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of New England; thus, Åbel was a keeper of sheep, but Căin was a tiller of the grôund.”
This faulty tone substitutes double for single inflections.
The true reading would be marked thus; “Àbel was a keeper of sheep, but Cáin was a tiller of the ground.
The effect of the erroneous inflection, is peculiarly unhappy; as it forms a tone properly associated with irony, sarcasm, burlesque, punning, and all other forms of 'equivoque,' or with the intention of imparting an unusual significance to a particular word or phrase, as when the speaker or reader is peculiarly anxious to be correctly understood in a nice distinction of sense. The morbid jerk of voice with which emphasis is thus imparted, disturbs the natural current of utterance, by a multiplicity of unnecessary and unnatural angular turnings. The true melody of speech is thus lost in a false and arbitrary intonation, which has no sanction but the accidental prevalence of a local custom.
The source of the above error being an undue anxiety about emphasis, the fault in accent would be cured by adhering strictly to simplicity and directness in emphatic expression, and using the single rising and falling inflections in all cases of ordinary antithesis or simple force of utterance.
SUGGESTIONS FOR PRACTICE.* It is not unusual with learners to experience a difficulty in discriminating between the rising and the falling inflection in certain passages. The pupil may, in such cases, be required to throw the given clause into the form of a question, so as to catch more readily the distinction to be made in correct reading.
In the sentence, "Life is short, and art is long," the question would run thus, “Must I say, Life is short? or Life is short ?”—the slide which is wanted, occurs not in the latter, but in the former tone.--If the pupil still finds it difficult to apply the true inflection,
* The remarks under this head, though primarily designed for the assistance of teachers of young pupils, may prove useful as aids to the correction of personal faults in adults.
he may repeat the former question, “Must I say, Life is short?” and immediately say, in the same tone of voice, “Life is short." (?)
When the learner is in doubt as to which inflection he has actually used in practice, the question may be, “Did I say, Life is short? or Life is shòrt ?"--If the slide which was adopted, echoes to the latter of these questions, the wrong inflection was given; and the example should be repeated with nearly the tone which would be employed in asking the question, "Must I say, Life is short ?”—the interrogatory part of which the pupil may put to himself mentally, reading aloud only the words, “Life is short."
This point of discrimination is very important; and the table of contrasted inflections should be diligently practised, till every example can be readily and correctly given.
The fault of using one inflection uniformly, and that of overdoing both inflections, enumerated on a preceding page, as the 1st, 2d, and 4th errors of common usage, may be removed by selecting a passage of familiar narrative, and requiring the pupil to shut the book occasionally, and address the language to the teacher, as using it in conversation with him.
Exercises such as this become doubly important, in consequence of the mechanical methods usually adopted in teaching the elements of reading, and the utter want of adaptation to their purposes, in the books commonly employed in this department of education Reading books, it is true, have, within a few years, undergone great improvements in this respect. But most are still quite defective in this particular, that they contain what adults wish to inculcate on children, and not what children naturally incline to express.
Many current books of this description, are too formal and artificial; and many, if not most of the pieces which they contain, actually require those forced and didactic tones which prematurely ruin the elocution of boys, and prevent the possibility of a natural eloquence in men.
Similar results follow the equally absurd practice of making young boys 'declaim from political ha
rangues, anniversary orations, and even from didactic compositions originally delivered from the pulpit. These are the productions of mature minds, and may form very good speaking exercises for adults; but boys can never practise them without contracting false or affected tones.
The constant use of the circumflex,' or 'wave,' seems, as already mentioned, to mark universally the local tone of emphasis in New England, as contradistinguished from the customary mode of utterance in all other parts of the world in which the English language prevails. Accidents of local usage are necessarily entailed on the youth of a community, in the intercourse of domestic and social life. A good education, however, should always secure an exemption from local peculiarities of intonation. Hence the importance of an early formation of correct habit, in this as well as in other departments of elocution.
The most efficacious practice for removing the fault complained of above, is to revert to the tones of question and answer for illustrations of simple inflection, and to repeat one or more examples, throwing the first part of each into the shape of a question; thus, “Was Abel a keeper of shéep?", and the latter into the form of an answer to a question such as “What was Cain?"_thus, “Cain was a tiller of the ground."
The wrong inflection having been thus displaced, the simple inflections should be reduced from the peculiar notes of question and answer to the appropriate moderate slides of contrast.
Concluding Remarks on the Theory of Inflection.
The work of Dr. James Rush on the Philosophy of the Voice, gives a masterly analysis of the vocal phenomena denominated by him the 'slide' and the
wave,' and by previous writers on elocution usually designated as 'inflection and circumflex.' But Dr. Rush's object being an exhibition of the philosophy of the voice, and not of the practical rules of the art of reading, the teacher will still derive important aid from Mr. Walker's treatise entitled Elocution, as well as from his Rhetorical Grammar.
The rules laid down in these works by that eminent authority, however, will be found, in the department of inflection, both complex and artificial. This part of Mr. Walker's system of instruction, has been justly complained of by subsequent teachers. Mr. Sheridan Knowles, in his Elocutionist, speaks of a clearer and simpler view of this subject as one of the most desirable aids to instruction in reading; and he has himself successfully attempted a great reduction of the number of rules on the rising inflection. The late Rev. Dr. Porter of Andover, has, in his Analysis of Rhetorical Delivery, very justly indicated the unnecessary complexity of Walker's rules of inflection, applied to the reading of series of words and clauses, and has, in his own treatise, given to the principle of the falling inflection more prominence and simplicity of exposition, than any preceding writer on the subject of elocutione
The views of inflection which have been submitted in the present work, under the head of rules on the falling inflection will be found, it is hoped, to place the subject in a clearer light than hitherto, by tracing rules to principles, and thus simplifying the theory of elocution, and facilitating the processes of instruction and practice. The student who is once put in possession of a principle, soon acquires a perfect facility in applying it as a rule, and is enabled to dispense with special instruction and directions.
The two great principles which seem to regulate the
application of the falling inflection, or downward slide of the voice, are force and completeness of expression. From these are deduced all special rules of reading, in given passages; and, with a right apprehension of these, the student will, in a short time, acquire a perfect facility, as well as precision, in all the uses of this slide, so as to be able to read, extempore, with propriety and effect, all sentences which derive their charac er or significance from this modification of the voice.
Teachers who have made themselves familiar with Walker's exposition of inflections, will perceive that the author of the present work has omitted the arbitrary distinction enjoined in the reading of the simple' and the compound series.' Walker's direction is to read the former with a certain arbitrary variety of inflection on its component members, for the sake of harmony in sound. Such a mode of reading seems to be utterly at variance with the great principle that the meaning of a passage is the key to its intonation.
A series is a succession of particulars, grouped by close connexion in sense, and possessing a temporary correspondence and unity. Unity of inflection, therefore, must be the natural indication of the unity of thought. Variety may, to a mechanical ear, seem, in such cases, an ornament; but true taste would reject it as inappropriate, and as interfering with the higher claims of meaning. It is the writer, and not the reader, who is responsible, in such circumstances, for the comparative want of variety and harmony in sound.
There seems to be, however, a positive objection to variety of inflection on the successive members of the series; and it is this. To read a long series with the variety prescribed by Walker, it is necessary that the reader should know beforehand the exact number of words contained in it, that he may give the right inflection to each, according to its numerical position. But how can this be done without stopping to count them? If such a rule is to be observed, there can be no such thing as correct unpremeditated reading.
The following may be taken as a specimen of the