« PreviousContinue »
These illustrations show that the principle of emphatic stress is perfectly simple; and that it falls on a particular word, not chiefly because that word belongs to one or another class in grammar, but because, in the present case, it is important in sense. To designate the words that are thus important, by the action of the voice in emphasis, is just what the etymological import of this term implies, namely, to show, to point out, to make manifest.
But farther to elucidate a subject, that has been treated with much obscurity, emphatic stress may be distinguished into that which is absolute, and that which is antithetic or relatire.
Absolute emphatic stress. Walker, and others who have been implicitly guided by his authority, without examination, lay down the broad position, that emphasis always implies antithesis; and that it can never be proper to give emphatic stress to a word, unless it stands opposed to something in sense.
The theory which supposes this, is too narrow to correspond with the philosophy of elocution. Emphasis is the soul of delivery, because it is the most discriminating mark of emotion. Contrast is among the sources of emotion: and the kind of contrast really intended by Walker and others, namely, that of affirmation and negation, it is peculiarly the province of emphasis to designate. But this is not the whole of its province. There are other sources, besides antithetic relation, from which the mind receives strong and vivid impressions, which it is the office of vocal language to express. Thus exclamation, apostrophe, and bold figures in general, denoting high emotion, demand a correspondent force in pronunciation; and that too in many cases where the emphatic force laid on a word is absolute, because the thought expressed by that word is forcible of itself, without any aid from contrast. Thus;
Antithetic or relative stress.
The principle on which the stress depends in this case, will be evident from a few examples.
Study, not so much to show knowledge as to acquire it.
It is not so difficult to talk well, as to live well. When the antithetic terms in a sentence are both expressed, the mind instantly perceives the opposition between them, and the voice as readily marks the proper distinction. But when only one of these terms is expressed, the other is to be made out by reflection; and in proportion to the ease or difficulty with which this antithetic relation is perceived by the mind, the emphatic sense is more or less vivid. On this principle, when a word expresses one part of a contrast, while it only suggests the other, that word must be spoken with a force adapted to its peculiar office; and this is the very case where the power of emphasis rises to its highest point. Examples.
I that deny'd thee gold, will give my heart. Here the antithetic terms gold and heart, being both expressed, a common emphatic stress on these, makes the sense obvious. But in the following case, only one part of the antithesis is expressed. Brutus says,
You wrong'd yourself, to write in such a case. The strong emphasis on yourself, implies that Cassius thought himself injured by some other person. Accordingly we see in the preced. ing sentence his charge against Brutus," you have wrong's me.” Again, Brutus says to Cassius,
You have done that you should be sorry for. With a slight stress upon sorry, this implies that he had done wrong, but suggests nothing of the antithetic meaning, denoted by the true emphasis, thus, You have done that
should be sorry for. This emphasis on the former word implies, “Not only are you liable to do wrong, but you have done so already;" on the latter it implies, "though you are not sorry, you ought to be sorry: This was precisely the meaning of Brutus, for he replied to a threat of Cassius, "I may do that I shall be sorry for.”
Sect. 2.-Emphatic Inflection. Thus far our view of emphasis has been limited to the degree of stress with which emphatic words are spoken. But this is only a part of the subject. The kind of stress, is not less important to the sense, than the degree. Let any one glance his eye over the examples of the foregoing pages, and he will see that strong emphasis demands, in all cases, an appropriate inflection; and that to change this inflection perverts the sense. This will be perceived at once in the following case, “ We must take heed not only to what we say, but to what we do.” By changing this slide, and laying the falling on say and the rising on do, every ear must feel that violence is done to the meaning. So in
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stárs ;
But in ourselves, that we are underlings; the rising inflection or circumflex on stars and the falling inflection on ourselves is so indispensable, that no reader of the least taste would mistake the one for the other. But the principle which I wish to illustrate, will be more obvious, by recurring to the case recently mentioned, in which one part of a contrast is expressed, and the other only suggested; so that the whole meaning of a sentence depends on the emphatic inflection given to a single word. A strong example of this has already been given in the perversion of sense which would arise from wrong inflection on the word drunkard; see the close of Rule IV.
32. Another example we have in Paul's exhortation to Christian servants; “ And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are bréihren; but rather do them service, &c." The meaning is, their being fellow Christians, is no reason why they should be disobeyed as masters; and this the rising slide on brethren expresses. The falling slide would express a very different sense, namely, that
this Christian relation is a sufficient reason why the servants should not despise their masters. Again, a distinguished writer
of some conceited men; They have not patience to read a book, till they thoroughly understand it." His meaning is, they never read it so as to understand; and this the rising slide expresses. But the other slide would imply, that they have patience to read it, after they understànd it.
One more question remains to be answered; how shall we know when an emphatic word demands the rising, and when the falling inflection?
If the reader has studied the RULES OF INFLECTION which begin at p. 29, he can seldom be at a loss to answer this question for himself. According to established laws of voice, he will know what inflection to give emphatic words, when connected by the disjunctive or ;-as, Will
you ride, or wàlk?” So when the direct question and answer occur; Árm’d, say you?
lord.”—So when negation is opposed to affirmation;-as “ He will not come today, but tomorrow."
Besides these general remarks, it may be added, that the voice, instinctively accompanies emphatic, positive affirmation, with the falling slide, and the antithetic negation with the rising.
But there is a large class of sentences, in which qualified affirmation demands the rising turn of voice, often where an antithetic object is suggested or expressed hypothetically. It is not the simple rising slide, but the circumflex, which designates this sort of emphasis. The two indeed, may fall on shades of thought so nearly the same, that it is immaterial which is used; while in other cases the office of the circumflex is so peculiar as to make it quite perceptible to an ear of any discrimination. Every good reader will make this distinction between the first and second instances in which heaven occurs, in the following example; “ The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men and they said, if we shall say from hěaven, he will say, why then did ye not believe him?”. The plain distinction between the rising and the falling emphasis, when antithetic relation is expressed or suggested, is, the falling denotes positive affirmation or enunciation of a thought with energy; the rising either expresses negation, or qualified and conditional afirmation. In the latter case the antithetic object, if there is one, may be sug
gested ironically, or hypothetically, or comparatively; thus
If men see our faults, they will talk among themsěldes, though we refuse to let them talk to us.
The beggar was blind as well as lăme.
He is more knàve than fool. In such a connexion of two correlate words, whether in contrast or comparison, the most prominent of the two in sense, that in which the essence of the thought lies, commonly has the strong, falling emphasis ; and that which expresses something subordinate or circumstantial, has the rising. The same rising or circumflex emphasis prevails where the thought is conditional, or something is implied or insinuated, rather than strongly expressed.
The amount is, that generally the weaker emphasis, where there is tender, or conditional, or partial enunciation of thought, requires the voice to rise : while the strong emphasis, where the thought is bold, and the language positive, adopts the falling slide, except where some counteracting principle occurs, as in the interrogative inflection. In all such cases, explanation becomes obscurity, if carried out of its proper limits. Beyond these, I can no more tell why sorrow or supplication incline the voice to the rising slide, while indignation or command incline it to the falling, than I can tell why one emotion flashes in the eye, and another vents itself in tears. Nor is it reasonable to demand such explanations on this subject, as are not expected on any other. The logician rests in his consciousness and his experience as the basis of argument; and philosophy no more requires or allows us to push our inquiries beyond first principles or facts, in elocution, than in logic.
It will be readily perceived that the stress proper to be laid on any single word, depends much on the comparative stress with which other words in the same sentence are pronounced. A whisper, if it is soft or strong, according to sense, may be as truly discriminating as the loudest tones. The voice should be disciplined to this distinction, in order to avoid the common fault, which confounds vociferation with emphatic expression.