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In the study of pitch we found the problem to be one of overcoming monotony and rendering speech effective by various movements of the voice up and down the speaking scale. In a similar way, by means of the time elements of speech variety may be secured and monotony overcome. Anyone who has stopped to consider that the chief reason why some speakers are ineffective is because they speak at such a rapid rate that they are hard to understand, and that others speak in so slow and lazy a fashion that they are exceedingly tiresome, will at once recognize the importance of time as an element of effective expression.
Time, as a vocal element, is the duration of utterance. It has to do with three principles:
I. The length of individual sounds, syllables, and words.
II. The pauses that occur between words and groups of words.
III. The rate and rhythm of utterance.
These principles have a very important influence in the general effectiveness of expression, performing a function not unlike that of pitch. As we shall see later in this chapter they are of the utmost importance in securing variety in speech.
I. QUANTITY VALUES IN SPEECH
In considering the first principle – -the length of individual sounds, syllables, and words we find that some sounds are naturally of long quantity, others short, and still others of medium length. Robert Burns characterizes the sound of o as "the wailing minstrel of despairing woe," and Oliver Wendell Holmes speaks of the "velvety v's." That is to say, some sounds lend themselves much more readily than do others to the expression of given sentiments.
No one understands the principle of the time value of sounds better than the poet, who, by means of combinations of sounds of certain lengths, is able to produce remarkable effects. The poetry of Edgar Allan Poe, some of which is little more than mere euphonious sound, serves to illustrate what may be accomplished by combinations of words of different time values. Observe, for instance, his imitation of the great iron-tongued bells of the church tower:
Hear the tolling of the bells -
They that dwell up in the steeple,
And who tolling, tolling, tolling,
On the human heart a stone.
A very different description is that of the tiny bells of the sleigh. Note the very marked difference in the predominating sounds of the following lines:
Hear the sledges with the bells
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
In the icy air of night!
In comparing the very different effect of these two passages, both taken from the same poem, we find that it is accomplished by a skillful combination of sounds of similar lengths more than by the thought contained in the lines. The prolonged o and sounds in "toll" are perfectly adapted to the imitation of the great bells of the tower, while the short i and k sounds in "tinkle” are admirably suited to the silvery bells of the sleigh.
Different sounds possess very different time values, and these have a marked effect upon speech. The sound of a in "ate," in "art," or in "all," may be prolonged much more easily than that of a in "at," the latter being of much shorter quantity. Also e in "me,” i in "ice," o in "old," u in "use," possess longer time. values than e in "met," i in "it," o in "son," u in "us."
The same differences in quantity are found with the consonants. The sounds of l, m, n, r, v, w, are easyflowing and well adapted to slow and prolonged utterance; while the sounds of t, k, j, g, f, h, s, b, d, are abrupt, and cannot be prolonged to any extent without becoming a kind of drawl.
The various sounds when combined form syllables and words of long or short quantities, depending upon which class of sounds predominates. Combinations of sounds
chiefly of long quantities form words like "on," "noon," "all," "roll," "law," "lowly,' roar,' murmur,' national," "memorable." memorable." These sounds are well suited to the expression of such sentiment as that of the following lines of Gray's "Elegy":
The plowman homeward plods his weary way,
Combinations of sounds mostly of short quantities, as in
at, ax,' ask," "check," "pick," pick," "speck," "stop,"
"arctic," statistics," "perplex," "explicate,” are well suited to express such ideas as those of the following lines of Tennyson :
I chatter over stony ways,
While lines in which neither element predominates, but that are made up of about an equal number of long and short sounds, are suited to the less unusual forms of expression, as :
A mother's love!
That can endure
When all else pass away;
Surpassing human deed, or word, or thought,
It is a mother's love.
Importance of quantity values.
differences in the length of the vowel and consonant sounds, and their effect as they are employed in the
expression of various sentiments, it is easy to see that the ability of the speaker or reader to give to individual sounds or syllables their correct time values is of much importance. One who understands nothing of the time elements of speech will be likely to try to express things widely different in character with nearly uniform time values. This results not only in the failure to express the thought truly but in a form of monotony very similar to the monotone in pitch.
This is not uncommon of the reading in our schools. If the child is not taught to appreciate the difference between the meditative lines of "Thanatopsis" and the animated style of "Paul Revere's Ride," his lack of a sense of these differences will be almost certain to make his expression uniform and lifeless.
The failure to discriminate between such values is usually unconscious, acquired often early in life. În families where parents have the habit of slow or drawling speech, the children very often, by mere imitation, use the same. In nearly every school are found children who drawl, not because of any defect of the organs of speech, but merely from habits due to environment.
It does not require an especially discriminating ear to sense the marked difference in the time values of
Tennyson's I chatter, chatter, as I flow
To join the brimming river,
And in the hush that followed the prayer,
"Forever - never!