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do so because they have never taken the pains to speak any other way. Surely the speaker who said, "My tex' may be foun' in the fif' an' six' verses of the secon' chapter of Titus; an' the su'jec' of my discourse is the Gov'ment of ar Homes" had no other excuse for his slovenly mode of enunciation than that of carelessness.
There is no excuse for anyone (if he is without vocal defect) who fails to enunciate in a distinct, clean-cut fashion that is pleasing to listen to. Perfect enunciation is one of the most priceless possessions that a speaker can have, and it is one that any speaker may have if he is willing to do the work necessary to gain it.
The foundation of good enunciation. We have seen how the vocal cords stand passively at the top of the trachea ready to be played upon like the strings of a musical instrument. We have seen also how the stream of breath may be applied to them in such a way that only breathy, half-vocalized tones result, or how it may be so applied that each tone produced is full, rich, and possessed of good carrying power. But a clear, carrying tone will not insure good enunciation. It is altogether desirable, but something more is necessary. Perfect enunciation depends upon the manner in which this clear tone when produced is applied to individual sounds or syllables by the articulating organs, the aim being at all times to gain fullness and distinctness of utterance. This makes it necessary to understand something of the elementary sounds of our language and of the organs that are employed in the enunciating process. A clear idea of this may be gained from the system of Alexander Melville Bell, which we take up later in this chapter.
We find that it is the ability to adjust the organs to the right positions and to use them properly that determines the quality of one's enunciation. The thick-tongued speaker in uttering the sound of t has no agility of the tongue, and the result is enunciated as though it were th-ee. Another may not have the control of the organs necessary to formulate s sounds. Instead of using the teeth as a kind of sieve for the breath, he slightly thrusts the tongue between them, so that "yes, sir" becomes "yeth, thir"; "sixteen," "thixteen"; "seventy-six," "theventy-thix."
In the case of persons who have no vocal defects, but merely loose vocal habits, it is necessary to gain control over those organs that are not accustomed to function properly before definite improvement in enunciation is possible. But almost everyone who enunciates poorly does so, not because of weakness of the organs or of inability to use them but, as has already been suggested, because of ignorance of what good enunciation should be or because of mere lax habits of speech.
Good enunciation does not imply loudness. Some people have a vague idea that they are speaking clearly if they make a great deal of noise; so they use big, blustering tones, with occasional shouts for emphasis, and believe their speaking to be effective. Indeed, there seems to be no more common misconception among untrained speakers than that all speaking, in order to be effective, must be loud. They do not seem to understand that loud speaking that is merely a vociferous garble of sounds is no better than quiet speaking of the same kind in fact, that it is even worse. Neither employs good enunciation,
and the former is usually the more objectionable inasmuch as it is harder on those who have to listen to it.
A striking example of this occurred not long ago in an intercollegiate debate. The speaker used a tone of voice that was loud enough to have easily filled a room four times the size of the one in which he was speaking. He spoke at a terrific rate, and his syllables and words were so slurred and blurred that the impression made by his delivery was that of one continuous "sputter." From all appearances he seemed to think that his speaking was tremendously effective. From the standpoint of the audience, however, the speech was an almost complete failure, for it was only with much effort that they were able to follow even the drift of his talk.
If public speakers could all be made to understand that loud speaking is not necessarily clear speaking, there would be vastly more effective public speaking than there is at the present time.
The important thing is not loudness but distinctness. This is clearly shown by the work of the actor who trains himself until his enunciation is brought to such a degree of perfection that his most quiet word, even though it be a whisper, can be heard distinctly throughout the largest theater. The public speaker does not ordinarily need to acquire as great skill in employing delicate shades of tone and color as does the actor, but he should by all means cultivate a distinctness that is satisfying to the audience and a refinement of articulation that is pleasing.
In this, as in most other things that the speaker must give attention to, "Sunday manners" are not of much consequence if he is slovenly all the rest of the week. The
person who is indifferent to his enunciation in his everyday mode of speech will be likely to speak very much the same when he appears in public. If good enunciation is to be cultivated at all, it must be employed in all speaking, whether public or private, so that clear speaking becomes a habit. It can never be used successfully as an ornament merely for special occasions. It should be made rather a very useful, everyday tool, that will be of great service in ordinary conversation as well as in formal public address.
Common faults of enunciation. Two common faults of enunciation are that of the lax and that of the overprecise -the "don't care" style and the "affected" style. The one is a careless, slipshod mode of utterance which gives no attention to any sound that does not find its way out of the mouth easily. Many sounds and syllables are slurred over, elided, or even dropped out altogether. For instance, "question" becomes "kwesyun"; "generally," gene'lly"; "particularly," "partic❜ly" government,' gov'ment"; "gentleman,' 'gen'lman"; "geography," "j'ogerfy."
The other, the overprecise mode of enunciation, goes to the opposite extreme, and every sound and syllable is made to stand out with a prominence that is almost painful to listen to. In this there is no lazy slurring, but, what is quite as objectionable, each syllable is made to stand out as baldly as the articulating organs can make it, thus: "gen' er' al' ly'," "par' tic' u' lar' ly'," "com'pet' i' tor'," dif' fer' ent'," "ob' jec' tion' a' ble'." The speaker enunciates as if it were necessary to give to every syllable a special stress and an equal prominence to all.
This cannot but be offensive to the ear. In fact, it is even more objectionable than the careless mode of utterance, for it not only violates the principle of economy of attention but is a form of affectation that, to most people, is disgusting.
The aim in attempting to acquire good enunciation should be to avoid either of these two extremes, and to use a pleasing medium that will impress the ear of the listener as being neither loose nor overdone, but just what cultivated speech should be.
The same principle true of the enunciation of consecutive words. It is necessary to exercise the same care in securing distinctness in the utterance of consecutive words as of sounds and syllables. The enunciation of several words by "chewing up" the syllables, as if it were almost a single word that the speaker is trying to utter, is very common. Who has not heard, Won' che go?" for "Won't you go?" "I don' know" for "I don't know";
Wha' che goin' a do?" for "What are you going to do?" Then there is the other extreme, in which the enunciation is so overdone that the words are not merely well separated but are each followed by an affected ah sound. Thus we hear, "Won't-ah you-ah go-ah?” “I don't-ah know-ah."
Choppy and lazy modes of utterance. Along with this are two similar extremes: that of the speaker who snaps off words and phrases with an abruptness that greatly annoys one after listening to it for a short time, and that of the speaker who drags his utterance till the monotony of his speech seriously affects one's interest in what he is saying. The first fault arises not from