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ELEMENTARY EXERCISES OF THE VOICE.
OF THE ELEMENTARY SOUNDS OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE.
To one who had never thought on the subject, it might seem strange to commence a treatise on Elocution, by referring to the elementary sounds of the language; but a moment's reflection will show its propriety. It is of these elements that all speech is composed. These constitute the very basis of all good delivery, and consequently should be placed at the foundation of all instruction in this elegant accomplishment. But where are these elementary sounds to be found? He who would discover them must divest himself of the idea that they are faithfully represented by the symbols composing our graphic alphabet. Much less are they represented by the names of the alphabetic characters, nearly all of which are complex sounds. It is, then, only by a careful analysis of our spoken language, that the elementary sounds entering into it can be discovered.
Having made this analysis, we shall find that some of our alphabetic characters have no separate sound appropriated to them, as c and x; while others represent several sounds. Thus a often represents four, and sometimes a fifth ; and the other vowels, each two or more.* There
* Where the same character is used in the following tables to represent different elementary sounds, we shall distinguish it, for the sake of future reference, by the marks which are used in Webster's Dictionary.
are still other sounds which have no single character to represent them, as ou, oo, oi and oo among the vowels, and ng, th, sh, &c., among the consonants; yet which are as elementary as the former. With each of these sounds we shall present a short word in which it occurs, by the pronunciation of which it is believed the learner will, without much difficulty, discover the true element intended. The way in which this is to be done, is to arrest the voice in the very act of uttering the element in question, and then to repeat that sound free from combination with any other. Thus the true sound of a will be caught, by arresting the voice on the word a-le, before the l is touched by the organs of speech; and thus also of b or 1, before entering on the vowel sound that follows them in the words b-ow and l-ove. And so of all the others.
In arriving at these elementary sounds, the learner will derive much advantage from a living teacher ; but it is believed he will find no great difficulty in discovering the true sound of every element presented in the two following tables. Should there at first appear something ludicrous in the attempt, let him remember that it is only a matter of habit, and that a little familiarity will make these sounds as familiar as are the names now usually but erroneously given to our alphabetic characters. And when these fundamental sounds are once fairly mastered, we shall hereafter see that they can be turned to great account. Of these sounds, as heard in the pronunciation of the English language, there are forty-two,-sixteen vowel and twentysix consonant sounds.-If the following tables are not philosophically correct, it is believed they are practically so.
*NOTE TO THE TEACHER.-On this and all the following Tables and other exercises for practice, the first business of the teacher is to exemplify and illustrate to the learner or to his class the principle, or principles involved; and let the practice on these constitute the preparation for the next interview. Then let the learner, or, in case of a class, each pupil separately, repeat the proposed exercise, with such correction and further instruction as may be called for. For securing a greater familiarity with the exercise, a class may then repeat it together, under the teacher's direction. Mutual correction is recommended in this and all the future exercises, when practiced by a class.
f These sounds, though called long, are actually protracted only when under the accent.–For further practice on the elementary sounds of the language, see Tables commencing on page 317.