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are confessedly many and various, there are no more than four marks by which to denote them. It is true, these marks sufficiently answer the purposes of written language, by keeping the members of sentences from running into each other, and producing ambiguity : but when we regard them as guides to pronunciation, they fail us at almost every step. Those who are acquainted with the Art of Reading feel this very sensibly; and are obliged to supply the deficiencies of the points, by pauses, which are suggested to them by the structure and import of the sentence. Many hints have been offered to assist the reader and speaker in the practice of pausing, and more might be given by an attentive observer; but that which appears to have been overlooked by all our punctuists is, that pausing is often relative : that is, that many pauses owe their existence not so much to the necessity of distinguishing the subordinate parts of a sentence, as to the necessity of showing the actual subordination of one member to another; or, in other words, in order to class together such portions of a sentence as belong to each other more intimately than those that are not so classed. Thus, in the following sentence,
Half the misery of the greatest part of mankind might be extinguished, would men alleviate the general curse they lie under by mutual offices of compassion, benevolence, and humanity.
Speclator, No. 169.
If we make a pause at misery, and none at mankind, we find an improper classification of the words ; which is immediately removed either by pausing at mankind and not pausing at misery; or by pausing at them both, or by pausing at neither.
Another instance will show us more clearly how punctuation depends upon classification, or such an
association of parts as shows the ụnion and distinction of such as are similar and such as are different.
When the proud steed shall know why man restrains
Pope's Essay on Man.
In the last couplet of this passage, if we pause at comprehend without pausing at dulness, we shall not sufficiently distinguish the subject and the verb; if we place a pause at dulness and not at comprehend, we shall not distinguish the verb from that class of words which forms its object; but, if we pause both at dulness and at comprehend, we shall mark both these distinctions, and class all the words together, according to their respective similarities and differences.
Pausing, therefore does not seem to depend so much on placing a pause in any particular part of a sentence, as in that part which most requires it. Thus we may very properly place a pause in the middle of a complex nominative case; but if, after this, we join the whole nominative to the verb, without a pause, we shall soon perceive an improper classification of words : which proves that pausing is relative, and that a pause is proper or improper, not absolutely and considered by itself, but relatively and as it stands connected with other pauses : which can arise from nothing but the perception of the impropriety of distinguishing the parts of a subordinate portion, such as those which form the nominative case to the verb, and not distinguishing the two superior portions; the verb, and the nominative ease: which is the same absurdity as to distinguish the parts of a part, and not the parts of a whole. Thus we may distinguish the superior parts without distinguishing the inferior, but not vice versa.
As this idea of punctuation is at least new and curious, it may deserve a little further illustration.
As this cruel practice of party lying tends to the utter subversion of all truth and humanity among us, it deserves the utmost detestation and discouragement of all who have either the love of their country, or the honour of their religion at heart.
Spectator, No. 451.
This sentence has but two commas in it, as it lies in the Spectator before me: but who is there of the least discernment who does not perceive a great number of other pauses, which might be adopted for the purpose of more distinctly conveying the sense ? In the first place, the compound nominative contains a class of words ending at lying, which are united as forming the subject of the verb, tends; which may be very properly distinguished from the next class of words which form the object of the verb; and as this object is compounded of two subordinate classes, namely; the utter subversion, and of all truth and humanity among us; we may pause better at subversion than in any other part of this clause; and as the next principal constructive member has for its nominative a single word, and that only a personal pronoun, it admits of no pause after it: but the regimen of the succeeding verb, consisting of several classes of words, requires a pause after the verb, to distinguish it from the regimen, and a pause at discouragement, to distinguish the class which forms the former part of the regimen from the latter; and a pause at all, to distinguish the persons understood by this word and the next member, which describes them; and this last descriptive member, beginning with the nominative who, and the verb have, being followed by another compound member consisting of two parts, which form the regimen of the verb, must have a pause at have, and another at country, in order to distinguish the verb from the regimen, and the parts of the regimen from each other.
It must not be understood that I recommend all these pauses as necessary. Certainly not. What I wish to inculcate is, that, if we pause oftener than the common punctuation sets down for us, our pauses ought to take place in those parts of the sentence where the words naturally fall into classes, and that if we pause at a subordinate class of words, we must necessarily pause at a superior class, otherwise we shall produce disorder and confusion in the thought.
It may perhaps be objected to this system, that there are some classes of words which cannot be
separated from other classes without a manifest impropriety. Thus, in the following sentence from Mr. Ad. dison :
“I consider a human soul without education like marble in the quarry; which shows none of its inherent beauties till the skill of the polisher fetches out the colours, makes the surface shine, and discovers every ornamental cloud spot and vein that runs throught body of it.”
Spect. No. 216.
Here it may be said, that cloud, spot, and vein, form a class, and ought, therefore, to be distinguished from ornamental by a pause between that word and cloud, as well as between cloud and the two following words. To this objection it may be answered, that if we consider the word ornamental as an adjective qualifying only the word cloud, the words every ornamental cloud may be considered only as one object, as the words every ornamental are only like an adjective before the substantive, which refuses a pause. (See Elements of Elocution, page 21.) But if we consider every ornamental to qualify spot and vein as well as cloud, and only omitted for the sake of brevity, these words do not so much form one distinct class, as three distinct classes forming altogether one compound class, governed by the verb discovers. Here, too, we may perceive the general rule takes place, which forbids a pause between the adjective and the substantive in the natural order, and which makes it improper to pause at ornamental. But if we suppose this word elliptically omitted before spot, another general rule obliges us to pause after cloud, that the mind may supply the word ornamental; for nothing can be more uniform in correct pronunciation, than the rule that enjoins us to make a pause wherever there is an ellipsis in the language.
This appears to be the true rationale of punctuation; and, with this principle in view, we shall be enabled to enter into a detail of those rules, which are commonly laid down in our grammars, to judge of the justness of them, and to add such others as none of our punctuists have taken notice of.
But, first, it will be necessary to make a distinction of punctuation, which will sound new to every one, and that is into visible and audible. Visible punctuation is that which separates a sentence into its several parts, and shows the degree of separation that exists by the time of the pause between the several parts; and audible punctuation annexes to these pauses such a turn or elevation and depression of the voice,