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ELOCUTION is Vocal delivery. It may be said to comprise both a science, and an art. The science embraces the principles which constitute the basis of reading and speaking; the art, the practical application of these principles.

Elocution is naturally divided into two parts; namely, VOCAL GYMNASTICS and GESTURE.

Vocal Gymnastics is the philosophy of the human voice, as well as the art of training the vocal organs in speech and song.

Gesture is the various postures, and motions, employed in vocal delivery.



VOCAL GYMNASTICS may be subdivided as follows:

3. Force.

4. Time.

1. Articulation.

2. Pitch.

ARTICULATION is the act of forming, with the organs of speech, the elements of vocal language.

PITCH is the degree of the elevation of sounds.

FORCE is the degree of the loudness of sound,

TIME is the measure of sounds in regard to their duration,


ARTICULATION is the act of forming, with the organs of speech, the elements of vocal language.

These elements may be formed separately, as in the utterance of the letters of the alphabet, as well as conjunctively, as in the pronunciation of words.

(By the utterance of the letters of the alphabet is not meant the pronunciation of the mere names of the letters, but the formation of the various sounds which the letters represent.)

A good articulation is the perfect utterance of the elements of vocal language.

The first step towards becoming a good elocutionist, is correct articulation. A public speaker, possessed of only a moderate voice, if he articulates correctly, will be better understood, and heard with greater pleasure, than one who vociferates without judgment. The voice of the latter may indeed extend to a considerable distance, but the sound is dissipated in confusion. Of the former voice not the smallest vibration is wasted, every stroke is perceived at the utmost distance to which it reaches; and hence it has often the appearance of penetrating even farther than one which is loud, but badly articulated. In just articulation, the words are not to be hurried over, nor precipitated syllable over syllable; nor, as it were, melted together into a mass of confusion: they should not be trailed, or drawled, nor permitted to slip out carelessly, so as to drop unfinished. They should be delivered from the lips as beautiful coins newly issued from the mint, deeply and accurately impressed, neatly struck by the proper organs, distinct, in due succession, and of due weight.

Without good articulation, it is impossible to be a correct reader. Those who have been accustomed to pronounce their words in a careless or slovenly manner, will find it difficult, even with their best efforts, to utter them distinctly. The organs of articulation, for want of proper exercise, become, as it were, paralyzed. The pupil, therefore, at the very commencement of his studies, should

be conducted through a series of exercises, calculated to strengthen the muscles of articulation, and render them obedient to the will. The best method for effecting these purposes is, to exercise the voice on the elements of speech; first, on each element separately* ; secondly, on various combinations. Students of elocution should therefore always attend to articulation, as the primary object: and in the first instance, it should be prosecuted alone, as a distinct branch of the art, and prosecuted until perfection in it is attained.


Indeed, the secret of success in learning the art of delivery, consists in attending to one thing at once. Failures will always be frequent, as they ever have been, whilst it is attempted in the gross; by the usual method of going at once to reading and declamation, and endeavouring to enforce articulation, emphasis, inflection, and many other things together.

A slight attention to public speaking, or reading, will show that a good articulation is very uncommon. The attentive listener has to complain that, letters, words, and, sometimes, considerable portions of sentences, are pronounced with so little force and precision, that the mind is constantly confused in its attempts to apprehend the meaning. Now, a speaker may be sure that an audience will never give him their attention long, if his articulation is such as to disappoint the ear and confuse the mind. Thus the very purpose for which he rises from his seat is frustrated.

Distinctness of articulation is not only necessary, in order to be heard and understood, it is a positive beauty of delivery. It is an affair altogether mechanical, and requires nothing more than attention and continued elementary practice. It depends upon a few certain definite positions of the organs of speech, and the power of varying those positions with rapidity, precision, and energy. Now, though everybody admits this, scarcely any one attends to it.

*When the elements are pronounced singly, they may receive a concentration of the organic effort, which gives them a clearness of sound and a definite outline, if I may so speak, at their extremes, that make a fine preparation for a distinct and forcible pronunciation in the compounds of speech. - Rush's Philosophy of the Human Voice.

Experience shows that in order to ensure a good articulation to persons in general, some method must be adopted not at present in use. What should that method be? I answer the only sure means are a SERIES OF PRACTICAL ELEMENTARY EXERCISES, which shall constitute a sort of Gymnastics of the voice. These must be practised—and persevered in. If the training is steadily enforced, our experience enables us to say, it will be successful in ensuring to young persons a distinct, a forcible, and an impressive articulation if it be not adopted and steadily pursued, as a preparatory exercise, and for such a length of time as the deficiencies of individuals may require, the usual defects will continue. Reading books on elocution, and receiving directions in lectures, have already been tried long enough, and tried in vain. PRACTICE, practice upon a series of elementary tables of the primitive sounds of speech and of their varied combinations, is the only remedy.


The value of vocal gymnastics cannot be duly appreciated by those who have not experienced, or witnessed, their beneficial results. But, I feel confident, the time is not far distant when these exercises will be considered, by all intelligent persons, an essential part of primary instruction.


THE Elements of vocal language are the sounds of which words are composed. These sounds are represented by graphic characters, called letters.

The number of letters in the English language, is twenty-six ; but the number of elements is thirty-nine. Hence, as the number of elements exceeds the number of their literal signs, the same letter is employed, in different situations, to represent different sounds. Thus a represents four different sounds; e, two; i, two; o, three; u, three; z, two; r, two; and there are six sounds, each of which is represented by two letters-ou, ng, sh, wh, th, in then, and th in thin. If we had a perfect alphabet, every elementary sound would be represented by its appropriate character.

The elements, as well as the letters by which they are represented,

are usually divided into two classes, Vowels and Consonants. A more philosophical division, however, is into three classes, Vowels, Subvowels, and Aspirates.

The vowels are pure vocal sounds; their number is fifteen.

The subvowels have a vocality, but inferior to that of the vowels; their number is fifteen.

The aspirates are made with the whispering breath, and, consequently, have no vocality; they are nine in number.

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as heard in

ale, day, fate.

arm, farm.

all, law, for.

as heard in

an, man, idea,

eve, see, deed.

end, met, err.
ile, fly, pine.

in, pin.

old, no, more.

lose, too, move.

on, lock, not.

tube, few, pupil.

up, hut, hurt.

full, pull, wolf.
our, now, flour.


bow, orb, barb.
day, bid, did.

gay, fig, gig.

light, all, lull.

mind, storm, maim.

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