6/65 -


failure adequately to form the nasal, or head, sounds. The letters "l," "m," "n," are called vowel consonants. They can be given continuous sound, a head resonance. This sounding may be carried to a fault, or affectation; but commonly it is insufficiently done, and it should be among the first objects of cultivation in vocal practice. The humming of these head sounds, with very moderate force, is excellent for developing and clearing this resonance. The "ng" sound, as in rung, may be added.

Improper division of words into syllables is a common fault. The word "constitution," for example, is made "cons-titution," instead of "con- stitution;" "prin-ciple" is pronounced "prints-iple." A clean, correct formation should be made by slightly holding, and completing the accented syllable. The little word "also" is often called "als-o" or "als-so" or "alt-so"; chrysanthemum is pronounced "chrysant-themum"; coun-try is called "country," band so forth. In the case of doubled consonants, as in the word "mellow," "commemorate," "bubble," and the like, a momentary holding of the first consonant, so that a bit of separate impulse is given to the second, makes more perfect speaking. There is a slight difference between "mel-low" and "mel-ow," "bub-ble" and "bub-le," "com-memorate" and "com-emorate." These finer distinctions, if one cares to make speech accurate and refined, can be observed in words ending in "ence" and "ance" as in "guidance" and "credence"; in words with the ending "al," "el," or "le," as in "general," "principal," "final," "vessel," "rebel," "principle," and "little." If that troublesome word "separate" were from the beginning rightly pronounced, it would probably be less often wrongly spelled. One should hasten to say, however, that over-nicety in enunciation, pedantic exactness, obtrusive "elocutionary" excellence, or any sort of labored or affected effort should be carefully guarded against. The line of distinction between what is perfect and what is slightly strained is a fine one. Very often, for example, one hears such endings as "or" in "creator," "ed" in "dedicated," "ess" in "readiness," "men" in "gentlemen," pronounced with incorrect prominence. These syllables, being very subordinate, should not be made to stand out with undue distinctness, and though the vowels should not be distorted into a wrong form, they should be obscured. In "gentlemen," for example, the "e" is, according to the dictionary, an "obscure" vowel, and the word is pronounced almost as "gentlem'n,"--not "gentle_mun_," of course, but not "gentlem_e_n." The fault in such forms is more easily avoided by throwing a sharp accent on the accented syllable, letting the other syllables fall easily out. The expression of greeting, "Ladies and gentlemen," should have a strong accent on each first syllable of the two important words, with little prominence given to other syllables or the connecting word; as, "La'dies 'nd gen'tlem'n."

In the same class of errors is that of making an extra syllable in such words as "even," "seven," "heaven," "eleven," and "given," where properly the "e" is elided, leaving "ev'n," "heav'n," and so forth. The mouth should remain closed when the first syllable is pronounced; the "n" is then simply sounded in the head. The same treatment should be given to such words as "chasm" and "enthusiasm." If the mouth is opened after the first part of the word is sounded, we have "chas-_u_m," "enthusias-_u_m." The little words "and," "as," "at" and the like should, of course, when not emphatic, be very lightly touched, with the vowel hardly formed, and the mouth only slightly opened. The word "and" is best sounded, where not emphatic, with light touch, slight opening of the mouth, and hardly any forming of the vowel; almost like "'nd." These words should be connected closely with the word which follows, as if they were a subordinate syllable of that word.

Often we hear such words as "country," "city," and their plurals, pronounced "countree," "citee," and "citees"; "ladies" is called "ladees." The sound should properly be that of short "i" not of long "e." The vowel sound, short "a," as in "cast," "fast," "can't," must be treated as a localism, and yet it is hardly necessary to adhere to any decided extreme because of local associations. Vocally, the very narrow sound of short "a," called "Western," is impossible. It can't be sung; in speech it is usually dry and harsh. As a matter of taste the very broad sound of the short "a," when it is made like "a" in "far," is objectionable because it is extraordinary. There is a form between these extremes, the correct short "a"; this ought to be acceptable anywhere. It is suggestive to observe that localisms are less pronounced among artists than among untrained persons. Trained singers and actors belonging to different countries or sections of country, show few differences among themselves in English pronunciation. Among localisms the letter "r" causes frequent comment. In singing and dramatic speaking, this letter is best formed at the tip of the tongue. In common speech it may be made only by a very slight movement at the back of the tongue. A decided throaty "burr" should always be avoided. In the case of vigorous dramatic utterance, the "r" may be quite decidedly rolled, on the principle that, in such cases, all consonants become a means of effectiveness in expression. In the expression of fine, delicate, or tender sentiment, all consonants should be lightly touched or should be obscured. Enumeration of the many kinds of carelessness of speech would be to little purpose. Scholarly speech requires a knowledge of correct forms, gained from the dictionary, and vocal care and skill in making these forms clear, smooth, and finished in sound.

This discussion has perhaps suggested the extreme of accuracy in speech. But as has already been said, any degree of overnicety, of pedantic elegance, of stilted correctness, is especially irritating to a sensitive ear. Excessive biting off of syllables, flipping of the tongue, showing of the teeth, twisting of the lips, is carrying excellence to a fault. The inactive jaw, tongue, and lips must be made mobile, and in the working away of clumsiness and slovenliness of speech, some degree of stiltedness must perhaps, for a time, be in evidence, but matured practice ought finally to result, not only in accuracy and finish, but in simplicity and ease in speaking.

MAKING THE POINT

When the student has made a fair degree of progress in the more strictly mechanical features of speech, the formation of tone, and the delivery of words, he is ready to give himself up more fully to the effective expression of thought. Of first importance to the speaker, as it is to the writer, is the way to make himself clear as to his meaning. The question has to be put again and again to the young speaker, What is your point? What is the point in the sentence? What is the point in some larger division of the speech? What is the point, or purpose, of the speech as a whole? This point, or the meaning of what is said, should be so put, should be so clear, that no effort is required of a listener for readily apprehending and appreciating it. Discussing now only the question of delivery, we say that the making of a point depends mainly upon what we commonly call emphasis. Extending the meaning of emphasis beyond the limit of mere stress, or weight, of voice, we may define it as special distinctness or impressiveness of effect. In the case of a sentence there is often one place where the meaning is chiefly concentrated; often the emphasis is laid sharply upon two or more points or words in the sentence; sometimes it is put increasingly on immediately succeeding words, called a climax, and sometimes the stress of utterance seems to be almost equally distributed through all the principal words of the sentence.

The particular point of a sentence is determined, not so much by what the sentence says as it stands by itself, as by its relation to what goes before or what follows after. The first thing, then, for the student to do is to become sure of the precise meaning of the sentence, with reference to the general context. Then he must know whether or not he says, for the understanding of others, exactly what is meant. The means of giving special point to a statement is in some way to set apart, or to make prominent, the word or words of special significance. There are several ways in which this is done. Commonly a stress or added weight of voice is put upon the word; generally, too, there is an inflection, a turning of the tone downward or upward; there is frequently a lengthening out of the vowel sound, and a sudden stop after, in some cases before, the word. Any or all these special noticeable vocal effects serve to draw attention to the word and give it expressive significance. These effects are everywhere common in good everyday speech. In the formal art of speaking, they have to be more or less thought out and consciously practiced.

Emphasis is determined by the comparative importance of ideas. An idea is important when, being the first to arise in the mind, it becomes the motive for utterance. We see an object, the idea of high or broad or beautiful arises in the mind; we so form a sentence as to make that idea stand forth; this idea, or the word expressing it, becomes vocally emphatic. In this sentence, "He has done it in a way to impress upon the Filipinos, so far as action and language can do it, his desire, and the desire of our people, _to do them good_," the idea "to do them good" is the one that arose first in the mind of the speaker and called up the other ideas that served to set this one prominently forth. It is the emphatic idea. It should be carried in the mind of the student speaker from the beginning of the sentence. Again, an idea is important when it arises as closely related to the first, and becomes the chief means of giving utterance concerning the first. This second idea may be something said about the first; it may be compared or contrasted with the first. Being matched against the first, it may become of equal significance with it. "Who is here so _base_ that would be a _bondman_?" Here the idea "base" is used to emphasize the quality of "bondman," and becomes equally emphatic with that idea. Other ideas, or other words expressing them, being formed around these principal ones, will be subordinated or more loosely run over, since they simply serve as the setting for the principal ones, or the connecting links, holding them together. Sometimes an idea arising in the mind grows in intensity, asserting itself by stronger and stronger successive words. For example, "He _mocks_ and _taunts_ her, he _disowns, insults_ and _flouts_ her"; and, "I impeach him in the name of human nature itself, which he has cruelly _outraged, injured_, and _oppressed_, in both sexes in every _age, rank, situation_, and _condition of life_." The impressiveness in delivering these successive words is increased not because they are in the form of a climax, but they are in the form of a climax because the thought is so insistent as to require new words for its expression. The student will be true and sure in his emphasis only when he takes ideas into his mind in the natural way; that is, he should seize upon the central idea before he gives utterance to any part of a statement. If that idea is constantly carried foremost in the mind, he will then, in due time, give it its true emphasis. So, in the case of a climax, he must realize the spirit and force behind the utterance, and not depend upon any mechanical process of merely increasing the strength of his tones.

Sometimes emphasis must be made to stand so strong as not merely to arrest the movement of thought, and fix the mind of the hearer upon a point, but to turn the attention of the hearer for the moment aside; to draw his mind to the thought of something very remote in time or place or relation, as in the case of making momentary reference to some historic fact or some well-known expression of literature. Allusions and illustrations, then, should be given, not only with color but also with special emphasis. Byron, contemplating the ruins of Rome, calls her "the _Niobe_ of nations." The hearer's mind should be arrested, his imagination stirred, at that word. Words used in contrast with one another are given opposing effect by contrasting emphasis: "Not that I loved _Csar_ less, but that I loved _Rome more_." "My _words fly up_; my _thoughts remain below_." When words are used with a double meaning, as in the case of a pun, or with a peculiar implication, or are


Public Speaking - 6/65

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