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This fault frequently appears in the reading of poetry and also in the “sing-song” in prose rendition; the hymn reading of many preachers consists merely in singing all hymns to a single tune.
Now, there are no invariable rules governing the selection of words upon which emphasis shall be placed. Where it shall fall in a given sentence depends upon the interpretation of that sentence by the individual reader. The trouble is, however, that many a reader will fail to use the voice in a way to express the meaning of a passage as he sees it. The common faults that were mentioned in the preceding paragraph suggest that it is of practical importance to learn how to emphasize, and so train the voice to obey the mind. To this end two things are essential to correct emphasis : first, a clear understanding of the thought to be expressed; second, a thorough and practical knowledge of the various modes of emphasis. These modes are often found in combination, but the best results will be secured by practicing them at first separately.
WAYS OF EMPHASIZING. There are many ways of emphasizing a word or phrase; the five principal ones are, (1) by stress, (2) by intensity, (3) by time, (4) by pause, (5) by inflection.
I. Emphasis of Stress. Attention can be called to a syllable, a word, or a clause by speaking it more loudly. This is the usual way of emphasizing, and is used so frequently that the term emphasis is often associated only with this one form of calling attention to the important words.
II. Emphasis by Intensity. This form is often more effective than the stress-emphasis. It is usually expressed by lowering the voice and at the same time putting more feeling back of it. In the sentence “War is hell,” the word "hell” should be emphasized, not by a loud tone, nor by only lowering the voice; but by lowering the voice and hitting it hard. This is more effective than by yelling it at the top of
your voice. Take the sentence, "The merchants say to you, —the constitutionalists say to you,—the Americans say to you,—and I, I now say, and say to your beard, sir,—you are not an honest man,” emphasis could be expressed most forcefully by dropping the voice just above a whisper on the last clause and then putting into it much earnestness.
III. Emphasis by Time, or Quantity. Words phrases earrying the principal idea require relatively more time than do those of less importance. There are times when ideas of magnitude, length, etc., may be most appropriately emphasized by prolonging the important words. In the following sentence note how the thought is brought out by dwelling upon the italicized words and phrases:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
IV. Emphasis by Pause. This mode of calling attention to a word or phrase is based on the fact that, if a pause is made before the important word which is to be emphasized, the mind will wait in expectancy of the completion of the sentence and will more carefully note that word when it does come. Also, that a pause after the important word will call attention to that word because the mind will have time to think about the word just spoken. The emphatic pause is considered by some the strongest method of emphasis.
Read the following sentences, pausing at the dashes, and note the effect:
1. The one rule for attaining perfection in any art is-practice.
2. Quoth the raven—"nevermore.”
3. In this-God's world, dost thou think there is no justice?
4. My answer would be-
V. Emphasis by Inflection. A word is emphasized by inflection when it is inflected in a manner different from the normal. A change in pitch is the chief element in subordination. The mind naturally associates a change of thought relationship with a change in inflection. Either the rising or falling inflection may be used; but the falling inflection is more often employed. A downward inflection and a pause at the end of the word is not an unusual combination; especially in sentences like these:
"Inhuman wretch, take that, and that, and that.”
“There was a South of slavery and secession—thał South is dead."
This form of emphasis cannot be used exclusively in a selection as it would render the delivery heavy and jerky. It is best not to let your voice fall from the key note; it should be first raised so that there can be a longer sweep of the inflection, and a distinct delivery still be maintained.
There are degrees in all methods of emphasis. Some words are to be merely touched by the voice; others are to be emphasized; and others should be given still greater. emphasis. The most effective emphasis is frequently a combination of two or more modes. Such as, Pause and Inflection; Stress, and Inflection; Pause and Stress; Pause and Intensity; Time and Stress; Time, Pause, and Stress.
RULES OF EMPHASIS. I. The key-word or words of a sentence should be discovered and emphasized. The following tests should be applied to discover the logical relation of the words:
What words are indispensable to the thought? 2. What words must a person hear to tell what you are talking about? 3. What words can, by rearrangement, be made the climax of the sentence?
Study the following examples and note the key-words as italicized :
Centuries ago, on the rock-bound coast of Massachusetts Bay, one night there was a wedding. The sky was the roof that covered the high contracting parties, and the stars, painted by the finger of God, were the fresco-work; the music was that of the singing night-bird and the surge of the gray old ocean; the bidden guests were the Puritan fathers and the Puritan mothers; the unbidden guests were the dusky savages; the bride and the bridegroom were the meeting-house and the school-house, and from that marriage there was born a child. They christened it New England civilization.-FRYE.
II. Subordinate the modifying or qualifying words, phrases, and clauses. Keep the relatively unimportant ideas in the background; the more important should be made to stand out boldly.
A study in subordination:
Speak the speech (I pray you), as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue; but if you mouth it (as many of your players do), I hăd as lief the town-crier spoke my lines. Nor do not saw the air too much with your hand, thus; but use all gently: for in the very torrent, tempest, and (as I may say) the WHIRLWIND of passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance that may give it smoothness. Oh, it offends me to the soul to hear ă robustious, periwigpated fellow tear å passion to tatters, to very RAGS, to split the ears of the groundlings, who (for the most part), are capable of nothing but inexplicable dumb-shows and noise. I would have such ă fellow whipped för o'erdoing Termagant; it out-herods Herod: pray you avoid it.
III. Ideas compared or contrasted should be emphasized. This is a very important rule, and should always be carefully observed. Sometimes the antithesis is implied, only one part of the contrast being expressed. The opposing term must be supplied mentally. Note numbers 7 and 8.
Practice the following:
1. Let us be sacrificers not butchers.-SHAKESPEARE.
2. I have found you an argument, I am not obliged to find you an understanding.–S. JOHNSON.
8. Our good business is. not to see what lies dimly at
a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.—CARLYLE.
4. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.Bible.
5. There are sins of commission; and sins of omission.
6. With malice towards none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right.—LINCOLN.
7. I trust I am speaking to a gentleman. 8. He never took a cold bath.
IV. Words once emphasized should not be emphasized again unless repeated for the purpose of emphasis. When these words are repeated, it is well to vary the mode of emphasis, or else effect a climax.
1. I have seen the gleam from the headlight of some giant engine rushing onward through the darkness, heedless of opposition, fearless of danger; and I thought it was grand. I have seen the light come over the eastern hills in glory, driving the lazy darkness before it, till leaf and tree and blade of grass glittered in the myriad diamonds of the morning ray; and I thought that was grand. I have seen the light that leaped at midnight athwart the storm-swept sky, shivering over chaotic clouds, 'mid howling winds, till cloud and darkness and shadowhaunted earth flashed into midday splendor; and I knew that was grand. But the grandest thing, next to the radiance that flows from the Almighty Throne, is the light of a noble and beautiful life, wrapping itself in benediction round the destinies of men, and finding its home in the bosom of the everlasting God.-GRAVES.
2. They were American soldiers.
So are we. They were fighting an American battle. So are we. They were climbing up a mountain. So are we. The great heart of their leader gave them time, and they conquered. The great heart of our country will give us time, and we shall triumph.—Curtis.
V. Distinguish between emphasis of a single word and that which should be distributed to the whole of a phrase or clause. Throwing the entire emphasis on one or two