Domestic Encyclopædia (1802)/Articulation

ARTICULATION, in language, is the division of sounds into distinct syllables; and consists in giving every letter its due proportion of sound, so that the hearer may perceive and determine their number without difficulty; while he is enabled to ascertain the respective letters in every syllable.

The late Mr. Thomas Sheridan, however, has endeavoured to prove, in his "Course of Lectures on Elocution," published about the year 1762, that the English language is by no means calculated to answer the purpose of reading aloud to others. This strong-headed grammarian maintains, that as our written language has no visible marks of articles, it is defective in the most important requisites to a just delivery of speech.

A just delivery, we are told, consists in a distinct articulation of words pronounced in proper tones, suitably varied to the sense and emotions of the mind; with due observation of accent; of emphasis, in its several gradations; of rests or pauses of the voice, in proper places, and well-measured degrees of time; and the whole accompanied with expressive looks, and significant gestures. Of these essential characters, two only are at all regarded in the art of writing: namely, articulate sounds, or words, which are marked by letters; and stops, or pauses of the voice, which are denoted by little figures or tittles.

But with respect to the other articles, of tones, accent, emphasis, and gesture, there are no visible marks to guide the reader: these, it must be allowed, are the sources of all that is pleasurable or forcible in delivery; and contain in them all the powers of impressing the mind, captivating the fancy, rousing the passions, and delighting the ear: and it must also be admitted, according to our author, that the articles most essential to a good delivery, have been entirely neglected in the graphic art.

Of the numerous instances of imperfect, or vitiated articulation, according to Mr. Sheridan, there is not one in a thousand which arises from any natural defect or impediment.

"To cure any imperfection in speech, arising originally from too quick an utterance, the most effectual method will be (Mr. Sheridan says), to set apart an hour every morning, to be employed in the practice of reading aloud, in a very slow manner. This should be done in the hearing of a friend, or some person whose office it should be to remind the reader, if at any time he should perceive him mending his pace, and falling into his habit of a quick utterance. Let him sound all his syllables full, and have that point only in view, without reference to the sense of the words; for, if he is attentive to that, he will unwarily fall into his old habit:" on which account, that he may not be under any temptation of that sort, Mr. Sheridan would have him, for some time, read the words of a vocabulary, in the alphabetical order. In this way, he will soon find out what letters and syllables he is apt to sound too faintly, and slur over. Let him make a list of those words, and be sure to pronounce them over distinctly, every morning, before he proceeds to others. Let him accustom himself also, when alone, to speak his thoughts aloud, in the same slow manner, and with the same view. Otherwise, though he may get a habit of reading more slowly, he will fall into his usual manner in discourse: and this habit of speaking aloud, when alone, will not only bring him to a more distinct utterance, but produce a facility of expression, in which silent thinkers are generally defective.—See the articles Language, Reading, Speech.