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PRINCIPLES OF ELOCUTION.
THE art of Reading and Speaking with expressive distinctness, constitutes what is now called ELOCUTION.
According to this definition, Elocution may be divided into (I.) Expressive Management of the Voice and of the Organs of Speech, and (II.) Expressive Management of the Body.*
III. ACCENT AND PRONUNCIATION. VII. TIME, INCLUDING RaetoIV. INFLEXION.
DESCRIPTION OF THE PRINCIPAL ORGANS OF RESPIRATION, VOICE,
1. The LUNGS, the reservoirs of inspired air. They consist of five spongy elastic lobes-three on the right side, and two on the left. The air is conveyed into them from the windpipe by means of the bronchia or bronchial tubes; and thence carried, by smaller ramifica tions, disposed on all sides like branches of trees, into minute vesicles. In the respiration of speech, the lungs must be inflated to a far greater extent than that necessary for the purposes of existence. Expansion of the lungs chiefly depends on the action of the thorax and the diaphragm.-All action originating with the lungs is not only fatiguing but dangerous: they should be passive, and the expulsion of breath should proceed principally from the action of the thorax, the diaphragm, and the abdominal muscles.
2. The THORAX, or sides of the breast, distend and contract with the lungs. In respiration the lungs are wholly passive: their size increasing in exact proportion with the expansion of the chest.
* For a minute consideration of these divisions and of their subdivisions, the reader is respectfully referred to a work by the compiler of this volume, entitled, "The Theory of Elocution, and Art of Speech."
3. The DIAPHRAGM is a large muscular substance which forms the floor of the breast, and separates it from the abdomen. In inspiration, the diaphragm descends, and so enlarges the capacity of the chest: in expiration, it ascends, and, pressing on the lungs, expels the inspired air.
4. The LARYNX arises from the windpipe, and contains the material organs of sound. In men it is generally prominent exteriorly, and called Adam's apple. It consists of five elastic cartilages, the uppermost of which is called the epiglottis. The office of the epiglottis is, to direct the expired sound, and to open and shut, like a valve, the aperture of the Exterior Glottis.
5. The GLOTTIS is the name of the sonorous opening between two cartilages of the larynx, and situated above the chorda vocales or vocal chords. In adults the glottis is, at its greatest diameter, about ten or eleven lines in length, and two in breadth. It is provided with muscles, which enlarge or contract it at pleasure. The glottis is the organ of all vocal sounds. Any strain on the glottis will injure it: like the lungs, it should be kept wholly passive; especially when depth of tone is required, which altogether depends on relaxation of the muscles of the larynx.
6. The PHARYNX is a large dilatable bag, situated behind the palate; terminated in front by the mouth, and above by the nasal passages. By distension and contraction it is an agent of the sonorous and explosive sounds heard in certain articulations (B, D, v, z, &c.), and is the organ of that slight stress which is generally called Accent. 7. The NARES, or nasal passages, are tubes which conduct from the pharynx to the nostrils. They are generally closed by the velum or soft palate, and only opened for the articulations, M, N, NG, and the French nasal sounds.
8. The TONGUE, the cavity of the FAUCES (jaws), the CHEEKS, DENTAL ARCHES, and PALATE, are the other organs which principally modify sound. Being visible, their description may be omitted. The palate is posteriorly terminated by a soft portion called the velum, which is prolonged as a small pendulous body named the uvula.
9. The organs of speech, dependent on the impulse of the breath, all serve to modify sound, and to produce every variety of tone, tune, and articulation, characterizing song and speech.
10. VOCALITY considers the nature of expression by the voice.* A properly disciplined voice should possess the power of forming and interchanging three series of sounds: namely, the Natural Voice, the Orotund Voice, and the Falsetto Voice.
11. The NATURAL VOICE is that heard in ordinary conversation. in narration, and argument. It is formed only by habit, and (by means of well-directed practice) is therefore capable of great improvement. It varies in different individuals; but it may be sufficiently defined by
* The change from breath, or whisper, to voice, is effected by depressing the apparatus of the larynx. When the larynx is most depressed, and the orifice of the glottis enlarged, the gravest notes are formed (voce di petto); when the larvnx is most elevated, and the aperture of the glottis contracted, the highest Notes are heard (voce di testa).-Sections 4, 5.
stating that its register is generally between the higher and the lower
12. The OROTUND VOICE is deep and mellow, and more round and full in quality than the preceding. It is rarely to be heard as a natural gift, but is generally the result of art, and of much vocal exercise. Its formation principally depends on increased distension and action of the pharynx (sec. 6) producing augmented vocality and sonorousness. When the orotund voice is confirmed by practice, it forms the most agreeable and powerful vehicle of sound, as it may be exerted to a great extent without fatigue or injury. A popular direction for its attainment is, to "speak down in the throat.
13. The FALSETTO VOICE is rarely employed in the pronunciation of whole sentences; but it is occasionally heard in the wail of pathos, or the expression of distance, and, more forcibly, in strong surprise or vehement exclamation. Its formation depends on contraction of the organs of voice, and upward and backward direction of vocalized breath.
14. Various modifications of these voices are attainable: the most useful is that named the GUTTURAL Voice; it is dependent on relaxation of the organs of voice, and increased aspiration during utterance; it is particularly expressive of hatred, horror, contempt, &c.-The voice may also be modified by the degrees of expansion, and by the vibrations and positions of the chest by aspiration by direction into the nasal passages (this modification is frequently offensive in its employment, but habitual nasality is very different from that occasional and limited nasality which is heard in certain sounding, trumpetlike tones)-by direction into the integuments of the skull for soft and tender tones-by direction immediately on or through the mouth for full and energetic tones.
15. LOUDNESS OF VOICE depends on the issue of an increased quantity of air through the larynx. FORCE depends on the resistance given in the larynx to the breath as it passes from the lungs. HEIGHT OF TONE is the result of contraction and elevation of the vocal apparatus; DEPTH OF TONE, of its dilatation and abasement. DRAWLING
is reading or speaking with insufficient force and prolonged time.
16. The voice should be most frequently practised on a middle key. If it is pitched too high, harshness is produced when force is attempted, and shrillness, or a tendency to break, when loudness. If the pitch is too low, the throat becomes dry and easily injured, and the voice husky.
OBSERVATIONS AND DIRECTIONS FOR THE IMPROVEMENT AND MANAGEMENT OF THE VOICE.
17. The lungs must be kept well supplied with breath. Before the power of fluent utterance can be attained, they must receive a body of air greater than that of ordinary breathing; there must be a full expansion of the sides of the chest, by keeping the head easily erect, throwing the chest forward, keeping the shoulders back, and depressing the diaphragm (sec. 3) by causing the abdomen gently to protrude. The waste of air from the lungs must be constantly supplied; every pause. nowever slight, should be occupied in replenishing them. This should be done as motionlessly and silently as possible. The direction appended to paragraph 1 should be especially attended to, as it forms the great principle of pulmonary health and vocal ease.
18. During speech, all unnecessary waste of breath should be prevented. The glottis should act as a valve, and prevent any further passage of air than what is necessary for audible articulation.
19. Before the commencement of any public discourse or protracted vocal effort, or when a very full inspiration is required, the breath may be inhaled through the nostrils as well as the mouth. In the former case, the lips need not be closed. A slight application of the tongue to the palate will allow of a more graceful and an unseen ingress of air.
20. Holding the breath, during the prolonged and forcible utterance of the vowel sounds, is an excellent means of improving the clearness of the voice. Strength of expiration is greatly promoted by reading on a loud whisper. Of all respiratory exercises this is the most advantageous; the exertion should not proceed from the lungs, but from the muscles in connexion with the thorax and diaphragm.Secs. 1, 17.
21. Weakness of voice may be removed by well-directed and assiduous practice. The previous observations will be found of service; but the most beneficial exercise is that named by some French authors, coup de la glotte. This consists in a loud and forcible expulsion from the glottis of the various vowel sounds, to resemble, as it were, the sudden discharge of cannon. The glottis (sec. 5) must, after a full inspiration, be firmly closed, and the confined air directed with great force against and through it, at the instant of loud, variouslymodulated sound.
22. As the principal object of every speaker ought to be, to be effectively and easily heard by those who listen to him, it is essential that the voice be carefully managed. To suppose that a person is better heard for loud speaking is a great error; for such is not only disagreeable in itself, but extremely fatiguing to the orator and hearer. In addresses, when the natural extent of voice in ordinary conversation is not sufficient, EXTEND THAT TONE by giving it a force and volume proportioned either to the place that you wish to fill, or to the distance of those whom you address; but preserve the usual key of the natural tone. By not exceeding its limit, the voice may be at pleasure modulated, and will be under perfect control; but by forcing it you cease to be its master, and submit the necessary modulations of sense to the unmeaning vociferations of sound. Nothing can be, philosophically, more ridiculous than to suppose that the exercise of a natural faculty requires any unnatural exertion.
23. Read frequently aloud, in a low strong key, passages which require a firm, dignified enunciation, and gradually proceed to the most spirited and impassioned exercises. The voice should, in practice, be taxed slightly beyond its powers. Bodily exercises are of great advantage. Every thing that tends to the improvement of the health has a correspondent influence on the voice.
24. The practice of declamation in the open air is highly serviceable. The vocal apparatus is greatly braced, and the unity of the muscular actions promoted, by endeavouring at the same time to move about with energetic action, and to speak with great vehemence.
25. All excesses are injurious. Avoid exercise at that period of youth when the voice is breaking; also immediately after meals, or when hoarse (a slight cold often improves the raucus quality of the voice, but destroys the higher notes). Wine, spirits, water, and all cold or acid drinks, fruits, and oily dishes, are considered injurious.
After injury or fatigue silence is the best restorative; but, on the priniple of exertion of the muscles, and passiveness of the lungs and glottis, no danger can occur.-Sections 1, 5, 17, 22.
26. Modern confectionary and medical skill have provided many preparations to relieve dryness of the mouth and throat; but, on account of their solidity and bulk, they can be rarely used during a public discourse. If the muscles of the chest are made the chief agents, and the lungs and throat kept, as it were, passive, there can be no need of their employment. No mucilage can strengthen a weak voice, although such may be useful in cleansing the organs, or in relieving hoarseness. In addition to the lozenges and wafers of the apothecary, various preparations of liquorice, sweet mucilages, eggs, gum-arabic, nitre, and catechu, have been recommended. A very small portion of powdered nitre, or of catechu, will effectually cleanse the mouth or relieve its dryness.
27. The speaker should address himself generally, on the middle tone of voice, to the most distant in the assembly.-Section 22.
28. He must remember that his objects are three-fold, without ALL of which he cannot attain eminence-First, to be heard; secondly, to be understood; thirdly, to be felt.
The number and variety of vowel sounds may justly be considered as belonging to vocality.
29. In the English language there are thirteen monophthong vowel sounds, heard in the following words:
30. From these monophthongs are formed the following diphthongal sounds:
a-e u-e e-oo a-00 o-et
31. The principal triphthong sounds are heard in
32. The various vowel sounds in the detached words which form these exercises should be pronounced with various degrees of force, and variety of tone and inflexion. Each word should be preceded by a full inspiration. The distinctive vowel of each series is marked in italics.
33. a as in are, bar, star, guitar, mart, alarm, parchment,
* This diphthongal formation is often so open as to approach to a-e. The figures refer to the preceding table of monophthong sounds. The letter r, preceded by a vowel, has frequently a diphthongal sound, as in fear, gore, ire, share, &c.